No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn
The 2019 TCS New York City Marathon had 53,627 finishers. I was one of them.
In what will likely be my most memorable ever running experience, I ran 26.2 miles through the five boroughs of the greatest city on the planet - and while everything didn't quite go as I'd planned, it is certainly an experience I'll never forget.
I applied for the 2019 NYC Marathon ballot on January 17th, without ever thinking I would actually get in. 41 days later, on February 27th, I received an email with the subject "Greg, Get Ready to Run the Streets of New York City!" Wait...what?! Fast forward a few hours later that day, and flights were booked (thanks Kerry!) We were actually going back to New York. I really was going to run the New York City Marathon!
As well as giving a race report of the run itself, I'll also use this post to talk about the marathon expo too, because it's a huge part of the overall race experience and really adds to the excitement of it all.
I spent the weeks and months in the run up to the race reading other peoples blogs, and watching vlogs all about the run, so I'm super excited to share this post with you all, and I hope that maybe in preparation for future NYC Marathons, someone somewhere will find this useful.
The Marathon Expo
The first thing I had to do was get along to the marathon expo and pick up my race number and shirt, so we headed to Manhattan on Friday morning and got along to stand in line before it opened at 10am. The expo takes place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center (it is HUGE), which is in the Hudson Yards area of the city, so it's pretty easy to get to. We got there at around 9.30am and I'm so glad we did because the line just kept getting bigger by the minute.
When the doors eventually opened there was a huge cheer from the crowds and the volunteers and we (the runners) were clapped into the exhibition hall by the volunteers, which I thought was a real nice touch. We were quite near the front, so there was almost no line at all to pick up my number and shirt which was a relief as I'd read beforehand that the queues can get pretty crazy! With my number collected, we then had a wander around the rest of the convention and the first part you get to is the official New Balance marathon store that is absolutely huge, and filled with all sorts of official marathon gear. There is so much cool stuff in there and it would be easy to spend a fortune - but I knew what I wanted (new shorts) so we didn't spend too much time in there.
Once I'd paid for the shorts, we were then through into what could be described as the main expo hall - I guess if you're used to running these big marathons then you'd be used to this sort of stuff, but the only thing I could really relate it to is the Offshore Europe expo that happens here in Aberdeen every other year. There were a ton of different exhibitors each offering all sorts of different thing - you could literally come here and pick up your entire running kit; headphones, watch, sunglasses, underwear and shoes! Just as with the NB store, it would be so easy to spend so much money. So we had a wander round, stopped at a few different stalls and bought a few different bits and pieces as will as grabbing a bunch of samples. I'd definitely recommend picking up some Biofreeze samples - those little sachets can be invaluable when you're in a tough spot during a race!
One of the cool things about the marathon expo is the name wall. It's a huge wall displaying the names of the five boroughs of New York and also displays the name of every runner. It's all sorted alphabetically by surname, and it's easy enough to find your name, so it's a pretty cool photo to get! It really does make you realise the enormity of the whole thing, when you see all those other names surrounding yours. It was quite a humbling moment for me.
Another cool photo opportunity (you are running the NYC Marathon after all - you are entitled to millions of photos!) is getting your picture in front of the giant medal, whilst holding your race number. There was a short line here, but it was worth the wait because it is a really cool photo and absolutely one for your Instagram!
And with that, we were done and it was time to explore Manhattan. We made our way out of the expo hall and to our amazement, there was still a line of people waiting to get in! I really can't state how important it is to get there early to avoid these queues!
The one thing I have always been pretty nervous about with the NYC marathon is race morning. Everything I'd read made it seem like such a journey to get yourself on the starting line. I already knew that I had to get an Uber, to get on a ferry, to then get on a bus - it all seemed pretty overwhelming, coupled with the fact my alarm was set for 04.45!
However, by the time I'd made it to the ferry terminal, I definitely began to feel a lot less nervous. There were so many people there! I had around 40mins to kill before my ferry, so I grabbed some water, and took a seat to wait it out.
