Strathearn Marathon 2019- Return of the Squirrel

Previous blog readers may remember that Strathearn marathon is a favourite of mine. I first ran it in 2014 and have run it every year since- getting progressively slower each time! I was therefore keen to take part this year even if I wasn’t feeling marathon fit. My running still isn’t great, but I’ve been seeing some improvement- I’ve had a few decent parkruns, have lost a few pounds, and have been really enjoying a weekly personal training session with Stu. I hadn’t done any long runs since D33, but had some middle distance runs and some high mileage weeks (up to forty miles) so I figured I would get round alright, though I was fully prepared to continue my ever slower streak.

The Friday before the race was the Beach 10k- this has usually been after Strathearn as it was previously on a Tuesday evening, but this year it was decided to try a Friday night, and therefore it fell before the race. I decided to enter anyway to support my club, figuring I could have an easy run out. In the end I did just that, running with my mum and my friend Diane for a few miles, as well as picking up a random stranger who was running her first 10k. It was a very pleasant evening, though the pace didn’t feel as easy as it should have really! Saturday morning brought a faster than planned Hazlehead parkun- it was lovely to have my friend Ronnie back at parkrun again but he was much quicker than I expected!

I stuck around for coffee which I rarely do at Hazlehead but it was really nice to catch up with everyone. It was then time to do some shopping, have some lunch, then head down the road. Staying down the night before worked well last year so we had decided to do the same again, opting for the same hotel ten minutes from the start line. Stu was planning to cycle around the route again which meant that he was driving (no bike rack on my car!) so I had a nice relaxed journey down and dozed a little. We arrived in good time and I went for a walk around Comrie to stretch my legs- the weather was perfect running weather, mild with no wind. I hoped that it would stay that way.

We had booked a table at an Italian in Crieff so we headed there for what turned out to be a very delicious meal. I had a glass of wine and then we stopped at a shop to pick up some beer for Stu, some more wine, and some snacks, then headed back to our hotel room for a nice relaxed evening. I showed amazing self-restraint and didn’t drink the whole bottle of wine- great success!

I slept reasonably well, waking up again very grateful for the extra couple of hours in bed gained by staying down there. We didn’t need to leave to hotel til around 8am for a 9am race start, which also minimised the time hanging around. I registered easily, picked up my chip and shirt, and deposited my Lucozade for the 18.5 mile water station. I had decided to wear my ultra-vest this time as it’s easier for carrying food (Haribo!) and my phone, and that also meant I could carry Lucozade and water, so I didn’t feel I needed anything at the 10 mile stop. I did also have a can of rhubarb gin and ginger ale that I considered leaving at the 18.5 mile stop but decided against it, not wanting to risk wasting it!

I saw a few familiar faces, had the obligatory loo stops, and soon enough it was time to head for the start. The weather was funny- it had been really quite mild at one point and I worried it might get too hot, but just as we were heading to the start the rain started and the wind picked up, dropping the temperature significantly. Luckily there wasn’t long to stand around in it, and it passed by reasonably quickly.

I had decided to do a run/walk strategy from the beginning, using 90 seconds run/30 seconds walk which has worked well for me in the past. I ran the first mile around the campsite, but then as soon as we exited and started heading for the hill I slipped into the rhythm. The plan was to stick to the ratio unless the walk break was downhill or maybe flat, in which case I would run through it. I hoped that this would conserve my legs, and also give me more motivation to get walking again in the hills that I knew would come in the later miles.

Because of my run/walk strategy I was leapfrogging with quite a few people here. I felt like I was very far back in the field- there was no piper on the first hill, and I don’t know if he just wasn’t there or if I was too slow this year! The rain had dried up now and conditions were pretty good, if a little windy. I was in a vest, shorts and buff which was just right, and was grateful to have my Lucozade to sip on regularly.9

I’ve lamented those first few uphill miles many times in this blog, so I won’t harp on about them again. I chatted to a few people here- one young lad said, “I’m guessing what goes up must come down?” and I replied “Yes… eventually!” I also chatted to a lovely South African lady, as we watched the woman ahead of us nearly get run over on more than one occasion- if you have to wear headphones so that you can’t hear (I tried to talk to her at one point and she had no idea what I was saying!) at least don’t run in the middle of the road…


The run/walk strategy was working well on the hills and I was making steady progress. I was starting to worry a bit about Stu here- I thought that whichever direction he was going if he was doing loops of the route he should have passed me by now. I started to hallucinate that every cyclist coming towards me (and there were quite a few!) was him. I decided that if he still hadn’t passed by the monster hill after mile 10 that I would text him.

I enjoyed the downhills- not trying to push the pace any but running through my walk breaks, and leaving a few people behind me. I reached the bottom of the horrendous hill feeling pretty strong and cheerful. Knowing I only had to run 90 seconds a time up that hill really helped, and although it was tough- the sun had just come out and it was getting very warm which didn’t help- soon enough I was up and over and enjoying more downhills. I had texted Stu and he’d replied saying he was fine and would be with me soon, which was a relief.


Busted walking on the hill…

The wind picked up a little here, but I was quite grateful as it was cooling me down without being too strong a head wind. I hit halfway around 2:22/23ish, feeling pretty good (considering my best half marathon time last year was only around 2:20 this was a good sign). Stu caught up with me here and it was nice to be able to tell him that I was feeling strong. I started to wonder if I could maybe get under 5 hours- a 2:25/2:35ish split seemed feasible, but I also know I’ve run many second halves much slower than that.

I was now taking my walk breaks on the flat, though still running the downs. A woman passed me and asked if I was ok and I said yes, just saving my legs for what I knew was coming! As we approached the hill leading up to mile 16 she said “is this what was coming”… “yes… and then some!” Still I kept rigidly to my ratio, and sure enough it was now working in my favour, making me start running again when I might otherwise have walked for longer. The miles were ticking by nicely. I took my Lucozade at the personalised drinks station and quickly filled up my vest bottle- I think this was the only time I slightly extended my thirty second walk break! I was soon back on it though, and the walk breaks helped me survive the horrible hill at mile 19. I reached 20 and knew that the worst was behind me, though the last three miles are a bit of a drag.

I saw Stu with about three miles to go and said “I think I might get under five hours” – he replied “you’re definitely getting under five hours!” In fact I was starting to work out that it looked likely I would totally smash five hours, and even come close to the holy grail of a negative split (never yet managed!). I wondered if I should try to drop the walk breaks but I was starting to tire so I kept taking them unless it was downhill.

Sure enough the last few miles were tough- that last drag up the road before heading down into the campsite is a killer, but my last two miles ended up being faster than many of the previous miles, and though my knee was starting to tighten and I was really hurting, I managed to pick up the pace to the finish (though not quite catching the guy in front). Stu had told them it was my fortieth marathon so it was really nice to cross the finish line with a personalised congratulations- it felt pretty special. And I was absolutely delighted to finish in just under 4:47- quicker than the last two years and only thirty seconds or so slower than three years ago. It may still be 25 minutes outside my PB, but given where my running has been lately I was so chuffed- and not least because I had enjoyed it and felt strong throughout.

Stu met me with my can of gin and it went down incredibly well. I sat and basked in my glory for a few minutes- removing my shoes was pretty heavenly; bringing hotel slippers for afterwards was a genius move! I got my selfie with the Strathearn squirrel before heading back up the road- we had a date with Secret Life of Pets 2!6

I am really pleased with how the race went and happy to have reached a nice round number- 35 marathons and 5 ultras. It’s time for a break from the long stuff now. I’m going to get a proper training plan, get back to focussed training, and focus more on the shorter stuff. Keep going with the diet and the strength stuff, and really try to find my love again so that every run ends feeling like Sunday did.

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D33 2019- In which I think I might lose my fingers

I hadn’t really planned on running D33 again this year, but then George announced that it would be his last one. With it being his final race as well as the tenth anniversary, how could I miss it? In honour of the final year and tenth anniversary there was also going to be of the one-off option of the D99, which I thought about for all of 5 seconds before I realised the implications of a 100 mile race in March (both in terms of training over the winter and the weather risks on the day) and thankfully wised up pretty quickly.

