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?!?

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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!

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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!

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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!

Friends of Orchard Brae Fun Run

Supporting the ‘Friends of Orchard Brae’ when I run the London Marathon, I’d come to the conclusion that I should do something to earn my money. It’s all well and good asking people to sponsor you, but, at the end of the day when running is something that you love and enjoy, why should people sponsor you for it, unless of course the charity is particularly dear to them. So, the Fun Run was conceived as an ideal opportunity to both publicise the cause and provide some fun on a Tuesday evening.

After much deliberation, I decided to run around Seaton Park in Aberdeen. The easy option would have been to use Hazlehead Park or Aberdeen Beach as both have established 5k routes through parkrun. However, they’re free and can be run on any given Saturday, so this needed to be something a little different. Planning in earnest began earlier in the year, initially establishing the course: https://www.plotaroute.com/route/770863

Having trialled it myself on a number of occasions, I concluded that while not the easiest of runs, it suited the bill with a little bit of everything: some pavement, a challenging incline or two, some good trails, a wee bit of mud, and some lovely scenery in and around the park.

Aberdeen parkrun retreat every Saturday post-run to the Brig O’Don Restaurant on King Street, where we are warmly welcomed (https://www.greeneking-pubs.co.uk/pubs/aberdeenshire/brig-odon/). I was therefore delighted when Aidan, the General Manager, said he’d be happy not only to host us post-event for food or drinks, but would also be willing to set aside an area for registration. I cannot thank him enough for his support and relaxed attitude throughout proceedings, even with my vague ideas of numbers!

A Facebook event was created, word was put out to all the local running clubs, and it was then a case of hoping people would turn up and support us. A bit like parkrun, interest crept up slowly with an increasing number of people stating ‘Going’ on the event page. In my dreams, I hoped we might reach 100 runners.

On the day itself, I met with friends, Rosey and Cynthia, to mark the course. I really appreciated having extra eyes on the course as up until this point I was the only one privy to knowledge of where we were going! Chalking out the route we put arrows at any point where there was potential for people to take an accidental detour, also marking the marshal points in the hope that everyone would then comfortably find their stations. It was only on explaining the route to the marshals that I realised the plotted route and the actual route were two different things as I’d inadvertently changed the finish in Seaton Park. Thankfully nobody had studied the course in great detail, and the potential front runners were advised to follow the chalk. Ultimately, being billed as 5k (ish) any deviance from exact measurement would be excused, and it turned out the course was more accurate than I’d anticipated!

Arriving back at the Brig O’Don we found some other volunteers already in situ. Metro Aberdeen stalwarts, Jackie Stewart and Peter Jennings, were settled at the Registration table, Jane was all set to marshal, and others dropped in quickly afterwards.

With registration running for just over an hour things started calmly with a few folks trickling in. Before long, the area was becoming increasingly crowded, and I was grateful to Jane and Bryan for providing a welcoming party, handing out registration forms, pens and instructions, in order to keep everything moving along smoothly. I was astounded by the number of people showing up, and particularly touched when someone appeared with a small donation from a chap who was standing outside enjoying the ‘fresh air’ before his meal. The charity buckets were dotted around for donations as entry was free, donations welcome if people wished, and the homemade fudge sold quickly as always.

Ready for the deluge of runners: Friends of Orchard Brae Fun Run Registration at Brig O’Don Restaurant

Marshals set off for their points in dribs and drabs, and before long it was time to gather the runners together and head along to the park. Jackie knew a safe route, round the back of the Brig O’Don, rather than across Lidl’s car park or down King Street as I’d have gone, and led the way like the Pied Piper, while I flapped about looking for my clipboard! It turned up in one of the boxes at the start, thankfully, as it had the race briefing notes, vital in ensuring that all points of my risk assessment were covered, hopefully averting potential issues along the way!

Awaiting the call to the start: Friends of Orchard Brae Fun Run

There were only a couple of latecomers – phew! – managing to pick up numbers in the park which was a relief. It was a great sight to see so many people standing on the start line supporting us. Briefing done, they were off!

With military precision, Jackie then set up the finish funnel. Having marshalled at the Metro Beach 10k I’m aware that this is a job best left to the expert, so stood back and let him to do his thing, advising others to do likewise! Meanwhile, the runners were storming around the perimeter of the park.

