PIM Crathes Half Marathon

A comfortable time after Fort William, legs suitably recovered, I decided to try Crathes Half. As per last year I didn’t really know what I could achieve, but having turned 45 earlier this month my goal was to get sub 1:41 in the hope that I’ll follow up later in the year with a time to secure my 2nd club standard in this new age bracket. The short distance is in the bag already.

I happily accepted a lift out with clubmate Mike, back from Gran Canaria to run a few races. Thankfully I’d managed to secure his entry after a minor panic last weekend (I had one job!) where the race appeared to have closed before I got his entry confirmed! It appears it was just a glitch in the website and they went on to extend entries for a further few days.

The Metro contingent were out in force today and we met lots of clubmates on arrival, an impressive gathering given all the other runs taking place this weekend!

Metro Aberdeen Running Club do Crathes Half Marathon
The motley crew from Metro Aberdeen – no idea how so many of us managed to avoid looking at the camera!

While others headed off for a warm up, I opted for my usual pre-race routine of jogging to the toilets and joining the revolving queue! It’s amazing how well hydrated you suddenly feel before a race!

Joining the masses on the start line it wasn’t long before the off. I’ll be honest … I found the start somewhat frustrating as it was slow and I had to weave around quite a few people before I could properly get into my stride. Maybe not such a bad thing though all things considered as it is initially up as you leave the castle behind.

Determined not to let my watch dictate the pace I decided to run by feel, occasionally checking that I wasn’t going ridiculously fast as that’s always a danger early on. It felt good to be racing again. I’d been concerned that my speed had dropped in the run up to the marathon so it was good to find that a fast (for me) pace felt okay.

The second mile was downhill and this saw me running faster and passing a few people. Retrospectively, maybe the fast miles two and three were what led to the fatigue later, but at the time it felt good. Hindsight is a great thing in every aspect of life!

The sea of runners gave me something to aim for and I reeled in the odd one here and there, continuing to move steadily through the field. We headed off-road at mile 6 and with the slight descent I loved this bit, picking up pace and feeling like I was storming along. I’d happily run on terrain like that all day!

Going back onto the road was tough and my legs objected slightly, although nowhere nearly as bad as at Dyce Half. It became a bit of a slog here. I’d pushed hard and I still had five miles to go. I reminded myself that in a marathon I’d feel this way and the feeling would pass, doing a quick body scan to try relaxing the tension and focus on what felt good.

The downhill finally returned at mile 10 but I was a little more cautious, wanting to save some energy for the end recalling it being tough in the last mile. My pace was dropping and I was beginning to hurt, but took faith in the knowledge that there was less than a parkrun to go.

The final two miles were hard! My legs were heavy, breathing was not quite so relaxed and I just wanted it to be over! At some point around here I passed Graham who’s usually ahead of me but is battling an injury. Huge thanks to him for the encouragement. He told me there was a prize with my name on it and this just gave me the extra motivation needed to keep pushing.

There was another female, Kay, just ahead of me and I pushed her a bit to see what she had left in the tank. She responded by picking up pace again. This happened another couple of times before I finally caught and went past her. She very sportingly said, ‘well done Clare.’ Despite that I didn’t feel I could relax too much as I was pretty sure she’d be back before long.

I was delighted to finally re-enter the grounds of Crathes Castle knowing that I was on the home straight. I managed to pick up the pace, spurred on by the crowd support (thank you!) and the downhill finish, and was delighted to cross the line with a chip time of 1:36:55. The downside was that it was slightly slower than last year; the upside being that I was first Female Veteran.

Great running by so many people with Metro clubmate Kyle taking 1st prize and setting a new course record. There was also a prize in the Veteran male category for Jamie, with Ali taking the first female prize.

PIM Crathes Half Marathon Medal & 1st Female Veteran Quaich

Great to catch up with everyone post race. Most were happy with their times; a few disappointed. You know who you are: those who are poorly will come back stronger with a bit of rest and recovery, and those who ran well but are unhappy are their own worst critics and need to practise a little self-kindness! Listen to my Mum – she’s always said you can only do your best, and each of us did the best that we could today.

Onwards and upwards, next target for me is Fraserburgh. What about you?

