More by accident than by design – I have spent much of September visiting different cities throughout the land, and as is my habit – have taken my running shoes with me on these travels.
I don’t do much by way of proper running on these trips – but fitting in a run is the closest I get to being a collector, or to the satisfaction of ticking off a list, ‘trainspotter-like’.
Yes, I confess I am a runspotter !
With apologies to trainspotters – but I am guessing based on casual observation (given that I do spend a shit load of time at train stations) that you guys & gals like to collect numbers and tick off lists – just as I do by running in different places.
So running somewhere unknown is a good way to get a feel for a place, to satisfy my curiosity and sometimes find the places worth returning to for a proper visit. It is quicker than walking and cheaper than an open-topped bus – and of course, helps to offset the effects of wining and dining excess that often goes with travels.
Alas the weather on most of these runs was not great and skies are often Pantone cool grey 5 with drizzle – but although the photos may look a tad sombre, rest assured I was having a darn good time.
Have been in London quite a bit this month and fitted in a few runs along various stretches of the Thames. London is a nice city to run in with always something to see although it can be hard underfoot. Those golden pavements are tough on my creaky knees.
Sept 24 Inverness
Took a birl round my home town ( city ) to blow away the cobwebs the morning after my sister in law’s very enjoyable 60th birthday party. Was the day of the Loch Ness marathon and I was delighted to not be running a marathon – or any other race, although I did accidentally get caught up in a family fun run.
Sept 26 Belfast
A first proper visit to Belfast for me so managed to get a bit lost despite some good directions from a native. Early morning run taking in some of Belfast’s art trail and checking out some of the very splendid municipal buildings and high spots.
Sept 29 Edinburgh
Not really exploring a new city as Edinburgh is my home turf – I should really make more of an effort to run the sights of Auld Reekie, but sometimes getting back to running on familiar trails makes a comforting change after taking in the tourist spots.
My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here, My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer; Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe, My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.
So goes the Robert Burns song and although a big part of my heart is in the Highlands, ( I was born in Dingwall and spent my childhood near Inverness before heading south to study in 1979) – it is not deer I chase but PBs at the Inverness Half marathon race!
The Inverness Half marathon, held as it is in early March, is one of the first half marathon races in the season (in Scotland). It is a good way to test your legs over a longer distance after winter training and suits many people who are training for a spring marathon.
Until this year, I was not in that marathon training category but had chosen to take part in this race partly because of family connections, but also because having first completed it in 2011 in snowy, cold, conditions and lived to tell the tale – when I compared it with my experience of some other half marathons, I concluded that Inverness is a race that for me offers close to the perfect combination I am looking for in an event.
The course is interesting but not too taxing, with lots of places for spectators to support you, it is big enough to feel like a special event but is not so big to be impersonal or overwhelmed by the razzamatazz. And it is very well organised and friendly.
As a bonus, I get great race support from my brother and sister-in-law and my niece, who between them provide excellent cheerleading, patiently listen to my pre-race anxieties, provide fab post race support and generally make it a most enjoyable occasion.
Even though I have run other races with arguably better PB potential ( Edinburgh and Aviemore ) my half marathon PB was and still is from Inverness. Not completely sure why this should be – and maybe once I have the marathon behind me, I might revisit some other half marathon races to see if I can improve my time.
My Inverness race history
So having taken part in this race 5 times since 2011 – my times are as follows
2011:2hrs 16 mins 38 secs
( did not enter 2012 )
2013: 2hrs 16 mins 14 secs
2014: 2 hrs 14 mins 04 secs
2015: 2 hrs 11 mins 02 secs
2016: 2hrs 02 mins 09 secs
Each year before Inverness, I will have followed a self-designed if somewhat fluid ‘training’ plan – mostly around adding in a longer run at the weekends to my regular run schedule of around av 12 – 15 miles per week. I also do this run streak challenge every December and maybe running 3 miles every day in December gives me a base of fitness.
I know from reading my large collection of running books, that my training for Inverness could not really be described as following a plan, and even more so now that I am following a proper training plan for the Stirling marathon. My lead up to Inverness has never included any specific sessions of speed work or hills or running at race pace, although last year I had started to do a weekly session with a PT to help my core strength and build on my endurance.
But although I was not taking run training as seriously as I should have – between 2015 and 2016, I had been following a new eating plan with fitnaturally and because of this, I had lost quite a bit of weight. Being over 14 lbs lighter meant I found running more enjoyable and I think largely due to being lighter and despite my casual approach to training – I was absolutely delighted to knock almost 9 minutes off my time in 2016.
My time in 2016 was 2.02.09 – a new PB and tantalisingly close to sub 2 hours, and so in the post-race euphoria, I foolishly said I would come back and get sub 2hr in 2017 !
