“Chip” time (only the finish line was chipped, so more like gun time): 2:01:08
Garmin time: 2:00:31
I had decided to try and stick to somewhere between 9:15 and 9:30 minute miles for this race, as practice for the Loch Ness Marathon, and while I managed to ease back on the pace a bit, it is obvious looking at my time that I am still starting off a bit fast. Admittedly, though, at mile 12 I thought I had a shot at getting in under 2 hours so I sped up a bit, but too little, too late. Still, this race wasn’t about getting a personal best, it was about self-control, and I’m happy enough as I finished feeling fresher than I have finished any of my previous half marathons, and as though I could go on for miles. This is promising, because in September I’m going to have to run twice the distance.
The day began with a cruel alarm at 6am, prompting me to get into the shower (I like to race fresh, I don’t care if some people find this unnecessary). At 7, Ronnie picked me up, and we picked up his friend Jane, before heading onwards to Dundee. The forecast had been cloudy with showers. The forecast, thankfully, was not accurate. We were greeted with gorgeous sunshine and a nice breeze – perfect! We picked up our registration packs (our race number and timing chip), and then realized we had over an hour to enjoy the rare Scottish sunshine.
And of course I will be talking about my toilet moments. There were four portaloos visible from where we registered, so I jumped in line for a slash. After a few minutes (and minimal movement), a guy on a megaphone declared there were more toilets hidden around a corner. Cue a mass sprint to the new destination! Once we had arrived, we realized that there were male and female public toilets, so we got into new, slightly shorter lines and all avoided making any comments about how much the toilets stunk. What I remember from the moments waiting for the toilet was a man (in the men’s queue, clearly) who declared that there were several, “urinals, if you’re not needing a cubicle.” About two thirds of the men removed themselves from the line and went into the men’s room, leaving three men that we then ALL knew had to launch a brown submarine into the U-bend trying to look casual. I have no idea why I found this so amusing, I guess working with kids lowers my mental age occasionally. Anyway, I think I deserve a medal just for maintaining the illusion of calm maturity while inside I was laughing uncontrollably – the kind where you snort out of desperation to breathe.
Moving swiftly along, after the toilet stop, I demolished a chocolate chip Cliff bar that I purchased at the Run4it tent (I had eaten all of my ‘morning fuel’ the day before whilst watching the Olympic coverage). Ronnie was busy decorating himself with nipple guards (that ended up migrating during his run, but did, he confirms, prevent any chaffage) as well as a birthday badge. Ultimately, he made the wise decision to omit this particular piece from his race gear.
Just before 9:30, everyone made their way to the start. I had noticed that there didn’t appear to be a timing mat at the start line, and confirmed with other runners that there would only be a timing mat at the end, so we would only get an official gun time. Had I known this earlier, I might have tried to get ahead, especially considering the first 2 miles, but then again, I was actively trying to pace myself, which I have previously been shit at.
The race started just after the scheduled start time, and we were greeted with an uphill climb from the start. The course stayed within the park and took us along some muddy (especially muddy considering the recent rain) trails, and I remember thinking trail shoes would have been more appropriate! Someone pulled up beside me and seemed to know my name – another reader! This was his first half marathon and he was aiming for 2:10:00. I think I saw him come over the finish line before 2:15:00, and if I’m right it was a very good effort for his first go. Anyway, during the uphill trails there was quite a lot of bunching as it was practically impossible to weave through people or overtake. This is reflected in my first two mile splits: 10:25, 9:38.
Almost exactly after the 2 mile marker, we left the trails and ended up on the road – and downhill! It was around here that the sun really began blaring down, and the heat was rising from the asphalt, that a girl in a light blue top (that I had picked out as a pacer at the start) made a comment to me about how she wished the forecast for cloud and rain had been accurate! We started chatting and, realizing that we were pretty well matched for pace, ended up running together until about mile 11. It was great having company through those early miles, and one thing I learned is that if your name is on your shirt, everyone shouts encouragement at you! We must have heard ‘Come on Sally!’ every time we passed a crowd of supporters, so this is definitely something I want to have during Loch Ness.
