Friday Finds – 3rd August

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Friday? I swear I only just wrote a Friday post a couple of days ago! Time definitely speeds up towards the end of the summer holidays! The week has clearly gone by in a blur but I’ve still got a few articles to share with you…

First, an update on the I Move London relay which I mentioned in last week’s post. This was a Guinness World Record attempt and at the beginning of the week the relay ended successfully by setting a new world record. It must have been an amazing thing to take part in/support. I wish it had been a bit closer to me so I could have been involved.

Speaking of records, I also spotted this crazy story from the US. A runner got stung on the mouth during an ultra yet still went on to not only win the race, but actually beat the course record…set by Scott Jurek!

Something that appealed to the tech geek side of me was the news that an app allowed runners in the recent San Franciso marathon to visualise the course ahead of the race. This app went further than looking at a map (that’s meaningless unless you know the area) and seeing an elevation graph, this actually let runners see how wide the street was and if there might be any obstacles like bollards or other potential hazards they should avoid. Being able to visualise a race is a great way to mentally prepare, so anything that might add further detail sounds like a potentially useful tool. Would you use it?

On a lighter note, I enjoyed this piece from Canadian Running in which readers reveal their experiences of running helping them out in their day to day lives. Several of these made me smile. Do you have any similar stories?

And finally, it’s a cute story about a dog! I love reading stories where animals randomly join in a race and I’m certain that there will be a long line of people wanting to adopt this particular pup now that he’s completed a half marathon and been awarded a medal!

Happy reading!
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 27th July

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

How can it be Friday again already? It feels like no time at all since I last wrote a Friday Finds post, yet here we are again. I’ve had a pretty chilled week and am looking forward to a weekend of running and yoga. Hope you have some great plans too.

Let’s begin this week by returning to the Nike 4% shoes that I included last week. Unsurprisingly, the revelation that the claims of a 4% improvement in performance may actually be true have attracted a lot of commentary, so I wanted to share a couple of other pieces I came across this week which look at the shoes from a more wary standpoint. First, Sean Ingle from The Guardian considers how fair the shoes are in terms of creating a level playing field, then Brian Dalek (I wonder if he likes Dr Who?) writing for Runner’s World discusses what is holding him back from trying them himself. Interesting food for thought.

Sticking with Runner’s World for now, and an update on a challenge I first mentioned on here back in April. Peter Thompson set out with the aim of running the entire Tour de France route and finishing ahead of the cyclists. Well he’s only gone and done it – and 3 days ahead of schedule! That’s a remarkable feat and I’m sure we’ve not heard the last of Thompson!

Speaking of challenges, those of you who are avid parkrunners may have come across this intriguing notion – 2 parkruns on the same day. Yes, it is possible in many areas to do two on New Year’s Day, but this challenge is a little more complex involving flights, the international date line and a lot of determination. Anyone up for it?

Speaking of challenges, I also came across this great idea for creating a challenge much closer to home. It’s a fantastic reminder than we don’t have to travel great distances or spend lots of money to create a new challenge – we can simply look to what’s around us and get creative.

And finally, you may have heard about the I Move London relay which is taking place this month as an attempt to set a new world record for the longest non-stop relay, but you perhaps didn’t hear about the “divine” intervention that took place a few days ago. Relay runner Max Livingstone-Learmonth chased down and stopped a purse snatcher – all while dressed as a bishop. I think my favourite part of this is that not only did our hero apprehend a criminal, but he kept hold of the relay baton the whole time. Brilliant!

Happy Reading,
The Running Princess

Race Report – Relay Wild Triathlon 2016

Disaster! I don’t mean the event, it’s well-organised and slick, I mean myself. I was an absolute disaster and made a pretty poor show of being a triathlete. Let me explain…

It all started innocuously enough. Steve entered a mixed team in this event, and having enjoyed it in 2014 I agreed to be part of the team. Back in 2014 I was only just learning the front crawl, was still riding a mountain bike (with road tyres) and had been off running due to an injury. I figured that with more pool time in the bank, a zippy road bike and some decent running form at the moment I should be able to perform better. My pride was about to take an almighty fall!

The event is straightforward enough. Each member of the team completes a short triathlon course (200m pool swim, 6km road cycle and 1.2km cross country run) before tagging the next member of the team and so on until all four have competed. The order was to be female, male, female, male and I was third after Ella and John, before handing over to Steve for the anchor leg. There was some thinking behind this: Ella was our strongest swimmer (Steve does a fine doggy paddle and I still swim single lengths!), John is a great cyclist and duathlete, while Steve was our faster runner. I may have just been making up the numbers haha!

I really didn’t think about it too much in the days before as I knew we weren’t looking to be competitive, rather to have fun and complete the course. Having taken part before and spectated the year before that, I felt quite comfortable that I knew what was going to happen.

 

The event didn’t start until lunchtime so I had plenty of time to lay out my kit and pack it into a backpack as Steve and I had decided to cycle there (it’s only about 6 miles). This would give me a chance to get used to my bike, Trixie, again as to my shame I’ve not been out with her for a year and only just got her serviced in the week before the event. I really needed to ride and get used to the gears again so I would be happy on the bike leg, so cycling to the venue seemed the ideal solution.

 

It was a nice cycle out and on arrival we met Ella, then Steve went to register the team. Next it was time to get our arms and legs marked with our race numbers and get ourselves set up in transition. This bit caused me a lot of stress last time, and although still a bit jangly, I was definitely better this year!

After a race briefing which mainly served to remind us of the rules regarding passing in the pool (only at the ends) and keeping a distance on the bike (no drafting!) Ella headed off ready to start. We cheered her on each time she came into transition and when John set off I got myself ready.

So far so good, but this was where it all changed.

To conserve energy on the swim, I knew I would have to be slow. I fully expected to be passed and was ok with this as I knew I had to stick to my own race plan. Having collected the timing chip from John, I slid into the water and set off on the first of my 8 lengths. I believed I was going slowly and hoped to settle into a rhythm quickly. The pool was about 5 metres longer than the one at my gym, but I figured that was really only one or two more breaths in each length. No big deal, right?

Wrong.

About halfway through that first length I felt the firm tap on my foot that alerted me someone wanted to pass at the end. No problem, I told myself, just keep going as you are and stop at the end. But from that point on I kept feeling the person behind me grabbing at my feet and it really freaked me out. I felt like I couldn’t kick properly, I lost all sense of rhythm and completely lost my breathing. I don’t know if they thought I hadn’t felt the first tap and kept doing it, or if they were just swimming too close and kept catching against me with each stroke, but it felt horrible. It was like someone constantly pulling at me and with my lack of swimming experience, it really started to cause a problem.

