RACE REPORT – The Loch Ness Marathon 2014

LOCH NESS MARATHON 2014

Official time: 4 hours 05 minutes 49 seconds

Overall: 1016 out of 2478

Medal : Yes, same design as last year but ever so slightly bigger and shinier!

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I’m a little late in publishing this race report because for some reason the post race buzz wasn’t there this year, which disappoints me as it’s the first time it has ever happened after a race! After enjoying last years race so much I was really looking forward to giving the Loch Ness Marathon another go. I had pulled out of the Clyde Stride after thinking I wouldn’t be able to get my mileage up after my long holidays sailing around the Baltic, and also Jemma had talked me into it. On Saturday afternoon I drove up to Inverness, met up with Jemma at our B&B, headed into town for lunch and then over to Bught Park to get registered and have a nosey around the expo.

After quite a huge lunch neither of us fancied going out for dinner, so we bought some bits and bobs from Tesco and hunkered down in our B&B to watch some DVDs and stuff our faces with munchies. A couple of weepy films later, I sorted my race kit, had everything that I’d need in the morning laid out ready so I wasn’t crashing around the room when Jemma was still asleep and then drifted off into a rather uncomfortable sleep (note to self – remember my own pillow next time I go away as the one I had felt like it was made out of cardboard!).

Kit ready, including my running skirt in club colours!!
Kit ready, including my running skirt in club colours!!
Cold have done with a bit more than this, but never mind...
Could have done with a bit more than this (and about 5 more coffees!), but never mind…

Silly o’clock came and my alarm managed to buzz about once before I threw myself on it to shut it up. I had the usual pre race breakfast of porridge, coffee, banana and electrolyte drink and packed another banana and a flapjack to take with me for the bus journey. I was ready to go by 7am so I said my goodbyes to Jemma and headed off over to Bught park to meet my brother-in-law Stuart and get on one of the many coaches which were to transport us all the way down to the other end of Loch Ness for our race start. The organisation of the transport was once again perfect and bang on 7:30am the coaches started moving. I sat down next to a guy and soon realised I’d seen him at practically every race I had run that year and we got chatting about our plans and challenges for the following year. His challenge for this year was to run 100 races and this was about race number 75 – I thought I’d done loads! (I forgot to introduce myself at the time, but I later found out his name was Daniel and he also has a blog at medaljunkie)

The buses arrived at the start area which is just after Fort Augustus on the South West end of the Loch. We got off our buses and trudged towards the start line where thousands of other runners were mingling/queuing for the toilets/warming up and by chance met up with Anne and Scott from my running club. It wasn’t as cold at the start this year but there was a brief shower of rain while we were waiting to get going. I was feeling a bit nervous but more than anything I was just ready to run. I love the idea of everyone arriving together and then running the full distance back along the Loch side, but being dropped off in the middle of no where at 8:50am and the race not starting until 10am was a bit extreme. I could have had another half an hour in bed!!

Before the crowds arrived
Before the crowds arrived at the start of the 2014 Loch Ness Marathon
Scott and I ready to get going.
Scott and I ready to get going.

Finally, at about 9:55am the crowds started surging towards the start line. It seemed busier than last year and everyone was raring to go! I’d decided to start at around the 4 hour marker and just see how my race went, but I didn’t have any other plan than to start running and 26.2 miles later, stop running and lie down. After about a minute of walking, I crossed the start mat, hit the start button my watch, passed the pipe band that was playing for us and started the first few miles of descent while trying to maintain a comfortable and steady pace. No such luck! I got caught up the crowds, was close to tripping over the feet in front of me as people set off at a slower pace and in trying to get round them I had to run along the grass verge on the side of the road. I’m not meaning to moan at all, but in races this big it just seems silly when people set off in lines of 5 or 6 and take over the entire width of the road when there are thousands of other people barreling down the hill behind them. It’s the second race for me this year where I’ve nearly been taken out by someone stopping dead in front of me with no room to get round them within the first mile of a race! Anyway, small rant over….

