I entered the Peterhead Half Marathon as the marathon plan said to race this weekend. However, the plan also advised a recovery run on Friday, race on Saturday (8 – 15k) and long run of 17 miles on Sunday. While I’m a bit of a stickler for a plan this didn’t quite fit in with my life this week, and with the Metro Coast to Coast Relay on Friday evening I had to make some adjustments. The weekend therefore took the form of 17 mile long run on Friday, recovery run on Saturday (including Aberdeen parkrun at an easy pace), and Peterhead Half Marathon today. This could be why it’s the toughest half I’ve ever done. It could also be due to the conditions today, or it could just be that it truly is an undulating course. Ask me next week if I’d consider going back again to test out these theories.
Heading out with a fellow Metro, Grant, who also did the Coast to Coast on Friday evening, I’d planned to run the Half and then go to visit the Peterhead Prison Museum as I’ve heard good things about it. I had a niggling feeling that I’d left something behind, but having had a quick kit check I knew my shorts were in my rucksack, I was wearing my vest and trainers, and I had my Garmin. Nothing to be concerned about there. On arrival in Peterhead though I realised what I’d forgotten – my purse! Thankfully I had enough fuel in the car to see us back to Aberdeen afterwards! The Prison Museum will have to wait for another day.
This was my first time running Peterhead Half. Grant has done it previously and had given me a run through of the route during the drive. It didn’t sound too horrendous – surely nobody would do it repeatedly if it was – although there was more mention of hills than I’d like. Having registered and changed, great organisation and good facilities, read minimal toilet queues, it was then down to the track for a couple of laps to warm up. We bumped into quite a few fellow Metros, most of whom were doing the 5k, with a few doing the Half. Richie gave a description of the route for Hazel and I as she’d never done it before either and I have to say that again there was lots of up and not very much down! Really selling the route well!
All too soon we were off, heading round the track and then out onto the streets of Peterhead, then quickly onto the old railway line path. I’d planned to have a conservative start, building up the pace as I went, as I wasn’t sure how much was left in my legs after the other weekend runs. I followed this plan for the first mile, running it in 7:37. My legs were feeling pretty good so I picked up the pace during miles 2 and 3 which were slightly downhill. The route took us out of Peterhead and onto smaller country roads. The field was small, less than one hundred runners, and it spread out very quickly.
I’d made a decision to carry my own juice in practise for the marathon as I need to practise taking on energy and was glad of this decision. While I understand the environmental benefits of giving water in cups, I really struggle to drink from cups on the run, ending up wearing the water rather than drinking it, or else having to slow down and break my stride, so I largely avoided the water stations available.
The miles ticked away, I wasn’t feeling fantastic, but nor did I feel awful. What I did find though was that the route really was undulating. I’ve had courses described this way before but I would say that Peterhead is the true definition of this: no sooner had the legs had a wee reprieve with a short downhill section than another uphill section appeared. Probably because my legs were already tired I found this hard work and quickly found the earworms, songs in my head, becoming less upbeat than normal.
I played Cat and Mouse with a couple of guys from Newburgh Dunes Running Club for quite a bit of the race before they left me in their wake during the last couple of miles. This was good as it pulled me along when they were ahead, and at the times when I was feeling stronger (they’d slowed for water) I gave them a marker. I think had it not been for these guys, as the field spread out further and the loneliness of the road kicked in during the later miles, I’d have been hard pushed to keep going strongly.
The final miles from 8 onwards were back into a headwind. I’m not sure that the windspeed was that significant, but it certainly felt tough. My ‘markers’ didn’t get that much ahead of me during the early stages of this battle so that assured me that although I felt (and was) going backwards it wasn’t any worse than others.
Finally I reached the point of ‘only a parkrun’ but sadly lacked the ability to pick up the pace in the way that I like to. I felt pretty done and was really just trying to keep the legs ticking over with thoughts of the finish in less than half an hour.
I was so glad to see Alison and Sarah at around 11.5 miles. Having finished the 5k they were heading back out to support on the course and being told that I was currently 3rd female gave me renewed impetus to push on, or at least push to hold the pace. I had no idea where the next female was, but very aware that I couldn’t get any slower or I’d likely be caught!
Eventually the track and the finish area loomed into view. I’ve never been so happy to see the finish of a race and, despite receiving support from the marshal and a warning not to let Richie catch me, it was all I could do to keep plodding round the track at the pace I was going. Catch me he did, storming past on the finishing straight, and I trundled in behind him. The finish was excellent with runners being announced as they approached the line, and this confirmed that I was 3rd female.
Crossing the line I felt pretty rough! Receiving my medal and water I chatted with Metro clubmates but had a niggling feeling that I may be sick. The suggestion of water was a good one and calmed the nausea quickly – thanks for that!
Waiting for the prize giving there was time for a shower. I realised at this point that I didn’t have my Metro hoodie with me, deciding not to take it due to the warm conditions, and indeed aside from the sweaty vest didn’t have any club colours. Steve to the rescue, I was given the loan of a Metro jacket for the prize giving photos, and was delighted to receive the prize for 2nd Female Veteran.
This was a great day out for Metro Aberdeen with prizes across the 5k and Half Marathon. Great to see so many clubmates running well and ranking in their categories. Very well done folks!
As I say, the jury’s out as to whether I’d do this one again. Tough course, tough day, but it’s the tough runs that make us stronger (I hope)!