The joy of volunteering at a 5k run is that you don’t have to wait too long for the first finishers to return, and sure enough, before long we had Michael Barker crossing the line. He was shortly followed by Mark McDonald and Jordan Cruickshank, our first Junior finisher. Heading up the field for the ladies were Louise Provan, Kirsten Sharpe and Charlotte Stirton. Very best of luck to Charlotte as she jets off to Paris to run the marathon this weekend!

Our winners received prizes from DW Fitness, Aberdeen, and we’re very grateful to Michael and Kim from DW for coming along to support us. They kindly supplied water for our finishers and ran a competition to win a month’s free membership. True stars! Congratulations to Shona Clarke, the winner of the draw.

DW Fitness Aberdeen with Friends of Orchard Brae Fun Run Prizewinners

Rosey handed out spot prizes for various runners throughout the field having kindly donated lots of Easter chocolate goodies, and there were also a few bottles handed out. GEF (Gathimba Edwards Foundation) donated a goody bag – always good when charities can support one another.

It was wonderful to stand back and watch the event unfolding, seeing the smiles on people’s faces as they crossed the finish line. We had runners and walkers of all abilities, capturing the ethos of the event, having fun and enjoying themselves. Feedback on the course was much appreciated, and I was heartened to hear that everyone had enjoyed it, even the muddy bits! It was amusing to see the difference in people – someone suggested that Derek may have sat down in the mud, such was the state of his legs having just ploughed through it, while others have yet to learn to fully embrace the dubs – you know who you are!

Being a fine night, people were not in any great hurry to rush away and it was heartening to see our final finishers receive as much of a cheer as those at the sharp end. Such is the nature of the running community: if ever you’ve wanted to give it a go, please be assured that this is the way of events such as parkrun every weekend. Everyone is welcome!

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All participants returned (136 of them counted out and counted back in by Peter) and safely escorted around the route by Cynthia, our tail walker with the tail, we reconvened at the Brig O’Don, slightly less in number. Refuelling complete, I was later supported in the final count by Carolyn, and I’m delighted to announce that due to the generosity of our participants we made £1188-24 for the Friends of Orchard Brae. An overwhelming amount, I’m deeply humbled by the support shown for our school community. This total will be further added to thanks to the efforts of a few other individuals who have created their own fundraising pages for the event, and will make a big difference to the pupils supported by Orchard Brae.

Thanks again to everyone involved, especially our volunteers – Peter, Jackie, Bruce, Bryan, Jane, Caroline, Lisa, Alison, Esther, Rosey, Russell, Izzie, Kevin & Carolyn. You were all wonderful!

Volunteers at the Finish: Friends of Orchard Brae Fun Run

Any further donations can be made at: https://wonderful.org/fundraiser/clarerussellslondonmarathonfundraiser-4d93e905

For more information on the work of Orchard Brae please visit: https://orchardbrae.aberdeen.sch.uk

London Marathon: 5 weeks to go!

I’ve tried to take the training one day at a time. I have a plan, I get daily e-mails from Final Surge, the week is laid out in my diary – one week at a time – but essentially I’m just focusing on today, not thinking about the next run (or runs) as that’s when it all becomes a bit overwhelming.

I’ve now completed 11 weeks of training and have followed the plan pretty much to the letter. I’ve missed only two easy 6 mile runs during this time: one because I ended up working too late and was shattered, the other in favour of a 10 mile walk. The only other variations on the plan have been the conversion of a planned tempo run from 3-2-3 miles with 1 mile jog recovery to an 8 mile tempo as I was lacking time, an easy 6 miles trimmed down to 3 in order to have a 5 mile walk in the afternoon, and an easy 6 shortened to 2 miles as I had a massage booked and not enough time to fit the miles in! Two miles is better than nothing and the book states that you should do what you can if you can’t manage the full session.

The upshot of these little tweaks is that with a few additional easy miles added to date I’ve got 537 miles in my legs and have only missed a total of 10 miles. I’m not convinced that will impact on the final marathon time.

I’ve come to enjoy the SOS (something of substance) sessions. Initially I dreaded them but I’ve come to realise that they are achievable and I usually feel pretty good during them. Surprisingly, it’s the easy runs that can feel harder; I think this is where the recovery happens.

So, 5 weeks left to train. I’m now starting to think ahead to the rest of the season as I’m currently feeling strong and would like to maximise the benefits of this training block however the marathon goes.

2019 Smokies 10

I really enjoy the Smokies 10 ladies race and try to fit it into my race calendar. Last year it had to be rescheduled due to snow, thus I missed it due to a clash with another race and deferred to this year instead. A very different day, the temperature was mild (8C), but the wind was strong, gusting 45 mph if the Met Office are to be believed. Having felt at times like I was running into a wall I have no reason to doubt!