It seemed to take ages to reach the end of the pool. I stopped to let the other swimmer pass and realised I felt out of breath. My heart was pounding and I felt unsettled. Almost as soon as I set off again for the second length, I felt like I couldn’t do it. I was struggling to catch my breath and just couldn’t put my face in the water so switched to  heads up breast stroke, but even that felt practically impossible. At the end of the length I stopped and clearly didn’t look good as the swim marshal tapped on the head to ask if I was ok. I said yes, but in all honesty I wasn’t. In that moment I just wanted to cry. I wanted to get out of the pool and say I couldn’t do it. I felt scared because I couldn’t breathe and my limbs felt heavy through the lack of oxygen. I was probably as close to an all-out panic attack as I’ve ever been. And alongside all of that I felt so angry and ashamed that I was struggling to swim just 200m, something I should have been able to do relatively easily. The only thing that stopped me quitting was the knowledge that two other people had already completed the course and I couldn’t let my team down.

So I finished the swim. A further 6 slow, breast stroke lengths. I did try to start the front crawl again, but every time I put my face in the water, I panicked. Every time I saw another swimmer behind me I freaked out all over again that they were going to grab at my feet and I was stopping at the ends to let people pass. It was one of the most awful experiences of my life. Each length felt like a mammoth undertaking with the water seemingly stretching out for miles ahead of me. I hardly seemed to be moving, yet my body was exhausted. I’ve never been so pleased to see the pool steps before!

As I emerged from the pool Steve and Ella were waiting to give me a cheer, but all I could do was pant, “I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t swim.” At that point I really wasn’t sure what had happened, but it had already affected my mental state for the two disciplines to come. Even as I made my way towards my bike I felt overwhelmed with the noise. I felt like people were shouting things at me, but had no idea what. Were they giving me encouragement? Shouting advice? Telling me I was doing something wrong? I had no idea. There was just a swirl of noise and me walking mechanically towards my bike.

Somehow in my brain fog I remembered to put my bike helmet on first. I pulled on the socks I had sprinkled with talc earlier and slipped on my pre-laced Ultra Boosts before taking my bike off the rack and wheeling it to the mount line. I was so stressed that I couldn’t get my foot into my pedal properly, and the more the marshals shouted about other cyclists coming up behind me, the more I struggled. Eventually, I set off, heart already hammering, and followed the path down to the main road where I found myself cycling straight into a headwind.

I just couldn’t settle throughout the cycle. I felt on edge, my heart rate was probably too high and I was cycling into a wind. It was only towards the end that I started to feel a bit better and as I made my way back up the path towards transition, I was trying to turn my attention to the run, the bit that I should be best at, and willing my legs to carry me round the short course without incident.

Back in transition I racked my bike, grabbed a quick drink and removed my helmet before heading off to run. Despite knowing I had to turn my belt round so my number would be on my front, I still managed to forget and a nice marshal had to remind me, but at least my legs didn’t feel too shaky.

Ella had warned me that she just about went head over heels down a hill at the start of the run, so I set out carefully. I wasn’t using a Garmin so had no idea of the pace I was running, but it felt pretty hard. There was another runner alongside me so I just tried to get into some kind of rhythm and keep on going. The hardest part was coming back up that hill again, but at least the run was over quickly and I was able to cross the line and transfer our chip to Steve. It was over. I still want to cry, but it was over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I collected my goody bag then found Ella and John who wanted to know how I’d done. I told them the swim was awful, but I don’t think anyone on the team realised just how hard a time I’d had. I was really disappointed in myself as I felt like I’d let everyone down and had been wasting my time going to the pool every week if that going to be the result, and just couldn’t shake that awful feeling for the rest of the day. All I wanted was to grab my bike and go home, but transition didn’t open until the last competitor was done so I had to stay and put a brave face on it until I could get my stuff. Ordinarily I would have taken loads of photos, but didn’t even manage to really do that.

 

 

Eventually, the buffet was eaten (I barely touched it), the prizes were awarded, and it was time to head home. Another 6 miles on the bike when all I wanted was to curl up into a little ball and feel sorry for myself, but I made it home and sat quietly for the rest of the day.

It took another 24 hours before I could reflect on the event more sensibly and realise that it was nothing to so with my swimming ability and everything to do with how I coped in that situation when my legs were being constantly “attacked”. I may be disappointed in the times I posted, but the fact that I managed to finish, despite every fibre of my being wanting to quit, is what I need to focus on instead. I even went for a swim the following day as I knew that if I didn’t get back in the water straight away, I probably never would again. I had no problems at all and swam 20 lengths perfectly comfortably. I know my swimming still needs a lot of work, but that one session has given me back a bit of the confidence I lost that Sunday afternoon as I panicked in the pool.

I was actually in two minds about whether or not I wanted to write this post at all, but then when I read this post by Hels Bels, I knew I had to. Helen’s post reminded me that things don’t always go perfectly, and knowing that someone else experienced something similar made me feel better. I’m sad that this happened to her as I know how dreadful I felt, but I think we both learned something about ourselves from it. It also reminded me that it’s easy to gloss over the tough stuff in a blog post or on social media, to paint a rosy picture of life and make every event sound like a success. Life isn’t like that, and races certainly aren’t. There are always tough moments and some days things just don’t go your way. The more people share those moments, the more we can help others to realise that they are not alone when those things happen to them. And so my post, this very post you’re reading, was written after all.

And those times? Hard to say. There are no transition times listed so I can only assume they’re included in some of the other sections. That means I have no idea how it compares to last time. I think the bike was a bit quicker as I had a Garmin set up on the handlebars and the time I recorded is a minute or two faster than the time listed, so I’m guessing transition is included. The run looks slightly slower than last time, but I have no idea how long I was in transition so if a that time is included there, then it was probably a faster run too. At least there was some improvement! In the name of honesty (and embarrassing myself online), here they are:

 

I can’t help but wonder how things might have gone if the swim had been more successful, but there’s no point dwelling on that now. It happened, I survived and now I’m motivated to get back in the pool and keep working on my swimming.

Would I do it again? Who knows. At the time, it was a definite no. I decided that triathlon wasn’t for me and vowed to stick to running and the odd cycle. A week further on, I’m less firm in my resolve, but know that I would need to do A LOT of work on my swimming before I felt able to have another go. Let’s see what the next year brings…

 

Have you ever had a bad race experience? How did you handle it?
Any advice to help me improve my swimming and feel more confident?

2015: An End of Year Report

Unbelievably, another year has ticked by and now we are all locked in “Crimbo Limbo”, an odd time of year when we’re not entirely sure what’s going on and most small talk (after the obligatory comments about the weather!) begins with, “did you have a nice Christmas?” then segues seamlessly to, “anything planned for New Year?” ( in case you’re wondering, my answers are “yes, thank you” and “no, just a quiet one”). It’s a time of year when we inevitably begin assessing what we’ve done with our lives over the past 12 months and consider how we might make the next 12 even better, so what better time than now to look back over my challenges from 2015 and think about some of my personal highlights..

