Fife Coastal Path: Day 4, Anstruther to St Andrews

What a day! I’m delighted to have made it to St Andrews after yet another glorious day in Fife and probably the most challenging terrain of the walk.

Setting off from Anstruther I felt good. The Spindrift Guest House was brilliant – Jenni and Mark were outstanding hosts, I’d had the best sleep of the trip, was well fed and watered, and had enjoyed excellent chat about all things running and triathlon with Mark over breakfast. First scenic spot on the route was Anstruther Harbour where the tide was well out. I also passed Anstruther Lifeboat Station – huge thanks to them for responding quickly to my message last night (more on that later)!

Anstruther Harbour

The initial trails were pretty decent. Some grassy paths, some sandy trails, but mostly quite natural. This made slower going than I’d have liked. I quickly discovered that trying to run overgrown single track isn’t the best idea as it’s too easy to turn ankles or feet; I was in this for the long game!

The scenery was beautiful once again. I never tire of the views along the coast, especially when the occasional treasure such as the Caiplie Caves is thrown into the mix.

Caiplie

I’d been informed by the route guide that Crail was the only stop on the trail, so although it was just short of 5 miles from where I’d started, I stopped for tea and cake just to be safe, ensuring my energy levels didn’t drop too much. I also bought a painting of Creel Harbour as a souvenir of my trip so it ended up being a very expensive cuppa! It will arrive sometime next week as I didn’t have room in my ultra vest for it!

Anyway, chatting to the chap here, I was assured that the tidal section wasn’t an issue. Worse case scenario he suggested I’d be able to go cross country and over the fields.

Leaving Crail, refreshed again, it was time to admire the views again. I enjoyed chatting with an older couple at the top of the village before heading through the caravan park. As always, it’s good to look back.

Crail beach

Again, terrain varied between sandy tracks and grassy trails. I passed an old WW2 bunker, part of the Crail airfield. Along this section the trail narrowed to singletrack and I bumped my toe on a boulder. No major harm done but I did need to extract a thread of my sock from my toenail that’s split slightly further down than I’d like! Eek

Shortly thereafter the route went down onto the shore again. There were warnings of not using this section at high tide. My dark sense of humour came to play when I saw what happens to runners ignoring this advice.

I had another short stop around here at The Toast Shack. While very tempted to have a toastie – they looked amazing – I settled for a packet of salted crisps and a can of ‘proper’ Coke. The rain started spitting here but it was welcome. The heat was quite something again despite the breeze.

Again, continuing on, the paths were narrow and lacking clarity in places; in other sections there was some brief respite and clearer tracks. I did love the sight of the beautiful poppies growing wild in the fields and verges.

047BE280-A44B-41FC-9195-E8D52274ED05

Towards Kingsbarns there was an opportunity to opt out and head towards the main road. This would make a lovely walk in itself – Kingsbarns to St Andrews – as the coastline was particularly attractive from here onwards. The golf course here was stunning! I’m not a golfer, but would happily walk this course. The path often led alongside golf courses today, sometimes very roughly at the side of a well manicured fairway.

C3E28A59-0275-40FF-9044-6FC227A2046F

At Boarhills the track turned inland and went slightly upwards through a woodland area. I loved this! It was cool and shaded, very welcome after the sun shining pretty much continually throughout the day.

Fife Coastal Path: wooded section at Boarhills

Having passed through a farm it was then back towards the shore via yet another rough, grassy track. This also involved a couple of stiles, not the most well received by my weary legs! Buddo Rock, more stiles and more overgrown paths followed. There’s a theme emerging here – going was tough and slow (again), the path was overgrown (again), and at times I was reduced to a walk in order to best preserve my feet and ankles. Unfortunately my leg didn’t fare so well and the left one in particular now looks like I’ve been mauled by a large animal! (Perhaps a slight exaggeration – very tall cat?)

Conscious of time for the high tide, I was very much on the clock at this point, hoping to reach the tidal section by 2 pm to give me a couple of hours grace. During some of these ups and downs, I found myself among very high undergrowth (as tall as me!) including something flowery like hogweed (cow parsnip?) and possibly triffids or something vaguely related. Work colleagues, you’ll appreciate ‘Walking through the jungle’ popping into my head and becoming my earworm here. If you don’t work with me, search YouTube for ‘Barefoot Books’.

