Glen Ogle 33 Ultra Marathon – RACE REPORT


Official time: 5 hours 41 minutes 58 seconds

Overall: 105 out of 180

Medal : Yes

Wasn't expecting a medal, so am very chuffed with this beauty!
Wasn’t expecting a medal, so am very chuffed with this beauty!

Yesterday I became an ultra runner.

At 4:50am my alarm went off and I got up after a very broken nights sleep. Once again my mind had been racing right up until I fell into a running filled dream – mostly dreaming I had forgotten something very important for the race! I forced down breakfast, had a shower, double and triple checked my drop bags and then paced around the house waiting for Kirsty to pick me up at 6am. My drop bags had been a big source of worry for me as this was the first race I had taken part in where I needed them. I had read plenty of blogs where runners have taken various means of fuel from bananas and crisps to full on meals of wraps and cups of tea! I decided to stick with things I thought would go down easily enough on the run and this is what I came up with….

Various means of getting the calories back in. None of which really to appealed to me on the day!
Various means of getting the calories back in. None of which really to appealed to me on the day!

6am came and Kirsty arrived with Andy and we began our 50 minute or so journey up to Strathyre. As the sun came up, we had various thoughts about the weather. The sky was bright but it was very cold and there was a low lying mist over the hills and fields. I thought it looked too nice to be true and then I started to worry about my choice of kit. I’m not a big fan of running in trousers so chose to wear shorts and calf sleeves. I knew that even though we’d be running for hours, it probably wouldn’t be at too fast a pace, so I thought layers were better to begin with and that I could lose them at check points if need be. So I decided to wear a t shirt under a long sleeved top with my club vest on top and then have my jacket attached to my bag, just in case it might rain (hah!) and then also my buff and gloves. Surely that lot would keep me warm enough?!

We arrived in Strathyre not long after 7am, met up with the rest of our friends from the club who were also running, registered, sorted out drop bags and went back and forth to the toilets for the next wee while. We were all summoned at about 7.50am for a pre-race briefing by Bill and Mike and then we walked en-masse across the main road to the starting point and the bottom of the trail. This was it. Definitely no turning back or pulling out now. I was about to venture past racing distances of 26.2 miles for the first time. I was about to become an ultra runner.

WCH (minus Andy) ready to enter the world of Ultra running! (Except George, he's been there already!)
WCH (minus Andy) ready to enter the world of Ultra running! (Except George, he’s been there already!)
Kirsty and Catriona. Clearly ready to battle whatever this course throws at them.
Kirsty and Catriona. Clearly ready to battle whatever this course throws at them.

Before I knew it we were on our way. I had been too busy talking I hadn’t heard the race start! The first few miles go straight up a hill. I knew I’d have to pull back as I have a bad habit of setting off far too fast and burning out early, so we decided to stick to 10 minute miles for the first while and see how we got on. Before I knew it we had clocked up 2 miles and the first set of hills were over. I’d been concentrating so hard on what was going on around me and spotting various faces of bloggers/awesome ultra runners that I hadn’t been paying attention to my mileage. There was an awesome downhill section through the forest that went on for about 3 miles and we were again concious of pulling back and keeping our mile splits fairly even. We flew by the first drop point, not needing to pick anything up and I made sure I had a gel and a good amount of fluids as we plodded along the cycle track that runs alongside the main road down to Lochearnhead. Since the last time we had run this route, a lot of pine needles had fallen and the track was lovely and springy under foot. Just what we needed with so many miles still to cover and all the tarmac at the end! As we left Lochearnhead, the path took a very steep incline and Kirsty and I decided to power shuffle up it instead of running and Andy, looking strong powered on up it ahead. These zig-zags were steep and again I thought I didn’t want to burn out, so I held back until we reached the top of the hill and then it was a nice steady plod along the old railway which runs alongside the A85 and over the Glen Ogle viaduct. I had seen this countless time from the road when travelling north to tackle Munros, but running over it was a whole new experience!

