Race Report – The Stirling Scottish Marathon 2018

If you’ve been following along with my training since the beginning of the year you will probably know that I didn’t specify a time goal for this race. I was tired of constantly putting pressure on myself to achieve a time and then coming nowhere near it for a variety of reasons including injuries, weather and, for my last marathon, the stress of a very poorly cat and an emergency visit to the vet the day before. This time I wanted to enjoy the process (it is The Year Of Me after all) so my goal was simply to train as well as I could and then do my best on the day. That meant adapting to the circumstances and adjusting as I went rather than burning myself out chasing a time.

But I’m a runner. I had lots of data from my training so had an idea of where I might be and the last thing I wanted was to not do myself justice. And so I set myself “standards” rather than specific goals, benchmarks I could consider once I had a finish time rather than an extra pressure on the day. I wanted to have fun, to enjoy the race I had spent time training for rather than limp across the line ready to chuck my trainers in the bin.

  • With a PB of 4:05:07 from way back in 2014 (and I’m not getting any younger!), my “unicorns are smiling on me creating rainbows in the sky” 🦄 🌈 goal had to be a PB. And if the stars really aligned 🌟 a sub-4 has long been my ultimate goal. I didn’t honestly think this was realistic just yet.
  • Since setting that PB the absolute closest I’ve come is my time of 4:18:10 from my last race – the Loch Ness marathon in September. Everything else has been in the 4:30/4:40 region so my B goal 🏅 was to beat that time. This was the one I thought was most realistic and anticipated something between 4:10 and 4:15.
  • Finally, my “the wheels have totally come off and everything has gone to 💩” goal was to finish smiling. I was going to be running on a beautiful route and I do love marathons, so why would I want to make myself miserable? I knew I could finish, so just had to make sure that whatever happened I chose to enjoy it.

Within all of that I had one sub-goal: no walking other than to take my gels (it just works better for me to walk for a moment then carry on running). In the past I’ve lost the mental battle a bit and allowed myself to walk in the latter stages of the race, especially once I knew my time goals had gone. This time I wanted to eliminate that and run my best time, whatever that may be. I knew I needed to keep my pace under control at the start so I would have a bit of energy for later then dig deep in the latter miles to the finish. To help me with all this, I changed the settings on my watch so I could see my average pace and make sure I kept it steady at the start. My basic plan was to keep it steady to 20 then see how I felt (wiped out, obviously, but if there was anything left to push on then I was going to try and push on).
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Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 19.30.43The night before I got my kit organised. Since I was fundraising I had my charity vest and paired it with my favourite Under Armour running skirt that I usually save for marathons as well as a couple of special extras. I had ordered a pair of bespoke trainer tags from Lucy Locket Loves, one featuring my blog name and one with the name of my 2018 charity challenge Miles for Morven. I had also ordered a beautiful silk wrap from Run Bling by Nicky Lopez. I had asked her to engrave it with Miles for Morven and add some paw prints and I was so delighted with it. I wanted to keep my reason for running close by and have something to inspire me simply by glancing down at my wrist during the race.

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S1a70fuwSTK66ERWetx1MgRace day dawned and the weather was exactly as expected from my stalking of the forecast all week: dry and cool. Perfect. All my kit was ready so I got up, had my porridge, got dressed then had a second bowl of porridge just to make sure I was well fuelled. After a quick coffee we hit the road for the half hour drive to Stirling.

jeZ6wZPYSi+Ht3H1I3DK4QWe parked in the event car park (basically some empty land) with Stirling Castle in the background and walked from there to the start area. This was well set up with lots of toilets and the baggage buses. I actually got straight into a toilet (unheard of!) then reluctantly removed my layers, put my bag on the bus and, since there were now queues, waited to get into the toilet again.

We had to make our way a short distance from there to the actual start line where one of those god-awful mass warmups was underway. We were both in the red (front) wave and there were officials shouting at everyone to get into the pens, but sadly they didn’t actually tell us HOW (this is my one quibble with the setup). There was no obvious way to get in and lots of people waiting so we did what many others were doing and scaled the barriers! I’m not a fan of doing this since I’m terrified of hurting myself right before the race is due to start, but I took my time and as I turned to step into the start pen, I felt the steady hands of another runner help guide me safely there. Runners are nice like that.

By this time it suddenly dawned on me that we were getting underway. I hadn’t switched my Garmin on and still had my throwaway top on (it was cold and I knew these were being collected for charity) but I miraculously got it all sorted out just as the countdown began – no hanging around at this race!

Despite all that I didn’t feel stressed or worried (although I did miss out on a start line selfie). I was calm and ready to settle into my pace, soaking up the atmosphere through those first few miles when everyone is in high spirits and there are conversations going on around you.

I settled into a comfortable pace, holding back so I wouldn’t go too fast and use up all my energy. I was steady and enjoying the first few miles, legs feeling good. We passed by the entrance to Blair Drummond Safari Park at the 4 mile mark, where we were greeted by this fun cheer squad:

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Photo from Blair Drummond Safari Park on Facebook

The next landmark was Doune Castle which is generally known for being used as a film location in Monty Python and the Holy Grail as well as, more recently, Game of Thrones. I did catch a glimpse of the castle and it looked really pretty.

Through Doune the crowd support was brilliant and I was still feeling good. I remember laughing at a sign saying, “If you collapse I will pause your Garmin” before heading back out onto the country roads towards Dunblane. There was a bit of a climb in this section, then a glorious downhill stretch through Dunblane (where Andy Murray grew up). I had really wanted to see the gold postbox that marked “Our Andy’s” Olympic gold, but I missed it. Steve thought there were people standing around it hence why I didn’t see it even though I was looking.

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I can’t remember where this was, but I really like the photo.

From Dunblane we followed the road towards Bridge of Allan and there was another nice downhill stretch before things levelled out. I was still averaging around 9:05 per mile and felt comfortable. The temperature was ideal, I was happy with my electrolyte drink and my gels (I actually didn’t use any of the on-course drinks or gels), there was a nice mix of sections with great crowd support and quiet sections where I could just enjoy the scenery and think my own thoughts (I had my Aftershokz headphones around my neck, but hadn’t yet bothered to listen to anything even as I went through halfway). It was simply a lovely Sunday morning run.

On the other side of Bridge of Allan is the University of Stirling where my sister studied for her degree. The route took us on a loop around the campus, starting with a bit of an uphill slog before a nice downhill run back out. That uphill felt tough, but as I left the campus and rejoined the road at around 16.5 miles I was doing ok and knew I would get my next gel at 20 miles so that was my target. It’s funny how these things become quite exciting during a marathon and I find myself strangely looking forward to the next gel, especially the double espresso one with caffeine I take at mile 15 – like having a mid-race coffee!

About a mile later, things felt a little harder but I was prepared for the mental battle this time. I had thought that I might put a podcast on when things felt tough, but instead I did something different. I had said that I was running this one for Morven and that when things felt hard I would remember my reason for running, the funds I had raised and the people who had supported me. My thoughts turned inevitably to Morven and I felt like I was drawing on her and the strength she had when battling illness in her last year. I know it’s hard for people who have never had a pet to understand, but Morven and I had a very strong bond so there was a lot of emotion tied up in this for me. As I ran, I developed a positive mantra which I kept repeating to myself in time with my foot strike and it helped to keep my cadence up. Before I knew it I was another mile in and gaining on a runner I knew from parkrun. I kept the mantra going until I took my gel at mile 20 then decided that I needed to get outside of my head for a bit. The weather had changed and it was raining so it was finally time to start my podcast to see me through the last 10k.

IMG_5348By this point, of course, I had no real clue where I was geographically. There was a sort of loop that we ran that took in some kind of bike path then we rejoined the main road and I remember a corner where there was lots of crowd support and I got a boost from a runner I know from a social media group giving me a shout. Since I had no on-course support with me, it was so nice at one or two points along the route to see people I knew and to get a shout from them to cheer me on.

From here, the road was on a slight incline. Ordinarily it wouldn’t have been too bad but at this stage in a marathon it felt quite tough. I spotted a race photographer so made sure to try and look like I was still running strong for the photos I would see later!

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Trying not to look like I’m dying (and probably doing a better job than the guy beside me!)

I always break the last 10k into “2 parkruns” with an extra gel in between. I opted to take my last gel at 23 miles then told myself I just had to keep moving forward through the last parkrun to the end. My average pace had been stubbornly drifting outside of my PB pace, but not too much so I was feeling confident that I could comfortably achieve my B goal by some margin.

