Sunday, 15 November 2009

Glen Clova Half Marathon

I was looking forward to this race since I’ve had an easy time training wise last month, and it’s now time to get back into doing a bit of effort. It’s been ages since I’ve done a half and the last one I raced was Glen Clova 2004.
On the drive up you knew it was going to be a wet one, pouring rain and a lot of water on the roads to be waded through. At the hotel before the start it was lovely to receive complementary comments from folk I didn’t know about the West Highland Way race on the Adventure Show and that the Beeb had done a good job of getting across how special the race is.
One girl who spoke to Pauline and I was quite anxious about the race, she’d just gotten over a virus and wasn’t sure about running in the cold and wet conditions, we suggested she didn’t race it, just keep her jacket on, stay warm, run easy and enjoy the scenery, she was still concerned about the distance as she hadn’t gone over 12 miles this year concentrating on 5 and 10 kms and getting some cracking PBs at them too, so I then suggested that she should just run the first three miles and if she still wasn’t happy turn back. She then thanked me and said she knew she’d feel better if she spoke to me! I thought that was so nice of her to say that, then my next thought made me smile. “Aye, speak to Nutsy, that’s bound to make you feel sane!”
I did the usual dither on how many layers to wear, I settled on tights, long sleeved thermal, vest, hat, buff and gloves, I didn’t feel it was enough but I was planning to run hard so hoped that would warm me up! We were off, I wasn’t sure how to pace it at all, the last races I’d ran at a fast pace (well, fast for me!) was the Tour of Fife series, there’s nothing tactical there, you just go like the clappers and hang on! I settled on going as fast as I could while staying relaxed and controlled. At about 5 miles I felt as if the sock on left foot under my heel was rumpled, I’ve never had that happen before I thought it must be because my feet were soaked with wading through the floods then I felt my toes hang over the insole, it wasn’t my sock that was rumpled at all but the insole, well, I’ve definitely never had that before! I considered stopping to sort it but then thought, it’s only 8 miles to go, if I wasted time flattening it out would it just rumple up again? I’ve coped with worse, I’ll just keep going.
I did a bit of reminiscing during the run; it was at Glen Clova half many years ago I met my first West Highland Way runner, Stan Milne, and I had the incredulous look on my face that I’ve since seen a few times on folk myself. One year the road was just an ice rink for the whole way, another year the gales were so fierce on the second half when we turned into wind the mile markers had been blown out of the ground and were hurtling up the glen towards us. Pauline and I had ran together that year and we worked as a team, taking turns in front of each other for a hundred pace then swapping over, we went past a lot of other runners that day. Today the wind was kind to us, there wasn’t much and it was behind us on the return, I remembered my old tactic in half marathon running, work to 10 miles then kick, I tried but I’d already been kicking from the word go! It’s an undulating route and the biggest hills are saved for the last couple of miles. The thought of stovies, beer and warm dry clothes spurred me on to the finish. Pauline’s scientific speed work she’s been doing paid off, she was second lady, Gail was third, and a sack of tatties in a Carnegie vest (aka me) made up the team, we got a bottle of wine each for 4th ladies team. I like the way Forfar do the prizes, first 15 men, first 15 woman irrespective of age category and 4 mens team prizes and 4 ladies team prizes.
After a big plate of stovies, three pints of a wee beer exclusive to the Glen Clova Hotel, I was warm and dry, and could contemplate my race. I was happy with my effort considering how rusty I was at this distance but I hadn’t forgotten how tough a half can be. Well it was my 104th!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Tinto Hill Race

Not my usual kind of race but this is my third running of it and in memory of one of the good guys taken too soon, George Murdoch our club’s hill running captain who died suddenly in 2007 and to pay tribute, Carnegie turn out in force at Tinto.
It’s a lovely short sharp run and not too scary for non hill runners but a fine challenge all the same, just over 4 miles with 1500 feet of ascent. In 2007 I ran with Rabbit the Bruce fastened to my bum bag, he’s a well travelled bunny supporting myself and other Carnegie Harriers during many a tough challenge and it seemed fitting for him to run Tinto in support of Gail and the club in our loss which started a wee tradition for him so as long as I run Tinto so will the Bruce.

Before the start I had the usual debate with myself (and anyone else that would listen) on how many layers to wear, it was a fine day, some sunshine, no wind to speak of but a wee bit of cloud on the top, I decided on long sleeves, tights, vest, Buff round my head, scarf and gloves but Mehrnaz in her crop top made me shiver! (I’m just a cauld tattie!) It’s a fairly easy gradient to start, nice and run-able but it’s wasn’t long before I was putting in wee walks with hands on my thighs, then it was mostly big walks with wee runs in between. Then the fun started! It’s an out and back route and the leaders were careering back down with wide eyeballs focussed on the ground, expressions of concentration, a smidge of fear and a body barely under control, the Bruce and I were concentrating too on trying to pick a good route up and not get killed in throng of descenders! It wasn’t long until I burled round the cairn and started my turn with the waving arms and boggling eyes but I managed to stay just about under control, I didn’t squeal once but the Bruce had both paws in the air shrieking “Go faster!” I bounded down to the finish thinking I must do more of this stuff, it’s brilliant!

(photo Andy Sim)
I was quite pleased with my time after having a fat lazy October, I must be refreshed and raring to go again since I was 5 minutes faster than last year.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

A wee WHW run

Had a lovely wee run on the WHW today and mostly on my own with the scenery all to myself . This month Pauline has been concentrating on road speed (while I’ve been concentrating on having a fat lazy chocolate and wine fest!) she did a hard session yesterday and is planning a long run tomorrow so she was happy to fling me out at Drymen. After having an easy month I took it at a nice gentle pace towards Conic hill, before reaching the hill a breeze swirled around me, I thought “Ooww, ma bum’s freezing!” then “Ooww ma bum’s wet!” Aw naw! A bladder malfunction and not of the old lady Tena moment variety before you jump to conclusions, my drinks bladder was leaking, my knickers were full of diluted ginger beer. I took off my backpack and checked out my bladder, I hadn’t screwed the lid on properly. Doh, what a numpty! Oh well, a sticky cold butt for me for the rest of the run then. Yeech!
I loved the colours of today’s run, all autumnal and a rainbow, but I never got any rain and I had a shadow a few times too. Pauline was meeting me at Balmaha, I tried phoning her on my way down but just got the polite wumin saying “the person you are calling is unavailable” so carried on down to find Pauline sitting in the car reading her mag and listening to her music, she was disappointed that she didn’t get to walk up to meet me, she did keep me company until the start of the climb out of Balmaha, I did suggest that she’d get some good photos at the top of the climb but there was a bit of a bus trip of folk on the way out of Balmaha so she just said I’ll just drive to Rowardennan and see you there.
The section between Balmaha and Rowardennan is one of my favourite bits of the WHW and I was happy trotting along today but one of the thoughts I had today was that on this run my Achilles tendons were a bit tight my hamstrings felt a bit tight too and I was glad that I was stopping at Rowardennan, just a piddly wee bit of the WHW. How the hell do I manage to run the whole flaming way in June? Because I choose too! That’s why.
Pauline was trotting out from Rowardennan to meet me looking for about an hours run and sure enough there she was after I’d got to the top of the steep, steep climb just after the university field station, she was faffing about taking a photo of a fallen tree, some how I knew she’d be there (nothing to do with going down the hill meant that you had to climb back up). We had a lovely wee run back to the car, then a flask of oxo, a couple of cheese pieces, a happy heart being back on the whw. Headed home for wine and pizza.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A Monster Fun Run

I knew Loch Ness marathon was going to be a fortnight after the 24 hour race but that didn’t deter me from entering it. It’s a cracking run in smashing scenery and I’ve done every one since it started so I couldn’t let that go. I didn’t run at all for a week after Keswick, then just a couple of easy five or six milers just to make sure there were no lasting damage, just very flat batteries. Loch Ness was just going to be a pleasant trot round with no pressure of going for a time, I took my bumbag loaded with wee Mars bars, a rice krispie square and a gel (a token gesture that this was a race), extra hat and gloves, (with running a slower pace I didn’t want to get cold) and my camera, (any excuse to stop).
There was a wee problem with the buses, three didn’t turn up and one broke down, so me and a couple of hundred other runners ended up having to stand all the way to the start once we got shared out onto the rest of the buses. The start was was delayed by nearly an hour, it didn’t bother me at all but I think it might have messed up some folks race plan who had timed their eating precisely for a 10.00am start. I gave a rueful smile when I handed my bag over to be placed into the van that would take all baggage back to the finish; I was relieved I’d emptied my water bottle before hand, with the skills of proper airport baggage handlers; they were lobbing the bags in like shot putters doing a time trial!

The pipe band marched through the runners then we were off into the sunshine and scenery. I felt just a wee bit of an ache in my left knee and my ankles which I have never had before, my muscles didn’t have any bounce in them at all but apart from that I was perfectly fine enjoying my run. Another reason why I enjoy this race so much is that it brings back loads of childhood memories, the field with the static caravans used to be a small campsite.

We spend all our summer holidays swimming in the loch, dangling on tree swings and Nessie hunting. I remember one year being taken over the loch in a wee boat to visit a Nessie Hunter that was living in a wee shed for the summer near Urquhart Castle, I don’t remember much about him except he had freckles, long ginger hair and big fluffy orange sideburns (It was very early seventies!) it wasn’t ‘til years later I found out it was BBC’s news correspondent Nicholas Witchell, he’s even published a book about his Nessie research. I’ll need to read it some day.
Enough happy memories, time to get back to some happy running, and I certainly did that, the support at Dores was great; the crowds were as loud as the supporters on a Tour de France mountain stage. At the drink station, in preparation for the long slog of a hill I took a couple of paracetamol, ate a Mars Bar and drank a fair bit of Lucozade, which is something I usually find makes my tummy a bit yeechy but today it went down nicely.