Just before mile 11, our pace was beginning to lag, and we had both said it was OK to go ahead if the other was getting tired – she was aiming for sub 2 hours after a near miss last year. I was still feeling strong, so I slowly started pulling away, but I thought I could still hear her feet hitting the ground behind me. When I started to try to talk to her, I turned around to realize I was having a conversation with a very confused looking gentleman.
The water stop just after mile 11 could not have been more encouraging. There was a long downhill stretch ahead of us, and the marshals assured us that it was all downhill or flat until the end! This kind of news is pretty much akin to being starving and hearing the Dominos Pizza delivery guy ring your buzzer. I was stoked. I also, remarkably, still felt really strong. I didn’t go wild, but I did start putting the pedal down (and enjoying the sea breeze that was making love to my face).
As my Garmin beeped for 12 miles, I looked down to realize that if the GPS wasn’t too far out, it was possible to get across the line in under two hours if I stuck to 8:30 minute miles, which I did. The stretch along the water had a bit of a headwind, but as it was the final stretch, I found it quite refreshing. There was a bit of a sticky moment running across a rickety wooden bridge (with more than one runner pounding on it, there was quite a lot of disconcerting bouncing, and I do believe I let out an f-bomb), and then the finish was in
sight! I looked at my Garmin to see the time tick over from 1:59:59 to 2:00:00, swore under my breath, and steadily cruised over the line in 2:00:31. I collected my goody bag (containing medal, discount vouchers, Haribo sweets, a High5 gel, and a cereal bar), as well as a bottle of water and a High5 plastic sports bottle, and made my way to where I had seen Ronnie shout my name as I came through.
We hung around for everyone else we knew doing the race to finish, and enjoyed relaxing in yet more sunshine. We also watched as the full marathon runners continued on their journey beyond the half finish line and cheered them on. Then we collected our bags and headed for the shuttle bus, which was meant to leave every 15 minutes (lies!).
The bus journey back was warm and cozy, and the smell of a large group of sweaty runners wasn’t as bad as I had expected, though one guy did have to get off the bus early and we drove off leaving him looking a bit green, but glad to be in the fresh air. Once back, we watched some of the marathon runners come across the line (their return journey saw them finish at the start line) before heading to the car.
As we drove away from Dundee, we drove into the dark clouds and heavy rain that had obviously been plaguing Aberdeen for most of the day, and realized how close we were to miserable race conditions. The rest of the journey, however, is less than a blur, as I had fallen asleep, probably with my mouth hanging open in a ridiculously becoming style, so I can only thank Ronnie for not looking over and bursting into hysterics so severe that we veered out of control and crashed.
I have spent the remainder of the day sleeping on and off, eating, and watching Olympic coverage. I also managed to pop an enormous blister that I picked up during the race. I shit you not, it was the size of a jelly bean, thus doubling the size of my second-to-littlest toe. I would have taken a photo, but I was just too excited to pop that bad boy! Yes, I am a popper – I am too impatient to let them heal naturally, and at that size on the bottom of a toe, it is pretty sore.
Overall I really enjoyed this race. A lot of that could have been down to the excellent weather or the good company I had, but the course was quite pretty and varied as well. In fact, this was the second race I have ever done in which I didn’t listen to any music – even though my mp3 player was in it’s regular tucked-into-bra spot, ready for action. AND I had downloaded some fresh music that I was really looking forward to using to push me to the end. The first race, by the way, in which I raced sans tunes, I woke up wildly hungover and with just enough time to get dressed and cycle to the start line. I PB’ed on that occasion. Sick.
Although this isn’t anywhere near the best medal I have received for a run (in fact, I was kind of disappointed with it), it was inscribed on the back, which gives it extra points. If I don’t hate running with every atom of my being by next year, I might be back!