Finally, I reached the tidal section of the walk that I’d been concerned about. The guidebook (and other route guides) I’d looked at had suggested that this was dangerous at high tide, going so far as to suggest waiting for the tide to recede May be the only option. This had concerned me to the degree that I contacted Anstruther RNLI to see if they could offer advice last night as I had no idea how soon before high tide I’d require to be there. Huge thanks to them for responding, especially as it’s not part of their usual patch and they were not entirely certain but gave sound advice all the same, all the more so in light of them being volunteers! A bit like Mountain Rescue on the hills, the RNLI are the unsung heroes of our beaches and seas. As it transpired, the section in question was very short: was that it?? Descending via yet another set of steps, my personal advice would be if there are waves lapping the bottom steps, turn back and take a cheeky wee detour across whichever golf course or field is at the head of the steps.

Beware: Tidal risk on Fife Coastal Path

Got chatting to some more people once past the dangerous part, their kids playing on the shingly beach. Enquiring about the trail ahead, they advised that it would head up before winding down into St Andrews. Up the steps I went after the Rock and Spindle. A tough slog, bumpy paths.

Up more stone steps, St Andrews was fully in view and it was with great delight that I made my way down towards the beach.

Having resisted all week, I could resist no longer! Paddling in the sea I felt like a big kid. I only just resisted the urge to go swimming, so good did the water feel, as I was concerned I might not get into my B & B if I turned up on the doorstep drookit! Had I realised that there would be a torrential downpour on route I might have reconsidered my options – hindsight’s a great thing!

8A3B5655-196A-44BD-88E3-3FC39668C651

Thus, my Fife Coastal Path trail ended. It’s been a great few days, definitely helped by the glorious weather. It’s been exactly what I’d hoped for when I originally set out – relaxing, restful and generally good for ‘me’!

Just short of 19 miles today, 63.9 miles for the week, husband arrived to meet me = one happy runner!

Clare, happiest outdoors: in St Andrews

Fife Coastal Path: Day 3, Leven to Anstruther

This has definitely been the best day on the trail so far. I woke feeling pretty refreshed, had an early breakfast and then headed back to bed to let it digest. The upshot was a bit of a rushed start to the day in order to get my bag ready for collection, then leaving later than planned – again!

Setting off, I followed the promenade along the pavement, not wishing to get sandy feet this early in the day. This quickly moved off the tarmac to run alongside the golf course.

Fife Coastal Path alongside Leven Links Golf Course

Further on there was the option to run along the beach itself. As the tide was well out, the sand was firm and this was an inviting option.

Low tide: running along the beach on the Fife Coastal Path

It was quite enjoyable running along the sand, although the slight camber at times can make it challenging on the legs. I was quite happy to get a return to trail path for a bit of respite.

Fife Coastal Path: heading towards Lundin Links and Lower Largo

The next section of the path was lovely, running along grassy trails. The terrain was easy going and the surfaces kind to the legs. I’m growing very fond of the shore, the flowers on the verge, and the feeling of freedom. Being in such magical surroundings by the sea, as with the mountains, makes you realise what a small part of the universe you really are.

Reaching Lower Largo, one of the first things to be seen is the sculpture of ‘Malagan’ in a garden. I noticed going through these wee villages the care that people take of their gardens. There were so many beautiful flowers, baskets and interesting features – a true joy!

Back onto the sand, I managed well, only getting the toes of one foot very slightly wet on a water jump, and was feeling quite pleased with myself until I realised I’d missed the path off for the bridge over the burn; this was too wide (and deep) for any hopping across, so there was no option but to double back on myself.

I met a young woman from the Netherlands, also doing a good chunk of the coastal path, and enjoyed a blether with her before moving on. More good, grassy trails followed and I met some more people to chat to. The coastal scenery became more interesting again.

Through a caravan park, up and over a small incline, again, taking advantage and walking any lumps or bumps to conserve my energy, before long I was in sight of Elie where I stopped and enjoyed a cup of tea and a chocolate crispie. I’m learning vital lessons should I ever wish to enter the world of ultra running: cups of tea on the run are just fine; small amounts of cake are tolerated well with a very short break between eating and running; and excruciating stomach pain ensues when dehydrated! Fine today, but suffered quite a bit yesterday so have made sure I take on lots of fluid today.

I enjoyed a good rest with my cuppa, leaving around 45 minutes of a break. The rain had started spotting by this point but rather then being an irritant, it was welcome, just light enough to provide a very pleasant cooling sensation.

