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?