By lucky timing rather than keenness, I happened to be on Entry Central right as entries opened, and I found myself with race number one. Was rather pleased to have number one on this special race (and may have chanted “Number one! Number one!” on more than one occasion throughout the day…)

Unfortunately, this year has not been a good year of running. In January on a night out I was happily dancing away when my left knee completely gave out from under me. It wasn’t painful, but when I attempted to run on it the next day it was very unstable, and I was terrified that I had torn a ligament. To add to my concerns we were due to head to France for the VVX experience ( a few days later. I had a very unsatisfactory physio experience which really didn’t tell me much, and the knee was still a concern when we had returned from our trip the following week. Luckily I was able to see my usual physio, and although she was also slightly concerned that I might have torn something, she was confident enough that it was more likely to be a strain and could be treated.

Throughout this time, I was able to run slowly and on flat surfaces, and the physio confirmed she was happy for me to continue running as long as I avoided hills. I saw many laps of Duthie Park! There was still no pain from the knee but it was weird and uncomfortable, and I could tell that my running style was compromised as other bits of my body started to ache from the compensation. Fortunately the knee did continue to improve, and I was discharged from the physio with some strengthening exercises to continue to do. Essentially, I don’t really appear to have an ACL left, so I might have to give up on the career back up plan as a rugby player and I may want to consider seeing an orthopaedic surgeon at some point, but it wasn’t stopping me running.

Unfortunately, probably as a result of compensating due to the knee, I then had a painful flare up in my foot- and this did stop me running. Luckily it was similar to a tendonitis type flare-up I’ve had before so I had an idea how to treat it, and in the end I was only out for a few days. But by now we were most of the way through February and my longest run was sitting at 13 miles. I was still determined to give it a go though and decided I would just have to run/walk from the start. I experimented with a few ratios on the longer runs I did manage and decided to do a 2 min run/1 min walk from the start.

I did manage one good week of training with 50 miles in total and a 20 mile run/walk on the Saturday (including a reasonably fast parkrun at Victoria parkrun in Glasgow, my fastest since injury) and 11 miles (a warmup plus Smokies 10 miler) on the Sunday. Even though I was doing it as a back to back, and I knew I wasn’t in good shape, it was hard not to get down that my pace at Smokies was over 2 minutes a mile slower than my best there.

I therefore arrived at the start line knowing I was far from trained, but confident that I had enough in my legs to get me round. I hoped that by starting with a run/walk from the start I could have a strong second half. My 2/1 ratio was coming out around 11:40 minute miles and I hoped to be able to keep that up for the majority if not all of the race.

The weather forecast for the weekend unfortunately got worse every time I looked at it. Concerning for me but potentially even worse for the poor D99 runners. I headed down to Duthie Park to see them off on the Friday morning and just hoped that it would be less windy by the time it was my turn. I then spent much of the afternoon excitedly dot-watching and looking forward to my own adventure.

The day dawned better than the worst of the forecasts suggested, and I was grateful to be walking to the start line in dry weather. I hoped that if we could just get going before the worst of the weather arrived it wouldn’t be too bad. The D99 guys had had a tough shift and though a number were finished there were also still many of them out there, and I looked forward to cheering them on as they came towards us. The wind was cold but not strong and the conditions were about as good as I could have hoped for really. Stu was helping at registration so I quickly got my number from him, dropped my drop bags, and visited the portaloo the customary excessive number of times. It was great to catch up with so many friendly faces- the real family feel of this race is always a huge bonus.


The dry, happy times

Soon enough it was time to start and we set off out of the park. My first 2 minute run flew by and it was difficult to stop to walk so early on, but I knew it would only work if I stuck to it from the beginning, so I made sure I took that first walk break (a few seconds late as I waited to get round the corner onto the line so I didn’t get in anybody’s way!). Of course this meant people went flying past me and I was very quickly near the back of the field but that was ok- time didn’t matter today, I just wanted to finish. For the first few miles I was leapfrogging with a South African couple who were running steadily but at a slower pace than my running sections, and I enjoyed listening to their chat and just letting the race day atmosphere wash over me.

Within a few miles I caught up with my friend Lyndsay, who I had hoped I might get to run with. Her training has also not been ideal and after a few bad races I knew she was feeling nervous about the day. It would have been easy to get caught up running with her but I resolutely stuck to my 2/1 and she seemed happy enough to fall in with that, so the time passed pleasantly as we chatted.


In the first few miles we passed a number of D99 runners coming towards us, looking knackered but pleased to be nearly finished. We cheered them all on, and although they must have been exhausted, they all responded and wished us luck on our own journey. I just couldn’t get my head round how long they had been out. I still have absolutely no desire to take place in a race that keeps me out of my bed through the night!

The rain held off for maybe 90 minutes, and then a steady drizzle started. It wasn’t too cold though and the wind wasn’t too bad, so it wasn’t too unpleasant. At that point, anyway. We reached the first checkpoint in good spirits- I didn’t have a drop bag at that point so I just grabbed a cup of coke, said hi to everybody, and moved on. I would have liked to be feeling a little bit more energetic given the sedate pace but at least nothing was hurting. A couple of miles later we passed my friend Vicki on her way back on the D99- I couldn’t believe how energetic she was after what must have been a long night! The added dynamic of seeing those guys really did add something special to the race.

It wasn’t long after that when the race leader came towards us, going some pace and with a huge lead. He responded to our cheering and wished us well also; often the first few runners are very focused and it’s usually a while down the field before you get a response, but every runner that came towards us was super supportive and friendly this time- maybe it’s just because we really were nearly the back of the field? Either way it was a big boost each time.

As we headed towards Banchory the going underfoot did get tougher as it had now been raining steadily for some time. It was still far from technical trail, but it was enough just to be that bit more tiring. I was tired now and very much looking forward to halfway. At halfway I topped up my Lucozade and grabbed some hula hoops, babybel and pork pie. I’d been saying all day if we could only get to halfway before it got really miserable it would be ok and as if to mock me, the minute we headed out of the checkpoint on our way home the weather seemed to pick up. It had been snowing for some time but now the snow got thicker and wetter and the cold wind picked up. I was soaked through and although my core temperature was alright, my hands were starting to get really cold. I did have dry gloves in my pack but I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get them on and didn’t want my hands to get even colder while I tried.

We plodded on- I was trying to stick to 2/1 but my hand was so cold I could no longer feel my Garmin buzzing, and I had pulled my sleeve down so couldn’t see the screen. Lyndsay was great here, pushing me on to run at the right time, though the 2 minutes seemed to last forever and the 1 minutes were over in a flash! We caught up with our friend Frank but he was really hurting and we slowly pulled away from him.

That stretch from Banchory to Drumoak seems to last an eternity. My hands were really cold now- I was trying to stick them in my armpits to warm them up but they were cold and damp so not really doing much good. I started to wonder if I could actually finish. My dad had texted me in the morning telling me not to do anything crazy- was I being silly? Was I risking real damage to my hands? I also knew I had forgotten to take my rings off- a rookie error that I knew could exacerbate matters.

But we kept going, and eventually we were at the ¾ checkpoint. My friend Shona asked how I was and I just burst into tears, telling her that I thought I would have to pull out. She asked why and I just held out my freezing, puffy, useless hands. Along with my friend Elaine she helped me get the gloves off, dried my hands vigorously with a towel to warm them up a bit, and put my new dry gloves on. They offered me my Prosecco but I didn’t even want that- things really were dire!

And then somehow, I was being ushered out of the checkpoint and having been pretty sure I was going to pull out I was somehow on my way again. The value of these amazing angels that saved my race (and I’m sure countless others) cannot be underestimated- thanks again ladies!

As we left the checkpoint a guy passed us, saying “good luck ladies”. A couple of minutes later I looked ahead and saw that he had missed the right hand turn off back onto the railway line and was headed off in the right direction. I shouted at him, as did Lyndsay and another runner, but he had headphones in and was totally clueless. Three of us were screaming at him but he just ran on, and in the end I had to run as fast as my tired legs could to catch him. I only ended up running about an extra quarter of a mile before he finally heard me screaming at him, but it was an extra quarter mile I could have done without…

With that drama out the way I made my way back to the race route and plodded on, still feeling pretty miserable. Lyndsay was great, but she was also starting to get cold, and we were rather a sorry pair. I was so grateful to have her, as I would not have kept going otherwise. Soon enough we were crossing the road at Milltimber Brae, and I actually started to perk up a bit here. Ok so I couldn’t feel my hands, and I couldn’t actually do anything with them (trying to use my water bottles was amusing and I ended up just squirting water at my mouth and hoping for the best), but I could still move them and at least my core temperature wasn’t too bad. We had passed the last marshal point and I couldn’t have worked my phone to call for rescue if I had wanted to, so the only way to end this torture was to finish the race.