We then boarded the ferry and I grabbed a seat, and took in the incredible sunrise views of Manhattan as we made our way to Staten Island. The ferry only took around 25mins, and we were there in no time. From there, it was off the ferry, and a short 10min walk to make our way to queue for the busses. By the time I eventually got on a bus, there was no seats left, so I had so stand for the journey to the start village at Fort Wadsworth. I think the journey took around 30mins, but it felt like forever because I was standing, and it was super hot on the bus too!
Finally, we made to Fort Wadsworth, and after a quick security check, we were finally in the start village, which was already absolutely packed with people. I was assigned Orange Wave 2, with a 10.10 start time, so I made my way to the orange area in search of some hot coffee, something to eat, and a seat. Thankfully, in the start village, there is plenty going on; Dunkin' Donuts are there providing coffee, bagels (and hats - make sure to grab one as they are super warm!), Honey Stinger were handing out crackers, you could also get bananas water & Gatorade.
With coffee and a bagel firmly in my grasp, I took a seat on the ground and took some time to relax - it was still around 1.5 hours away from start time. I got chatting to some of the people around me, which definitely helped not only pass the time, but it was good to talk to someone who had some experience of this race. There was still so much time to kill, but that was easily sorted by standing in line to use the toilet. There was hundreds of them, but the lines were still so long! I’ve come to accept that it seems to be pretty standard at every race on the planet now…
Eventually, the time came to make my way to the starting corrals. After so long waiting around in the cold, it was good to get up and around and get the legs moving! It was a short 10min walk over a field where it splits everyone up by their assigned coral. There was also another opportunity to grab a cool photo, so of course, I took it.
I arrived at the corral, and after waiting around for another 10mins or so, it was soon time to walk to the starting line. There was music playing over the speakers, the sun was shining, everyone was buzzing – the atmosphere was electric! After a short walk, here we were at the start line on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge - after months of excitement, I was finally here! I was BUZZING!
There was a DJ getting everyone pumped up, playing tunes to get us in the mood, before it was then time for the national anthem. The American runners all joined in with the singing, whilst I just looked around and took it all in. The girl who sang the anthem was also due to take part in the race itself, starting in a later wave, which I thought was pretty cool.
Then the countdown started...10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...
BOOM! The cannon fired, and we were off. I hit play on my headphones and that ever familiar drum solo that kicks off Born To Run by The Boss, Bruce Springsteen filled my ears, with his hometown of Freehold, New Jersey only a stone throw away.
"...In the day, we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream..."
I knew it was going to be a long, slow climb at the start as we made our way over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which was around 2 miles, so I tried my best to take my time. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't get caught up in it all - the atmosphere was electric, and it was hard not to get a little boost from the energy of it all. I couldn't stop smiling. I'd only been running for about 2mins and already couldn't believe how amazing it was!
For it being a steady incline over around 2 miles, I really didn’t notice it at all, and before I knew it, we had arrived in Brooklyn – and the crowds started to appear. As we made our way into the area of Bay Ridge, and 4th Avenue, which would be our home for the next 5 miles or so – the noise from the crowds became electric.
These crowds were unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a run before. For the first couple of miles, it was just incredible; people lining every single inch of both sides of the street, bands playing loud on every other street corner, and people holding up some of the most hilarious, and inspiring signs I’ve ever seen! For this stretch of the run, I really didn't need my music, so I had it turned down pretty low, only ever turning it back up when one of those songs would come on. These crowds would continue to be as crazy right through until around mile 10, where we entered the more traditional Jewish area of South Williamsburg, where it got a little quieter for a couple miles.
I was still feeling good at this point too - my legs were feeling strong, I was making good pace, and I wasn't getting too tired either. I'd be lying if I said the crowd didn't have some sort of effect on me though, it really did make those 10 miles fly by. There is also an abundance of water stations on the route, with water & Gatorade available near enough every mile. Honestly, this race had everything - during this stretch of the run, I punched an inflatable Donald Trump, rattled a tambourine, hit a Super Mario mushroom power up, all on top of countless high fives. The was even a guy with "Springsteen" on the back of his shirt, so naturally, I gave him a "BRRUUUUUCCCCEEEEE" as I ran past.
Somewhere between miles 11 & 12, I managed to spot Kerry, who had been waiting for me at the side of the street. It was a much needed boost for me at this time in the run, as my legs had actually began to tire, and I had started to feel some pain in my feet. So I grabbed a quick hug, and I was on my way again, heading for the halfway mark.
