My first race in eighteen months and how wonderful for it to be Glenmore 24!
Training over that time was more or less just ticking over, especially last year, just enough running to keep me happy. This year at the beginning of March Pauline and I planned to start doing some longer stuff but at the end of the month Pauline had a brain haemorrhage, sixteen years after I had one, was it a twinny thing? The medical profession was noncommittal but there is a possibility for it to run in families. Although we compared notes, the neurological fatigue has taken its toll but she’s managing her recovery well. So most of my running was solo and not the same without Pauline’s company, I just had a couple of twenty milers and one lovely 27 miler on the West Highland Way with Sue. With no races to hone my TTFU skills my goal was just to keep moving forward for 24 hours at whatever pace I was happy with and enjoy being back wearing a number with my ultra family. Standing on the start line was a privilege and not to be taken for granted, and after a wee wobble a week before the race Pauline would be standing on the start line too, for the 12 hour race.
Pauline and I arrived in the Hayfield on Friday afternoon, we’d borrowed the club shelter (it’s not a tent)we got it set up with our race stuff and put up our pop-up tents in the marquee for sleeping in, there has been a lot of hoops for Bill to jump through to get the race organised this year, a huge amount of hard work sorting out the problems, thank you Bill, for persevering.
There was no pre-race party but lovely to catch up with folks I haven’t seen in ages before heading off to bed in my wee tent. It was cosy enough with three blankets over my sleeping bag, and surprisingly it wasn’t cold anyway. In the morning I didn’t have to rush, it was nice just to take my time having two pots of porridge and get ready. Gillian and Val arrived to do support so we registered and I fastened my number to my number belt with my lucky pins, (I’ve used them to pin on every race number since my first marathon in 1992!)
12.00noon, Wooooohooooo! We were off, I said to Pauline I’d stay with her round the Hayfield and down the narrow lumpy path to the right turn... at the top of the grassy hill just before leaving the Hayfield I looked around but she was nowhere to be seen, then I spotted her with Helen at the back of the pack. Ooops! I didn’t realise in my excitement I scampered off like a puppy that saw the gate was open!
First lap I soaked up the beauty of the 4 mile loop, long time, no see, the winding lumpy bumpy mile through the trees, the wide track. I called it “the long run” in 2011 because I always run it all (not so much this year) the long uphill mile and the downhill hill mile. On my second lap I took my camera, the sun was shining, it was roasty toasty, I even pushed up my sleeves and took off my Buff, running nice and easy. I wasn’t over heating, in a race this long if you’re too hot, you’re going too fast.
After three laps revelling in my surrounding and company, I went past my crew, they were sitting comfortably chatting with Pauline, she’d just completed 2 laps, her longest run since March and was having a tea-break, but no Diva strop from me, but I laughingly shouted “You lot are rubbish, lucky I don’t need anything anyway.” I was happily just plodding away picking up a milkshake or custard most laps and around 7.00pm I had some macaroni cheese. As the sun started to dip, I picked up my arm warmers but I carried them for a wee while before I put them on. The sky was overcast so no pink hues reflected on the Loch Morlich this year but at least the cloud cover would stop it becoming baltic. With not having any races for ages, one thing I haven’t practiced is eating on the hoof and I thought that if I was going to have any problems it would be my guts and I wasn’t wrong, around 40 miles I first felt a bit of a stitch. Another lap, it progressed to being quite uncomfortable, I was using a wee bum-bag and it was starting to put pressure on my stomach so I swapped to a race vest (I still think a race vest is a singlet made of acrylic fabric in club colours, I must be old) I was hoping that would ease things, at the same time I might as well pull on a long sleeved top and take my iPod, it was dark and time for tunes. After a few dry heaves I eased back a bit more and managed to hold on to the soup I’d had, that’s fine, as long as I moved forward, the pace wasn’t important.
After 11.00pm the 12 hour race was in its final hour and on the wee loops, I arrived in the Hayfield, Pauline came motoring down the hill and shouted “Coming through!” as she barged by me. Ha ha ha! Absolutely bloody brilliant to see! But she’s not the only one that can shout. “COME ON!” I yelled, “ALRIGHT!” was her reply, we’ve been bellowing the lyrics of Runrig’s Clash of the Ash at each other since the 24 hour race round the Inches at Perth in 2008, (where she’d set the Scottish record for 100 miles, 200km and 24 hours covering 130 miles.)
She’d had a minimum target of half marathon distance but hoped for 4 laps, and moved the goal posts as she carried on and completed 6 laps, 24 miles before it got dark then rested until the wee loop opened and targeted 2.2 miles for a marathon, still the class athlete, Pauline carried on for a cheeky wee ultra finishing with 27.76 miles. I knew she’d do it!
While Pauline was being the conquering hero I also had a wee smile to myself, I’d just completed my 900th Glenmore mile and that gave me a boost through the night.
I’d had loads of lovely wee chats with friends old and new and now that the 12 hour had finished there were quite a few moments of solitude, luckily for me I was on my own when I was boaking, I feel that that’s a wee bit like yawning in company, when one person starts so does everyone else, and I’m glad I didn’t inflict that on anyone. I also had a lap of trying to keep my eyes open and not fall asleep on my feet, even that made me smile, even though it was not my favourite point in the race, it's been two years since I’ve been in this position and I knew it would pass, a mug of hot chocolate/coffee combo would help too. I looked up, the sky was clearing and the stars were starting to sparkle. It did get a bit chillier and I put on my tea-cosy of a hat and a pair of gloves but I didn’t need the hundreds of layers that were necessary in 2019, just one more thermal top and fleece.
Every year I seem to have a very special moment to cherish, and this year what started as an exercise in keeping my breathing deep, slow and even to stave off the dry heaves turned into a special memory. Not all the music on my eight hour “Run Forever” playlist are bangin’ choons, some are slow and peaceful, evoking my visualisation of a swan, the top half moving forward, relaxed, beautifully serene and graceful while it’s big feet are going like the clappers under the water. In reality I might look like a shuffling sack o’ tatties but I’ll hang on to my delusion and embrace my inner swan. I was on my own walking up the long hill and began to sing out softly along to a beautiful version of Wild Mountain Thyme, with my surroundings and the stars shining their magic on me. I was a smidge emotional at the end, this was a moment that would never happen anywhere else.
The sky slowly lightened and the sun eventually peeped up over the trees. I was with Mairi coming up the hill and she captured the beautiful sunrise.
|Photo from Mairi Fox|
|photo from Lorna MacLean|
It was wonderful to see others realise their goals and get the horn from Ada. Neil MacRitchie had gone out for a 27th lap with a bit of time to spare as long as he maintained his pace, but he must’ve been waving cheerio to every clump of heather, or hugging every tree, bye bye! Folk were panicking, the clock was ticking down to the final horn, he came into sight. The noise that was directed at him could be translated as “NEIL, MOVE YER ARSE!” Yay! He made it with seconds to spare! 108 miles! The rest of us poked our tent peg into the ground for our final distance to be measured. 98.05 miles for me, just perfect!
If all goes well for next year I’ll be running my 10th Glenmore 24 (in 2013 I had a special wee 6 hour run) but it will be my 13th 24 hour race and on my 13th lap I will complete 1000 Glenmore 24 miles. If that happens I will consider myself truly lucky.