RACE REPORT – Alloa Half Marathon 2016


TIME: 1 Hour 37 Minutes and 32 Seconds

OVERALL : 506/2301 finishers

CATEGORY: 25th/275 senior females


It has been over a week since this race but I feel like haven’t had a spare couple of hours to sit down and write this report yet. Mainly because every time I’m not working or training just now, I’m asleep on the couch. Yes, WHW training is definitely starting to hurt, but more on that later….

The Alloa half marathon is my local half. The start line is a 5 minute walk from my front door and the race begins from the swimming pool where I work. I had absolutely no excuse not to go and give it another bash! This would be my 3rd time running it, having previously ran it in 2011 (my first half) and 2013 having to miss out in 2014 through illness and 2015 as we decided to stay in Stonehaven and party with friends the night after the D33 and the half was the following day. This year however there was a week between the 2 races and even though I knew I would still be tired, I decided to sign up anyway and it give it bash to see how my tired legs would manage and also as more training miles for the looming WHW race.


I toddled along an hour or so before the race started and greeted all my club mates who were also running. All 80 odd of us! I haven’t been to training much over the past few weeks, as previously mentioned, as I really don’t enjoy plodding the same routes in the cold winter night, running too close to cars and getting in everyone’s way, so there were a lot of people I didn’t recognise. They probably thought I was the newbie! After wishing everyone good luck and getting a team photo, we all piled across the park and up to the start line, which this year had been changed to having time allocated pens as there were so many people running – over 3000 people entered which is double the number that ran last time I completed this event! I shuffled into my starting area and then noticed I was standing next to a guy with a 1:30 pace balloon attached to him. I panicked, but then noticed more of my club mates heading towards me, and the guy with the balloon headed further forward into the crowd. I had no idea what time I was aiming for. My legs were still a little creaky from the D33 the week before, but that aside I was feeling strong. I didn’t want to make excuses, as that usually results in a bad run so with the final decision of “give it everything until you fade”, the hooter went and we all surged forward and over the starting mats.

The first few miles were fast. I got swept along with the crowd and kept spying a 6:xx on my watch. Too fast? Who knows, I’ll just go with it! The route goes round through a housing estate, back onto the main road through Alloa before heading down towards Tillicoulty, follows a straight road along the Hillfoots for 4 miles before turning back up toward Tullibody, up a steep brae about 10 miles in, and back along the main road towards the Leisure centre where we started. It’s a great route and a fantastic course for a personal best, but something wasn’t right. What was that big bright thing shining in the sky? I have slogged through the winter months, churning out miles in the snow, sleet, wind and rain and come to one of the first races in the season and it was actually HOT! This I was not prepared for!


As the road descended towards Tillicoulty, I noticed that my shoe didn’t feel right. I was wearing my normal road shoes and hadn’t changed my socks, so why was something rubbing 4 miles into a race?! I tried not to think about it, but as we rounded the corner I noticed somewhere I could jump out of the way of the crowds and try to fix my sock without getting in anyone’s way. Once adjusted, things felt slightly better and I carried on, grabbing a bottle of water and downing half of it and pushed on out of Tillicoultry. The road along the Hillfoots is amazing. You can see ahead for miles and it’s pretty much pancake flat. I know this route well and I knew there was nothing challenging until the Brae in a few miles, so I put my head down and started to pick people off as I powered along, still feeling reasonably fresh. More water in Alva, a wee downhill to gain some momentum and on towards Menstrie and the infamous Brae. As I passed the 10 mile marker I slowed down slightly to prepare myself. To be honest, the hill isn’t really that bad. I run it as part of my regular training route in the summer and usually enjoy it. It’s not even that steep, just pretty long but today it pretty much stole the last of my energy. I went from feeling awesome to feeling like I’ve just finished an ultra marathon in a split second and the top of the hill seemed a long, long way off! I plodded to the top, still maintaining 7:xx minute miles (but feeling like I was going backwards) and finally, there was the top! I was greeted with cheers from some friends and back on the flat I pushed on, through the last water stop at 11 miles and tried to summon the last of my energy to get to the end. Just as I was trundling up the last hill out of Tullibody (again, not really a hill but today it felt like a mountain!) Graeme from my running club caught up with me and demanded a piggy back! Graeme had also run last weekend and was now feeling it as well, so with one last push I managed to stick close to him and pick up the speed for the last couple of miles to the finish line. Just as I passed the 13 mile marker I spotted my Mum and she gave me a big cheer, so I powered over the line, overtaking a few more people as I ran up the finishing straight and finished in 1:37:32 – 6 seconds slower than my personal best! So close, and if I hadn’t stopped to fix my shoe maybe I would have set a new PB, but I was elated with my time as so chuffed to have nearly set a new PB the week after a fast Ultra!

Chasing people down along the Hillfoots...
Chasing people down along the Hillfoots…

I stumbled across the finish line to get my medal, picked up a t-shirt, water and banana and found all my team mates who had already finished and ran amazing times. So many new PB’s, first local lady for Eilidh and brilliant runs for many new club members running their first half marathon. Couldn’t have been prouder to be a Wee County Harrier that day!

