Stirling Marathon – bloody hard work

I think it’s fair to say the blog’s been neglected a far bit – the second part of June 16 update didn’t happen.  I know I need to pay it more attention, buy it flowers, tell it that it looks nice.

I find myself with a week off work and resting up after Stirling marathon so actually have plenty of time to sit down (I’ll be sitting a lot this week) and put down my thoughts whilst they’re still fairly fresh.

My training had gone well.  I pinched a training plan from a fellow Bella Roadrunner and adapted it slightly to cover 18 weeks rather than 16 as I knew there’d be some weeks I’d struggle to fit in a long run.  I winged my training last year for Manchester so I wanted with more structure.  For the most part I followed it closely and was happy with my form.  I’d accounted for a couple of races during the training plan, the Doon by the River 10k saw a new PB of 44:04 achieved and I’d ran well at the Tom Scott 10 mile race (sub 75 mins) and the Great Edinburgh 10 mile (sub 76 on a hilly route)

I had enjoyed taper and was seeing the benefits of reduced mileage as my legs felt fresh and I went into Sunday morning with no concerns that the aches and strains that had been kicking in during the last few weeks prior to tapering were still an issue.

It was to be an early start to the day as Team Baldy hero Dave arrived in the southside at 6.30am to take us through to Stirling.  As it was the inaugural Stirling marathon, there was some apprehension about the logistics of bussing all of the runners in from various pick up points to the start at Blair Drummond Safari Park.  No problems from our perspective as we parked up at the Pru early, were put on a bus and sent on our way within 15 minutes.  Smoother than a fresh Brazilian.

img_1256

The ‘Right Said Fred’ reunion tour was going well

I don’t think there’s any other walk of life where it’s acceptable to discuss what your toilet plans are but for runners, it seems to be the done thing.  I was keen to get to the toilet queue, do my business then re-join the back of the queue to have another.  However, the people to piddlepots ratio weren’t in my favour.  I had to go for the ‘Carol Vorderman’ plan of consolidating my smaller pishes into one larger pish amount.  Not ideal but there was no other option.  Although in hindsight, I could’ve just went in the park’s greenery.  What, so a giraffe pees there and that’s fine but if I do it I’m a clatty b*stard?

Due to lavvy-gate, I didn’t get a chance to seek out pals to wish them well pre-race.  Although I managed a few hellos to fellow Bellas and the all important third Team Baldy member Mark had been in touch to wish us well.

img_1241

All smiles – for now

I was intrigued to see how the race would start from inside the safari park, whether they’d just open the lion enclosure and make it survival of the fittest.  If it was then the poor sod in the rhino outfit was odds on to be the first one to go.  Thankfully, there was no novelty start and shortly after 9am we were off.

My ‘plan’ (used loosely) was to target 8:20 a mile for as long as possible and hope that the slump – I accepted that there would be one – wouldn’t be too severe.  Based on my training, I wanted a finish of 3:45 for the marathon so my target aim would let me build up enough time to cash in when the slump arrived.

I’m not going to do a mile by mile run down because that would be very boring so I’ll only touch on the points of significance during my race.  I settled into a pace that felt comfortable fairly early on and was hitting under my 8:20 target.  It felt comfortable and at that stage it seemed like it would be harder work to have slowed down.  At roughly three miles in we hit the village of Doune but despite the name the hills went up instead of doon.  Thankfully nothing too taxing so I took care of the inclines hassle-free.  I felt good and had clocked a sub 51 minute 10k on my Garmin so a decent wee bit of time banked for later.

And I’d soon need it to use it.  I had ignored the first two portaloos on course convincing myself that the one consolidated pish taken at Blair Drummond was sufficient.  At the 8 mile mark, I couldn’t ignore it and needed to take a pit-stop (I said pit-stop!) at the portaloo there.  It had to be fast, I begged it to flow out of me.  Now guys, I’m going to be honest here but I can’t be 100% sure that I hadn’t stopped peeing when I tucked myself in and bolted out of the portaloo door.  I was going to stink anyway and told myself that urine was a great remedy for aching thighs.  Disaster number 1.

Thankfully, I managed to get back on pace again and pulled up alongside a former school pal Simon.  After a brief greeting, I pulled away from him and continued at a comfortable pace – plus I didn’t want him to realise that any hint of a Lilian Gish stench could be attributed to me.

Aside from the fantastic crowds – and the Bellas on bikes – who had come out to support, the early parts of the race were fairly uneventful (good!) as the miles were taking care of themselves and I’d managed to get back in to the same pace I was hitting pre-loo stop.

The first real test was the lap of the University grounds, with one tricky climb along with the sight of faster runners making their way down and out of the grounds and back onto the main road route.  It was whilst in the grounds that the course reached the half way point.  I’d managed half-way at 1:48 so with quick calculations, I had just shy of two hours to do the second half and get the sub 3:45 I was looking for.

It wasn’t long until disaster 2 had struck.  I’d been wearing tape over my nipples as after last year’s wardrobe malfunction in Manchester I wanted to give them some protection.  However, the rain arrived and was heavier than forecast.  It had loosened the adhesive tape so I had no option but to get rid of them and hope it wouldn’t be too bad.  It would be ok, wouldn’t it – I mean, I had them on for over half the race, so it should be fine.

img_1237

All fun and games until someone loses their tit tape

Wrong.  It wasn’t long before my left breasticle started leaking blood and my vest became saturated.  The post-marathon shower made for a scary prospect but I’d worry about that later.

The miles were ticking down nicely and we came to the section of the race that had been much discussed online.  Miles 17-26 were to take in three laps of a three mile loop.  I made my way uphill to start the first loop just managing to see my other half and her brother Paul.  It was at this point I realised how much blood was on my vest when I saw Paul mouth the words “Holy f*ck, check his tits!”  This was going to make the last nine miles fun.  So onto lap one, no sooner had I past my two superfans I passed the first set of the Bella Roadrunners that had taken up a spot on the loop.  It was a great boost and I felt my pace quicken again slightly.  More shouts of support from Bellas further down the loop and more fistpumps – it was fantastic and an even bigger boost to know that there was Bella support for the remaining two laps.

Another section discussed at length online was the underpass.  The loop had three underpasses to negotiate which, in the latter part of the race, was really tricky and required some graft.  Lap one nearly complete and the first heartsinking moment.  The lapping arch – the most sadistic, cruel, heartless thing I’ve ever seen at a race (and I’ve done races where all they give you is a f*cking banana when you finish – no chocolate!)

I was fortunate that as I finished my first lap, the left-hand side funnel was clear so there was no-one to envy for finishing whilst I still had two more laps to do.  At the start of lap two, an angel in the form of Andrea appeared – she was holding a massive tub of sweeties.  The clammy mitt went in and I managed to grab a jelly baby.  Best jelly baby ever.  I could feel the slump and was fighting not to let the pace drop much further.  I came back round to see my fan club again at the 21 mile mark.  My thighs were burning (it might’ve just been the pee) and I had to stop and stretch.  I’ve never stopped during a race before so to do it twice was a bit of a worry.  I took a minute, reassured them I was fine and set off again, the pace was gone but I just needed to hang on for 5 more miles.

Congestion on the route became more of an issue as we now had runners doing their respective first, second and third laps.  My pace was dropping and I was into 9 minute miles – I wasn’t panicking yet but I just hoped that I wasn’t going to burn out completely.  Another shout of support from the Bella crew, I had just about enough energy to salute them by way of thanks.

img_1246

Appreciating the Bella support

Underpasses tackled as best I could with another shout from the biking Bellas and back towards the castle to finish lap two.  Heartsinking moment number 2 – the number of finishers heading into the left-hand funnel was starting to increase and I could hear that Zola Budd had just crossed the finish line in 3:12 as I began the last lap.  Quick maths – I had about half an hour to get my 3:45 marathon time.  Still possible, just keep going and try not to let the pace drop too much.  I was around 9:10 a mile at this point so still on course.