The first few miles flew by. The descent along with the large crowds and cheers from supporters and runners around me made it easy and enjoyable. By 5 miles I’d realised it was going to be a long and lonely race running by myself, so out came my ipod and I hit shuffle to get me going. Then I realised than a few of the albums I had tried to put on the previous day weren’t there, so I was stuck with the same tunes I’d had for my last few events! Onward we plodded, through the ups and downs of the first few miles and after what seemed like no time at all, Loch Ness came in to view over the next hill. I’d got into a nice comfortable pace but when I looked at my watch at half way I realised I’d got there in 1:52:xx…. way too fast and I was already starting to regret it. At my last marathon I’d developed a blister which had suddenly burst at around 25 miles and now at only 14 miles in I was starting to feel my shoes rubbing on both feet – one on the same toe as last time and the other foot on the outside of my big toe. Not good when I was still so far away from the finish line! I suddenly started to panic and wondered what I would do if one burst now. Would I be able to continue? Would I have to drop or walk the rest of the way back? The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced I could feel my feet rubbing but I think (thankfully) it was just me being paranoid as nothing ever got any worse. By 17 miles I was still feeling OK but starting to tense up my shoulders which was giving me a sore neck. I decided that at the next water stop I’d walk through and have a proper drink and then see how I felt before the hill at Dores. By the time I got to hill my negativity had taken over.

I couldn’t pick up the pace after walking through the water station and the pain in my feet was really starting to get me down. As soon as I clocked the hill I knew I wasn’t going to manage to run up it so I thought I might as well pull my pace right back and just get to the top before trying to figure out how I was going to run the last 7 miles or so. While walking up the hill all I could think about was how much I desperately wanted a can of coke – if there had been a shop anywhere near by I would have been in there without hesitation! I now realised that I had not fueled properly at all for this race so no wonder I was feeling awful! My dinner the night before had consisted of a small bowl of noodles, some nachos and about 3 cups of tea and now I was feeling unbelievably hungry but also a bit queasy. I usually run with a bottle of powerade and also a sachet of high five 2:1 fructose powder to add to a bottle of water later on in the race, but after too quick a start I had guzzled my powerade by 10 miles and the zero highs tablet I had with me just wasn’t hitting the spot quite like the other stuff did. By the time I had finished that bottle at around 20 miles, plain water just wasn’t enough and I started the feel awful. The fuel stations were handing out cups of Osmo hydration but having never tried this, I wasn’t about to grab a cup this far into a race just in case it had negative consequences! Once over the top of the hill I got my legs going again and kept a steady pace along the road back into Inverness. Just like last year the crowds started to grow as soon as you entered the outskirts of the town and all the way down to the river the streets were lined with people cheering us on. This lifted my spirits a bit and I pushed along through the final few miles.

As I rounded the final bend at the bridge and turned to run back along the other side of the river back to Bught Park, I heard my name being yelled and some huge cheers and I saw Jemma and Rachel and some others cheering from the pub! I gave them a half-hearted smile and a feeble thumbs up and plodded my way along to the finish line. I heard my name being called out over the P.A system just before I finished but I was so drained I couldn’t even muster a smile for my finishing picture.

No marathon-photos. I will not be paying a trillion pounds for some pictures of me looking like death thanks very much!
No marathon-photos. I will not be paying a trillion pounds for some pictures of me looking like death thanks very much!

I was given my medal by a lovely cheery woman and then I went to collect my goody bag, t-shirt and so many treats but nothing that would quite satisfy this sugar craving I had. I plodded back along the road and fell into a chair in the pub beside Jemma and Rachel and was presented a bottle of coke which instantly inhaled! I wasn’t disappointed with my time at all but more my performance and how easily I sunk into a negative mind state during the run. I’ve learned that 4 races in 4 weeks (including 2 marathons and 2 10ks and both a marathon and 10k PB as well!) is far too much if I want to perform well on the day.

