Inverness 1/2 marathon 2014

Time: 2:07:36

Medal:  Yes

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Ah, Inverness.  How I forget how long it takes in a car to get to you…

Thanks to sick people being around me with their sickness and coughing sick germs all around me, I was, after finally shirking off a two week cold, struck down again with some grim plague.  I took Wednesday night off from the gym.  And then Thursday.  And on Friday I felt so rancid that I had asked to be put down and cried at my desk at morning break had a little pity party for myself.  In fact, when the bell rang at the end of the school day, it took a full 30 minutes before I could muster up the strength to leave my desk and walk to my apartment.

Thankfully, Ian and I have started (and nearly finished) watching ‘Rome’ on Netflix, so I had something to look forward to every day (other than lying in bed in a dark room).  In fact, we have become so engrossed in the show that on Saturday, feeling a bit more human, I bought some spelt flour and baked a traditional ‘Roman Loaf’ (according to the recipe on the back) for us to rip apart with our hands and feast on as we watched.  Accompanied by “traditional” Roman butter, of course.  And bottled Heineken (also 100% traditional, I’m assured).

This guy.

This guy.

Unfortunately, our ‘episode of Rome with dinner’ grew into a Rome-a-thon, and Ian and I didn’t go through to bed until a slightly unreasonable hour.  And so on Sunday I slept in.  Up not quite early enough to allow for a bit of relaxation, and not quite late enough to have to write off the possibility of going to Inverness entirely, I spent the next 20 minutes frantically scrambling around my apartment, throwing on my race kit, trying to find my Garmin/keys/wallet/mp3 player/phone (which somehow had not charged overnight)/running socks (I own like 20 pairs, so why had they all mysteriously vanished?!), and then sat down to demolish a yoghurt and catch up on a bit of work.

Just before 8, I kissed Ian goodbye and headed downstairs and to the meeting point to await my chariot, a Fiat Panda filled with Naomi, her boyfriend Stu, and Ronnie.  Naomi and Stu had both run the Paris half (comically called ‘Le Semi’) the previous weekend, and were both worried about how they would manage just 7 days after a peak performance.  Sniffling and trying not to fall asleep in the warmth of the car, I told Naomi I’d be happy to keep her company if she fancied taking it easy, an offer she may have, at times, wished she hadn’t accepted.

We arrived at Bught Park with literally hours to spare, and since we were such keen beans, found ourselves registered, relieved, and sitting on the floor of the sports hall by about 10:30.  Somehow we managed to convince Ronnie that the start had been delayed by half an hour, which he was very angry about, but eventually came clean when it seemed as though he was going to hunt for an ATM and a shop with all the fictional extra time, and would potentially miss the actual start.

As the start approached, Stu (a serious athlete) dumped his warm layers into the car and went to warm up.  The rest of us dumped our clothes in the car, and then returned to the warmth of the sports hall, meeting up with a few familiar faces along the way.  Eventually, the piper started leading runners to the start line, and we tailed onto the swarm, choosing to stay indoors as long as possible, because: weather.

Naomi, Ronnie and I made a token effort to join in the enthusiastic warm up dancing (Stu was basically at up at the front and needed no such ridiculousness), until we started moving forward, breaking into a jog, and then speeding up to cross the timing mats.

The start.  Stu is the dedicated looking one in the Fife vest.

The start. Stu is the dedicated looking one in the Fife vest.

“I guess we’re running 13 miles then.”

Ronnie stuck with us for less than a mile before Naomi and I persuaded him to go ahead – he has been working hard at losing weight and was keen to get his first sub-2 half marathon since 2012, and we both thought he was capable, unlike the two of us (dead legs and snot face).  The pair of us plodded along, and I despite my heart rate, I felt comfortable.  I thoroughly entertained Naomi with hilarious and enthralling tales (or so I would like to believe), and we kept a pretty even pace (about 9:30 minute miles) for the first half, stopping to walk through the water stations.  Naomi’s legs soon voiced their disapproval, however, and the pace dropped back a bit after this point.  At one point, at a road crossing, the marshal told us we had to stop to let a bus past, which at the time was a welcome 10 second break, but would have been a real offense if we’d been running for time!  Still, he was apologetic, and it’s not like either of us minded.

With about 5k to go, we approached Esther, someone we recognized from the local parkrun.  Her half PB is 2:10, and at the rate she was running she was on track for a PB.  Just when Naomi was really starting to struggle, the role of PB pacer seemed to give her a reason to push on to the end, and we made it our mission to bring Esther in under her goal time.  We stooped to ridiculously unnecessary tactics (trying to become windbreakers, shouting like a drill sergeant, picking up a branch from a nearby grassy area and prodding her forwards with it), but she kept with us, and even managed to outkick us with a sprint finish at the end.  I mean, yeah, Naomi and I were busy with a conversation, but still – excellent effort.

"Yeah, I think a Nando's sounds like a good idea for dinner."

I’m pretty sure I remember smiling, but instead I look pretty vacant.

100% focus.

100% focus.

Even Ronnie shouting at us with less than a mile to go, exclaiming that Claudia (someone we know) was only about a minute ahead (Ronnie knows I get competitive at the end) wasn’t enough to make me leave our little pacing group.  Especially since this half marathon was technically my ‘cut back’ for the D33 in, ohhhhhhhhhh, two days.  Which I am starting to panic a bit about.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to be so busy at work, because at least it has kept my mind off of that little gem of information.