Setting the bar: Aberdeen parkrun

It’s a run, not a race! However, it’s also a time trial if you want it to be. About to embark on a 12 week training plan to try and pick up some speed again I decided I’d run parkrun hard today. I’ll be honest – I’d hoped I would manage to run 21 minutes (or even 20:59); the reality is that I’m not in shape for that at present, finishing in 21:59 instead.

Despite that it was a good morning out (as always)! Meeting the 8:30 crew, on this occasion that was Alan only as I was a few minutes late and he waited for me, we caught up with the others on the lower prom. This is a fine wee recce to get the legs warmed up and assess the conditions on the course. Today it was very mild but there was quite a breeze to run into on the first half. Turning onto the lower prom at the halfway point it was still, sadly lacking a tailwind though.

No excuses today – just lacking the speedwork to run a fast (for me) 5k at present. It did amuse me somewhat how hard it felt to try and sustain the pace, particularly as people stormed past me on the last few hundred metres (Graham, Craig and Alastair to name but a few – look out guys; you’ve now got targets on your backs!)

Malcolm, one of our regular runners celebrated 150 runs today and kindly bought the post-run coffees at Satrosphere Cafe. Much appreciated and very generous indeed!

So, the goals have now been updated. I need motivation beyond the love of running to get out:

Pick up speed and aim to get under 21 mins again;
Run some faster times to half marathon distance by the end of the year.

parkrun

And the long term:
Get to the starting line of the London Marathon next year;
Run Fort William Marathon for the third time next July.

Virgin London Marathon Good for Age Confirmation

Racing for the fun of it: Peace Coaches Metro Dyce Half Marathon

The Metro Dyce Half Marathon (alongside the Metro Beach 10k in June) being our club’s bread and butter, it’s encouraged that we either run or help out. I’d swithered as to which was the best option but having had a few enjoyable recovery runs since the marathon I made the decision mid-week to throw my hat in the ring and run. I’d never intended to race as I wasn’t sure how recovered my legs were but there’s this thing of putting on the Metro vest and something happening in my mind/body; I just can’t help but put my race head on and try harder.

Not the best preparation, I decided to make fudge yesterday for the post-run spread. I’ve got this down to a fine art so that was no bother. The bit I struggled with was the white chocolate peanut butter balls. The recipe made it sound so easy! The recipe, however, is from a charity cookbook and I wonder if the lady who wrote it down missed out an ingredient! There was no way I was rolling anything into balls! A few more tablespoons of peanut butter and a splash or two of water later I finally managed. A couple of extra hours on my feet standing in the kitchen, plans to do my ironing, hoover etc were put to one side as by this point said kitchen looked a little like it had exploded!

However, the morning of my ‘fun’ run arrived and for once I was outside and ready when Alan stopped off to pick me up. He was most impressed. This was a first, and quite possibly a last too, hence it being noteworthy. We headed over to Dyce and were greeted by various friendly faces directing us to the parking area. More friendly faces appeared in the car park in the form of clubmates and parkrunners. Always a joy to see friends at races.

Heading for registration we got our numbers on and I secured the cooler weather by putting on my suncream. Having vitiligo I can never be too careful and have maintained my pale complexion well despite the heat this summer.

Lots of Metro vests were dotted around the registration point and outside warming up. Eventually I decided I probably should have some semblance of a warm up, aside from working my jaws with all the chat, and headed out to do some dynamic stretching (hope you’re reading this Helen!) and two laps of the field to get my legs moving. Weirdly, my legs felt very leaden and heavy at this point. Figured it didn’t matter as the plan had always been to run the first couple of miles and then drop back if need be.

Lining up alongside Alan I was a little concerned that we were awfully far forward again! It’s funny how at some races nobody wants to get too close to the start while at others you need to work your way through the throngs. A quick race briefing followed and then we were off, round the field and out onto the old Formantine and Buchan railway line. The first part of the route is on tarmac pavement and is slightly downhill. It’s a fast start and we went quicker than planned; always a danger doing this on a longer run as it usually means you suffer later! I was conscious of not wishing to slow down people behind us and having felt someone clip my forefoot when it was behind me I ducked in ahead of Alan as there was no space to drop back due to the proximity of others.