Here's where the problems started...
Much like the Cyprus Marathon earlier this year, as I approached the half way mark, my feet began to hurt like hell. The soles of my feet were seriously sore, and it started slowing me down significantly. I went from running between 8/9 min miles over the first 12 miles to somewhere between 10/12 min miles - which was not ideal, but it couldn't be helped as every step was pretty much hurting. I trained for a sub-4 hour marathon, I set off with a sub-4 hour finish in mind, but now I knew that was out the window. It was incredibly frustrating as nothing like this had happened over the course of my training, but I just tried to put it out my mind and push myself on, albeit at a much slower pace.
The next few miles were pretty challenging, as I made my way towards the 14/15 mile mark, and the dreaded Queensborough Bridge - a section of the race that I knew was already going to be tough. My legs were already incredibly heavy, and a long, slow climb was the last thing I needed - but alas, you just have to get on with it, and of course, what goes up, must come down! I can't tell you how relieved I was when I reached the peak of that bridge, and was on my way downhill, and touch down in Manhattan.
For the next 4 miles I'd be running up First Avenue, towards The Bronx, and another incredibly challenging section of the course. Again, it was another slow, gradual climb, but mentally, it was just a case of taking it mile by mile and water stop by water stop - and I knew I'd get through it. It wasn't just my feet that were hurting now either, pretty much every muscle in my legs were taking it in turns to hurt! It was manageable though, and the crowds absolutely buzzing again, which was a welcome relief, after a rather eery, silent spell on the bridge. Honestly, the energy and support from the crowds really can dig you out from some dark places and get you going again - I swear, at the right moment, a high five from a little kid can be as effective as a week in the hospital!
First Avenue came to an end, and it was then time for two bridges in quick succession. First up was the Willis Avenue Bridge, before being followed by the Madison Avenue Bridge, which took us over mile 20 & 21 and into Harlem. Thankfully, neither of these bridges were anywhere near as challenging as the last and just as I touched down in Harlem, and the Biofreeze relief zone was in sight! I took the opportunity to get my quads, thighs and calves absolutely lathered in Biofreeze for the final 5 mile stretch. The cooling sensation was an unbelievable relief!
I was now on Fifth Avenue, and well and truly on the home straight! It wasn't long before I was running parallel to central park, and the excitement and relief were both starting to ramp up. I was basically running on empty over these last few miles, and if not for the crowds, I really think it would have been much, much, more of a struggle.
Mile 24 took us into Central Park itself, and at this point I got a second wind - I forgot about the pain in my legs, and just tried my best to enjoy the crowds, and run these last couple of miles with a smile on my face... plus, I was running downhill again! To make things even better, I spotted Kerry again just after the mile 25 marker! I was delighted to know that she's made it from Brooklyn to Central Park. With one mile to go, this was exactly what I needed.
The end was in sight, and it was time for one last push. It must have been a combination of the adrenaline and the buzz from the crowd, but over the final mile, I actually recorded my fastest split since mile 11! I passed through the grandstand area, and gave one final push to get myself across the finish line - I DID IT! There was such a mixture of emotions when I crossed the like - sheer joy, utter relief and pure amazement... I'd just completed the New York City Marathon! I stepped over the finish line with a time of 04:30:22 - not quite what I was hoping for, but it was a new PB by 22 seconds, and at the end of the day, a PB is a PB.
After running 26.2 miles, you'd think it would be nice to be able to, you know, grab a seat, and rest for a minute... but that wasn't to be the case! Once we crossed the finish like, we had to walk a bit further to pick up our medal, then we had to walk a bit more to get our heat sheet, then walk just a bit more to get our recovery bags, at that point the line split into two depending on the finishing option you selected, where I then had to walk even further to pick up my post race poncho. All in all, we probably had to walk over a mile after finishing the race, which wasn't very fun - I found it a little ridiculous and probably was my only gripe with the whole experience. One thing I would say about the post race is experience is that almost everyone is super friendly - just about every single person I walked past would congratulate me in some sort of way, which is awesome, and really helped hit home what I'd just achieved.