More lovely beaches and natural sculptures followed along this section of the path between Elie and Pittenweem.

There’s also a windmill that used to be part of the salt pan industry, now used by the Coastguard. Not long after passing this the village of Pittenweem pops into view. Thinking ahead, I wonder if tomorrow will feel harder as there are very few stops. Today, as yesterday, I’ve spent as much time stopping to admire the sights, take photos and chat, as I have moving!

On reaching Pittenweem, I couldn’t resist the ice cream shop. Scottish tablet – delicious! I wonder if ultra runs have ice cream vans? I wonder if there are any that let you run a paltry amount of miles over several days? I also enjoyed wandering around the harbour. Again, these little harbour villages remind me of childhood, especially those with fishing boats, as we often visited Hopeman, Lossiemouth or Burghead, and they were always busy, particularly on Sundays when many of the boats headed out.

The distance between Pittenweem and Anstruther is nothing at all, and I enjoyed this last bit of the journey, heading straight for the pub to have a late lunch before finding my B & B for the night. At the moment it’s shaping up to be my best night so far. Spindrift is lovely! So comfortable with a fantastic guest lounge. I’ve now also been out and had an amazing dinner in the Dreel Tavern. The rain’s on, hopefully clearing the air for tomorrow, and I’m in for the night.

Approaching Anstruther

Last day ahead – all the way to St Andrews! The longest stage yet. Wish me luck!

Fife Coastal Path: Day 2, Burntisland to Leven

Started the day feeling less rested than I’d have liked. My neighbours in the hotel were somewhat noisy in the wee small hours, moving between rooms I think – an important life skill: learn to close a door quietly!

I therefore couldn’t resist banging around a bit on starting my day, not as early as I’d have liked as breakfast wasn’t served until 8:15 am, but definitely ahead of anyone else being up.

I was late in leaving, around 10:30 am, as I wanted to let breakfast go down a bit. One positive in where I was staying was that I stepped out the front door and right onto the Way, initially following the pavement alongside the A921 to Kinghorn. This brought back fond memories of childhood holidays having once stayed at Pettycur Bay Caravan Park.

Pettycur Bay

Kinghorn was my point of getting lost today. Like yesterday, signage isn’t always great through the villages, but it didn’t take me more than a hundred metres to realise the error of my ways and retrace my steps. I’ve come to realise there’s generally a Fife Coastal Path logo on the lamppost if there are no signs.

Moving out of civilisation, I was glad to return to trails rather than pavements, although with humidity feeling high it didn’t take any incline at all to slow me to a walk!

Fife Coastal Path

In fact, I only managed 5 miles before being tempted into Morrison’s Cafe for a cup of tea! Passing right by I couldn’t help myself – the prospect of ditching the warm water in my bottles definitely swung it.

There wasn’t much to see in or around Kirkcaldy, although I did run close to the shore along the prom. As always, I felt happier again when off the tarmac.

Fife Coastal Path: Burntisland to Leven

Dysart was a welcome distraction, aside from the initial cobbles leading into the old village. I took my time here as it was very pretty with lovely old buildings and a pleasant feel to it. I was very taken by the harbour and the evidence of people enjoying their lives at sea today.

Onwards, I found myself in West Wemyss. I liked that these little villages were so close together as it gave me welcome respite in the heat. It was around here that the sun finally broke through, having been enshrouded in fine cloud throughout the morning. West Wemyss is home to the Frances Colliery Memorial, a tribute to those that lost their lives in the mine.

Frances Colliery Memorial

Hugging the sea wall again for a time, I returned to the trail and continued to East Wemyss. This was another attractive section of the route.

Ahead, there were steps up. Any change in height today has usually been up or down steps, and again, I took advantage of the opportunity to have a wee walk break. This particular set had some seats part way up so I enjoyed a brief rest in the sunshine.

From hereon in the Way was uninspiring as it passed through Buckhaven, Methil and finally into Leven. I was very happy to finally reach my B & B for the night! Somehow I don’t think I’ll be seeing too late into the evening tonight.

Another 16 miles today. Hoping for a cooler day tomorrow!

Fife Coastal Path: Day 1, North Queensferry to Burntisland

Having decided I was ‘peopled out’ a couple of months ago, I decided to have a wee solo venture over summer. Having looked at various ‘Ways’, the most appealing was probably the West Highland Way, but as I’ll be doing this again sometime with husband, I had to find an alternative, and having considered all options I ended up with the Fife Coastal Path.