We ran when we could, walked when we had to, and continued to make slow but steady process. At one point we passed a flooded section and had to tiptoe through an icy puddle and I threw a proper strop, screaming at the bridge, the puddle, and the world in general. I felt a bit better after that release though! Finally, finally, we were crossing the bridges, and a few minutes later I saw somebody standing on the line with an umbrella- “It’s my daddy!” I gave him a big (cold, wet, snotty) hug then we continued on our way- final half a mile now, we are really going to do this!

We walked a few steps to the gates to the park, then agreed to run the rest of the way. We ran side by side to the finish, where Stu was waiting for me with my medal. Unfortunately I had other priorities and just thrust my hand out at him “Stop my Garmin! My fingers don’t work!” Once that essential task was completed I gratefully received my medal and hugs, then again held my hands out for help. I was taken into the first aid tent where my gloves were pulled off and I saw that my left hand was swollen to twice its normal size- no wonder I hadn’t been able to do much with it. Alan thrust a cup a soup into my icy paws, and I stood by the amazing heater. It was great to have Stu and Dad there, and I quite quickly began to feel more human. I didn’t stick around for too long though as my core temperature was now dropping and I knew I needed to get out of my wet clothes. Dad walked me home and I had the most glorious hot shower. I continued to shiver for a good hour after the shower, but all I cared about was that I could feel my hands again- and did finally feel well enough for that glorious bottle of Prosecco!


Cold and wet but finished!

It was a really tough day out, and I’m so grateful to all of those that helped me make it to the finish line. I don’t really have any plans for races in the near future- and I have at the moment put my back out and am struggling even to dress myself, so that’s a very good thing. I need to get over all these injuries then somehow try to find the runner I used to be- my training definitely needs a mix up of some kind; yes I’m a bit older but my current mile pace is around what my half marathon pace used to be, and I don’t think it needs to be that dire. But given that walking is a struggle right now, it can only be up from here, right??


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Newark Showground Christmas Challenge 2018

You may remember that I have travelled to deepest darkest England a couple of times previously to undertake the Newark Showground Christmas Challenge. The first year I did it, I ran just over 4:31 and as the route ended up being over 27 miles, this would have been a PB (and in fact probably still would be my PB!). The next year I returned for the slightly altered route (now just slightly over at around 26.4) and completed two marathons in two days for the first time. For one reason or another I decided against heading down last year, but when the race fell on a flex weekend again this year, I decided to go for it, especially as I could get my hotel super cheap (though the trains were still ridiculous!).

I don’t really know what it is about this event that means I keep coming back, but there’s just something. It’s so well organised, friendly, and simple, and I know the logistics well by now (though every time I forget about how painful the journey back up is). One of the big appeals this year was the medal; on both days you got a Christmas tree (one pink, one blue) and if you did both days, the medals would intersect to make a 3D Christmas tree medal.

I had decided to attempt Marcothon again this December, so on the Friday morning I did a slow 5k with my mum. My legs felt awful and I knew that the weekend was going to be a struggle, but I was determined to get two marathons done, and maybe a little more. My train journey down was smooth, and I arrived in Newark around 5:30. I walked the mile or so to the hotel then sorted my kit out in the hotel room. I had optimistically packed a load of options, including shorts (I wore shorts and a t-shirt the first year I did this race!) but with the yellow warning for snow and ice the following day I thought the thermal leggings were more likely to be worn.

I had an average dinner with a couple of glasses in Prosecco in the bar attached to the hotel, then settled in for the night. My taxi was booked for 8am so at least it wasn’t too early a start. I slept reasonably well and woke feeling nervous but ready to face the day.

As I was getting in my taxi, a guy in running gear called over from the reception. I asked if he was headed to the showground and he nodded yes so I told him to jump in. It’s a short taxi ride but not really walkable as it’s alongside a busy dual carriageway with no pavement. We passed the short journey pleasantly as we chatted; he was also a slower runner aiming to do the marathon both days but had only done a couple of marathons before so was nervous about the task ahead.

We arrived in good time and registered easily. It was very cold, but at least for now it was dry. There was a strong, icy wind which I knew wouldn’t be much fun, but at least I knew because of the twisty turny nature of the course you’re never running into the wind for that long (although by the eighth lap of the day it certainly felt like a long time into the wind!).

Soon enough it was time to set off, and the reasonably small crowd assembled at the start. I was immediately quite near the back but I was fine with that- the beauty of the timed race is that you know that some of the quicker people will keep going after the marathon distance so you won’t be holding anybody up. Conversely though I would occasionally find myself even further back than I thought I was when people stopped after a few laps.


It was as friendly a field as ever, and I chatted to a few people, but mostly I was just in my own little world. The icy wind was hard to deal with, and it took a lap or two before I could feel my face properly. The sections into the head wind were really tough, and although I wanted to make it to halfway before walking, by the fourth lap I was having short walking breaks in the windiest sections. Halfway was a boost as ever (thoughts of doing more than the marathon were long gone!) but in the fifth lap I started to really suffer. Although my core was ok, my hands despite my good gloves were absolutely freezing. They were both in agony and yet I couldn’t feel them properly- it would have been nice to have some music but I wouldn’t work my fingers to get my phone out. I was starting to get concerned, not just about the current pain, but the agony that I knew would follow when I did eventually start to get warmth back in my fingers. Although there were showers, they were in a cold building and I wasn’t sure how I would warm back up properly. Around the sixth lap I was seriously contemplating having to pull out.

Then I decided to spend my (by now fairly frequent) walking breaks with my hands stuck in my armpits. After a couple of these, the relief was immense, as my core body heat started to slowly warm my icy fingers. It slowed me down, but given how close I was to pulling out, time was no longer any kind of concern as long as I got round within the 6 hours. By the last couple of laps I had cheered up significantly, and although still tired and cold I knew I would finish.

And finish I did, in 5:15:04. Somewhat depressingly, quite a bit slower than even day two last time I did the challenge, but another marathon in the bag (number 37 in total). Pretty much the minute I stepped inside the shed, the heavens opened with icy rain and I was very glad that it had stayed dry for the duration of the race!


One of the volunteers gave me and Joel (new hotel running buddy) a lift home, and I had the most amazing long hot shower- I think I was in there for days! I then focussed on refuelling (KFC maybe not the best option but damn it tasted good) and resting up. I did not sleep well, and woke on Sunday feeling pretty exhausted and not exactly relishing the thought of another day, but looking forward to having it over with, and having my amazing medal in my grubby little paws.

I shared a taxi in with Joel again- minor panic as the taxi didn’t turn up (we had booked it for 8:15 but it had arrived at 8:00 and left about 8:10, but luckily it hadn’t gone far so was able to come straight back, and we still arrived in good time). Thankfully the weather gods were on our side and it was a much nicer day; the sun was shining and although there was still a wind it was much milder.

We registered easily again, and I chatted to the lovely Jabberknit, a Fetchie I met last time I did the race. I knew we were a similar speed so hoped I might have some company on the way round. I then debated about what to wear- after nearly losing my fingers the day before, I was actually considering leaving the gloves behind (I did, and I didn’t miss them!).  

My legs were super heavy as I started, and I knew it was going to be a long day. Quite soon into the first lap my tummy also started to make a few grumblings- the KFC was really not such a good idea. Fortunately there is a toilet en route, so after the first lap I dived in and felt much better for it- though it did mean the people around me, including Jabberknit, ended up a few minutes ahead and I was on my own.

I quite quickly resorted to music, and after only a couple of laps I decided to introduce a defined run/walk- I went for 4/1 so that I was always working in multiples of 5. This did reduce to 3.5/1.5 quite quickly, but I was able to still stick a few 4/1s in. Although the conditions were infinitely more pleasant, there was still enough wind to slow me down a bit. The wind switched direction after a few laps which at least changed things up a bit and made me hate different bits of the route!IMG_5973

There’s not much to say really. It was a slow shuffle to the end (and again, thoughts of running more than the marathon were quickly forgotten). I chatted and waved to fellow runners, as well as stewing in my own head, and finally, after just over 5:30 I crossed the line of the eight lap, my sixteenth for the weekend. I received my second medal, and then had to get help to turn the two medals into my amazing 3D Christmas tree, and suddenly it was all worth it.