The changes to the route with the roadworks were not too traumatic and I settled into my run, the earlier leg heaviness having left me. I was a little concerned that I was maybe going a little too fast but figured it didn’t matter at the end of the day. This run was not about chasing times; instead, running as I felt and most importantly enjoying it.

Settling into the run, it wasn’t long before the first minor road crossing was reached and again, it was great to see friendly faces here and receive support – thank you! The water station was manned by clubmates and again, plenty of encouragement was shouted which was very much appreciated.

Further along I appeared to cause hilarity at the second water station by shouting a cheery, ‘Good morning!’ From the laughter that ensued I’m guessing that’s not up there in the top 10 high frequency exchanges. This party station was staffed by the lovely Fit Like Joggers and Metro alike. It was great to see the purple FLJ gazebo and hear their music as I approached.

Further along I started to see the return of the first runners. The lead runner was way out in front along with Roy on lead bike, and I really appreciated the vocal support offered by him (Roy that is)! The faster folks then started coming pretty quickly with Claire leading up the ladies. I’m sure I’ve said it before but I do love an out and back course. I really enjoy seeing the speedier people and marvelling at the apparent ease of their running.

The miles ticking away nicely and legs feeling pretty good, I now figured I should just keep on going as I was to get to halfway. Once again it was lovely to see a familiar face, Dino snapping away at the halfway turn.

Peace Coaches Metro Dyce Half Marathon
Thanks to Dino Roussais for the halfway turn photo!

From here I resolved to try and pick the pace up further knowing that the course is gradually downhill. I slowly started picking off the odd runner as I went. One or two commented that I’d found a new gear, my response being that I had no idea how long it’d last! Thankfully I was able to continue strongly, passing one or two others as I did so. Reaching the road crossing again I was very grateful to the marshals as I timed it to perfection to coincide with a taxi coming down the road. Thankfully the driver opted to be courteous and hold back, allowing me to cross without breaking my stride. I may not have been able to get up the slope at the other side had I stopped.

Not much further along I started to see the buildings on the outskirts of Dyce and knew by both this and my watch that I was nearly ‘home’. I was prepared for the slight incline to the finish, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the transition from trail to tarmac. I couldn’t believe how this affected my legs, honestly feeling like my shoes were stuck to the pavement as I tried to lift my feet on every stride. Fortunately this was relatively short-lived, although it felt like an eternity, and it wasn’t long before I reached the field in which the run finishes. A quick skirt around the perimeter led me to the finish with shouts and cheers of encouragement along the way. I was most delighted to receive my medal, water and banana, and even a can of beer.

Crashing out on the grass alongside clubmates, we exchanged stories of how our runs had panned out, cheering others in, before retreating to the Scout Hut for a fine spread and lots more chat. The prize giving later took place. Overall winners were Jason Kelly (also of Stonehaven) and Claire Bruce of Metro Aberdeen who ran another brilliant time. Meanwhile, I was both surprised and delighted to find that I’d ranked as 3rd Female Veteran, following behind the every awesome Hazel Wyness of Metro Aberdeen in 1st place and Ann Gallon of Stonehaven in 2nd. Full results are available here: http://www.metroaberdeen.co.uk

As always, thanks to the organisers and volunteers for doing our club proud!

2018 Fort William Marathon – As good as I remembered and then some!

A week has passed since I completed the 2018 Fort William Marathon, my second attempt at this beautiful race. Having loved it in 2017, I signed up for 2018 pretty much immediately afterwards, my main fear going into the race that it might not be as good as I remembered and I’d be disappointed. Fear not, it was as good and even better!

2017 was a solo expedition as the weather forecast wasn’t great. Bruce therefore decided against joining me as the hill walking he’d hoped for looked unlikely. This year, however, he was again hankering after hills and had decided to come along, hoping to complete the Ring of Steall. Sadly the weather was against him on this – no point in going if there’s no chance of a view – but he did get some walking in elsewhere. He also opted in last minute to volunteer … more on that later.

