I can’t actually believe I’m sitting writing yet another yearly review. They say that time goes by more quickly as you get older, and I don’t exactly class myself as old yet but that year seriously flew by and yet I managed to fit so much in. As has become customary, here’s a wee look back at another fantastic year.
The year started with the annual plod up the Ochil hills with some running club buddies on the 2nd of January. It was cold and misty but as an annual tradition to kick start the year, we braved the elements and had a great day out.
The end of another year is fast approaching and looking back at this years blog posts I seem to just be writing race report after race report with not much in between. This was never my original plan when I first started the blog nearly 2 years ago, but somehow life just seems to get in the way of sitting down and tapping away on my keyboard. Hopefully 2015 will be the year when I can get things back on track!
This year was one that took a while to get going for me as I trundled through the first few months of the year with an undiagnosed iron deficiency. Thanks to a course of iron tablets from March until quite recently I have flown through the year, smashed the majority of my PB’s and found the love of running again and through that the races I’m aiming to run next year just seem to be getting bigger, further and more exciting. With my racing calender already containing the D33 in March (if I get a place!), the London Marathon in April and the Cateran 55 in May it once again looks like it’s not going to be a year for speed. Well, at least the first half of it anyway!
My mileage for the year is currently sitting at 1237 and considering I never really got going until late March, I have to say I’m pretty pleased with that! Last year I gave the Marcothon a go, but around the 18th Of December I got slammed with the end of term cold and I think that’s where the anemia really began as I just didn’t get going again after that. For those who don’t know, the Marcothon is an annual running event held every December. It began in 2009 when Scottish Ultra Runner Marco Consani challenged himself to run every day in November. His wife Debbie then decided to continue the challenge and run every day through December and posted the challenge on her blog. Before long there was a group of runners also eager to embrace this challenge and power through the cold winter month and every year since then the challenge has grown and grown, this year seeing 2900 registered on Facebook and probably many others outside of social media also taking part.
The rules are as follows- 1-You must run EVERY DAY 2- December only. No other month counts. You can’t run the NYC marathon in July, because the weather’s nicer 3-Three miles (5km) or 25 minutes – whichever comes first – is the minimum 4-Yes, it includes Christmas day 5- If you take a day off, you’re out. Sorry. No playing catch-up 6-It’s a personal challenge. If you think you’re cheating, you probably are 7-If you don’t normally run on a treadmill, don’t start. See point above 8-No cycling, rowing, dog-walking, climbing the stairs in your house (yes, we were asked that) permitted 9- You can run at 5m/m or jog at 15m/m – the pace is not important 10-Have fun and share your experiences with other Marcothoners
So, here we go. I have a few days which I already know are going to be slightly more difficult with various social events, travelling everywhere to see family, eating too much… the usual festive priorities and I fear there may have to be a few more early rises this month and possibly even a few tipsy plods, but it’s all part of the fun!
I’d love to hear how anyone else doing this is getting on. If I manage it beyond the 18th of December it’ll be the most back to back runs I’ve ever done, and as I’m wanting to keep up my long weekend runs as well it’ll be interesting to see how I feel come the end of the month. Will it make me stronger? Will I start to resent running? The moment I have any negative thoughts about it I’ll probably stop as I don’t want to see it as a chore.
Good luck to everyone giving it a go. Here’s to a month of festive, enjoyable runs and hopefully more blog posts from yours truly. I’ll try not to mump and moan my way through them!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!!
The Loch Leven Half Marathon was my first proper race of the year. After bouncing back following a course of iron tablets and a few months of amazing training, I was more than ready for it. With my ‘A’ race of the year being the Strathearn marathon in June I felt this was the perfect distance to stretch the legs at a good pace and see how I was feeling after 13.1 miles of pushing myself.