The journey back up the road was tiring and painful, but as I had a long stop in Edinburgh I was luckily able to escape the station and meet my friend Rhona for a chat and some delicious noodles. I finally made it home just after midnight and fell into bed, too exhausted to sleep- Monday at work was a real struggle.

And so it’s done again. Two marathons in two days, and because of the miles in the preceding week, a super high weekly mileage of 73. Much slower than last time, but I still got it done. For a year that was supposed to only have one marathon, in which I desperately hoped for a PB, I have achieved a string of PWs but 5 marathons and one ultra, and an annual mileage of 1740 (lower than the last two years but now by a huge amount, considering I’ve had two injuries). Onwards and upwards for 2019!

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Glen Ogle 33

I mentioned previously in the blog that I was tempted by Glen Ogle 33, but also quite liking the idea of not having to do long runs over the upcoming months. Glen Ogle isn’t a race that has ever particularly been on my radar, but for the last couple of years Stu and I have spent a couple of long weekends at a gorgeous log cabin (with hot tub!) near Strathyre, and it’s a part of the world I’ve come to love. On an Instagram post about a run around the area, a friend mentioned that the Glen Ogle took place around there, and so the seed was sewn.

Entries opened in May, and I was still undecided. I learned that the race tends to sell out quite quickly, and so in the end I decided to enter, book a hotel which could be cancelled, and see how things went…

Fast forward a few months and, as per previous blogs, things weren’t going particularly well. I was totally undecided as to whether or not to do the race, especially with the risk of miserable weather. My friends Alan and Lyndsay spoke very highly of the race, but Alan did also mention that he had once been so cold during the race he couldn’t actually use his hands. A fun day out in the hills with friends somewhat loses its appeal in those circumstances!

To cut a long story short, for various reasons, I started to move towards doing the race and I found myself spending £25 on a race hoody. Being an Aberdonian, once I had done that, there was no going back!

And then, just over two weeks before the race, I woke up one morning offshore and couldn’t put any weight on my left foot. I had run on the treadmill the previous evening and noticed a slight discomfort in my foot, but it soon faded and was fine afterwards so didn’t think any more of it. I woke up unaware of any issues, but when I attempted to stand on one foot to put my jeans on, the pain was excruciating. Fortunately it was my last day offshore and I headed home; limping the two miles from the heliport to the car on my return, but only able to walk on tip-toe and in significant pain.

The following day was a day off, and I had hoped to fit in one last long run before the race (my lack of long runs was woeful, with just a couple of 16/17 mile runs and one 22 mile run to Brewdog). Just walking around the flat was painful so I knew the long run wasn’t happening. I decided to walk into town (only a mile or so) just to get some fresh air and loosen the foot off, but within about 500 metres I was just about in tears with the agony and knew I couldn’t go much further. I phoned SPEAR and fortunately they were able to fit me in for a physio appointment that day. Some intensive massage into the foot helped, but it was still pretty painful and for the following few days I was still walking with a limp.

However, by the following Saturday (and a week of stretching and working with the spiky ball, a sports massage, and one further physio appointment) I felt ready to try a few minutes running within parkrun. As it happened, I ended up running the whole thing, with no pain. For the next few days I continued to push more than I normally would in a recovery period to see how the foot held up, and by the Thursday I had run every day, up to 6 miles including speed work, with zero pain or even discomfort. For better or for worse, I was going to start the race and see what happened.

Stuart was working on Friday, so as soon as he finished work we inhaled some pasta then set off down the road, as we had to check into our hotel by 10pm and I was a little nervous we would hit bad traffic. It was a longer drive than I had originally anticipated, mainly due to it being a horrible slow road, but we made it not too longer after 9pm.

The thing that was concerning me most at this point was the weather. The forecast was for torrential rain all day- there was even a yellow weather warning.  I had panic bought new gloves and thermal running tights (and almost a hat, but decided that a buff was a better option), and was stressing about what to wear, what to carry in my bag, and what to put in my drop-bag. I was planning to wear my Ultimate Direction running vest which I love, but doesn’t have much space for kit. Although to be wet, it wasn’t supposed to be that cold, and I worried that tights would just get wet and end up weighing me down and actually making me colder. In the end I sought advice from Stu and the Facebook group, and decided to go for shorts, carrying my tights with me, and just put a dry buff, base layer and gloves in my drop-bag (the shorts were the right decision, and the dry buff was genius!). My drop bag also held some pre-peeled Babybel, a pork pie, hula hoops, and a bottle of Lucozade, and I was carrying more Babybel, Haribo and honey stingers, and hula hoops, with one flask of water and one flask of Lucozade.

I slept reasonably well but didn’t wake feeling particularly invigorated. As I still needed to register, it was a pretty early start, as the race started at 8am. Fortunately we only had about a ten minute walk to the start, and as we set off there was only a light drizzle, and it was pretty mild. I registered quickly, received my dibber, picked up my hoody, and began the long nervous wait and multiple loo visits. Unusually, I didn’t know that many people, but I caught up with Lyndsay and also had a nice chat with a girl I had met at the Brewdog run- she was wearing full-on waterproof trousers! I don’t even like to wear a jacket (although I was today!) and do not think I would enjoy wearing waterproof trousers.

The briefing was held inside to protect us from the elements, then we all headed outside. It was past 8am by this point, and as we were all still filtering out onto the road the hooter went and that was it, we were off! I had thought that I would aim to run with Lynsday- she had run around 7.5 hours the previous year and was looking at similar, and that’s about the time I was expecting- although anything under the 8 hour cut-off would do. But I lost her at the start, and unsure whether she was ahead or behind, I was never able to find her again.


Before the start- can you see me? From Glen Ogle race chat FB page

I did however see my friends Vicky and Gina up ahead, and as we turned off the main road and onto the forest trail, I caught up with them, and was relieved as everybody started an ultra-stomp up the hill, even though it was early on. That first hill just went on. And on. And on. I enjoyed a chat with Vicky and Gina but I was a little quicker walking, so I pulled on ahead a bit. I knew they would be quicker when the running started and sure enough, when the hill was finally over (after about three miles!) they passed me quite quickly. I chatted with a few other people here, and it was lovely to have company- some of the issues I’ve had in long runs before, particularly the Speyside Way, is how lonely I’ve been as I’ve ended up running on my own the whole time.

My legs were feeling pretty heavy, but my foot was fine, and the scenery was still stunning despite the heavy rain and clouds. Although thankfully not the torrential downpours that were forecast, the rain was persistent, and I was soon soaked through. It wasn’t cold though, and in fact I took my gloves off pretty early on. As we came down out of the forest and towards the viaduct we turned into the wind and this was pretty unpleasant, as cold rain hit me right in the face, but thankfully we didn’t have to run directly into it for too long.

Time was passing quickly and soon we were over the first road crossing and onto the long straight route along the viaduct which I had heard could be so interminable on the way back. I passed through seven miles and actually thought to myself “less than a marathon to go” then laughed at myself for thinking such a ridiculous thought. But actually- that seemed ok. I was run/walking, maintaining a steady pace, and I was enjoying it!IMG_5663

The next few miles were uneventful, punctuated by cattle grids and gates which were a bit of a pain. I was running on my own at this point, but I didn’t mind. The short steep descent from the viaduct was unpleasant and rather painful, and I’m glad I didn’t realise at that point that we had to come back up it! Two girls passed me at this point, and were to leapfrog for a couple of miles, before I slowly pulled away from them.

At around 10 miles I passed through a check-point, calling out my number to Julie and asking for a hug. For a few miles before I had been gaining on a small group and coming out of this check-point I passed a few of them. I must admit it was a bit of a boost, as I knew I was quite near the back. The next few miles were lovely, undulating forest path covered in pine-needles. I passed a few more people, and I chatted some more before pulling away again. I was maintaining a slow but steady pace and feeling pretty strong.