Making a weekend of it, we headed over to Fort William on Friday afternoon, settling into our B & B before heading out for a meal. An early night was called for as I like to sleep plenty in the run up to the marathon, easing any worries of being restless the night before. Bruce, having checked the forecast for Corrour, had opted for an early start on Saturday. This worked out perfectly for me as I barely registered him getting up to catch the first train out of Fort William, opting for a more leisurely breakfast time myself. I then headed back to bed and enjoyed the luxury of yet more sleep before waking at 11 am and heading for the station to meet him off the train, returning happy having walked the single train munro, Beinn na Lap.

A leisurely afternoon was spent having lunch and browsing the shops in Fort William, later heading to the Grog and Gruel, our favourite pub, for dinner. Having stocked up on carbs over the previous couple of days I opted for the ‘eat what you fancy’ train of thought and enjoyed a burger. Home early, I laid out my tried and tested kit – Brooks Ghost shoes, Metro Aberdeen club vest, Ronhill shorts, Balega Hidden Comfort socks, and my current preferred race fuel, Clif Shot Bloks and Lucozade Sport.

Surprisingly enough, I slept pretty soundly again – if sleep was the only key to success I might have won the race – and felt quite relaxed going for breakfast. Not one to shake things up on race day, I opted for my usual pre-race breakfast of porridge with banana and chia seeds, and toast with peanut butter, washed down with plenty of peppermint tea.

Bruce volunteering, we had to be at the Nevis Range for 8:30 am. In my usual style, I was running late by this point and was grateful to him for geeing me along. Had he not been in the car with the engine running outside I’d probably have continued faffing for at least another 10 minutes or so, only to then panic when I realised how little time I had left to get there! He headed off for the volunteer briefing when we reached the Nevis Range and I faffed as only I can for some considerable time. I bumped into fellow Aberdeen parkrunner, Ally, and his wife Kay, enjoying a chat with them before going to get clarted in suncream. The weather was overcast with a forecast of rain later but I was taking no chances. Being of true Scottish fair skin I have an ability to get sunburn in any weather.

Chip on my shoe, suncream on, and at least one comfort break later, I bumped into Natalia, my clubmate from Metro Aberdeen. Her first marathon, she was fun of enthusiasm. Pleasantries exchanged, she headed off for a warm-up. My warm up routine consisted of some stretches (courtesy of Helen Strachan, physio extraordinaire), and the first few miles of the run. If I’m running 26.2 miles there’s no way I’m running further before I begin!

Pre-marathon at Fort William Marathon

Time passed quickly and before I knew it we were being called to the start. I’d briefly seen Bruce to pass on the car key and say a final goodbye, and was aware that he was going to be somewhere in the first few hundred metres. In his usual style, he made me laugh as he called out, asking me how it was going so far as I passed by having almost missed him.

Fort William Marathon - Leaving the Nevis Range at the start

The first few miles are gradually uphill, starting near the Gondola Station, and I’d cautioned both Natalia and Ally to take it easy here. The temptation with all races is to go off too quickly, and in a marathon you can’t claw this time back at the end if your legs give up or your energy runs out. I happily plodded along giving myself time to get into the swing of running, confident that I’d gain more than I’d lose by letting others pass me at this stage.

Fort William Marathon Elevation Profile

Heading up the fire road, I exchanged a bit of chat with some other runners. There were a few 100 marathon club t-shirts on the go – I have no idea how these people do it, and always enjoy hearing about their favourite marathons and the number they’ve completed in total. Further along I got chatting to a young man from Edinburgh who told me he’s getting married in two weeks – less than a week to go now! Should he read this, all the very best for a long and happy future with your new wife.

The marathon route is stunning. For me, this beats a road marathon any day. I defy anyone to try running here and not fail to be impressed by the views on offer. Despite the rain on Saturday, it was clear, and with less humidity than we’ve been used to the running conditions were pleasant. Drainage has been improved on the flat fire road section around 6 miles, and the huge muddy puddle that had us skirting around it and up the bank before the (failed) leap of faith last year had gone with a big drainage ditch running alongside instead.

Further on we started to make our way downhill so I decided to stop chatting and push on a little more, enjoying the opportunity to relax and stretch out the legs. The path narrows in places and there were some gentle undulations and single track paths to keep the mind focused a little more.