Soon enough it was time to say my goodbyes and head back down the road before my legs got too stiff. As good a race as it is, I think Nessie and I have spent enough time searching for each other for a while and next year I’ll hopefully be on to something bigger and better! Not to say I’ll never return though – I do love a Loch Ness medal!!

RACE REPORT – The Highland Perthshire Marathon and the big Sub 4

THE HIGHLAND PERTHSHIRE MARATHON 2014

Official time: 3 hours 54 minutes and 55 seconds

Overall position:80th/159

Gender position 11th/38 (5th/18 senior ladies)

Medal: Yes as well a certificate, mug and access to a health spa afterwards!

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My original plan for this race was for it to be a training run in advance of Loch Ness at the end of the month. I had high hopes for a good time but the main goal was to go out, have a comfortable run and try to finish the whole 26.2 miles with no wobbles or too many negative thoughts. Well, I think I just about managed that….

There were 10 Wee County Harriers running this race so once again we organised to use the school mini bus, courtesy of Kirsty, to transport us all there and back. I got up at some ridiculous hour in the morning and went about my normal pre race routine of shower, breakfast, coffee, hair, double and triple checking I had all my kit and then at about 6am I dragged poor Craig out of bed to give me a lift up to the school to meet the others. Everyone was in good, if somewhat sleepy, spirits and by 6:45am we were on our way north to the scenic Perthshire town of Aberfeldy to complete my third marathon.

Race registration. Weather looking good and gorgeous scenery. A good start!
Race registration. Weather looking good and gorgeous scenery. A good start!

We arrived at race registration with plenty of time to spare and got our race numbers and timing chips sorted before being handed our mug and then headed back to the bus to start getting ready. We still had a good 50 minutes or so before the race started so some of the guys went up to the local leisure to use the toilets and get changed. Time ticked by and before we knew it, it was 9:10am and time to head round to the start line. The others suddenly appeared back so we took what we needed off the bus and set off down the road to the start which was about half a mile away from race registration. Our walk turned into a power walk and then, realising we had 2 minutes to go, a gallop along the road to the back of the pack of runners lined up and ready to go. Just as we caught up with them we heard the count down from 3 and then the foghorn to start the race so our gallop slowed to a jog as we casually joined in at the back of the pack. Yeah, we meant that…

The first few miles whizzed by as we heading out from the village of Weem and followed the road East, past the village of Dull (having a wee giggle when we noticed it was paired with a town called Boring) and then turned onto a minor road for a few miles of gentle ups and downs. I was feeling strong and confident and there was only a slight hint of the voice in my head chanting “sub 4, sub 4, sub 4…”. I pushed it aside and continued to focus on the task in hand at that precise moment; to maintain a consistent pace and concentrate on the road ahead.

Miles 1-10 splits – 8:43, 8:41, 8:45, 8:48, 8:46, 8:47, 8:29, 8:51, 8:48, 8:47

Things were going perfectly so far. My legs felt good, the weather was just right, the route was brilliant and every time my watch beeped another mile I noticed my splits were very, very similar. This was definitely a first in a race this long! The route took us into the beautiful village of Kenmore, over the bridge and into the grounds of Taymouth castle. The path wound round past the golf course, by the river Tay and then right by the castle itself before heading back out of the castle grounds towards the main road back to Aberfeldy. The route so far had been pretty flat or slightly undulating but here we hit the only hill on the course. Half way up it I thought to myself that this was fine, it wasn’t too steep and I dug deep to push to the top. I forgot to mention that this course consisted of 2 loops of the same route. So first time round, as expected, everything was going to plan. I continued to take everything as it came and I didn’t want to think how I might feel the next time we would hit this hill which unfortunately would be at around 21 miles into the race…

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The course - 2 laps of it..
The course – 2 laps of it..