As the miles clocked up I actually felt better, I was in my happy plod for days pace and at 20 miles I got a real buzz from the thought “ The last time I had 6 miles to go I’d already run 101 miles and that was just a fortnight ago!” I found that hard to believe and I’d done it!!! I had another thought. “There are no limits!” and thoroughly enjoyed my run into the finish. Pauline missed me finishing, my fault though, I’d predicted a finishing time somewhere between 4½ and 5 hours, but was pleasantly surprised to finish in 4.15 hours, I must be recovering from Keswick better than I thought.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Gail's report from the Commonwealth Championship 100km


I was always planning to go down to Keswick to support our 24 hour runners, but when I was selected to run in the 100K race (6 weeks before the event!- plenty time to prepare then…) I was so pleased to be going down as part of the running team. To be taking part in such a big event and running for Scotland again. Who couldn’t be chuffed to bits. As part of 4 runners in the 100K ladies team, I was the slowest on paper. I hadn’t even run the qualifying guideline of sub 9 hours, and in the overall rankings I was very low indeed. I was going down to Keswick with a few goals. Firstly I wanted to enjoy more of a 100K than I’d enjoyed before i.e. more than 4 hours. I didn’t want to be last. And if the team did win a medal I wanted to be a counter in the team. I wasn’t going for a time as I knew the course was hard and hilly and a PB was unlikely. The 9 hour time was more of a benchmark than a goal.

We arrived in Keswick on the Wednesday night, attended the opening ceremony on the Thursday morning. We then went along to Fitz Park to see the build up and start of the 24 hour race. The atmosphere was great. After a few hours Steven + I went to recce the 100K course and had a wee half hour jog on the course. We then went back to see how the 24 hour runners were getting on. Lynne was wobbling a bit, but the rest were OK. She soon recovered and they all seemed settled into the race into the evening. It was great to have the opportunity to support them, but I was aware I shouldn’t overdo it. Very difficult not to get wrapped up in it though. I was quite happy jogging back and forward. Much better than standing still. After our dinner, I went back to the B+B to get a good night’s sleep while Steven went back to support overnight. So much for a good night’s sleep! I hardly slept a wink thinking about everyone else in the park. I kept phoning for updates. Finding out they were going through really difficult patches didn’t help me sleep at all. After breakfast, we headed back down to the park to watch the last few hours of the race. Richie was in a bad way and had made the decision to stop till the end of the race. His tank was completely empty. Fiona was in walk mode now, Lynne was run/ walking and Pauline looked the strongest. The last hour was amazing as Pauline looked like there was an outside possibility she could make 200K by the end of the race. We were all doubtful but Sue was not going to miss the opportunity to push Pauline as hard as possible to achieve this. I’ve never seen anyone push themselves like it and the last lap was quite the most remarkable thing I think I’ve ever seen. To run the fastest lap of the race after 24 hours. Everyone was screaming at her. I was running along trying to keep up with her, screaming at her, with tears streaming down my face. “Where’s the 200K marker?” she was shouting at Steven. She passed it and kept going till a minute or so later and the hooter went and it was all over. It is the best finish to a race I have ever seen and I was so glad to witness it and be part of it.

And what an inspiration to go into the 100K with. I slept well that night. I was so knackered from the night before. I had been quite relaxed about my race until the Friday night when I began to get a bit irritable and uptight. I was nervous the next morning and strangely emotional. This doesn’t usually happen to me. Must be Lynne rubbing off on me! It was great to see people come down to the start of my race – Simon, Lynne, Sue + Ken, and Steven and Val were still around before they headed up to the support point at the lake. A few hugs later and we were off. It wasn’t long before we hit the hills. I knew they were coming and was prepared to take it as easy as possible. I settled into 2nd last place very easily and didn’t try to chase anyone, despite them all pulling away from me. After a mile or so I got chatting to a Canadian girl, Laurie. She was the only person I really talked to in the race. We passed each other a few times then settled down when we got to the end of the lake. It was good to see Steven + Val. I felt more secure knowing they were close if I had any problems. Then I got into a rhythm going up and down the lake. It was also great to know Simon + Lynne were up the other end of the lake to support me. Especially when they must have been exhausted themselves. Then as time went on Ken + Sue appeared on the loop and supported me for several loops as they walked the length of the lake. Then the dulcet tones of “Happy Birthday to you” could be heard in the distance. The twins had arrived! Then seeing Richie at the other end. It was great to have everyone there supporting us all. After 5 laps of the lakeside I was beginning to tire. But hey, I’d got a lot further than in my previous 100Ks before feeling too bad. I was determined not to walk at the feeding stations unless absolutely necessary. I couldn’t wait till the last lap so I’d be homeward bound. The race had changed over a few hours from Izzy being in front, to Sandra, then me, positions changing all the time, but as time went on they seemed to be having more trouble than me. Lucy was looking strong and it was good to be able to watch the race unfold as she moved into third position. Everybody was so supportive of each other, men and women, no matter how they felt. We really were a good team. The girls knew I was on for a possible sub 9 hours, in the later stages, and they were shouting at me and willing me to do it.

I walked at one feeding station to drink my Ensure plus – otherwise I’d have worn it rather than swallowed it, and walked for about 20 seconds at 85K just really to gather myself before the final push home. I was knackered but knew I could keep going and after all, it was meant to be downhill all the way home, with just a few wee hills on the way. Well, how wrong was I? These “wee hills” were more like mountains and they just kept coming. When I hit the final big hill I decided walking would possibly preserve some energy and I’d be just as fast. I even had my hands on me knees at one point. Had I entered the hill race by mistake? I saw Murray at 95 K, a very welcome sight. I’d have one gel (which had been doing me well all day), some water then I’d kick for home. Instead, I had 1 mouthful of gel and vomited it all up. But I felt better for it and left with my bottle of water, hoping I wasn’t going to have a nightmare last section. But tired as I was, I kept the pace going. I ran down the main road knowing it was all downhill from now on. I could smell the finish. Thoughts of Pauline’s finish flashed through my mind. I knew sub 9 hours was possible. I wanted it so badly. I entered the park, Ken was shouting at me, gave me the saltire, where was the finish? Did I have to run all the way round the park? No, just to the red flags he shouted. My head said go for the sprint finish, my legs said bugger off! I almost fell over the line, into Simon’s arms for hug then promptly vomited again! – NOT Simon’s fault! I guess I did push myself a bit!...

Then I saw everyone there looking so pleased for me, hugs galore. Who’d have thought it? Sub 9 hours on that course, yeehaa! What a day, what a weekend, what a birthday! Not bad for an old woman! (and I’d finally got the qualifying guideline to be at Keswick!) I feel now that I justified my selection into the team. And we got a silver team medal! Previous 100Ks had been dominated by being miserable for the last 5 hours and saying I never wanted to do it again. This time I never really had any major low points in comparison. Or maybe I’ve just forgotten them already….. Not long after I finished I knew I’d want to do another. I felt much more experienced going into this race and felt I ran it sensibly. I witnessed Lucy having a good run, and Izzy and Sandra have bad days at the office. We’ve all been there with the bad runs, but all had great days too. We just seem to take it in turns. All the great performances are inspirational, but equally so are the gutsy ones to get to the end.

It was a tremendous weekend. Special for the Carnegie team – the runners and the support. So good to share it with such good friends. And to make a lot more friends besides. The runners are nothing on their own. Never more will you see that, than in ultra running. Can’t wait to do it all again.

Gail Murdoch 2009

Friday, 25 September 2009

Commonwealth Championship Keswick 24 hour race

Commonwealth Championship Keswick
24 hour race
A year ago when I qualified to run for Scotland it seemed like a dream and as time and my training progressed the reality started to sink in and the month before I could think of nothing else. There were a few wee hic-cups, I was quite concerned about not getting any kit, I wasn’t looking for a pile of freebies just a vest that fitted, which after a wee alteration was fine, the race organisation had problems with accommodation and the Scottish team were only informed where they were staying just six days before the event, but Pauline and I had decided earlier to take up the offer to stay with Ray and Jorie, our family who live in the area. So with everything eventually organised all I had to do was relax and run.

Ray took us to Fitz Park in plenty time to pick up two race chips (one for each shoe) and get prepared for the start, a few final words with Ken who was doing my support, some team photos then I just sat and chilled until race start. I wasn’t nervous, I just don’t do nerves, running is something I love and I’m privileged to be able to do it. There was no doubt in my mind that whatever happened during this race it would be my best effort for Scotland.

12.00 noon. A wee lump in my throat, running for Scotland is now a reality. Pauline stayed with me for the first lap before settling into her own pace, I repeated to myself “relax and enjoy” as I settled into my race. My watch can hold 100 laps so I decided I’d log every second one, just counting all the even ones holding the lap I was on in my head just like I do when I’m counting swimming laps, Ken would also count my laps, there were official lap counters as well as the chips on my shoes, but mistakes do happen, but with belt, braces, and a couple of bits of string, I was confident I would have my laps counted accurately and at 1.005km a lap I was hoping to do quite a few!

The weather was good, half the lap in the warm sun, half in the cooler shade of the trees and breeze from the river. At round 50km I stopped briefly to loosen my shoe, it just didn’t feel right with the chip on it. A few more laps and my right quad felt a bit tight, I focussed on staying relaxed and easy, Richie went past me, “How ya doing?” I asked, “A’m f*cked!” was his answer, (You can take the laddie oot o’ Fife but…) I cringed; it was way too early to sound so bad. Mind you it wasn’t long after that I had my first wee struggle, my stomach was a bit queasy and my legs felt tight and sore.

