Several years ago (a few months ago), I signed up for the Glenmore 12, as did my running chum, Elaine. The difference between the two of us is that I had run a marathon before, but she had not. Somewhere between signing up and now, Elaine decided that running a marathon might be a good idea, if only for a confidence boost, before she submitted herself to her first ultra. The timing of the Dundee marathon was ideal for a long (ie. 26.2 mile) run, so we both signed up, agreeing to run together, as a training run, as we had a time limit of 6 hours.
Having run the half marathon in 2013 and 2012, I knew the first half of the course started uphill through trails, but then meandered downhill pretty much all the way to the finish. This, of course, meant that the second half, as it finishes in the same place as the start, would involve some uphill. That was about the extent of my course knowledge before we begun.
With a forecast for sunshine and some warmth, I was thrilled. Elaine – not so much. She picked me up at 7:00 am before our flawless drive to Camperdown Park, where we registered, chatting with a few fellow runners, used the toilets (the fancy ones, not the porta loos), and headed back to the car to slather on sun cream and relax before the briefing.
During the briefing, there was mention of a ‘staggered start’, which basically meant we should arrange ourselves in the swarm of runners based on expected finishing time. Elaine and I made our way to the back, where I spotted (and briefly chatted to) a hungover Daniel, who was running the half. We must have been fairly distracted by each other, as I remember looking ahead and seeing the lead runners bounding up the hill on the business end of the start tunnel. I guess it was time to get going!
Elaine and I settled into a comfortable pace, and enjoyed the first two miles that took runners uphill through the park’s trails before spitting us out onto a residential street, marking our downhill cruise to the finish. Kind of.
At mile 4, the now-familiar boulder heralded the entrance to the path that would carry us along for a few miles. Unfortunately this is where we saw a couple of friends at the side, one of whom looked to be nursing a sore calf. They wished us luck and told us to keep going, and so we did. Spirits were high.
About a mile later, a cyclist made himself known, and Elaine and I moved to one side to let him through.
“It’s OK, I’m with you,” said the marshal in the high-viz jacket.
“We’re not last, are we?” I joked, expecting a jovial reply about how there were hundreds of people (or even, you know, 20) behind us.
“Yep, the last full marathon runners. That couple in luminous orange that just passed you were last,” was the answer we got.
Spirits were no longer high.
Despite being very friendly, knowing that 5 miles into Elaine’s first marathon we were dead last was a bit of a morale killer, and though she tried not to let it show, I think it annoyed Elaine. I tried to lift the mood with conversation, terrible dad jokes, sharing gossip, etc., but the sun was on a mission and Elaine made it clear that she was struggling in the heat. We pressed on.
Soon we were on the long roadside stretch that continues (mostly) downhill towards the beach. Passing another residential area, a couple of kind souls had their hoses out for the toasty runners, and Elaine was visibly thrilled about it. We passed the 11 mile marker, and the sweeper cyclist pulled up to point out a pair of full marathon runners up ahead. I made it our goal to pick them off so we didn’t feel ‘sweeper pressure’ as we ran, and Elaine was game. We passed them around a mile later, and tried to create a little bit of distance between ourselves as we approached the soul-destroying halfway point, when all the half marathoners veered right, under a finisher’s arch, and full marathoners stuck to the lonely, lonely left, running through a grassy field towards the marshal in the distance.
Thankfully, a cool breeze and some cloud cover had made the weather a bit more bearable for Elaine, and we adopted a walk/run strategy for the stretch along the coast. A couple of miles later, we approached Broughty Ferry castle, where we stopped for a photo:
At about mile 16, the first energy drink station was a welcome sight (for me, mostly). Having taken on no fuel, and suffered a dodgy belly for the past few days, I was glad to actually be craving something at this point. Sadly, this is where the nice views ended, and the industrial estate began, which might have been unmemorable had it not been for two memorable things:
- We spotted a neon green speck in the distance – another runner!
- A man wearing only leopard print boxers and clearly not sober started running alongside us, making very little sense.
The underwear-clad man stuck with us for a while. We tried slowing down. So did he. We tried speeding up. So did he. Then he went ahead a bit (when I snapped a photo), and we eventually caught him up again. We managed to shirk him off on one of the marshals (sorry!!), and have since realized that he gatecrashed a Commonwealth Games event, and forced police to contact his parents to come and pick him up. Still, it made another mile tick by relatively quickly.
The next couple of miles were dedicated to catching the man in green, which we succeeded in doing at the next aid station (mile 19). We had a couple of salted pringles and some fluids before setting off just ahead of him. After about a mile, however, he overtook us again, and by the next aid station (mile 22), Elaine was feeling pretty fatigued, so the three of us kind of formed a power-walking group, moving forward and chatting. It turned out that green shirt and I have a lot of friends in common, and he is one of the people trying to get an Aberdeen marathon up and running. Wilson, your chat was much appreciated!
At the final aid station (mile 25), we spotted the two runners behind us, dangerously close, so we picked up the pace a little as we entered the park. We continued uphill until we spotted the finish in the distance, and Elaine picked up to a run. I joined her, and Wilson was hot on our heels. We heard Elaine’s name being shouted out, and realized some of our half-runner-friends had stayed back to cheer her in, so we turned the final corner and finished with smiles on our faces.
Once she had stretched and changed into some less disgusting clothes, we headed off, stopping for my annual dirty McDonald’s (delicious and wrong), after which I rudely fell asleep as she drove us home.
Although I have escaped any muscle pain today (in fact, I’ve managed a kettlebell class and 45 minute spin class), I have experienced a bit of pain thanks to the most crap-tastic “factor 50” sun cream on the planet.
Still. It could be worse. I could be Ian, who crashed his bike while I was waiting to cook him dinner.