Neil McCover Half Marathon – RACE REPORT


Official time: 1 hour 50 minutes 36 seconds

Overall: 120 out of 168

Medal : No, but another technical tshirt. Same design as last year but different colours.


The Neil McCover Memorial half marathon is one of my favourite races and routes for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s right next to the village I grew up in, so it has a certain nostalgic element. It’s also a rather small event so I always feel more pressure on myself to do my best and try not to come last! And it’s also one of our club GP races, which means more points!! I’m not in the running for a prize this year, but next year… well, we’ll see!

The event unfortunately clashed with the Great Scottish run, so for a race that is already quite small this had quite a big impact on numbers. Not that it bothered any of us. We’d all much prefer to be running round the beautiful countryside compared to through the centre of Glasgow with thousands of others! And this route was challenging to say the least so I knew I’d really have to push myself to get round comfortably – it was exactly one week after the Loch Ness Marathon and my legs still hadn’t fully forgiven me. Taking this factor into consideration, along with the fact the course was quite undulating I decided to go out steady and hopefully return somewhere in the next 3 hours!! My only aim was to try for a course PB as I had run this race the previous year and it had been my first half marathon in over a year, so marathon pain and fatigue were put to one side and my one goal for this race had been set.

Race morning came and the weather looked promising. Slightly drizzly but not windy so by my standards, pretty much perfect. I dropped Craig off at work and made my way down to Kirkintilloch to check in for the race. I think I was one of the first to arrive as the helpers were still setting up their table and trying to separate safety pins. I collected my number and pins and looked around for my timing chip (which we had been issued with the previous year) but couldn’t see any. I assume that because race numbers were so low this year they decided just to go with gun time. My team mates started to arrive and when they time came, we braved the cold and left our layers behind to head over to the starting line.

Looking lost on our way to the start line. It was early!  Photo - Susan Furmage
Looking lost on our way to the start line. It was early!
Photo – Susan Furmage

The race is in memory of Neil McCover who was a member and chairman of the Kirkintilloch Olympians, and is now in its 3rd year. It starts in the town of Kirkintilloch, follows the main road out to the East side of the town before heading into the hills, taking in the villages of Milton of Campsie, Lennoxtown, Torrance and Lenzie on its way back into Kirkintilloch again. We all congregated at the start line/area and a few words were had about the race and how it was a shame numbers were down this year. At least the race got to go ahead though as a few other small events around the country had unfortunately been cancelled through low interest. Such a shame when the giant corporate events take over. I’d much rather run a smaller, local, cheaper race any day! After posing for a few more photos, someone shouted 3-2-1… and we were off!

I think the WCH made up about 1/8 of the race numbers. Go us! Photo - Susan Furmage
I think the WCH made up about 1/8 of the race numbers. Go us!
Photo – Susan Furmage

The route is undulating throughout and my splits for the first few miles were as follows:
Mile 1 – 7:25
Mile 2 – 8:04
Mile 3 – 8:03
Mile 4 – 8:31

The roads out from Kirkintilloch take you up towards the Campsie hills and it is just stunning. My parents live just a bit further along the Campsies, so I told them I’d probably be passing through the nearest village to them at about 10am. I got the mile markers wrong in my head so actually passed through just before quarter to and unfortunately they weren’t there. Never mind, the marshals and local support the whole way around was fantastic! Even though we were well and truly into the hills I still felt pretty good. I kept reminding myself there was a nasty hill near 9 miles, so I had to keep something in the tank for then. I also kept thinking back to how I felt at this stage in the course last time round. What a difference a year makes, not just to fitness but also to my mental state of running. Last year I’d see a hill and convince myself there would be no way on earth I’d be able to run the whole thing, so I’d walk most of it instead. This year, even though my whole body was still drained from the week before, I wouldn’t let myself slow to a walk at all.

Mile 5 – 8:44
Mile 6 – 8:31
Mile 7 – 8:41
Mile 8 – 8:41

I was keeping a steady and comfortable race after setting off a bit too fast. I always seem to start way too quickly as I get swept along with the crowds and I need to learn to hold back for the first few miles. I knew from last year that this was a fast race for some, but I wasn’t letting that bother me or thinking that I’d have to keep up with anyone. This was just a race for myself and my enjoyment!
At 7 miles my mp3 player ran out of batteries. I knew I should have charged it the day before but I stupidly thought it’d have enough life left in it to last a couple of hours. From now until the finish line it was just my breathing and the sound of my feet hitting the tarmac that would get me round. That and the person who was running right behind me – I was determined not to let them overtake me!