The post race poncho is a pretty cool souvenir, and it does a great job of keeping you warm. I would definitely recommend going for this option if you don't really need a bag of stuff at the end. Eventually, probably around 30mins after finishing, I was finally able to meet up with Kerry and get a much needed hug! I know it's probably needed for security, etc in these big races, but waiting so long to see someone you actually know after you finish can be quite draining! It was then time to make our way back to Brooklyn, which was a whole adventure in itself - the last thing you need after finishing a marathon is to wander around from subway stop to subway stop because the one you need is closed!
After arriving back at the hotel, and collapsing in a heap on the bed, I quickly came to the realisation that I was in no fit state to go anywhere that evening. So it was time for takeaway from Joe's Pizza and a much needed beer!
I'm gonna finish this post here - I apologise for the length of this post, but I had a lot to cover! Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it. Before I go, I'd like to finish this post with some important thank you's:
I RAN A MARATHON!
Did you know that only 1% of the world's population will run a marathon in their lifetime? Well, I can now proudly say that I have joined that 1%.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you will know that since October, I'd been trying my best to get in best possible shape to run my first ever marathon - the 21st Logicom Cyprus Marathon. Unfortunately, my training didn't quite go to plan, and during my second week of training I sustained an injury that caused me to miss five weeks of training. But I managed to recover, and cram as much training in to what time I had left as I possibly could.
Before I knew it, we were on the flight to Paphos - luckily I had a few days of relaxation ahead of me before the big day, which was exactly what I needed. Also, thanks to my in-laws having a car, I even got the chance to check out parts of the route beforehand, giving me some idea of what was in store.
Race day arrived and I was ready to take my place as one of the 3,500 running across all races in Paphos that day. The marathon was due to start at 7.30am, so that meant a particularly early start, and getting up at 5am! I started the day off with a bowl of oats, a banana and some peanut butter to get my energy levels up, as I had a feeling I was going to need it later. I also started getting plenty of water inside me, without overdoing it as I didn't want my bladder going out of control in the early stages of the race! And with that, I was showered, changed into my race kit and ready to go.
We hopped in the car, and my father in-law drove us out to the starting point at Aphrodite's Rock, which was around a 40min drive from our apartment. When we arrived, the starting area was already buzzing with excitement - there were people everywhere, warming up, taking photos and there was even a live DJ to get us in the mood. There was still around 40mins to the start of the race, so I used this opportunity to get in the already long queue for a final toilet break. This is probably where my only gripe with the organisation with the race comes in, and it's something that I see too often - there was maybe only around six portable toilets for all the runners, which was nowhere near enough in my opinion. I queued for around 30mins, and by the time I got to the front, they were in a pretty poor state, with no paper or hand wash left.
Anyway, enough of the negativity, and back to the buzzing starting area. I made the most of the final few minutes to take some photos, do some final stretches and receive my good luck wishes from my family. Then, before I knew it, I'd taken my place at the starting line, and we were off!
I had a 4-hour goal in mind, so I had a plan worked out in my head how I needed the first half of the run to go. I also decided not to take photos during this run, as this was my first marathon, and I wanted to try and achieve the best possible finishing time.
Things started quite well, and despite some hills early on, I managed to navigate my way through the first few miles at a reasonably brisk pace, whilst taking in the stunning scenery. The bright start continued, as we worked our way inland, further away from the coast on our approach to the 10km point. I was feeling good and averaging around 8:30/mile which was the required pace I needed to cover the first half of the run. I was also starting to take advantage of the many water stops that were on offer, with one every 3k, which was perfect as it was already starting to heat up.
The good start continued as we passed mile 8, and turned down the long three mile stretch of road towards the airport, where we would eventually double back on ourselves at the bottom. This was the part of the race I was least looking forward to, as I had learned from parts of my training that running back and forth along the same stretch of road is incredibly mentally draining. On the way down this road, we passed the half way point, which was on the other side of the road, where I also spotted the eventual winner on his way back up, way ahead of the pack. I'm not too sure if this was encouraging, or depressing, but at least I knew I was only six miles behind the leader! It was a long slog down the road to the airport, and we made our way past two water stops on the way, which was a welcome reprieve as the temperature had started creeping closer to 20°C, and we were quite exposed to the sun here. Everything was still going to plan as I closed in on mile 10, and I was still feeling good, maintaining a decent pace along the way. Now, I don't know if you can sense it or not, but there's one big but coming up...