My fan club had left the 21 mile point as agreed to head for the finish so I attempted to tackle the uphill as best I could.  My best wasn’t good enough.  I couldn’t do it.  And for the third time, I had to stop.  Another stretch along with some harsh words with myself and I set off again for the last mile and a half.  I plodded along mile 25, my pace dipped again, 9:45 and panic stations set in as I saw the Duracell bunny-earred 3:45 pacer overtake me.  I pleaded with my legs to please just go, keep up with the pacer – back through the most congested section of the whole race, weaving in and out whilst trying not to let the pacer get too far ahead of me.  It wasn’t too long before I could hear the hive of activity of the finishing line.  I could feel the pace picking up as I passed the 800m to go flag, I was playing Countdown in my head, trying to calculate how many seconds I needed to get sub 3:45.  I couldn’t work it out, my brain just telling me to go.  Mile 26 – back to sub 9 minute miles.  Progress.  Come on!  400m to go.  Check the watch.  3:43:45.  FUCK!  I knew my fastest 400m on track was roughly 85 seconds.  There was no chance of getting my target now.  For a second I felt sorry for myself but I might as well blast whatever I had left in the tank to try and get the best time I could.  My watch ticked onto the 3:45 target as I made my way into the finishers funnel.  As I turned left, I allowed myself a smile – OK I wasn’t going to get my target but I was still taking around 13 minutes off of my Manchester time.

img_1251

Here comes auld seepage tits

Last quarter mile done at sub 8 minute mile pace, it was a decent finish.  Line crossed in an official time of 3:45:26.  Was I really going to boot my arse for the sake of 27 seconds?  The runner’s mentality took hold and I did – I shouldn’t have stopped to pee, I shouldn’t have stopped twice to stretch.  Immediately after you think about what you could’ve done differently.  But everyone knows that shoulda, woulda, coulda are the last words of a fool.  I needed that pee and those stretches – anything else would’ve made the slump worse.

I could see the fan club had made it to the finish (that’s the real reason I went so slow for the last four miles, to give them plenty of time to get there.  Aye right.)  I gave them a wave as I went to collect my goodie bag (and all important medal)

img_1229

Worth the pain

As I made my way through the finishing point, the first person I see is a shivering (not sure if it was through coldness or emotion) Jude who ran a stonking PB of 3:36.  At last, she’d managed a race that she’s happy with.  We had a congratulatory hug, I covered her foil blanket in nipple blood and she repaid the favour by not mentioning the reek of pish.

I managed to meet up with some of the twitter running crew, Jenna, Iain and I went back to pinch another sweet from Andrea on my way to retrieve my bag.  The less said about the entrance/exit to get to the baggage buses, the better – it was a bit of a farce.  I made a new pal too.  Running royalty Liz McColgan had been taking part, fellow Bella Kevin and I managed to get a wee photo with her (once I’d changed top, obviously)

img_1230

Running legend.  Kevin and Liz were delighted to have their photo with me.

I managed to catch up briefly with Dave, who can now proudly call himself a marathon runner.

On the way home, I uploaded my run to Strava via bluetooth to check the vital statistics.  One big stat stood out.  Although the marathon distance is technically 26.2 miles, it’s rare that you’d actually run exactly by the time you’ve bobbed and weaved through busier sections.  I had ran 26.4 miles in 3:45:26.  So, in that case, that must mean the time I ran the actual marathon distance would’ve been a little bit less, surely….

img_1257

I’ve often heard that “If it’s not on Strava then it didn’t happen.”  Well, this IS on Strava – so guess what?  SUB 3:45 DID HAPPEN!  YOU SEXY LITTLE BITCH!

I can’t not mention the girl who, whilst I was beginning my final lap, needed to answer a call of nature.  She went into a section of bushes which she must’ve thought was far enough from sight from anyone to see.  I’m sorry to say that you misjudged it a bit and I saw your bare arse.  But on the plus side, I bet you didn’t get pee on your thigh.  And fair play for having the ability to crouch at that stage.

The final word is dedicated to my lovely Bella vest.  It had taken some absolute punishment over the course of the day and is potentially ruined after some nipple butchery.  Look at the state of this.

img_1240

The Daz doorstep challenge – extreme version

I know I’ve totally neglected this blog and I’m not going to make an empty declaration that I’ll be back doing this every week/fortnight/month.  I just felt that my experience of the Stirling marathon deserved a write-up.

A real tale of blood, sweat & tears.  And pish.

 

Advertisements

June (part 1)

It’s been over a fortnight since my last blog mainly because I’ve taken advantage of the Euros being shown every night for the last week and a half.  I have to admit I’ve been slightly disappointed by it – in fact, I still can’t believe Brazil didn’t qualify.  Anyway…

June would be the busiest racing month of the year for me with four 10k races and two 5k’s booked in so my next two blog entries will pretty much cover the full set, rather than dedicating a separate entry for each race.  On top of the races, I’d also joined the Strava distance challenge for June with my target set at 200km for the month.

After earning my brand spanking new sub 45 minute 10k PB at Dumbarton the previous week, I had rested up for more than a couple of days.  No messing about when June arrived with the first race of the month – the Bellahouston Road Runners President’s Cup 5k Handicap race.

As I’d only joined the club last October I’d never taken part in a handicap race before.  For anyone who’s maybe not with a club or hasn’t done one of these races before, a quick explanation.  Each runner is assigned a target time, this target time is calculated based on either a recent 10k time or a PB 10k time.  The start is staggered with the “slower” runners to head out first and the faster runners towards the back of the queue so that in theory, everyone should be finishing at roughly the same time.

Henry had put in a power of work pulling everyone’s data from various sites to then calculate a target time for each runner.  And thanks to my Dumbarton PB, I realised that my target time would be quicker yet.  Picking up my race number at the club house, I immediately queried the accuracy of my target, “Are you f*cking kidding me on?!!??”  21 minutes 30 seconds was my target for the night’s race.  I knew I’d have to go some to reach this as my best 5k time on Strava was roughly 50 seconds over this and that was the previous Thursday at Dumbarton – I got a PB there, don’t you know.  I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it.

img_0194

President’s Cup 5km route

We made our way to Bellahouston Park and done some drills before the pre-race photo and briefing.   We queued up in our order of predicted times and were set off on our way by race director Henry.  Despite having not ran for six days, I was on the back of my two best 10k times so I was still confident of a respectable time.  Maybe too confident as my watch showed a time of 4:14 for my first km.  Slightly quicker than I should have went out so I tried to ease up a touch.  It didn’t take long before I started to suffer.

The summer sun had decided that it’s one week a year pilgrimage to Glasgow would occur in the first week of June and I was starting to feel the affects before the end of the 2nd km.  My pace had slowed more than I’d have liked and kilometre 2 had taken me 4:41.  Not ideal but if I could get focused and raise my pace for three kilometres I’d still get a decent time.  By the end of the 3rd km, I was being overtaken by some of my clubmates who’d set off later.  I wasn’t able to pick my pace up at all and by this point I was feeling a bit disheartened.  I’d kept a consistent pace at the 3rd and 4th km, 4:48 & 4:46 respectively before heading towards the finish for one final push.  By this point, most of my fellow Bellas had skelped it past me so I was really just wanted to get it over with.  I made my way onto the track and towards the finish line – whatever juice that hadn’t been drained from me between a too quick first km and a too bloody hot sun went on trying to finish with a decent push.  Encouraged by my clubmates I crossed the finish and stopped my watch on 22 mins 35 seconds.  I’ll admit that at the time I was a bit pissed off not to have been closer to my target time but on reflection, I’m actually quite happy with my time as a stand-alone 5k time.

One thing I really need to get a grip of is my nutrition.  Since Manchester, I haven’t been disciplined enough with my diet.  And it may be a cliché to say “you can’t outrun a bad diet” but unfortunately, it’s true.  I gave myself a bit of an arse-kicking after the President’s Cup 5k telling myself that I wouldn’t get better times if I had to carry a pair of fudge tits around during a race.  It’s something I’ll slowly chip away at – I need to get out of the mentality that because I ran X amount of miles than I deserve this bag of Cadbury’s Giant Buttons, Caramel Nibbles, Sports Mix, BBQ Rib Doritos.  Anyway, with this in mind and a rare Friday night to myself I decided to head out for an easy 12 mile run through Glasgow’s Southside with the Terrace Scottish Football end of season review for company.  Nothing strenuous, about an 8:40 mile pace on a route incorporating Queen’s Park, Pollok Park and a lap of Newlands Park thrown in for good measure.