I found my mum, had a quick wash and then for lunch in the sun. Another awesome weekend and has helped me to see my training is paying off. I can’t wait to run another half marathon on fresh legs and hopefully smash my half marathon time!!

WHW training report to follow. Less than 12 weeks to go…..

RACE REPORT – The D33 Ultra Marathon 2016


TIME: 4 Hours 39 Minutes and 19 Seconds

OVERALL : 84th/335 finishers

GENDER: 9th/98 females

CATEGORY: 6th/35 senior females


The D33 was my first proper race of the season last year after coming back from illness and I’d had such a great time that I was one of many chomping at the bit, waiting for the race entries to open on New Years eve. Fair enough I’d had the cold and wasn’t out partying with all my friends, but when I was presented with number 29 come race day, it showed just how keen I’d been to run this race again!

My race was nearly over before it started. I’d had a terribly sore back all week, to the point where putting my socks on really hurt and I panicked. My training had gone so well up until now, I’d been careful when out running in the hills (apart from one epic face plant in the Pentlands, but at least the fall was broken by mud!) and had been lucky not to pick up any injuries but now, out of the blue my back was in agony! I did very little from Tuesday evening onwards, made sure I’d pre-warned the kids not to climb on me during their swimming lessons (most listened, some just think I’m a tree!) and went for a massage after I finished work on Friday and kept my fingers crossed I wasn’t going to get home and have to send that dreaded email to Karen saying I couldn’t make it….

I don’t know if something had been trapped and during the massage it popped back into place, or if the rest had done me good but the walk home on Friday was totally pain-free as if nothing had ever been wrong! Hoorah! Still not counting my chickens, I decided I’d go up anyway and if I was still sore on Saturday at least I’d be there to help out and cheer on my team mates. My in-laws have just bought a shiny new motor home and had very kindly offered to take me up to Aberdeen for the weekend and combine it with a trip to Inverurie to see my brother and sister in-law. So at 4:30pm with all my kit packed and food packed for drop bags to be made up on the journey North, I bundled in to the back of the motor home and we were off.

After a few stops, we reached Inverurie sometime after 8pm and settled down with my pre-race choice of pizza and juice, and then soon it was time to think about getting to bed ready for my super early start. I was feeling good, my legs felt strong and I was well rested and now pain-free. What could I pull out the bag on race day? I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but I’d used the online race calculator to look at splits for a 4 hour 50 minute finish and I hoped to stick to the splits through the check points as closely as I could. It would be fast, but it would be a good test to see how my winter training was going and even if things didn’t go to plan, it was all just a build up to the long-term goal of the West Highland Way race in June. Priorities for this race would be: 1)Finish pain and injury free 2) finish with a smile 3) finish under 5 hours. As I drifted off to sleep in the motorhome I felt strangely calm. Probably because I’d told myself if anything hurt I would pull out and there was absolutely no pressure on me.

Desperate to get going! Photo - Karen Donoghue
Desperate to get going! Photo – Karen Donoghue

After some crazy dreams about pirates (?!) I woke up at 6:30am and hopped out the van to the shower block to go and get ready and noticed that I wasn’t sore, bigger hoorah! I quickly got dressed, fixed my hair and then once again (as always) struggled to eat breakfast as I was still full from the pizza! I’d decided to travel very light and just run with a hand-held bottle as I found over longer distances my waist belt could hurt my back and my Salomon back pack sometimes rubbed my shoulders. I wasn’t intending to eat much anyway so put everything I needed (shot bloks, a gel and a bit of flapjack) in the little pouch on my new Nathan bottle and had drop bags with Powerade, Haribo and more gels to pick up if needed on the way.

I got dropped off at the park just before 8am and went about registering, saying hello and catching up with people I haven’t seen in ages and then went to join the toilet queue, once again to come out just in time to finish faffing about with my kit choices, drop off my bag and get to the start line for the pre race briefing. I finally caught up with all the other Wee County Harriers who were running and after a quick race briefing from Karen, a few more hugs and well wishes, the hooter sounded and we were off. Here we go again!!