Mile 9 – 8:41
Mile 10 – 9:20 (after the hill!)
Mile 11 – 8:36
Mile 12 – 8:54
Mile 13 – 8:20

As you reach the top of the hill, the road is long and flat and you have to cross over to the other side, but unfortunately it’s still open to traffic and quite busy. I kept looking back over my shoulder to try and see if it was clear, but it never was when I wanted to cross. I eventually had to slow down and cross in stages which made it hard to get going again. However, as I got to the end of the road and rounded the corner I almost ran straight into my parents who had driven up the road to try and find me at another point in the race. It was lovely to see them, even if for a split second and it made the next mile or so fly by. For some reason, I remember the road through Lenzie back into Kirkintilloch as flat and downhill. I used to run it all the time for school cross country and I do not remember it being so hilly in the middle! I struggled a lot at this point. I also nearly ran straight through and old woman as she walked right out in front of me at a bus stop and stopped in the middle of the pavement. I had the options of face planting into a bus stop, her or the back of the car she was walking over to. My arm caught the bus stop as I dodged round her at great speed and at this point I could have cried. I have no idea where the last of my energy had gone and I just wanted the race to be over. I came over the top of the last hill and caught sight of my coach Gordon who had sped round the race and got a P.B of 1:27 and was now coming back to cheer the rest of us in. All I could give back as he cheered me on was a feeble thumbs up and I trundled down the hill to the finish line.



I finished in a time of 1:50:36 which is just over 2 minutes outside my personal best and considering how tired I was and how hilly the course is, I’m pretty happy. I received my goody bag, which had a spot prize in it – a lovely aluminium drinking bottle. 2nd spot prize in 2 years. Not too shabby!

And now on to the Ultra. Which is in less than 3 weeks by the way……. :-/

Loch Ness Marathon – RACE REPORT


Official time: 4 hours 16 minutes 17 seconds

Overall: 1441 out of 2697

Medal : Yes, my biggest one to date!


A little delayed in writing this, but there has been a little bit of laptop hogging in the Mackay household of late… but here we go.

A week (and another half marathon!) later, I am still on a post marathon high. Mainly because a few years ago, after I completed my first half marathon, my knees were in so much pain I vowed I would never run anything more than a 10k again as I just wasn’t built to run. Well I guess something eventually clicked and I realised that with a little more effort, maybe I could run distances. And here I am, 6 half marathons and a few too many 10k’s later… and I have comfortably (I use the term VERY loosely!) completed a marathon.

Since I joined The Wee County Harriers, my training has really stepped up a gear. Long weekend runs used to be a tedious affair, on my own with my music. But since I joined the club, I get to talk nonsense at weekends and the miles fly by. What a difference it makes, and what a lovely bunch they are….

One Sunday, too early, very tired, but this crazy lot help me through it every week :)
One Sunday morning, far too early, very tired, but this crazy lot help me through it every week 🙂

Anyway, I digress. Last Saturday we set off for Inverness mid afternoon, got to our B&B, checked in and then headed over to pick up our race numbers for the big event the next day. At this point the reality of it still hadn’t set in. I was about to push my body to do the biggest racing event of my life so far, I was going to have to run for hours and hours and hours, and here I was skipping about Bught Park not giving it a second thought.
And then we went out for dinner and almost every single pasta/carb based restaurant in Inverness was stowed out with runners, chatting about the upcoming event in the morning, and how they got on last year, and how the course was really hilly and THAT hill at 18 miles…
And that’s when it finally kicked in that I was about to run a marathon. Something I had laughed at the thought of a few years earlier and something I swore I would never do. Oh well, here goes nothing!

All checked in and ready to go, secretly wishing Nessie would emerge and tow me to the finish line!
All checked in and ready to go, secretly wishing Nessie would emerge and tow me to the finish line!

After dinner we headed back to our B&B and I got all my kit ready for the next day, pinned on my race number and made sure I had everything I needed in my race belt. I’d had a look at the weather and thought although it looked dry I didn’t trust it, so decided to wear two vests – one as a base layer and also to stop my race belt chaffing, and then my club vest on top. My body was physically shattered, but I just couldnt switch my brain off and I was over thinking everything. As Craig dozed off into a relaxed slumber, I lay staring at the ceiling of our tiny B&B room and tried to fall asleep watching the T.V. I think I got a bit of sleep between 11pm and 1am and then from there until 5.30am it was a case of dozing for a bit on and off until I snapped fully awake, gave up and got out of bed just before my alarm. I was up way before the B&B started serving breakfast, but the land lady had said the previous day she would leave out cereal and fruit for us. I wasn’t sure at what point the milk had been left out, but the thought of room temperature milk did nothing for my already depleted appetite, so luckily I had brought along my own porridge pots and some flapjacks which I had along with a couple of coffees. By 6.45am I was ready to go, so I got my stuff together, put on my throw away top which I had bought the previous day and headed down to the buses to meet up with the rest of the crew.

The sun was just coming up as I walked over to the park and the roads were empty and quiet apart from a steady stream of runners, appearing from hotels all the way along the river. Jemma was already at the park and I met up with my brother in law Stuart (who was also running his first marathon), had a quick dash to the loos and made our way to one of the many coaches which would be our mode of transport down to the bottom of Loch Ness to our race start destination. The coaches starting moving bang on 7.15am, so we eventually found our way to a double decker and within a few minutes we were off! This was it, no other way back now!

