If you like your marathons to be scenic then this is the marathon for you. With a loop at either end you basically just run round the loch. If you want your marathon to be flat – then this is not the marathon for you. I heard the route called “undulating” but that is a fairly mild description I would suggest. In fact there is an elevation gain of 631 feet!
But let’s cut to the chase. If it’s possible to be disappointed with a 9 minute personal best then that is how I feel about the race. I went into the race more confident than I have ever been for a run. My training had gone superbly; my fitness and strength felt good; I had a clear plan and objective which would see me complete the run under 3 hours 30 minutes.
I set off quickly and happily. My plan was to run the first 13 miles at an average pace of 7 minutes 45 seconds a mile. But my competitiveness took over and I tried to keep up with the folk round about me rather than run to my plan. The first two miles were 7:14 and 7:07. I knew I was too fast but reasoned that I could slow down. But it didn’t happen. Mile 3:7:22; 4 :7:10; 5:7:27: 6:7:39: 7:7:24; 8:7:23 and so on. Because I felt strong and confident my heart was telling me : “You’re strong – you can keep this up and slow down on the second half.” My head was telling me that I was too quick and I was going to suffer in the second half. Stupidly I let my heart take control.
My other issue was that the three gels which I had put in the pocket of my shorts had fallen out in the first mile and I had nothing to sustain me other than jelly babies. This was another reason to slow down but again I was stupid.
I completed the half marathon in 1 hour 38 minutes – ridiculously fast. Even at that point I knew I was in trouble. The loop to the half-way point took us uphill and my legs started objecting. After we turned there was another sustained hill which was a real struggle. Mile 14 took 7:52; mile 15 : 8:16. There was a slight recovery in miles 16 and 17 where in a flattish part I recorded 8:03 and 8:02. But I knew even then with 9 miles to go that I was in deep trouble. My right calf was making it’s presence felt; my cadence had dropped; my breathing was laboured; the promised water stations weren’t there and I was getting sick of the jelly babies. I tried every positive strategy I could think of but nothing was working. From there to the finishing line was, to be honest with you, pretty hellish.
To be out of energy with 8 or 9 miles still to go is a horrible feeling. A voice in my head kept saying : “Stop! Give up! You’ve had it!” But I kept putting one foot in front of the other. More than anything I was annoyed with myself for bringing this situation on. Giving up is never a serious option for me. I determined that one way or another I would get across the finishing line. Mile 18 : 8:20; 19: 8:35. After mile 19 I tried to take stock. Physically I was ready to stop. Due to my fast start a decent time was still possible. But my sub 3:30 minutes dream died at that point. I realised how spent I was. I reassessed possibilities. For the first time in my running career I acknowledged that I would allow myself to walk the uphills. I mentally adjusted my target time to sub 3:35. Just then a water station appeared. I stopped and to celebrate downed an entire bottle in seconds. Next mile 9:05. From then on I walked the hills. I now knew what people mean by the expression “hitting the wall”. In great pain and exhaustion I kept going as best I could. Mile 21:8:49; 22:9:05; 23:10.03!; 24:9:37. In the midst of the darkness there were shafts of light. The runners who were passing me gave amazing support and encouragement. Some asked if I was okay; most shouted encouragement and support. It was fantastic and although I was too exhausted to thank them at the time I unreservedly do so here for helping me keep going. Mile 25:10:12 and mile 26:9:52. Here I am near the end – literally and metaphorically.
Even the last 400 metres seemed to take forever. I was keeping to the time required for a sub 3:35 finish – but only just. As I turned for the final finish I turned left too soon. Someone shouted to me to alert me. I tried to change direction but my legs went from me and I fell flat on my face. Somehow I got to my feet and staggered over the finish line. For around 10 minutes I felt a bit ropey but several mugs of tea revived me and I gradually recovered. My time was 3 hours 34 minutes and 39 seconds. But it was a badly run race and I only have myself to blame!
Well I completed the Loch Rannoch Marathon despite moments when I thought I wouldn’t. I have my official time which was 3 hours 34 minutes and 39 seconds. I was 59th out of 189 runners and second in my age category (V60) Several things went wrong which I will detail in my race report but at the end of the day it was a pb by 9 minutes 2 seconds so I’m happy about that. Here I am after the finish feeling revived after three mugs of tea!