The Glen Ogle Viaduct as seen from the road. Image courtesy of
The Glen Ogle Viaduct as seen from the road. Image courtesy of

Mile splits to check point 2:
1 10:29.6
2 10:56.4
3 9:39.2
4 9:12.1
5 9:21.6
6 9:27.2
7 9:50.2
8 11:23.9
9 9:53.3
10 9:38.0
11 10:50.1

Coming in to check point 2. Photo - Fiona Rennie
Coming in to check point 2. Photo – Fiona Rennie
On the way back to check point 3. Soaked through already. Photo - Fiona Rennie
On the way back to check point 3. Soaked through already. Photo – Fiona Rennie

We stopped in the check point just to empty rubbish out our pockets and take another gel while standing still and after a minute or so we were on our way again, heading up to the forest loop. My club mates and I ran this loop last week just to see what it was like… but we ran it the wrong way around and so what we thought we the awesome downhill sections were actually the most horrific inclines. See elevation below – the big hill in the middle section was in the forest and yes, it was as tough as it looks!

Tough on weary legs that have already run 15 miles!
Tough on weary legs that have already run 15 miles!

Once at the top we got our speed back up and enjoyed an undulating run through the top of the forest and through the eerie mist that was lingering around the trees. With the light dimming it looked pretty spectacular, but of course the light dimming could only mean one thing. The rain was on its way. Just as we came to the end of the forest trail we took the educated decision to get our jackets on, really just in time for the heavy, heavy rain to begin. This picture was taken just at the end of the forest and I think just before the photographer had to give up to protect his camera from drowning!

Favourite picture of me running to date. Cold, wet, tired and sore... but ready to take on the next section!
Favourite picture of me running to date. Cold, wet, tired and sore… but ready to take on the next section!

We came back out the forest and decided to stop properly at the check point to refill our bottles, get fluids in and try to eat something substantial. The rain had really come on hard and we were already starting to feel the cold, which really wasn’t great with so many miles still to cover. After a few minutes we were kindly prompted to get moving, so with crisps in hand and jackets zipped right up, we were off on the return section of our adventure.

Mile splits to check point 3:

12 8:59.0
13 9:16.2
14 9:34.9
15 14:03.0
16 10:43.2
17 13:44.1
18 10:46.9
19 9:28.6

The return leg down the Glen was when the rain really came on heavy. Luckily once we were over the viaduct we were protected slightly from the wind by trees, but nothing could stop the driving rain. My gloves were soaked through and my jacket was sticking to my skin. My buff was stuck to my head and my thighs and bum were numb with the cold. My trainers squelched and my eyes stung with the rain, but still we battled on along the track, agreeing we would walk the hills and save something for the last loop around Balquhidder, remembering how tough and hilly it had been a few weeks ago when it had been dry. If I hadn’t been so cold and wet, I would have loved this part of the race as here I was, 22 miles in and still running strong after all those hills. Something I couldn’t have even imagined doing not even a year ago! We knew the next and final check point wasn’t far ahead and the thought of a couple of jaffa cakes and some powerade pushed me on down the soggy, waterlogged path.

Mile splits to check point 4:

