My original intention was to make Alloa my main race of the year but getting called up from the waiting list for both of the energy sapping Strathaven Half Marathon and Hillbilly Cross Country races had put that in doubt, on top of this a recent calf strain had derailed my training plan. In the end it was a last minute decision to run the race.
I’ve also been unwell for over six months now, during which time my weight has continued to decrease. I’m now less than 12 stone for the first time in memory. Last Wednesday. my Doctor doubled my Temazepam dosage and the week before she upped my Venlafaxine, so it’s perhaps not too surprising with these chemicals running around my brain that things didn’t go quite to plan. Which was now just to get round the 13.1 miles without too much damage.
It was good to catch up with loads of running friends prior to the race, including Moira Nicol and Toni McIntosh who was making her running comeback.
The weather conditions were almost ideal for racing and, stupidly, I lost focus and started way too quickly, running the first mile in 7:02 and the second in 7:03! My PB is 96mins, which equates to 7:20 pace.
The hill at mile three helped to slow me down and the next two miles took 7:45 and 7:25 respectively but by now my depression was now kicking in and I was mentally struggling and seriously thinking of pulling out of the race. I convinced myself that if I could keep going to mile six, that would be almost half way and I would then need to finish the race. Miles five and six took 7:08 and 7:24.
I knew that I was still running well but my mind was playing tricks with me and I continued to battle against the demons but, at least, I’d now passed the half way point.
However things were put into perspective around the seven mile mark, where the route goes out and back. As we turned left, I saw a fellow runner being treated by the medical staff and clearly heard one saying “he’s stopped breathing”. I’m glad to say that, Dr Allie Chong, realised that the man was having a heart attack, and stopped to give him CPR before the ambulance arrived (hospitalised now but reportedly doing fine).
We ran along the A93 with the Ochil Hills on our right hand side.
I kind of lost it over the next few miles, negative thoughts were flooding my mind and a my focus was now on getting to the tenth mile, when I’d only have 5k to go.
I continued to struggle, whilst a number of friends and running buddies overtook me. The field this year was a lot bigger than my last outing in 2010, when some 977 completed the course, this year 1661 finished. (Although I’m sure the commentator said that 3,200 had registered). I did try to hang on to other runners and it worked for a while but then I’d suddenly realise that they were no longer visible.
I was glad to get the tenth mile under my belt but I knew that the most physically challenging part of the race was still to come as we turned left up the Menstrie Brae to Tullibody.
I’m afraid that I resorted to walking a few steps up the hill and again a bit later. I’m pleased to say that the other racers encouraged me to keep on running. By this stage my legs were also starting to stiffing up and my calf was hurting, so I knew that it wasn’t all in my mind.
The last 5k seemed to go on for ever but I convinced myself to keep going, no matter how slowly. From somewhere, I found enough strength to sprint along the final strait.
I crossed the Finish Line and, all of a sudden, I felt my legs turning to rubber as I collapsed in a heap. The medical team took care of me and I recovered enough to cheer Sylvia Mulholland, who has also endured the Strathaven Half Marathon and Hillbilly Cross Country races with me, over the line.
I hadn’t stopped my Garmin and I had to wait for the results to be published before realising that I had placed 428th out of 1661 finishers, with a time of 98:42. Not a PB but the second fastest of the seventeen Half Marathons that I’ve done. Let’s hope that the eighteenth one is less eventful than the previous two.
On a more positive note, it was great to see so many friends, thebefore, during and after the race. Although I didn’t hang around too long at the end.
As usual, many thanks to everyone associated with the event, not least of all the medical teams.
Full results here
Photos by Maggie Reid