The route leveled out again and we passed another water stop, grabbed a handful of jelly babies from the marshals and continued out on to the gradual decline that followed for the next mile or so. This part of the route was pretty uneventful. The overgrown tree-lined road meant you couldn’t really see much of the beautiful surroundings so for now it was a case of focusing on my breathing and continuing to put one foot in front of the other. As we passed our 11 mile mark one of the half marathon runners flew past us at a great speed. The half marathon had started half an hour after us and slightly further down the road than our starting point, so this guy was absolutely flying!! We cheered him on and then fell back into line and continued our first lap back into Aberfeldy. The route passed the Black Watch memorial where there was another water station and a huge crowd of cheering, friendly faces from supporters who lined the street all the way along to the end of the first loop. At this point Derek pulled away to nip to the loo so James and I pushed on. We heard our names getting shouted out from the announcer as we ran by the half way point and listened to the shouts and cheers from the crowds for the half marathon runners, who were now rounding the final corner and sprinting towards the finish line. But soon enough everything grew quiet as we left them all behind and we were once again running along the quiet back roads to the sounds of our breathing and our feet hitting the tarmac over and over…

Coming back into Aberfeldy after the first loop. Smiles all round, jokes being made and general happy chat. All good so far...
Coming back into Aberfeldy after the first loop. Smiles all round, jokes being made and general happy chat. All good so far…

A few miles into the second lap, I started to get a sharp pain in my right knee that sent a piercing twinge up my thigh. I decided to slow the pace slightly and try to shake it off as the last thing I wanted to do at this stage was start walking, seize up and not get going again comfortably. I took a couple of paracetamol and pushed on, enjoying the slight downhill again and trying to push the pain to the back of my mind. Miraculously, it worked! The pain eased off and pace continued nice and steadily.

The second loop didn’t feel like as much of a chore as I had expected and every so often I realised I was actually still very comfortable and I started to really over think every little thing…

“Feeling great, speed it up a bit?”
“Still too long to go, not yet..”
“But what if it’s not possible in a few miles. Shouldn’t I bank some time now just in case?”
“Oh shut up and just keep going….”

Once I’d finished arguing with myself I realised we were coming up to the second climb of the nasty hill. There was no way I was slowing down now. My splits had been so even all the way up until now so I wasn’t going to let one measly half a mile climb throw me off for the final few miles. Digging deep, I pulled out all the stops and kept the momentum going all the way up and let out a little whoop of delight when I reached the top and felt the ground level out and my legs gained speed once again. Last 5 miles, here we go…

Mile 11-21 splits: 8:42, 8:40, 8:57, 9:05, 9:09, 9:11, 9:18, 9:19, 9:23, 9:19, 9:27

I can’t actually remember much about this part of the race apart from the fact the cars were passing by very closely and I started to feel a bit negative. James dropped back at about 22 miles with an injury and I started to slow slightly, thinking my legs were about to give up on me. I checked my watch and realised that even if i ran 11 minute miles, I’d still come in under 4 hours and suddenly I felt like I was being pushed along again. Nothing was going to take this away from me now…

Mile 22-26 splits: 9:42, 8:49, 9:14, 9:29,9:23

The last stretch of the route on the main road brought us back into Aberfeldy where we were met by two exceptionally cheery marshals who told us we were doing brilliantly and that we only had a few hundred meters to go. The pain had now returned in my legs and everything else also started to hurt. Just as I’d told Derek to push on ahead and that I was possibly about to die, I felt a pop and a horrible sensation in my shoe. A blister that I hadn’t even felt until now (thankfully!) had just burst and the pain was excruciating. I could see and hear the finish line, but I just couldn’t speed up. Even if I walked now I’d still make my time, but I’d run the whole race up until now so there was no way, no matter how much pain I was in, that I could walk now. I tackled the last hill on the bridge, flew down the other side and gave it everything I had left to run the final 50 meters down the road and into the field. Just as we entered the field and started down the finishers chute, Derek stepped aside and insisted I finish in front of him. So with one final push I fell over the line, wobbled a little and then lay down in the middle of the field while the world spun around me a little. I had just run a marathon in not only under 4 hours, but with 5 minutes to spare! How the hell did I manage that??!!