Onto the 5th of June, and it was the last race of this, and indeed, all of the Polaroid Series races.  Vale of Leven was the venue and we were treated to more stunning sunshine.  In fact, it was so sunny it justified me wearing the complimentary Polaroid sunglasses I’d picked up at Helensburgh for entering the full series.

I was still on a little bit of a downer from how Wednesday night had gone – retrospect hadn’t kicked in yet by this point so my only real target was for a strong run, anything under last year’s time of 48:02 would be deemed a success.

The thing I’ve enjoyed most about the recent races I’ve run in is the atmosphere before and after – the bit in the middle when your legs go so fast they hurt and you can’t breathe and every second word is ‘f*ck’, that’s not so great.  But the camaraderie, at the Polaroid races in particular, has been fantastic.  I’m not a particularly sociable person, I stopped drinking about eighteen months ago so pubs aren’t for me anymore, and I tend to keep myself to myself so it’s been great to get talking to folk at races that you have a similar interest with before you even get to know to them.  Aye, it’s been nice and I actually quite enjoy having running friends.

img_0253

My other half’s mum and step dad had kindly given us a lift through to Balloch for the race, with the promise of lunch afterwards, of course.  We arrived in plenty of time for me to stretch, get a half decent warm up and say hello and good luck to my running friends.  Many of my clubmates were missing at Balloch as they were volunteering at the Women’s 10k in Glasgow – to be fair, with the heat they probably knocked it off.

The course had changed slightly from last year’s race.  This year, the first km would include the biggest incline of the route.  Not ideal if you were looking for a PB as you’d have to run smart in order to avoid getting boxed in at the start of the race.  Due to the first section of the course being quite narrow, starting waves were organised and staggered.  I took my place in the 41-50 minute wave and set off only a matter of seconds after the previous wave.

I did find it quite tricky to find my pace, having to weave in and out to avoid being boxed in.  I managed to get into a small pocket of space just in time to meet the hill in Balloch Country Park.  With Wednesday still niggling, I took it nice and steady.  1k done – 5:04.  OK, that was a bit too steady.  Not to worry as what goes up must come down – and I used the downhill to my advantage and came fleeing down it as we came out of the park and in towards a residential area.  The watch beeped for 2k – 4:26.  I was back in the game.  To be honest, this was just a nice enjoyable race to do.  My big 10k goal for the year had already been achieved so the pressure was off completely so I continued to enjoy my run.  The support from the crowds during the Polaroid Series has been brilliant and Balloch was no exception, with a large crowd of spectators – including my own fan club – cheering on the runners as we passed the 3k mark.  I felt quite good at this point and the watch agreed, 4:32 for the 3rd km.

img_0219

Still happy at 4km

I couldn’t maintain the pace and for the next 5k kept a pace of roughly 4:45 per km.  The penultimate km took us back up past the crowd we’d passed at 3k.  My fan club still there cheering – and with the camera ready.

img_0211

Nearly there – coming up to 9km

Up the hill a bit, and a left back into the park and towards ANOTHER F*CKING HILL!!!  Gimme a break here!  The 9th km took me just over the 5 minute mark and I gave myself a shake to make sure I’d have a strong finish.  I tried to length my stride but again, as in Dumbarton my legs weren’t for complying and I had to resort to digging in and picking up the pace.  It was only a few more minutes of toil before I was able to see the finish line and managed to lift the pace further to cross the finish line well before the gun clock hit 47 minutes – my chip time would later be confirmed as 46:10.  I collected my medal and hooked it up to my medals from the previous three races to make a super medal which will look very nice in a frame when I get around to it.

img_0212

All four medals in one

As promised, we got lunch with the in-laws and enjoyed the views Loch Lomond shores had to offer.

img_0210

And that was that, the end of a very successful Polaroid Series.  A measure of how much I had improved as a runner would be how I performed at these races – I’d taken a decent chunk of time off of each of my 2015 times at the same races.  And maybe more importantly, I’d run fairly consistently.

  • Helensburgh – 47:34
  • Clydebank – 45:25 (New PB!)
  • Dumbarton – 44:53 (Newer PB!!)
  • Vale of Leven – 46:10

I really hope that these races can continue despite Polaroid’s closure of their Vale of Leven plant.  I’ll keep everything crossed that another company can take over the sponsorship and organisation.  They are really well ran (no pun intended) events and I’ve loved taking part in them for the last two years – I’d like to take part in them again in 2017.

It won’t be long until the next blog entry – I’ve already ran the races!  So I will get my finger out and get updates posted soon.

 

Get yer Dumbarton rocks off!

After clinching a PB the previous week in Clydebank, I’d felt a huge pressure had been lifted from my shoulders.  Since I started training with Bellahouston Road Runners I certainly felt that my running had improved – I’d completed a fecking marathon for god’s sake.  But, at the back of my mind I sought assurances that I was improving and the best indicator of that would be to beat my 2015 performances in the Polaroid Series.

After taking 43 seconds off my time at Helensburgh followed by 69 seconds off at Clydebank I had the satisfaction of knowing I had definitely improved.  With the pressure off I was looking forward to race 3 of the Series – Dumbarton.  Last year I had used this race to pace my friend Davy to a sub 53 minute PB so I knew that I’d be comfortable in surpassing that.  However, this year I’d be the one being paced.  I had company at Dumbarton in the shape of my boss Martin, a comfortable 42 minute 10k runner.  After a few discussions about the race, he agreed to stick with me and that we would aim to achieve my big 10k goal for 2016 – a sub 45 minute effort.  I was only 26 seconds shy of this in Clydebank 7 days prior so thought it was definitely worth having a go.  However, I wasn’t putting myself under huge pressure to do it.  Martin and I agreed that if either of us was to struggle then the other would kick on and run their own race.

We arrived in Dumbarton with just enough time to stretch and to drop some friends off at the pool.  I fiddled with the virtual pacer and clocked in a 4 min 3o secs kilometre.  We made our way to the start line and found a little pocket of space where we hoped we could start from and avoid getting boxed in early doors.

As with the previous two races, we were set on our way by Lachie Stewart, the 1970 Commonwealth Games gold medalist at 10,000m.  We successfully managed to get away at a decent pace and aimed to stick to that pace.  After being out for a few minutes I thought that my Garmin had been fairly quiet – generally it wouldn’t be slow in telling me that I’d either gone off too quickly and to hurry up and move my arse.  But tonight, nothing.  No matter, I carried on at a pace that felt good but hard.

Eventually, my watch beeped but only to alert me to the 1km marker that we were passing.  4 mins 36 secs – ok, not ideal but we weren’t hugely off target so no panic.  I then realised that I hadn’t switched my pacer on at all after farting about setting up my desired pace.  Shite.  Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing to run by effort rather than by what a watch was telling me – this was the rational argument I was making to myself whilst inwardly panicking as I’d never raced without using the pacer function.

img_0202

When you realise you’ve started your watch without setting your pacer properly

This blog I’ll spare the km by km rundown as quite simply it was a fairly consistent effort throughout.  As each km was getting ticked off, the watch indicated that we were a few seconds either side of the desired 4 mins 30 secs pace.  I was working hard and Martin was pulling me along quite nicely.  I was passed by Bella coach Kevin, who was running a progressive 10k effort with each kilometre being faster than the previous – a really impressive sight on Strava after the race.  A few words of encouragement and a nice compliment for my Clydebank blog – his arse just a blur in the distance before I had the chance to thank him for his kind words.

At this point I’ll skip to 7k.  Martin was still running strongly and I was starting to struggle badly.  Checking the watch I knew the chance to beat my week old PB was still a very realistic prospect but a negative mindset was starting to creep.  “Aye very good, 45 minutes, kidding yourself on.”  I was willing myself just to get to 8k then I knew I’d have less than 10 minutes of pain to go.  It was at this point Martin’s leadership qualities began to shine through, “C’mon ya big bastard, move yer arse!  You’ve got this!”