At last the route brought me into Stirling and the final stretch to the finish. My legs were heavy and I felt like I was wading through treacle but I was still running. The hardest part was through the centre of Stirling (which reminded me very much of Inverness) as there were cobbles. People often express concern about the cobbles in Paris but I’ve never been bothered by those as they are actually pretty smooth and even. In contrast, the cobbles of Stirling were uneven and there were big ruts in some sections that made it difficult for weary legs, but I knew I had to be close to the finish as my watch had been fairly accurate to the course signage throughout and I was trusting that information.

Steve’s cousin had told us she would be at a cheer point for the Citizen’s Advice Bureau not far before the 26 mile mark and I spotted her leaping out to give me a big cheer as I turned a corner to be faced with what looked like a mountain. Yes, someone thought a 600m uphill finish would be the perfect grand finale to the route! I was willing my legs to move faster but I think the Central Governor had taken over long before and was refusing to let me go any quicker until an actual finish gantry was in sight. I could hear everyone around me react to seeing the hill and we were all exchanging a few words and groans about it. I had stopped my podcast when I got into Stirling as there was a lot of crowd noise and that meant I could soak up the atmosphere in the final sections of the race.

As I got closer to the finish I began to spot some familiar faces from Perth in the crowds and got a few shouts then, praise be! The finish gantry! The Central Governor relinquished control and my legs began to move again. As I ran into the finishing straight the opening bars of the YMCA began to play over the loudspeaker and hilariously both the girl ahead and I saw fit to join in with the actions as we ran along. I could hear a roar from the crowd each time we flung our arms up into the ‘Y’ and I just loved that atmosphere as I ran to the finish.

20x30-SSMC3090Crossing the line I had the usual wave of emotions, but managed to keep it together as I exchanged a few words with the girl who had been ahead of me as I had been using her as a kind of pacer for the last part of the race. I was grinning ear to ear from a great race and keen to get my official time as I knew it would be a few seconds faster than my watch.

I was handed my goody bag which contained my T-shirt, medal and assorted other bits and pieces, including a packet of spaghetti!?!

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jR1NmIv%R5+J7jGWZKh59gSteve was waiting at the end of the finish funnel and he had already collected my bag from the bus so I didn’t have to shuffle across the field to get it. The sun was shining so I fished my disposable poncho from my bag and spread it on the ground so I could sit down, have my recovery drink and gather my thoughts. I even managed to get up again all by myself (thank you yoga!) to get a couple of photos.

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YDBkbIBmRMW9SVArj30AGAAnd that official time? In case you’ve somehow missed my shrieking about it in my last Week in Review or all over social media, it was 4:05:40. A mere 33 seconds outside of my PB, making it officially my 2nd fastest marathon ever, and well inside that B goal I had set myself. I’d say that’s a good morning’s work. One or two people have asked if I’m disappointed not to get a PB and my honest answer is no. This race was never about a PB, it was about a process. It was about seeing how I would run when I listened to my body and removed the pressure of time. To run that time whilst still enjoying the race and never feeling like I was really struggling or that I couldn’t do it is testament to the training I have done and the approach I took. I also met my sub-goal of no walking other than to take my gels whereas in the past I would have taken walk breaks as soon as I realised the chance of meeting my A goal was gone. When I reflect, I truly believe that in many ways this is my best performance ever even if it isn’t my fastest result. It doesn’t always have to be about the time on the clock, but it should be about the time you have.

fullsizeoutput_252cOverall I really loved this race. I used to only want to run big city marathons but this was a wonderful experience for me and I would happily sign up to this race again in the future. It’s well-organised, has a fantastic route, great support and, crucially, is close to home. I do love the opportunity to travel for a race, but nothing beats home comforts when you’re preparing to run 26.2 miles.

Stirling marathon: you were great.

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Week In Review – Music And Excitement!

Oh what a week it’s been! It may have been the first week of a new school term, but from Thursday to Sunday everything was so exciting it was like Christmas for me! It was also the second week of my taper, the one when I tend to start noticing that sluggish feeling creeping in, but there was still a decent week of training (and some extra “rest” to combat a busy week). Here’s how it all looked:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – form drills
Thursday – rest
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – rest

A new term at school meant a new block of my Hatha yoga class. Although I have cultivated a decent home practice this year, I still enjoy going to my classes and miss it when it’s not on or I can’t go. It was so nice to be back on my mat in the lovely studio and I marked the occasion by giving my new leggings a whirl. I had a “whale” of a time! 🙄

ekUjbTiQQwqC5YKWYSe7tgTuesday had me back on the bike at the gym. Someone was on the bike I like (surely not just me that has preferences?) so I had to go on one I’m not so fond of. I know technically the bikes are all the same, but I’m sure the tilt of the seats differs a bit and the resistance doesn’t always feel the same even at the same setting. I’m still not sure if my workout felt tough because I was on a bike that feels “harder” or if I was just feeling a bit sluggish and tired. The important thing is that I got it done, event though my legs and my mind were telling me I couldn’t. Tenacious is my middle name!

Then on Wedensday I had a set of form drills to do. This time it was 10x 1km and I definitely felt sluggish. My calves were weary and my right hip was bothering me a little (it’s fine now, just a mobility thing I had been working through and a bit of phantom taper tension). At one point I thought I might bail out early but felt better as the run went on so completed the set.

3tRee26CTCeyXgtH1B4kSQIt was a super-quick turnaround as I got in the door at 6:30pm, showered, changed, ate and was ready for my sister to pick me up for an orchestra rehearsal that started at 7:30pm. Someone in my section had seen me out running and was most impressed that I had managed to juggle everything. To be honest, squeezing in a rehearsal at this point wasn’t ideal, but it was a one-off due to our concert from early March being postponed because of The Beast From The East. I figured I could manage one rehearsal plus I knew I had factored this into some extra rest and recovery at the end of the week to balance things up.

Thursday was probably the absolute highlight not just of the week but of my year so far. Back in October it was announced that GARY BARLOW would be performing in Perth as part of his solo tour and, since everyone knows he is my favourite, there was no way I was going to miss this. My sister sorted the tickets out and I was prepared to forego Ashtanga yoga for one night in order to see my beloved Gary (although I did some at home before I went). Oh boy was it worth it! I don’t think my sister really appreciated how good it was going to be, but there is just something so special about an artist who usually commands massive stadium audiences and huge venues to be in a far more intimate venue. We had seats but I was on my feet throughout and managed to notch up around 2000 “steps” just dancing and waving my arms about at my seat! I LOVED it!

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Yes, we bought the same T-shirt!

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fGA90h7vSwWCCFAfe7pTIwEven better, I appeared on Gary’s Instagram. Sort of😂:

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fullsizeoutput_24c1Of course this meant that I probably had the least amount of sleep I’d had all week, despite being home at a reasonably civilised hour, yet I felt amazing on Friday with songs going around my head and still on a high from the concert buzz. I took a rest day and went to get my nails done all ready for the race next weekend.

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All about the bling!

Originally my plan for the weekend had me doing parkrun on Saturday then 8 miles on Sunday, but since I was so excited about watching the London marathon, I knew I would need to move things around a bit. I contemplated getting up early to run my Sunday miles before the TV coverage started, but with the concert on Saturday night (and an afternoon of rehearsals beforehand) I knew I would want to rest so decided on getting some solid miles in on Saturday instead. I duly ran the scenic route to parkrun, took part in the run, then rook a different scenic route home. 10 miles total for the day.

Fb%Cfn5jQTGlNRBJB3giRAI definitely felt better than on Wednesday, but felt like “marathon pace” was about all I could manage on my run down. Perhaps because in my mind I was running much further, or because I was listening to Marathon Talk, my standard “long run” podcast, I just didn’t seem to have much more oomph. I really expected to run about 26-27 minutes for parkrun, but rallied a bit to get a 25:15, having been getting gradually faster throughout. I’ll take that!

Steve and I ran home together (he had left before me to go down as he wanted to do some drills) and at first my legs felt a bit heavy form the faster running, but I soon settled in and felt comfortable by the time I got to my front door (which I ran past twice to make sure I got my 10 miles – runner problems 😂)

I spent the afternoon rehearsing on the same stage Mr Barlow had been on two nights previously. Sadly no evidence remained of his presence, but it was still cool to think about it like that. Then after a short break to go home and eat, etc, it was back for the concert. We played a great programme including some movie music – The Magnificent Seven, The Jungle Book, Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter. Great fun!

Choosing a rest day on Sunday meant I got a decent sleep then transferred myself to the sofa in time for the coverage to begin. What an incredible morning of racing, despite less than ideal conditions for it. Now I’m feeling inspired to go out and do my best when it’s my turn next Sunday.

IMG_0496In case you weren’t aware, I’m running for the charity I got my cat Morven from back in 2000. I still miss her tremendously after saying goodbye back in January and decided to do something positive in her memory. When I find myself in a rough patch, I will be remembering Morven and using this to help me push on. If you would like to help, you can read more here. Every penny makes a different to the lives of cats without a fur-ever home.