Once everything had stopped spinning, I sat up and was greeted and congratulated by my club mates and we stumbled into the refreshment tent to hoover up orange segments, caramel wafers and cans of coke. All the Wee County ladies had great races and ran amazing PB’s. It just goes to show that hard work and dedication really do pay off in the end. So proud of my wee running club once again!

The race entry fee also included access to a local health spa, so once everyone was in and we had collected our finisher certificates, we headed up for a swim and shower before all heading home – via the chippy of course – for some well deserved fizz and rest.

Fizz, crisps and TV. Perfect.
Fizz, crisps and TV. Perfect.

Now I’ve managed that time, I stupidly want to do it again and better it. I’m running Loch Ness again with Jemma in 3 weeks time but I’m just going to see how I feel on the day for that one. There are plenty more marathons out there just waiting for me and plenty of time to get faster.

Celebratory fizz, still can't quite believe what just happened...
Celebratory fizz, still can’t quite believe what just happened…

And I think it’s definitely time for a new medal rack. This is just getting a bit ridiculous!

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Too many holidays and a change of heart.

I’ve had a fantastic summer so far. 3 weeks of sailing around the Baltic sea with Craig and my family and managing to visit Estonia, Russia, Finland and Sweden, as well as many islands in between in that time….I’ve now come back to reality with a bump.

My plans for the next few weeks were originally:
– Get back to training asap after doing very little while away
– Run the Highland Perthshire marathon in September as a long training run
– Try and beat my PB at the Stirling 10K (which would mean a PB in every distance this year!)
– Run the Clyde Stride 40 mile ultra at the end of September.

However, for a while now I’ve not been feeling the drive to run the Clyde Stride. When I think about how excited I was before Glen Ogle or Strathearn, I realise I’m not getting the same feeling about this race. Whether it’s because I haven’t managed to go and run any of the route in advance or because I’ve done very few miles in the past month, I just wasn’t looking forward to it. So instead of running a race I wasn’t particularly feeling up for, I decided (with very little persuasion from Jemma!) to sign up for the Loch Ness marathon and see if I can break the elusive 4 hour barrier time before the year is out.

Not really anywhere to run out here....
Not really anywhere to run out here….

I’m much more excited about running Loch Ness again as now I know the course and I know where the hills are. I know not to go out too fast on the first downhill section and also not the give up on the nasty hill around 19 miles in. I know to take more gels and carry some paracetamol in case my knee starts to hurt again. Running a marathon in under 4 hours is my ultimate goal for the rest of this year. After taking 12 minutes off my time at the tricky Strathearn marathon, I feel I should be more than capable of it on this course, but after swanning around on holiday for weeks, has all my hard work and training taken a back seat?

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With 4 weeks of hard work ahead of me, it’s time to really put some effort in.

Strathearn Marathon – RACE REPORT

THE STRATHEARN MARATHON 2014

Official time: 4 hours 4 minutes and 05 seconds

Overall: 87 out of 150

Medal : No, but we did get a super technical tshirt

When Jemma signed up for this race last year, I was at the stage where I thought I’d never be able to run a marathon. I was just about comfortable with half marathons and I had just joined my running club with the main aim being to build my confidence in running and improve my speed over shorter distances.

Fast forward a year and many, many, many miles later (including a marathon and an ultra marathon!) and I was signing up for the Strathearn marathon without a second thought. After having to pull out of the Lochaber marathon in April I was keen to make this my big race of the year. My plan wasn’t to race it but more to get out and run it comfortably and get through without the pain and fatigue I’d felt at Loch Ness last September. If I got a good time then it’d be a bonus, but being able to drive home afterwards was my main goal!!