I was done, ready to drop the pace and be happy that I held out at a strong pace for three quarters of the race.  My pacer was having none of it though.  His nagging words of encouragement ringing in my ears.  To be fair, it was because he knew sub 45 was still a genuine possibility – but only if I didn’t throw the towel in.  At this point, my own stubbornness was beginning to kick in.  Would I be happy with a new PB?  Yes, I’d be delighted.  Would I be kicking myself if I were to miss out on a sub 45 finish by only a few seconds?  Aye, I’d be a bit miffed at that.  I dug deep and willed my legs not to give up on me.  They’d been turning over well all throughout the race, I hoped they’d see me through for the last two k.

With just less than 2k to go I shouted for Martin to kick on but give him his due, he stuck with me.  He even dipped his pace slightly for me to catch up so he could pull me along the penultimate km.  More words of encouragement – “You’ve got it if you want it, how much do you want it?”  I decided that I’d lose any modicum of self respect I had if I answered this question honestly.  Basically, I didn’t want to say the words “Oh yes, I want it.  I want it so badly” whilst panting next to another grown man.  The nagging continued, “I know you want to punch me just now but you’ll thank me later.”  “Martin, if I had any feeling in my legs I’d boot you in the balls right now.”

Into the last km, and a sub 45 minute finish was in the balance.  I was hurting but knew that in less than five minutes time I would be done.  “C’mon, let’s pick it!”, Martin urged.  I tried.  I couldn’t.  Another shout of encouragement – “Get those legs open!”  I resisted the urge to reply with “I bet you say that to all the girls.”  Mainly because I couldn’t speak for breathing so hard.  Although, I knew what he was meaning.  I was desperately trying to length my stride but it just wasn’t happening.  Thankfully, I did manage to pick up the pace ever so slightly as the finish line came into sight.

I heard a shout from my pal Del, who had probably finished in something ridiculous like 13 minutes.  I managed to give him the least convincing thumbs up ever.

img_0180

Del Young – faster than a speeding bullet

A quick check of the watch, I was into the 44th minute.  This was like Man Utd in the Neu Camp in 1999 all over again.  If we were going to pull it out the bag, it had to be now.  Martin picked up his pace and I managed to raise mine.  Give it everything, if there’s nothing left in the tank at the end and I fell short then I could have no regrets.  There was no strong sprint finish like there had been in Helensburgh and Clydebank.  This was a case of getting myself over that finish line no matter what state I looked.  And looking back on the race day pics – I didn’t look particularly heroic.

I’ll make a confession here.  As I closed in on that finishing line, some sort of involuntary noise left my mouth.  I’d like to think it was a roar.  I really hope it was a roar.  But I’m pretty sure that it was pretty similar to the noise my dad makes when he tries to get out of the armchair he’s been wedged into for the last five hours whilst watching At The Races.

It was over, we’d crossed the line and managed to stop my watch as I finished.  And there it was, 44 minutes 53 seconds.  It was the slimmest of margins but I didn’t care in the slightest.  It was sub 45.  My main aim for 2016 achieved in the first half of the year.  I was absolutely delighted.  I was also feeling pretty dehydrated and wanted to throw up.

Another great race in the Polaroid Series was completed and we shared congratulations with friends, team-mates and fellow club runners.  King of the blogs, Mark had picked up another PB.  His account of Dumbarton 10k can be found here

On the way back to Glasgow, Martin and I talked about the next goal.  Naturally, it has to be sub 44, which is fine.  And although he’s quite keen for me to give it a shot ASAP and not rest on my laurels, I’m quite happy to dine out on this for a wee while longer.  He should understand this – he’s a Celtic fan.  They’ve dined out on Lisbon for nearly 50 years – I don’t plan on leaving it that long!

 

Polaroid Series: race 2 – Clydebank

Getting into the right frame of mind before a race cannot be under-estimated.  One piece of advice I’ve been given is to repeat positive soundbites to yourself in the minutes before lining up at the start.  Only a couple of words, that’s all.  Just enough to get you in the zone, to get the game face on.  In my last few races I’ve stuck to a fairly simple motivation – “let’s go”, “come on”, even “smash this”.  But as I stood underneath the bag drop tent and watched the rain bounce off the tarmac prior to Thursday’s 10k in Clydebank, the only two words mantra coming to mind were “F*ck this”.

It’s that time of the week again when my other half watches Supervet and I give myself an hour or so to type up a few musings about the previous week’s running.  He is very good that Supervet but I can’t help but feel the programme doesn’t tell the full story.  They’ll show the cat that’s now able to walk thanks to an artificial leg made from pipe cleaners, elastic bands and a dismantled potato scoop – but think of the number of dogs that guy has to see where his only “cure” is a hessian sack and a few bricks.  “Sorry, we tried but we lost him.”

Supervet

“Ah, I’ll only need a wee bag for him.”

Aye, so.  Where was I…

I’d got caught in a downpour whilst making my way from the office to the train station.  With my clothes clinging to me (you could see the outline, that’s all I’m saying), it was fair to say that I wasn’t feeling particularly positive about the night’s race.

I overestimated how long it would take to get to Clydebank and I arrived almost an hour before the start.  I took refuge in the Sports Centre and met up with Paul Gunn, a fella I’d recently got chatting to on Twitter through the UKRunChatGlasgow group.  After a quick blether, I decided to brave the elements and get some semblance of a warm-up done.  Watching the torrential rain, I dismissed any hopes of a PB.  The rotten weather may encourage me to go faster but I didn’t think the conditions would be conducive to a best time for me.  Appropriate weather for Clydebank really, the local football club had a sponsorship deal in the 1990’s with Wet Wet Wet.

SCOTTISH SOCCER

Kits – Wet Wet Wet.  Suits – Shite Shite Shite.

I lined up at the start area and wished good luck to my Bella club mates and to my Glasgow Green buddies Gerard and Graeme, who I managed to find before the race started.  Thankfully, as 7.30pm approached the rain stopped and it was looked like being ideal conditions for running.  Balls to it, let’s give this a good go tonight.  An added incentive for finishing quickly on the night was my desperation to listen to the commentary of the play-off match between Falkirk and my club, Killie.  I made an agreement with myself that if the Killie result didn’t go well then hopefully I’d be celebrating one sporting achievement tonight with a respectable time at Clydebank.

img_0140

The Start – photo by Kenny Phillips

Some quick arithmetic told me that a 4 min 40 sec per km pace would stand me in good stead for a PB so set my pacer accordingly.  The horn sounded and nearly 800 runners made their way past the starting mats and up Seaforth Road.  As per most 10k races I’ve run in, the first section felt very narrow and as usual, I found it hard to judge a pace.  I didn’t want to go shooting off at the start – no-one likes to peak too soon, eh?  But at the same time, I wanted to avoid getting boxed in.  I was keen to find a pocket of space ahead to run in, especially after the previous week’s race in Helensburgh where I did start off way too quickly (my first 2k completed in 8:50 – great if you can maintain that pace.  I can’t.  Not yet.)

I’d switched my watch back to measure in kilometres after Helensburgh’s experiment with pacing by the mile.  I reckoned that pacing by kilometre would give me more chance of maintaining a consistent pace.  On the first km, my watch beeped – 4:38.  This was just about ideal, this is the pace I would hope to maintain for the rest of the race.

The Clydebank 10k is a two lap course that takes in a large stretch of path next to the canal as well as venturing into the less scenic industrial park.  But I wasn’t there for the scenery.  I’d gained a PB at this course in 2015 and with a solid run, I’d hope to be doing the same again this year.  Despite hoping to lock into the pace set in the first km, my Garmin alerted me to a 4:25 2nd km.  I wasn’t going to keep that up for another 8k so eased up slightly.  Up until this point, Graeme had stuck beside me but I think my lack of chat had bored him rigid and he quite rightly kicked on.