 

I suppose it all started this time last year when I set out my challenge for 2015: one marathon (hopefully with a PB), one cycling event, and a frankly crazy weekend of multiple races, all completed by the end of May. After being hampered by injury in the second half of 2014, I didn’t want to plan any further ahead than that, preferring a cautious approach to my race plans, and it paid off – despite a strain to my left quad affecting the final weeks of my marathon training, the only plans I had to change were my expectations of a marathon PB, instead setting out to simply complete the race and have fun. It may not have been my greatest ever marathon finish time, but I finished it, had fun and, in the words of one friend, “became the selfie queen of Paris!”.
Paris Marathon done and part one of my challenge complete √

 

Next up was the cycling event, and with my strained muscle preventing me from running, I got a bit of bonus time in the saddle, even going so far as to enter an extra event as a warm-up the week before. I may sound quite flippant about it all now, but in reality this was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. You may recall that I only began cycling in the summer of 2014 and bought my first road bike that autumn just before my first ever sportive, now here I was contemplating an 81 mile event which went over a mountain! I found the whole thing really daunting – the distance, the climbs, the risk of mechanical failure and the risk of rider failure(!) – yet somehow I managed it. The weather was apocalyptic (up on that mountain was particularly horrendous!) but both my trusty steed Trixie Trek and I held it together to cross the finish line of the Etape Caledonia and complete the second part of the challenge.
Cycling, done! √

 

But I think the real stand-out moment of the year for me has to be the third part of the challenge. Back in 2014 Steve became infamous for his challenge to complete all 4 races of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival, a feat involving lots of running, a very swift half marathon and a willing friend with a motorbike. I was incredibly proud of what he achieved that weekend, but also intrigued. It may have been a long, long way to run, but Steve seemed to really enjoy it and get a real buzz from the experience, so when I was looking for something new to do, my thoughts turned once more to Edinburgh. I knew that my race pace versus the event logistics would rule me out of mimicking Steve’s challenge, but thought a variation might be possible: rather than going from the half marathon to the full marathon (the bit the logistics made impossible for me), what if I then went on to complete a leg of the team relay instead? From that seed of an idea, the concept began to take shape, and at the end of May it all came to fruition: I ran four races in one weekend, I got treated like a rock star by Macmillan, my chosen charity, and do you know what? I loved it all!
Four races, two days, one challenge completed!! √

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In taking on this challenge, I learned that I am even more tenacious than I knew. Funnily enough, the marathon was the “easy” bit (not often one calls a marathon “easy”!), with the cycling posing the greatest challenge and Edinburgh being a journey into the unknown in terms of keeping on going. Yes, there were tough moments, that’s what makes it a challenge, but the pride in knowing I completed it will stay with me forever. Why did I do it? For one thing, I felt I had unfinished business from my 2014 challenge, so decided to extend it for another year. I feel a sense of satisfaction in completing what I set out to do, and am thrilled to have raised a further £1000+ to add to my total from 2014, bringing my grand total raised for Macmillan Cancer Support to over £6000! That’s £6000 that will make a huge difference to the lives of those affected by cancer and I want to thank everyone who has supported me in any way as I completed my challenges over the last two years.

 

But this year wasn’t just about the challenge, I also had a lot of fun: I discovered the joy of parkrun; I continued to dabble in learning the front crawl; I completed both the Jantastic and 5×50 challenges; I had a fantastic trip to Florida, where I even won running prizes; I ran lots of real and virtual races (as well as creating my own!); I won some competitions; I tried out some new training ideas; and there was that time I met Paula Radcliffe, a real highlight!

 

Oh yeah, and there was A LOT of bling!

Another mini challenge I set for myself was to complete at least one Virtual Runner UK event per month. With a final haul of 14 medals, I’d say I definitely achieved that one too!

 

In total I’ve run 648 miles this year, my highest annual mileage to date, and cycled 270, a bit less than last year. I also found a great graphic to represent my total mileage for the year at Veloviewer, which uses your Strava profile to collate the information:

IMG_5667

Apparently. I climbed Everest this year!

All in all, I’ve had a fantastic year. I hope you’ve enjoyed following it all on the blog and will continue to follow my adventures into 2016. Remember you can also connect with my page on Facebook and use the links on the right hand side of my homepage (if you’re viewing this in a browser) to subscribe to the blog and never miss a post. But for now, I wish you all a very happy new year. Here’s to 2016!

images

What have been your highlights of 2015?
Do you have any challenges lined up for 2016 and beyond?

My Top 5 Running Moments

A while back, I read a post by Charlie at The Runner Beans about her top 5 running moments. I thought it was a great idea for a post so today I thought I’d share mine. The only problem is, narrowing it down to just 5 is not easy!

1. Paris
The most obvious place to start is my favourite city in the world. I’ve run the Paris marathon 3 times now and taken part in the Breakfast Run twice. Paris was my first ever marathon back in 2010, but for the purposes of this post I’m going to pick my second bite of the cherry in 2014 as one of my top 5 running moments. That was the year my training went almost perfectly and I ran a big PB, finishing in 4:05:07. I felt like I executed the ideal race as everything aligned and I got the result I wanted. And being in Paris was the icing on the cake!

 

 

2. London
Throughout marathon weekend, London is an amazing place to be – people are friendlier, strangers make conversation and the atmosphere is fantastic. I’ve been lucky enough to experience this as both as supporter (2009 and 2012 when Steve ran) and as a runner. I was fortunate enough to get a place in the 2011 event, so my second marathon was in London. I’ll never forget the roar of the crowd as I ran over Tower Bridge and the feeling of making the final turn towards the finish line of this iconic race. I’d love to do it again one day.

 

3. Aviemore
After Paris and London, I’ll admit Aviemore seems a little incongruous, but allow me to explain. Back in 2009, I made the transition from what I’ll describe as a “fair weather jogger” to a more regular runner. I had only ever run a (very slow) 5k, but that spring I ran my first ever 10k and began to train for my first ever half marathon – something I had previously believed to be impossible. The night before the race I was nervous, and that’s when Steve employed a somewhat novel tactic to take my mind off things – he proposed! As a result, I remember little of the race itself as my head was filled with plans and ideas (mainly dresses to be honest!) and I was on cloud nine. And when I reached the finish line, Steve was waiting to congratulate me. As a result, Aviemore has become a special place for us and we have returned to this race a couple of times since – I even set my current half marathon PB there!