20 14:56.9
21 10:12.0
22 9:55.6
23 10:57.0
24 11:21.3
25 11:36.8
26 13:08.7

Once again the check points were manned by lovely, upbeat people who were standing in the pouring rain getting soaked, just to help us out and cheer us on. I found my bag and hoovered up a couple of jaffa cakes and the remains of a bag of hula hoops, washed down with half a bottle of undiluted powerade (which is what I had been running with in my camelbak – I still to this day have to find an electrolyte drink that doesn’t make me feel sick after 10 or so miles!) and then with the words “it’s only 5 and a half miles to go!” ringing in my ears, we were off on the final leg. This is where I really struggled and I was very, very glad I had my team mate Kirsty with me. I got so cold my top lip was that numb I felt like I’d been at the dentist! My legs wanted me to stop, my hands were stinging with cold as my Raynaud’s kicked in and I could have cried had my face not been so numb, but Kirsty kept me upbeat, reminding me we could see the finish in the distance and that we’d run it before so knew what to expect. We powered through puddles as there was no other way round and also we physically couldn’t get any wetter, and got our speed back up a little as the road evened out for a short while. The last mile or so is again nearly all up hill, so we walked while trying to keep warm and our spirits up, saving our legs for the last half a mile or so and of course the shoogly bridge. When we came back into the village and saw the sign pointing to the bridge we suddenly gained speed from an unknown place and galloped across the bridge to the finish line together. Totally soaked, physically shaking so hard from the cold and partially numb, it took me a good while to realise we’d finished! I had just run an Ultra marathon!

Goody bag in hand I was carefully pushed in the direction of a gazebo where they were making cups of tea and coffee. I have never drank black tea in my life, but it was the tastiest most delicious drink I have ever had and was that appreciated I just couldn’t stop grinning at the poor confused lady who had made it for me, as I just held it and sheltered from the rain.

Mile splits to finish:
27 11:20.2
28 10:36.0
29 11:02.3
30 13:54.5
31 13:13.2
32 2:19.8
Summary 5:41:51.7

It had taken me slightly longer than I had originally planned but taking the weather into consideration, I physically could not have done any more or gone any faster. I think a lot of people struggled due to the weather and the last few miles on tarmac, and it’s not an easy wee course! After I had inhaled up my tea I made my way back to Kirsty’s car to find my dry clothes and sit down and try and stop shivering. Craig called and said he was just coming over the road and I just couldn’t wait to see him for a big hug. He arrived with a flask of coffee in hand – my saviour, and we staggered over to the cafe to try and get some warm soup inside me. My stomach didn’t quite know what it wanted, but anything warm was being appreciated as I sat holding my bowl of soup for a good while before starting to eat it!
In the goody bag was a spectacular medal and a bottle of beer which has some of last years Glen Ogle finishers on the label. What a great idea! I don’t drink beer, but I’ll just have it as a keep sake.

A huge thanks goes to all to all involved in the running and organising of the Glen Ogle 33m Ultra Marathon. I’ll definitely be back next year. With a new jacket.

And now what’s next for me? Marathon – tick, 33m Ultra Marathon – tick. I know I have more to give and can go further and be stronger. Next year is a whole new challenge.

The very end. Soaked through to the bone, but still found a smile....
The very end. Soaked through to the bone, but still found a smile….
Brew dog beer in an awesome bottle.
Brew dog beer in an awesome bottle.

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!!

Stirling 10k – RACE REPORT


Official time: 48:17 – NEW PB!!

Overall: 410th out of 750 (plus a few more whose chips fell off!)

Division: 42nd out of 94

Gender: 94th out of 290

Medal : No, but we did get a technical t-shirt and goody bag with jelly beans, caramel wafer and water

The way in which I have come to view a 10k has changed so much in little over a year. This time last year it was my favourite distance and one that was comfortable and enjoyable. This time last year Jemma and I were gearing up for a nice run, maybe a PB, but more than anything a fun run in my neighbouring city. This time round it was all change. This time I have been training all year long, working on my strength, focusing on a fast time, scrutinising my mile split times and feeling a lot of pressure (only from myself of course!). 10k is no longer a stroll in the park, it’s pretty much a 6 mile sprint!!