By the end of 3k, I felt good and seeing my watch record a 4 min 40 secs km I gained a bit of confidence knowing that was exactly where I wanted to be.  I was pushing hard but the pace was sustainable.  Ideally, I’d carry this pace on for the rest of the race and hoped that the slump I felt at 6k in Helensburgh would maybe hold off for a while this week.

And that’s almost exactly how it panned out. My next 5 km splits were 4:36, 4:39, 4:41, 4:37 and 4:38.  I knew by then that barring a disaster last year’s personal best was going to be beaten.  It was going to be a case of knuckling down, not blowing up and see exactly how much could be taken off last year’s time.

img_0149

Sexy… everything about you so sexy…

Even more encouraging, the anticipated slump didn’t make an appearance.  I knew I was working hard but I felt good.  No niggling pain, no stitch, nothing to suggest that things were about to go tits up.

Back for one last foray through the industrial estate in the last 2k and I managed to lift the pace slightly.  The watch signalled the end of the penultimate lap – 4:30.  I got a massive boost from this.  The PB wasn’t going to get smashed.  It was getting it’s pants yanked down, bent over and rattled.  Vigorously.

Into the last section of the race, through the underpass and round the last corner onto the final straight.  I managed to pick up the pace again and could see the finish line a few hundred metres ahead.  On the approach to the very last section there’s a slight incline but once you’ve managed that you have a good section to pick up the pace whilst heading down to the finish line.  Bella club president Brian was standing on the sidelines and gave me a shout of encouragement.  One last push!  I could see the race clock as I got closer to the finish line.  This was going to be good.  My eyesight’s not the greatest but there was no mistaking that this clock was just about to hit 46 minutes.  This was going to be very good!!  I stopped my watch as I tore past the finish line and was delighted to see a time of 45 mins 30 secs displayed.  Over a minute taken off my PB!

It was a great night all round as 11 of my Bella RR club mates picked up personal bests.  There was a real feelgood vibe as we shared congratulations.  Although the only words escaping from my mouth were “F*cking brilliant.”

img_0152

It was PBs for many on the night, including my pal Mark of Motherwell AC with a 38:43 chip time.  Brilliant stuff – a real two’s up moment to his personal troll.  Also, my mate Del Young continued his amazing progress finishing 7th with an eye-watering time of 32:30.  I first met Del a few years ago through supporting Killie and it’s fair to say that, apart from our weekly game of five a sides, neither of us were particularly athletic.

With the official times uploaded online later in the evening, I saw that my time had been recorded as 45:25.  I had actually taken 69 seconds off of last year’s PB.  An ideal number of seconds to take off, if you ask me.

img_0142

The next race is tomorrow night in Dumbarton.  The PB monkey is off my back so I can afford to relax slightly with the next two races.  That said, I’m now only 26 seconds from being a sub 45 minute 10k runner.  This was the big goal I had set myself after the Manchester Marathon. I had been looking at the Paisley 10k in August to be the race to target that but maybe it could be achievable sooner – there’s quite a few 1ok races between now and the end of June.

I’ll also be participating in my club race, the President’s Cup next Wednesday.  It’ll be my first experience of running in a handicap race so I daresay it will have more than a passing mention in my next blog.

Oh, and by the way.  I did manage to get listening to the commentary of the Falkirk v Killie game on my way home.  0-0 right up until the last kick of the ball before Falkirk scored.  No matter, I’d got myself a PB and was at least happy with one outcome of the night’s sporting action.

It all worked out in the end though.   Killie stayed after delivering a 4-0 pumping on Sunday and kept their place in the league.

Clark

“As the Blues go marching on!!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Way Ticket to Helensburgh 10k… and Back!

It’s been a wee while since I last blogged.  The reason for that, quite simply is, I hadn’t got back into the groove as much as I should have after Manchester.  I had been taking great comfort from the fact that with no marathon on the horizon I could miss the odd run here and there and not suffer too much for it.  A pretty hectic time at work wasn’t helping matters either.  For many, running offers a chance to be alone with their thoughts and allows them to clear the heads and provides relief from the everyday chaos.

Unfortunately, the last few weeks have left me feeling pretty wiped out.  I didn’t particularly want to go for a run.  I wanted to go home with some chocolate (Yes, I realise how much of a woman that makes me sound – all I’m missing is the “cheeky wee vino”) and just switch my brain off, before repeating the routine the next day.

That said, in the back of my mind I knew that the Polaroid Series wouldn’t be long in arriving so I had really ought to get my act together and start giving these races the respect they deserved.  And thankfully, work issues started to ease and I was starting to turn my attitude around.

Since my last blog, I’ve only made it to one club training session – a particularly brutal hill session on a warm night in Pollok Park.  Coach Kevin had warned that we would feel tired for a few days afterwards, and so it proved as my legs felt rather heavy for a few days.

I had fully intended to make it to last Monday night’s club session prior to Thursday’s Polaroid Series opener in Helensburgh.  However, a hastily packed rucksack had included a running top, socks but no shorts.  And for a split second, I genuinely thought “no, it’s fine, I can just go in my boxers”, as if that was a perfectly suitable solution to my issue.  Common sense soon prevailed and my plan was abandoned, much to the relief of Glasgow’s commuters who were spared the sight of my business jiggling about like two satsumas and a banana in a washing machine.

Not really the preparation I’d wanted prior to Thursday.  The only chance I had to run would be an easy 4 mile run home from work on the Wednesday (with shorts on and balls covered).

1594916925_64c5b868f5

No shorts?  No problem – go free and easy!

And onto Thursday.  Work done, quick change into running kit went without a hitch – I even managed to pin my bib on without stabbing myself in the tit.  Success.  I made the stress-free train journey from Charing Cross to Craigendoran – the station only a few minutes walk from the race start at Hermitage Academy.  I’d arrived in plenty of time to collect my free Polaroid Series t-shirt and sunglasses, made a quick loo visit before heading out.

Between joining the running club and through Twitter, I’ve got to chat to a lot of new people, get advice and just generally give and receive good wishes prior to races so it was nice to take away a little bit of pre-race nerves with a few words to fellow runners.  After many months of chatting on Twitter, I met Mark Gallacher of Motherwell (and most irritating runner in Scotland fame – if you’re don’t already read Mark’s blog, then give it a read to see how he was crowned with this title, I’ll link at the bottom of the blog), exchanged best of luck wishes with fellow Road Runner Graeme Pert (who also has an excellent blog, well worth reading) and my Glasgow Green run buddies Gerard and Graeme.

img_0130

The route

As the 770-odd runners lined up to start, a few pre-race announcements were made.  “Listen to the marshalls, water at 6km and have a great run!”  It all sounds so easy.  The race was started by soon-to-be Olympian Derek Hawkins and we were off!

As this was my first 10k since the Nigel Barge Memorial in January, I was really just looking to lay down a good marker for the 10k season – there’d be a lot of races coming up so all I wanted was a solid run and if I was able to beat last year’s Helensburgh time of 48:34 then I’d be able to get the train home happy.  I had set the virtual pacer on my Garmin accordingly and hoped this would be enough to keep me disciplined.

NO CHANCE!  As I passed the starting mats the first few minutes of my race were spent trying to find my pace whilst weaving between other runners in order to avoid being boxed in early doors.  I didn’t feel as if I had gone out particularly quickly and once I’d found some space a quick check of the watch would show me that I could afford to ease up very slightly.  I totally missed the 1km marker so continued at a comfortably hard pace until my watch beeped at the 1 mile mark.  “7 mins 4 secs.  Bloody hell, that’s fast (for me), right, be careful, reign it in, you’ll die on your hole if you try keeping that up.”  I settled myself down a bit and heard the reassuring beep of my Garmin telling me in was at my desired pace.  Deep down I knew fine well that I was going to end up paying for that quick start but at that point I just hoped I would be able to hold on to the current pace for as long as possible.  Mile 2 – “7 mins 35 secs.  Yes!  This is exactly what I wanted, perfect pacing.  Well done watch!  Just keep this going and you’ll be on for a good thing.  Just ignore that stitch.  What stitch?  This stitch that’s just about to occupy your thoughts for the next few minutes.”

