Race Review: Inverness Half Marathon 2019

The Inverness half was not one I’d done before. It’s a long way to travel from Newcastle, and so it’s a bit out of my way. However, I’d first seen it advertised in the Edinburgh branch of Run 4 It a couple of years ago, and this year I needed to do a half in early March as part of my London Marathon training, so I thought it was a good opportunity to do a race a bit further afield.

Inverness Half Marathon 2019 medal
Not to mention a race with a gorgeous medal! A new favourite among my collection.

The race started quite late in the day, at 12:30pm, so Geth and I were able to have a fairly leisurely morning before heading to the Inverness Sports Centre to collect our race numbers and get ourselves ready. It was a very cold day, so I appreciated that the organisers didn’t lead us out of the building and down to the start line until the race was nearly due to start! Of course, as soon as we walked out, it started to drizzle, when it had been dry all morning. I was hugely thankful I’d thought to wear a baseball cap, meaning that unlike during the Yorkshire 10 Mile last October, I was actually able to see through the rain, as my glasses were sheltered.

The course actually reminded me of the aforementioned Yorkshire 10 Mile in that only about 10% of it is in the centre of town – the rest is either surrounding countryside or suburbs. There were a lot of twists and turns, though, which kept things interesting, and the only tough-ish hill was over and done with by the five-mile marker.

What felt a bit strange was that they only closed one side of the roads to traffic, so we were running up one side of the road while cars whizzed down the other, and there were many points where the marshals had to act as lollipop men and women, holding up signs to stop cars so that runners could get through. The marshals and police were all brilliant, though, and this aspect of the race is clearly very well organised.

Unfortunately, the very last section of the race was a bit of a letdown – the course finished on the track at the Sports Centre, but the path leading up to the track entrance was absolutely rammed with people who’d already finished the race, which is a real pain when you’re trying to build up speed for the finish! The marshals at this point seemed a bit confused as well, and kept pointing us in the wrong direction.

Another disappointment was that by the time I finished, they’d run out of size small finisher t-shirts. At size 10 these days, I’m fairly average for a female runner, but even a small is usually a little big for me (because race finisher t-shirts are ‘unisex cut’, and as we all know, ‘unisex cut’ means ‘designed for men’, so a size small is designed to fit a slim man). I was stuck with a medium, which on me is a tent. Not one I expect I’ll be wearing often, unfortunately. It would have been nice if they’d used the system where your t-shirt size is marked on your race number and checked off at the end, so that everyone gets the size they ordered when they entered the race.

However, it was really nice to be able to go back into the Sports Centre for some food and a change of clothes before we headed off again. On the whole, it was a very friendly, pretty race, and if they ever invented a means of guaranteeing better weather, I’d be back like a shot! As it stands, though, I expect it’ll be a few years before I consider venturing so far north for a race again.

I didn’t get a PB – my PB from the Town Moor Half still stands – but I was really happy with my much steadier pacing, which shows that my treadmill pacing practice is starting to pay off.

Next stop: London!

Race Review: Town Moor Half Marathon 2018

Geth and I hadn’t done any races put on by the North East Marathon Club before, but having heard good things about the Town Moor Half Marathon, we decided to give it a go this year – even though it did mean (a) running a half marathon the night after a gig and (b) stretching our race season into November, which is when we’re usually curled up at home for our winter running slump!

The North East Marathon Club’s aim is to put on affordable marathons for people in the north-east of England.  Most of their events are lapped courses, so you can choose what distance you do – the Town Moor Marathon is seven laps of the Town Moor, and if you choose to do the half, you do a special half distance lap first before doing three laps of the main course.

I’m glad I did it for the experience, but boy, doing a lapped half marathon is tough.  You have to run past the finish funnel three times before finally being able to run into it on the fourth occasion, and every time you pass it, your legs beg you to call it a day and your brain screams ‘do we really have to run that full lap AGAIN?’  I was better trained for this one than I was for the Great North Run, and I did end up running it about three minutes faster (so I got a PB, somehow!) but it felt much, much harder.

Also, that gravel.  It hurts your feet and gets in the way when you’re running a 5k parkrun.  It hurts much, much worse when you’re ten miles into a half marathon.

Great goodie bag though.  Gloves instead of a t-shirt!  Gorgeous medal!  And I really, really needed that chocolate bar.  Good stuff.

Getting out of the rain

Following this morning’s race, Geth and I headed to the pub to meet up with our friend Matt, and then went for a well-deserved race celebration meal at Pizza Hut.  Much as I like races, it was much nicer drinking and eating in warm indoor environments than it had been running in the rain this morning.