This is exactly what I didn't want to see...
This is exactly what I didn’t want to see…

I woke up early when Craig’s alarm went off and 2 things were on my mind straight away. 1) It’s 6am, why is it still dark outside? and 2) is that rain I can hear battering off the window? And yes it was. Horrible, thick, heavy blobs of rain were being driven in all directions and at that exact moment all I wanted to do was go back to bed and curl up under my lovely thick winter duvet, which has just been brought back out of hiding. So that’s what I did, until 7.15am when I rolled out of bed and had another look at what I was about throw myself out into. It didn’t put my already anxious mind at ease at all. I’ve piled the pressure on myself for weeks about this race as it’s flat and fast and I hadn’t run anywhere close to my pb time of 48:55, which I set at the Jack Crawford 10k back in March, since. I knew I had a chance of a good time as the last flat race I ran was the Bring Bash 5 race in July and every mile was under 8 minutes, so I knew there was a possible chance, but with it being a much bigger race (dogging and weaving past people has never been a strong point of mine) and also the weather was putting a downer on things, I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much, only to be disappointed. Rain I don’t mind in the slightest, but wind and rain together are a foul combination. Previous thoughts of said weather can be found here. But with that being said, I also gave myself a shake, told myself to man up and just get on with it. Plus it would be a good chance to try out my new running jacket on the trek up to meet my team mates, and it’s awesome. No leaks at all!

Half 8 arrived and I left the house to walk up to the sports centre to meet my team mates, and we all travelled through to Stirling together. The plan was to run the race and then a few of us who are doing the Loch Ness Marathon in 2 weeks would run back to Alloa afterwards, but the weather was seriously putting me off this idea. I needed to put in the miles though, so I told my coach not to let me talk myself out of it! By just after 9am we were through in Stirling, sitting in the car and not wanting to venture anywhere away from out warm and dry sanctuary. The race was organised and hosted by Central Athletics and started outside The Peak sports centre, who kindly offered us the use of their facilities, hall to warm up and foyer to stand in until we were called to the start line. The time finally came to ditch our outer layers and dash over from the car to The Peak and wait with the other runners until we were called to the start line. At 10:10am we were ushered across and before I knew it the race had started. I thought I was a lot further forward than I actually was so once over the mat I spent the first half a mile or so dogging and weaving through the crowds, trying not to get in the way of people also doing the same. By this time the wind had really eased off, but the rain was coming down in sheets. The route in on roads the whole way around, apart from a very short section where you have to cross the river on a very narrow bridge. However this is nearly 3 miles into the race so the crowd had thinned out a lot by this point, so it’s never an issue. For the first few miles I chose to stick by another club member and get her to set the pace. I have a habit of going out too hard and too fast and not being able to keep the pace up the entire way around, so I thought if I managed to stick to just under 8 minute miles to begin with I might be able to bring it back in the last mile or so. Well, that plan went out the window!

Mile 1 – 7:50
Mile 2 – 7:19

At this point in the race I compared it to how I felt at this point in my race last year and realised it’s amazing what a year of proper training can do. I was breathing easily, my legs felt great and I was passing a lot of people on the way round. Just before you run across the river there’s a sharp bend in the road and at this point I lost Fiona in the crowds but I managed to spot another lady who I have seen at races before I knew was pretty speedy, so I chose to use her as my new pace maker. Once across the river you meet one of the 2 hills in the race and then its a very flat out and back road through Cambuskenneth, at which point you start to see all the super fast runners already on their way back, when I’m not even in sight of the turn around point!!

Mile 3 – 7:42
Mile 4 – 7:52

I was managing to stay under 8 minute miles, but my legs were now staring to feel it. However, the route out to the turn point and back is on a narrow farm track which gives you a good chance to see what position everyone else is in on the way back, get cheered on, shout on others and push to catch up with the ones you though you might have fallen too far behind. I finally clocked Jemma, having had left my phone in the car this morning before I was able to get in touch with her and noting she wasn’t too far behind me also gave me another mental boost. We were now over half way, my legs were starting to ache more but the race was still on. I looked at my watch and realised I could still gain a pb even if I pulled it back a bit. Come one legs, less than 2 miles to go, we’ve got this!!