Right enough, I could feel a stitch coming on.  Nothing major but just enough to let me know it was there.  I focused on my breathing and hoped that my legs would maintain my current pace.  No such luck.  Mile 3 – nearly half way, 7 mins 49 secs.  My pace was slipping a bit now, again nothing too concerning but any hope of a PB was gone.  The heat in the Helensburgh sunshine was starting to take it’s toll now too so I sought out any opportunity I could to run in a bit of shade.  Thankfully in between the 5 & 6 km markers help arrived in the form of the water station.  I took a bottle from an outstretched arm and thanked them – well, when you’re running as fast as you’ve ever really ran then ‘Ah Ooh’ does sound like Thank You.  I took a few sips to sort out my dry mouth before pouring the rest over my head.  It genuinely helped.  I told myself to knuckle down and try to keep pace as best I could.

Another beep – mile 4: 7 mins 59 secs.  Bollocks.  “See that PB you were kidding yourself on about getting.  You can poke it.”  And there it was, I knew that I’d end up suffering for setting off too quickly and here it was happening.  But four miles in the bag and just over half an hour gone I was still on course to beat last year’s time.  As the route headed back along the front towards the school, I started to feel more comfortable.  No stitch, no pain in the legs and the makeshift shower had woken me up.  Mile 5 – 7 mins 52 secs.  Ok, still slower than I’ve have liked but a slight improvement on the previous mile.

Into the last full mile, I was telling myself that in less than ten minutes I’d be done.  As I was feeling stronger, I reckoned that I would definitely have enough in the tank to go for a strong finish.  I managed to lift my pace and started to catch up with runners that had overtaken me in the previous two miles.  I was feeling really strong now, quickly checked my watch to see that I was just over half a mile from the finish.  Time to lift the pace again ever so slightly.  Feeling good and the legs were turning over very nicely indeed.  Mile 6: 7 mins 31 secs.  That’s more like it!  Go on, less than 400 metres to go.  At this point,  I knew that a PB was impossible but I was definitely going to beat last year’s time here.  So I went for it. As I approached the final corner before the finish line I burst into a sprint.  Every second was a prisoner and would be an indication as to how much I’ve improved in the last year.

img_0118

I gratefully took my well-earned medal and the best tasting water I’ve ever had in my life and clocked a few club mates who had all run really well.  I met Mark who had been on course for a PB up until 8k when things didn’t feel quite right.  I don’t think he’ll have to wait too long to beat it.  My pal Ger crossed the line and was delighted to discover that he was exactly 60 seconds away from a PB, which is a great result considering the heat.

I swapped congratulations with club mates before collecting my bag and heading for the train.  I was well impressed to see that my official chip time had already been texted to me, arriving within 15 minutes of me finishing the race.

img_0117

I’ll take that, thank you very much!!!  So, my marker for the season turned out to be exactly 60 seconds away from a PB – and 34 seconds off of last year’s time into the bargain.  It’s also a great boost to see some Strava PB’s getting clocked up as well for my fastest 2 miles and 5k.

Absolutely delighted with the result considering my mojo had been hiding a bit in recent weeks.  I definitely feel now as though I’m back in the right frame of mind to kick on and get that personal best.  Next up is Clydebank 10k this Thursday night.  A course where many I have spoken to have achieved a PB – I got mine there last year.  And this Thursday I am definitely aiming to beat that.

(Links for the blogs I mentioned earlier – https://markgallmac.wordpress.com/ to read the blog of Scotland’s most irritating runner.  And for my fellow RoadRunner Graeme’s blog – http://www.2015miles.co.uk/)

 

Billy Joel, I’m sorry. And a look to the Polaroids.

Ben & Jerry’s, Domino’s, Having problems reaching toes.
Tube of Pringles, bag of Minstrels, a pack of Oreos
Sausage supper, fish and chip, deep-fried delights pass my lips
Chicken chow mein, chicken fried rice, chips and curry sauce

Burger King, KFC, XL t-shirt won’t fit me
Big Macs, Sides of Fries, followed by six Killie Pies
Have a Mars bar, have a Twix, have some Mozzarella Sticks
Break is over, shoes on tubby, Get up off yer fat arse!

I’ve been a greedy bastard
I have been a fat shit
Now my trousers won’t fit
I’ve been a greedy bastard
If I can’t deep-fry it
Then I just won’t try it…

billyjoel

Look at him, he’s f*cking raging with that effort.

I have a confession, readers.  When I haven’t been trying to crowbar different food stuffs into the tune of ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’, I have been an absolute gannet since running the Manchester marathon.  I told myself I had earned the right to maintain a mindset of “If I want it, I will eat it”.  It started not too long after finishing the race – on the way back to the hotel in Salford Quays, if truth be told.  The nearby Tesco had a Krispie Kreme vendor so I made the most of it and demolished a box of three late Sunday afternoon.

It maybe wasn’t my cleverest idea to eat a donut covered in chocolate sprinkles whilst lying on the clean white bed sheets as, inevitably, not all of those sprinkles survived the journey from hand to mouth and landed on the bed.  Unfortunately, I didn’t notice this until after the sprinkles had melted and trying to clean the mess only made matters worse.  Upon checking out the following morning, I scribbled the words “I promise, it isn’t jobby” on a comments card.  How’s that for Travelodgical?

My diet in the last two weeks has been deplorable, an utter disgrace and has been a real throwback to the days when I was a proper chunky monkey.  I’ve always been on the hefty side but I have a decent enough build to carry it off these days – although I still carry a slight joey pouch – but there was a time in the not too distant past when even trying to see my wee man would involve a mirror.  (I’m only kidding, it’s a whopper.)

Mr.-Creosote

Thankfully, a quick measure on the scales once my binge had ceased showed the damage to be nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be.  OK, so a few lbs on but I’m sure within a couple of weeks I’ll be near my target weight.

I had completely rested for a fortnight and only went back to my running club last night so from an actual running perspective, there is precious little to update on.

First night back in the mix consisted of an interval session at Bellahouston Park in the south side of Glasgow.  5x (roughly) 1km loops with a 60 second recovery in between.  I wasn’t looking for anything spectacular, I just wanted to have a solid session after neglecting speed work in favour of endurance in recent months.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of my efforts resulted in my 2nd best 1k effort according to Strava.  A real boost to my confidence to know that I still have some speed in my legs despite a lack of speed work since the New Year.  I will be looking forward to working hard in the next few months at the club sessions, especially as we will be moving training base to Nethercraigs, in the Corkerhill area of Glasgow.  It’s certainly a step up in terms of facilities to what the club currently have available.

 

Taking into account my run from work to the training session, then my run home (I don’t drive so running is my easiest mode of commuting on club nights) I had completed just over 13 miles.  Not a shabby effort for my first night back.

So what next after Manchester?  Well, that’s an easy one.  The Polaroid 10k Series returns next month for their 30th year of races in the West of Scotland.  I had entered this series for the first time last year and it was whilst running these races that something seemed to click and I noticed a dramatic improvement in my running.  At the start of 2015 my big goal was to run a 10k race in under 50 minutes.  The best 10k time I had managed prior to the first Polaroid race in Helensburgh was 52 minutes.

Things just seems to fall into place really nicely as my target was smashed in my first race of the year as I crossed the finish line in Helensburgh in 48:21. (see pic below – I couldn’t believe my eyes, I genuinely couldn’t.  They were shut)  A week later in Dumbarton I offered to pace my friend Davy for a sub 53 minute finish.  Fast (emphasis on the ‘fast’) forward 7 days and my PB in Helensburgh was to become history as I finished the Clydebank leg in 46:34 – not the most pleasurable of courses, two laps of a 5k route before a fast, downhill finish.  I rounded off the series the following Sunday by completing the Vale of Leven (complete with a never-ending, nasty hill on the 2nd km) in a very respectable time of 48 minutes exactly.  Three out of four races comfortably sub 50!  It’s easy to see why I became so fond of the Polaroid Series.

img_0105

That was 2015’s efforts in a nutshell.  This year, with the experience of the marathon and the many miles accrued in the training along with almost six months worth of quality training sessions with Bellahouston Roadrunners behind me, I am very much looking to better those times on each course.  A massive 2016 target is to hit a sub 45 minute 10k – and I think if I’m going to do it anywhere, it will be at Clydebank.