Finally reaching the road crossing at Spean Bridge it was a pleasant surprise to find the Police holding traffic and giving runners priority. One cheeky cyclist decided he was going instead and I’m sure regretted this move when given a ticking off by the Policeman! Rules are rules! I’m sure next time he’ll do as told without question.

Continuing on, we crossed the bridge and had a short section along the pavement before heading swiftly off road again onto more single track paths. This took us up, up, up and the enthusiastic spectators at the Commando Memorial could be heard long before they were seen! On reaching them and another water station, I passed Natalia before heading downwards towards Gairlochy.

Fort William Marathon - first 13 miles (Strava splits)

Being a bit of a running geek, I like to keep a paper diary in addition to the more modern online record that is Strava. My plan had therefore been to pace in a similar manner to last year as that earned me a PB, and I therefore chose to pick up the pace further at this point. Reaching the canal path I felt strong and began to pick people off targeting one runner after the other. There was a slight breeze along the canal but unfortunately it felt like we were running into it; it was refreshing nonetheless. Encouragement from walkers, canoeists and boats was welcomed.

As I progressed along this section, I became increasingly aware of my tightening calves and pain in my back. By the time I reached Neptune’s staircase I wondered if ditching my waistpack would help and was surveying the terrain for somewhere to dump it, planning to collect it later. Turning onto the minor road, I wondered about leaving it in the long grass but was concerned that it might get picked up as rubbish. There was also the worry that driving back up this road when other runners were potentially still on the course wasn’t the safest move ever so I fastened it back on and held onto it until finally the temptation of the the manicured lawn at Lochaber High School proved too much; over the railings it was flung!

Carrying on, I reached a further road crossing at the A82, and again the Police were holding traffic and giving runners priority. This took me back onto the bike path that heads up to the Nevis Range and I was pleased to be on this final drag. I continued to pass a few more people but felt like I was beginning to struggle, despite the pace holding out fairly well.

Fort William Marathon (Last 13 miles, Strava splits)

Turning off towards the North Face car park I was greeted by the familiar small bridge and I’m sure it was steeper than last year! Heading up towards the car park I was passed by one runner who was looking stronger than me and we exchanged brief pleasantries.

The pull up the fire road from here saw quite a few people walking, and while my legs and back were sore, I was determined to keep slogging it out. Seeing the 24 mile marker I knew that the race was in the bag and I would complete whatever; I started to feel quite emotional at this point. A little further on I spotted an Insch Trail Runner. Always fine to see a local vest, I yelled at him something to effect that, ‘I thought you teuchters were made of tough stuff!’ This gave him a wee bit of motivation to pick it up again, I hope.

Overwhelmed by mile 25, I struggled to hold back the tears. I could vaguely hear the sounds of the PA system as I headed through the last section of single track, up and down in the footy section of the forest, and was delighted to hear the friendly shouts of Kay and Ally as I headed down the finishing straight towards the line. When Bruce stepped forward to put the medal round my neck and give me a hug the tears did come!

2018 Fort William Marathon Finisher's T-shirt and Medal

It was such a lovely moment to have him do this and will stay in my special memories forever. He then returned to his ‘proper job’, cutting the chip off my shoe and chatting, inviting me to sit for as long as I needed.

I was delighted with my run. No PB today but you can’t have one every time. I ran strongly and once again loved the course. It’s amazing how quickly the time passes when you’re enjoying it!

Each and every one of the marshals and volunteers was great and they were such an encouraging and supportive team throughout the event. The goody bag was great and contained a Ben Nevis whisky miniature (which Bruce later traded for a Fort William buff), alongside some nibbles. I can’t recommend this marathon enough and most definitely plan to return next year.

Congratulations again to Natalia on completing her first marathon, and to Ally for completing his first Fort William Marathon and getting a PB! A great day out for us all.

The Inaugural Chapelton of Elsick 10k

I was delighted to join my fellow Metros on the start line for the inaugural Chapelton of Elsick 10k. This feeling faded somewhat during the race, but that’s the way of running.