I don’t remember much about the next few miles. After a while I started seeing signs for Strathyre where the main check-point, and “halfway(ish)” point was. I wished I had checked whether “ish” meant it was before or after halfway- turns out it was quite a bit after halfway, at nearly 18 miles. I did have a little slump here, as the wind picked up and it started to seem like the checkpoint would never arrive. I also stopped for a quick pee and my shorts were so wet I could hardly get them back up. Another notable moment was when there was a deep puddle right across the path, and no way to avoid it. Although I was already wet there’s nothing so unpleasant as having to run (well, walk!) through deep icy water, and I whinged loudly even though there was nobody around to hear.

Finally I was crossing the shoogly bridge into Strathyre and saying hi to a man in a fox’s outfit (was I hallucinating?!) who told me well done. I changed my buff out, refilled my Lucozade and water, chatted briefly to the volunteers, then headed out munching a pork pie and a babybel (the babybels were an excellent decision!).


Thanks to Scott Craighead- I look so much like my mum here!


Shortly after the aid station there was a short steep muddy hill, and then the road kept going up… and up… I had remembered Lyndsay saying there was only really one big hill, so I was very indignant about this. Here again I chatted to fellow runners, and one warned me that the hill kept going. How bad could it be? Ha…

Shortly afterwards a cyclist passed me and asked if I was ok. I replied “perfect!” Then after a minute, “Well, I mean I could be dryer… and closer to the finish… but yeah pretty good!” He offered his support then headed off- just another friendly face in this lovely race, and each and every one such a boost!

And then another boost- up ahead I could see Vicky, Gina and Vicky’s husband Iain. We were now around 20 miles, so well over halfway, and it was great to have some company. We ran together for the next few miles, and then we had reached the end of the loop through Strathyre and were heading back towards the viaduct- at this point I realised we were going to have to go back up that horrible hill. I was feeling strong here and slowly started to pull away from the girls- although it was great having company, I was also keen to push on while I felt good, aware that it may not last.

I bounced through the checkpoint, enjoying the gentle undulations, and passing another girl who was obviously hurting. After a quick chat I pushed on again, keen to get the horrible hill out the way. It sucked just as much as expected, but I just walked as quickly as I could, knowing (or at least, hoping!) it was the last big hill.

As I reached the top I had caught up with a few more people, and we started to leap-frog as we all had slightly different run/walk ratios. I was glad there were people around as we reached the first of the gates and I totally failed to open it- I was reminded of the end of the Speyside Way ultra when I was stuck at a gate for ages! The guy behind me opened it for me, and I spent the next few minutes chatting to him and his wife, who was doing her first ultra and starting to really feel it.

The next few miles we were all like a scene from the walking dead as we ultra shuffled for home. I was still managing to run a fair bit, and walk at a decent pace, so I was passing people which is always satisfying. I was definitely hurting but it was just general stiffness and aches and pains from lack of training, not injury pain. I saw George just before the road crossing which was a big boost, “I didn’t know you were here!” “I wasn’t sure I was going to be!”

Then it was back across the road and thankfully instead of heading back up through the forest we headed down on the road. I tried to pick up pace here but running on tarmac on quite a steep downhill was pretty painful on my mashed legs! The route then started to undulate and that was much more pleasant. Up ahead I could see the green jacket of Minty but he was always just out of reach. And then there was the sign for Killin- I was over 30 miles, and less than 3 miles to go, and still feeling pretty strong. I saw Iain again and got a big high five, telling him the girls weren’t far behind.

Soon enough I was back on the road and heading down towards the finish. I was still gaining on Minty, and once on the road I ran all the way in. Suddenly Stu appeared looking astonished to see me so soon and I ran towards him with a huge grin “I’m having the BEST time!” He ran alongside me saying “I’ve got a present for you in my bag” Knowing exactly what it would be I said “you best not run and shake it up too much!”

Then we were turning into the field, Stu was saying “Just one lap of the field!” and I replied “Yeah but how big is the f*cking field” (thankfully no children in the vicinity…), I was powering past Minty, I was grinning, I was only just over 7 hours, totally smashing my time hopes and having had such a great day, despite the fact I was absolutely drenched and totally exhausted, and then I was crossing the line with a huge grin, dibbing my dobber, and falling into Stu’s arms. IMG_5674

I was honestly so delighted. It hadn’t been fast, I hadn’t loved every minute, but I had finished in one piece, with a strong second half. I headed back to the hall to receive my medal and goody bag and enjoy my present from Stu. IMG_5669

I changed into my dry clothes, but I had forgotten shoes, so I didn’t hang around for too long, keen to get back and in the bath before I cooled down. I won’t go into detail, but I will admit I did scream as I lowered myself into the bath and discovered the after effects of 7 hours of wet kit! Totally worth it though.

After a long hot bath and some refuelling, we headed to the ceilidh, where I didn’t dance but had a great night catching up with buddies and drinking lots of bubbles. We didn’t stay too late as we had an early start the next day, but it was a perfect finish to a great day.IMG_5677

I think in some ways the injury was a blessing in disguise, because it meant that I was so chuffed just to be on the start-line, and any time pressure went out the window, meaning I could truly enjoy the day. Having so much great company at many points of the run made a huge difference as well, and although it was wet it wasn’t cold so it wasn’t unpleasant. The steady start (and fuelling a bit more than I sometimes do) helped a strong second half- I went from 351st at the check-point to 317th at the finish and had already passed many people by then.

Next up- the Fraserburgh marathon, one of my favourite races. But before that- two weeks of holidays and fun, including the Manchester markets and lots more bubbles!

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I Used to be a Runner

You may have noticed that it’s been some time since I blogged. That is because I am struggling to write a running blog right now, when I really don’t feel like much of a runner. Although I completed Edinburgh and Strathearn marathons after Manchester marathon, I don’t think I’ve ever really recovered mentally (and possibly physically), and running is a constant struggle just now. There’s also been some other things going on which are running related which aren’t helping matters, but as these are now nearly at a resolution, I’m hoping that things might start to improve. Anyway, despite not feeling like much of a runner I have in fact been doing some races, so for completeness I will give a brief summary of these! I would just like to add that I mean in no way to be derogatory or disparaging about the times I am running- this is all relative to what I used to be capable of.

·         Fetch mile (7:26). I should have blogged about this at the time, because it was awesome. We did Ruchill parkrun in the morning, and I ran with a friend that I’ve been trying to convince to do parkrun for ages. He did brilliantly, and it was a great social morning. Stuart did really well and finished first, then worried he might have worked a bit too hard ahead of the mile! I had originally put an estimate of 7 minutes for the mile but realised that was going to be too much of an ask, so revised my estimate to 7:30. Given how my legs have been feeling lately, I was delighted to just duck under this to run 7:26. The best bit of the day by far was seeing Stu finally get his sub-5 at a Fetch mile. All in all it was a truly wonderful celebration of running with good friends and new faces. IMG_4678

·         Stonehaven half (2:21:12). I was dreading this. It was a hot day, it’s a tough route, and I just couldn’t face the thought of the hills. My head I guess gave up before my body did, but my body wasn’t up to much either. Disappointed to come in even slower than the previous year. My best time at Stonehaven is under 2 hours; albeit the new route is a bit tougher, that’s still a big drop and hard to face 


Forced smile!

·         Collieston 10k (1:08:41). This was a fairly last minute entry, when I saw late in the week that some places had become available. Stu was working on the Saturday and I was tailrunner at Stonehaven parkrun in the morning, so I thought I might as well spend my afternoon in some lovely scenery and earn a medal. I started off feeling surprisingly strong, and the first few kilometres I felt pretty good and maintained a reasonable pace. However as soon as we got onto the coastal path, I really struggled. It was stunning but it was quite technical running, and as it was so narrow I found it very stressful feeling the pressure of people behind me. I frequently moved to the side to let people past, terrified I was going to break a leg- one of my friends did in fact twist her ankle really badly. 


Thanks to Mike Raffan for the photo- stunning scenery!