The path originally started in North Queensferry. It’s now been extended, but my plan is to cover part of it, from North Queensferry to St Andrews. My intention when booking was to run it – I envisage a leisurely bimble with regular stops for refreshment – but I’ve also taken my walking kit in case I’m not able to run all the way.

Arriving in North Queensferry, I went out for a wee wander. The start of the path is uphill, hopefully not for too long! It’s decorated with special plaques designed by local schoolchildren way back when the Way originally opened.

I then wandered an extra few metres to the shore where I sat and read my book in the sunshine.

Day 1:
Refreshed after a surprisingly good dinner and excellent night’s sleep at The Ferrybridge Hotel, I retired to my room to let breakfast settle for a couple of hours before heading off.

The path for me began pretty much at the door of the hotel. Always a good thing when no navigation is required! Signage appeared clear. I was happy!

The path began on a cobbled track, quickly changing to trail. I felt very at home on this as I love trails. The only downside was it was a little stony, ordinarily not an issue, but with bright sun my vision was impaired slightly by my sunglasses! Perhaps this was what led to the first ‘issue’ of the day … getting lost in Inverkeithing! Which way now?!?

54F85E08-7C7F-4BA3-B69A-239071F438C3

Retracing my steps, the route guide printed off by husband proved handy and I made a mental note to check it when passing through villages or towns further along.

When looking back, the horizon was always dominated by the Forth Rail Bridge, such an impressive structure!

Continuing on, I reached Dalgety Bay, skirting around the village and passing by some houses with beautiful views, at least on a fine day. Carrying on there was one of the few rises of the day and my legs felt it. The track changed – sometimes tarmac, sometimes trail – and was often in woodland with views over the bay seen through the trees. I was very grateful of this as it was a hot day and they provided a little shade and slightly cooler temperatures.

Fife Coastal Path between Dalgety Bay & Aberdour

Reaching Aberdour, I was charmed by the stunning views of the wee harbour and stopped to enjoy a snack.

I was very tempted to take my shoes off and paddle along this stretch of path too, all the more so with the crowds enjoying the beach at Silversands. The ice cream van was also calling loudly but I wasn’t convinced I’d get running again if I indulged in either of these options! Onwards I went, and before long I heard the PA system from the Burntisland Highland Games.

Arriving at my hotel (Sands Hotel) before check-in, I enjoyed a refreshing drink before making my way along to the Highland Games. A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon was had there, watching the track and field events.

I think the most impressive thing was the cycle races! That must have been tough going on grass!

I can’t believe how quickly today has passed. It’s been a good day. The first 13 miles of my run are complete. Hopefully the legs will benefit from a good night’s sleep as they’re going a good bit further tomorrow. Looks set to be another hot day!

Loving the trails!

Having set the bar at parkrun at the end of May, I fell off the pace in June. Half marathon training should have started (and in theory has), but the tall task of getting back to speed leaves me a little lacking in enthusiasm. June has also seen me away for work related things a few of times and overall it’s just been a very busy month.

I felt like I’d lost my mojo a little, but have been pleased to rediscover it on the trails. Thursday saw me dropped off on the back road as husband headed north. This allowed me to enjoy a loop of my favourite forest before making my way home, barely touching tar until the final mile.

Then today saw the social Sunday group hit our usual loop of Hazlehead and Countesswells. After yesterday’s hot parkrun at the beach, the damp, cool air among the trees was a true blessing!

The run started with a warm up loop with Alan before meeting the others. We then headed up the trail at Hazlehead, through the gates and over to Countesswells Forest.

Gate to Gate between Hazlehead and Countesswells

Stopped at our usual spot for the group photo, minus Ali, our usual photographer, so a couple of people are missing from shot!

Group photo in Countesswells minus a couple due to lack of photographic skill

Onwards along the beautiful trails, great in all weathers but especially pleasurable on such a lovely summer’s day!

Kingshill, the big hill of the run, is tough on the legs, but definitely helps with overall strength. First time around …

Bottom of Kingshill - waiting for everyone to regroup

And around again …

Finishing loop 2 of Kingshill

I have no idea how I ever managed to do this 5 times! That was probably around this time last year when peaking for the Fort William Marathon.

Crossing over to the other side of the Forest we run up what I consider to be the last hill – in actual fact there are two more but I find them comparatively easy.