Just before I reached the turning point at the bottom of the road, on mile 11, I felt a sharp pain in the arch of my left foot, resulting in sudden tightness, and causing me to start limping. I could still run, but not very fast, or gracefully. I spent a few minutes wishfully thinking I'd be able to shake it off, but it didn't seem to be going anywhere soon. In our race pack, we were given a sachet of Bio-Freeze gel, which I'd packed in my Flipbelt - so I made the decision to stop at the side of the road and apply this. I removed my shoe, and sock, then applied the gel before giving my foot a bit of a stretch and putting my gear back on. I was soon off again, and I'd actually managed to regain some sort of pace, and even managed to find the 4-hour pacer and keep up with him for around a mile. This didn't last too long, however, and the pain was back, causing me to slow down significantly.
Now, this was a sucker punch of the highest proportions. I can't really describe the feeling - it's hard to put into words, just how mentally draining the feeling of sustaining an injury at that point in the race was for me. I was so hyped for the marathon. I'd trained so hard. I was feeling great. And then this happened. It took so much out of me at the time, but I knew I couldn't let it get the better of me - I could still run, not quite as normal, but I could still run. I knew it could get through it, I just had to take my time. So I slowed it right down, and was running between 10:00-12:00/mile, a pace which lasted pretty much for the rest of the race. For the next few miles, I was trying to manage the pain by running for as long as I could, before giving myself a brief walking break through the water stops to let the pain subside.
Eventually, the sharpness of the pain went away, and I stopped taking any real notice of it. But by that point, the race had taken its toll on my legs, and they were feeling really heavy, and I couldn't really pick up the pace. However, at least I was starting to enjoy myself again and when my watch alerted me that I'd reached mile 17 - I even had a slight smile on my face... we were down to single figures. This continued through the following miles, and as we reached the main roads, crowds of people were starting to appear, offering some much needed encouragement along with live DJ's, and more refreshment stops. Around mile 23, I also took full advantage of a Bio-Free stop, where I was able to get the gel applied to my calves and thighs, to help me with the final push - I can't state enough, just how much of a relief on my legs that was!
I was soon back in familiar territory, making my way along the main strip of hotels in Paphos, with cheering tourists and locals all round. Now, while this was all very encouraging, it also felt a bit daunting as I knew I still had around 2.5 miles of running to go before I reached the finish line. As I made my way towards mile 26, I passed the hotel where we got married, The Annabelle, and it gave me the right amount of inspiration needed to pick up the pace for the final push. The crowds really picked along the home stretch on the harbour front, and by this point, I'd taken out my headphones so that I could soak up the atmosphere - I even managed my first sub 10:00/mile since I picked up the injury!
The finish line was in sight, but there was one final sting in the tail, with an ever so slight hill to traverse before the home straight - I'm fairly certain I let out a curse at that point! But I got to the top, and as I made my way round the final corner, the crowds were roaring, and I managed to spot my cheering family, which gave me everything I needed to push for the finish line.
I DID IT!
Crossing the finish line is a bit of a blur. There were so many thoughts and emotions running through my head, that I can't really remember it fully. I do know, however, that the sense of relief, happiness, and most of all, achievement, that I felt when I crossed the finish line is unlike anything I've ever felt. It was incredible. One of the volunteers put my medal around my neck, and then I think I picked up a banana and a bottle of water as I made my way through the crowds trying to find everyone. I know that I soon found myself in the queue for beer, as I eventually spotted Kerry, whilst I was trying to phone her. I was greeted with huge congratulations along with a big kiss and a hug, and my mother and father in law wasn't too far behind, offering their congratulations too.
We then took a much needed seat, and enjoyed the FREE BEER that was on offer, as we watched the prize giving ceremony, celebrating the runners and their achievements. I really was in awe at what some of the other runners had achieved, especially the older runners - it really was amazing.
Overall, despite the slight setback that I suffered, I am absolutely delighted the way things went. The fact that I was able to suck it up and get through over half the race, whilst carrying an injury left me extremely proud of myself. It may have not been the sub 4-hour marathon that I'd hoped for, but it gives me something more respectable to beat in New York in November. Oh, in case you didn't already know... I'M RUNNING THE NEW YORK MARATHON!
