Sometimes in life we make decisions that seem like a good idea at the time. Like, oh, I dunno… Running a 10K and enjoying it so much you sign up for a half marathon and full marathon to complete a Trilogy.
Yeah, really good idea at the time.
The RunMhor Trilogy sells out every year, but sometimes people pull out and places become available. “Luckily” for me that happened after the Hidden Glen 10K and thus my fate was sealed.
The funniest thing was the Saturday before the race I was volunteering at Elgin parkrun, and the Run Director there said she’d had a place in the trilogy but had to pull out due to injury…
So it was her fault I was doing this !!!
The culmination of the Trilogy in 2019 also happened to be my first attempt at a Marathon. I’d been successful in getting into Berlin this year and I really wanted to see if I could manage the distance. The date for Mhor fitted (more or less) into what passed for my training plan so I tried to think of it as a long training run.
No pressure, enjoy it.
It’s fair to say my preparations for this event weren’t optimal. I’ve suffered from old buggers knee since I started running a year ago and a couple of weeks before the race it brought progress to a grinding halt. A reluctant visit to the physio meant an enforced 2 weeks of no running if I was to have any chance of getting round.
What’s the worst that can happen ??
The day of the event came round all too quickly, and after a mostly sleepless night in Mabel the camper van I walked up to the start to get this over with. As usual compere supreme Dougie Robertson was getting everyone geed up, and giving regular updates on the toilet queue.
I took my place right at the back as 9am approached. If nothing else I know my station in life. I’d timed it right for the minimum amount of hanging around and all too soon I was off. Off into the unknown world of “what the f**k was i thinking”.
The race started with a little loop on the road to spread the field out a bit before a sharp right turn through a gate and onto the first uphill of the day. The path here was narrow and (obviously) crowded so my plan to run all of the first half of the race lasted about 400m.
I was sure there would be plenty opportunities to run up hills later.
My strategy, such as it was, was to try and average 7 min per KM for the whole thing, and finish in under 5 hours. Now that should be easy enough, I’m usually about 2 hours for a half so three for the second half sounded reasonable. My knee was giving me no trouble at all so I settled down for the long (mostly uphill) plod.
Another part of my pre-race strategy was to stop at every water station and have something to drink and a snack from the veritable picnic available. The volunteers manning the first stop were a welcome sight, and half a banana and some jelly babies washed down with Active Root fuelled the next part of the run. All the staff standing around in the typical Highlands summer rain deserve a medal, they make the whole experience more memorable.
And a bit more bearable.
The first half went pretty much according to plan. I got to the half way point in about 2:20. Slower than I would have liked but feeling reasonably good and still (mostly) running.
Just after “our” half way point I spotted a cool marked in a field beside the road. I regretted not taking a photo of it. That was OK though, little did I know then I’d be passing it again in an hour.
Yeah, my pre-run research didn’t extend to checking out the route. I very much prefer not to know what’s coming up. This meant when I passed the 20 mile marker just after the 12 mile one I knew there was something loopy about to happen, which was a pity because by about 13 miles I was starting to hate hills.
It was also on this stretch that the leaders went battering past on their way to glory, and a free pint. Not long after half way the route did indeed head off on a loop along the other side of the river to the one we’d came out on before repeating that last bit again. This meant that I got a second chance to take a photo of the half way marker…
And a second chance to run the undulations.
Well I say run.
I should say “run”.
The longest I’d gone in training for this was 25Km, and that was on the flat. By the time I got to 20 miles (that bloody sign again) I was pretty much done. My legs felt OK and my breathing was still good but I just felt done. I knew I wasn’t going to make it in under 5 hours so a dose of “f**k it” set in.
And then the hills started. The serious hills. When I got to the point where I turned right to do the loopy bit first time around this time I turned left towards the finish. I assumed we’d be running along the loch side but boy was I wrong. Instead the route started a series of horrible hills that lasted pretty much for the last 4 miles. By now I was being overtaken left and right and inventing new swear words as I walked towards the finish.
I did wonder how some of these people coming past me were looking so strong, then I remembered there was a relay option for the run so they were (probably) only about 8 miles in while I was 20-odd.
That was my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
Towards the top of the final hill the penultimate drinks stop was pillaged for as much liquid as I could pour down my throat.
I could hear the dulcet tones of Dougie Robertson at the finish line so I knew it wasn’t far to go. I really need to buy the volunteer at the top of the last hill a pint. He checked everyone was OK and gave me the encouragement I needed for a last push to the finish.
Well either that or he was gauging the possibility of me collapsing in sight of the end which would be bad publicity.
Not far past this I HAD to stop, not for any running related reason but because of the poor old Beetle abandoned in the trees. If I hadn’t been in a race I’d have taken a better look, it seemed pretty complete and I’ve seen worse brought back to life.
Pulling myself together a bit I managed to run most of the last section which was still pretty much “up”. At the end of this there was a short, sharp descent where all the height we’d spent miles and miles climbing was lost in a few hundred meters. At the bottom there was another fabled feature of this race.. The Pimms stop.
Bugger having water stops, every race should have Pimms stops.
After collecting my Pimms an experience I thought would probably kill me came to an end sitting in a boat getting hauled across the river with a glass of Pimms in my hand and the biggest smile on my face. Admittedly getting down a greasy riverbank and into a boat on legs that have done 26 miles isn’t as easy as it sounds.
After getting out the boat the last part of the race involved heading across the grass before hitting a short (uphill, obviously) section of road to the finish. I ran most of this but walked up the steepest bit of the hill in spite of encouragement from the marshals. “Come on” they said. “big finish” they said. “One last push” they said. Well, my one last push had been about 6 miles ago and this WAS my big finish. Who said you can’t walk a big finish ??
There was no way I was walking the last 100m though. I used my absolutely, positively and definitely last reserves to run the last bit of the road and then through the finish arch. I may have had a lump in my throat here as
A) the spectators, and people who’d finished their runs long before me, cheered me over the line.
B) I’D BLOODY DONE IT!!!
It was only then that I checked my time, I’d missed my 5 hour target, obviously, but was still under 5 and a half.
I’ll take that!!!
That was it, that was me, no more running, I couldn’t run another step…
Until Dougie announced “there are 6 seats left on that bus back to Callendar”. It was the fastest I moved all day, the bus I’d booked wasn’t for another 2 hours !!
And that was that, my first marathon done. It’s true what people say, the biggest problems with this sort of distance are mental. At half way I was ready to give up and by 20 miles I was seriously asking myself if I could just go to visit Berlin and not do any of that marathon nonsense. Every time I got overtaken in the last 5 miles I gave up just a little bit more.
But you do it, you love it, you hate it but, well, you’ve done it. It’s done. I have a Marathon medal and even though I only really managed 20 miles before I walked more than I ran I genuinely think I’m in a pretty good place for Berlin. If I can do something as challenging as this in 5 and a half hours, I don’t see why I can’t go an hour quicker on flat tarmac.
We’ll find out in 6 weeks time.