 

4. Edinburgh
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Edinburgh marathon: it’s a great course for a PB, but not exactly in Edinburgh; I enjoy the first part of the route, but that out-and-back section along the coast seems never-ending; some of the scenery is quite pleasant, but then there’s the Cockenzie Power Station :-0

Image from Wikipedia

But this year, I had one of the best weekends ever at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival, thanks to my crazy idea of running 4 races in 2 days – 10k and 5k on Saturday, followed by the half marathon and final leg of the marathon relay on Sunday. It wasn’t about running fast and setting PBs, it was about keeping on going through each event and pushing myself a little further. Running past the Macmillan cheer points and hearing people shouting my name made me feel like a rockstar, and there was something pretty satisfying about finishing the weekend with 4 medals around my neck! Without a doubt, a top running moment, and for that reason it’s one I don’t plan to repeat as I know it wouldn’t be the same. I prefer to remember it as the wonderful experience it was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Christmas Day
For my final choice in my top 5 running moments, I’m going to choose Christmas Day 2014. This was the first time Steve and I had been out for a Christmas Day run, having previously had Christmas as a rest day. On this occasion, however, I was keen to head out for a run together (we normally train separately since we run at such different paces). It was a bright morning and we wore silly Christmas hats for a short run by the river. It was lovely to start the day together, chatting, planning for the year ahead and saying good morning to others who had ventured out to take the air. And unbeknownst to Steve, I had entered us in a virtual event and had medals waiting for us when we got home  – nothing quite like having a medal around your neck while you unwrap presents and sip bucks fizz! We hope to now make that Christmas Day run a tradition. Good thing I kept the hats!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running has given me so many wonderful moments and incredible memories, that I feel this post only just scratches the surface. Hopefully, there are many more fantastic moments to come.

What are your top 5 running moments? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or perhaps even read YOUR post…

A Mad May

What a month! April may have been awesome, but May did its very best to maintain those high standards as I got back into some “proper” training, took on some big challenges and made a pretty serious addition to my bling collection in a month of utter madness!

The month began in style with a trip to the SSE Hydro in Glasgow to see Take That live. The “boys” always put on a fantastic show and I thoroughly enjoyed myself singing along to all my favourite songs!

 

My concert experience left me on a high as I found myself up sharp the next day and on my way to Pitcairngreen for the 46 mile Tayside Challenge. This was my longest bike ride to date and I was glad to have the company of my friend Debbie, a much more experienced cyclist than me, as we pedalled (mainly uphill it seemed!) in strong winds, rain and, at times, hail. Let’s just say it was a “character building” experience. There was a brilliant cake stop at half way though – very civilised – and it was a very well organised event overall. I would definitely recommend it to you.

 

I used this event as my May virtual race so a few days later a medal popped through the letterbox for me. Brilliant!

A week later, I was back in the saddle again for The Big One aka the Etape Caledonia. I was so intimidated by the idea of an 81 mile cycle that I didn’t really mention to anyone that I was doing it. I actually felt fairly confident I could cover the distance, given plenty of time, but was conscious of the infamous “sweep bus” and was quite convinced I would end up on the back of it before long. Nobody was more surprised than me when I actually completed the event, especially given the particularly apocalyptic weather Mother Nature blessed us with that day. It’s not a distance I’m in a hurry to cycle again, and even now I can hardly believe it was me who did it (I actually keep looking at the photos to confirm it!) but that hasn’t stopped me feeling particularly hardcore for taking on such a huge (for me) challenge!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cycling events done, it was time to turn my attention back to running as I had just two weeks to prepare for the final part of my 2015 spring challenge. My previously injured quad muscle was feeling ready to go, and after a week of much more gentle exercise to allow my body to recover from the Etape, I was lacing up my trainers once more. I’d be lying if I said it was easy, because it wasn’t. Cycling had maintained my fitness, but I was lacking conditioning in my legs for running and while I had no problems from my quad muscle (I had done A LOT of strength work there), I did have all the usual issues of tight calves and some tension around the top of my quad to keep on top of as I re-introduced running into my training. It was great to be running again, but I mourned the loss of the form I had earlier in the year.

Yet somehow, it all worked out. The niggles miraculously vanished as race weekend rolled around, and despite my own misgivings about being able to get up and run a half marathon with the 10k and 5k already in my legs, I felt pretty good throughout. Not bad given the less-than-ideal training time.

Completing 4 races in 2 days (10k, 5k, half marathon and Hairy Haggis Team Relay) was an unbelievable experience. I truly didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be a very special weekend. I had fantastic support from the team at Macmillan who looked after me throughout (and made me feel like a bit of a celebrity) and there was something very satisfying about walking around with 4 medals around my neck! For me, this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will no doubt run in the EMF again, but to take on this particular challenge again would probably be a mistake as it just wouldn’t be the same. I want to remember my Epic EMF Extravaganza for the special experience it was: an incredible way to round off my challenge and a fabulous way to finish May with a bang!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a month indeed! A month I’m incredibly proud of and which is sure to be a highlight of my year.

How was your May? Did you take part in any events?
What are you most proud of?

 

Race Report – EMF Day 2 (Half Marathon and Hairy Haggis Team Relay)

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel when I woke up on the Sunday morning of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. I was excited about tackling the challenge ahead, but at the same time had no idea how my body would have stood up to running 10k and 5k the day before. I half expected my legs to have seized up or for a niggle to have resurfaced around my left quad. Yet somehow, I felt good. Despite having only had a fortnight of focused training for these events thanks to spending much of my post-Paris training time on my bike to prepare for the Tayside Challenge and Etape Caledonia, my body had decided that it was ready to go and wasn’t going to hold me back from accomplishing what I set out to do. So after breakfast at our hotel it was time for one last kit check before heading for the start line.

As it happens, sorting out my kit was the most complicated part of my plans as what I was planning was outside of what the race infrastructure would support. To avoid getting caught up collecting a bag after the half marathon, I gave a “drop bag” to the Macmillan team on Saturday so that I would have quick access to everything I needed before heading out to the relay changeover. I also decided to use a hydration pack and carry a few essentials with me throughout the day. This became even more important on the eve of the race when we received the following information from race organisers:

Just what we all needed to hear!

I was comfortable enough with the kit I had decided to wear, but had to make sure I would have access to warm and dry clothes at various points and a change of kit in case I was completely soaked, so I was glad I had prepared that in advance. Some might say I overpacked, but I prefer to think of myself as “prepared for any eventuality”!

I was by myself at the start line as the race has 2 start areas and Steve was at the other one, for the speedier runners, while I was at the the front of the second start. We were delayed for a few minutes while the first group got safely underway in the wet conditions (I used the time for one last toilet stop!) and then we were off.

 

The route covers the first part of the marathon route, with a turnaround at mile 11 to head back to the finish. For me, this meant it was pretty familiar, having previously run the marathon in 2011 and 2014 as well as the relay in 2010 and 2013. I tend to enjoy the first few miles as there is a downhill start before a run through Holyrood Park and some up and down sections by Leith Links towards Portobello Prom. The only thing that marred my enjoyment slightly was that I had somehow failed to set up my hydration pack properly and was struggling to get any liquid from it. Coming to the conclusion that I must have twisted or blocked the tube, I realised that I would have to go with Plan B: pick up water at the aid stations and waterboard myself every few miles! I also had a brief stop at the 5k water station to remove my waterproof jacket as the predicted rain had failed to materialise and even though it was an extremely lightweight jacket, I was beginning to bake!

Not being in any real hurry time-wise (my prediction was around 2:04), I opted to take walk breaks to take my gels at 5 miles and 10 miles. I wasn’t even too bothered about being overtaken by a carrot and a banana! Instead, I enjoyed the experience, focusing once more on just the race I was in and looking out for the Macmillan cheer squads so I could wave and get shouts of encouragement (nothing like having your name on your race top to make you feel like a rock star!).