As for the Cyprus Marathon itself, I would 100% recommend this race to other runners. It is such a well organised event that caters for all levels of ability, whilst set against the stunning backdrop of Cyprus - I can guarantee you would enjoy it. All that's left for me to do is thank the organizers and volunteers for putting on such a great event, and most of all, thank everyone for their support - especially those that were there waiting for me at the finish line - it really meant a lot to me.
Who decided that running a half marathon less than a week after returning from a two-week all-inclusive holiday in Mexico would be a good idea? Well, me apparently...
Having convinced myself it wouldn't be a problem, I signed myself up for Crathes Half Marathon a couple of months ago, knowing fine well it took place less than a week after my holiday. My first race since Stonehaven Half Marathon, Crathes Half Marathon takes place in and around the grounds of the stunning 16th century Crathes Castle, part of Royal Deeside.
I tried to run once on the treadmill in the hotel gym while I was away (the beach was a no-go) but I HATE RUNNING ON A TREADMILL! So I decided just to chance my luck with one 7.5 mile training run on my return, and then just seeing how it went on the day. I was reasonably confident in my levels of fitness, and everything I read about this race assured me that it wasn't too difficult - I was even secretly hoping I could set a new PB...
Race morning arrived, and by the time I climbed out of bed, the conditions were already looking perfect for running. I started the day with a breakfast of a toasted bagel, with peanut butter and banana along with a coffee as well as starting to get myself hydrated with plenty of water.
I got changed into my kit and before long we were on our way to Crathes. The only real differences to my kit this time out were my now standard running headband (it is a lifesaver!) and I was trying out Clif Bloks energy chews, rather than gels, for the first time after reading about them online (more on them later).
We arrived at Crathes Castle estate at around 10.45am with the race due to start at 12.00pm, so we had plenty of time to spare. After getting parked and making our way to the registration area, I collected my race number (#370), technical t-shirt, and surprisingly a new multi-purpose headband which came in extremely handy. We had a bit of time on our hands, so we spent some time watching the kids 1.5km run, which was good fun - it was great to see so many enthusiastic kids involved.
Before long it was our turn and we are all lined up at the starting line ready to go. The race started with an ever so slight incline up and out the grounds of the castle. The race was pretty congested for the first couple of miles, and it took some time before we could really spread out and get going. These first few miles were reasonably flat, and I started to going at a reasonably decent pace now that we'd opened up - at one point I checked Strava and I was averaging sub 8-minute miles. It was soon time for the first water stop at the 4-mile mark, and I was definitely ready for it, the day had turned out to be far warmer than expected, and my mouth was starting to dry up and I was in desperate need of a drink.
Around the 5 mile mark, we hit the first "off-road" section of the run, and I really didn't enjoy this; the uneven nature of the road, complete with loose rocks made for some really uncomfortable running, along with a couple of nervy moments where I nearly lost my footing completely. I also started to feel some discomfort in my left foot - the blister was back, I knew it. On just about every long distance run I do, I almost always get a blister on the inside bottom of my left foot, now I'm not sure if it's down to my running form, or shoes - but it always seems to come back. I did try to take some preventative action before the run, by pre-applying a blister plaster and some zinc oxide tape, but it didn't seem to work. Anyway, I gritted my teeth, and pushed through it and before long we were finally back on some flat road.
We soon reached another water stop at around the 7-mile mark and the sun was also taking no prisoners at this point, so I took advantage of this by having a much-needed drink and soaking my back in water to cool down. I also had the first of my Clif Blok energy chews and I was certainly impressed with them - they tasted so much better than my usual SIS energy gels, they were easy to chew and swallow and provided a great instant sugar kick along with a dose of caffeine.
There was another off-road section between miles 9-10, and much like the first, I really didn't enjoy this. The loose rocks were causing havoc with the blister on my foot but I pushed through the pain, and before I knew it the 10-mile marker was in sight. Mentally this was a huge boost - knowing there was only 3 miles to go, which equated to around 25 minutes more running, or about 8 more songs on my Spotify playlist. I also took a quick look at Strava and checked my time...a new PB was within grasp.