Did you watch the London Marathon?
What was the last concert you went to?
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Week In Review – Positive Action

I want to start with a thank you to everyone who has been in touch with kind thoughts since I shared that I had to say goodbye to my beautiful cat last weekend. I really appreciate all your messages.

As a result, this past week was strange but I found it helpful to have my training routine. It gave me a focus and helped me to make some decisions (more about that at the end of this post).

I have continued with regular yoga (most days that I didn’t have a class) and my week ended up like this:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps + a swim
Wednesday – short run
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10 miles

Monday was, quite frankly, awful. I was a bit of a tearful mess and while I did manage to keep it together to teach my classes (a welcome distraction) by the time I got to my yoga class I was definitely feeling emotional. I knew that yoga would soothe me and I always feel better afterwards. I did, but in a different way. People have said to me before that yoga can release emotions, that they have found themselves crying during their practice, but since it’s always made me feel relaxed and happy, I was convinced it wouldn’t have that effect on me. Turns out, it is possible to shed a few tears in downward dog without anyone realising! I suspect the release helped though.

I felt a little better on Tuesday – I even risked some mascara (although realised on my drive to work that it may have been a mistake!). After work I headed to the gym for my bike reps. There had been a little snow around but nothing as I drove back and headed towards the gym. By the time I had changed and emerged from the changing room, there was heavy snow falling outside! I added two reps to the set of intervals I completed last week and already felt stronger completing them. After that I went for my first swim in AGES. It was perhaps not my best effort, but by the end of my session I was feeling like I was getting my rhythm back again.

There had to be a bit of a change on Wednesday because of the snow. I was supposed to do some hill reps, but thanks to a bit more snow during the day, Steve told me the underfoot conditions just weren’t good enough for my planned workout but that a short run in the snow would be possible. I got myself all bundled up in winter kit and headed out. It was tough going as the snow seemed to sap all my energy, but I loved it. There’s something invigorating about running in fresh snow that can’t be beaten. It was only as I was running that it crossed my mind I could have gone to the gym and run on the treadmill instead, but I think the fact that I never even considered that as an option tells you how I feel about that!

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IMG_5354Orchestra was cancelled because of the weather so post-run Steve and I were able to eat together then watch a little tv. I’m still finding things like this a little difficult as I’m so used to the cat curling up on my lap as soon as I commit myself to a seat. That’s going to take a bit of getting used to!

Thursday was cold and there was still snow on the ground, but I was really looking forward to my Ashtanga class. I’ve been doing a little yoga most days this month and feel stronger and more focused because of it. It felt so good to work through the Ashtanga poses (the class I go to works through about half of the postures under the guidance of our teacher) and there were no tears so I was obviously feeling a bit more at peace with the events of last weekend.

On Friday I was back at the studio with Steve for a PT session. My focus is on exercises that will benefit my running, principally by improving my strength and mobility. For me this means working around my upper back, my hip mobility and knee drive so this week’s session included the TRX, bar bell and Core Momentum Trainer. Quite tough on my arms so I was feeling it afterwards!

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Guess who jumped in the shot again!

Still in need of cheer, I decided to break out one of the other pairs of leggings I ordered recently. These ones depict my favourite Disney movie (and favourite Disney princess!) so they did make me feel a little better. Clearly the key to cheering me up is new workout leggings – the crazier the better!

IMG_5355As we went to bed that night we were aware that a number of parkruns not too far from us had already been called off so we weren’t sure what the morning would bring. Ours was provisionally on, but it was 50/50 depending on how much the snow/ice froze overnight. Saturday morning was cold (below freezing again at -4C) but thanks to a light dusting of snow the course was runnable and we were able to go ahead on the usual route. Clearly not a day to run hard, so I decided to ditch my earphones, ran at a comfortable pace and enjoyed the experience. Running in the crunchy snow, I’m finding, is something I rather enjoy and it seems that 183 other people agreed with me!

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IMG_5373In the picture below, there are two paths hidden. Our route takes us initially to the right then returns from the left. No sign of any path right now!

IMG_5434I felt invigorated after the run, as well as pleasantly surprised at my time. Once I was more sure of my footing I got progressively faster to finish with the revered Royal Flush Negative Split and, having expected to be around 27 minutes (a 9-ish minute mile feels good in these conditions) I did it a bit quicker.

IMG_5393As usual it was a quick freshen up at home then back out to meet Steve’s brother for our Saturday coffee. The place we like to go to always shuts for a couple of weeks at the start of the year but was open again so it was back to the bacon croissants. I really missed those!

IMG_5433The rest of the day was pretty relaxing. Steve and I headed out to the farm shop for some things in the afternoon and decided to stay for a mint hot chocolate and scone. Both were delicious!

IMG_5435 I also spent the whole day with a fairly persistent earworm…

I awoke fairly early on Sunday, had some breakfast (porridge with honey is my choice right now) and got organised to run. The snow was still there (not enough change in temperature for it to start melting) so rather than worry about my planned approach of every third mile faster, I simply decided to run. I knew that I wanted to re-visit the woodland path I ran on last week as part of my run so I could see it in the snow and getting there by a slightly different route meant that my run would total 10 miles.

IMG_5438I ran to feel and largely ignored my watch as pace was irrelevant. At this point in training a run is a run and I’m convinced that running in the snow is making me stronger as I’m working hard on changeable terrain. As a result, I thoroughly enjoyed my run and would have happily gone further. The woodland path was lovely (no heron this week though) and I passed so many dog walkers and families out enjoying the snow (quite a few with sledges). What a great way to start the day!

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IMG_5439It may have been a strange week, but these snowy runs have really made me feel a bit better as I’ve enjoyed the change of pace and scenery. The cold air has cleared my mind and while I’m still sad and missing my wee cat, the pain is easing.

Another reason for this is the decision I made about how to channel my energies in a positive way moving forward. I got my cat from Cats Protection, a charity which seeks to create a world where every cat is treated with kindness and an understanding of its needs, when she was just 6 weeks old. She had been found living under a shed, presumably abandoned, and I loved her from the start as we quickly formed a tight bond. It breaks my heart to think that there are so many cats who don’t get that opportunity, and while I will likely bring more cats into my life in future, I can’t give a home to all of them. What I can do is raise funds to help improve the lives of cats in the care of Cats Protection. CP will never put a healthy cat down and will do whatever they can to find the cats in their care a loving home. But this, of course, takes money. In 2018 I will be dedicating my miles to the memory of my cat and raising funds for my local Cats Protection branch. It just feels like the right thing to do and I know my cat would approve.

First up is the Stirling marathon, where I will run in a CP top. Having this motivation will help to get me out the door on the coldest days and work towards my next goal. I’d love it if you could support me by making a donation. The equivalent cost of just one cup of coffee could enrich the life of a cat who deserves some love. Thank you.

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‘Your Pace or Mine?’ Follow Up: A Running Record

In my recent review of Lisa Jackson’s Your Pace or Mine, I noted that the final section of the book is given over to the reader to use as a record of their running. I really liked this idea, but since I read the book on my Kindle rather than in paper format, I didn’t have the opportunity to fill my record in. Instead, I thought it might be fun to write up my record book (to date) as a blog post. It’s going to be a long one so put the kettle on!

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Favourite Race Photo
I have a few photos that I like: some from mid-race, some post-race medal shots and some of me leaping around like a loony after a run. But when it comes to actual race photos, my all-time favourite is this one from the Paris Marathon in 2016. I was undertrained thanks to being stopped in my tracks by a stress fracture at the end of 2015, but on race day I was injury-free and determined to get out there and enjoy a self-conducted running tour of my favourite city. I ran it my own way, stopped to take photos and enjoyed a buffet of orange segments, sugar lumps and that pink sports drink they hand out that acts like rocket fuel! When the photographers snapped me in the finishing straight, I looked like I’d had an awesome time, even though I was completely exhausted and my legs were begging for mercy. Sometimes you just have to forget your race goals and go out there to have fun.

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Name
Allison a.k.a The Running Princess

Date When Started Running
I don’t have the exact date for this one as my diaries from that part of my life are not all that detailed. That said, I can remember the day itself clearly. It was the beginning of term in August of 2005. We actually started on my birthday that year and it’s entirely possible that it was actually on my birthday that I went for my first run. My friend who is a PE teacher (and at the time we were car sharing for work as well) took me to the local park and told me to start running at the pace I thought was about right. Predictably, I set off far too fast and didn’t get very far at all. My friend then sorted out my pace and so began weeks of building up the length of time I could run before having a walk break (which had to be shorter then the running time). The first time I ran all the way round the park (about a mile and a  half) without stopping was my first big running milestone.