We made sure to finish our meal in plenty of time so we could get back and watch Doctor Who and the Strictly results, which is already becoming my favourite kind of autumn Sunday evening.

OOTD 14th October 2018
OOTD: showing off the new race shirt. T-shirt Yorkshire 10 Mile (2018), jeans Levi (2018), trainers Reebok (2013).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Traditional – Scotland The Brave
Eternal and Bebe Winans – I Wanna Be The Only One
Ella Henderson – Ghost
Duran Duran – Come Undone
Sigala and Paloma Faith – Lullaby
Samantha Fox – Touch Me

And a bonus track that Geth was humming earlier:

Neil Diamond – Sweet Caroline

Race Review: Yorkshire 10 Mile 2018

This is the second year running that Geth and I have run the Yorkshire 10 Mile.  Last year, it was a very pretty race, and although I was struggling a bit as my training had suffered, I really enjoyed the scenery.  This year, it was the opposite way round.

As forecast, it was absolutely chucking it down in York today, and it was the wettest race I’ve ever experienced.  My running glasses are not water-resistant, and so, because the rain was so heavy, I was basically running the race blind.  I couldn’t see the puddles, resulting in very wet feet.  My hearing aids were getting waterlogged and kept cutting out.  In short, I was pretty sensory-deprived and unaware of my surroundings.  I didn’t notice a single mile marker, and I only realised two of the water stations were there after I’d already run through them.  Luckily, it was so wet and cold that I really didn’t need to drink much water en route today.

However, Geth and I were both hopeful of PBs, as last year’s race was the only 10-mile race we’d done and we both felt we were in better shape this year.  Geth took a good chunk off his time, as he’s had a really good year training-wise, though he is suffering with a knee issue that needs to be seen to.  Last year, I’d aimed for sub-2hr but had ended up with 2:06:38.  This year, I aimed for sub-2hr again, and was fairly confident I’d get it as my training between the GNR and Yorkshire has been much better.  I ended up with a time of 1:47:31 – a 19:07 minute PB!  I’m really happy with that, especially as the conditions were so miserable.

I doubt we’ll do this race again next year, as the organisers are moving it to later in October and it doesn’t really fit in with our race plans for next autumn.  However, assuming I don’t end up saying ‘never again’ to marathons after I do London in April, I may come back and do the full marathon sometime.

Race Review: Great North Run 2018

Great day out racing today!

An early start, aided by my new Spotify playlist that collects all my favourite running-reminiscent songs!  After getting our stuff together, Geth and I headed out for a good walk to the Great North Run start line.  We put our rucksack on the baggage bus and got ourselves settled in the start pen.

GNR start line selfie
Start line selfie! I am still no good at taking these.

It was a good hour-long wait until we finally started moving, and probably another twenty minutes after that walking down to the actual start line (being the world’s biggest half marathon, it takes a good long while to get nearly 60,000 runners over the line), but before too long we were off, and I was able to settle into my comfortable pace for the first few miles.

Unfortunately pretty much all of my recurring aches and pains showed up during the course of the race, and so I didn’t get anywhere near the sub-2:30 I would have liked.  I did get 2:43:19, which is a 10 min 36 sec improvement on last year’s PB – ergo I can’t really complain!  Looking forward to the winter, though, as I will be able to train a lot better for the various races I will be doing in the run-up to the London Marathon in April.

South Shields and its pubs were as wonderful and necessary as ever.  We hung about for a while to avoid the Metro queues, but are now finally home with pizza and prosecco.  A very quiet day planned tomorrow.

OOTD 9th September 2018
OOTD: the only piece of clothing that matters today! Glasses Moschino (2006), t-shirt Great North Run (2018).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Ashford & Simpson – Solid

(Another short playlist due to a whole day of having music played at me!)

Race Review: Great North 10k 2018

I’ve done the Great North 10k in Gateshead twice before.  The first time was in 2016, which was the first and (hopefully!) last time I ever came dead last in a race.  That was a special day, strangely.  Last year was better for me, but Geth was running it with a broken toe, which wasn’t ideal.

Today was a fairly good race for both of us – it was a hot day, so no overall PBs, but we both got course PBs – mine by about five minutes, so I’m pretty pleased with that.  I find the Great North 10k to be quite a pleasant race, as the bulk of it is an out-and-back section where I’m always too preoccupied with looking out for people I know running the other way to dwell too much on my own discomfort, and the views of the Tyne bridges are very pretty.  The ninth kilometre, meanwhile, goes through a nice bit of park – there’s a short steep hill at the end of that section that everybody makes a really big deal out of (it’s nicknamed the ‘Slog on the Tyne’, but it only takes a minute or so to jog up it, and it’s really not that hard), and then the last kilometre is a nice flat run into Gateshead Stadium and round the track.