Mile 5 – 8:01

Oh no, it’s got an 8 in it.. that’s not what I wanted to see. But wait… I’ve got just over a mile to go and plenty of time to do it in. PB, we’re on!
On the way back into Stirling there is a horrible dip in the road. I can’t even call it a hill, but on a race this flat and fast you really feel it, but I knew I was now on for a good time so with arms and legs doing all they could, I flew up and around it and back towards the finish line with the seconds ticking away on my watch.
4 minutes to gain a pb – it’s on, I’ve got this…
3 minutes to gain a pb – oh crap, it’s further than I thought…
2 minutes to gain a pb – Legs, why won’t you go faster?!? Come on!!

Mile 6 – 8:00

Ahhhh, the finish line was in sight. My team mates and in-laws were shouting me on, I still had something left in the tank and a smile to give coming over the line

0.2 – 1:30

Finish line a few metres away... time to find a smile. Or not...
Finish line a few metres away… time to find a smile. Or not…

38 SECOND PB…. FINALLY!!! And feeling surprisingly awesome! At the finish line I met up with friends and we all celebrated our times and personal bests. It hadn’t been the nicest day for running, but it hadn’t held me back too much. I definitely need to make friends with hills reps again soon and get my strength up to its maximum, but for now I have a new pb which I will bask in the glory of for a while. My next 10k will be when I’m feeling strong and fast and know that I can smash past the 48 minute barrier.

It’s not as impossible as I once thought it was…

Some wet but elated Wee County Harriers. Well done everyone!
Some wet but elated Wee County Harriers. Well done everyone!

I even managed the run back to Alloa after the race. Another 6 miles, all of which were under 9 minutes! Legs are hurting, body is fatigued and ready to switch of, but adrenaline is still in charge of my body for now. And it feels great!

Black Rock 5 – RACE REPORT!

I have fallen behind quite a lot with my posts recently, so apologies for that! As we come towards the end of term, work has been utterly manic and I feel like I’m burning the candle at both ends with early starts, lots of training and late nights. It’s my own fault for not going to bed earlier, so I’m learning the hard way. Once marathon training is in full swing I won’t have any excuse – sleep will be a priority!

Black Rock 5.
Black Rock 5.


Watch time- 35:55

Chip time- 36:05

Ranking – 370th of 752

Last night I had my first proper club event which was the Kinghorn AGR Black Rock ‘5’ race. The first race was held in 1987 and has been staged every year since (except 1991) and is one of those events that people count down until they day they can enter and then race to get a place – it usually sells out in a day or 2. I was lucky enough to get offered a place through my running club as a few people pulled out so instead of places going to waste, they were quickly snapped up by super keen runners like myself! The race begins in the centre of the town of Kinghorn and after a mile or so of road running you are down onto the beach for about a mile of running across the wet sand out to the Black Rock, which is usually nearly submerged when the tide is in, round the rock which involves running knee-deep through the sea, back across the sand and back up to the finish line in the town centre (which is on a near vertical hill!). Nothing like anything I’ve ever done before, so to say I was a little bit excited about this race was an understatement!

The race is held in the evening, so after another stressful day at work, I was more than ready to run and went home to get my stuff ready. I met some of my fellow club runners up at the local high school where a bunch of us were getting a mini-bus through, meeting the others through in Kinghorn. Everyone was in high spirits and wondering how deep the water would be round the rock – apparently it could be anything from ankle to thigh deep and you just had to blast through to get back to the sand! Running on beaches and in the sea is something I have never experienced so very old trainers were packed along with clean clothes for the bus journey home! As we entered Kinghorn the rock was pointed out to me. We were about an hour away from the race starting, the rock was still almost fully submerged and I couldn’t see any of the beach we were meant to be running across. Fingers were crossed that the tide went out quickly!
Once we arrived we had to walk up to the local community centre to pick up our numbers. Now this was a mission in itself! As I was running other under else’s name, I had forgotten to check what my number was. This wouldn’t normally have been a problem at most other races as you could just give your name and get given your number. At this race they were asking for names and dates of birth…. which I didn’t know! I had a slight panic and then realised I had in fact been forwarded the email with my race number in it, so panic over and back to the bus to meet up with everyone else and head down to the start line. This was at the bottom of a hill which I thought would be a nice way to finish the race, but I was so wrong. The finish line was at the top of the next hill up which was so steep, so I reminded myself to keep something in the tank for a good strong finish. And after running the sea and having trainers filled with sand, I had no idea how this would pan out!