Age When Started Running
I was just about clinging on to my twenties when I took those first tentative steps, however I was in my early thirties before meeting Steve and venturing beyond the odd slow 5k plod.

Reasons Why I Run
My first ever blog post was all about why I run, but I suppose that was really only about why I started, not why I run now. At first it was all about a personal challenge and wanting to raise funds for charity in memory of my gran; now, running is a habit. In many ways it continues to be a personal challenge as I look to improve my times or push myself in new ways, but even without that challenge I would still want to run and it only takes a spell of injury to remind me of how important running is for clearing my head, helping me to manage stress, releasing endorphins and giving my thoughts some clarity. I love how running makes me feel both mentally and physically as it helps me to keep sane as well as fit. Running makes my body lean and strong. And it also makes me hungry! I love the appetite running gives me and surprising people with exactly how much food I can put away!

IMG_0605Proudest Running Moments
Running has given me lots of opportunities to feel proud of myself, so narrowing it down to just a few was a bit challenging! Here are some of my highlights:

  1. Completing my first ever marathon in Paris in 2010
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  2. Running my first ever sub-2 hour half marathon at Aviemore in 2012
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  3. Topping the podium for the first time ever when I won my age group at the Cool Summer Mornings 5k in 2013
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  4. Running my marathon PB in Paris in 2014
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  5. That time I ran 4 races in one weekend at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2015
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  6. Finishing as second female and ninth overall!) in the Caped Crusader 5k in 2016
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‘Dreaming Big’ Goals (Races, Places, Times)
I love this heading. A chance for me to think about the things I would do if there was absolutely nothing to stop me. I would love to run all the marathon majors, something which isn’t an option for me right now as they don’t all fit in with my school holidays. I’ve run London, but would love to go back again with a Good For Age time. Right now that would be sub 3:45, a full 20 minutes faster than my current PB. We are dreaming big though! I would also love to do a Run Disney race. I know there’s a half marathon at Disneyland Paris now, but my ultimate dream would be the Walt Disney World marathon. My sister has done this, but again I’m held back by my school terms. Finally, there’s this year’s goal of some race PBs: if I’m dreaming big then it’s a sub-4 marathon, a sub-1:55 half marathon and a sub-50 10k. My other dream is to run in Central Park. It doesn’t have to be a race, I’d just love the experience of lacing up my trainers and heading off for a run in such a famous location.

Most Memorable Races
I’ve got a lot of wonderful memories from racing, but I think I’m going to pick my “firsts”:

  1. My first ever “proper” race – the Kinross 10k in 2009
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  2. My first ever half marathon – Aviemore in 2009. Memorable because Steve proposed the night before so all I can remember of the race is running along lost in thoughts of wedding dresses, possible venues and the most fun way to tell my parents later that day!
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  3. My first ever marathon – Paris in 2010
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  4. My first ever experience of the Paris Breakfast Run in 2014
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I’d also like to include running around the race circuit at Knockhill for the Graham Clark Memorial race, running over the Forth Road Bridge as part of a 10k race, and, of course, that time I ran a 10k PB (by one second!) at the Great Scottish Run then proudly announced my achievement to one of my running heroes, Paula Radcliffe!
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And although not technically a race, I’m including an honourable mention for parkrun during the I Am Team GB weekend when I got to meet a local Olympian and see a Rio medal up close.

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Favourite Running Motto/Mantra/Race Sign/Motivational Quote
My favourite mantra is “I can, I am, I’m strong” which I came up with for my first marathon. I had picked up an injury and seemed to be surrounded by people telling me that running my marathon was impossible. My mantra was a way to fight back against all the people saying, “you can’t” and remind myself that anything is possible.
I don’t often remember race signs, but I do love seeing all the firemen out in force in Paris with signs slung from their ladders declaring “les pompiers sont avec vous” (the firemen are with you). As for a motivational quote, it has to be this one:

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Funniest Running Moments/Favourite Stories Heard on Runs
Well, there was that time I got charged at by some scary looking cows whilst taking part in a trail race. Unfortunately the race route was such that I then had to run back through the same field on my return. Thankfully the cows had moved on to another part of the field by then!
There was also the time I did the Edinburgh Winter Run around Arthur’s Seat. It was freezing cold and as I came down off the hill it started snowing. I thought this was absolutely hilarious so the official photos showed me laughing like an idiot in the middle of a blizzard!

Favourite Medals/Race T-shirts
Funnily enough, I have a fair few of these! After a bit of thinking, I’ve decided on the medal and finisher’s T-shirt from Paris in 2010 (my first marathon), my London Marathon medal and, as a collection, my 4 Paris Marathon medals and the commemorative T-shirt I bought to mark the 40th edition last year. As a bonus, I’m also going to include a medal from a virtual race – the Platform 9 3/4k from the Hogwarts Running Club, an event I’ve participated in 3 times now.

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Charities Fundraised For and Amounts Raised
Since I began running to raise funds for charity, you’d think I would know exactly what my total is. But I don’t. Back then donations were made by sponsorship form, however I think across the 3 times I’ve run the 5k Race For Life I’ve probably raised around £150 for Cancer Research.

An early example of my signature "medal pose"!

In 2011 I pledged my support to a local charity, PKAVS (Perth & Kinross Association of Voluntary Services). They provide support to a number of different groups, perhaps most especially known for supporting young carers. I was inspired to help as a friend works for the charity and listening to her describing the challenges some people faced made me feel I should do something about it. Working alongside the charity, we set up the idea of “going that extra mile”, with participants joining teams for the Edinburgh Marathon Relay. Most were new to running and Steve put on weekly training sessions (often aided by moi) to help everyone prepare. For me, it was actually an extra 26.2 miles as I committed to running both the London and Edinburgh marathons which were just a few weeks apart. It was my first really big challenge which I completed, with a PB (since beaten) in Edinburgh and a total of £800 raised for a good cause. It was a real family affair as Steve also ran the marathon while both my dad and my sister were in relay teams.

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More recently, Steve and I took on an even bigger challenge when we decided to fundraise for Macmillan Cancer Support following our experiences of seeing family members and others close to us battling cancer. In 2014 I was supposed to run 3 marathons (Paris, Edinburgh and Loch Ness) however injury forced me to withdraw from Loch Ness and replace it with an all-new challenge: cycling! I took to two wheels and completed Cycletta Scotland which had Macmillan as the title sponsor. In 2015 I decided to take care of my unfinished business by running the Paris marathon for Macmillan in order to complete that triple marathon challenge I had set. But, being one who never does things by half, I also decided to go bigger with my cycling and take on the Etape Caledonia. I then rounded off what was basically a spring challenge by taking on the Edinburgh Marathon Festival – 5k and 10k on Saturday then half marathon and final leg of the relay on Sunday (logisitcs meant it wasn’t possible for me to go from the half to the full marathon). With over £5000 raised in 2014 (with massive thanks to my friend Ian and his clients for their support) and a further £1000 in 2015, that made a grand total of over £6000 raised for Macmillan. Phew!

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Biggest Challenges Overcome in Races
Generally speaking, my biggest challenge is injury. I have completed marathons despite being in a great deal of the wrong kind of discomfort (I’m looking at you Lochaber Marathon of Pain!) and also when undertrained as a result of injury. This is why I believe I’ve never truly demonstrated what I’m capable of over 26.2 miles.  But the fact that I’ve completed those races demonstrates that I can overcome challenges, usually with an altered goal.

Races With Best Snacks/Entertainment/Crowd Support
Without a doubt the best snacks have been at US races, particularly the Cool Summer Mornings 5k which often has post-race hot dogs, pretzels, beer, etc despite the fact that these will be consumed around 8am! The Chocolate Sundae Run, while a bit of a boring route, did have the draw of ice cream at the finish line! I also enjoy the on course “buffet” at the Paris Marathon as they lay out raisins, sugar lumps, sliced banana and orange segments. I can say without a word of a lie that those oranges have been the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted and a sugar lump late on the in race provides a fantastic boost to get you moving.
IMG_6102 When it comes to both entertainment and crowd support, the title needs to be shared by both London and Paris. I run with one earphone in so I can tune into my music if I need to without having to faff about, but I have absolutely no recollection at all of actually listening to my playlist in London thanks to all the various places blaring out music along the route, the wall of noise in Canary Wharf and the unwavering crowd support in the final stages along the Embankment when every fibre of your being is screaming to stop but every time you do, someone shouts at you to keep on going. In Paris there has always been phenomenal support from “Les Pompiers” but perhaps not as big a crowd as in London. That all changed in 2016 when, probably in an act of defiance at the atrocities that have taken place in the city in recent times, the streets were lined with supporters cheering the runners on and fighting back against those who commit such terrible acts. Paris also prides itself on the huge number of “animations” (entertainment) along the route. There are an assortment of bands in just about every genre you can think of from rock and pop to a bit of German oompahpah and the always fun samba bands. Many have dancers as well and the lift the entertainment gives the runners is visible.