The best thing about running a race round a park is that you can see and talk to all the rest of the runners whether they are fast, slow, having a good spell or struggling, Sharon Gaytor never lapped me without some lovely words of encouragement. One Aussie girl, when she realised who I was running for said “Ah! Scotland… home of the brave!” I made a mental note to self “Hold on to that thought!”

At around 9.30pm I decided to stop counting my laps, I never look at my watch when I’m racing anyway (I always run to my body and I can’t make out the wee numbers without glasses these days) Ken was giving me my splits and I was on schedule with my race plan. The painkillers had kicked in and I was managing to eat again, time to relax put my music on and cruise. For the next 3 hours I felt as if I was floating round knocking out laps of 7½ minutes or just under, I knew it wouldn’t last but I savoured every minute while it did. I crashed back to earth around 1.00am and spent the rest of the race maintaining forward motion while trying to balance food intake against throwing up, managing pain (counting the hours until I could take more paracetamol) drinking coke and coffee to ward off the side-ways stagger and head jerk of falling asleep on my feet! On one lap I smiled as I followed Lynne doing the stagger and nod off thing, I caught up with her and we chatted each other awake until the next caffeine hit. I started to get a bit stroppy, when Val was doing a brilliant job of encouraging not just me but the whole team; I ungraciously answered her stirring words with “I feel sick!” Ken had his job cut out for him when I wanted my jacket on, I wasn’t stopping, he had to walk behind me, taking the safety pins from my number attached to my fleece, I removed the number on my front, I did make it a bit easier for him and nipped into the loo so he could find time to pin the numbers onto the number belt. I was now wearing five layers on my body and two on my legs and eventually warmed up a bit. What did raise the spirit was seeing Ray, Jorie and Adam (English with a bit Welsh… or is it the other way round!) pop up around the course waving Saltires and Rampant Lions! The birds started their dawn chorus and the sky slowly lightened, we knew we were in bronze medal position but it we couldn’t let it go, New Zealand were still working hard too. My stomach was dodgy, my toes were blistered and the pain in my legs intense, but it was only 24 hours and for Scotland and for that reason alone it wasn’t hard, running is always a pleasure and a privilege. I wasn’t going very fast but there was no way I would ever stop.

Pauline and I were doing the Clash of the Ash shout and Sharon still waved as she went past working on her race winning PB. With 1½ hours still to go the blister on my right pinkie toe burst, I looked down at my foot and the blood oozing through the white mesh of my shoe wasn’t a pretty sight. I was working on a long walking stride, it was either that or a short mincing shuffle, but I felt the walk was more productive and with a longer stride my feet hit the ground less often or so I thought! I didn’t know what distance I’d done, I knew it wasn’t a PB but still the best I could do on the day. With ten minutes to go, I shouted to Ken “Gimmie ma flag and I’ll run!” I took the corners and tied it round my neck, my superman cape! Except I was Saltire powered, I left the pain and blisters behind and breathed and pushing hard, there was a thirty second count down. Aahh! I struggled to get the knot out of my flag, but I succeeded and finished with my arms raised above my head and my Saltire flying behind me. 172.820km or just over 107miles. Bronze Team Medal.

Ken stayed with one of my race number placed on the ground to mark my finishing distance and Val walked me back to our camp, I was relieved to sit down at last, Richie and Lynne beside me, I was informed Pauline was lying in a heap just up the path a bit. Simon with the cast iron guts took my shoes off for me and put on my sandals. I started to feel light headed so they got my lying down. Pauline was now brought back and she was lying down too. We were covered with warm clothes and our flags draped over us. Ken’s quip of “This is when they usually slip you over board!” brought laughter all around, there’s always a sense of humour with ultra no matter how bad you feel. Now every runner has had DOMS (delayed onset muscle stiffness) I now had instant onset muscle paralysis with light headedness thrown in for good measure. It took a great team effort and a chair lift to get me into the back of the car where I lay with a bucket at my head (thankfully I didn’t need it but I’m glad it was there), Pauline went home in Adam’s car. When we got in Adam and Ray made sure we were as comfortable as could be expected and left us to sleep for a bit. After the tender loving care of Jorie and her magic tomato soup we slowly re-entered the land of the living, enough to enjoy a glass of bubbly that Ray produced for medicinal purposes before bed time!

On Saturday, Ray, Pauline and I went out to the 100km route, it had stunning scenery but not very spectator friendly, there was a 2km walk from the car park to where the runners turned, it seem to take ages to walk along but I’m sure it did my legs some good. I wasn’t very spritely on my pins but there was nothing wrong with my voice and arms to cheer and applauded the runners through. We headed back to Fitz Park to see the finish, we missed the leaders, but was in time to celebrate Gail breaking nine hours and on her birthday too!

This has been a brilliant event for Scottish ultra, Bronze Medals for the men and ladies team in the 24 hour race. My Braveheart award goes to Richie for battling away with severe stomach problems and finishing on his feet, and in the 100km race, Bronze for the men and Silver for the ladies. Sandra gets my biggest Braveheart award, battling a severe ankle injury to finish. Although great achievements are justly applauded it’s the inner battles against adversity to finish no matter what is at the heart of ultra.

My apologies to the hill runners on Sunday, I never managed up the hill to cheer you on but made a decent effort from the grass in the park!

Standing on the podium to receive my Bronze medal will stay with me forever, I had a small emotional moment but I don’t think anyone noticed. Next time though I hope they’ll be playing my tune!
Fiona Rennie

Thursday, 10 September 2009

I'm ready

In 7 days I’ll be standing on the start line at the Commonwealth Championship 24 hour race and I am ready. My training has gone well, apart from a wee blip of a week off with a strained back last month, (its fine now). I’ve been alcohol free for a month, I haven’t ate any rubbish, I’ve even curtailed my chocolate intake which has been amazingly easy, with one thought “This piece of chocolate or 200k!” That just proves what this means to me, I’m even a couple of pounds lighter than my usual fighting weight. My ipod is loaded with a playlist of the inspirational, the loud and lively, the fast and furious to keep me going in the wee sma’ oors. My theme tune from Perth, Clash of the Ash by Runrig is there and Born to Run from the Boss will probably find itself on repeat for a while too but here’s my opening number, give it full volume and I bet it’ll wake you up, if it doesn’t yer deid a’ready!

My food box is loaded with mega calories and inspiration. My vest was at first too wee, then too big but with some small alterations it’s now just right! Even Rabbit the Bruce’s vest has had some alterations.

My goal. I’m aiming high, 200km 13 km further than I got at Perth, and with the words of Dario’s encouragement “i was bursting with pride for you in Perth when you qualified. as for 200 k, you got to have targets, without them you would never have made it to ft william all those years ago. you aim for it, you never know what you might get.”
One thing I know for sure, it’s going to be the best effort of my life and at no point will I stop. In 23 years of running I have never DNF’d and there is now way I’ll do it in a Scottish vest, if I have problems, I can slow down, if I spew, I’ll spread my feet wide and keep going, I will finish on my feet whatever distance I get.
Yesterday noticed that a list of athletes is now on the website, there are some strong teams with world class athlete entered. But there’s one thing that I have that they don’t, the heart and soul of a Rampant Lion. ROOAAAR!!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Running for my country

Three weeks today and at 12noon Thursday 17th September I make my debut in a Scottish vest!
After qualifying a year ago, I knew it was going to happen and I’ve been focussing and training for it since January 1st. But I still find it hard to believe that it’s me! There are loads of girls faster and stronger than me and I keep thinking there’s been a mistake, I’ve always know my place in running and it’s at the back! I’ve never won a prize except old foggy at Glenrothes 50km (small field) and I’ve brought up the rear making up numbers for a team prize at Lochaber Marathon occasionally. Pauline has often told me I could run “better”. I think better what? Numbers on my watch? In front of A.N. Other? But don’t think I take it easy, I’ve pushed so hard that I’ve been ill after races I’ve even thrown up during a couple. I will say that during 23 years of running I have never had a disappointing race, even when the numbers on my watch were not what I was looking for. It was the best that my body could do on that day and how can you ever be disappointed with your best effort.
I’ve been quite emotional when thinking about what I get to do and it’s been building up a bit these last few weeks. But it is not pressure just sheer pride in what I get to do and thinking back to my state of play four years ago. I was lucky enough to have survived a brain haemorrhage but asking doctors when I could run again, I was given fudged answers like “Oh, I’ve never been asked that one before.” Another smiling reply was “We doctors are a cautious lot and would only advise you to stay wrapped in cotton wool and never leave your house!” Doesn’t help your confidence one little bit! So it was with just my own determination I got back to “normal” and a bloody good job I did of it too! It was after running the WHW fourteen months later was when I decided I was fully recovered, (the medical profession are still being cautious and my next MRI is due around next March, hopefully my last, and then they will finally agree with me.)
So at Keswick I’ll be running the hardest effort of my life, it is not just for myself but for the team and for my country. It’s not my physical strength that counts but the determination and my heart and soul that has got where I am today.
If you are at Keswick and happen to see me crying, don’t worry I’ll not be in distress it will only be pride.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Sue's Devil report

Devil O’ The highlands race report 2009
Aka My daft race
Sue Walker

I've often read other people's race reports and they're so good, I feel like I was there. I'm fairly apprehensive now about writing my first ultra report. An exaggeration to say more nervous than actually running the ultra but it is a consideration.............

I applied to the DOTH back in January and I ended up in 13th place on the reserve list. I was told I'd a good chance of getting in as they usually have about 20 people drop out. I had this race in my sights all year - through the spring runs, 3 day WHW trip and the Edinburgh marathon the following week. In early July, I got word that I had a place. I promptly went for a run in the Ochils and ripped/split my trail shoes! I bought a pair of Innov8 mudrocks and tried them on holiday in France. As well as a few short runs, I managed a 5 hour and a 6 hour in the Pyrenees running along the Spanish border. Not a huge distance covered - about 20 mile both times - but plenty of climbing and heat training and the shoes were great.