Race morning came and I was up bright and early to have a big breakfast of porridge, an electrolyte drink and some coffee. I took my dog up to the park for a short walk and to try and calm my pre-race nerves before I picked Catriona up at 7.15am. Just before I left I checked the forecast and with promises of “scattered showers, overcast skies and light winds” I slathered a little sunscreen on my shoulders and then didn’t give it a second thought. First mistake of the day…

The race begins at Cultybraggan camp which was first used as a prisoner of war camp during World War 2 and then later as an army training area. These days it’s owned by the Comrie Development trust and is used for a variety of projects. We met up with our team mates, registered and plodded about saying hello to various people for the next half an hour. At about 8:20am we decided to get in the toilet queue and then make our last-minute preparations for the race. I’d read on the race brief email that there was a tap available on the campsite but no one seemed to know where it was and then spent a stressful few minutes panicking I had no water and trying to find one! I eventually found it, got my bottles sorted and then bumped into Rachel who had signed up just a few days before and was using it as her last long training run before a big race in a few weeks time. By this point the sun had really come out and I cursed myself for lending my husband Craig my sunglasses to take away on his bands tour with him!

Everybody in!!
Everybody in!!

We all gathered for a quick race briefing just before 9am and then with a count down from 3, the 190 or so runners were off on our 26.2 miles journey around this beautiful part of the country. First off was a lap of the campsite and then it was out onto a minor road for the first 4 miles of the race. And they were pretty much all up hill – superb! You don’t join the Wee County Harriers to run on flat surfaces I can tell you and straight away I could feel that my training was going to pay off. This was by no means and easy course!

First lap thumbs up and the last decent picture of me en route!!
First lap thumbs up and the last decent picture of me en route!! Photo – Gordon Donnachie
After the first set of hills and glad to be on the flat! Photo - Gordon Donnachie
After the first set of hills and glad to be on the flat! Photo – Gordon Donnachie

I settled into a comfortable pace and enjoyed the scenic landscape as I plodded on up the first set of hills. About 5 miles in the road evened out a bit and then from 7 miles there was a lovely gentle downhill section that lasted a few miles. At 10 and bit miles there was the first of the personalised water bottle stations and having guzzled most of what I had on me already, I swapped the bottle I had on me for another one full of tasty electrolyte water. We took a sharp turn out onto the main road for just over a mile and then in the distance I could see our next obstacle – the old Roman road. The term ‘steep’ would be an understatement, I couldn’t see the top of it! I slowed my pace right down and power walked up remembering how I had run up hills early on at Loch Ness last year and majorly regretted it about 20 miles in. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again and as it was only getting hotter and hotter I could see things getting messy further on in the race if I didn’t take things easy now.

Enjoying a slight downhill section after the horrific hot climb.
Enjoying a slight downhill section after the horrific hot climb. Photo – Clark Hamilton

By now I was really looking forward to the next water station so I could grab a bottle of plain water. Mainly to tip over my head but also so I could wash the taste of electrolyte water away. Note to self – the tropical one was not something I looked forward to drinking. I’ll stick to summer fruits in the future! The miles ticked by and I was feeling pretty fresh – slowing right down on the up hill sections and taking my time on the down hills so as not to ruin my quads. The rain came on at around 17 miles and it was a welcome and refreshing change however it didn’t seem to know which way it was falling and came down in all directions. Makes running exciting I can tell you! We came into Crieff just after the 18 mile mark and ahead was the second of the two personalised water bottle stations. I was glad to pick up another bottle with a different flavour in it and I drank hungrily from it. Coming out of Crieff we were met with yet another hill but this one had Stewart from the Wee County Harriers on it who was cheering us round, catching us at various stages of the course and taking pictures of our deteriorating performance! There was no way I was walking this one and kept the momentum going, powering straight to the top. By now my feet were starting to hurt and I had a slight pain between my shoulder blades but it was more annoying than sore. I was this far into the race and things were feeling pretty good, what was going on?!