Just before 3 miles, there was suddenly a short but very steep bank. I completely freaked out and just couldn’t work out how to get down it. I started to go, then stopped, then started to fall. In my panic I grabbed the plastic pole marking the route, which of course was not stable and just came with me. I managed to land on two feet at the bottom of the slope, hugely relived. I then looked down and noticed blood pouring from my hand- I had somehow managed to impale myself on the plastic pole. There was a marshal who helped bandage me up (and looked rather alarmed and suggested I might need stitches!). I was nearly halfway by now and it would probably take just as long for somebody to rescue me as it would just to get back, so I figured I would try to continue. At least it was a nice excuse to take it slowly! IMG_4748

So finish I did. It was painful and I felt a little woozy, but I made it back it one piece, collected my medal, freaked a few people out with my bloody bandage, then drove myself to A&E. Luckily there was no nerve damage (though it took a good two months for my thumb to feel normal again!) and I didn’t need stitches. I needed a day or two off running so I could keep my dressing dry, but in the end, it was much better than the broken leg I had feared! I now have a nice little scar to remind myself why I’m very much a road runner… 

·         Chapleton of Elsick 10k (1:06:53). I never should have run this race. My ITB had been niggling for a few days, and I was in no way looking forward to the race. It was a tough route on a hot day- the ups were hard work, and the downs were agony in my ITB. It was basically just a miserable day out, the only saving grace being I was marginally quicker than at Collieston- but given the medical treatment and bloody loss in that race, it was hardly a real victory! 

·         Dufftown 5 mile / Ballater 10. After the Chapleton 10k, I was in agony. I couldn’t bend my knee, and even walking was painful. I managed to get a sports massage on the Monday evening and he wasn’t too worried, but as the week progressed I was terrified I was on the long-term injury bench. When it had eased off a little I went for a walk, and after only a couple of miles I couldn’t even step up onto pavements. I was supposed to be doing the Dufftown 5 mile race on the Wednesday, but I ended up offshore for a couple of days, so at least didn’t have to make the decision about whether I was fit to run (I wouldn’t have been!). Offshore was 17 hour days so I had no time to think about the treadmill- probably a blessing in disguise.  

The following Sunday I was down to do Ballater 10. Almost as quickly as it arrived, my ITB pain had gone, and by the Saturday I was pain free. I was incredibly grateful, but also worried about aggravating it again. And for what seemed like the nth race in a row, I was dreading what I knew was going to be a slow, heavy legged slog. So I made the decision not to run.  This was a difficult day- everything got on top of me, and I pretty much spent the day on the sofa intermittently crying and napping. Mental health can be a fragile thing, and this was a sharp reminder that I need to look after myself. 

·         Aberlour 10 mile (1:50:18). One of the reasons I had been keen to do Ballater 10 was that I am part of a running club at work which is a points-based competition. You get bonus points if you complete the 6 standard distances (5k, 5 mile, 10k, 10 mile, half marathon, marathon). Part of the reason I allowed myself not to do Ballater was the thought that I could do the Aberlour 10 mile race, a cheap, low key race on a Saturday afternoon, which is part of their highland games. So I headed up to Elgin early, did Elgin parkrun, then on to Aberlour, where I struggled round the race. There was a long steady uphill for the first couple of miles, then a very steep downhill- this was completely wasted on me as I pretty much walked down, still fearful after my Collieston incident. The tail runner (yes I was dead last here) was right up behind me, and at some points overtaking me, which was rather stressful. After a few miles we joined the Speyside Way and she thankfully stopped, and I joined up with another runner who was keen for the company.

She was lovely and happily babbled away for the next few miles, as I just tried to keep my legs moving forward. I eventually sent her on ahead in the last mile, and I finally finished, dead last, in a personal worst for 10 miles. At least I got a fab little bottle opener key ring, and my 10 mile distance. 


·         Dyce half marathon (2:22:40). My head wasn’t in a great place for this race, because of all the stuff that’s going on with Metro. But luckily I had the company of my lovely friend Michelle, and although the race was much harder than it should have been for the pace, I had a great time chatting away to her and it was much more pleasant than previous races. IMG_4922

·         Hatton gala 10k (1:00:05). This was a fun day out with a good crowd, but it was somewhat depressing to be over a minute a mile slower than the last time I did the race (at that point I thought my running wasn’t going very well- if only I knew!). I was also disappointed to just miss the hour- I thought I was going to do it, but then it measured ever so slightly long! Still, I had a reasonably strong finish and my head didn’t totally give up at least.


·         Union Street Mile (7:40). I don’t have much to say about this. I was hoping to at least get 7:30 but I just had nothing. This is 55 seconds slower than my PB, and even a good 30 seconds slower than last year. Putting it into perspective, last year I had run my longest ultra a week before, and I had a chest infection. The Strava title “Will running ever not suck again” says it all really. 

·         Great Aberdeen Run half marathon (2:21:53). I had decided to run this race with my mum, as I knew it was going to be a struggle and was keen for the company. In the end, I couldn’t even keep up with her, and sent her on ahead after 8 miles or so. Run/walking along the beach into a headwind, trying not to cry, was a particular low point. At least it was marginally quicker than Dyce I guess… And actually, it was a good day out. It was fab taking part in a race where I knew so many faces, both running and volunteering, and I hope this race continues to be a success. 


Fame at last!


JSHH crew


·         Portlethen 5 mile Run. Finally- a happy tale! I wasn’t sure what to do with this race, as I just wanted to enjoy it. In the end I decided to stick with Maz and see if I could bully her round in a good time. Maz is a fantastic runner and capable of so much more than she believes, so she’s a good candidate for bullying. It was one of my best decisions as she did brilliantly, running so strongly and passing people all the way round and annihilating her goal time. I couldn’t keep up with her on the big hill near the end! I really enjoyed it and it actually felt good to run a well-paced, strong race- I wasn’t as within my capabilities as Maz thought I was!


Running strong

And that brings us to present day. I’m currently running 20-30 miles a week (compared to my usual 40-50) but pretty much every mile is a struggle. I have to force myself out every time- although this week has been good as I’ve been spoiled with some great company on all of my runs, and that has made a difference. Last weekend I managed my longest “run” since June of 14.5 miles, but I did a 2/1 run/walk and it wasn’t as easy as it should have been.

I’m dearly hoping that if I just keep plugging away, things will eventually get easier. Paces that used to be my easy pace are now a struggle, paces that I used to be able to race at are a distant dream. It’s not like I’ve been injured (a few days of ITBS aside!) or had any other issues. I have put on about 10 pounds since Manchester which isn’t helping, but I’m still not exactly overweight. For what it’s worth, I gave blood a while back so I know my iron levels are fine.

I used to be a runner. I really hope I find her again.


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Strathearn Marathon 2018

Even when I was adamant that 2018 was going to be all about Manchester marathon and I was only going to be running “one” marathon this year, I still planned to do Strathearn, as I just love it so much. The logistics are simple- you can drive down and back on one day, the course is tough but scenic, but the thing that really sells it are all the volunteers involved in this race. Every single person you pass, from the guy directing you into the carpark, to the people on registration, to the marshals out on course and at the finish line, are the most friendly, enthusiastic people you could ever hope to find.

I was also keen to continue my streak and run this for the fifth time in a row. It’s only been run on seven occasions, though I’m not sure how many people have run them all. What I did decide to end though was my streak of early morning starts. Due to my liking for being in good time for everything (some might say ludicrously early), it’s always a painful early start. Last year as I drove past multiple hotels and B&Bs en route to the start, I promised myself that this year I would book a hotel.

I duly found a reasonably priced wee hotel in Comrie, just five minutes from the start. Stu was working on the Saturday so we didn’t leave Aberdeen until nearly 5, but we made good time and arrived around 7pm just in time for our dinner reservation. The hotel was busy, and I was worried our room would be noisy, but it was in a nice secluded little cottage out the back so it was fine. There had clearly been a crazy downpour shortly before, but it was still sticky and warm.

The woman who checked us in was lovely and super chatty, it was a small and friendly place. Even through our dinner she was chatting away, though I wasn’t so delighted to hear that it had been the hottest week she had ever experienced in the area and temperatures had reached 30 degrees! The forecast for the Sunday was warm but not that warm, with the possibility of some showers earlier on. I wasn’t going to be aiming for any kind of time (though it would have been nice to get under 5 hours, or under the 4:58 to stop my run of getting slower every time I run this race!), so I was just hoping that the weather was going to be pleasant enough that I could try to enjoy the day out.