I’m really looking forward to my second marathon this Sunday. My training has gone spectacularly well. No injuries, good runs, excellent times (for me!) and I feel that in terms of strength, fitness and weight I’m pretty much exactly where I want to be.
This isn’t Loch Rannoch but it serves as a reminder of how great it will be to run surrounded by beautiful Scottish scenery. I’m aiming to run a personal best – my time in the first marathon I ran was 3 hours 43 minutes 41 seconds so that’s the first target.
The forecast for Sunday isn’t too bad. Cool with a very light breeze would be ideal!
Well given that my last two posts described running personal bests it seems only fair that this one should describe total failure. I’ve had two months of overeating and minimal exercise so you reap what you sow. I’ve been volunteering at my beloved Edinburgh parkrun but last Saturday their volunteer rota was full so I thought I would check out the new parkrun on the block – Portobello parkrun just over 6 miles from home. I told myself I would run it gently as I am out of condition. It is a scenic parkrun – three laps of a pretty park with pond,river and nice views of Arthur’s Seat – the hill that dominates the Edinburgh skyline. It was a pleasant morning with a gentle breeze. There was a happy relaxed atmosphere pre-race with lots of visiting runners who were in Edinburgh for the popular Edinburgh Marathon Festival. What could possibly go wrong?
Well quite a lot if you were stupid me. I went off far too fast and even though I knew I was going too fast I kept chasing people instead of dropping back. As we approached the end of the first lap the famous running quote from George Sheehan came into my head : “Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants to quit.” Now as most runners will know this happens at least once every time you run and part of learning to run is saying “no” to that voice. But to my shame I gave in and pulled up after one lap. So an inglorious dnf (did not finish) for me and lots of negative thoughts afterwards.
I took a lot of confidence from my time in the Alloa Half Marathon. Not only was it a huge personal best but it showed me that I can run at a faster pace over a longer distance than I believed possible. Now, as regular readers will know, the ten week training programme for the half marathon was in fact a sprat to catch a mackerel. By building strength, fitness, endurance and speed I hoped it would, when transferred to a much shorter distance of 5k, give me the long held dream of running a 5k under 20 minutes. So after Alloa I had an easy run on Wednesday last week followed by interval training on Thursday. I rested on Friday, stuffed myself with carbs and told myself that I was going to have a really good effort at achieving my dream at Edinburgh parkrun last Saturday.
Saturday dawned dry and bright. There was an 8mph easterly wind so the first 2k would be into the wind but crucially it would be behind us on the way back. Having had 120+ failed attempts at running under 20 minutes I not only know the course inside out but also the times I need at each stage to achieve the goal. At 1k I was 5 seconds behind target. At 2k I was 7 seconds behind target but on the plus side I had been running into the wind and I still felt fairly strong. At 3k I was close to target and at 4k I was two seconds ahead. I mentally took stock. I needed to run the last k in 3 minutes 41 seconds. I needed to be at the trees in 18 minutes 45 seconds. I made that my target and tried to maintain a good pace. I reached the trees at 18 minutes 40 seconds – five seconds ahead. All I needed to do was keep going. I tried to kick but it wasn’t quite there. In desperation I counted breaths. Soon I could see the finish flags and dug deep one last time. As I crossed the line I looked at my watch and saw 19 minutes 55 seconds. I’m not sure I was ever so happy to see that time. Here’s a blurred photo of me almost at the finishing line. Apologies for the pink shirt. Alloa Half Marathon were clearly catering for the female runner when they chose the shirt colour this year.
My finishing time was later confirmed as 19 minutes 54 seconds. I am so happy and not a little relieved! Two running personal bests in a week seems a pretty good reason to take a break from running for a while. Doubtless in due course there will be a new challenge. I’ll let you know.
Just a quick note to say that I completed the Alloa Half Marathon yesterday in excellent running conditions. I was fortunate enough to run a personal best too. Report to follow but in the meantime here’s a photo showing how wrecked I was at the finish.
It’s actually a good photo to illustrate how not to run!