The next few miles were a bit undulating and every time I saw a hill I made myself run up it and then slow down on the decline until I got my heart rate down a bit. At one point I slowed to a walk to take a drink and then struggled to get my bottle back in my belt. The guy behind me caught up, slowed to a walk to help me and then said “come on!” which got me back to a run , so whoever you are thanks so much for that! Not sure how much longer I would have walked had it not been for that. At 23 miles I got into a bit of a negative mind-set and started feeling a bit light-headed and sick but there on the horizon was another water station and some very, very cheery marshals who were just SO encouraging! The Strathearn Harriers are our neighbouring club so all the Wee County Harriers got extra amazing shout outs and to the lady who cheered my on going by 24 miles and told me I was looking amazing, Thank you so much! I definitely didn’t feel it at that point but you definitely spurred me on just that little bit further. And then the guy at 25 miles who told me my socks were amazing – you also pushed me on just that little but more. At this point every single cheer and shout helped, especially the little kid in Comrie who was cheering us all on and telling us we were nearly there – what a star! The last mile is along the road which runs right beside the Camp and you can see the runners entering the camp and the announcer shouting everyone’s name as they cross the line. So very, very close…

I glanced at my watch for the first time in miles. I knew that sub 4 was well out of the picture but coming along the last road I noticed my watch had just ticked over 4 hours!! I pushed through, back into the camp and onto the finishers straight to hear my name being called over the tannoy and my club mates cheering me on. I grinned and blasted over the finish line in just over 4 hours and 4 minutes. That’s just over 12 minutes off my personal best – how did that happen? I collapsed on the grass and tried to stop my legs from shaking and once I’d recovered I went to congratulate all my friends and cheer everyone else in.

First smile for miles. Clock watching with glee!
First smile for miles. Clock watching with glee!

This marathon was wonderful and I’ll definitely be back next year for another shot. The organisation, marshals, volunteers, set up, setting….. it was all perfect.I much prefer this type of race to the bigger commercial ones and with it being so close, I just can’t refuse.
My only regret is that I didn’t put sun screen on my face. Rocking the tomato look at work today got a few giggles from the kids!

Bring on the sub 4….

Post run celebration with Catriona.
Post run celebration with Catriona.

The Mull of Kintyre Half Marathon 2014 – RACE REPORT

THE MULL OF KINTYRE HALF MARATHON 2014

Official time: 1 hour 56 minutes and 07 seconds

Overall: 88 out of 211

Category: 17th out of 40

Medal : Yes

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This race had been a Christmas present from Jemma and something I had been looking forward to for months. The day before the race Jemma and I decided to go and stay with my parents who were up at the boat in Loch Melfort. This at least took some of the pressure off for race morning although we’d still have an hour and a half to travel from there. We settled in for the night and enjoyed a lovely dinner and a few bottles of fizz. As you do the night before a serious race of course…

Race day came and when I woke up at stupid o’clock to see the rain pelting off the deck, I couldn’t think of anything less I wanted to do than race. With fingers crossed for better weather, we had our breakfast and a few cups of coffee then said our goodbyes and got on the road down to Campbeltown. With window wipers on full blast and windows steaming up every 2 minutes, I tried to lighten my mood but running in heavy rain is something I just cannot stand. Drizzle is fine. Or for a short distance heavy rain is fine. But 13 miles in the pouring rain was something I could live without. The journey down is a beautiful one, but when you’re stuck behind a couple of patient transport buses and with no possibility of overtaking it can get slightly tedious…

We arrived in Campbeltown with plenty of time to spare and set about getting our race numbers and finding a shop to buy some juice. By now the rain had stopped and it was starting to brighten up and as if by magic, so did my mood! Race numbers and time chips in place, we were ready for action! We’d decided months ago that this wasn’t going to be a race for a time by any means. This was one of the most beautiful places in the UK and there was no way I going to sprint around with my head down and miss all the beautiful views. Plus I was still feeling tired from giving it my all at Loch Leven a few weeks before, I needed time to recharge!