2017 arrived and I started my marathon training plan – sharing with Sally that I would quite like to do sub 2 hrs in a half. This was built into my plan, and then I discovered that I really did not enjoy speed work ! As the Inverness race drew closer I started to get the jitters about achieving a time of under 2 hours, when I knew that it meant me averaging 9-minute miles for the full 13.1 mile distance.
I started to back pedal and keep quiet about my sub 2 goal, saying that the marathon was my 2017 goal and anything else a bonus – of course, a new PB would be nice – but hey – I only had a knock a few seconds off my 2016 time to do that 😉
I know that one reason I felt the pressure was because this was the first time I was approaching this race or any race against a background of having properly trained. Excuses for failure were thin on the ground, and as is the contrary way I am around pressure and expectation – I was dreading the race more than I had on previous occasions. I am slowly understanding that in running, putting in the training hours is about giving you the foundation for success, and I knew this would be the first real test.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.
Having already put in a decent amount of training since January, come race weekend I did my best to avoid sabotaging my chances, first by resisting the temptation for a night before glass of wine or two, then on race day following Sally’s nutritional advice to the letter, and I even took heed of her race plan advice which went something like this:
“warm up for a mile, run as strong as you can for miles 2 – 10 , then run as fast as you can after that – ending with a sprint finish “- which as my brother translated was pretty much saying – warm up for a mile then run as fast as you can for the rest of the race 🙂
Overall I did feel more in control during the race – and had an inner strength that I will put down largely to the mileage and other training I have been doing as part of my marathon build up. But I did not find it easy, and particularly as I got closer to the finish and knew that my sub 2 hour time was within my grasp.
With 3 miles to go and with a big part of me wanting to just accept a PB and abandon my ‘not so secret’ real sub 2hr goal for another day – I had a conversation with myself and it turns out that even I have a bit of competitive spirit. So with less than 2 miles to finish I gave it my best shot – and helped by a final and extremely loud cheer at around 12.5 miles from my niece Laura – I got there in a time of 1 hrs 59 mins 18 secs.
Including sprint finish 🙂
I am taking part in Stirling Scottish Marathon on May 21st and it will be my first marathon. To get me ready for this challenge I am following a marathon training plan provide by Sally at fitnaturally.
fitnaturally offers a range of healthy eating plans that can help with weight loss and sports nutrition. They provide bespoke training and nutrition for people taking part in sport at any level. I have been following fitnaturally plans for over a year and I have become leaner and fitter, losing more than 20lbs in weight and a reduction in body fat% in a gradual and sustainable way and by eating normal and enjoyable food !
Through my marathon efforts, I am hoping to raise funds for two charities – Scottish Womens’s Aid and Smalls for All both of these charities work to help women in different ways. If you would like to support either of these charities, please consider making a donation, however modest by following the link to my Justgiving page ( Scottish Women’s Aid ) and Mydonate ( Smalls for All ) pages.
As I should really know by now – I never regret a run , and with the small exception of how I feel around about mile 3,7, 8, 9 ( insert as appropriate) I never regret entering a race.
I love that euphoric feeling of bouncing over the timing mats and crossing under the finish gantry – and while I have not and am unlikely to ever, experience tearing across a finish tape, one of the many reasons I enjoy taking part in the Inverness Half is that it finishes on a running track, so I even get to attempt my version of a sprint finish. For someone whose teenage experiences of athletics in this very stadium was only ever as a spectator – it never fails to give me a small ripple of joy.
Not that you could tell how joyous I felt if you check out the running photos , but mastering that perfect race finish look is still on my ‘to do’ list.
So despite my anxious day before reflections, the worries about jinxing my chances by contemplating improvement and my usual pre race jitters – it all turned out fine in the end.
More than fine really.
I was feeling in better shape than in previous years, and hoped that this would convert to a better time. The night before the race I had spent with my niece who is a competitive swimmer, and we had talked race tactics – or more accurately she patiently explained the concept of pacing to me.
Strangely talking about pace and races was quite settling , and maybe I stored some of the advice somewhere, as on race day I ran faster than I have done before, 9 minutes faster than on the same course in 2015, and 6 minutes faster than my previous half marathon PB of 2.08.
Running into the stadium on the race track, I was pretty sure I was going to meet my goal of 2.05 and so was very pleased to see the clock showing a gun time of around 2.04, but even happier when my chip time was confirmed as 2.02.09 .
Looking at the race splits – I can see how my mid race wobble was my main undoing but more importantly it feels achievable to target a sub 2 hour half marathon time. Which means I will more than likely be doing this all over agin this time next year.