Top of the hill at the opposite side to Kingshill, Countesswells Forest

No sprint back through Hazlehead this week as my legs were more than happy (or fatigued) by what we’d done. Finished with a run up and down the reps lane to round the day off with 14 miles.

Goal for the week ahead is to try to get some regular running in, whatever the weather.

This is where I’m at. What keeps you motivated? Feel free to share any tips by commenting.

2019 London Marathon: Where Dreams Come True!

Leaving work on Friday I felt stranglely emotional as I had done on and off all week. Super excited at the prospect of running the London Marathon, a dream come true, but also apprehensive with a few niggling doubts as to whether I’d trained enough, if the crowds would be too much, and other such nonsense! My rational brain knew that I’d trained harder than ever before, clocking up 750 miles since the turn of the year, but it was the 16 mile long run upon which the Hanson plan is built that remained the real concern. Receiving a card from one of my classes hammered home the realisation that there were no excuses! I’d signed up, I was running for our school charity and I should be honoured to have the opportunity to do something that many people never get the chance to.

A quick turnaround and we were at the airport. The feelings of excitement continued here as we bumped into running friends who were on the same flight. This was comforting as I’m a control freak and would rather fly the plane than be a passenger! The flight passed quickly, the transition to the hotel was smooth and all was calm. Having snacked on a sandwich meal deal (perhaps not the best carb loading ever) I was pleased to retire to bed.

Saturday saw us up and out to the Expo fairly early despite not having an alarm set. I’m very grateful to Bruce for his meticulous planning. While I’d still be figuring out the route, he had read the information on the website and knew exactly where we were headed. This was a theme of the weekend: thank you Bruce!

The Expo was exciting with lots of exhibitors but did also hammer home the reality of what I was doing. I collected my race number and took my packet to be scanned in order to collect my number. When the chap wished me ‘Good Luck’ I felt very emotional and had to choke back the tears! This turned out to be a regular happening from thereon in! I really tried hard to contain myself, if for no other reason than to avoid starting dehydrated.

I resisted the urge to buy lots because:
a) I don’t really need anything; and
b) I’m a little superstitious, not wanting to jinx the race before running by buying all the branded goodies.

Instead I picked up a few freebies from New Balance and a headband, a wee memento that will stand the test of time. Leaving, I wrote on the wall – a message for my fellow Metro Aberdeen runners of which there were quite a number. Bruce offered to let me stand on him in order to make it clearly visible to all that followed. He also offered to stand on me! I declined on both counts, not wishing to break anything ahead of the big day!

23D786C8-39BE-4C32-ADFE-0D972116E91F

Stopping for coffee, hydration and eating being a key feature of the day, and not having gone too well on Friday, I enjoyed a rest. Leaving the Expo we met Campbell and Caroline on route to collect his number. A good chat later, we headed into central London to go to a couple of shops and have lunch. Bruce again came up trumps – I wanted a baked tattie; he found a pub that would provide.

Before long we’d clocked up around 17000 steps, a tad more than I’d have been looking for on this day of rest! Calling it quits, we headed back to the sanctuary of our hotel for dinner and a peaceful evening. I was feeling very calm and looking forward to the race ahead.

That was until some woman in the bar suggested I was being ridiculous thinking I could leave Earls Court at 7:45 am to get to the start on time. This threw me as I’d been led to believe trains would be frequent and well managed. The resulting effect was that I spent most of the night stressing about how to get there, seeing many hours on the clock. In fairness, I might have done this anyway as my bladder appeared to have gone into overdrive and I was frequently going to the loo!

5:50 am arrived. I got up and made my porridge pots, forcing two down before heading for the shower. I wondered if it was possible to keel over in a marathon due to a lack of sleep; my rational brain told me it probably wasn’t as I was rested, even if I’d not slept that well! I left early (around 7:15 am) and rerouted my journey, heading to Westminster on the District line. Heading down the escalator at Westminster a random chap wished me ‘Good Luck’ as he zoomed past. This also made me well up; it’s a rare thing in my experience for strangers to engage with one another, particularly when one is in the fast lane and nothing to do with the early morning bustle. I changed to the Jubilee for London Bridge (mindful of Bruce’s instructions to head East), then took the train to Blackheath. At each station the number of runners increased, as did the feelings of anticipation and excitement. The trains were still relatively quiet and I was very happy to be seated throughout the journey. It was incredibly easy getting around and I’m very appreciative of the free transport provided to keep us all moving smoothly.

