Position: 13th out of 147 starts (8.8%)
I am pretty certain it was Forrest Gump who said the above, and is apt as the Glasgow to Edinburgh Double Marathon would be my longest run to date. The race is actually longer than a double marathon at 55 miles, or 88.5km. It starts in Ruchill Park near Glasgow’s west end and basically follows the canal all the way to Edinburgh’s west end, just up from Haymarket Station.
I actually only entered this after being unsuccessful in the ballot for London. Coming only three weeks after D33 I was concerned the two races so close together could/would be a problem for me and only time would tell if this would be the case.
After registering, in salubrious surroundings of the back of a white transit van, I dumped my drop bag and started to pin my 166 number on my right thigh. Not on my top in case I decided to make a quick change later given the rain which was expected en route. Thankfully the lack of toilet facilities didn’t prove too much of an issue for me. After saying hello to a few familiar faces I had a good chat with Greg Beattie who is in training for the West Highland Way later in the summer. Alas, Greg had to drop as a precautionary measure due to some issues with his calf, but he has bigger fish to fry later in the year.
It wasn’t long before we lined up for the start and at 0905 we were off. My plan was to go with a 25 run 5 walk strategy and my optimistic target was 8 hours. I had done the JLM50 in 7:47 last year so would need to improve my pace somewhat in order to hit this number.
The plan was 8 min mile when running and the walk would take me to 8:30 p/m pace. I was generally hitting 7:45 p/m pace when running and I felt good so just stuck at that. This came back to haunt me later in the race, alas.
The canal is pretty unspectacular and uninspiring as a running route. Living near CP1 at Auchinstarry as I do, I know the path into Glasgow and the route toward Linlithgow pretty well. Add in the rain over the few days leading up to the race, the biggest challenge over the first section from Glasgow to Auchinstarry was the boggy sections at places like Tintock. This pic below by Robert Sanderson near Twechar shows the murkiness of the early part of the run.
It was a pretty uneventful first section, save buddying up with a navy chap called Harry (see above). We chatted away about this and that, with that being more of a talking point than this. I bored him with a history lesson of the canal and things like the Antonine Wall and he told me in return how boring it can be moving at 1 mile per hour whilst mine-sweeping in horizon surrounded oceans. I guess my patter was positively vibrant compared to his day job.
Anyway, I reached CP1 feeling pretty good to hugs from Angela who was manning that part of the course. I would then get the pleasure of seeing Andy, Louise and my two boys Euan & Caelan who looked utterly bemused at the thought the guy they are meant to look up to in life is out running in the pissing rain, already soaking wet and who wears clown shoes (Hoka One Ones) to run in.
After a quick hi-five with the boys, a peck on the check and a pinch on the arse from Louise, I was off and running again. Heading to the Falkirk Wheel, where more hugs awaited. Louise and the Chops Brothers headed to the Showcase to see Rio 2. Sometimes 50+ miles of pain has its upsides.
I was beginning to get into my stride and found myself being overtaken less and less during my walk breaks as the field fanned out. By the time I reached the Falkirk Wheel the rain had ceased its formerly relentless drenching and my spirits were high. There was a few cheers from Noanie and Sarah, loud and actually quite inspiring I have to say. Skoosh, Lesley and Laura were there with a camera and helped me transition out of the second checkpoint and up the hill past the super-impressive Wheel and toward the Union Canal for the next leg of the journey towards Edinburgh. 20 miles done. Sarah took some time out to capture me crossing the first wee bridge on my way to switch canals.
It was just as I got to the tunnel at Falkirk High that I saw Des Tinney for the first time. With his trusty camera and cheery demeanour, Des was a fantastic sight for the next 10 or so miles, popping up in odd places to take photos and provide oodles of encouragement. If you don’t know Des he’s the guy who must have thanked every spectator as he ran last year’s Edinburgh Marathon.
Also, the stunning picture at the top of this report was done by Des. I love it.
That tunnel though… neither myself nor the chap in front of me took our mandatory headtorches out, I have ran through it on numerous occasions but was a bit spooked by having someone ahead of me. It’s a horror movie in the making in that orifice of doom. Albeit that title could have other connotations.
Next stop Linlithgow at just over 33 miles and my trusty crew of Skoosh, Laura and Lesley were on hand with jam sandwiches and a selection of tasty treats. I felt pretty good here but by the time I got Broxburn, things were starting to tie up. That said, I was still on pace for a sub 8 hour finish, so all in, a decent position.
