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

2019 Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half Marathon

I love this race. It’s my PB course. This year had to be different though. Training for a marathon, the training plan advised I run this at the sharp end of long run pace rather than as a race. Had I known I wouldn’t be racing in all honesty I’d probably not have entered as I’ve never believed you can put a number on and not get caught up in racing, especially when that number is 1!

Number 1: Metro Aberdeen do Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half Marathon

On the upside, running in Moray always means a visit ‘home’, and I thoroughly enjoyed my evening with Mum and Dad, as always being well fed, before a good night’s sleep alleviating the need for an early drive through.

Heading for registration, I met lots of familiar faces! Friends from Metro, Hazlehead Jog Scotland, Sunday running buddies, and even Orcadians. Fantastic seeing you all out in force!

I then headed back ‘home’ while the others waited to be bussed along to Kinloss, later chauffeured to the start by my folks, just in time to join the massive toilet queue and make it to the start.

More friendly faces were seen, both in the toilet queue and on the start line, and I enjoyed chatting to people along the way to Lossiemouth. I resisted the urge to get carried away at the beginning, good practice for the GFA start at London, I’m sure, as with lots of much faster people there I’m certain I’ll need to be at the back!

I enjoyed a chat with Elspeth and Peter – hope you made it onto the boat! These early miles felt like I was going quite slowly and I did have to use my watch to settle into the pace. However, settle I did, and the miles passed smoothly. Before I knew it we’d passed the maltings; the smell here always reminds me of childhood (not because my parents were partial to a drink, but because Dad was a Stillman)!

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On through the wooded section, the climb up from Burghead felt far more comfortable when running within my limits.

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Miles were ticking away nicely and I began to look forward to seeing my parents in Hopeman. Soon enough I spotted their car; as I approached they hopped out to greet me; many thanks to you both!

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A friendly toot as they diverted off the main road to get away from the runners, I chatted to others I met along the top road. This greatly assisted in whiling away the miles again. A small world, one of the ladies I chatted to recognised me from Fort William last year where we’d talked before the marathon. It was good to learn more about the world of ultra running – maybe one day.

After the final water station my competitive urge kicked in with a mile to go, and I enjoyed picking off a few runners on the last leg. The wind that had been slight seemed to pick up around the golf course. The final turn saw a tough finish into the headwind. Hats off to anyone who managed a PB! Not the easiest of days for it.

Tough finish into the wind at the 2019 Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half Marathon

Post run I was deposited at the community centre where, as always, the Moray Road Runners had laid on a great spread. Refuelled and refreshed, having caught up with a few friends, I stayed for the prize giving (congratulations Metro ladies & George), before heading ‘home’ for yet another feed!

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Overall time – 1:51:08, slower than usual for this course, but steady pacing and a strong run. A great day out again. Despite the wind, good conditions overall – sunshine and warmth in February. It doesn’t get much better than this!

Ice, snow … the joys of winter training

This week the weather has been somewhat irritating. Being Winter ‘bad’ weather is to be expected; sadly it does not assist in the enjoyment of winter training. Making it through our long run last weekend, only having a short section of icy ground that was avoided by running along the verge, I felt positive about the week ahead.

However, by the time Monday came, the thaw and subsequent freeze saw pavements becoming a little more treacherous. I opted to run around the local playing fields in the early morning, a joy as the snow was crisp, and I had the pleasure of seeing two foxes and a deer. The day was rounded off with a sports massage and positive comments from my therapist about the healthy state of my legs!

Tuesday saw me head indoors to endure the treadmill. Another early morning run, surprisingly I got into my stride and enjoyed the session of reps by the end. Just as well! The icy thaw and freeze continued meaning Thursday’s tempo was also safer on the treadmill. I don’t think I’ll ever love it, but am growing fond enough of the ‘dreadmill’ to accept that if needs must I can in fact bang out the miles without dying of boredom.

Friday saw a significant thaw, albeit still cold, allowing me to run my easy miles around the park after work. I must have looked a real site. Having forgotten my gloves, I wore my leather driving gloves to keep my hands toasty. I’ve managed to lose one hand, thankfully opposites, from two pairs, so had one black and one brown. They did the job!

This morning I woke up with the intention of getting a long run done, hopefully permitting me to walk tomorrow. I was amazed to see the snow dinging down outside my window, a fair bit having fallen overnight. Snow is far more pleasurable for running; I’d even go so far as to say it’s fun! Yaktrax on, I opted for the beach promenade, running the Aberdeen parkrun route and chatting with friends along the way – thanks Bryan, Graham, Colin & Alan for helping me to pass the time!

Opting to continue running in order to get all my miles done before the end of parkrun, I continued to Footdee, then running a little further, back and forth along the lower prom to ensure I didn’t run into the onslaught of parkrunners at 9:30 am. Shockingly bad at maths on the run, I then ended up significantly behind them, even the Tail Walker having passed the stones by the time I reached them!

Running to start Aberdeen parkrun - late!

Running back to the start, I exchanged pleasantries with Nik as I turned and began my ‘official run’, advising that I’d probably just be on a freedom run due to by bad timekeeping! A little injection of pace saw me pleasantly surprised on two fronts – one that I was able to do it, and two, the tail walker was in sight! I managed to catch up by the Beach Ballroom and was then able to relax a little on the lower prom.