Favourite Fancy-Dress Outfits
Running in fancy dress is not really my thing, but it has happened:

  1. Taking part in a Santa Run every year
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  2. Wearing my kilt for both the Perth Kilt Run and the Paris Breakfast Run
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3. Celebrating our parkun’s birthday with fancy dress. So far a beach party theme (in November!) and a superhero theme. To be honest, I quite enjoyed running as Supergirl!
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Most Beautiful Places Run In
I live in Scotland so beautiful places to run are often just a few minutes away and I love nothing more in nice weather (it can be a bit miserable and lonely when the weather isn’t so good).
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Away from my standard training runs, the Lochaber Marathon was beautiful, even if I didn’t really enjoy the race thanks to an injury flaring up. And of course, there’s my beloved Paris. What a beautiful city to run in !
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Countries I’ve Run In
Scotland (obviously), England (London Marathon), France (Paris Marathon), USA (training runs and events in Florida every July). I’m really going to have to work on adding to that list!

Cities I’ve Run In
6/7 of the Scottish Cities: Perth, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Inverness
London
Paris
Davenport, Florida
Winter Park, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Clermont, Florida

Marathon Majors Completed
Only London. One day…

Friends I’ve Made Through Running
Running has brought a lot of people into my life, from those I’ve trained for marathons with (connected for life!) to those I consider my “parkrun family”. Running also led me to blogging and there are several people I’ve come into contact with through blogging that I would probably never have met otherwise like Jaynie, Danielle and Kyla. It’s also what ultimately brought me to the Tough Girl Tribe and the fantastic women there. Running is such a fantastically inclusive community and provides a shared experience to base a friendship on or just start a conversation. Just one of the many reasons why I love it.
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Personal Bests (Time/Date) 5k, 10k, 13.1, 26.2, Ultra, Tri
I’ve got these listed on my Race History tab, but here they are again:

5k – 23:14 @ Perth parkrun 2015
10k – 50:14 @ Great Scottish Run 10k 2015 (aka That Time I Met Paula!)
13.1 – 1:56:35 @ Aviemore Highland Half Marathon 2012
26.2 – 4:05:07 @ Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris 2014

Race Record
This is a list that could go on for a while! All my race reports since I started the blog are under the Race Reports tab, but to summarise (and account for those pre-blog years!):

5k x 33 (inc Christmas events)
Parkrun x 66
5 mile x 2
10k x 20
10 mile x 3
Half marathon x 13
Marathon x 8
Other distances (e.g. EMF Relay, CHAS Devil Dash) x 10

Total = 155 events (89 if you don’t count parkrun) – phew!

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And now it’s your turn! Either write a post of your own to create your record book or share some memories in the comments below. I can’t wait to read them…!

Devilishly Good – The CHAS 6.66km Devil Dash (Race Report)

This time of year traditionally marks the start of “fun run” season for me. My goal races for the year are done, I’m building a base ahead of spring marathon training and there are a number of opportunities to have a bit of fun in some less competitive events or events where fancy dress is a requirement. I picked up a flyer ages ago for this Hallowe’en-themed event organised by CHAS (Children’s Hospice Association Scotland), a fantastic children’s charity, but was unsure whether or not I would take part given the situation with my hip. However with some pain-free running under my belt over the past three weeks I decided it was time to tweet how I fared with my usual weekend routine of back-to-back runs, and since Steve was providing the warmup for the CHAS event, I made a last-minute decision to go along and run rather than heading out for a wee solo plod.

I had no idea whether or not I would be able to sign up on the day, but was reluctant to sign up in advance as I wanted to wait and see how I felt after parkrun on the Saturday morning, however checking the event website later on Saturday online entry had closed but it said I could go along on Sunday morning and pay my entry fee. Entries in advance were £12.50 to run, £15 to run and get an event T-shirt. I turned up around 10:15 on Saturday morning to give myself plenty of time to sort out my entry, return to the car with the bits and pieces I didn’t need to run and nip to the toilet before the start. I was greeted by very friendly volunteers and registration was really simple: I just had to fill out the back of a race number with my details and they made note of those on their records while I collected my T-shirt and various devil accoutrements. The on the day entry prices were the same as in advance, which is not always the case, and since it was for a charity I paid the extra £2.50 for the Tshirt.

The race started and finished at the George Duncan athletics track, a familiar location for me, and I knew I would be able to park the car nearby and have use of the arena toilets before the event. All very civilised. Once organised and ready to run (I opted to leave my forked tail and pitchfork in the car, but donned my horns and hoped they would stay put!) I returned to the arena to chat to Steve and take in the atmosphere for a few minutes.

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It being a fun run, there were lots of families and less experienced runners as well as a few more competitive-looking types. Steve had decided not to run, instead running to the track, conducting the warmup and running home so he would get a longer training run, so this was a solo effort for me. I did spot some people I knew though, so was able to chat a bit around the warmup (even when it’s Steve I’m still not a fan of the mass warmup and take part reluctantly) and on the start line.

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Remembering my experience at the Caped Crusader 5k back in July, I decided to start right up front, as did my friend Marianne who is a fantastic short distance runner.

After one or two announcements about the route and the facilities available, we were counted UP to 6.66(!) and we were off.

Very quickly, I found myself one of the front runners. I had no idea what I had as it’s been a few weeks since I ran on consecutive days and I’m in that place where my legs want to go faster than the rest of my body is ready for, but having maintained a really even 8 minutes per mile average at parkrun the day before, I figured something around 8:15 per mile might happen since I would have another mile or so to run. (Side note, I hadn’t entirely settled in my own head what 6.66km would be. I worked it out to be about 4.1 miles, but course measurement at fun runs can be a little rough so figured on anything between 4 and 4.5). But even without knowing exactly how far the course was as a number of miles, I knew the course geographically so at any time knew exactly how far I still had to go.

With each run I’ve been feeling better and better, so given the race environment (and my possibly arrogant feeling that I could place quite far up the field) I went out quite hard to really blow the cobwebs away and ended up with a first mile of 7:45! Looking at my Garmin stats, what followed was a gradual mile-by-mile slowing of my pace, ending up with an 8:03 per mile average. What that doesn’t take into account is the conditions. Having started hard I felt I actually ran fairly consistently around an 8 minute mile, however there was a bit of a headwind in places which inevitably had an effect. Still, given my lack of running at any pace, let alone speedy running lately, I’m pleased with how my body handled it  – I even picked up a few Strava PRs!

The route took us from the track, down a short path which leads to the North Inch where we ran two laps before retracing our steps back to the track to finish. As the field stretched out I reckoned I was the second female (after Marianne) and maybe in around 4th position overall, but with a local club runner and his grandson right behind me so I fully expected them to pass me at some point.

The course was really well marshalled with lots of friendly volunteers and there was a water stop, which I didn’t use, about halfway around the Inch so we passed it twice. By the time I was on my second lap I was catching up with groups who were walking the course (there was something quite amusing about coming up behind lots of people with horns and forked tails!) but they all moved aside to allow the runners to pass. The Inch was also fairly busy with general Sunday dog walkers, cyclists and groups taking the air on a sunny and mild day, but there was still plenty of space to run.

Leaving the Inch for the return to the track, I was passed by the club runner and his grandson (we had been back and forth throughout the race) and with that finish line energy that only kids can produce, they shot away leaving me no hope of catching them once more. I could see them finishing just as I entered the track for the final few metres and enjoyed the springy surface under my feet. I crossed the line and stopped my watch at 32:43, having run a bit beyond 4 miles. I was handed a goody bag and Marianne was waiting with the news that I was indeed second lady. She ran brilliantly and was not only first lady, but second overall, which is fantastic. There are no official results, but I think I was sixth overall, so a top ten finish.

I spent a few minutes chatting to Marianne since I’ve not seen her in a while and then realised that she had a medal. I wasn’t sure if they were for all participants or just the top finishers, so headed off to ask. It turned out that they were originally intended for everyone, but a last minute flurry of entries had left them a little short so they were prioritising the top three finishers and the children, which is fair enough. Marianne pointed out that I was second lady and the volunteer said there might be some left at the end, but I was heading off and didn’t want to wait. She took my details and promised to send one out to me. It would be nice to have a medal, but since I wasn’t expecting one and think it’s important that the children get one, I was quite happy with the situation as it was. It would have been a different story if that was a really serious race and I had signed up well in advance rather than a charity fun run I entered at the last minute!

After a bit more chatting I headed home and had a bit of fun donning all my various devilish accessories for some photos.