Arriving at Blackheath at the ridiculously early time of 8 am, I got chatting to a lady from Edinburgh and we made our way to the Blue Start together. It was amazing! The sight of the red, blue and green balloons floating in the sky, the huge baggage trucks lined up, the crowds already gathering. All the things I’ve watched over the years on TV.

Security was tight, bags and bib numbers being checked, with only ‘athletes’ allowed into the runners village. I’m an athlete!! The number of people already there was quite astonishing, many sitting or lying on bags, trying to shelter behind the tents as it was slightly chilly in the breeze. Thankfully the sun was also out and this did help; it would have been mighty miserable had it been tipping down rain!

Toilet queues at this point were short; I’ve never seen so many portaloos in my life! I took advantage of this and then retreated to the side of a tent for shelter, sitting on my drop bag and finding peace amid the bustle of the crowds. Chatting to a few folks beside me, a lady returned and gave me a large piece of cardboard to sit on. I offered to share it with a young lad beside me, he then gave me a shot of his ‘Stick’ in return, and gave his bin bag to someone else. It was good to relax as we chatted easily about how training had been, what our hopes were for the race and other more mundane things, enjoying the music and atmosphere but quite oblivious to the gathering crowds and sheer numbers in our own wee safe haven, helping us all to stay calm.

Deciding I should head off for another loo stop before dropping my bag we parted ways. I met Nicola, a parkrun friend and fellow teacher, all set to run her first marathon. Nicola’s vest had the names of her class printed around the bottom! Chatting about the emotions of the day, it was my turn to cry as I spoke about my pupils, thinking of someone I’m sure would love to be able to take part in such a wonderful event.

Bag dropped, final toilet stop made, I then jogged to the pen (Zone 2) with minutes to spare before it closed. I was spotted by Campbell, heading for his zone, and we wished one another luck. Entering my zone I chatted nervously to those around me. The start seemed like an eternity away as we walked along – it wasn’t – stopping and starting, before finally breaking into a jog as the gantry loomed large, the timing mats beckoned and the music boomed out.

Despite my concerns, once the run started that was it. The clock showed approximately 9:30 as we crossed the start mats. Although there were lots of people it didn’t feel too crowded and I settled into a relaxed pace, vowing to use the first couple of miles to get my legs warmed up. This being my 10th marathon I’m very aware (having learned the hard way) that you can’t bank time and the first miles definitely dictate the last.

Meanwhile, Bruce was watching the race unfold further along the course …

The marathon itself passed very quickly. I certainly didn’t feel like I was running for a long time and the crowds along the route were amazing! There were very few areas without people cheering, playing music and generally just livening things up. I remember the ‘hump’ people, marshals standing with signs alerting us to the speed bumps in the road, calling out a chorus of ‘hump … hump’, the many bands that were blasting out all sorts of music, from steel pans to a pipe band and everything in between! There was singing and dancing, and so many great signs. Some of my favourites were the children with their Mario signs – touch here to power up. I touched three of them in the last 6 miles, much to their delight, and I genuinely do believe they had a placebo effect. Bruce liked the one that he initially thought was a beer belly, then realising it was of much greater significance.

2019 Virgin Money London Marathon Signs

The water stations were interesting – after the first one or two I realised that if I didn’t want water I should run in the middle of the road, thus avoiding being cut up as people suddenly realising what was on offer, cutting immediately in front of others with little regard for safety. The Lucozade stations were far worse, reminiscent of an 80s nightclub where by the end of the evening you stick to the carpet!

I looked out for Bruce, hoping to see him along the way but the crowds were too big at his first point (9 miles), I was a little too quick for him to catch me at mile 14 due to the jam-packed tubes, but I did hear him shout as I passed at mile 21.

Fuelled by Active Root and Shot Bloks I never felt that I struggled for energy. I did, however, reach saturation point around mile 17. Prior to this I’d been sipping Active Root every mile and taking a Shot Blok every two miles. I felt somewhat nauseous and concluded I’d taken in enough, knowing from previous experience that I’d live to regret it if I didn’t listen to my body.

I tried to avoid weaving in and out of the crowds too much, sticking close to the blue line (the accurately measured distance) where possible; sadly many people had the same idea so that didn’t always work.

I saw friends and club mates supporting on the course and was very grateful for the shouts, particularly during the last couple of miles; thank you Sam, Talia, Alison and Bill! It’s amazing how seeing a familiar face can give a boost when the legs start to tire.