Chapelton village in Aberdeenshire is a lovely wee place, established in the last few years and an ongoing project, situated just off the main A90. It was hot!! On arrival it appeared that we may be blessed with a little cloud coverage and there was a slight breeze. Unfortunately, or fortunately if you were spectating, this changed just ahead of the start, bringing a beautifully sunny day.

It was great to see a good turnout for this event as a huge amount of organisation had gone into it and Metro member Campbell was part of the organising committee. Everything ran seamlessly from registration right through to the finish with refreshments available for runners and a real family feel to the event with face painting and kids races too.

Warming up with Alan and Grant it was good to see lots of familiar faces, especially my former Jog Scotland Bridge of Don friends who Campbell had rounded up for the occasion – Kay, Ashleigh, Ruth and Wendy. A personal invitation goes a long way!

All too soon the Metro team photo had been taken – we’re not all there; trying to round everyone up is reminiscent of putting puppies in a basket! There was time for one let pit stop before making our way to the start line.

I was concerned that I was too far forward but Alan assured me people would pass if they needed to. I’m struggling now to recall the finer points of detail in the route. What I can remember is that there was a mixture of surfaces. Starting and finishing on road, there were some sections of rougher tracks and trails, and also some grass as we ran through the Chapelton of Elsick Estate. There were also some undulations and a particularly nasty hill at 5 miles. Campbell had warned us about this but it didn’t look too bad on Strava – I envisaged it to be short and steep. It turned out longer than I’d imagined. The only upside was hearing the piper and knowing they must be at the top!

I wanted to walk – I didn’t. It was tough. My legs felt like they’d gone to jelly on reaching the top of the hill, but I held onto the thought that this sets the tone for the marathon. If I walk now then I’ll be tempted to walk in future. On reflection, many others were obviously feeling the same way as I did pass a few folks walking. However, there were others thriving and doing well despite the hot conditions. Grant ran well and left me standing – definitely more to come there – while Alan ran like a Kenyan and finished strong, hot on my heels.

The finish was also on an uphill incline and I managed to give it a bit of a push towards the end. Not the race I’d hoped for but my legs are tired. Having consulted with one of the club coaches the next couple of weeks will focus on recovering and a serious taper. If anyone wants to join me in wishing for a cooler day please feel free.

Glad to finish, it was time to enjoy the sunshine and bask in the glory of my clubmates who won lots of prizes! Great performances from many, but a special mention must go to Sarah Milne for her first win! Good to see that hard work does pay off in the end.

A brilliantly organised race, even if we can’t control the weather. Great medals too! Well done Chapelton!

Chapelton of Elsick 10k Medal

Stonehaven Half Marathon: Hot and hilly!

I had fond memories of last year’s Stonehaven Half Marathon and had even been heard to say that I found it easier than Peterhead Half Marathon (see recent blog). The jury’s out today though and I’ll be interested to hear the thoughts on this from anyone else that’s run both.

It’s been hot! We’re all very aware of this, and training has been hard as a result. I long for some rain! Going into the run today I had 37 miles in my legs this week, including today’s warm up of just over 3 miles. I had planned to do 4 miles but my time keeping truly is exceptional and I’d have been pushed for to get it done! Up early, I’d had porridge with banana and toast with peanut butter, practising the pre-marathon fuelling strategy. I got a little confused by timings (no great surprise there!) and suddenly realised I should be leaving the house in 5 minutes while not yet showered or clarted in suncream! Thus, I was somewhat later arriving in Stonehaven than planned!

On arrival it appeared that I had been blessed by the running Gods! There was no queue for numbers up to 100 (I was number 98) while others had quite a few folks waiting, including my regular running buddies, Ali, Alan and George, who were somewhat surprised to see me knowing that I should be out warming up. Pleasantries exchanged and suncream caked on, I headed off on my warm up, running up to the War Memorial that overlooks Dunnotar Castle. Stonehaven truly was beautiful from up high today, basking in sunshine with beautiful blue skies and lovely views to the harbour.

No time to linger, I about turned and headed back to the starting area at Mineralwell Park for a quick comfort stop before joining everyone getting lined up at the start. As is the norm now for local races there was plenty of Metro colours in the line up. This is always good to see. In no time at all we were off, enjoying a little bit of flat running before the ascent began.