I couldn’t finish this blog without commenting on how fantastic it was to see Callum & Derek Hawkins and Tsegai Twelde performing so well in the London Marathon and in turn securing selection for the Olympics in Rio.  Genuinely delighted for them and I’m really looking forward to seeing them perform on the biggest sporting stage of all. (Sorry, Rangers fans – the Petrofac Cup doesn’t quite hit those heights.)

If I don’t watch anything else during the Olympics this summer I will most definitely be supporting the guys from home.  Actually, it’ll be the most I’ve cheered on the Hawkins brothers since I saw the Darkness play at the O2 Academy last December.

In my last blog you may remember I ordered my other half that “If I ever say I want to do a marathon again, you smother me with a f*cking pillow”.  I have to admit that between watching the coverage on BBC and following my superb club-mates on the online tracker, the prominent thought going through my head was “I wish I was doing that!”  So, dear readers, I have earned a reprieve and come Monday 2nd May I will be putting in my ballot entry in the hope of getting in to the biggie.  And I’ll be doing it without the fear of getting smothered in my sleep!

Thanks for reading, please feel free to leave comments.

Until next time, happy running!

Manchester Marathon – a tale of blood, sweat and tears (literally)

It’s been three days since I took part in Sunday’s Manchester Marathon and since then I’d been looking forward to getting in front of my laptop to put my thoughts about it down in text.  It’s just left 9pm on Wednesday night, my other half is catching up with Supervet on TV so I’ve made my excuses and told her I was going to slip off to the bedroom to bash one out.  I’m not entirely sure she knew I was referring to a blog entry as she gave me a horrified look before reminding me that the bed sheets were clean on this afternoon.

But enough of that, let’s take it back to Manchester.  We made a long weekend of it and arrived at our Salford Quays hotel early Friday afternoon.  The rest of Friday was spent getting our bearings before dinner then bed.  On the Saturday morning, I’d decided against an easy 2 mile jog as we’d walked a lot on Friday and would be again as we were booked on to the Old Trafford Stadium Tour.  Their swagger has disappeared recently but I still enjoy seeing them play and win well so the tour still held massive appeal.  We had a great time, and I was as happy as a pig in the proverbial.  It also helped keep my mind occupied for a large section of Saturday, for as soon as we’d left Old Trafford the main reason for travelling to Manchester was getting ever closer.

OldTrafford

Surprisingly, I slept fairly well on the Saturday evening.  My kit had been laid out, gel belt was packed and my breakfast was set aside to have first thing.  I was settled in bed for just after 10pm, and fell asleep whilst watching Match of the Day.  It was probably Norwich that sent me away.

I woke at 6am, feeling refreshed and quickly had breakfast.  Now, I’ve found that on the morning of a race, there’s only so much you can do and sometimes you really need certain parts of your body to keep their side of the bargain.  The biggest thing I worry about pre-race – what if I can’t go?  There is only so much squeezing you can do before you have to resort to desperation and look out the chopstick you’d packed praying that you wouldn’t have to use.  Thankfully, no such problems although I did notice my other half turn up the volume of her music as my pleas for movement became more emphatic – “You’re not living in there rent-free!”

By 7.45 we were on our way to the Cricket Club and rather than having nerves creep in I felt calmer than I expected.  I think seeing hundreds of other runners making their way from the surrounding hotels helped, knowing that we were all going for the same thing.  After getting to the start area on Chester Road, I done my warm up and stretches then tried to keep the cool breeze at bay before it was time to start.  My other half took a few pictures of me in my club vest prior to the race  – I suppose any pics taken of me during the race I’d inevitably be looking like shit so it was fair enough.  I think I’m hiding the nerves here pretty well, don’t you think?

PreMara

The small hand hit nine and it was time to go.  Although there were different waves to start in based on your predicted time, it wasn’t being regimented the way I’ve seen it done in Glasgow for the Great Scottish Run so it was essentially a bit of a free for all.  As we made our way towards the start line, there was one thing on everyone’s mind – where the f*ck’s the start line?  Unless I missed it, there was no starting arch and it wasn’t until you saw the mats at the very last second that you’d realise where you’d be starting from.  But that was irrelevant now, we were off!

We made our way along the A56 before turning back the way and right, heading past the Coronation Street studios.  As much as I wanted to stop in and see how Curly Watts was getting on, I was there to race so continued on.  As expected, the first mile was bottle-necked and my watch alerted me to a 9:09 min/mile.  My strategy (never has a word be used in a more loose sense than that) was to get by on 8:30 min/mile for roughly 17/18 miles and basically play a game of “let’s see how long I can hang on”.  Thankfully, I soon settled into my desired pace and I was feeling good.

The support that was out for the runners was unbelievable.  Whether it was raucous cheering at Brooklands Road or polite applause and the occasional “you’re doing well” in the more residential areas, it was certainly a boost having people rooting for you.  An even bigger boost would be hearing the odd shout of “C’mon Bella!” as I ran past supporting and competing club-mates.

My fan club (the other half) planned to get down to Brooklands Road as the route would pass there twice, after 10 miles and again at roughly 17.5.  On first passing, I heard her shout just in time to turn, give a quick thumbs up to show I was ok and got back to concentrating on keeping the pace I’d managed to sustain until then.  An hour later, and it was a different story.  Heading back towards the junction I’d passed previously, the noise from the crowd was even louder – but you could see that the route was looking pretty narrow.  A lack of barriers meant that spectators were right in the path of runners.  Without sounding ungrateful for the support, do us a favour and get off the road!

I heard another shout at the junction, my other half again.  She was still there waiting on her hero passing by but for now she’d have to make do with me.  With a big exhale, I think I managed to convey that I was beginning to struggle.  The cold start to the day had turned into a clear, warm morning and at the water stations that followed, more water went over my head than went into my mouth.

I’d often read about the dreaded “wall” and I’d soon experience it for myself at mile 19.  Or what the mile marker would have you believe was mile 19.  Following the race, a common complaint (other than the baggage fiasco) was mile markers being out of place.  By this point, my pace was gone, the route had gone into farm roads at the arse end of nowhere (at some points it definitely smelt like the arse end – howlin!!) and I was firmly in “hang on in there” mode.  As I approached the mile 19 marker, a quick check of my watch told me I’d ran 19.5 miles.  It may have only been 800m difference but I genuinely could have cried.  The last 12k of the race was to take me roughly 76 minutes.  I knew I was slowing, my left hip was getting painful and I didn’t feel that I was moving as freely as I had until mile 17.

I knew my ‘big goal’ time was gone as I was slipping into 10 min/mile territory.  The disappointment only lasted a short time as I’d be passing plenty of people who had pulled up, needing to stretch and sadly, a couple of runners who were literally flat out receiving medical attention.  I gave myself a quick shake and focused on completing the marathon, which is not a sentence I could ever imagine writing three years ago.  The demons that were telling me just to stop were swiftly told to GTF and I focused on kicking this marathon’s arse.  Slowly.

23 miles in.  Only a parkrun to go.  Only?!!?!!  F*cking only!!!  Right, come on.  Keep the heid, nothing daft.  It was to be my slowest mile of the day at 10:12, but I knew now I was just 5km away from finishing.  On to mile 24, the locals still out in force willing on the tired runners, by way of applause, offers of jelly babies and by the occasional wee white lie – “You’re looking really strong!”

Before long, I was on the home straight.  I could hear the crowds getting louder, and see them getting closer.  What’s that I can see in the distance?  It cannae be…  It is.  It’s the finish line.  And who’s this pulling up beside me?  No…  It is.  Batman!!  I don’t mind being overtaken by Batman.  If I was going to be overtaken by any fancy dress character, it would be Batman.  I was grateful not to be overtaken by a Teletubby.  The locals had a hero now, one spectator took great joy in shouting “Batman, only 800 metres to go!”  I won’t lie, I didn’t want to hear that and took me what little energy I had left not to tell him to f*ck up with that chat.