A slightly disheartening section for the unprepared comes around mile 9 when the route passes close to the finish area, but instead of peeling off towards Pinkie School and the finish line, we carry on past Musselburgh Racecourse and are treated to the view of the faster runners heading back through their final miles, knowing that we have another couple of miles before we hit the turnaround and join them. I chose to run alongside the boundary line so I could watch out for Steve and any other runners I knew. When I spotted Steve coming towards me, I starting waving like a lunatic and got a quick high five before he ran on and I plodded my way towards the turn which seemed to be taking AGES to materialise.

After the turn it was was a straight run to the finish. Running by the racecourse again is one of the best bits as the crowds are starting to grow, especially right before the entrance to the playing fields which are used as the finish area, and runners get so many shouts and cheers that I can’t help but smile. It also gives an extra boost as we head into the finishing straight.

Official race photo

Official race photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And despite my stop to remove my jacket, I finished bang on my predicted time with 2:04:18!

After crossing the line I joined a queue to collect yet another goody bag, medal and bottle of water before having my photo taken with my medal. I then made my way over to the Macmillan tent to find my drop bag. And this was when things took a surprising turn.

Steve was there.

I had been assuming that he would be back in Edinburgh ready to start the marathon, but it turned out that he had decided to end his challenge after the half marathon and not attempt the full marathon this time. He has written his own post detailing what prompted that decision, and I recommend giving it a read as I’m very proud of what he has achieved over the last couple of years.

He had been waiting for me as Lesley Martin, one of the photographers, was going to take some pictures of us both before I headed off to my relay changeover point. I’m really grateful to her for the fantastic photos she sent us:

Photo – Lesley Martin

Photo – Lesley Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think the one with the foam hand is one of my favourite post-race photos ever!

I wanted to be away from the finish area by about 11 as I had to walk to my relay changeover point (there was no time for getting back to the centre of Edinburgh to catch one of the relay buses, so it was all down to me). I knew I had plenty of time, but preferred to wait at the changeover than be in a rush, so I had a recovery shake, grabbed some food to take with me, changed into a dry top and fresh socks, put some warm layers on and set off clutching a cup of tea. The best thing was, having expected a wet and lonely trek out to the changeover, it was now dry and I had company in the form of Steve who had decided to go with me.

We followed the route of the marathon, cheering on runners and catching a glimpse of the leaders heading back towards the finish. We even took the chance to stop for a selfie with everyone’s favourite picturesque power station at Cockenzie – always the highlight of the Edinburgh Marathon :-0

Shortly before we got to the changeover point, the 2nd leg runner from my team ran past us and a few minutes later we joined her at Port Seton. The wind was definitely much stronger by this point, so we found some shelter behind a tent to pass the time. There was around an hour to wait until the leg 3 runner finished, and it was time for me to get underway for one last time.

 

By now, I knew that I would be running straight into a hurricane headwind and that the first part of my section would be slightly uphill. Not so easy on weary legs and I was conscious that most of the runners around me had run almost 22 miles to get to this point. I remembered being in a similar situation in 2011 and knew the struggle they were facing. For me, it was strange: ordinarily in the later stages of the relay I feel a little guilty about running on fresh legs when surrounded by marathoners, yet on this occasion I knew that while fresher than them, my legs still had a lot of miles in them from that weekend. I had also run 22 miles, they were just broken up into sections over the two days!

At first, it was tricky to convince my legs to move yet again, but soon I settled into my pace. It felt like my effort level should have been yielding a much faster pace, but that was more down to the wind than my weary legs. Besides, it was “only” 4.4 miles. For me, those miles just felt like something I had to do to complete my challenge. My team had done a fantastic job of setting me up to finish the event, and now I was “bringing it home”. I got my head down and ploughed on, enjoying the Macmillan cheer point for the last time and soon enough I was back on familiar territory with the racecourse alongside me and the now bigger crowds making me feel like even more of a rock star with their shouts and cheers.

Turning onto the finishing straight felt amazing. I may not have run a full marathon to get there (this time), but I had taken on a big challenge, a challenge I wasn’t sure my body would be up to, and I had done it. Grinning from ear to ear and four fingers aloft to signify my fourth race, I crossed the line for the final time that weekend.

Official race photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once more I collected a medal, goody bag and bottle of water. I then made my way over to the official photo area determined to have a photo taken with my bling haul from the weekend. The photographer looked a little stunned as I jingled over and posed with my 4 medals, but it was totally worth it!

Official event photo

I sent messages to the others who were on their way back to join me, and made my way over to the Macmillan tent for a hard-earned massage. I love the fact that runners are (quite literally) given the red carpet treatment at the end of the event and I was met by the charity cheerleaders to welcome me in:

Photo – Rob Basson @ Macmillan

Photo – Rob Basson @ Macmillan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The massage was fantastic, and it turned out my legs were in pretty decent shape – no knots or niggly bits. The massage therapist was quite surprised (as was I!) and kept making me repeat what I had done over the weekend!

When Steve arrived, it was time for a couple more photos then some food as by this point I was starving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As one of the official EMF video bloggers, Steve was invited to the VIP tent and had managed to get me added to the list as well. Since we were getting a lift home with my relay team, we didn’t want to spend too long hanging around at the finish, but did make a point of going over to the VIP tent to say hello. It was right by the finish line so a great photo opportunity. They also had some food left, including a giant bowl of tiramisu. Well, it would be rude not to and I’d run a long way!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, it was an amazing weekend, and not something that could be easily bettered. My strategy of focusing on the race I was in and not thinking about the ones I’d already run or had still to run really worked to keep me running well in each event, it was only later that night when I was enjoying a nice bath that the magnitude of what I had done really hit me. I was reading through all the messages we had received on social media and reflecting on the weekend and just burst into tears. I couldn’t stop crying and there was no real reason for the tears. I suspect a combination of emotion and exhaustion :-0

My EMF Extravaganza was certainly a great way to finish my spring challenge with a bang. I still can’t believe that in the space of two months I ran a marathon, completed an epic cycling event and then took on 4 races in 2 days at the EMF. I think I might be mad (and definitely think it’s time for a rest!).

I’ve had mixed fortunes in Edinburgh over the years, but this year was definitely a highlight. Edinburgh, I thank you.

I ran 4 races in 2 days partly because I’m crazy, but mainly to raise valuable funds to help Macmillan support those affected by cancer. You can still donate to my page by clicking on the link below and helping me to make a difference. Thank you.

 JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Race Report – Relay Wild Triathlon

The Relay Wild Triathlon, organised by Perth Tri Club, was first held in 2013. Competing in teams of 4, each member of the team completes a very short triathlon before tagging the next member of their team. The event aims to attract people who have never tried triathlon before, as an introduction to the discipline, although there are teams of experienced triathletes taking part too. Steve entered a team last year and as I watched, I realised that it was something I could manage too as there was no need to be an especially good swimmer or have lots of expensive, specialist kit, so this year Steve entered two teams: the guys and the girls.