Pre race aerobics. Why on earth not?!
Pre race aerobics. Why on earth not?!
Serious pre race preparation going on here....
Serious pre race preparation going on here….

15 minutes or so before the race started everyone gathered in a field and began a pre-race aerobics workout along with a very energetic instructor up on a stage. Jemma and I bopped about outside the pen and threw a few shapes of our own. Why on earth not?! The sun was now out and all the serious runner types were mingling around the start line looking on with interesting facial expressions. Just before 10:30am everyone else joined them and with a count down of 3-2-1… we were off! The 10k and half marathon both started at the same time this year and just over half a mile in the 10k runners took a sharp left and left us half marathon runners climbing the long and gradual ascent out of Campbeltown and onto the beautifully scenic roads out to Machrihanish.

Photographer = spotted!  Photo - West Coast Photos
Photographer = spotted!
Photo – West Coast Photos

Miles 1-3 were along the main road out of Campbeltown before turning onto a side road and heading up another incline. We had said we were going to run about 8:30-9 minute miles and enjoy having a plod, but straight away we found ourselves galloping along at 8 minute miles and several times had to slow ourselves down quite a bit. Heading up to Machrihanish there was bit of a nasty hill so I put my head down and pushed up to the top. When I got to 5 miles I turned to grin at Jemma as I had noticed her shadow sitting on my shoulder the whole way up the hill, only to met with someone else. Sorry to the random who I was manically smiling at, I was just happy to be at the top of the hill!! Onwards, and mile 5 took us onto the golf course, up and over the dunes and then down onto the beach. Wow. It was just amazingly beautiful!

Photo - Kintyre Forum
Photo – Kintyre Forum

Running on sand = difficult! But this was perfect practice for the Black Rock 5 race which I am running again in 2 weeks. A brilliant race in Kinghorn in Fife and this year there are over 1000 people doing it. I can’t wait!
The beach section was an out and back loop of about a mile in total and on the way back I clocked Jemma and gave her a whoop and a high-five. We were both having so much fun!! I leapt across a river, ploughed through the soft sand and back up the bridge to the dunes. This section was really tough and my hamstrings were starting to feel like they had taken a beating. Finally we were back on the road and I decided now would be a good time to take a gel and some water as it had suddenly got really, really sunny! The route followed the same road back for another mile and then took a sharp left and onto a different yet just as undulating road back to Campbeltown. About 10 miles in I felt my pace really slow and I got really thirsty. Just how hot was it now? The last few miles saw us rejoin the main road and enter Campbeltown from a different direction and thankfully on a descent. By now I was really sore and tired and just ready to finish. Coming round one of the final bends I took my earphones out and dropped one of the covers so had to do a quick about turn to scoop it up, nearly tripping up the poor knackered man behind me. I couldn’t say sorry enough but he just laughed thankfully! Coming up to 13 miles the crowds thickened and everyone was cheering us in. The announcer at the finish line was clocking everyone’s numbers and shouting out their name as they came across the line which was just a lovely way to finish!

Photo - West Coast Photos
Photo – West Coast Photos

I was given my beautiful medal, t-shirt and goody bag and stumbled round to find some water. By now it was roasting and my shoulders were quite sunburnt. What a contrast from a few hours ago! I stood by the finisher chute to shout Jemma in and then we both collapsed on the grass for a few minutes to compose ourselves.
On the way home we stopped to take a few photos on Westport beach – another stunning beach on the west of the Mull of Kintyre. Such a beautiful place and somewhere I hope to visit again in the future.

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This was an absolutely stunning race that I hope to do again in the future, if even just to visit the beaches again! The goody bag was fantastic and I somehow ended up with 2 buffs in my bag. Don’t worry, they’ll get good use this winter!!

Thanks to everyone who helps make this race such a success and one of the most popular year after year. The medals are amazing. Can’t wait to see what they come up with next year!!

Post race sweatyness. Lovely!
Post race sweatyness. Lovely!
Loving my t-shirt!
Loving my t-shirt!

Race route photos from