As always, the first few miles flew by. I was running on my own for a wee while and then David Scott caught up with me and we ran and chatted together all the way until the tarmac track turns into a muddy path at around the 7 mile mark. I’d been keeping an eye on my splits and every time I checked they had said 7:xx Probably a wee bit too fast, but I was still chatting and not feeling like I was pushing to keep up in the slightest, so I just kept it going. We fell into single file as the tarmac track turned to mud and I dropped back a bit and brought the pace down to climb the small hill back up to the road just before the first check point. I’d already had a shot blok and a bit of my juice, but didn’t really need to stop for anything so slowed to take a gel and bin the wrapper then got back on my merry way on the downhill section of road, passing through in 1 hour and 3 minutes. 5 minutes ahead of schedule. Whoops! I started running with a Carnegie Harrier at this point (I think your name was Paul? Sorry I never asked!) who said he’d run behind me before and almost didn’t recognise me because I wasn’t wearing my usual stripy club socks! Sorry, they got binned after the mud bath at Devilla! Don’t worry, new ones are on the way 🙂 Soon after, Paul zoomed off and I ran along on my own for a while, still feeling good and still managing to keep my splits at just over 8 minute mile pace. The rest of the first half is a bit of a blur. I just remember trying to keep my pace steady, passing the lead runner just as I turned off the main road near Crathes and he was flying!! Seriously inspiring stuff! Coming into the car park near the steam and diesel heritage railway starts, I got the most AMAZING cheers from some kids. Thanks guys, you were awesome and pushed me on to the check point at halfway. Seeing the runners coming back towards you is always a fantastic sight and most people are so lovely and cheer you on. Spotting the check point ahead, I picked up my pace getting ready to refuel with juice and Haribo and charged into the check point in 2 hours and 11 minutes. Still way ahead of schedule, but I felt brilliant so was soon on my way back, cheering on everyone as they came towards they check point and smiling as much as I could.

And the road goes on and on and on... Photo Chen Chee Kong/Running In Scotland
And the road goes on and on and on…
Photo Chen Chee Kong/Running In Scotland
Photo - Fiona Rennie
Photo – Fiona Rennie

Things were still feeling good. 20 miles ticked by and I suddenly started to feel a bit tired. Nothing hurt, but I could feel myself hunching forward and shuffling a bit more than I had been. I decided to push on and see if I could keep my pace to a run, all the way back through and down the hill at Drumoak and then if I still felt tired I could walk for a bit. A few people I had been passing and being passed by were doing the same and suddenly a few super fast people flew by us. Don’t know if they were running incredible negative splits or were part of the relay teams, but they were fairly moving! I reached the bottom of the hill at around 24 miles and slowed my pace to put my headphones in. I didn’t want to walk and still didn’t feel like I REALLY needed to, but I was still nearly 10 miles from the finish and didn’t want to blow up before I got there so resorted to a run/shuffle up the hill to the beat of the music. Coming in to the last check point I suddenly started to feel slightly ropey. My body was still moving forward, but I was probably wiggling all over the road in doing so. I stopped briefly at the check point to fill up my bottle, stuff a Jaffa cake in my mouth and carried on, zigzagging out of the check point. I looked at my watch; I was still ahead of schedule with less than 8 miles to go, I wasn’t going to let this go now! I carried on my shuffle for a while and then decide to walk briefly to eat some Haribo properly. I was probably wiggling down the side of the path when Mike Raffan and Jeni Rees-Jenkins passed me, looking SO comfortable and steady and asked if I was OK. I muttered some garbage about being well within my time goal and had a bit to spare, which was met with a swift reply to get a move on from Mike! It definitely helped though. I watched them run off into the distance I questioned why I actually was walking. Did something hurt? No. Was I totally shattered and struggling to keep moving? No. Was I making excuses to myself and doubting my capabilities again? Yes, most probably.

Photo Chen Chee Kong/Running in Scotland
Photo Chen Chee Kong/Running in Scotland

I was on the move again with less than 6 miles to go. I passed through marathon distance comfortably and remembered back to how I’d struggled at this point last year. It wasn’t until I looked at my splits yesterday that I realised I’ve actually managed to set a new marathon personal best by 3 minutes. That’s not supposed to happen in the middle of an ultra!! Finally I reached the road crossing and met with a cheering Noanie who guided me across and on to the last section. I passed the old platforms about 4 miles out, the green bridges about 3 miles out and finally I could hear the build in the noise of the traffic as we got further into the city. My mile splits were coming down again but I was pretty much done in and slowed to a shuffle with little over half a mile to go. 2 guys slowed as they passed me and said “we’re not happy about passing you with about 500m to go!”, which both confused and delighted me as I was still waiting to see the greenhouses of the Winter Gardens and was convinced I was still over a mile away! The pace quickened as I came down the zigzags back into the park, I could hear the cowbells and the cheers and I trotted over the line with a delirious look on my face finishing 25 minutes faster than last year in 4 hours, 39 minutes and 19 seconds.

Sandra came over to give me a hug and my medal and I stumbled over to Anne and Brian who were right at the finish line cheering for me. How did that just happen? Whose legs are these?!

Possibly about to fall over, but job done!
Possibly about to fall over, but job done!

I shuffled into the tent, didn’t fancy any food so shuffled back out and down to find the van to get changed and warm. As soon as I’d heated up a bit and my post race queasiness had subsided, I was back up in the tent hoovering up the salt and vinegar crisps and waiting for my team mates to come in. Everyone ran SO well!

Another epic journey completed which brings me another step closer to the WHW race. Just over 3 months to go and I’m still quite a bit away from my target fitness level but I’m definitely getting stronger both physically and mentally as time goes on. With the London marathon in 5 weeks and the Fling in 6 weeks, it’s definitely time to stop with the excuses. Time to put down the cake and get back out there!!

Home, washed and delighted. Show me the fizz!
Home, washed and delighted. Show me the fizz!