Kirsty came to pick me up on the Saturday morning and along with Susan and Andy, we made our way through to Kinross for race registration. We got there with plenty of time to spare, found parking easily and met up with the rest of our club mates at the school campus. Everyone has been training extra hard over the past few months for the marathon so all of us were feeling a bit sluggish and heavy and had the same outlook of ‘go out and see how we feel along the way’. Numbers on, final kit choice changes made and countless toilet visits later, we left the school campus and made our way a mile or so along the road to the starting area. The nerves were really starting to kick in. Even though my training had been going really well up until now and I had been feeling great, I still wasn’t convinced I’d be able to perform well on the day. But as always, at this point I could do no more and there was only one thing I could try and do – go out and fake it til I make it.
We all wished each other good luck, squished in for a few “welfies” (aka – ‘wee county harrier selfies’!) and before we knew it the horn had sounded and we were off! I got a pretty good start having chosen to set off at the side of the pack and passed by a few people who were all running side by side and taking up the majority of the road, until I nearly rear ended a guy who just stopped dead in front of everyone to fix his lace. My race was nearly over before it had even started! However, once were out of the starting lane and out onto the main road the pack spread out straight away and the race had properly begun. Here goes nothing!!
The race route follows the main road out of Kinross for 2 miles and then turns on to a quieter road that runs along beside Loch Leven. Even though there were countless signs advising drivers to slow down and that there was a race on, impatient drivers who couldn’t slow down or wait just a few more minutes were whizzing along beside us and cutting it very fine along side some runners. At one point later in the race I actually got knocked off balance by a gust of wind from a bus cutting it tightly around me as it overtook, but I’m sure the less said about that the better!
The first few miles flew by. I was trying not to look at my watch and just run my race comfortably, but I couldn’t help it and every time it caught my eye I was seeing 7:xx. So that was it, I was running a good race so far so I thought I might as well see how long I could keep it up. What’s the worst that could happen? I’d get to half way and feel a bit tired and then have to pull my pace back a bit? If so, then so be it. For now, the race was on!
I had been pre- warned that there was a pretty nasty hill at about 8 miles just as you come into Scotlandwell, so with this in mind I downed a gel at about 6.5 miles and prepared for the worst. I somehow sailed up the hill, ticking off people one by one as I went. Where was this power coming from?! I was deep in the hurt locker and it wasn’t all plain sailing, but I flew out of Scotlandwell and onto the flat again just as my watch beeped 8 miles and I noticed I’d managed to keep my pace to 8 minute miles even up the hill! Feeling awesome I pushed on, knowing I was now comfortably over half way and I just had to keep this pace up to the finish line. By now the sun had come out of hiding and it was slightly too warm. There were 4 water stations on the course but unfortunately the bottles we were given didn’t have lids or sports tops, so it was a case of take what you can when you get it and then have to ditch it soon after or you’ll just spill at all anyway! I gulped down what I could and then poured the rest over my head before launching the bottle in the bins supplied just after the water stations.
Coming out of the last village on the route, I managed to pick my pace up a bit more and still comfortably running I glanced at my watch to see that unless disaster struck, I was more or less guaranteed a pretty big PB. My brain was a bit fried by this time and I had to concentrate hard to make sure my sums were correct. That’s my excuse for my race pictures being so awful. I knew fine well the camera was there and he actually yelled “SMILE!” at me, but this was the result…
The guy in front of me in this picture was one of the people I overtook on the uphill, but he managed to get past me again on the downhill and in doing so he started talking to me and telling me what the rest of the route was like. He really spurred me on and in the final mile and a bit he kept looking over his shoulder so I made it my goal to stick with him right til the end. The last mile was lovely and flat and followed an old railway route back into Kinross before cutting through a housing estate, up a sneaky steep hill and back onto the main road before turning sharply onto the grass of the playing fields to the finish. Still feeling strong I put my head down to push as hard as I could. Yes I could catch a few more people on this last stretch – tick, tick, tick. Yes, I still had something in my legs and YES! I could manage a sprint finish across the grass with a smile on my face and my arms in the air! I glanced at the race clock as I flew through the finishing chute and grinned as I got my timing chip cut off my shoe. A ONE MINUTE 47 SECOND PB?? YES! I’ll take that!! And first lady from WCH home as well! My smile couldn’t possibly get any bigger! My legs had turned to complete mush by now and my leg was shaking like jelly as the poor man tried his best to make sure he was just cutting off my chip and not half my foot as well! I staggered round to see my team mates and collapsed on the grass with a feeling of utter glee.
