Yesterday was a brilliant day. I ran the Loch Katrine Marathon for the second time. The weather was perfect, cool first thing and sunny later on. I wrote a very long detailed race report last year so won’t do the same again, but there is still lots to say.
Although I finished in a slightly slower time (5.18 this year vs 5.08 last year), there were so many positives I almost can’t list them all. I’ll have a go though, because there have been so many negatives and some pretty dark times these last few weeks:
I ran the whole of the first 14 miles, including all the hills.
I felt great afterwards, and although rather tired, I feel brilliant today.
I had a blister going into the race, but it didn’t get any worse and I didn’t collect any more.
All my kit was brilliant, no rubbing or discomfort or faffing required at all. I wasn’t too hot or too cold at any point. I didn’t over pack for a change. I had everything I needed and a couple of spare bits just in case.
My energy levels stayed pretty even, I ate really well throughout, no sugar highs or crashes, and I didn’t get any stomach cramps.
My asthma behaved pretty well. I needed a few puffs on my blue inhaler but nothing major.
I only started to get really sore at 24 miles, and to my great relief my favourite running mentor Norry appeared on his bike at 25 miles having finished his marshalling stint. He was brilliant company for the last mile and I’m really grateful to him because I was starting to hurt by then.
I have a slightly sore left heel and a slightly sore right knee today but nothing serious and I will be out for a gentle run tonight.
Best of all, I feel happy and confident about my running again.
I was leaving my should I-shouldn’t I Fling decision until after the concert next week, but after a good gossip with Norry, I feel good to go. I will be slow, I will be just inside the cut-off if I do finish, but my legs feel good and strong and provided I can stay bug-free, I feel ready to give it my best effort.
Thanks to Audrey and to all the marshals and helpers for their support and giving up their time. This is a fantastic race that will sell out quickly again next year.
A couple of friends didn’t have quite so much fun and I feel for them and wish them a speedy recovery 😦
Clan MacGregor cemetery, jutting out into the magnificent Loch Katrine
Tunnocks had sponsored the event again, and RD Audrey operates a strict litter policy. There were also some hungry marshals nearby!
Thanks to Fiona Rennie’s snap-and-go photography skills for this picture.
A long way in either direction with weary paws
About 11 miles to go
Just past the cemetery, and very aptly named for more than one reason
A glimpse of Ben Lomond through the clouds
An impressively spiky elevation chart
Next time I see Audrey will be at the concert. Eeek!
It was a gorgeous day in Glasgow yesterday, and when I got home, it was 11 degrees, not a cloud in the sky and the sun was just starting to fade. There was the promise of a beautiful sunset, so I pulled my running shoes on as quickly as I could and headed out west along the old railway line towards Strathblane.
I had contemplated wearing shorts but decided there was still a bit too much daylight for that – and I’m glad I didn’t as it really was cold once the warmth of the sun had gone.
The target was 8 slow miles. I thought my legs were still tired from a long and very hilly run round the forest on Sunday evening, and with the Loch Katrine marathon coming up at the weekend, I didn’t want to push too hard.
But actually after a couple of miles to shake things off a bit, I felt really strong. I felt so free, with nothing but the hills and the sky around me (and a few sheep). The last three miles were fast for me, but I felt as though I could have just run and run forever.
I’m nervous and excited about Sunday. It was a brilliant race for me last year (see race report) and it was just the start of what turned out to be an incredible year. I’m not chasing a time, I’m more interested in having a good run and enjoying the stunning surroundings. I hope just a little of the magic I felt last time is still there, although maybe with just a little less wind this time.
It has been a long, long winter. Normally it doesn’t bother me but this year, and also when I look back, last year, I have struggled to keep things in perspective at times.
Running has been haphazard thanks to two sinus infections and a chest infection in quick succession. The latter saw me on steroids which had more of an impact than I’d anticipated, and so the return to training has been cautious.
Finally, I got out for a decent long run on Sunday.
It was a beautiful day. The sun was out when I set off, and stayed out for most of my run. There were some impressive rain showers early on, but thankfully they were short-lived.
It was the first run of the year in just a single layer of clothing, (admittedly long sleeves and long tights), and it was great not to be rustling along in my jacket. I was trying out a new backpack that I’d wanted for ages, and it felt brilliant.
It was also a rare daylight run, and after months and months of running in the dark, at last there was no need for my headtorch.