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I also dug into my goody bag where I found the usual array of leaflets, a balloon, a pack of inflatable “noise makers”, some sweets and what may very well be the greatest (and most random) thing I’ve ever received in a race goody bag: one of those plastic parachutist toys! I haven’t seen one of those in years but am definitely not too old to have a play with it, quite possibly by chucking it over the bannister and watching it float down the stairs!

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All in all, I had a fantastic morning. It was great to run hard again and see where my fitness is right now; it was lovely to catch up with Marianne; and finishing as second lady was a nice boost to my confidence after some difficult and disappointing weeks as far as my running is concerned. Sometimes turning up to an event like this is just the thing to make you feel good about your running again, while also helping out a deserving charity. Oh, and those devil horns did stay in place the whole time. Impressive!

Race Report – The Glasgow Mo Run 5k

These days November has become synonymous with the mo…ustache, that is! We have become used to seeing men sporting facial hair in the name of fundraising for men’s health and as part of the Movember cause, there are now 17 Mo Runs taking place across the UK and Ireland. Having read some blog posts about previous events, Steve and I decided to sign up. In Scotland we had the choice of either Edinburgh on the Saturday or Glasgow on the Sunday, and since Sunday is a much more convenient day for us to travel to a race, Glasgow it was.

Since we’ve been concentrating on building up a good base and some speed ahead of our marathon training, we opted for the 5k option. Not only would we get the same race goodies, but having checked past results, we felt we had a chance of being quite competitive over this distance. We paid £18 (10% of which goes directly to the Movember Foundation, the rest to the assorted costs of staging the event) and for that were promised a nice route around Glasgow Green, chip timing, instant results, a medal, a headband and snacks/drinks. That seemed fair enough. There were also prizes on offer for the winners and for the best fancy dress, although runners were encouraged to sport a moustache for the event. Unable to grow my own, I opted not to stick or draw one on as I knew a stick-on would annoy me and a drawn on one would either be smeared across my face by the end or, worse, tricky to wash off and with me for days like in that episode of Friends where Ross and Rachel draw on each other’s faces!

Our race was at 10am so we set off sound 7:30 to give us plenty of time to drive through, park, make our way to Glasgow Green and collect our race packs. Rather than park at Glasgow Green, we wanted to park in our usual car park in the centre and walk down as we wanted to call into some shops on our way back. The only issue was that some heavy rain was forecast which could potentially overlap with our race so we had to be prepared with a change of clothes in case we got drenched. This meant a bit of extra preparation, but I still found time to lay out my “flat runner” for a photo…which got infiltrated by a cat!

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It wasn’t overly cold, but a bit chillier than of late so I opted for my Skins 3/4 tights and a very lightweight long-sleeved top. I also packed a light gilet in case of rain.

Once parked, we made a sneaky stop at a well-known coffee establishment for a toilet break and some pre-race caffeine. I was quite pleased to get a seasonal red cup, not realising that these were apparently causing some controversy :-0

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We know our way to Glasgow Green (which was also where we finished the Great Scottish Run 10k last month) so the walk was easy enough and we had no problems finding the race HQ. We collected our race packs then got ourselves in the toilet queue. After that, we simply soaked up the atmosphere for a bit until it was time to hand our bags into the baggage tent.

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Mo Running, brought to you by the 1980s…I didn’t think the headband suited me, hence the face!

Since it was Remembrance Sunday, we observed a 2 minute silence before being led to the start line. Although chip timed, we had been told that placings would be based on gun time and that anyone “in it to win it” should position themselves at the front. So we did just that. I was quite amused by the photographer who leapt out of the way of the charging runners right as we started, but he did manage to get the photo below. Steve looks great with both feet off the ground, while I look like I’m trying to calculate the 37 times table! No idea why I look so serious – I must have had my competitive head on!

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Photo from Mo Running Facebook page

The race itself was one loop of the course around the green (the 10k was two loops). We completed a kind of smaller loop which brought us back around close to the start line again, then an out-and-back section along by the water. Outwards was downhill along a leaf-covered and tree-rooted path which meant I had to watch my footing, then after turning around at the 2 mile point we returned back uphill towards the finish line.

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Since I was racing and wanted to run hard, I probably headed out a bit too fast and had to reign it in a bit. Mile one ticked by in 7:47 (nobody to dodge around) but I was slower over mile two as the wind was starting to get up, I tired a bit and I was cautious of my footing over the squelchy path so clocked in at 8:09.

Throughout the second mile, I had been running a few paces behind another girl and as we turned for the return portion of the course I found myself cruising past her. This was the slightly uphill section and the wind was becoming stronger (a pre-cursor to the forecast rain!) but I ran strongly and stayed ahead of her.

By this time I was pretty much running alone – I couldn’t even see the runners ahead of me – but now had an excellent view of all the runners behind me making their way down the path. With about half a mile to go, the leader of the 10k race began to make his way down the path behind the lead cyclist (that race stated 10 minutes after mine) and I shouted some encouragement.

Still running strong, my watch bleeped to mark the third mile in 7:50 before I turned into the home straight. I had intended a nice sprint finish, but found myself running head first into a pretty strong wind. On the plus side, there were two photographers along that stretch and no runners around me so there was no doubt that I would be photographed – one of the photographers even gave me a few words of encouragement as I passed by.

I crossed the line and stopped my watch at 24:49. Not my fastest 5k, but as fast as I was going to do on the day. I was able to get a printout of my result straight away to confirm it.

I also collected my medal and a bottle of Lucozade before heading over to reclaim my bag. The rain was starting and we wanted to get away quite quickly so as not to get soaked, but not without taking a couple of photos first!

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Once in some warm clothes, it was time for a coffee and a little treat. I picked a spicy mocha and pain aux raisins to tide me over until lunch (some yummy Mexican!)

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Checking the results later on, we were pleased to find that Steve had been 6th overall and I had been 20th out of a field of 230 5k runners. I was also 4th out of 129 female runners. Given that the top 3 all ran faster than my 5k PB, I’m really pleased with that 🙂

Overall, this was a great event. It was well organised with loads of friendly staff. I particularly remember the marshals along the route being brilliant in their encouragement, especially the one positioned at the turn into the home straight. For me, this was £18 well spent for a nice race which supports a charity and gave us a couple of nice race goodies. If you haven’t tried a Mo Run, then I would definitely recommend checking them out next November.

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An Overwhelming October

After some tough times in August and September, October offered much more positivity and I found myself rather busy. I began the month by volunteering at parkrun in order to save my legs to race in the Great Scottish Run 10k the following day. That particular Saturday was International Parkrun Day, a day to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the very first parkrun. I was barcode scanning and enjoyed congratulating runners as they finished.

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If you’ve been reading the blog recently then you will already know how much I enjoyed the Great Scottish Run, the highlight for me being the chance to meet Paula Radcliffe. Paula has long been a hero of mine and that experience even overshadowed my new PB! We also enjoyed catching up with our friends from Macmillan and posing for some photos:

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And I was greatly amused by this tweet from Traffic Scotland with a shot from the traffic cameras on the Kingston Bridge!

In the days after GSR I received the not unexpected news that I had not been successful in the London Marathon ballot. I have to say that on this occasion I wasn’t really disappointed as I already have my entry for Paris 2016 sorted out. I would, however, really like to run London again in the future so continue to enter the ballot in the hopes that sheer persistence will eventually pay off. On the plus side, my Spiderman magazine was accompanied by this year’s “consolation prize”, a long-sleeved running top. I rather liked the one I got last year and have worn it quite a lot to go to and from PT sessions, etc. This one looks to be pretty good too, although I’ve not had a chance to wear it yet.

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But for me the real high point of my October was the school trip to Normandy and Paris, an “intimate” gathering of 44 (4 teachers and 40 of our pupils). As always it was a real whirlwind of a visit, but I loved being back in Paris, soaking up the atmosphere and thinking back to my last visit earlier this year for the marathon. By the time I came back I was exhausted, but ready to start focusing on a new training programme to prepare my body for the demands of marathon training proper in the new year.

For those wondering what we get up to on the trip, here’s a bit of a photo dump with some memorable moments:

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I bought these almost as soon as I arrived. When in France…!

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This tribute to WW2 soldiers was not far from our accommodation in Normandy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stunning views from above Arromanches looking down to Gold beach.

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Omaha beach below the American cemetery. Very sobering to think of the events which unfolded there on D-Day.

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A simple but poignant memorial at the American cemetery

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I never tire of taking photos of the Eiffel Tower!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A beautiful sky above the Sacré Cœur

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Some unexpected hill sprints in Montmartre!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A visit to the famous Shakespeare and Co bookshop. If you’re a bookworm then I highly recommend it!

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A return visit to Bertie’s Cupcakery. Amazing cupcakes and another of my recommendations near Notre Dame

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Arc de Triomphe by night (there are A LOT of stairs to get to the top!)