Back from holiday I was straight into long hours at work (summer shutdown season in the oil industry) so 12-14 hour days meant an enforced taper. My mileage in the 10 days preceding the race couldn't have been above 6 miles. I had the Friday off before the race and spent it sorting out kit and food, and arranging BBC and STV interviews for some Fife guides in the build up to our Girlguiding centenary. At least it took my mind off the race.

On Friday night, we headed up to Bridge of Orchy with Ken, Fiona and Pauline. We dumped our stuff in the bunk house and headed into the bar for a night cap. Who should we meet but Scott Bradley and dad, John? Scott had taken a bad tumble on his bike a few days before and had withdrawn from the race. Still, he soon veered the conversation to the race, the joys of running and the satisfaction/relief of open air poos!

We got up at 4am, I had my usual cereal breakfast (with thawed milk I'd taken up with me) and headed down to Tyndrum at 5am. I didn't feel nervous - I just wanted to start. I didn't have any really hard targets for the race. I wanted to finish intact and having enjoyed it. My ultimate was to run under 10 hours though I had put together some estimates of splits for everything from 12 hours to 8.5 hours.

At last, after a bit of faffing with kit, we were off. I ran alongside Karen and George, Mandy (a racy runner!) and a couple of girls from Skye and Lochalsh. We ran most of the way to Bridge of Orchy together arriving a few minutes ahead of 9.30 pace.

I had a pain in my back at BofO and applied some Vaseline. Only walking up the hill munching on a jam doughnut did it dawn on me what the problem was. I'd slackened the straps of my bum bag when putting it on, but had forgotten to tighten it up afterwards so the bouncing bag had rubbed me raw. (That was a real ouch when I went under the shower!). Going on to Rannoch moor was a real highlight for me. It was a beautiful day, I couldn't see or hear any walkers or runners and I felt I was all alone in the world, in a most beautiful place. Wonderful. After a couple of miles I started to feel cramp developing in my right foot so I stopped and loosened my laces. It didn't seem to help. I'd been drinking a reasonable amount - I thought. With hindsight (I've a lot of that); I hadn't drunk enough between Tyndrum and BofO - barely a mouthful, though I made up for it after BofO. I had to take a pit stop on the moor - letting quite a large group past me - and it was hard (and inappropriate) not to think of Scott as I went!

Reaching Black rock cottage, all was well and I walked along with Pauline to the road end - or at least until she reminded me I could be running! My calves felt tight when I started to run.

My problems started at the top of the pointless wee hill between Kingshouse and Altnafeadh. I cramped - all over my legs. I tried stopping and stretching and it helped for a few paces. Going over the stile was agony. One of the Skye and Lochalsh girls gave me a bottle of Nunn juice to drink and I obliged by draining it. Fortunately for her she was getting a top-up at the foot of the staircase. I couldn't shake the cramp off. I found a packet of stale salted nuts in my bum bag, drained my bottle of ginger beer - in only 3 miles which is a record for me -, and took some pain killers. This was not going to beat me. Still it must have taken me about 30 minutes longer than it should to get to Altnafeadh. When I reached it, I asked Ken and Pauline for salted crisps at Kinlochleven.

I didn’t enjoy the cramp one bit but it did allow me to experience the kindness and generosity of my fellow runners from the Skye girl sharing her Nunn juice near Altnafeadh to Karen asking her support to pass on succeed tablets for me at Kinlochleven to various others offering their sympathy and support.

I walked up the Devil's staircase dropping my nuts on the way. Thank you Karen for picking them up for me and saving me going back for them. There were crowds of people at the top. Some bus load of Spanish or Portuguese tourists. They were all dressed appropriately for the hills. I wondered what they thought as lots of runners passed by dressed only in shorts and a vest and carrying a small bum bag. It must have flown against all of the advice they were given about suitable clothing for walking in the unpredictable Scottish Highlands.

Fiona was waiting at the top of the Devil's Staircase with her iPod playing Highland Cathedral. She had poured Dario's farewell malt on the cairn at the top. I think she reduced a fair few to tears there.

My legs still felt tight but didn't cramp unless I lost rhythm or stumbled. I tripped over one stone on the descent and everything just went. Fiona offered to rub it better but it was too sore to touch! I managed to walk it off and I was able to descend the rest OK, provided I keep the rhythm going. Once into Kinlochleven, I picked up some Succeed tablets - thank you to Karen and Jane for those - and my salty crisps. Pauline was chumming me along the final section to Fort William. I managed OK on the hill up to the Larig Mhor except for one wee stumble when I ended up in one of those drainage ditches. That did make me give a yelp but it was only cramp and not damage! Pauline gave me a tip about slowing the exhale part of breathing and focusing on relaxing muscle groups. That seemed to help. I still had to take a couple of walk breaks to get through some cramping. Tipping my hips slightly further forward also helped with avoiding cramp. Concentrating on breathing and hips at least took my mind off it! It didn’t seem too long before we were through the spooky woods and on the motorway down to Fort William. I knew then that I was going to finish the race. I also knew then and said to Pauline that I wanted to do it again without cramp next time. She seemed surprised that I was saying that before I finished.

It was great to reach the Braveheart carpark and see Ken and Fiona. Pauline left me then to drive to the finish, to allow me to run the glory mile unaccompanied. I managed to pick off another runner in the run in to the finish (my 3rd since Lundavra!) and I finished in 9:27 and some seconds in 80th place out of 100 starters and 96 finishers. It is a great feeling to have completed the race. Thank you to my 3 fantastic supporters: Ken, Fiona and Pauline.

Learnings for next time:

I’ll improve my hydration. Although I rarely drink a lot when running, and Saturday was nothing unusual in that, I do wonder with hindsight if I drank enough in the early stages. I’ll use a camel back whether it’s hot, cold or whether or not I want too. If the tube is there, I’ll sip from it rather than reach behind (or not) for a bottle.

I’ll try out Nunn tablets, succeed tablets, (gin and) tonic and more bananas for my next attempt to ward off cramp.

I need to check back properly and see if I ate enough. I heard George’s alarm go off a couple of times in the early stages when I was running with him. He’d set a 20 minute reminder as an eating alert. I might try the same.

Finally, if I get the chance to do it again with such a supportive team behind me, I’ll be a very lucky lady.