The world was out enjoying the weather and the scenery. Dogs were being walked, children were learning to ride bikes, sheep were being rounded up on the hillside. The highland cattle I’d seen on my last run down this route had increased their number by one, a tiny calf who could just be seen sticking very close to its mother.
For me, a long run isn’t a long run without a hug from a dog along the way. I stopped counting border collies when I got to ten. It was a similar story with black labradors. No greyhounds this time, but I did see a couple of whippets.
This week’s dogs of the day were Maisie the Westie and Ben the miniature Schnauzer, both happily showing off their newly clipped streamlined spring coats.
My route covered a mixture of the newly designated John Muir Way down to Strathblane, then up the Stockiemuir Road to Carbeth and then onto the popular West Highland Way, before crossing the road at Glengoyne distillery. I had my now customary stop at the stile, and paused for a think before stomping up the hill and then picking up the Pipe Track that runs back to Blanefield.
I’ve been quite homesick lately, and the stile has become a bit of a place to sit and think about friends and family far away.
Glengoyne is a favourite whisky of one of my dearest friends. We go back to days of Ducatis and random meetups with unknown bikers in car parks. It has become a tradition that each time I run past the distillery, I have a quick stop to take a picture of the distillery for her, as a reminder that it’s still there.
Despite being just nine miles from home, I’ve never been to visit, and I hope that when I do, it’s with her.
The snow is falling. I have a cap on to try and keep it out of my eyes, but it’s more designed for keeping the sun off my face, and as a result, the peak is obstructing my head torch. I keep fiddling with the beam and my cap but it’s no use, I just can’t get it in a decent position.
Until a minute ago, the path was very dark and very wet, lit only by the glow of an occasional streetlight.
Now, the trees are clearing though. All around me, everything is white. There are hills on my left and my right, but I’m in the valley between them. I’ve passed all the housing estates and apart from the occasional farm, the space is wide open around me.
I’ve given up with the head torch and the cap.
Now, the light of the moon combined with the brightness of the snowy fields and hills means I can see perfectly.
My shoulders drop, my arms relax, there is a little more spring in my feet and my lungs fill that bit easier. My heart feels fit to burst.
I get to the 10k tree, and turn round to head for home.
Across the valley, I can see car headlights picking their way up the Crow Road. The snow is quite heavy now. It’s Wednesday evening so a couple of miles away, just over the hills behind the Crow Road, my friends are out running. I’ve chosen to head out without them tonight. I give them a wave in my head. I love their company, but I also love my own.
I run across two wooden bridges. My footprints from earlier have disappeared, and the deeper snow is soft as I pick my way over carefully.
I’ve seen two people in 6 miles.
When I open the door, two furry heads lift from the sofa with a slight jangle. They are past getting up to greet me, it’s far too much effort and they both know they will get their ears rubbed if they wait just a minute.
I lift a couple of back legs belonging to the nearest sofa-sprawled dog so I can sit down, and their paws fall and relax against me. I sit for a while, enjoying the warmth of the room, and listening as my breathing slows back to normal.
I’m just home from work, I feel sick from the bus journey home, I’m tired and I’m just starting to come down with yet another cold.
I live by the hills just north of Glasgow so obviously it’s raining outside.
I check my peak flow. It’s just above the self-imposed limit where running is questionable, but my chest feels OK and after being inside all day, I am desperate for some fresh air. I get changed and head out of the front door.
All my other winter running kit is in the wash so I’m wearing a pair of incredibly badly fitting running tights that were stashed at the back of the drawer in case of an emergency. They are slightly too see-through for daytime public consumption, and they don’t stay up without a good yank every couple of hundred metres.
I’m also wearing a very brightly coloured top that is too bright for daytime public consumption, especially when worn with these running tights. My colour coordination this evening leaves much to be desired.
It’s raining quite heavily now. I’m actually really glad about this because it means the footpaths won’t be icy, and so I am less likely to slip over.
It’s 16th December and this is my 16th day of running this month.
This is an informal challenge to run every day in December (including Christmas Day), for 3 miles or 25 minutes, whichever comes first.
I first heard of it last year, but didn’t think it was something I’d be able to do. The previous winter had been incredibly icy and my asthma had been pretty bad so I didn’t feel able to commit to running every day.
So instead, I challenged myself to log an 80 mile month, a challenge set by Bangs and a Bun, whose running/fitness blog had helped inspire me when I first started out on this incredible journey in early 2012.
