In the midst of training for the 24 Hour World Champs I felt that doing a sharpener in May would be useful. It’s been over three long months since Rocky Raccoon, and even if these races were to be taper-free, peak week efforts, I would still prepare mentally and nutritionally the same as I would for the Champs.
I was actually torn between looking for a place in Glen Lyon ultra, doing Monklands Half and / or Stirling Marathon. As it was I plumped for the latter two. And it was brilliant to see my Pyllon Racing teammate John Connolly take the spoils at Glen Lyon and the CR by a midge’s baw hair. He’s a top lad and a good buddy.
Onto Monklands Half first of all. Gerry Craig asked if I would run this as it was doubling as the West Districts Championships too. It was a chance for us to have a tilt at the team title. Myself, Gerry, Alex, Michael and Duncan would push hard to get the best top 3 and I’d finally make my Victoria Park City of Glasgow debut. Turns out there wasn’t a team event on but we would have won anyway and that is good enough for us!
Paul had put me through a pretty full on week leading up to the race, culminating in a 44k run the day before, with efforts. I was also going to run home after the race. It was a great way to get a big weekend in.
I’d forgotten just how tough half marathons are. This was my first race at this distance since Alloa 2015.
Right away Robert Gilroy, who would go on to win in under 71 mins opened up a lead. By 2 miles he was out of sight. I started easy to see who was around and by the time I hit Drumpellier I was in 2nd place with Stevie Prentice giving chase.
I could now pad this report out with stories of how we battled back and forth but the reality is I gradually opened up a small lead on Stevie and just held that pretty constant to finish 2nd in 1:16:38.
Not being versed in how these districts races work I was delighted to get a couple of Scottish Athletics silver medals, a trophy and a cheque for £75 which was spent on Lego for Caelan, a couple of X-Box games for Euan and new walking gutties for Lou. They deserve it more than me for a ton of reasons!
A week later, after another tough week of training which included a tempo session the day after the half!, it was onto Stirling Marathon where I managed to get a place at the 11th hour. I was looking forward to this for a couple of reasons. One, it was said to be tough but nice and two, doing a marathon for the first time in a couple of years would be fun!
The start at Blair Drummond Safari park was cool. I chatted to loads of familiar faces pre-race and got a wee shout as we headed out onto the main road from GB 24 Hour teammate Debbie Martin-Consani who was also using the race as a sharpener for Belfast.
My plan was to run close to 2:40 for the marathon. I wasn’t fussed about being too far under or over, but so long as I was able to go straight into “normal” training the day after. This after all was a C race in priority terms.
I found the first half of the race hilly. I was surprised afterwards to see almost 1,500 feet of climb which is a lot for a city marathon on tarmac. In hindsight I probably pushed too hard on the first 8 or so miles, thinking too much about pace rather than feel. But that data is exactly why it was worthwhile doing the race.
By the time we had gone through the awesome crowds in Doune, Dunblane and Bridge of Allan I was in 7th place. The crowds in Stirling City Centre were amazing, especially on loops 2 and 3. Seeing so many familiar and encouraging faces was smile inducing. It nearly made up for the bastard underpasses which are the kind of feature a race course needs as much as a wall needs woodchip wallpaper.
On the last loop I managed to move up to 5th place. Boosted by the fact I’d seen Lou and the boys and knew they’d be there at the finish.
I held on to 5th and crossed the line in 2:40:26.
All in all, a pretty decent fortnight’s work which sets me up for the big for weeks of training that will no doubt follow.
Thanks to Paul G for pushing me to new limits, these were two big efforts sandwiched into a couple of weeks of wonderfully varied and challenging training. Keeping it fresh.