Sue Walker 10th August 2009

Monday, 10 August 2009

Devil O’ the Highlands 2009
Support Report
When Sue had entered the Devil O’ Pauline and I said “Can we come!” So on Friday night Ken and Sue picked us up and we were off to the Bridge of Orchy bunkhouse, but being civilised we headed in to the pub before going to bed. We were pleasantly surprised to see Scott Bradley and John, his dad sitting there. “Oh, you are running tomorrow then!” I asked, he was doubtful of running after a bad fall off his bike. “No!” he said, they had just happened to be camping here. Don’t know how they managed that after he decided not to come anywhere near the route!
After a long lie, we got up at 4.00am and headed to the Green Welly for registration and the best bacon and egg roll I’ve had since last year’s breakfast there. Sue didn’t seem nervous at all at the prospect of her first ultra race, just an air of calm excitement about her. Also Pete and Helena two more Carnegie Harriers running their first ultra race were there too, all of them were well prepared having run the clubs three day adventure over the WHW in May. It was nice to see some familiar faces and wish them well for the race, one wee smiley face was sorely missed but Dario’s number will be carried by Alan Kay, although plagued with injury these past couple of years there was no doubt in my mind that Alan would finish.
6.00am. Cheerio! See you at Bridge of Orchy.
At Bridge of Orchy Scott and John were soon crawling from their tents with car doors banging an early morning wake up call. They were fairly quick getting the coffee on the go and proper stuff too, none of that instant rubbish! The lead runners came flying through and were shortly followed by the rest of the field, Sue just needed some Vaseline, a change of juice bottle and a doughnut then happily set off up the hill. We went round to Inveroran just to cheer and take a few photos.
Ken dropped me off at Altnafeadh before he and Pauline went back to the Ski Centre. I was planning to be at the top for a few hours so I was warmly dressed and it was a novelty to walk up at a easy pace, I kept looking round and was glad to see I would make the top well before the lead runners, only spoke to Scott who was having a wee consolatory trot over the Devil. I’d recently got an iPod and I’d loaded it with a bunch of cds I’ve had for ages but not listened to much a “Best Scottish stuff” type thing but on the iPod I could delete the Jimmy Shands and Andy Stewarts etc. and keep all the tunes I liked. KT Tunstall, Proclaimers, Simple Minds and the like, also some classic pipe stuff. Highland Cathedral was there and I felt it appropriate to stick it on repeat with the speakers blaring. I had a little hip flask filled with the malt Dave the Pirate bought for Dario at his funeral which would traditionally have stayed on the bar, I had promised to pour it into loch but Pauline thought that today the cairn on the Devil’s Staircase would be a fitting place to put it. The wind whipped away the fine fumes and my words but the spirit will always stay there. I took a deep breathe and surveyed the majestic mountains in the ever changing soft light with gentle sun beams. Stunning views all around and the perfect place for a small tribute.
The lead runners looked easy as they went past (they may not agree me on that though), in fact, not a single runner that went by had that tortured “why am I doing this, it’s horrible!” expression that’s fairly common in a marathon. It was soon quite busy on the top, I was smiling at the antics of group of walkers who were put through their paces and poses by a photographer with a huge camera on a sturdy looking tripod and a lackey to lug all his gear. Another bloke came and spoke to me, he said they were doing a promotional photo shoot for a fantastic event called the Caledonian Challenge and had I heard of it. I tactfully replied yes, I had heard of it, it is a brilliant event but I’m glad it’s no longer held the same weekend of another great event that I’m involved in. He then politely asked me if I’d move out of the way for a few minutes and take my bag with me that was sitting by the edge of the cairn I was spoiling his photies! While watching the poors sods being made to walk up a bit, down a bit, run a bit. Once more with feeling! A wee song came to mind, The Grand old Duke of York, he had da da da da da… and when they were only half way up they were Cally Chally posers!
Next came the bus trip, and hats off to them too, they’ve come to Scotland to spend their hard earned Euros and they have had the inclination and fortitude to climb the Devil’s Staircase and walk over to Kinlochleven albeit with white shoes (sturdy ones mind) plastic ponchos and brollies!
Sue arrived at the top all smiles, although she’s had some cramp, something she’s never had before while running but she was still moving well. It took me a fair bit of effort to catch her up once I’d packed away the iPod and some of the clothes I was wearing. We approached the horde of bus trippers, I went first and shouted a polite “Excuse us please!” They were lovely, moving over into single file off the path and applauded as we went past. Sue wondered what they thought of some scantly clad runners after they were presumably told to respect the Scottish weather and rough conditions of the path and dress appropriately! Sue kicked a stone and I hope she didn’t see the look on my face as I watched her left calf muscle go into spasm and as hard as a house brick. But what an attitude that girl’s got, no swearys, not out loud anyway, she just calmly said, “Ow, I don’t want to do that again!” and got back into her stride. We’d just come down the wide track, crossed the bridge over the waterfall when my phone rang, it was Ken wondering how far away we were, I was able to tell him that Karen’s support Jayne had some Succeed tablets and Sue was welcome to try them to see if that could help her cramp.
At Kinlochleven Pauline took over as running companion and Ken and I drove round to Fort William to catch a few finishers before heading up to Lundavra. We were lucky to get a parking spot well up the track so we didn’t have too far to walk with Sue requests plus loads of alternatives in case she changed her mind. The weather up to now had been pretty good for running and not bad for support but it was now fairly heavy rain, we were standing under brollies watching runners come through, Silke looked great coming in, you could tell she was buzzing and having a brilliant time. I decided to walk up the path to see if they were coming and if there were any changes to requests since there’s no phone signal here. I felt for a drookit walker as she’d heard the cheers from support crews, she asked “Was this Fort William?” I was sorry to have to tell her she had another six miles to go.
Soon saw Pauline and Sue, I gave a big cheery wave and asked if there were any changes in what Sue fancied, yeah, she’d rather have a doughnut than the shortbread that was on the list, so I scooted back, poured the coffee and found the doughnuts. Once Pauline and Sue were on their way on the final section, Ken and I both agreed that wearing a waterproof jacket without waterproof trousers isn’t good, we both had soggy legs, never mind, my were tracksters and would soon dry. Ken and I went back to Fort William and along to the Braveheart car park, we walked up the wide track for a bit, it helped dry out our breeks and warm us up while playing the waiting game. One runner asked how far away was the finish, about 15 minutes I said, and quickly added just 10 minutes if you push it, he laughed, I wasn’t too sure if he liked my humour or was just being polite. Ken’s phone rang, it was Pauline, they were on the motorway down to Braveheart and the instructions were when they got there, Sue would ditch her bumbag and Pauline would jump in the car. We would leave Sue to enjoy her moment of glory with a full cheering squad at the finish. In just under nine and a half hours Sue finished with a grin as big as the one she’s been wearing all day, or maybe slightly bigger, Pauline said that when they were on their way down to Fort William Sue said she couldn’t wait to do it again, I was impressed, most folk at least wait a day before they say that! At the finish a runner thanked me for having such a cheery face that popped up all over the place giving encouragement, she asked if I’d run the race I replied that I’d only supported it, she forcibly told me that I have to run it. I think she could be right, I have over the years supported Lynne, Val, Gail, Richie and now Sue whether I am a runner or a Devil groupie August 7th 2010 is in my diary.
After the prize giving I asked Garry how Alan was doing, he wasn’t sure where he was but after taking a tumble on Lairig Mor and bashing his head, he’d had it treated and was on the move again. Luckily you don’t need brains for running. We went round to the finish to see him in. I had a wee panic when Steve the sweeper came in. Where was Alan? A quick check with the time keeper, we’d missed Alan, he finished in around ten and a half hours. I have never been so glad to have missed someone finish! It just goes to prove you don’t need a fit body and good legs to run, just a strong will and the heart never to give up. Thank you Alan, you are all the inspiration I need to take into my next race.
Tour of Fife.
Stage One. Wed. 29th July Strathmiglo “The Chicken Run” 5 miles

Before the start Pauline and I went for a wee jog to warm up, it was a lovely warm evening and I said I wasn’t sure how to pace this. Pauline said “Go out hard and hang on, you’ll be finished in 45 mins.” What! That’s 9 min mile pace, I can’t remember when I last ran that in a race, hmm… probably last year’s Tour. Ok, its only 5 miles how hard can that be! So set off with the mental image of a Highland Charge in lycra. The wee hill soon made me rein it in a bit; I just couldn’t get the air in fast enough for my legs to go at that rate, settled on an uncomfortable pace and worked to maintain it. As it was an out and back course, I was surprised to see the lead guys coming back so soon, and I thought “Oh does that mean we’ll be turning soon!” Fat chance, they can just hoof it at some speed! I didn’t have breath to shout encouragement to other Harriers like at Lochaber Marathon, I just waved, I’ll take that their eyes bulged further out their sockets as acknowledgement. Pauline shouted at me. “Get a move on!” she later said I looked all smiley and not like I was working hard at all. I beg to differ, it’s not compulsory to look like your Grandad with wind just ‘cause you’re running hard. Checked my time at the turn, 21 minutes, oow, that’s a bit quick, time to hang on then, a few folk went past me but I think it was because they picked it up rather than me slowing down. Back up the wee hill and pushed hard, where’s this field we’ve to finish in. At last, the long down to the finish, big strides down the rutted track, “Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall!” Those inflicted with Garmins said it was a tidgy bit short of 5 miles, 4.9something, close enough for me and sub 9 min pace too. I had a pain under my ribs, (those muscles haven’t been stretched like that in ages) and weirdly my jaw was aching. Pauline wondered if I’d been dragging it on the ground, yeah, probably, sucking all that air in.
Time 41.10mins Position 137

Stage Two. Thurs. 30th July St Andrews “Chariots of Fire” Beach Race 4 miles

It was a sunny evening, a bit breezy but not cold. Pauline and I went for a wee walk before a gentle jog to wake up the legs; they weren’t too bad after last nights shock to the system. I set off with the same tactics as last night, go out hard and hang on. The sand was in good condition, flat, no ripples and quite firm even the soft sand wasn’t as soft as I’ve felt it before maybe due to the heavy showers we’ve had lately. We turned a bit earlier than usual but I never heard anyone complain, it was just a wee bit disappointing not to be able to compare times from previous years. Once back on the hard sand pushed hard but my stomach muscles were rebelling a bit with the breathing but I didn’t listen to them, keep a hard effort, I wasn’t as far behind Gillian and Lesley tonight and tried not to let them stretch it out any further. Enjoyed a wee paddle afterwards, the water was refreshingly cold rather than bone aching, I was impressed with John and Julie swimming though, I went in past my knees but when a wave made my knickers wet that was enough for me.
Time 30.30mins Position 136 Overall 134

Stage Three. Fri. 31st July Up Hell Time Trial, near Glenrothes 2.25km/754ft.climb

The Alpe d'Huez of the Tour!!! One of my favourite stages, I usually do quite well on this one, since my strength makes up for my lack of speed but it’s a totally different tactic to my usual up hill technique, I’m used to whipping a roll out of my backpack to munch on as I walk up! Not tonight! I wore my Tour de France polka dot King of the Mountains top, I didn’t think it would psych out the other runners but maybe give them a laugh! But I was psyched for a good hard effort. All the runners are set off in pairs at 30 second intervals and it can be quite random pairings and not of same ability but the race leaders are usually left ‘til last. Pauline and I were to go off at the same time, someone said “You two better not be chatting all the way up!” Even if I could keep up there is no way I’d have spare breath for conversation!” At this race you park at the top of the hill and walk/jog down to the start, I’d planned just to warm up in my Tour de France top and go down to the start in my vest but it was thick rain, too heavy to call mist but visibility was poor. I wished I’d brought gloves, my hands were numb with cold, never mind they’ll warm up when I start running. Pauline and I had a early start, eleven minutes after the first pair. Count down to start, 15secs, 10secs, 5secs, 3.2.1. Go! I didn’t attempt to stay with Pauline, and as you don’t have your contemporary runners around you can’t compare pace, it’s just you and the hill. Arms pumping kept my legs in rhythm breathing deep and hard, there was plenty encouragement from runners heading down for their start, I couldn’t acknowledge them or even look at them; I just stayed focused on my race. Past halfway, round a bend the hill cranks up another notch, I managed a smile as there was the Devil, but not the wee rotund bearded fella of The Tour de France, this was The Tour de Fife Devil, resplendent in flared red jumpsuit, open neck down to his navel with big medallion, cape, sunglasses and inflatable pitch fork (Elvis still lives and probably in a cave on East Lomond!), he was “encouraging” the runner in front of me, soon it was my turn to be harangued by the pitch fork. I must be getting near the top but can’t see the radio masts in the mist but I could hear the cow bells, whistles and cheers of the hardy supporters near the finish. Pauline had said her mantra for tonight was “Kick it!” Yep, that’s good enough for me too. Where is the finish with its cruel crank up in gradient again. “Kick it! Kick it! Kick it! Whoow! Finished, I bend over with my hands on my knees, sucking in air, I wasn’t going to throw up but the urge was there and my windpipe felt like I’d scrubbed it with a cheese grater! I quickly put on loads of clothes and stood in the wind and rain at the top of the hill shouting at the tremendous efforts of the rest of the runners making their final push to the finish. Time 16.34mins Position 116 Overall 125