The finish line eventually got closer, as I entered the final straight.  The noise was unbelievable!  To my left, I heard another cry of “Go on, Bella”, I gave it right back “Go on Bellaaaaaa!”.  No sooner had I passed my Bella club mates, my colleague Jill who’d travelled from Wigan, clocked me and gave me another push towards the finish line.  And a matter of metres away from the finish, my other half had made it back from Brooklands to the barrier at the finish line to see me home.  I’d done it!  I’d crossed the line in a time of 3:58:19 – meeting my minimum target of a sub 4 hour finish.  And immediately looked to get my hands on that medal.  And isn’t she a beauty?

OfficialPostRace

 

After two swigs of the complimentary pint of alcohol-free Erdinger, I’d come to the conclusion it was stinking and patched it.  Eventually, I managed to meet up with my fan club, threw my arms around her and uttered the words “If I ever say I want to do a marathon again, you smother me with a f*cking pillow.”  After taking some time to take in what I’d just put my body through over the last four hours, I decided that a post-race massage was in order.  After running for four hours, I was tired, my left calf was niggling a little but I felt not too shabby.  That was until I felt a muscle in my right calf pop as I was taking off my trainers before getting on the massage table!

Thankfully, I wasn’t affected by the chaos with the baggage collection so my experience of the day was largely positive.  The medal and t-shirt are stunning, the Drumstick sweeties weren’t half bad either.

We made our way (slowly) back to our hotel room and got back to various messages from family and friends offering congratulations and the odd message telling me they were proud of me.  The fan club made clear how proud of me she was too.  But let me be clear, I wasn’t crying.  There was something in my eye.  However, I would be forgiven for crying when I saw the state of my club vest.  During the race, the safety pin keeping my number attached had clearly been rubbing against my nipple and to use a Scottish term, my nipple had pished blood all over the left hand side of my vest.

BloodstainedVest

I’m back at work tomorrow morning, and yes I will be taking my medal in to show off.  I’ll probably wear it at my desk.  The only thing that worries me now is the fact that my legs haven’t quite returned to full mobility and stairs are proving problematic.  My office is on the 9th floor – if the fire alarm goes off, I’m in real trouble.  And if it’s not a drill, then I’ll probably end up cremated.

I know this has been a fairly long read, if you’ve managed this far then well done and thanks for sticking with it.  I don’t think I’ll ever do a blog entry as lengthy as this one.  Unless I do an ultra….  I won’t be doing an ultra.

Thanks for reading, and any comments – stick ’em in the box!!

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…

Here it is – my first blog!  And apologies for the Sound of Music inspired title.  It won’t happen again.

For anyone that’s stumbled upon this blog that doesn’t know me from Adam, this entry is just a brief run-down of how I started running and how I then fell in love with it.

I had signed up for the Great Scottish Run 10k in 2013 in order to raise money for a charity that meant a lot to me during a pretty traumatic time of my life.  I was in dire need of something to work towards and that would give me a focus.  But I also needed something I felt was achievable.  Knowing that the annual Glasgow event was only a matter of months away, I reasoned that this would tick both of these boxes so had publicly stated that it was my intention to do it.  Social media being the way it is now, if you say you’re going to do something and you don’t then it won’t be long until someone reminds you of it which, for a stubborn old git like me, is a severe knock to my self respect  – so that was my reasoning for the public declaration.  “If I don’t do it, everyone will think I’m a knob” was my rationale, before it was pointed out that most people think I’m a knob anyway.

Moving on…  I was a grossly over-weight 30 year old, tipping the scales at over 17 stone, barely able to run a bath, never mind a race and too fond of cheap beers from Asda, takeaways, large sharing bags of crisps (I don’t do sharing) and just general lazing about.  This had to change!!

FatShite

My good pal Davy signed up to do the race with me, and we spent the three months between signing up and the day of the race working on our fitness, slowly (in some cases, very slowly) creeping up the mileage until we were able to hit the distance without stopping.  Naturally, as I was becoming more active, the pounds started to fall and by race day I had lost 2 stone – in less than 10 weeks.

The day itself was fantastic and was the first time I would experience the huge sense of achievement that I’ve only managed to get after completing a good run.  Add to that the feeling of satisfaction knowing that the medal you’ve been given at the end of a race has been genuinely well-earned.  And on this occasion, it was all the more rewarding when Davy and I crossed the finish line together after 61 minutes and 44 seconds.  Your first race will always be a personal best and I was delighted to share that with a great friend, especially at a really difficult time in my life.

GSR2013

Since that day in October 2013, I’ve loved the feeling and the buzz of a race day.  And it was soon after I was signing up for my next run – the Glasgow Santa Dash.  OK, so whilst the “athletic” element wasn’t as, well, athletic as two months prior, it was still a great feeling to be involved in another running event in the city.  Ooh, and another shiny medal.

As I’ve said on the About page of this blog, the running bug didn’t just bite me.  It chewed me up and swallowed me whole and it has genuinely changed my life.  I’ve taken part in more 10k races (what’s this, more medals?) since that first one in October 2013, before pushing the distance up to my first half marathon in October last year.  And more importantly, I’ve become super attractive.  Especially since shaving my head and growing a beard.  Seriously, I’m a pure ride now.

Shortly after completing the Great Scottish Run half marathon in 2015, I’d come to the conclusion that I wasn’t entirely satisfied.  I wanted more.  I wanted to run further, more regularly and I wanted to do it faster.  With my running buddy having a young family and a developing teaching career, I realised that it’d be unfair to expect him to devote more of his time to running.  It has taken a back seat for him in recent months, but with the better weather (hopefully) around the corner, I’m sure we will get out together regularly for our catch-up sessions.

Soon after my first half marathon, I made my way along to try out the training with one of the local running clubs, Bellahouston Road Runners.  After attending the twice-weekly sessions for a few weeks, I was convinced that this was the kind of structured training that would see my running improve ten-fold.  And just six months later, I can say with some certainty that it has.  And in addition, I’ve met some hugely supportive people, whose kind words and advice have always been welcomed.

Stranraer

I’d mentioned that I wanted to run further.  Well, I’d put in a ballot entry for the London Marathon after watching the live tv coverage as I do now every year.  But alas, the rejection email arrived so I forgot about it and ordered my brain to file that thought in the folder to be revisited in twelve months time.  Or so I thought.

One of the biggest factors I’ve found since starting running is that the wee demons in my head like to play mind games.  Nowadays, I probably send more time thinking about running than I do with my trainers on my feet actually running.  As John Lennon sang, “We’re playing those mind games together, pushing the barriers, planting seeds.”  But then again, he also sang “He got joo-joo eyeball, he one holy roller” so he was never really one to be taken seriously all of the time.  Anyway, this particular demon was planting seeds and it was planting the seed that was giving me a severe nudge into pushing my own barriers.

With a ballot place for London out of the question, I flirted with the idea of running for a charity.  That was before discovering that there’s a commitment required to raise X amount of pounds, in some cases £2,000.  That didn’t sit right with me, if I wanted to do a marathon then why should other people shell out money to accommodate me doing it.  I have ran for charity before, but it’s been on my terms – I’m not one to pester people for donations and am always extremely grateful for any donation I received.  But this was too much for me.

Having a look at the race calendar for 2016, I saw that Manchester Marathon was being held in April, two weeks prior to the London event – so really, if I was prepared to train for the London one had my ballot been successful, then I’d only be starting a marathon plan 2 weeks earlier.  And with that – and a promise of getting an Old Trafford stadium tour – the decision was made and my entry was confirmed.  I was going to become a marathon runner in 2016 – and that, my friends, is where I will pick up proceedings in my next instalment.

So, that in a short essay sized nutshell, is a wee background on me and running.  I’m hoping to keep on top of blogging and am aiming to get at least one new entry on every week.  I’ll mix it up a bit, if it’s not about a particular race then it’ll be about another aspect of running altogether.  In truth, I’ll be winging it.  Any feedback (too long, too short, too crap) would be gratefully received – feel free to stick ’em in the comments box.

Next blog post will be up very soon, and will be about Manchester 2016!!