As a direct result of my 80 mile month, I learned how to manage my asthma on really bad days. I pushed my distances way further than I thought was possible, and just when I thought I’d left it too late, I managed to clock up 50 miles in 8 days and completed the challenge.
On my very worst asthma day last winter, I set out for a short run. It can take a while for my lungs to warm up sometimes, but this time nothing was happening. I almost turned round and went home. But I happened to look at my Strava and realised that not only had I already run a mile and would have to run a mile home again anyway, but it was a fast mile and I was on track to hit a new PB for 5k. So I carried on. I still have no idea where that came from, and it was another sign that my life had really changed.
This year, largely thanks to a great winter of training behind me (which itself was largely thanks to previously unknown levels of commitment and discipline), I did some amazing things. I have run, climbed, walked and cycled in some incredible places and covered some pretty impressive distances under my own steam.
After such a big year, it was perhaps inevitable that there would be a bit of a dip. I didn’t finish my last race, back in early October. I took a couple of weeks off to rest and recover, and then just as I was hoping to start running again, I was absolutely flattened for the best part of three weeks with a sinus infection. I had wanted to get going again, but my body could barely make it from my bed to the sofa and back. I’d been incredibly unlucky, but there was nothing for it other than to let it take its course and wait until I was better.
I’d thought about entering the Highland Fling in April but had no idea whether I was capable of completing it, certainly not in the state I was now in. ntries opened not long after my last race, and knowing it would quickly sell out, I needed to make up my mind pretty quickly.
I reminded myself that I’d felt the same way this time last year about entering my first marathon and ultra marathon, and committing to cycle up a big mountain in France. I had no idea whether I was capable of those either, but I’d said yes and then trained and prepared as much as I could. Knowing this had all paid off gave me a bit of confidence to put my Fling entry in.
We had a wonderful week’s holiday in the north west Highlands, with some running, walking and a bit of scrambling. Marcothon would start just after we got back and this year I felt ready to give it a go.
I didn’t expect to love it as much as I have.
I didn’t expect to see the results I’ve seen.
In just over two weeks, I’m pretty much back to the speed I was running at the start of the year when I’d set a 5k and 10k PB. Admittedly these are short distances compared to my ‘normal’ preferred distances, and nothing like the terrain I will be running on come race day, but given how bad my chest has been recently, frankly I am astonished.
The first week, I was absolutely shattered. Even running half an hour a day on top of a normal working day was more than I had done for a few weeks. But within a few days, I felt fine. My legs haven’t been sore at all, just a little tired on a longer run on Saturday.
The hardest days so far have been Day 3, when I was just getting going again and really struggled to shove myself out of the front door, and Day 9 when I had to run at 6am because I was out in the evening and would be in no fit state to run when I got home.
Icy footpaths have been a bit scary, but the worst thing about the ice has been having to slow down when my legs have felt ready to go faster.
I miss running in the daylight, but I know that logging these winter miles will mean that once again I will be ready to make the most of the long summer evenings when they come.
Running is responsible for so much of the good stuff in my life, and the fitness it has given me has pushed me on to do other things as well.
Marcothon has reminded me of just how much I love running, and how despite this being my third winter of training, it still feels like a complete novelty that I’m able to do it, especially in this part of the world.
I feel a bit more like my old self again. There’s a challenge on the table and I know what I am working towards. Away from running, this isn’t always the case, but it’s amazing how having a running goal keeps me going in other areas of life too.
Just my normal 5km/3 mile route along a tarmac path at the bottom of the Campsie Fells.
I can see the hills for the first half a mile and then it’s into the trees and down the back of a local housing estate. Compared to some of the routes I’m lucky enough to be able to call local, it’s pretty dull, but it serves its purpose well. It’s safe, flat and quiet.
5k is probably my most hated distance. My asthmatic lungs seem to take this distance to warm themselves up, so generally the enjoyment level is pretty low but the satisfaction level is high.
It has been a while since I’ve found running so easy. A big Ventoux-sized hole was carved in my run training and I’ve found it really, really hard to get back into the swing of things after focusing on my cycling.
Shortly after my return from Provence, I discovered I was quite badly anaemic (quite common in distance runners particularly female ones) and the prescribed iron tablets caused absolute havoc.
The few runs I managed to get in before the Speyside Way race were horrendous. I got so frustrated with myself I started to have panic attacks mid-run, and with a new member of the household able to collect me, I now had a way of abandoning rather than just slogging it out to the end as I would have had to do previously.