A few more minutes running followed, and I arrived at the final water stop at the 10.5-mile marker, so I quickly fuelled up with water and one more energy chew and I was on my way to the home stretch. Or so I thought. After the joy of passing the 10-mile mark, and thinking that the end would soon be in sight - there was of course one final sting in the tail. I found myself on a long straight, with the slightest of inclines, but enough of an incline to make it really not enjoyable. It also seemed to go on forever!
Mile 12 eventually arrived and I knew I was nearly there. My legs were feeling rather tired by this point, and I really wasn't able to pick up the pace for the final mile as I'd originally planned - however, I soldiered on! Before I knew it, we were back inside the castle grounds, and the end was actually in sight! I took my headphones out, stepped on the gas and made my way past the cheering crowd towards the finish line - I even managed to spot Kerry in the crowds, ready to catch me finishing on camera. Crossing the finish line was a mixture of joy and relief, I was handed my medal (how good is the medal?!) and I made my way over to the finishers tent where I picked up water, a banana and a Tunnock's Wafer - all of which were consumed within record speed! I found Kerry, where she congratulated me on my efforts before I checked Strava, and confirmed that I had indeed secured a new PB. Yas!
Whilst it wasn't totally accurate at the time, I knew that I'd finished at around 1:53ish - which was around 3 minutes quicker than my previous best. Amazing! I eventually found out that my official time was 1:53:27, officially 2 minutes and 47 seconds faster than my previous PB. We didn't hang around after the finish too long, and before I knew it, I was recovering in a salt bath with a cold beer - bliss!
Overall, I am absolutely delighted with how the run went as a whole. Taking my lack of training over the last three weeks into account and the fact I managed to beat my previous PB by around three minutes - I think I did rather well. It gives me confidence for the next one (any suggestions?) that with the right training behind me, I could potentially shave even more off this time.
As for Crathes Half Marathon as a whole - I think this is a great event. It was extremely well organised, along with a mostly enjoyable route and some awesome scenery, it is definitely a run I'd recommend to seasoned or first time half marathon runners and it's certainly one I'd be interested in running again. As always, thanks to everyone behind organising the event, all the volunteers, the locals who cheered us on and of course Kerry for her support and unrivalled photography skills. I'd also like to thank Compeed for making live-saving blister plasters - they are going to be part of my running kit from this day forward!
As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for your support. Until the next one!
Sun, Sweat & Hills
Following my successful completion of the epic 21 mile run from, BrewDog to BrewDog, I want to start using this blog to start sharing more of my running stories - especially since I'm now hopefully on track to running a full marathon.
For my next run, I was going to attempt the Stonehaven Half Marathon. Everything that I'd read, and heard about Stonehaven Half Marathon had me slightly worried about it; "it's hills for the entire first half"..."up for 8, down for 5"..."one of the hardest half marathons in the UK"...This caused me to slightly delay my entry until I was entirely sure I could handle it. This turned out to be 4 days before the actual run. However, I was feeling good about myself, and feeling good about my running - so pending a total blazing heatwave on the day, I was sure I could get through it.
Race day arrived and by the time I got out my bed around 7.30am, it was already feeling worryingly warm. I made the decision then that I was going to carry water with me in my Camelbak to combat the sun.
I started the day with my usual race morning breakfast of porridge with blueberries and honey with coffee as well as starting to load up on water. The race started at 10.00am, so by the time I was finished breakfast and got all my kit sorted - it was soon time to leave.
We arrived in Stonehaven with roughly 30 mins until race time, which just left me with enough time to cover myself in sun cream, get down to the registration tent to collect my number, get suitably watered and a quick trip to the toilet. Before I knew it, I was queued up at the start line with the other runners listening to the pre-race briefing - and then we were off!
When I was told that this run was hilly...it was no lie, less than a mile into the run and we were already climbing! This continued gradually as we made our way through Stonehaven for the first couple of miles, and by the time we were completely out of the town, the climbing became constant - yikes! Before we'd even got to the 4-mile marker, I felt myself starting to struggle. The heat was certainly playing a huge part in this but my legs were already beginning to feel quite heavy on the hills. It was also starting to get blisteringly hot with temperatures of around 21ºC and little to no clouds in the sky.