For me, not only would it be my first experience of triathlon, but my first running of any kind since seeing the podiatrist in July. Yet despite the fact that I’m a terrible swimmer, not very fast on the bike and a bit rusty when it comes to running, the thing which filled me with the greatest fear was transition.

The night before the event, I laid all my kit out on the bed and tried to think through each stage of the event and what I would need to do in transition. It all seemed so much more complicated than just running, and I was conscious of rules like not touching my bike unless I had my helmet on and fastened – so much so that I wouldn’t have been surprised if I ended up running with my helmet still on!

 

Fortunately, I was in a team of girls who felt very much like me. Only one of us could actually swim, two of us were injured runners and none of us had done a triathlon before. Unlike the guys, who were having in-depth discussions about practising transition so they would be as quick as possible, we were simply looking to survive (the swim), complete the course and have fun!

But my unease about transition stayed with me and surfaced when I arrived at the triathlon site (a nearby private school) to set up. I was the first of my team there and Steve was away talking tactics with the guys. I racked my bike (initially the wrong way round but a friendly and patient member of the tri club sorted me out!) then got all my stuff out before realising that I wasn’t really sure of the best spot to lay it out or if there was an “optimum” way to have it. When Steve came to help, I immediately jumped down his throat because I was fed up of people (including him!) telling me that I couldn’t have my stuff spread out so widely as there wasn’t enough room. I was well aware of this, I just needed help to put my kit in the correct place! Eventually, though, I sorted it all out, the rest of the team arrived and we were ready to get started.

The race director talked us through the course and the relevant rules then there was a narrow window of time to return to transition for any final preparations before it was closed. I was the third member of our team to go (we sensibly put the swimmer first!) so I had time to get organised and watch some of the other participants so I would feel a bit clearer about what I had to do.

Before I knew it, my turn was approaching. When the team member before me set out on the run, I headed to the tag zone to don my swimming cap and wait for her to arrive and hand over the tag (which was our timing chip). We had agreed that it would be easier for the team member taking over to remove the tag and reattach it to their own left leg, so we had a quick turnaround and before I knew it I was heading for the pool.

The swim leg was 8 lengths of a 200m pool in a “chain gang” style. I regularly swim 20-30 lengths of dodgy head-up breaststroke in a similar pool at the gym, but haven’t done so in ages as I’ve been beginning to learn the front crawl. I knew that I wasn’t ready yet to swim 8 lengths of crawl, but thought I might manage a length or two. So I started off on the crawl then reverted to breaststroke for the 2nd length. I must have been swimming quite hard though as this made me feel tired so I opted to carry on with breaststroke for the remainder of the swim. About half way through, a marshall alerted me to the fact that my tag had come off my leg, but they had it (along with one or two others which had suffered the same fate) so I had to reattach it when I got out of the pool and before  crossing the timing mat on the way into transition. Thank goodness this wasn’t a super-serious event!

I made my way to my kit, conscious of people shouting encouragement and conscious also that I should get my helmet on as quickly as I could: a quick dry of my feet, team Tshirt on, helmet on, shoes on, number belt on and sunglasses on then I was ready to unrack my bike and head off for a 3.6mile loop around the outside of the school grounds.

Just like with the swim, I have been regularly cycling much further than this, but with no experience of brick training sessions and some of the stress of my first triathlon no doubt catching up on me, I quickly realised that my legs felt quite weary. But this was still a race so taking it easy and pootling round was not really an option, I had to keep pedalling. Thankfully the cycle route was fairly flat and familiar to me as it’s part of a running route I use for some of my longer training runs so I had a good idea of how far I still had to go.

Soon enough, I was back in transition to rack my bike, remove my helmet and head out for the final 1.2km cross country run. As I jogged out of the transition area I felt ok, but I wasn’t far into the run before I realised that when people talk about feeling like they have jelly legs when they begin to run after a cycle, they’re not joking – even over a short distance! I wasn’t wearing my Garmin watch so I had no idea what pace I was running at, all I knew was that it felt hard yet I was convinced I was dragging myself along at a snail’s pace.

The run section was within the grounds of the school, hence its cross country nature. It began heading downhill, followed by a loop around the far end of the grounds before returning UP the hill. Despite the weariness in my legs, I was pleased that there was no pain or flare up from the injury that has been plaguing me for months, however the lack of running in that time was certainly apparent as I huffed and puffed my way round. My legs and lungs were screaming at me to stop, but with such a short distance and one more team member to go, I had to keep going. Worse still, Steve was the 4th member of his team and as I returned up the hill towards the finish line the marshals were telling me that he wasn’t far behind. Drat! I couldn’t let him catch me up, so it was time to grit my teeth.

Rounding the final bend towards the finish, I could hear guys I know from the tri club telling me to go for it. In my mind I did,  but I’m not sure that my legs actually moved any faster!

Exhausted, I was handed my goody bag and I got a print out of my times before going to find the guys, get myself cleaned up and take some team photos:

Once showered and changed, there was a super post-race spread and the prize giving. The guys won first local team, while the girls were pleased to discover we were not (quite) last! There were also some spot prizes which were throw among us and I scored a Tshirt which turned out to be female fit. Perfect!

 

Once home I was able to take a proper look at the goody bag: water, chocolate, cereal bar, sweets, wrist band, fridge magnet and leaflets all in a Perth Tri Club drawstring bag. Nice.

 

Although tough, I really enjoyed my first triathlon experience and can definitely see myself having a proper go at a tri in the future. I know I need to do something about my swimming so am booking another session with an instructor and I’m in the process of buying a road bike as my mountain bike just isn’t going to cut it for more serious road cycling. Hopefully I’ll also be able to start building up my running again now too. If you’ve ever considered having a go at triathlon, then I highly recommend finding an introductory event like this and having a go.

Maybe I’ll see you out there sometime…

Going to the Games part 2

As the Commonwealth Games come to a close and we reflect on the success not just of our athletes, but of the host city as well, I’m taking the opportunity to write about my trip to the athletics on Friday evening.

Originally, I had only expected to see the marathons, however when a friend got in touch to say that he had a spare ticket for Friday’s athletics at Hampden, I realised that I would be a fool not to go, particularly when I learned that I would get the opportunity to see a certain Mr Bolt in action…

 

Having heard some tales of packed trains and long queues, I was prepared for a bit of hanging around and a lot of standing, but from the outset everything went very smoothly. There were plenty of seats on our train to Glasgow, we walked straight onto a shuttle bus at the bus station and there was no delay at all getting through the security check and straight into the stadium. I even managed to get another photo with Clyde on the way:

 

Although my favourite moment was this sight which greeted me as the bus pulled out of the bus station – only in Glasgow!