Stage Four Sat. 1st Aug. Tentsmuir Forest, near Leuchars “Run Forrest Run” 5 miles

A flat race on forest paths which will favour the speedsters, last night I moved up the overall position by 9 places, I’m going to have to work really hard to try and hang on to it. After a good long warm up my legs felt good, hamstrings a wee bit tight but quads felt fine. The sun was shining; it was going to be hot and humid in the trees. The start was quite narrow and I was closer to the front than I’d normally position myself only ‘cause I was blethering to other Harriers and we were off before I could move back a bit, never mind a good hard start so as I didn’t get trampled. As folk found their own pace and the field stretched out I couldn’t see my club mates Lesley and Gillian, after last night I was 14 seconds ahead of Lesley and pulled Gillian in a wee bit, they must be behind me. I was surprised that my quads still felt fresh and strong and my breathing wasn’t easier but I think I was getting used to breathing to my boots. I still used Pauline’s mantra of “Kick it!” when I felt myself losing pace but I’d added one of my own “Keep the rhythm!” As I turned onto the finishing straight I heard someone close behind, I managed to wind it up and they didn’t catch me. It wasn’t an easier run by any means but I felt smoother, I’m getting the hang of this run like yer arse is on fire, pity there’s only one stage left! Pauline Tim and I took our picnic down to the beach, the wind was strong and the waves huge and the water freezing but bound to help the legs recover for tomorrow sting in the tail!
Time 39.58mins Position 117 Overall 116

Stage Five Sun. 2nd Aug. Arso Vertitus Trail Race, Falkland 3.7 miles

I was surprised I that I not only maintained my overall position yesterday but pulled in another 9 places! What was this last race going to give me? Well, bugger all to be precise! If I gained any more positions it would be by sheer effort racing against everyone giving their all on this final race. But I knew today’s route. A very steep up, a very steep down, a pitch dark tunnel with a bend in it, a very very steep up and a pretty waterfall to run under then a long fast descent to the finish. Pauline and I went for a long warm up, we went up the narrow winding climb to the tunnel, it was good to refresh my memory as I couldn’t remember which way it bends, it was flat and safe underfoot no stones or ruts to catch my feet on so I knew I’d be able to run through it with my left hand on the wall until the light filtered in at the end. On our jog back down to the start, Pauline asked if we should tell folk about the tunnel, I sportingly said “Yeah, of course” after a pause I said “I’ll tell Lesley, Julie and Mehrnaz but not Gillian, she still in front of me!” Pauline laughed, I was kidding, we informed everyone that was interested in the route. It was a wide path at the start but I worked hard trying to get well up before the track narrowed, I didn’t want to get stuck behind a slower runner but the point of the first climb was to string everyone out before the steep winding path, at the tunnel there were four runners in front of me, as we went in I shouted “Keep your left hand on the wall and keep going!” But they walked, the wimps! I had my hand on Louise’s back, I wasn’t pushing her, honest, I just didn’t want to catch her heels. Oh well, a wee breather will do no harm. The path was now very narrow and very steep up to the waterfall I pushed hard with my hands on my thighs, and for the first time in the Tour my quads felt tired but we were getting near the top. Phew! At last the start of the descent, a fairly steep rough path, I pushed as hard on the down as I did on the up, just managing to keep up with gravity then onto the wider tarmac path, a long descent but all the way to the finish. I was flying down as fast as my short arse legs could go, five folk went past me, and well done to them too, I wasn’t making it easy. I crossed the line, staggered out of the way, bent over, hands on knees snot and spit splattering the road. Phoowff, managed to get moving again, trying to get control of my breathing I gently jogged back up the path and once my body was back under control I cheered everyone’s strong and blazing finish.
Time 32.30mins
Position 114 Overall Position 108 Overall Time 2.40.42

Back to the village hall for the prize-giving and well earned tea and cakes. The conversation bubbled over on the hard fought battles and rivalry, what was the favourite/worst/best/hardest stage. My favourites were the hill time trial and the last one and if there was another stage I might’ve made up more places. But after today all the times and positions will be written in training logs and the result sheets put away the statistics soon forgotten, the enduring memory of this race of one of camaraderie akin to that of ultra races, knowing everyone is working their hardest pushing to and past what they thought was their limit. The Tour of Fife is a very different and special race and I for one will be back for more next year.
Tonight the Tour of Fife starts with a five mile road race, and a real shock to the system since the shortest race I've ran since last years Tour is a marathon. But I've managed some speed work in preparation, on Saturday Pauline and I did a quality 11 mile route with big hills and big efforts, she would give me a head start on the hills and I would go as hard as I could before she caught me so I made sure Pauline got a good session. Also on Monday doing my reps up past Culross Abbey my second one was the fastest I clocked this year, I was imagining Fridays up hill time trial. But the Tour is such great fun and it's a Fife AC event so there'll cakes at the end.
Next year there will be a way but it's hard to believe.

I’ve got a blog and I’m not afraid to use it!

This blog has been here for a wee while but I never really considered putting on regular posts but these last couple of weeks I’ve taken comfort from the posts of other bloggers and the race forum, and I’ve always enjoyed reading what other runners are up to, so I decided to add my ramblings to mix.

This past fortnight has been so hard dealing with at first denial and then slow acceptance that Dario will no longer be with us, but all of us touched by his enthusiasm and encouragement will never lose his gift.

At the beginning of May I’d emailed Dario about this years WHW details and we got talking about another wee race I have ahead of me. I wrote: “It is a bit strange for me to be considering life after the WHW, but I think I had a good run at Perth off the back of the WHW so I'm not changing a winning tactic, I still have a wee smile to myself when I think "Fun runner in a Scottish Vest" but I'm immensely proud that I have the chance to run for Scotland and I get a wee lump in my throat at the thought. I have changed my training slightly from my usual, I'm not particularly faster but I am stronger and my goal is erm.. not sure if I want to reveal it... but between you and me I'm aiming high, 200km is a nice round figure, maybe beyond me but only 13km further than I got at Perth.”

Dario’s reply:
'fun runner' huh, in my eyes you have always been a star. and i was bursting with pride for you in Perth when you qualified. as for 200 k, you got to have targets, without them you would never have made it to ft william all those years ago. you aim for it, you never know what you might get.

I’m so glad I never deleted that email, what is so special about Dario’s reply is that he had words like these for everyone. So you now know my goal for Keswick and who I’m doing it for.
Report by Pauline Walker

Paul Hutton took on the challenge of organising a Harrier outing over the West Highland Way split over three days. For those of us who have done the race this was going to be awfully civilised with dinner and pyjamas (or not in Stevie’s case!) scheduled into the adventure so I thought it would be interesting to see how the rest of our co-adventurers felt so I simply asked the questions are here are their answers:


What gave you the idea for organising this weekend?
After helping Gail in the WHW race I thought it would be a good idea to see what it was all about (but over three days).

What’s been the biggest headache to get organised?
No problems organising things, the training was a problem, but the big issue was organising Stevie Greer.

What are you most looking forward to?
Short answer read: Reaching Fort William!

What do you think will be the most difficult section?
I think getting up on Day 2 and 3 and having to run will be hard.

Are you planning to do the WHW Race in the future?
Do I look MAD?? No chance!! I had thought about it for my 40th next year but then I sobered up and quickly changed my mind.



What training have you done with this weekend in mind?
A few hill runs – not enough!

What are you most looking forward to today?
A meal and a pint.

Do you have a target in mind for today? For the weekend?
To enjoy.

What will you eat/drink during today’s run?
Peanut butter/jam sandwiches.

How many pairs of socks did you bring with you?


What training have you done with this weekend in mind?
Three runs on WHW in 2009, lots of long runs and a forty miler in January.

What are you most looking forward to today?

Do you have a target in mind for today? For the weekend?
Finishing is the main target – finishing intact is a bonus!

What will you eat/drink during today’s run?
Won’t drink much, never do. Ginger Beer: Water 1:2, pieces and jam, rice crispie cakes, oat bars, mini cheddars and tablet.

How many pairs of socks did you bring with you?

Any additional comments?
I’m really looking forward to the run. As it’s not a race there’s no pressure.


What training have you done with this weekend in mind?
London marathon training.

What are you most looking forward to today?
Finishing with a Guinness!

Do you have a target in mind for today? For the weekend?
To finish each day without being in too much distress.

What will you eat/drink during today’s run?
Don’t know what I will want to eat, but have brought sandwiches, gels, fruit and biscuits. Today I will be drinking water/ginger beer (2 litres).

How many pairs of socks did you bring with you?
Three running and three social.



How did you get on yesterday?
10 hrs 45 min. Great until Rowardennan, then got slower. Inversnaid to Beinglas was torture! However eventually caught and finished with Kenny, Colin and Paul. I had run (sorry correction – walked) with Paul ‘til “2 mile to Beinglas” sign then told him he was on his own mate!

What’s your plan for today?
Same as yesterday, stick close to Pauline and Fiona. That plan fell apart after about one mile, no 200 yards, yesterday but I won’t make the same mistake today ……… mmm?

How are your feet bearing up?
Feet are completely ok, ankles up???

Have you done any runs on the WHW before this weekend?
Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse four or five times supporting Lynne Kuz.

Are you planning to do the WHW Race in the future?
Absolutely not! No further comment.

Any additional comments?
After yesterday I have total admiration for those who do the WHW Race. How you can do another 50 miles in one day after what I did yesterday is amazing.


How did you get on yesterday?
Good, found it enjoyable at times and a nightmare also. Finished it, so well chuffed.

What’s your plan for today?
To finish it.

How are your feet bearing up?
Fine, changed shoes for today.

Have you done any runs on the WHW before this weekend?
Yes, a six hour recce and a five hour one.