WCH ready to go!! Pic Stephen Beveridge
WCH ready to go!! Pic Stephen Beveridge

Across the sand to the rock.
Across the sand to the rock.

We were piped to the start line and after a quick race briefing and posing for a few photos with all the Wee County Harriers, we were off! The race was chipped, but I noticed as I started there wasn’t a timing pad to run across, so I started my garmin as close to what I thought the start line was as possible (an orange spray painted line across the road). A tough uphill slog brought us onto a flat road that gradually sloped downhill toward the beach. I felt I had got quite a fast start, but didn’t realise quite how many people were ahead of me until I was running down onto the beach and caught sight of all the runners already making their way out across the beach to the Black Rock. The road ended and we were down on to the soft sand for a couple of hundred metres before the wet sand began… and carried on for over a mile. It was a new experience and definitely a harder slog on the legs, but I managed to stick to 8:xx minute miles the whole way across the beach. There was another piper standing on the Black Rock which gave me another little boost and I ploughed into the sea and blasted my way around the rock to get back to the beach. Running in the sea is fun! I’ll remember to try to keep my mouth closed next time, I got a good few splashes of salt water on my way round! Back on the beach and I tried to pick up the pace on my way back to the road, but as there are no markers to run between, I felt myself wiggling all over the beach and not really running in a straight line. I had no idea if I was near any other club members and then I suddenly heard “come on Iona!” as Andy and Susan caught up with me and we ran side by side back up to the road. Another hard slog through the dry sand lead to more comfortable road running back up through the town. After the sand I won’t even complain that it was back up hills! Nearing the top of the hill I spotted my friend Rachel who was there with her two kids to support her husband who was also running. She shouted she’d race me with the pram back to the finish, which made me laugh and gave me another boost just before the last hill. The downhill just before the final slog gave me just what I needed to get some boost back in my legs and then it was under the bridge and, BAM, onto the final hill. Just as I hit the hill Andy flew past me, which really made me speed up and just on the last tough push, I saw my fellow runners and coaches at the top and they started screaming for me to push and I gave it all I had to bundle myself over the finish line. I seriously can’t emphasise how much of a difference this made to my finish and I loved having people there to cheer me on – it just gives you a push you wouldn’t be able to give yourself mentally. So thank you to them all for that! I then got my chip cut off (still confused by the finish but no start mat!) and went to rejoin and congratulate the other runners who had already finished. After shouting all our team members over the line we went to collect our race memento – a bottle of beer supplied by Williams Bros, funnily enough from our local brewery in Alloa! I’m not a beer drinker myself, so I took mine home for Craig while everyone else enjoyed theirs straight after the race. After cleaning up and getting the sand out from between our toes, we went along to a BBQ held by the RNLI at a pub right on the seafront. It was just stunning watching the sun go down with such a beautiful view out across the River Forth on the longest day of the year.

Powering up the dry sand back to the road. Pic Stephen Beveridge
Powering up the dry sand back to the road. Pic Stephen Beveridge
Old trainers are a must for this run!
Old trainers are a must for this run!
One of the best cupcakes I have ever tasted, courtesy of Stephen's wife.
One of the best cupcakes I have ever tasted, courtesy of Stephen’s wife.

This race will definitely be one on my calendar for the next few years and I will be one of those people who count down the minutes until entry day. Thanks to the Wee County Harriers for all their support and for getting me a space in this race!

Let's all run into the sea for a while!
Let’s all run into the sea for a while!