 

We had great seats in the top tier of the stand, overlooking the finish line so we would have a good view right around the track and were in an ideal position to see any nail-biting photo finishes!

 

There was just over an hour between arriving and the start of the events, so that gave me plenty of time to grab something to eat and take some photos to remember the day before the stands filled up:

 

There were also things going on in the stadium to help keep the crowd entertained and work people up into a frenzy ready to support the athletes. There was a quiz (answered via social media), a cheering decibel count and the opportunity to share photos to the big screen using a dedicated hashtag. My favourite pre-event entertainment, however, involved Clyde and those cute little vehicles they use to return the discus/javelin after a throw. Clyde and two of the vehicles lined up on the track for a race – on this occasion won by Clyde!

 

Before I knew it, the countdown began on the big screen and events got underway. There was a packed schedule of track and field events which meant that there was always something to watch – field events, athletes preparing for track races, the set up of races (e.g. starting blocks, steeplechase barriers, hurdles) and medal ceremonies – so the time passed by really quickly. I had thought there might be the odd lull when I would nip out to get a drink or sit and read my programme, but there really was something going on all the time.

For me, it was all about the track events and there was no shortage of action. From the dominance of the Kenyans in the 3000m Steeplechase to the exciting finish of the men’s 10,000m, it was a real thrill to see these elite athletes in the flesh. I couldn’t get over how quickly they moved and realised that watching on tv really doesn’t do it justice.

One of the high points of the evening was seeing Scotland’s Lynsey Sharp in the final of the women’s 800m. She came through in the final stretch to secure a silver medal and I later learned that she had been unwell the previous night, had hardly slept, thrown up repeatedly and had been in the clinic at the Athlete’s Village until 5:30am on a drip to replace fluids. But, after facing disappointment in the past, she was absolutely determined to get the medal she had worked so hard for and lined up with the words “Get out strong” and “commit” written on her hand. The crowd were firmly behind her and it was wonderful to see her tears of joy at winning a medal then enjoying her moment as she set out on a lap of honour round the stadium to meet fans and be photographed.

 

Later, there was the medal ceremony for this race and Lynsey was clearly still emotional as she stood on the podium and was presented with her medal by Dame Kelly Holmes. All the medal ceremonies featured a piper and music which was special commissioned for the Games. We saw several medal ceremonies and that beautiful music will be stuck in my head for a while!

I also really enjoyed watching the relays. In the women’s 4x400m heats I got the chance to see England’s Christine Ohuruogu running the anchor leg to qualify for the final the following night, then in the women’s 4x100m heats Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce ran the anchor leg for Jamaica, again taking her team through to the final.

 

But, as the sun set over Hampden, it became clear that the evening was really only about one man: Usain Bolt. As soon as he stepped onto the track to get ready for his anchor leg in the men’s 4x100m relay, the crowd went wild. He’s a real showman but, to his credit, did not showboat too much, clearly saving that for the finals the following evening.

 

As I marvelled at the speed of these top-class sprinters, I had my fingers firmly crossed that the baton would safely reach Bolt so that I could see the fastest man in the world in action. Despite first leg runner Kimmari Roach picking up a quad injury mid-way through his run and bravely carrying on, the baton did indeed reach Bolt who stormed through to safely take the team into the final the following night. I had thought that he might then spend some time playing to the crowd, but he actually left the track quite soon after the end of the race.

Throughout the evening, the atmosphere in the stadium was incredible. You could hear the wave of noise follow the athletes around the track, building to a crescendo as they approached the finish line. There were cheers and groans for the various successes and setbacks in the field events and every athlete was cheered right to the finish, even if the winners of their event were already halfway around their lap of honour!  Yet when a race was about to start, you could have heard a pin drop in the stadium as spectators responded to the big screen instructions to be quiet (even these were given a bit of Scottish flavour which I loved!):

The other thing that really struck me was the attitude of the volunteers, police and other staff I came across. All were incredibly friendly and helpful. The volunteers (known as Clydesiders) were knowledgeable and pro-active, full of energy even as the crowds departed at the end of the evening. They worked hard to keep the crowds moving in the right direction for the trains and shuttle buses, were entertaining and I saw several using the big foam hands they had been issued with to direct the crowds to high five children. Similarly, all the police officers I saw were superb. As we made our way towards the station for a train back in to the centre of Glasgow, there were several mounted police officers. At one point, there were four female officers positioned in a row directing the crowds and they were calling directions in unison, almost like a cheer. Another got a round of applause for calling out directions with some typical “Weegie Banter” and the officer in charge of managing a split in the queue close to the station entrance was happily answering questions about the horse he was on. At Central Station, I saw maintenance staff offering to personally show people the way to their destination rather than just pointing, and there were plenty of staff to direct people to the correct trains. All this despite staff working long shifts and dealing with huge crowds of visitors unfamiliar with the city. The efforts of all involved should be commended and I’ve heard plenty of other stories of people going above and beyond the call of duty to help visitors find their way around. Glasgow is a friendly city, and a city I love after spending my university years there, so I’m glad the Games have been able to leave the world with such a positive impression.

I had a fantastic day so I would like to finish by thanking my friend for inviting me along, the people for helping to make the day special and Glasgow itself for being such an amazing city. Hopefully one day I’ll get the chance to experience something like that again.

What is your favourite Commonwealth/Olympic Games event?
Have you ever had the chance to attend an athletics meet?

Race Report – Hairy Haggis Relay (Edinburgh Marathon)

One of the interesting things about the Edinburgh Marathon (other than a large part of it actually being outside of Edinburgh!) is the fact that it’s part of a weekend-long festival of running. Should you be so inclined, you can participate in a 5K, 10K, half marathon, full marathon or team relay (in which the full marathon route is divided between 4 runners). With legs ranging in distance from approx 4.5 miles up to 8.5 miles, this relay allows runners of all abilities the chance to participate and enjoy the experience of a marathon without having to actually run 26.2 miles. A tempting prospect.

I first took part in the relay in 2010, when I took on the first leg a few weeks after my marathon debut in Paris. I really enjoyed that experience and in 2011 took on the full 26.2 miles of the Edinburgh marathon as part of a double marathon madness (London and Edinburgh) to raise funds for a local charity. With Edinburgh being the second of those two marathons, I found breaking the route down into the relay legs a useful mental tool to psychologically manage the race (it also helped that both my dad and my sister were running legs 3 and 4 of the relay so I was able to see friendly faces in the latter stages). This year, in the absence of running a spring marathon, Steve and I decided once more to enter a relay team along with my sister and one other runner who has been coming along to Steve’s running club on a Saturday morning – we even sweetened the deal by taking the two longer legs (1 and 3) ourselves!

And so it was that last Sunday saw yet another early start to collect our team, drive through to Edinburgh and take on the logistics of transporting 4 people to a variety of different locations in and around Edinburgh.