2019 Virgin Money London Marathon (mile 25)

My fears prior to the race were unfounded. I never felt overwhelmed by the crowds and noise, although I will confess to getting slightly irritated by people getting in my way by the end. When I see my geeky stats though it’s not much wonder; I managed to pass quite a number of people during the second half!

Big Ben appeared on the horizon during the final few miles and I was determined he was not beating me; another motivation to keep running strong! The pain under my ribs was quite incredible (James, @physiorun, tells me this would be my diaphragm ) but my legs were solid and I managed to hold the pace. With only a parkrun to go I reminded myself that pain is temporary and thirty minutes or less is nothing in the grand scheme of a marathon.

2019 Virgin Money London Marathon (Big Ben)

Crossing the line to ‘Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree’ was perhaps not quite the finish I’d hoped for (especially when the aforementioned tree had already finished; all the same, I was delighted to have done it, achieving a lifetime goal! Surprisingly, I was so elated that I didn’t cry! Medal awarded, t-shirt and goody bag given, it was onwards to the reunion area. By this time my brain was well and truly mush and I had no idea what I’d agreed with Bruce regarding how long we’d wait for one another. I got chatting to another runner and was delighted when Bruce appeared, not just as he knew the way to the pub! At this point, I learned that although I’d beaten Big Ben, I had in fact been beaten by numerous others in fancy dress, including Elmo with his impressively large head!

2019 Virgin Money London Marathon (Beaten by Elmo!)

A Metro reunion was scheduled to swap race stories, celebrate PBs and commiserate those who had been injured on route. We met Dino and Jayne on the way. Hats off to Dino for finishing despite having to walk due to a muscle tear. Thankfully there was much more success than sadness, with some incredibly impressive times! Congratulations to you all!

7B23B017-14BA-4672-AA9F-35DD0ACFCDAE

So, the final round up …

I ran a PB of 3:35:57 with which I’m absolutely delighted!

I can confirm the Hanson Method works – I did no long run beyond 16 miles in training and settled into marathon pace maintaining it without too much thought.

Hanson Method has you nailing the pace and finishing strong!

I just may return …

https://www.wonderful.org/fundraiser/clarerussellslondonmarathonfundraiser-4d93e905

The Final 16

Well, that’s it, the final long run done – all 16 miles of it. I’ve stuck to the plan and have resisted the temptation to go further, despite my fellow marathon runners and clubmates posting runs on Strava of 18 miles upwards which freaks me out a little – will I just stop at 17 miles? However, as stated at the beginning of this ‘project’, in order to evaluate the efficacy of the plan I have to put my trust in it and follow it as far as possible.

To date, that has meant a total of 665 miles in training, averaging 47.5 miles per week over a 14 week block of training. I’ve hit my training paces and have only missed a couple of sessions, one for an unscheduled day off and the others for hill walking. Although my heart rate may not have hit the highs it would have done in running, my legs certainly got a good workout on the hills. I was very aware of this on return home when my planned tempo (2 x 5 miles with 1 mile recovery) went pear shaped, ending with 1 block of 4 miles at tempo, a sore stomach and a shuffle home! However, over 90% of the schedule has been completed and that should hopefully be enough to see me through the marathon.

This week has been more positive. With some easy running, I’ve also happily completed the strength session (3 x 2 miles) and long tempo (10 miles). Today’s 16 miles was a particular joy (genuinely), running in the company of Campbell – a long term run chum who’s also running London – and Kevin, Metro clubmate who’s going from strength to strength at present. Having run on my own quite a bit recently it was good to chat my way through the miles. Around 10 miles I commented that I wasn’t convinced I had another 16 miles in me if this was race day; then weirdly, at the right side of 13 miles I felt strong again, thinking, yes, I could go on. Hopefully I’ll experience more of the latter feeling on marathon day!

So, into the final two weeks. I’ve got some easy miles this week, a short speed session of 800s – Eek! Thankfully there are only 6 of them! – and a short tempo. Race week is where I’m going to deviate from the plan again but just a little … I’m scheduled to run on Friday and Saturday before the Sunday marathon. However, work and flight schedules will make the Friday run challenging, and I’ve never run the day before any other marathon; I’m also required to find my way across London to register at the Expo, so have decided I’ll have a few days off prior to the main event.

Now it’s just a matter of staying injury free, in good physical health, and mentally sane! As my friend Wendy always tells me, it’s only running! All being well I’ll see you on the other side!