14 miles banked, another parkrun logged, what’s not to like?

Successfully caught the Tail Walker at Aberdeen parkrun

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.

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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

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.

Marathon Training Begins …

Having lacked focus since dropping out of Fraserburgh Half Marathon (in favour of going away to celebrate Mum’s 70th birthday), I decided that I needed a focus, and have therefore made the decision to follow an 18 week training plan in the lead up to Fort William Marathon.

The year got off to a reasonable start with steady miles, but for four weeks I’ve done little or nothing (3 weeks with 7 or 8 miles a week, then a complete rest last week). The upshot is that I am focused and raring to go, at least in my head. I’m hoping the body will follow suit shortly.

I love a plan and favour Pfitzinger and Douglas. I’ve used the plans from the P & D Advanced Marathoning book for my last two marathons and therefore decided to stick with it. This will be a new venture, following the 18 week, up to 55 miles, plan, as previously I’ve done 12 weeks or less. That’s been on top of decent base mileage though, something I feel I’m lacking this time.

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The first mesocycle is all about building endurance which is exactly what I need to do just now. Despite it being a shock to the system I have enjoyed my runs this week. As with all plans, it adapts to fit around life quite nicely, so I ended up doing two runs at the start of the week and two this weekend.

Monday night saw a lactate threshold session, with four of the miles at half marathon pace. Given that this pace was last used in February for Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half it was a bit of an effort to get there and hold it, but I did it. Tuesday saw a far more sedate affair with a lovely session on the Deeside line with Ali and Alan. It’s so good to be able to get back out in the evenings and see some daylight!

Yesterday was a recovery run. Conditions were perfect at Aberdeen parkrun and there were lots of personal bests recorded, including those of my sister and niece. Very well done to them both. I thoroughly enjoyed my run with them, although the younger of the two did try to escape, managing to get a few seconds clear and holding this to the finish, spurred on by her auntie hollering encouragement from behind along with an alert that her mum was starting to pick the pace up on the final stretch.

The legs felt a bit weary as we set off today from Hazlehead. There were five of us to begin, two intending on doing a shorter distance. Conditions were perfect, hardly a breath of wind, and the sun was shining brightly with a wee touch of ground frost remaining due to the clocks having changed. I love the peace and tranquility of running in this area, and it was particularly noticeable running round Kings Hill where the birds could be heard singing in the trees. As always, time passed quickly with the chat along the way, and before I knew it I’d been round Kings Hill twice and was on the way back to Hazlehead. As is traditional, the run ended with coffee, by this time we were a twosome, and had timed it to perfection, hitting Cognito at a quiet moment.

Therein ends Week 1: 34.88 miles and one session of Pilates. I’ve got the plan for Week 2 written through the diary but am not looking further ahead than that. I know what’s in store and will just take it week by week, run by run.

Aberdeen parkrun: The Windy One

When you awake to the sound of the slates rattling on the roof you know you’re in for a treat at Aberdeen parkrun!

Meeting Alan for my warm up run at 8:30 I was impressed to find he’d already done two miles – easily seen he’s out tonight. We did our usually warm up / course recce and found that the wind was as ‘pleasant’ as I’d anticipated. Any concern I had about being overdressed (base layer, long sleeved top AND a jacket) dissipated quickly as my ears made themselves known – freezing! Alan being both a gentleman and a kind hearted soul very kindly gave me the Buff he’d been sporting round his neck. Thanks Alan! It truly was appreciated!

Running along the upper prom there were times, particularly approaching the Beach Ballroom, when the wind almost stopped us in our tracks. In true Aberdeen style though, as soon as we hit the lower prom the wind was at our backs giving strong encouragement. With this came the awareness that yes, I was overdressed!

Arriving back at the start / finish area, the intrepid volunteers were already underway with the setup. It’s on days like these that you really appreciate them. It’s one thing running but quite another waiting for the 200 odd people to complete the course. Thank you each and every one of you!

A short time later the main event was underway. My lazy streak has continued and as mothis was my first run since Tuesday so I’d decided to run hard. I’d also decided to try and stick with a pack, something I often fail to do, instead finding myself alone, in the hope that I might gain some relief from the wind. I tucked in behind a wee posse at the top of the slope and ran with them for a bit. Feeling a little guilty about not pulling my weight I moved in front, only to have very the realisation that it was feasible to catch the awesome duo of Tony and Andrew. Both good runners, they were chatting companionably and very much running within their comfort zones. I therefore dropped the guilt and settled in behind them until the midpoint turn at the bus stop.

Glad to have ditched the jacket before the hard work started it felt good to pick up the pace and ‘enjoy’ the run back. I was working hard and to beginning to flag towards the end of the lower prom, young Omar having motored past me effortlessly (great running!) when James passed. James, you have no idea how much those three words, ‘Come on Clare!’ spurred me on at this point. I tried at first to hang onto his coat tails but didn’t quite manage. I did however find a new strength and motivation to keep pushing until the end.

Delighted to finish in a decent time, faster than I’d hoped for today, it’s onwards and upwards now. The marathon training starts next month and I’m starting to look forward to it.

Finishing today’s tale, a shout out to Alison who completed her 100th parkrun today. A stalwart volunteer this is a truly well earned t-shirt (when you finally get your hands on it)! Kudos to you Alison! 👏