Logistics are, in my experience, something that the Edinburgh marathon organises well. A number of buses are laid on and, so long as runners/spectators are in the right place at the right time, everything is very straightforward. Leg 1 runners start with the second wave of full marathon runners on Regent Road, so after parking the car in the centre of Edinburgh we walked to the Omni centre for coffee, toilets and kit organisation. There is no baggage lorry for the relay, so bags are kept by the next runner and collected when you finish your leg. Easy enough to sort out, but it can require a little thought to make sure everyone has what they need before relinquishing their bag. Steve was on leg 1 as he had been training some runners taking part in the full marathon and wanted to meet them before the start, so we left him in the company of his espresso and headed off to the back of Edinburgh Castle to join our relay buses. The leg 2 runner is on their own from this point, while the leg 3 and 4 runners can stay together as their starting point is the same (leg 3 is an out-and-back section of the route).

By this point, I was in possession of two bags – my own (which could stay with me as I was on leg 3) and that of the leg 2 runner. My sister was on leg 4 so we found our bus and were in position at the changeover point by about 10:30. This is the part of the day I’m not so keen on. Steve would begin running at 10am, but it would be around midday before it was my turn – a lot of hanging around! The changeover points have toilets and there are hot drinks etc on sale, but otherwise there’s not a great deal to do until the front runners start to come through and provide some excitement. Thankfully it was a dry day, so I used the opportunity to relax and enjoy the views across the water to the Lomond Hills and Fife. I also bumped into some other runners I know and had a chat to them.

Probably one of the highlights of my day came, rather unexpectedly, from the toilet queue. There was a woman a little in front of me wearing a Scooby Doo costume. Just as I was wondering how she would, you know, “manage”, I was distracted by an announcement being made to the waiting runners. When I turned back, I saw this:

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It caused a great deal of amusement in the queue!

After a little more hanging around it was finally time to get ready to run. Steve had sent me a text message when the leg 2 runner set out so I could estimate when she would reach me. Waiting runners assemble in pens which correspond to their race number (our number was green so I was in the green pen) and spotters call the numbers of the incoming runners so the waiting member of their team can move forward. I was all ready to go but still stuck at the back of the pen when our number was called (I suspect some people at the front were a little optimistic!) so there was a bit of work to get to the front where I received the red wristband (the baton, if you will, for this particular relay), started my Garmin and carefully joined the pack, falling into pace with those around me so as not to get in anyone’s way. I hadn’t been aware of many relay runners setting out around the same time as me, so I knew I was running in a crowd of full marathon runners who were just over half way through their race at this point – I did NOT want to be an inconvenience to any of them!

Having waited so long to get started and being fresh from a few days off running, I set out a little too quickly and had to consciously pull back on my pace – ok so I wasn’t running a full marathon, but it was a warm day and I was running along an exposed road by the coast so there was little shelter from the heat. The sun had actually been behind the clouds while I was waiting to run, but as soon as I set out he quite suddenly popped his hat on and came out to play! I wanted to try and sit between 8:30 and 8:40 per mile so concentrated on falling into a rhythm and the first couple of miles were done before I knew it. I enjoyed that first couple of miles and remember thinking it was a shame that I wasn’t running a full marathon this year. A mile or two later as the temperature crept up and the contents of my water bottle went down quicker than expected, I soon dismissed this thought and was quite content with what I was doing!

My leg of the route would take me from the changeover point at Port Seton (just before the 14 mile mark of the marathon), along the coast to the turning point just beyond Gosford House (between 17 and 18 miles), through the estate to experience some “fresh” farm smells then back along the coast road to the same changeover point (now roughly the 22 mile mark). My Garmin clocked this at a total of 8.1 miles.

To be honest, I’ve had better runs. My Garmin splits suggest a decent performance with my average pace right where I wanted it, however for most of the time it felt like awfully hard work. Despite hydrating well (or so I thought) throughout the morning, I felt thirsty and hot. I was carrying some High 5 Zero in my running bottle and was supplementing this with sips of water at the water stations (before pouring most of the bottle down the back of my neck to cool me down!) but I just didn’t seem to be able to drink fast enough for the conditions. I suppose the real problem was that the weather so far this “summer” has been poor and there has been no chance to acclimatise to running in warmer conditions. My poor body got a bit of a shock to suddenly have to race 8 miles in rather different conditions to those I had trained in!

Despite all that, there was no way I could look like I was finding it in any way tough while I was running. I couldn’t see anyone else round about me with the telltale red wristband of the relay so everyone around me had slogged all the way there as part of the full marathon. I had only just started and when I stopped running, they would still have more than 4 miles to go, mainly into the headwind we were met with as we rejoined the road after running through Gosford estate (it felt a bit like running into a hairdryer!). No, I just had to suck it up, complete my 8 miles and get back on the relay bus to the finish. I got my head down, tuned into my music and counted off the remaining miles.

I completed my run in 1:09:29 and gladly handed over the wristband to my sister along with the hurried warning that it was both hot and windy. I collected her bag (yep, two bags again!), found my leg 2 teammate who had waited for me and set off to rejoin the relay bus. I knew we wouldn’t make it to the finish in time to see my sister cross the line, but hoped to be there shortly after. The bus would drop us off at the Wallyford park and ride, but it would then be about a 15-20 minute walk to the actual finish area in the grounds of Pinkie School (a process we would have to reverse in order to get the shuttle bus back to the city centre later). This walk took us along the last mile or so of the route, allowing us to offer encouragement to runners along the way.

When we arrived at the finish area, I glanced at the clock on the finish gantry. We had hoped to complete the race in around 4 hours and it looked like we had sneaked in under our target. Our total time was later confirmed as 3:37:16 and 76th relay team overall. 3:37:16? I would do ANYTHING to run a marathon in that time by myself! It was worth the tough run to know we had smashed our target.

Finally reunited as a team for the first time in several hours, we were at long last able to take possession of our medals and goody bags (tech t-shirt, High 5 sample, breakfast bar, sweets and the omnipresent selection of leaflets) and pose for a team photo. Our team name was Lost in Pace:

It was an enjoyable day, but I have to say that I find the relay a slightly strange experience. Ordinarily a race day experience involves a mass start and a finish line, yet here only the leg 1 runner lines up at the start and only the leg 4 runner crosses the finish line. Runners on legs 2 and 3 are therefore running in a kind of limbo. It can also be a bizarre experience for the leg 3 and 4 runners who find themselves running on fresh legs alongside full marathon runners who feel anything but fresh! Support along the route is superb but I for one don’t feel I deserve the encouragement of spectators when I am running such a comparatively short distance: support should go almost entirely to full marathon runners who need the boost of a crowd to help propel them through the final tough miles. The other thing is that although the transport and other logistics are well organised, it’s such a long day with a lot of travel that I actually felt almost as tired as if I’d run the full marathon (but without the weary, aching legs and massive post-race appetite!).

But these are minor issues in the grand scheme of things and I certainly think it’s a worthwhile event to take part in. No doubt I’ll be back at the Edinburgh Marathon festival next year, but as for which race I’ll take part in, that remains to be seen…