Anyway, Ronnie managed his sub-2.  He ran just over 1:51, in fact, and he was ecstatic.  Sadly, this means Naomi and I have lost a race buddy because he will once again start leaving us in his dust.  Stu, a freak of nature, ran less than half a minute slower than his Paris PB and crossed the line in 1:17:52.  Quite frankly, disgusting.

Once we had all gathered in the sports hall and chatted with other runners for a bit, we decided to head back to Aberdeen, singing along to some quality tunes (‘We Built this City’ and ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ come to mind).

Overall, a good, but long, day out.  Here’s hoping I’m this cheerful in 48 hours.  And that I can still walk.

Inverness Half Marathon 2013

Time: 2:01:17 (CR)

Position: 991/1566

Medal: Yes (though it’s the same design as last year)

IMG_20130319_172449The Inverness half marathon was my very first half marathon last year.  It was fairly disastrous, and I ended up getting a stitch halfway through and having to walk quite a bit.  While I wasn’t planning on racing it this year, I did want to put in a better performance than 2012, and my main goals were:

  1. Finish comfortably (after all, I have to run a marathon in less than 3 weeks)
  2. Not walk
  3. Beat last year’s time

Just like last year, it was going to be a there-and-back on the day kind of race.  Ronnie picked me up at about 8, and was subjected to my teenage tastes in music (as I had rummaged through an old cd case and found some classics), and along the way, we both remained unamused at the sleet battering the wind shield.  The forecast was not great.

We arrived at Bught Park in Inverness with loads of time to spare, and wasted no time in getting a parking space on the pebbles next to the field where the majority of people would be parking.  Or so we thought.  Because it was so wet, the field couldn’t be used for parking and everyone was told to try and make alternative arrangements.  I guess we kind of lucked out!

Ronnie's car, and some others, next to the field with NO cars.

Ronnie’s car, and some others, next to the field with NO cars.

Once parked, we braced ourselves against the cold wind and made our way to the hall, where we registered and picked up our tech shirts (which were pretty much identical to the Loch Ness marathon ones from September).  After that, we both took advantage of the small toilet queue, and bought some lunch (egg sandwich – delicious!), before sitting down with a couple of familiar faces for a chat.

The hall

The hall

While people watching (we spotted a Superman, a leprechaun, and a tin of SPAM – it was Saint Patrick’s Day), I caught sight of Paul, one of my team mates from Tough Mudder.  After a quick catch up, Ronnie and I decided we’d better ditch our warm clothes, get in the toilet queues, and head to the start line.

During the last (loooooong) toilet break, I met a fellow medal hunter, and also ran into Claudia, who was going for a PB, and asked to run with Ronnie and myself.  The three of us made our way outside as the bagpipers had already started to lead the runners to the start line.  Last year I remember a cheesy warm up, but I think we were too far back this time around, because I didn’t hear or see anything.

Eventually we were off!  I wasn’t too fussed about weaving in and out of people, and decided to just stick to everybody else’s pace until the runners became more spread out.  Claudia was not thrilled with this, and, unbeknownst to be, slipped through a gap and charged onwards.  Although Ronnie saw her, I did not, and after a few minutes realized Claudia was not longer behind us.  She had been having a lot of knee pain recently, so I tried to slow the pace a little to see if she would catch up, and kept asking Ronnie if he could see her.  I’ll admit, I was a little confused when he didn’t look behind him, but didn’t really question it, and we kept going.  Considering it was a cold and wet day, I hoped her race wasn’t going to be too miserable (which obviously it wasn’t, since she was well on her way by this point).

I had told Ronnie that we would stick together, and I would be his motivator.  There was a lot of “Keep it moving!” and “Charge up that hill!” and “Don’t be such a girl!” coming from my direction, and for the most part, he seemed thankful.  At 6 miles, he mentioned that he was now on his longest run since the Forfar Multi-terrain half marathon in February, and I urged him to push through any pain, unless it was coming from his ankle (which is recovering from injury).  Unfortunately, at about mile 8, he had a problem with his shoe, and every time I looked back, he was further and further behind.  His face told me he wanted no more motivational ribbing from me, so I kept going, at this point ploughing through the rain.

I smiled for every photographer I saw, said thank you to all of the super enthusiastic spectators, and tried to chat with anyone that was still in good humour.  Before I knew it, I was crossing the bridge again, and less than two miles from the finish.  I kept a steady pace until, roughly half a mile from the finish, I spotted Leslie (one of the familiar faces from earlier on) up ahead.  Unfortunately, this meant it was game on!  I started accelerating until I was just behind her, then coasted until right before we entered the stadium for our ‘victory lap’.  Like a complete bitch, I overtook her, and sped up conservatively for the finish (please note my St. Patrick’s Day effort):

Screenshot 2013-03-19 at 17.22.50After I finished, I waited for Leslie to come in and congratulated her, before grabbing my medal, goody bag, and some water, and moving out of the finishers’ area.  This is when I saw Claudia, and because I thought she was behind us, I assumed she had DNF’d, and braced myself for some consolation chat.  Happily, though, I was oblivious to her early surge, and she had smashed her PB by nearly 20 minutes.  We were both freezing by this point, and she went inside, while I went to wait for Ronnie to finish.

Violently shivering, I cheered Ronnie in, and instead of hanging around, headed back to his car for some heat.  Luckily, the gym chain we’re both members of has an Inverness branch, so we went there for a hot shower with no queues, indulged in a freshly squeezed orange juice, and headed back to Aberdeen.

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And of course the sun and blue skies emerged once we were on the road.  Because why wouldn’t it?