The majority of the journey flew by, but once I realised how far we were actually going, nerves set in again and I was suddenly desperate for the loo. Unfortunately the last part of the bus journey is all up hill and the coaches slowed down to a crawl at this point. Getting to our destination was a very welcome sight!


Pre race. Nervous about what I am about to ask my body to do, but excited all the same!
Pre race. Nervous about what I am about to ask my body to do, but excited all the same!

The queues for the toilets were ridiculous. The queue was coming from both directions and people were skipping it all over the place. I guess there’s only so much you can do for 3000+ people who all the need the loo at the same time though! The countdown had now begun and we decided there was nothing left to do, no more we could do, but head to the start line and await our fate. This was finally it. What I had thought I would never manage. I saw a few club members, wished them luck and then bang on 10am we were off.

The first 5 miles or so were on a lovely down hill slope and very overcrowded. This caused me to go way too fast and I probably should have held back a bit for later in the race, but I just couldn’t stop my legs. A mixture of adrenaline and just getting swept along with the crowd made my first 5 mile splits all under 9 minutes. And then came the first wee climb…

The course elevation. Didn't realise how high we had started until I looked at this!
The course elevation. Didn’t realise how high we had started until I looked at this!

That hill came out of nowhere and was steep! I pushed right to the top and then enjoyed the next few miles of gentle ups and downs and felt positive and strong as I fuelled myself with powerade and shot blocks. One of the things I really loved about this event was the amount of support. Not just from people standing along side the roads and through villages, but the runners themselves. Random people passed me and cheered me on, giving me a little boost every now and again and it was just fab!

Still running steady!
Still running steady!

I felt great until about 16.5 miles (I think) coming into Dores. I took a bottle of water and realised it didn’t have a lid, so I walked to take a proper drink and then just couldn’t seem to get my speed back up. I knew the hill was coming up soon so I tried to push on a bit further, but something in my leg started to ache. I tried to ignore it and got chatting to a lady as we started the plod up the hill, but it just kept burning away. I decided not to push it with so far still to go and walk the hill thinking the downhill section at the other side would help the pain. But no, it hurt even more. So from there I saw my 4 hour goal time slip slowly out of sight (up til now I had been on course for a comfortable sub 4 time, but this hill had seen an end to that!). I hobbled on, half running-half walking and then was caught up by two runners from my club, Susan and Catriona. Susan was running really well and as she passed me she said Catriona wasn’t far behind. I ran with Catriona for a bit, hoping the pain would subside and I could get my focus back, but it was useless. I had to drop back to a hobble again and let them slip out of my sight over the hills. This stupid pain was not going to end my race though, I had worked too hard and for too long to give in. So after forcing down another gel and some water I pushed on for the final undulating stretch of the race. Sub 4:30 was still in sight and that was what I was aiming for – nothing left to do but move these legs for the final 5 miles.

Coming back into Inverness the crowds started to grow and grow. This was just awesome. Big groups of charity supporters were standing either side of the road with foam hands and plastic horns and they were cheering everyone on. It was just fantastic! I pushed on and on and suddenly a lady passed me who I had seen much earlier in the race. We had been playing a game of cat and mouse for 4 or 5 miles and eventually she got away from me in Dores, and she said “come on Wee County, not far to go!”. How lovely. That really helped at this stage and I knew I would be able to run the final few miles, no matter how much my body wanted to shut down. Coming down along beside the river, you can see and hear the finish line on the other side. I was tempted to jump in and swim across, but I knew that wasn’t an option so I kept plodding round only to spot Karen and Claire from the club who had earlier completed the 10k. Their cheers and support definitely helped in that last mile and a bit and before I knew it, I was on the other side of the river looking back at the other runners making their way around and probably thinking my exact thought not 10 minutes previous. I could see the finish line and hear all the names being shouted out as the crossed it and from somewhere, I have no idea where yet, managed a proper run once again. I spotted Catriona walking just before the park, hung back for her and together we managed not only a sprint finish, but a SMILING sprint finish!!

Where'd that smile come from?
Where’d that smile come from?



And that was it. I had completed my first marathon! I felt a rush of pride, excitement and possibly slight nausea as I collected my beautiful medal and goodies, including Baxters soup (of course!), an awesome race t-shirt and lots of food!

It wasn’t quite the time I’d had in mind, but for my first marathon I was elated. I’d finished it smiling and that was enough for me! After a good stretch and some fluids, we were back in the car on our way home, sleepy, happy and a marathon runner.

And now for the Ultra…..

I even made Women's Running magazine with my thumbs up pose en route. Famous!!
I even made Women’s Running magazine with my thumbs up pose en route. Famous!!