I stood and cheered in all the rest of my team mates before Kirsty and I decided to call it a day and head home before the chills set in.
The goody bag contained a lovely medal, an awesome tin water bottle and the usual banana, water, chocolate and also a voucher for a drink and something off the bbq which had been put on for the runners. Not bad for a pretty cheap entry price of £18 (I think). I really enjoyed the race, everyone was very friendly and the race was well organised and marshaled. Thanks to all the lovely marshals who cheered me on throughout the race. I’ll definitely be back next year!
This week has been hard to settle into. The weekend was so jam packed and brilliant fun that coming straight back to work without any time to reflect has been hard! I’m mostly shocked at the amazing weather we were blessed with during our adventure. It was like being abroad for the weekend and really took me by surprise. We seriously couldn’t have asked for anything better!
On Saturday morning, Jemma picked me up and we headed North to Aviemore where we had planned to meet Rhona and a couple of her friends from Stonehaven running club, Kate and Ali. The main purpose of the trip was to race the steam train back to Aviemore on Sunday (a planned event, not just because we’re crazy!), so we decided to go up a day early, meet up with some fellow runners and have a lovely run around the Caringorms. Ali had planned a route up and around Meall a’ Bhuachaille and we were so lucky to have the weather on our side as the views from the top were breathtaking! The sun was on our backs as we ploughed up to the top (through the snow!) and after a quick breather and some posing for photos, we started our rather quick descent. The run back down the other side was exhilarating to say the least! From the bottom a trail run lead us to the Green Loch where we had a quick paddle to cool our feet down. The loop was about 6.5 miles of gorgeous trails and Ali couldn’t have planned a better route for us, so huge thanks to him for that!
After a quick trip to the shops, we headed back to the campsite and set up our barbecues. You couldn’t get camping weather any better than this, we were so lucky! We had a lovely feast of savoury and sweet food, the drinks were flowing and we had sunlight until around 11pm when we were greeted by a full moon and a blanket of stars in a cloudless sky. Perfect. If only I could say as much for my nights sleep. Camping and I are still not the best of friends….
On the Sunday we were up bright and early to head down to Aviemore for the race against the steam train, which was organised by the Cairngorm Runners and was probably the most enjoyable and fun race I have taken part in. The aim of the game is to beat the steam train back to Aviemore – around 45 minutes to run 4.5 miles miles. We met and registered around 10am we were taken by bus to Aviemore train station. Once at the station we were met by a piper and handed tickets to board the steam train to Boat of Garten.
The train was packed with excited runners and their friends and family, and once at Boat of Garten we all hoped off the train to assemble a few hundred metres down the road in the forest. A quick pep talk later and we were on our way – with 45 minutes to go until the train caught up with us back at Aviemore. I wasn’t for letting it beat me but with legs still a little achy from the previous day I wasn’t sure what pace I’d be able to maintain for the 4.5 mile course. The trail was lovely and flat with just a few ups and downs throughout – such a scenic course with the back drop of the snow topped Cairngorms, and I somehow managed to keep a pretty quick pace up and pelt back to Aviemore in 37:54 (watch time, 38:01 gun time) and had plenty time to collect my medal, water and one of the best goody bags ever (which contained a sports bottle, energy bar, energy gels, North Face lip balm, high 5 tablets and discount vouchers) before the train pulled back into the station. All for £14 – bargain!
And with that our amazing weekend had to come to an end. The race was over as quickly as it had started and it was time to get back to reality. I’d definitely do this race again and I can’t give enough credit and thanks to the organisers and everyone that helped out on the day. The weekend was brilliant and it was so nice to meet new people who are as passionate about running as we are and I hope I get the chance to do something similar again in the future.
However, trying to get my legs to become friends with me again is another story altogether….