I don’t know if I’ll do it for a fourth time next year, but definitely at some point.

Race Review: Blaydon Race 2018

For the second year running, Geth and I did the Blaydon Race yesterday.  It’s a bit of an odd distance – five and a bit miles – and it’s always on the ninth of June, which can feel a bit odd when it falls on a weekday, but it’s become a traditional race in the North East.  The route is based on the lyrics of the Blaydon Races song, and you get a bottle of beer in your goody bag.  It’s a great race.

Sadly neither Geth nor I had a great race yesterday.  First of all, it was a really hot day and everyone was feeling it on the route.  The start was delayed due to problems with getting the roads closed in time, then roadworks meant there was a bottleneck near the start that slowed everyone down, so Geth went off too fast after that to try to make up the pace, and ran out of energy during the last mile.  Meanwhile, I had a few foot issues – a bruised toenail getting gradually worse and making downhill sections very painful, leading to bad form, leading to more foot pain.  I then got a stitch that was so bad I was still feeling it this morning.  I came in at one hour and thirty-five seconds, which was a great course PB – twelve minutes and fifty-two seconds faster than last year – but I was so gutted not to get sub-hour, which I would have done easily if I hadn’t had all those issues.

Still, the bus queue was a lot shorter than last year, and the t-shirt is more awesome.  I will be back next year, presuming I can get a place!

Back to work…and back to normal

It’s been a great few weekends travelling and seeing friends, but I’m enjoying getting back to normal – it was back to work today, and other than the Blaydon Race this upcoming Saturday, I’m going to be enjoying a quiet few weeks – which means I’ll finally be able to get cracking on the house again!

Maybe by the end of June I’ll have broken the back of it.  Maybe?  I just have to hope nothing else gets in the way work-wise – you never know when you’re a freelancer!

Race Review: EMF 10k 2018

So, the EMF 10k, which is always a memorable race.  I first signed up to do it in 2016, but then it turned out to be the wee bro’s wedding in Toronto the same weekend, and I obviously couldn’t be in two places at once, so I had to wait till 2017 before I could do this challenging race for the first time.

2017 certainly did not disappoint in terms of challenge –  the 30°C weather, almost unheard of for Edinburgh, took care of that.  This year was much more amenable with the temperature, and so not only did I take almost fifteen minutes off my time from last year, but I was only one minute and two seconds slower than the PB I set in Sunderland a fortnight ago.  That’s pretty good going considering the ridiculous elevation of the EMF 10k and its steep climb up Arthur’s Seat!

Geth was only about a minute off his Sunderland time as well, so we’re both pretty happy today.  Next up is the Blaydon Race in another fortnight’s time!

Race Review: Sunderland 10k 2018

Well, it feels like I’ve been talking about it forever, but the Sunderland 10k finally rolled around today.

Sunderland 10k 2018 medal
The Run Sunderland event always gives out nice, weighty medals – I much prefer them to the Great Run offerings, which are always a bit generic and uninspired.

We got up at stupid o’clock, set out at still stupid o’clock, met our friends Sean and Ed on the Metro, and arrived at Keel Square in Sunderland in plenty of time to drop off our bag in the baggage area and make our way to the starting pen.  After the usual ridiculous mass warm-up shenanigans (I’ve given up trying to follow those – there’s never any space in the crowd and it’s not something I’d do for a normal run anyway), we were off, a lot more promptly than last year.

I went off far too fast – an opening kilometre of 6:01 mins, when I should have been aiming more for a steady 6.55 or so – but although I ended up paying for my too-speedy start a bit in the second half, I did settle down over the course of the race, and I came in at 1:09:56, just snatching the sub-1:10:00 I’d been aiming for.  That’s a 7:29 min 10k PB, and I was thrilled, obviously!  It did require a pretty epic sprint finish at the end, when I spotted the gun time on the board and realised I was in with a chance.

After meeting back up with Geth and Sean, we went for breakfast at Caffé Nero while waiting for Ed to finish the half marathon, then met back up with Ed, got back on the Metro, and went for a few pints once back in Newcastle.  Then Geth and I went home and ordered pizza.  Perfect race day, really.

Looking forward to the next one!  Only two weeks to go.