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Stonehaven Half Marathon – leaving Mineralwell Park at the start of the race (Thanks to Stewart Maxwell for the photograph).

Coming out of the park we met our first marshals, one of whom is a regular parkrunner in Aberdeen (thanks Lee-Ann) and they set the tone for the upbeat, friendly folks that we were to encounter along the way. A short sharp up took us away from the busy road and then after a brief respite it was up, up, up, for several miles. There were brief sections of flat or even slightly downhill, but remembering the long pull that inevitably takes you to the turning point in Fetteresso Forest, I tried to take it fairly easy and run within comfortable limits. I was joined for much of this by clubmate Grant, although at times one or the other or us drifted ahead, or behind depending on your perspective.

Reaching the forest, I advised Grant that this was the last uphill section and that we’d soon turn and head back downhill. I like this section of the course as it’s good to see the folks ahead of you passing on their way back, and as usual I saw quite a few running friends and clubmates, happy to cheer them on. This was reciprocated by those behind me and as I headed back down I received encouragement from others. As I overtook another runner she turned and said to me, “you must be Clare! Well done!”

This is one of the great things about the running community in Aberdeen – being a member of Metro Aberdeen and involved in Aberdeen parkrun you really do get to know so many lovely people!

It turns out my mind was playing tricks on me, and while we did indeed turn, it wasn’t long before we turned and went up yet again! I’d like to formally apologise for my error – sorry Grant! I think perhaps I’d blacked out the parts I didn’t like from last year.

This final up was around 7 miles, and it was the hardest slog of the run. A few folks around me had slowed to an occasional walk. I determined to keep ‘running’ in some form, however slowly, as I knew that walking would mean my race was over. I’d never get going again! I plodded onwards and upwards, and finally the route did start to descend allowing me to pick the pace up again.

It wasn’t as fast as last year as the heat had taken it’s toll. I did manage to pick it up for a couple of miles and successfully passed a few runners. By the final mile the runners had really thinned out and there was nobody in sight to target. The spectator support around this point was very much appreciated! Any encouragement was welcomed, even if I only acknowledged it with a grimace!

Running alone felt tough and I was very glad indeed on realising that the short wooded section dropped me into Mineralwell Park again. This is familiar territory as it’s the home of Stonehaven parkrun. It’s also where I saw (and heard) Leeann again – thanks Leeann, don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see you! A quick loop of the field saw me hit the finishing mats, delighted that it was over! Finishing in 1:45:09 it was slower than last year, however, given the conditions and the sustained training I’ve done of late I’m happy to take that.

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Last mile – the smile hides the pain!
Thanks to Simon King for the photograph permission: https://www.facebook.com/simonkingppt

Seeing friends and clubmates who’d finished ahead, or were coming in after me, I think we all agreed that it had been a tough day out. Great to see so many amazing performances – Kyle Grieg deserves a special mention for setting a new course record (awesome!) while his wife Debbie won the ladies race. Great also to see Ali Matthews (newly returned to Aberdeen) finishing in 2nd place, while George McPherson came up trumps for the over 60s again. I also loved the fact that the oldest runner got a prize – if my memory serves me correctly he was 77! What an amazing athlete to be running at that age. I hope to be like him when I grow up!

In the meantime there’s only one week of ‘proper’ marathon training left and the taper begins … Wish me luck!

Lovely medal & you can never have too many buffs! Thanks also to Specsavers for their goodies.

Masson Glennie Peterhead Half Marathon: the toughest half I’ve ever done!

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.

Masson Glennie Peterhead Half Marathon
3 miles in – Photo credit to Craigewan Photographic Club

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.

Strava Elevation Profile (Masson Glennie Peterhead Half Marathon)

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.

Strava splits (Masson Glennie Peterhead Half Marathon)

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.

Masson Glennie Peterhead Half Marathon
10 mile marker at Inverugie Bridge: Only smiling as I see a camera! Photo credit to Craigewan Photographic Club.

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.

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Masson Glennie Peterhead Half Marathon: the smile is one of relief to be finished!

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)!