Registration was smooth, thankfully, as despite my best intentions I was cutting it fine for getting my two mile warm up in (alongside a toilet stop).

2019 Smokies 10

The real positive in the warm up was realising that it really wasn’t that cold. I was swithering as usual about clothing. I was definite on the shorts and vest. The decision was whether or not to wear arm warmers as well as gloves. Warming up made me realise the only risk of the wind was my vest blowing up and exposing more of me than I’d care to! No arm warmers, just gloves, decision made.

Lining up for the briefing was a strange experience. Usually you have to find your space and try to move forward a bit through the throngs of runners. Here, there was a big space in front of the line and nobody wanted to get too close. Chatting to a lady beside me we agreed that we should just move towards the line and others could get past us if needed. A short briefing and off we went.

2019 Smokies 10
Not loving the wind!

Rounding the first corner the wind hit! The runners had spread out a little, the leaders heading off and opening a gap, while a couple of groups gathered. I latched onto a group as I realised after being on my own that the gusts were too tough to battle alone. I did try to work with others here, at times moving towards the front and taking the lead before dropping back into the group again. It was amazing how tough it was; a gust could really slow you in your tracks! As a result, the pace was slower than I would have liked and I got the impression that was the case for others too.

Strava splits: Smokies 10

The first half of the run is slightly uphill with a couple of steeper inclines. I felt quite strong on the ups but was delighted to reach the point in the run where it starts to go down.

Smokies 10 Route

Obviously not as happy as the other ladies in the pack, as they all took off at some pace! It took me a moment to gather myself, get the legs into gear, and get going. When I did manage I felt strong and then enjoyed slowing picking people off one by one, targeting the runner in front of me until I caught them. I hope this is a sign of the marathon training going well as with an average of 50 miles a week for the last few weeks, and a solid week of training ahead of today, I’m happy with the paces I hit in this second half. There was definitely some wind assistance here too I think, at times a gust giving a push in the right direction.

Before long I could see the houses as we approached Arbroath again. This, and the 9 mile marker, gave me the impetus to dig deep again, picking up the pace for the final mile.

2019 Smokies 10

Having anticipated continuing along to the main entrance gate for the finish, I was pleasantly surprised to be pointed left at the near end of the campus. This proved a better finish, running down onto the playing field and along the grass, then up a steep little bank (only three steps, but I made a silent request to not be the one to slip and face plant) to the finish line. Thanks to Shona for the cheers! Much appreciated.

I was very happy with my finishing time. Having said yesterday I’d be disappointed if not sub-80, I did wonder if I’d manage given the wind on the way out. However, the end result was pleasing …

Smokies 10 Result

Goodie bag and t-shirt collected, and a brief chat with those who’d finished around me, I dutifully headed off to complete my prescribed cool down (another two miles). This did garner some odd looks as I ran on the opposite side of the road to avoid getting in the way.

Following a lovely hot shower I was rewarded with a long queue for refreshments but as always, the Arbroath Footers did us proud, and the baker’s sandwiches and cakes were second to none. Tesco did the healthy bit, providing some fruit. I’m saving my banana for my porridge in the morning!

Lovely to share the post run celebrations with friends from Jog Scotland Hazlehead and parkrun. Huge congratulations to Marion (Maz) for scoring a PB on her birthday! Way to go!

The upshot … this race never gets easier but is definitely worth attending. Always sells out and there’s good reason for that. I’ll definitely return (provided I get my entry in before it sells out!)

Toughing it out

Today was the first run of the plan where I’ve really felt I’ve struggled to hit and maintain the pace required. All things considered I guess this isn’t that bad – after all, I’m now onto the eighth consecutive week of training and last week was one of the highest mileage weeks in some time; last time I hit this mileage was probably June when I was training for Fort William Marathon.

Today’s session was an SOS, Something of Substance, and totalled 10 miles. Two easy miles to warm up the weary legs – cumulative fatigue, I’m starting to feel you! Then two sets of three miles at faster than marathon pace with one mile recovery between, followed by a one mile cool down.

I realised on reflection that what got me more than anything was probably starting my speed work on an incline. Not a large incline, but just enough to notice it in the legs.

Enough said. Miles banked. Mountain of food consumed. Rest day tomorrow before the next SOS session on Thursday. This weekend’s race could be interesting! Watch this space …