After dinner we had a little walk to help dinner go down, then headed to our room to watch a movie before getting an early night. I didn’t sleep particularly well, but I got a few good hours, and I was very relieved as 5am came and went and it wasn’t yet time to get up! It was nice to have a later start, take my time with breakfast, and head over to the start for just after 8am for a 9am start, so in good time to get registered and have multiple loo visits, but not too long to hang about.

Many of the usual suspects were there, and it was great to catch up with everybody. I had originally asked Kate for company during the race, but that was before I also did Edinburgh and I knew I was going to be far too slow for her, so I told her to go and do her own thing (she also had to finish in time to get her lift back!), and I’m glad I did as she went on to run an absolutely cracking time. Lyndsey, who I had the pleasure of running much of the race with a few years ago, was also there and I thought that we may end up running together.IMG_4479

Personalised bottle dropped off, chip and number attached, and portaloo visited around 500 times, it was time to head to the start line. I’m sure there was a briefing of some kind, but I didn’t hear it, and in the midst of chatting suddenly we were off! I was next to Callum and keen to have a chat with him I ended up running the first mile way too fast, but at least it was flat! As we turned out of the camp and on to the main road, Alan and Lyndsey caught up to me and we chatted a little, then Alan pulled on ahead. Lyndsey was chatting to a couple of people who were nervous about the cut off and I started to pull away a little as we headed up the first hill. I meant to hold back and run with her but somehow I didn’t and though I kept hoping she would catch me up, she never quite did- I should have just stuck with her at the beginning!


Callum making me run too fast


The first few miles were as tough as ever, and it was already warm, so I was pouring with sweat. I just ran where I could and walked where I needed to- hoping that maybe if I really took in steady in the first half I could aim for a faster second half. As ever every marshal we passed was super enthusiastic and friendly, and the pipers on the hills were a lovely touch.

As we reached the top of the hill around five miles, it was bizarre to see the piles of hailstones at the side of the road. It was nearing twenty degrees, but the leftovers from the crazy storm the night before were still evident! I tried to remark on this to the woman running next to me, as we had been leapfrogging for the last couple of miles, but she had headphones in and obviously had them up loud (this was also evident as I then saw her getting in the way of cars that she didn’t seem to register were there). I was irrationally annoyed by this and it became my mission to try to stay ahead of her!

The downhill section seemed to take forever to arrive and even when it did, I couldn’t pick up much speed. I was fairly isolated with nobody anywhere near me (apart from my new nemesis still fairly close on my tail!). I started to wonder why I love this race so much- it was feeling like a real slog.

After a couple of miles downhill, the route levels out before the next mean uphill. As I do every year I made the hilarious joke that I would rather turn right than left, but they still made me turn left up the hill as they do every year. One of the marshals said something about the hill not being that bad, but I knew what was coming!

As I plodded on up I heard a panting behind me and there was Stu on his bike, having left just before the runners and already completed one circuit of the race route. It was nice to see him and he cycled alongside me for a good few minutes before going on ahead and telling me he would see me again.

Once that killer hill is out of the way, it’s not long until halfway. It’s also a bit more shaded along that part of the route, and the wee breeze was very pleasant. I just really didn’t have anything in my legs- or, if I’m honest, my mind! I was walking more than I should have, but now I just wanted to keep making forward progress. I went through halfway in around 2:30, so knew that 5 hours would be a stretch, although the second half is definitely easier.

Stuart appeared again, and it was really nice to have his support. He popped up fairly regularly through the second half, and it really did make a difference. As we turned on to the main road around 18 miles, the marshal at the bottom called out, “well done, all downhill from here!” I replied that he was a liar, as I know full well there’s another mean up around 19 miles. I was still in decent spirits though, as Stu captured.IMG_4610

Run, walk, run, walk, one mile at a time… god it’s warm now! Glad I put suncream on, and glad I had my vest with water and Lucozade. At 21 miles I passed a guy who was fully walking and obviously in some discomfort- he said his hips had gone. I was able to promise him that there were no more big hills, but he did say that he would be getting in the first aid car if it passed. I don’t know if he finished- having managed 21 miles, I hope he did!

My headphone nemesis had been right behind me until now, but now I did put a bit of distance between us. It was good to have a reason to keep pushing though, as any kind of decent time was long gone. Around 22 miles somebody came into view up ahead, and I seemed to be gaining on her, so that was also a motivation. Finally it was just a parkrun to go, and I knew we would soon be back into the town and into that last mile and a half. I caught up to the lady ahead, and we told each other well done.

As I turned into the last mile and the long straight (slightly uphill!) road to the finish, I could see a couple more people ahead. I was also looking like I could dip under 5:15, but it was going to be tight, so I had a reason to keep pushing. Just as we reached mile 26, I passed the guy ahead of me- he was wearing a full kilt, which I did not envy! “Alzheimer’s all the way!” which was a lovely boost- I was proud to be wearing my vest, and I’m proud of the money I’ve raised for such a great cause.

Finally, the last corner was appearing and then I was turning towards the finish. They announced my name and I crossed the line with a big grin, tired but satisfied. I grabbed some water and my medal and fell gratefully into a chair. Another one in the bag!IMG_4609

Once I had recovered a little, I went and found the Strathearn squirrel, as I had taken my four previous medals and wanted the photo op. Sadly the medals aren’t that clear in the photo but it’s a good one nonetheless.

I rave about this race every year, even though I question why after those first few miles uphill. It’s just so well organised, so friendly, and good value. I intend to return again and continue my streak- although hopefully next year will be the year I finally stop getting slower!

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Edinburgh Marathon- Laying the Manchester Demons to Rest

As has been well documented in this blog, I sacrificed a lot for Manchester marathon, and it didn’t quite go to plan. My commitment this year had been to focus purely on Manchester with no other marathons, other than my annual jaunt to Strathearn. When Manchester didn’t work out, I ended up in a pretty dark place, and fell totally out of love with running.

So naturally, my reaction to this was to sign up fairly last minute to Edinburgh marathon. I decided to run for Alzheimer’s Scotland, in memory of my Granny, and hoped that running for a cause dear to my heart and without all the pressure I put myself under for Manchester would help lay my demons to rest.

My recovery from Manchester wasn’t too bad. The first few days were horrendous; both of my big toes were excruciating, and I could barely walk. One of them was infected and once I got antibiotics and they kicked in, it got much better. At A&E they gave me some steri-strips to help tape the nails in place, and numerous soaks in hot salty water offered immense relief. By the Thursday I was able to walk with discomfort rather than pain and set out to cover 5k, as I was starting to go stir crazy. I managed this, and on the Friday I also managed to walk over 3 miles (though I was a bit high on painkillers by that point!) and so felt confident to give parkrun a try on the Saturday, knowing that I could at least walk it if it was too painful to run.

The parkrun went well, and I managed progressive splits of 9:45, 8:43, 8:27 as the pain eased off. I was then able to start running regularly again, and actually ended up run/walking 20 miles two weeks after Manchester; I’m arranging a walk for work along the Speyside Way, and the 10-mile route needed to be recced. And then I had to get back to the car! I just took my time, walking as much as I needed to and enjoying the glorious day. It was pain free and reminded me of why I do this running thing- it was a wonderful day out.

Since then I’ve also managed a 25:01 at parkrun (damn you, second!), and a slightly disappointing (though not that surprising as I had just returned for a very indulgent holiday week of eating and drinking copious amounts) 25:26 at Dunecht Dash. I had also entered Baker Hughes, and all I wanted to do was hate it less than last year, where I had such a disaster! Mission accomplished, I ran hard but steady, and managed a 54:44 (a good 4 minutes quicker than last year) and managed to smile most of the way round (except that last bloody hill).


2017 vs 2018 Baker Hughes



My diet is unfortunately out of control and I have put on a huge chunk of the weight I lost before Manchester. But to be honest, it’s been worth it- I’ve been enjoying it! Time to try to get back on track now though, as I’m starting to feel pretty horrible in myself.

And so, we come to Edinburgh. Given the weight gain, lack of proper training, and the forecast high temperatures, I certainly wasn’t aiming for any kind of time. I just wanted to get round, enjoy the atmosphere, and raise some money for a good cause. Stu was working on the Saturday, so after attending the Grampian Pride march (which was amazing- Aberdeen did itself proud!) I headed down on the train to Edinburgh by myself. I had a wee wander in the afternoon and picked up some food for breakfast, then headed to Prezzo for some carb loading.