Are you planning to do the WHW Race in the future?
Ask me that after Day 3.

Any additional comments?
Mentally it’s tough, at times you have to dig deep. Try not to think about how many miles (or hours) you have to do.


How did you get on yesterday?
Felt OK ‘til the rocks at Inversnaid.

What’s your plan for today?
Start easy ‘til I feel OK.

How are your feet bearing up?
OK ‘til I start running and I will find out then.

Have you done any runs on the WHW before this weekend?
No all new to me.

Are you planning to do the WHW Race in the future?
No way! It is hard going doing it in three days!

Any additional comments?
Having support with the van is great.



What have you found the most challenging so far?
Getting my head round it’s still 95 miles although it was all for fun.

What have you enjoyed the most so far?
Perversely the run towards Kingshouse in the rain and having a lie down in the bluebells.

What is your target for today?
Finish with a smile (and that won’t be hard).

What is the first thing you will do when you get home?

Any additional comments?
I have enjoyed watching Carnegie Harriers going from one small step for Ultra and one large step for Carnegie.


What have you found the most challenging so far?
The rocky road.

What have you enjoyed the most so far?
The company and the scenery.

What is your target for today?
To reach the Leisure Centre before 4pm.

What is the first thing you will do when you get home?
Have a bath!

Any additional comments?
Having done two sections of the WHW I can better appreciate what runners go through in the actual race. I am now convinced you must be all nutters! No wonder that crystal goblet is amongst your treasured possessions. What a great weekend!


What have you found the most challenging so far?
Trying to overcome a right knee injury!

What have you enjoyed the most so far?
Helping my running clubmates pursue their torture.

What is your target for today?
To stay dry and warm in the mini-bus.

What is the first thing you will do when you get home?
Kiss my wife, my daughter and my dogs – in that order!

Any additional comments?
Could do better!!!!


What have you found the most challenging so far?
Picking yourself up when tired from the day before. Keeping the pace down in order to save yourself for the next day.

What have you enjoyed the most so far?
Good company. Banter. Seeing everyone challenge themselves beyond what they thought they could do.

What is your target for today?
To descend from the Devil’s Staircase without trashing my quads. Finishing in time to get a shower. Finishing without injuring myself before the WHW Race.

What is the first thing you will do when you get home?
Cuddle/kiss my children. Sleep.

Any additional comments?
Fab weekend. Great training. Great fun. What a brilliant bunch of folk to share it with.
Ken – “we’re not worthy” of your support!

END OF DAY 3 AT FORT WILLIAM – 95 miles completed


What has been the highlight of the weekend?
Camaraderie, team work.

What did you find the most challenging?
Getting up to start Day 2.

What did you enjoy eating the most during the run?
The haddock and chips I saved from Saturday night.

What has been the most useful piece of kit you have used this weekend?
Cycling shorts to prevent chaffing.

If you were to do this again is there anything you would do differently?
Have a mobile.


What has been the highlight of the weekend?
Steve Greer’s 3am naked shuffle at Beinglas.

What did you find the most challenging?
The first 20 miles of Day 1.

What did you enjoy eating the most during the run?
Crystallised Ginger.

What has been the most useful piece of kit you have used this weekend?
The £1 Poncho from Tesco – superb equipment across Rannoch Moor.

If you were to do this again is there anything you would do differently?
I don’t think so.

Any additional comments?
Sterling work from the drivers/support crew. Very much appreciated!


Where did you cycle, how far did you go?
Balmaha to Inversnaid – 14 miles.
St Fillan’s Priory (Kirkton Farm) to Kingshouse – 21 miles.

What was the most difficult section to drive the bus and trailer?
Kinlochleven to Kingshouse (looking for Steve).

What was your most stressed moment?
See above – worrying we had left someone behind!!

Has anything made you laugh out loud?
Lots of moments from start to finish but nobody saw me, apart from Ken, falling off my bike into Loch Lomond!!

Any additional comments?
Very well organised event and everyone seemed to enjoy the weekend. Would like to try something like this being able to run/walk.


Where did you cycle, how far did you go?
Day 1 – Dumgoyne Distillery south about one mile ‘til we met you – you were far too quick! Balmaha to Milarrochy Bay – then Pete S texted to say “come home”!
Day 3 – Pushed bike from Kinlochleven to about 1 mile beyond top of pipes looking for Stevie G. A great ride back down (without Stevie).

What was the most difficult section to drive the bus and trailer?
Drymen to Rowardennan – met a logging trailer coming the other way – whoa!! (on the single lane stretch after Balmaha).
Followed closely by trying to reverse in a full Kingshouse Hotel car park.

What was your most stressed moment?
Thinking what I was going to say to the Police and Mountain Rescue – “well he’s on his own” “no map” “no phone” “no compass” – Do I feel stupid telling you this – you betcha!

Has anything made you laugh out loud?
Hearing Stevie had stayed ahead of Pete until near Lundavra. Having to decide whether to kick him or kiss him after he was found.

Any additional comments?
A great weekend. Hugely impressed by ALL runners. You should all consider yourselves “elite”.


West Highland Way Adventure
report by
Rabbit the Bruce

I am a very experienced, well travelled supporter cheering on international athletes and some not so elite. But I was really looking forward to this weekend’s support duty on my favourite stamping ground (well, hopping ground!) with a bunch of ultra newbies taking on the WHW with only a handful of marathons under their belts, it was also new territory for the seasoned ultra runners too as none of them had ever ran three long hard days together and were wondering how they would cope. I was very impressed that they all rose to the challenge with great humour and making light of their keeky breek walk in the mornings, there were some falls, injuries and bladder malfunctions (either tie a knot in it or screw the lid on right!) The biggest drama was when one individual set out from the bottom of the Devil’s Staircase earlier than the rest of the runners to give himself more time to complete the final day, but the numpty went straight through Kinlochleven without reporting in (that boy’s got less brains between his ears than I have, and ma lugs are on the top of ma heid with nothing but fresh air between them!) The rest of team thought he was lost somewhere on the top of the Devil and sent out a search party, it was commented that he would be happily trudging on totally unaware of the worry he caused and sure enough so he was, the faster runners eventually found him and phoned in the news as there was no way of contacting the numpty himself as he was the only one without a phone. A case of slap him then hug him! There were hugs all round in Fort William and a fair bit of emotion too, I had to take a deep breath myself, my chest swelling with pride under my wee Carnegie vest watching harriers achieving their goal. I was pleased too for my roving reporter, Teeny Ted, for completing his challenge, taking notes hanging on to the back of Fiona’s backpack wearing just his wee vest, he could’ve done with a rain jacket on the second day, his fur was soggy for ages but he never complained, neither did the rest, all the blisters, skint knees, aches and niggles were all just part of the fun of this great adventure.

And finally – all those folk who say “No way, not for me, never in a million years” that’s a lot of tosh because I’ve heard it all said before – check with Lynne, Fiona and Gail!!!
Carnegie’s West Highland Way Adventure
I really enjoyed the three days running with a bunch of runners new to ultra, they took on a huge challenge and did exceptionally well, even Colin who injured his knee and had to stop on day two and Stevie who struggled with cramp on the first day, he missed out Rannoch Moor to complete the rest of the Way, both still ran further than they’d ever gone before. But Allan, Colin, Pete, Pete, Kenny, Paul, Sue and Helena all completed the whole way impressively with great humour. Apart from Sue doing Lesley’s 40th birthday 40 miles none had ever gone over marathon distance. Pauline, Gail and myself made up the rest of the runners but we couldn’t have done it without Ken and Jim driving the bus and making the coffee, they also managed a bit of cycling. What was really brilliant about the weekend was that time was not an issue, if I wanted to stop to take a photo or just to take in the scenery I did. Pauline, Sue and I worked out that our total time took around 28 hours, but I didn’t pay attention to the time at all, only using my race splits as a guide so we’d have a rough idea of times for arrival at meeting points. I did have a bit of a struggle on the first day heading into Rowardennan (27 miles), where during the race I usually bounce along, but I’d only thought about how much fun this weekend was going to be and not thinking much about it still being a 95 mile run and I was going to have to put in a bit of effort. What was new to me was three long days together and I was wondering how I’d cope with it, apart from a bit of stiffness at the start of the second and third day the legs were good all the way, my favourite day was the last one, Kingshouse to Fort William, what a difference running Lairig Mor after a fish supper, three pints and a sleep! When we were approaching Fort William I felt sad that our adventure was nearly over and commented that it was a shame we didn’t have a fourth day, Pauline must be just as nuts, she agreed with me.
What will Carnegie’s next adventure be? We’ve got a year to plan it!
2nd/3rd May 2009

Thursday, 30th April
The journey from Edinburgh to Bergamo went smoothly and we reached our hotel in the early evening. The location of the hotel is perfectly situated on the corner of the course lap. The gang is as follows: Ladies Team – Sharon Gayter, Vicky Skelton, Lynne Kuz and myself with Stephen Mason entered as an individual; Management: Richard Brown, Wendy Lynas and our very own Auntie Val; the unofficial support: Fiona, Simon, Gail and Vicky’s husband Leigh. After our dinner and a little leg stretch Richard treated us all to ice-creams which produced the biggest dilemma of the evening as the choice of flavours was truly tantalising.

Friday, 1st May
We took advantage of the free time we had to have a wander round the Citta Alta (Upper City), due to the May day holiday the funicular was closed so we took a very gentle and slow walk up the steps to the walled city which was stunning with a heap load of frilly buildings. We lingered in the piazza over a pot of tea being entertained by a young lad practicing his trumpet. Management then went off for a technical meeting which was followed by a gang meeting. Sharon, who is immensely experienced at this level of competition, went over the abilities of the other athletes, the French being the favourites, however with all our recent performances we ladies have the potential to bring home a medal – now the nerves really kicked in! We then headed off for the Team Presentation with a lively parade of all the countries represented and a drone of speeches.

