They say all good stories start in the middle. At the middle of this story was where the bulk of the personal drama happened for me. A swirling stomach and spinning head threatened to derail my international (it still feels weird writing that) debut. Oddly, battling through that low period has proved to be one of the most self-gratifying achievements in my very short time as an ultrarunner.
Rewinding almost 24 hours, I met up with my teammates – awe inspiring runners the lot of them – at the Royal George Hotel in Perth. We took a stroll over to North Inch park to see the course. It’s an almost pan-flat loop of 1.479 miles which we would be set to tackle 42 times the next morning, and into the early afternoon.
In the men’s team we had myself, Robert Turner, Kevin O’Donoghue, Marco Consani and Paul Raistrick. Paul and Kevin were late replacements for Andrew Murray and Paul Giblin but were more than capable of putting in a strong run.
The women’s team had experience and potential in abundance with Rosie Bell, Sophie Mullins, Charlotte Black and Fionna Ross donning the saltires.
Given this was my first time running for Scotland I wanted to drink in every moment. Team meetings, dinners, kit and meeting the runners from other countries was all done and I was snapping mental Instagram pics in my mind at every turn. But moreover, I was blessed to be able to share this with Louise, Euan, Caelan and my dad, Andy, and the latter would also double as my support on race day. To have them around was brilliant and the memories will last long into my inevitable descent in to dementia if my current performances when watching The Chase is anything to go by!
There really wasn’t a lot to say about the race for the first 50k. Myself, Marco and Robert had settled into a nice rhythm of doing loops around 10:05-10:15 laps and taking shots each at fronting the train into the wind across the riverside of the park. There was some ebbing and flowing, and we were joined by England’s Chris Singleton for a half dozen or so laps too. The wind was awful for 21 laps, horrendous for 11 more and then at its worse for the last 10. The relative impact of the wind was no doubt proportionate to the stage of the race.
Around lap 27 I was pretty much within seconds of my target time and then things started to get gnarly. I had felt it coming and to be honest, perhaps should have tried to deal with it earlier. My stomach was bouncing and it took 3 or 4 toilet trips to resolve it in the end. I felt queasy too and it was only after the magical medicinal ministration (trying saying that 10 times fast) of crystallised ginger that I started to feel better and get back on track. By this time I had lost a heap of minutes to plan.
I could really focus on the negative impact of this, but in ultrarunning bad spells are inevitable. Running hard for over 7 hours is gonna do weird things to the body, and so it did. I learnt quite a bit about myself as well as some handy tips for dealing with these issues again in the future. I am ALWAYS gonna have some ginger handy.
My race could summarised thus: 60% on plan, 25% hellish, 15% battle to the finish.
In the end, I came home in 7:43:36. This was a touch outside of my target but I felt I gave it all on the day and that’s what matters. It was good enough to be 3rd counter for Scotland and take the Bronze medal in the Scottish 100k championships. Robert Turner won this, and 3rd overall, with a brilliant 100k debut and Marco Consani was 2nd (5th overall) a couple of minutes behind Robert. Both these guys had their own travails and battled through also.
The overall race was won in an amazing time of 6:58 by England’s Paul Navesey, with Wales’ Daniel Weston taking the runner-up spot. England duo Melissa Venables and Edwina Sutton top the top two spots in the ladies’ race with Scotland’s Sophie Mullins making a brilliant debut with 3rd place, and 100k Scottish Champion.
Congratulations to the English team who won both men’s and ladies’ Anglo Celtic Plate championships. Also, worthy mention to Ross Houston who took 2 seconds off of the Scottish 50k road record on the day also. An amazing run.
On a personal level I could ruminate all day long about the race, what went well, what didn’t go so well and all that. There were by far more positives than negatives and I learnt more in adversity than I have ever done in winning, and already feel very positive about the future as a result. To have run and competed in a such a high-quality field, in an international competition, with all the camaraderie that goes with it will live with me forever, and I want more of that! I will have more of that.
This time last year I’d never even run a sub-3 hour marathon. That’s perspective when I think of where I am and hopefully the improvements I have yet to come. I look at my debut and is comparable with many great runners over 100k and I know have a new chunk of learning in me to take into the next race.
I’d like to thank Adrian Stott for taking a punt and giving me the opportunity but especially for mentioning Croy in the prize-giving! To Thomas Loehndorf for the advice, guidance and enthusiasm and Val MacAuley for putting up with my inane questions. All of my teammates were amazing folks and it was great to meet many for the first (and I hope not the last) time. The support team, Noanie, Sue, Kevin, Silke, Debbie and anyone else I have missed, mwah!
Also, shout to coach Paul Giblin, I went into the race in the best condition I have ever been in and am already excited about the next couple of races this year. It’s going to be a blast! Without PG’s pushing I wouldn’t be the proud owner of a Scotland vest!
But the most humbling thing for me was the sheer amount of friends and family who came along on the day. I have already said how proud I was to have Louise and the boys there but Andy was great as support and I am lucky to have people like them and all those friends in my life. So many people giving up their day to see me run in circles is mind-blowing. The cheer at the end when I finished will also stay with me.
I wanted to name everyone who played a part on the day, but in the end I am not going to as I will inevitably miss some people out and I don’t want to do that. Instead, I’ll finish by saying thanks again to everyone involved be you a runner, a supporter, a participant, a lap counter, a friend, a teammate or a family member.
I hope one day I get the chance to do all of this again. I’ll certainly work hard to make sure I give myself the best opportunity to do so.