Grampian Pride


It was unsurprisingly heaving, and I was glad I had booked a table- it always amuses me when groups of runners turn up to an Italian restaurant, knowing what’s on the weekend, and are surprised not to get a table. Unfortunately this meant the service was a bit haphazard, but I got my food eventually. I had ordered a carafe of wine, and when the waitress threw my main course at me and then chucked some parmesan over it, she also managed to spill a load of parmesan in the wine. I asked another waitress to replace the wine, and although there had only been about a quarter left, she brought me out a whole new one! I had a very painful dilemma where I wanted the wine but knew that I would regret it in the morning. I had a wee bit more but managed to leave a fair bit behind. What a waste!

The race didn’t start until 10 and I was only a mile or so from the start, so I actually had a pretty decent long lie. I had a relaxed breakfast in my room, before getting myself together- it felt very surreal and I couldn’t quite convince myself I was off to run a marathon. I had checked my weather app and it said 14 degrees and sunny, so I was surprised (but also relieved) to step out into a cool, misty morning. Though I could have done with another layer at that point!



Classy breakfast- Cheerios in a coffee mug


I walked up to the start, merging with the crowds of runners heading in the same direction, and walking irritatingly slowly. I arrived and couldn’t work out where I was supposed to go, as only the first few pens were sign-posted. A quick check of the map online and I worked out where to go, and managed to find Maz and her Jog Scotland girls, looking nervous but excited (about the alcohol at the end, if not the running!). I needed a pee by then but the loo queues were all pretty long. I had time, so I headed down the steps into the university building and joined a queue. Just then a member of the university staff came up to me, and said “how many are you?” There were three of us stood together, so he snuck us all through a hidden locked door at the back, and led me to my own private toilet with no queue. I could have hugged him!


The Fabulous Ladies in Orange


I then joined the girls again, it was great to have company and some chat. But soon enough it was time for us to join our respective pens, and I headed off on my own into the black pen. It was still cool, and I was so relieved that it looked like we would have some respite from the heat at least for the first few hours. 9am came and went, and we slowly started moving to the start. It took nearly 20 minutes to get over the line, and in that time I got talking to a nervous first timer. I never admit to how many marathons I’ve done in these situations, so I answered the inevitable question with “a few”.

And then, we were crossing the start line and the race had begun! The crowd support was awesome, and I was running with a big grin in my face. I took it really steady, it was so nice not to have to stress about pace. I haven’t done Edinburgh before so I don’t know how it differed from the old route, but I really enjoyed the first few miles through Edinburgh. At the first out and back around the bottom of Arthur’s seat I saw Maz and the girls which was great, and I remarked to another runner alongside me that at least we weren’t going up!

I was running consistently between 10:30-11:00 minute miles. I could tell that my legs weren’t going to be able to keep it up, but I was happy to slow later if needed and just kept the miles ticking by. I was hoping to run around 4:45-5:00 (just as something to aim for) and I was looking good for that.

Support came and went as some points were quieter than others, but the crowds that were there were awesome. I was high fiving little kids and waving to old ladies wrapped up in blankets sitting in their wheelchairs, and grinning at the signs at the road side “Run like Ryan Gosling is at the finish” (spoiler- he wasn’t!), “Remember, you paid to do this” “Run like you’re in the hunger games”. This was what I needed!

As we turned on to the coast, it was a bit breezy but nothing too bad, and it helped keep me cool. Around mile eight I passed the first Alzheimer’s cheer point- I was wearing my vest so gave them a big wave and got a massive cheer. At mile ten, I started to suffer a little, but just slowed down. This was when we turned onto the interminable out and back- which actually wasn’t as bad as expected. It was awesome to see the race leader fly past looking like he was just out for a jog; he had a huge lead!

The crowds in pockets all along here were fantastic. We passed one house which had Aqua blasting out and guys dancing and cheering, and I sang and danced along with a huge grin.

Half way was a boost as ever, and there was another Alzheimer’s cheer point. I was looking forward to seeing them again at what I worked out should be about mile 23. I didn’t know many other people running, but managed to see and shout to Jonathan. Around mile 15 I started to struggle more, and at 15.5 I stopped for my first wee walk break and to text Stu- right at that point another metro, Graham, busted me and shouted out, I wanted to reply that it was my first walk break, honestly!

My pace had now slipped from 10:30s to 11:30s, which lasted to around mile 19. Looking ahead and seeing the long stream of runners along the coast to the turn point was a bit depressing! But then finally the turn arrived, and we turned back off the road. I struggled here on the softer ground which just zapped all on my energy, but it was a boost that the turn point was well after half way and there were “only” 8 miles left. I was by now searching out for Maz and the girls, and was delighted to see them looking so strong when they were at around mile 16 and I was coming up to mile 20. I got a big sweaty hug and headed off with a grin on my face.

It was getting warm now, and I was just relieved that it hadn’t been so hot the whole time! I had my ultra-vest on so was able to sip water and Lucozade regularly which really helped. I was walking when I needed to, and from mile 20 my pace slipped to more like 12:00s. I was close to 5 hour pace and tried to keep pushing, but my feet were sore, I was hot, and as I didn’t really have anything to prove I found it hard to really push on.

Things were really starting to hurt by mile 23, and I was a bit disheartened that the Alzheimer’s cheer point had packed up by the time I got there (although I saw some of them leaving and they did give me a huge cheer).  Then a kid appeared at the side of the road handing out ice lollies. Best. Thing. Ever. I had a wee walk and devoured the icy goodness, it really was amazing. That gave me the boost I needed and I picked up the running a little more. I was still close to 5 hour pace, but it was going to be close.

With just less than 2 miles to go, I thought 5 hours was gone, so probably walked a little bit more than I needed to. With just less than a mile to go, I realised it might not be gone, so tried to push on a bit. I was measuring half a kilometre long, which started to mess with my head a little. I thought it was gone again so took a short walk with about half a mile to go. Then I told myself to man up and run to the end and tried to pick up the pace. The finish seemed to take forever to arrive. There was a corner, then another, and finally I could see the finish ahead of me. 5 hours was gone so I slowed down a little to showboat for the cameras and crossed the line in 5:00:14 with a big grin- the story of the day!

I was tight for timing to catch my train home and knew that if I stopped it would be difficult to get going again, so I grabbed my medal, water and goody box (a fab idea) and kept walking. And walking. And walking. Everybody was meandering and hobbling but I strode past, knowing that every person I passed was one less person in the bus queue ahead of me! I eventually reached the buses and hopped straight on one. Sitting down was glorious. A few minutes later it headed off, and I could see that a huge queue had formed behind me, so it was worth the effort getting there in good time!

The bus journey back was smooth, but as we got back into Edinburgh it was cold and grey again, and I didn’t have any extra layers with me! I hopped off the bus and began the mile or so walk back to my hotel (think it was about a mile and a half in the end), walking briskly both to make the train and to keep warm. My pedestrian rage was burning- if you’re meandering slower than the person that has just had to finish a marathon then walk three miles, you need to get out of my way!

I arrived back at my hotel and grabbed my bags, borrowing their toilet to change out of my shorts and throw a jumper on. I was pretty minging, and wasn’t sure what was sweat, snot or sun cream, but I had nowhere to shower! I then headed back to Waverley and arrived with 15 minutes to spare before my train. I managed to grab a seat and get myself settled, tired but satisfied after a day that did exactly what I needed it to

My mum and dad picked me up at the train station, and it was great to see them as they’ve been away for six weeks (during which time I’ve managed to keep their plants alive and only stolen one bottle of wine- a huge success!). The shower and glass of bubbles when I arrived home was absolutely heavenly.

So what’s next? Strathearn marathon is only a couple of weeks away, but after that… I don’t know. I’m currently tempted by Glen Ogle 33, but also keen on the idea of not having to do any long runs and focusing on the shorter stuff. I also need to try to get back on my bike, but the thought currently fills me with terror. I’m also pondering the possibility of adding something totally different- I do miss my spin classes. Running seems a constant struggle and I think adding something new to my routine could be a good idea- open to any suggestions!

Finally- as mentioned, I was running Edinburgh for Alzheimer’s Scotland, so if you have just a couple of quid to spare, I would really appreciate it….



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