I have reflected on what things contributed to my struggles in the latter part of the race. I’ll look at them at the end of the report. I got to Broxburn, around 43 miles still on track, and more hugs from Angela, by now I was struggling to take on anything solid but took a drink and a couple of bits of orange, less than a mile later my dad (Andy) was waiting with a mental dog (Bailey) and a bag of goodies. By mental I mean spaniel. Dog lovers will know what I mean. I gulped down some irn-bru and had a bit of banana. I also bagged a Topic for later. This would be eaten on the train home.
Andy agreed to meet me again at Ratho (47 miles) and I pushed on to there. I was definitely feeling it now but with only 8 miles to go I knew I was getting it done. A wee shout from Helen & John Munro, teasingly from pub opposite the checkpoint, perked me up a bit and I walked a few mins with Andy. I tried to eat some banana but this was a one-bite strategy. There was no hope of the rest of it going down. By now I was feeling a tad nauseous, but managed to avoid – if that is a good thing – spewing.
The next four miles were where I lost any hope of sub 8 hours. I bumbled along to 50 miles, swearing and thinking about how stupid this was, two things gave me heart:
1. I had actually beaten my 50 mile PB by fully 25 minutes
2. Sarah appeared and walked a half mile with me
By the end of the walk, downing a sugary drink made from girders, I felt OK again and at Sarah’s behest, I set off determined to finish strongly (in relative terms). I covered the last 4.5 miles in just over 9 min miles, stopping for just 1 walk of 1 minute duration.
I went from thinking I was going to do 8:30 to actually coming in on 8:16:01 and in 13th place overall. Reflecting on it, to have done 5 miles longer in only 29 more minutes than I did in August’s JLM50 is a pretty good improvement. But I know I can do better. The image below from Strava shows just how splits worked out and that dark section I suffered from just before Ratho is painfully obvious to see.
Post race there was a nice free massage on offer and this was gratefully taken, albeit I felt rather sorry for the young lass having to massage my manky, sweaty legs as she had to touch my bogging socks to boot. An angel I’d call her.
A word on the race winners. Marco Consani blitzed the field with a stunning course record in 6:19, and my mind boggles as I think of the effort required to do this. He finished almost an hour ahead of 2nd place. Fiona Ross took the top spot in the ladies race, in 7:44 – congrats to both.
So, what of the race? Things I didn’t like were the route, the lack of toilet facilities at the start and the fact there was only one official drop bag and that being at 21 miles. The race tee isn’t the best either and I would much rather stump a few quid extra for a technical shirt than the one we got. Kinda like D33 done. In fact, the lack of a goody bag when compared with what GO33 and D33 offer for cheaper entry is telling.
Of course, the good outweighs the criticisms and the logistics of putting on a race of this length, stretching across two biggest cities is eye-watering at the thought of it. It is a great route for a fast time. The support and the marshals on the course were excellent and should be commended for their enthusiasm in the face of sweaty grumpy runners (that may have just been me of course). The race finish is in a nice place and I split earlier than I wanted to due to a 0700 flight the next morning, so missed the chance for a pint. Also, the offer of a free massage is brilliant. It really helped.
There was lots for me to look back on and I had a week away to ruminate over things. Whilst I missed out on my optimistic target of 8 hours I am pretty certain I could go much quicker should I have to on this course. Here are my top takeaways for next time:
1. The effort from D33 was definitely still in my legs.
2. Not treating this an ‘A’ race but targeting an ‘A’ race time was folly.
3. I absolutely should have concentrated on my speed much more earlier in the race. This definitely hurt me.
4. I broke the 25/5 rhythm a couple of times to run longer to get to checkpoints. This was a mistake.
5. The effect of carrying a bag, however light, had more of an impact than I allowed for.
6. I need to find a nutrition solution for G24, sweet things only get you so far.
7. I should have eaten more earlier in the race too.
8. My diet is bollocks.
9. And lastly, being almost 14lbs above ideal racing weight is not conducive to optimal running in longer races.
The good thing for me is I can actually learn from every bit of that list above and will do in respect future races. I have only two really important races the rest of the year. The Edinburgh Marathon in late May and the Glenmore 24 hour race in September. The learning from this race is so so so so rich for the latter of the two to come that I am delighted I did it.
This may have been the longest report I have ever written, and I am just making it longer now I guess, but it was my longest race after all. Big shout out to the people involved in making these races, and this particular one happen. The RD, the support, the crew, the marshals and anyone else I have forgotten to mention. And a final special thanks for those who came to see me especially and those who supported me on the day. You guys are the bestest (as Euan would say) and you know who you are.