Last night was different. It was still harder than I would have liked, but I started to feel that I could enjoy my running again and that I was in with a shout of being able to at least have a good stab at my next race.
This is the one I’ve been working towards all year and desperately don’t want to pull out of.
The Saltmarsh 75 will take me round the wild coastline of Essex. It couldn’t be more different from the more familiar face of Essex. I’ll pass one of my favourite places on the planet along the way.
At the moment, the nearest salt-related monument is the grit bucket at the bottom of my road.
But I can’t wait to be back ‘home’ and am looking forward to giving the last month of training my best shot.
This is Lossiemouth beach, on the north east coast of Scotland. It was last Sunday, August bank holiday weekend (well, if you’re in England) and as you can see, we had the best of the weather while it was miserable down south.
This was our away day after the darkness of the day before. It seemed crazy not to visit the nearest beach when we were so close, and I had ditched the planned race so we had time to spare.
It was everything we needed and more. We had ice cream and Irn Bru and we bought seaside rock. We softened our gnarly feet on the sand. One of us burst our blisters and got sand in them (ouch). We froze our toes in the sea, and were wearing more clothes than most.
We laughed as we got out of the car and shuffled along the sea front. One of us suggested stealing a walking stick off a passing old man. The other gently pointed out that we would be in no position to run away afterwards. We laughed some more. We saw a small child wearing a t-shirt proclaiming him Small But Epic. One of us wondered if it would be possible to steal this too, and realised that perhaps we weren’t quite in our right minds today. The strop over the lack of coffee at breakfast was further evidence of this.
Back to the day before. We ran approximately 37 miles, or as much as we could of this, along the Speyside Way. We started at Ballindalloch and traced the River Spey all the way to Spey Bay, then followed the coastline round to the village of Buckie.
The course should have been easier than our trip to Kintyre in May. It would have been, had we been a bit more prepared.
The first 12 miles were wonderful. We ran past some distilleries and some disused stations.
A few weeks before, the route had been under several feet of water in all the floods. It was still damp underfoot, but this made for good soft ground to run on. We made it to the first checkpoint in good time, in last place but well ahead of last place last year.
However, life had got in the way, long runs went out the window and we really paid for this. We got to know the sweeper very well. Through chatting to him, I learnt some good starting points for mountain biking and ski mountaineering. We made it up the biggest climb to Ben Aigan and despite a couple of heavy rain showers, we were treated to the most beautiful view down the Spey to the sea. This should have been the tough bit out of the way, and all downhill from here.
This was to be rather more literally downhill than I expected. Soon after, the wheels came off. I had a big wobble at 18 miles and had we been near the river, I would have thrown my running shoes in it. Everything was wrong and I just didn’t want to run any more, at all, ever. Surprisingly after a few minutes break, a bit of reassurance in the form of a squeezy hand hold from my friend Angela and then some unexpectedly reviving crystallised ginger from sweeper Sean got me back on track.
It got worse. By the last water station at 31 miles, I was ready to pull out. Everything hurt. But two unbelievably upbeat marshals, who had been at the very first water station as well, kept our spirits high. By the time we left, I’d forgotten all thoughts of finishing up and we were on the way to the finish line. I later found out the pink-haired marshal was Race Director Sarah’s mum, and she promised to pass on my heartfelt thanks. Without her encouragement, I would have given in.
Somehow we made it to the end. The welcoming committee was small as we had missed the cut-off, but we were handed our goody bags and medals, and a chap in a Celtic top seemed delighted to shake our hands and was full of so many kind words we really didn’t know what to say. A couple who should have been running but pulled out with an injury had come up to marshal and waited for us, and gave us a lift back to the car to save us walking just an extra 10 minutes. 10 minutes is a long way when you have run 37 miles, and I can’t begin to tell you how much we appreciated this too.
The support from those people made the disappointment of the day so much easier to deal with. I had been very, very hard on myself and realised there was no need. I spoke to fellow runner Ray McCurdy in Glasgow today. He had run his 120th ultramarathon on Saturday, and had also found himself about half an hour behind where he expected to be. At the other end of the race, a new race record had been set by local runner Terry Forrest – a truly staggering time of 4.01.42.
Both of those runners will have had good days and bad days, just as I did on Saturday. I nearly pulled out of my next race, the big one looming large in just 5 weeks time, but have decided to leave the decision until nearer the time.
First, there is a good bit more recovering to be done.