I grit my teeth and pushed through it and before I knew it, I heard the faint sound of bagpipes through my headphones. Bingo. I knew from previous reading, that this signalled the end of the constant climbing - at least for now. So when I saw the piper in all his glory at the 4-mile marker, this was a welcome relief. There was a water stop shortly after this point also, so this gave me the chance to significantly cool myself down by emptying cups of water over my head and down my back.
Miles 5 to 7 were slightly less challenging than the previous, with much fewer hills to conquer and I was able to start to regain my pace. There was a shared water stop between miles 5.5/6.5 as we did a nice flat loop and I was briefly joined by a friendly face, which offered me some much-needed encouragement. I took advantage of this stop by having a drink and again soaking myself on both passes. Little did I know, that this water stop was a prelude to the dreaded mile 8...
"His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, there's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti..."
Mile 8, or as I quickly renamed it in my head - the mile from hell. Now, I don't know for sure if this hill was as particularly challenging as I found it to be, or if it was just such a shock to my legs after enjoying a good spell of reasonably flat running. But whatever the reason, I really struggled with it. I struggled so much, that I probably walked the majority of this mile. But, I just got on with it and plodded away until I finally I was back on flat ground.
From here - it became a completely different race. Miles 9, 10 & 11 resulted in my best running of the day to the point where I was running sub 8-minute miles (7:32 at one point!). Obviously running downhill played a huge part in this, but it felt like such a relief to be no longer struggling uphill and I was really able to kick it up a gear and started to massively enjoy it. I was also finally able to appreciate the awesome scenery we were running in, as I was able to concentrate on something other than making it to the top of the next hill.
Before I knew it we were back in the town, however, by the time I reached the mile 11 marker I had hit a wall - I was really starting to struggle again. Although we were basically running on flat/downhill for the final couple of miles through Stonehaven, I was struggling to find the energy to get me through the final miles. Following a couple of pauses, lots of encouragement and high fives from the crowds, I was able to pull myself together and power through it! I was totally gutted by this though, as I had just come off the back of some great running and this had more than likely just added 3/4 minutes on to my finishing time.
Finally, I found myself making my way down the Slug Road, past Mackie Academy towards Minerallwell Park. Thankfully, as I came down and out through the trees my supporters were there waiting for me to cheer me on, and this gave me the much-needed boost to kick on for the final few hundred meters and cross the finish line.
It's safe to say that it was a bit of a mixture of emotions when I finally crossed the finish line; relief that I no longer had to run anymore and the sheer joy and elation of knowing that I'd made it to the end. People often ask me why I enjoy running, and I quite often find it hard to come up with an adequate response, but I think this run has finally made it a bit easier to answer. No matter how much I struggle and how heavy and hurting my legs are, that is completely outweighed by the elation of crossing the finishing line with your supporters cheering you on - and finally, getting that medal around your neck. It really makes it all worth it.
Overall, I'm fairly satisfied with my finishing time considering the conditions - I'm just kicking myself that I couldn't keep up the pace for the final 2 miles as it would have made a huge difference to my time. I guess in hindsight I should have maybe done a little extra homework on the route, and crammed in some extra hill training in preparation. But I'm glad I did it because if I want to keep challenging and pushing myself more with my running, then this is the type of races I need to do.
A huge thank you to my supporters for coming out and enduring the sun to cheer me on, it really made a huge difference. A massive thank you also to the organisers for putting on such a great event and of course, thank you to all the volunteers on the day - events like this wouldn't be possible without these people (the food at the end was a particularly welcome surprise).
It's time for a well earned few days rest from running (I'm not quite at the level where I can just get up and go the next day yet) while I plan my next run. I'm not signed up for anything else yet, but considering the Metro Dyce half marathon in August and the Crathes half marathon in September. Any suggestions?
All Aberdeen Aberdeenshire Beer BrewDog Cyprus Everything Else Festival Half Marathon Marathon Marathon Training Marvel Mexico Movies Music Netflix New York North Hop Paris Podcast Pop Culture PS4 Race Report Review Running Star Wars The Menzingers Travel True Crime TV Video Games