Saturday, 2nd May
Race day – Other teams also staying at the hotel are Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland and Denmark and there is an electric undercurrent at breakfast, big hugs for reunions or wee nods of recognition and the athletes are definitely quieter that the support crews! I wonder why! After roll call, photos, etc we were able to nip back to the hotel to “chill” prior to the start. The sun was up and it was hot, I had my sunglasses on and requested my “flobablob” hat. The course was protected from the crowds and traffic by barriers, there was a strip of red carpet at the start line and the section of cobbles had been covered by felt. At last the countdown began 10, 9, 8, 7………. and we were off. I planned to do approximately 10K per hour which meant a seven minute lap, Lynne and I set off at a steady pace, pretty much on schedule and the first hour went by. Being a city loop of just over 1K there were sections of sunshine followed by shade as you went round the corner. As the day progressed, the shadows moved from one side of the road to the other and where one section had been protected from the sun it was now in the full glare. As the hours slipped by I felt comfortable and relaxed, plenty of fluids, wet hanky round my neck and regularly sponged down I was in cruise mode. Although I felt comfy I was concerned about the heat and how it was affecting me. Like a healthy dog when I run I usually have a wet nose but not today and my throat felt dry and tickly which made me cough. As the day wore on I found it increasingly difficult to eat, the biscuits, cereal bars and chocolate were a chore to chew and swallow and I had to take a drink with each mouthful to get it down. Eventually as the evening wore on it began to cool down. I had passed Sharon a few times as she was going through a bad patch, next thing I heard she was getting medical treatment. As it got cooler I put my “sleeves” on but with my shoulders open to the night air I felt it was a bit chilly so then opted for a quick change with a thermal under the vest. After a bit I still felt my shoulders and back chilled, not due to the temperature I think but perhaps due to me struggling to get food in. I was feeling nauseous and my stomach was giving the occasional heave. Fiona gave me two jackets to wear, zipped behind me which helped warm my back. I always dip during the night, it was time to just get on with it and grind out the laps. Wearing gloves I stopped taking my lap times, I was getting slower and didn’t want to know just how slow. My stomach was playing up and I had the dry “boaks”, so I adopted the tactic of walking and running, counting ten paces between each walk and run, which was a bit gentler on my stomach but also kept me moving at slightly above amble pace. I tried to avoid looking at my watch. Eventually I could see a patch of lighter sky, dawn was still a bit away but it was creeping closer. Even in the wee hours there was encouragement from spectators, I imagined my clubmates faces waving and shouting at me to get a move on. Sharon had returned but now Lynne was struggling with stomach problems. My memory of the next few hours is a bit fuzzy as I bundled it up and put it on the back shelf of the cupboard. It got light, Lynne had retired and I was walking and running, Fiona was doing a marvellous job in getting me to take on little bits of fluid and food. We were in fourth place behind the Germans and we need to crank it up a bit. Okay dokay, let’s get moving, I’d warmed up a little and was able to get a bit more running between the walking stretches, then bang – Sharon was down and didn’t look good, next time round I saw her getting carted off on a stretcher. Stephen was also suffering but was holding on and going well. I had warmed up with the rising sun and took the jackets off. I had wee glances at the watch to see how many hours were left. Plod on. Run a bit. Plod a bit. Run a bit. Look at the watch. Plod a bit. Run a bit. Do another lap then look at the watch. Plod on. Fiona was feeding me little bits of stuff, I was keeping it down but my stomach still wasn’t very happy. Finally, the last hour, try to pick it up. Vicky had now retired. Stephen and I plugged away. The spectators had returned in force and were shouting encouragement: Bravo! Forza! Bellissimo! Twenty minutes to go, Fiona handed me my marker cone in case I didn’t get all the way round again before time up – hah – just watch me – I was running again. Vicky had got herself back on the course – good on her – she will finish upright. I completed the lap, this time I grabbed the Union Flag and held onto the corners as it fluttered behind me. There was a bang which signalled the final minute – sixty seconds and it will all be over. The second gun signalled the end, fortunately I stopped next to a barrier and was able to hold on to it – phew!

After a few minutes my chip was removed and I was presented with a medal. Fiona was acting as minder in case I keeled over, but the gentle toddle helped to keep the circulation going preventing the light-headed wobbly I’ve had in the past. I didn’t know how far I’d gone, I knew it was well down on my target but it was the best I could do in the dry and hot conditions of the day. Although I had struggled and slowed considerably through the night I had kept moving and was pleased that I had got running again at the end. We headed back to the hotel for a bath and “freshen” up before the presentation. As we were seated I could feel it catching up with me and I felt the blood draining from my head. I made for a quick exit and got to the foyer where I had to lie down with my feet on the steps. After ten minutes or so I felt ok but didn’t want to go back inside in case I went wobbly again so Fiona and I went for a gentle stroll which helps keep the blood circulating – we managed to reach to the ice cream shop – purely medicinal of course. In the evening we headed off to a restaurant where I planned to have pizza and wine (one of my favourite combinations) and after a number of weeks of abstinence the wine tasted sooooo good! Richard revealed the final results – Stephen was a respectable 32nd, the ladies were 7th in the Worlds and 6th in the Europeans which was disappointing but felt we had battled on in challenging conditions which has given us all valuable experience. It is a huge honour and privilege to represent your country and I am grateful for the opportunity and hope that I can do so again in the future.

Pauline Walker
May 2009
24 Hours in Bergamo, Italy
Supporting a runner in a 24 hour race is not for the unfit or feint hearted, think of it as a bit like a fartlek session that lasts well, 24 hours! The length of the lap determines how often your runner comes round, at Bergamo Pauline was averaging between 7 and 8 minutes a lap, so I’d walk down to the start of the feed zone with Pauline’s requirements then run back up with her passing over food and drinks and it was a bit more complicated when she came round after a toilet stop, she had a skoosh of anti-bacterial gel followed by a wet wipe then whatever food she required, luckily the palm of my hand is slim enough to jam in the handle of a thermal mug so the required third hand was not always needed. Also on the odd occasion when Pauline had changed her mind or I had the wrong thing I had to sprint back to our table for what ever it was and then catch Pauline before she reached the end of the feed zone. I also counted every lap with split times and every mouthful of food and millilitre of fluid consumed. The only thing I didn’t log was farts that really would be too much information! (And thankfully she kept them to herself anyway!)
As the time continued I could see it wasn’t going to be a PB comparing her progress with Perth but today was a very different race with different tactics in high temperatures and a world class field of athletes. Pauline kept it nice and steady until late evening when her stomach started causing problems, I was giving her a small drink most laps and feeding her every third lap but when she started to struggle to eat anything I eased off trying to force feed her but after a while it was getting serious, Pauline took a big stagger which I think was from the lack of fuel with the comment “My steering’s gone wonky” Right, I resorted to try and get her to eat every lap even if it was a tiny spoonful of rice pudding or a few sips of hot chocolate, she was even struggling to eat chocolate (a girl’s in a bad way if she cannae eat chocolate!) I nipped back to our room to get the sachets of Horlicks in the hope she could get them down, they helped, she was still having bouts of heaves but managed to retain all the stuff I’d fed her, I think my plan of little and often was working (she was the only British athlete that didn’t throw up) It wasn’t just the Brits that were shouting on Hughie, through the night I think around half the field succumbed and one Spaniard was doing it to Olympic standard, he sounded like the head stag at a rut and on his third long bellow he managed to splatter, mentally I gave him a round of applause and hoped after all that effort he felt better.
In the late hours and early morning Pauline got cold, she’d earlier swapped her sun hat for her Saltire buff and put on a jacket, I was now wearing my cosy GB team sweatshirt which I was immensely proud to wear but it did look better with my Saltire buff at the neck, after a few more laps Pauline was still cold so I gave her my jacket to put on too.
It did get a bit wearing being called English and after the my first encounter with an English rugby team at Milan airport where after wishing each other the best in our endeavours one big burly player’s parting shot was “Go England!” my parting shot was “Oi! Go Britain, listen to this accent and it iznae English!” After Pauline pointing out that my skills in diplomacy needed some work I was on my best behaviour but I did have some fun with the Aussies, I’d been blethering with one of their support guys during the race and just after dawn when I was coaxing Pauline to eat, he’d said “Well Done Girls! You’re working well together, doing it for England!” Well I don’t know if it was my face or Pauline’s or the joint twinny grimace but he physically recoiled as if he’d kicked a rattlesnake, then it dawned on him what he’d said plus the Saltire buffs may have gave him a clue, next lap round I got my own back, I approached him with a cheeky grin, patted his shoulder and shouted in his ear “Go New Zealand!” He just laughed
Time was plodding on and so was Pauline working between run, heave and walk. Both Lynne and Sharon had retired and with one hour to go Vicky was lying down. Just Pauline and Stephen were still vertical and moving forward; I’d earlier heard some encouragement from the Americans to one of their runners which I thought was quite good. “All ya godda do is stay alive ‘n’ stay awake!” I passed that one on to Pauline which she achieved with some success, in the last hour she gradually picked up the pace to finish proud and strong with the Union Flag round her shoulders. Stephen being the leading Brit was given a hefty flag pole with a large Union Flag to carry on his final lap, I had a slightly unpatriotic thought. “Just as well he’s not on for a PB cause that would slow him down!”
Although Pauline or the rest of the team did not reach their targets they all ran to their best under difficult conditions, I believe they all pushed passed their own physical ability for that day proving the determination of an athlete in a national vest is capable of overcoming debilitating illness to finish 7th in the world and 6th in Europe which is an achievement to be proud of. For one, I am very proud of them and inspired by them.
Fiona Rennie
May 2009