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The Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkling. I love seeing it like this

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, we crammed in rather a lot, so by the time I got back I needed a bit of rest. However that didn’t stop me heading to parkrun that weekend. Not only did I have an October virtual 5k time to run, but it was Perth’s 100th event and there was no way I was going to miss out. Having run almost exclusively in shorts/summer kit until I went away, it was a real shock to wake up to a decidedly wintery day and find myself hunting for winter kit. I still throughly enjoyed the event, took it easy since I was tired and enjoyed a bit of cake at the end. Perfect!

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Looking cold and tired before the run!

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My October medal

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Amazing cake – and it tasted fab too! Pic from Perth parkrun Facebook page.

Whilst in Paris, I also discovered that I had won a twitter competition and my prize was an Absolute 360 tech T-shirt. I hadn’t come across the brand before, but a few people seem to be trying out their compression kit and I certainly found my T-shirt (not compression) really comfortable to run in:

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The remaining highlights of October included Back to the Future Day, in which I got completely over-excited, geeked out over my favourite film and earned a really cool virtual race medal!

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And finishing as I began, with parkrun. It was Hallowe’en and there were lots of decorations and things set up around town as part of the celebrations. Typically, I couldn’t resist a photo!

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So there you have it – parkrun, Paris and prizes! Looking back, it was a really busy month, but I also used my October break from school to have a bit of downtime from my training. I think it’s important to have a proper break from training a couple of times a year in order to allow the body to recover and hopefully avoid overtraining/injury. I had a couple of weeks off in the spring after the marathon, and even though my autumn races were shorter, I wanted to recharge my batteries ready to begin a new cycle of training. Now I’m back at work I’m settling into the routine of my new training programme and looking forward to building up a solid base of strength and fitness over the remaining weeks of 2015. I can’t wait!

How was your October?
What are your plans/goals for the remainder of the year?

Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads!

Ok, that’s a bit of a lie. As a road runner, I definitely need roads, however today is Back to the Future Day and when else will I get the opportunity to use that line from the film as my post title?

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But you might be wondering why on earth I’m writing about a film on what is ostensibly a running blog. The answer is simple. Quite apart form this being my absolute all-time favourite film, today I was even able to make my run Back to the Future themed thanks to a virtual race I found out about. Hosted by Virtual Nerd Runs, the event raised funds for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Theoretically it could be run at any time, but of course most wanted to run on October 21st 2015, aka Back to the Future Day (the day Marty and the Doc travelled to in Back to the Future 2).

There was also no particular distance required, leaving me free to come up with my own ideas. I played around with all the significant numbers from the films: the date, 88mph, etc but in the end decided to stick to a short run since I’ve been feeling a little congested this week. So in honour of 21/10/15, I ran for 21 minutes and 10 seconds. Had I been feeling healthier, I would probably have done either 8.8 miles or 8.8km, but in reality the distance didn’t matter. What did matter, was the fact that so many people were donating to charity (and the fantastic medal I had waiting for me after my slightly geeky run!).

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Time circuits on!

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My race bib

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Really cool medal!

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And yes, I listened to the film soundtrack while I ran – if you’re going to be a geek, best to go all in! Turns out, it’s pretty good to run to…

To round off my day, I’ll be going to the cinema with my sister to see a triple bill of Back to the Future films. This is pretty exciting for me as I’ve had so few opportunities to see them on the big screen. I was a little too young when the first film was released and saw it a year or so later when I was given a VHS copy (which I proceeded to wear out!). I remember being disappointed that the “to be continued” at the end of the film was intended as joke and there were no sequels, so when the further films were released I was absolutely beside myself and can remember going to the cinema to see them with my family. Apart from that, all my viewings have been at home (I have a VHS boxset and two – yes, two! – DVD boxsets. The films are on TV quite a lot too!) except for one opportunity to see the original film at the cinema around 5 years ago when it was the 25th anniversary.

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Even when I travel, I tend to have the first film loaded on my iPad so I always have something to watch, despite the fact that I probably have the script memorised! And would you believe, I even have a T-shirt (a gift from my sister) which combines my love of BTTF with my love of running? Of course I do!

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So there you go, my geek cards are on the table. While some may be excited about the forthcoming Star Wars film, it’s all about Back to the Future for me – a certain online retailer has even “forced” me to buy another DVD boxset since there’s a new 30th anniversary edition! The only downside to today was that I had to lace up my own trainers and had no hoverboard to play with after my run…yet! At least I know I’m not the only one getting a bit carried away today:

What’s your all-time favourite film?
Are you marking Back to the Future Day in any way?
Ever take part in any virtual races?

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At Universal, Florida in 2013. I couldn’t resist!

A Super(ish) September

Although September began on a sad note with the funeral of Steve’s mum, having that closure meant that we both felt it was time to get back to a normal routine and return to regular training – after all, we had a half marathon fast approaching! I still had some lingering remnants of a cold, but I was certainly able to run (so long as I carried a few tissues!). The weather remained very pleasant for the time of year and I enjoyed sticking to running in my summer kit for a bit longer:

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I also had a bit of virtual running to do. First up, a September virtual 5k which I completed at parkrun:

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And then, something very exciting. I recently discovered the Hogwarts Running Club, which can be “joined” simply by liking their Facebook page. They organise six virtual races every year with a Harry Potter theme, and I found myself particularly taken with the Platform 9 3/4 km event. I paid my registration fee and downloaded my custom race bib:

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The race could be completed at any time, however participants were encouraged to run on the 1st of September as that was the date Harry returned to Hogwarts. I wasn’t able to run that day, so my trip on the Hogwarts Express was delayed by a week, but it was definitely worth it for this really cool medal depicting Harry and Ron’s eventful journey in the 2nd book:

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Front

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Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The medal actually arrived on the same day as the Scottish Half Marathon, a race I didn’t particularly enjoy for a variety of reasons, so arriving home to find a medal waiting for me was great. It’s a fairly hefty bit of bling, and holds its own nicely next to the frankly huge medal I got from the half marathon:

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Since the half marathon took place on a Saturday (highly unusual!), the following day afforded us a rare Sunday off, so we decided to make the most of it by heading out for breakfast – yum!

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A half marathon the day before meant we had earned this!

Then that evening we headed to Perth Concert Hall to see Twin Atlantic, a band from Glasgow, who were playing as part of the 10th anniversary of the venue. They’re not a band I know terribly well, but the show was great. I thought they were talented musicians and they played my favourite song of theirs as part of the encore, which made me happy.

Another highlight of September was the annual Macmillan fundraiser, the world’s biggest coffee morning, which my school has supported for several years. I’m not much of a baker so my contribution was some bits and pieces from my Macmillan fundraising kit (which somehow resulted in me standing in the home economics department ironing sashes the night before the event!), but the pupils put on an impressive spread and raised over £500 for the charity simply through selling tea, coffee and cakes to the staff. A fantastic effort!

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But I think my September highlight came the following Saturday. I took a few days off running after the half marathon in order to allow my body to recover, so parkrun was my first run in a week. As I walked over to the start, it struck me that conditions were perfect for a good time – cool and still. I had been posting some decent times recently and began to wonder if this was the day to try and shave a few more seconds off my 23:49 PB. I decided that I would go out hard, try to hold on and see what happened. If I got a PB, great; if not, I would know I had given it my best shot.

I got myself in a good starting position and set off at a fairly brisk pace. Glancing at my Garmin, I really wasn’t sure I could maintain it, but felt reasonably comfortable so got myself “locked in” to the pace and kept going.

Mile 1 ticked by in 7:28 (7:28?!?)

Mile 2 over the grass was a steady 7:32.

Mile 3, tiring somewhat, I clocked 7:36. My previous PB was based on a 7:40ish average so all I had to do was keep going to the line and a new PB was mine…

And this was when it got really difficult. I could see the finish line and my natural instinct was to speed up, but I had finally found my maximum effort level, so there was nothing else left. Despite slowing in the last 100m or so, I took a whopping 35 seconds off my PB, setting a new best of 23:14 (an average pace of 7:32 per mile). I couldn’t believe it! Actually I really wanted a lie down and had to have a nap that afternoon to recover! I still can’t believe that my legs moved at that pace – I never think of myself as someone who can put in mile splits like that. Not only that, but I somehow managed to claim 3rd female overall in the field that day – a triumph indeed!

The following day, conscious that I’d asked a lot of my body, I opted for an easy-paced recovery run and enjoyed the sunshine by the river rather than churning out “junk” miles and risking injury.

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Sadly, after the joy of a new PB, the fates weren’t quite done with me and September finished on a sour note with the news that my dad had been involved in a car accident. Thankfully there were no serious injuries, but he has done some damage to his knee so he’ll be in a knee brace and using crutches for a while, meaning golf and running are both firmly off the agenda. He’s also got loads of bruises from his seatbelt and airbag and, unfortunately, his car is beyond repair so there’s a lot of insurance stuff to sort out. And none of it was his fault – another driver shot out of a side road right into him as he was driving home from a round of golf. It just goes to show how things can change in the blink of an eye. As you can imagine, we all got a real shock, especially when he had to be taken to hospital to be checked over, and it’s awful seeing him unable to do the things he loves. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery or I can predict him getting rather grumpy!

Hopefully, that’s me done with misfortune for a while – I’m certainly ready for some more positive experiences and October looks set to bring some fun. Watch this space…

How was your September?
Any exciting plans for October?

Race Report – Great Scottish Run 10k 2015

I kept this one under the radar as far as my blog was concerned, but the truth is I was REALLY excited to go and race 10k in Glasgow this weekend. I’ve always really enjoyed taking part in races in Glasgow and have fond memories of the 2012 Great Scottish Run half marathon (which I finished beaming from ear-to-ear and desperate to take part again), the Great Women’s 10k (which last year afforded a shock PB of 50:15) and the festive high jinks of the Santa Dash. I knew that this year I had my first chance since 2012 to return to the GSR and it’s been in the back of my mind all year to sign up – the only reason I waited was my new policy of not getting carried away and entering loads of races only to get injured and miss out. When I decided to join Steve at the Scottish Half Marathon in Edinburgh in September, I thought that might be it for big autumn races as I didn’t think I’d fancy another half marathon just two weeks later – then I remembered the 10k.

My mind was made up when it was announced that the great Haile Gebrselassie was set to bid farewell to competitive running at the GSR 10k and that 10 lucky runners would have the chance to have a meet and greet with the legend before lining up next to him at the start. Sadly Gebrselassie later had to pull out due to his sister being seriously ill (I had been hopeful of a chance to run with him) but I was still excited about the race and my excitement levels only increased with the news that the official starter for the race would be my running hero/inspiration Paula Radcliffe. She might not have been running, but the chance to see Paula far outweighed (for me) the chance to see Haile!

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I had no idea what sort of shape I was in for 10k, but was sure I could beat my Perth 10k time of 52:36 as I had run with a cold that day. I wasn’t convinced I was in PB shape for the distance (anything under 50:15), but was still curious to know how close I could come so opted to volunteer at parkrun the day before so I would be racing on fresh legs. Even the weather forecast was promising, with cool, dry conditions and not too much sun after some warm days recently. It was all going to come down to my performance on the day. I wasn’t putting myself under pressure, but still wanted to finish knowing I had done my absolute best and with a clear idea of where my fitness is right now.

Organising my kit the night before, I opted for my favourite running skirt (by Under Armour), my pink argyle calf sleeves (these attract a lot of attention and are by Bondi Band), my Macmillan running T-shirt, Nike arm warmers to keep the chill off at the start and my Adidas Glide Boosts (my favourite 10k shoes).

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We were both in the white (front) wave and were due to start running at 9:45am so left Perth just after 8am for the drive to Glasgow. We’ve pretty much got it worked out now so that we know exactly where to park, exactly what toilet options we have in order to avoid long portaloo queues and exactly what we need in our post-race bag so that by the time we reach the start area at George Square we can just squeeze ourselves into our start pen and set off. Just after dropping our bag off at the baggage bus I was really pleased to bump into two former pupils who were also running the race – it might even have been their first. We had a quick chat then went our separate ways for the start pens where the mass warm up was underway (I passed since I can’t bear mass warm ups where there’s approximately one square centimetre of room to work!). We had to wait outside our pen, but once the elite wave set off we were able to move inside and find some room.

While we were waiting, I was delighted to hear that for the first time ever there were more females signed up to races over this weekend than males. Absolutely brilliant news and a trend I’d love to see continue.

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Pre-race selfie

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Start line selfie!

Start line selfie!

As our wave got underway, I kept an eye out for Paula Radcliffe and spotted her cheering runners on by the start. I remember being struck by how amazing she looked and feeling really pleased to have run close by her, then I was crossing the start line and heading towards the St Vincent Street hill which accounts for much of the first mile. I felt that I ran strongly up the hill and was pleased when I heard my name shouted by someone we know who was going to be running the half marathon later in the morning.

For me, all the best bits of the half marathon route feature in the 10k: hitting some streets I ordinarily run on dressed as Santa (it crossed my mind that it seemed a little odd to be in “normal” running gear), running over the Kingston Bridge (technically motorway so normally out of bounds for pedestrians) and crossing the Clyde on the “Squinty Bridge” before finishing on Glasgow Green.

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I was quite surprised when I completed the first mile in 8:07, despite the uphill slog, however this slowed to 8:26 in mile two as there were some gradual inclines and a couple of pinch points as we headed for the Kingston Bridge and I was conscious that I was running a little slower as there wasn’t the same room to pass people. I enjoyed this section of the course, though, so didn’t let it bother me. Once off the bridge, we were into wide streets and my times ticked by quite consistently from there on: 7:53, 7:56, 7:59, 7:59.

I had realised that a PB might actually be on the cards so was working quite hard, but still really enjoying the on-course support with a piper at every kilometre marker as well as some other entertainment such as a local nightclub who had set up around the 4km mark to play upbeat music, and a drumming group further on in the race. There were also plenty of charity cheer squads and it was great to run past 3 Macmillan cheer points to get some encouragement and support.

Around the 9k mark was the Wall of Support, a massive bank of TV screens with personalised messages of support for runners, triggered by their race number as they neared the screen. I knew there would be no message with my name on it as I hadn’t shared the details with anyone and had missed the deadline to leave myself a message, but there were plenty of messages going up for all the runners and it was lovely to see. At this point I knew my chances of a PB were really tight so I was trying to focus all my energies on getting to the finish and seeing all the messages helped.

Suddenly, a sign saying 400m to go, a bend, 200m to go. My watch ticked over into 50 minutes and I couldn’t quite see the finish gantry. I was giving it my all and my body was starting to protest at the effort, but then I saw it. The announcer was calling out names of runners approaching the line and I heard my name called out, giving me a final boost to sprint for the line – I was running so hard I even forgot to smile for the official photographers so those photos will no doubt be particularly “special”.

As I stopped my watch, I glanced down to see that it read 50:14. Could I actually have a PB? It was a close call, however I had signed up for a free text message with my time and sure enough, it was confirmed as 50:14. A PB by just one second, but a PB nonetheless! I was momentarily disappointed that I hadn’t managed a sub-50, but knew I couldn’t have done any more and was thrilled to be back to what I considered the peak form I had after my marathon training cycle last year (after which I promptly got injured!). It was interesting to note that it was mile 2 which really prevented the PB, not a later mile, so consistent 8 minute miles for the whole thing will get me there – a target for 2016!

I made my way through the finish chute collecting a bottle of water and my goody bag: medal, cotton t-shirt (there was the opportunity to buy a tech t-shirt at sign-up), sports drink, food, space blanket and assorted leaflets.

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Steve was waiting for me and together we went over to catch up with our friends from Macmillan, where we had  a cup of tea and something to eat before getting some photos.

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Being childish with an orange segment!

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Medal selfie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving the Macmillan tent to collect our bag, we discovered there were also a number of official photo ops for us to enjoy.

A race backdrop:

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An official time clock (like when the elites set a world record – a great way to mark a PB!):

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And a big screen recreation of the Wall of Support. We didn’t do this one as there was a massive queue, but I’ve later discovered that by putting my race number in on the website, I can get an image of “my” wall:

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But far and away the most exciting photo op was this one:

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And of course, I was straight in the queue. There was no way I was going to miss the chance to meet Paula Radcliffe! I was more excited about this than my new PB, and couldn’t understand the people who would approach the queue, ask what it was for then shrug and look disinterested when they were told. Why would they not want to meet a world record holder and inspiring runner? I was like a little fan girl and hoping I wouldn’t embarrass myself!

When my turn came, Paula asked me how I had got on in the race and, in my excitement, I merrily told her about my new PB (I’m sure that was the highlight of her day 😉 ) and she graciously congratulated me before signing my race number and posing for a photo.

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After this, we decided to head off as I was yapping away like I’d had several coffees, floating along on the high of a good run and meeting a legend. An absolutely fantastic experience!

So once more Glasgow did not disappoint, in fact on this occasion it presented me with one of my greatest race highlights ever! If you’re considering entering one of the GSR races next year, then I highly recommend it. Both the start and finish are really well organised with plenty of signage to help you to be in the right place at the right time, there are loads of announcements, the course is great, the support vocal and there’s a decent medal and goody bag. Even without the chance to meet a running legend it’s a brilliant day out. Maybe I’ll see you there next year!

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