Thursday, 4 October 2018

Boston Marathon & London Marathon 2018

The Big Reveal

Walking up Arthur's Seat in September 2017, I told Scott I had something to tell him. After initially freaking out and throwing himself off the hill, I calmed him down to share the news that I had entered the Boston Marathon for the following April. I was not guaranteed an entry but we would need to book a holiday if I was accepted. Having studied in Rhode Island during the winter, Scott was keen to return during the summer. Shoulder season is not summer, thereby ruining his holiday plans.

Female qualification times are much more lenient than the men's qualification times. Despite this, as I have spent the last four years injured and unmotivated AND the Boston qualification times are reducing each year, I figured there were few years left whereby I would be able to gain the qualification without too much stress. So on that Saturday in September when I looked up the times I was pleased to find that I had qualified while running as the Roadrunner cartoon in London. Luggage restrictions meant that a costume was not logistically possible for Boston unfortunately.

A combination of hamstring troubles and lazyitis meant that there was no training for Boston. Some people commented that they didn't see the point of running the iconic race if I was not going to do it properly. My argument was that I didn't see the point in running the race if I was so focused on a personal best that I didn't enjoy the atmosphere. I know it can be hard for runners to hear this BUT running a personal best does not make the world a better place, reduce poverty or save the whales. As it turns out, running a personal worst doesn't either. Hmmm, bothersome...

Boston Incoming

April 2018 on the East Coast of the USA was Baltic. We strolled around New York in parkas, accidently ice skated and woke bears in New Hampshire, dodged sharks in Cape Cod and found ourselves in Boston. Fortunately we were staying with friends who made it easy getting to registration, despite some stress regarding the late arrival of my runner's passport in Scotland. I like to tear through these running conventions like it's a qualification in itself and I pride how quickly I can get through. This is particularly important in Boston where parking will cost you your dinner money for the rest of the week.

Throughout the week, the organisers had been emailing through weather warnings. Wind, rain and hail were forecast. It was recommended that we brought spare shoes to the start line so we could discard them when covered in mud. Well, I was on a two week holiday and sharing a check in bag with Scott. I only had the one pair. No, there were no extra warm layers to discard. No, I don't think the charities are going to want all our trampled, ripped and mouldy lycra or ponchos. They would rather that we did not buy that extra pair of running shoes and donated them some winter boots or hard cash instead! So I borrowed a friend's XL jacket that he was going to give away anyway assuming that I wouldn't want to run the whole marathon in a jacket. Obviously, my whole wardrobe plans were thrown out.

Before I went outside into the weather
The actual running outfit

Fortunately, friends gave me a lift ta car park near the start where I was then to take a bus to the start. There was a bit of traffic at the end of the hours drive before getting into the car park but otherwise ok.  There was a small security set up where all the runners go briefly checked by the metal detector and then we climbed onboard the bus. Given that I was in the second colour band, I checked whether I should just walk to the start. I was told that the bus was quicker. Now, I am not sure if there was a problem with our particular bus but I am pretty sure that we went halfway back to Boston. Advice; it would have been half the time if I walked. By the time we arrived at the Athletes Village (disguised as a muddy filed), my band waves had gone (not a major deal).

I had thought I would just jog the mile to the start. So wrong. You could not move for people. I would like to think that everyone was cramming to the start line because they were cold rather than because they felt the need to be on the start when their colours were specifically being told NOT to make their way to the start line. The ground was chaos; discarded running shoes and clothing devoured by mud. Runners constantly tripping and getting a free massage in the mud when other runners stood on them. Eventually I made it to the start line just in time for the colour band that was supposed to be behind me went off. I needed to use the ladies facilities again but just wanted away from the chaos so started jogging. My attempt at a starting photo was unsuccessful due to the sky being water logged.

Boston Strong

A sea of poncho ghosts waded down the hill. For a race that has more difficult qualification criteria than most, we looked hilarious. Thousands of students in a dress up run during orientation week? Escapees from a local institution? Activists petitioning against fashion? Attitudes were fabulous though. My bladder was also fabulous once I used the facilities a few miles in. Then it was time to get some serious drinking in. I cannot accurately recall how I acquired my first beer but I think some supporters were drinking cans and I politely asked for one from their cool bin. It was mid-morning by then, they had probably been out quite a while watching the professionals slide past and yet no one had joined them in a session. So then I jog along with my giant can of bud and sip away happily.

There were two flaws in my plan; the rain causing a slippery can surface and the cold causing me to have to constantly swap hands so I could tuck the other one inside the jacket. Gloves were deemed unnecessary, although that was clearly an error. When the winning female crosses the line wearing a rain jacket and gloves in a day time road marathon, it means the weather is pure dreich. Supporters were handing out dry socks. I thought about grabbing some for my hands.

Initially I was surprised at what I thought was very little police presence. There were plenty of marshals but no one that resembled police... As I was holding up my beer can to these marshals to say thanks for being out here, I realized that they were either angling their eyes down to avoid me or having a chuckle. Hmm... perhaps it's not quite legal to drink in public here... These were the police. Unlikely-to-run-for-more-than-a donut-type police but I guess that's why they probably have guns instead. I only saw a few with actual donuts. Likely very soggy.  

Bikini-clad girls are screaming from the sidelines in a wee village. I don't think the weather got above a real feel of zero degrees Celsius for the entire race so a massive well done to those girls. I hope that their mermaid themed cups were filled with something strong beyond their years. After taking my time with my first can, I'm now on the look out for another beverage. What better way to emerge oneself in American culture than drinking beer from a red party cup?! I feel that it is all going rather swimmingly as I move forward sipping beer politely from my red cup. Hydration station? No, I'm all good here with my beer thanks!

Supporters are handing out chocolate bars, orange slices and sweets (which I'm avoiding in case they are those crazy cinnamon flavoured ones). I tuck them up my massive jacket sleeves for later. Other runners say that there are much less supporters out than usual given the extreme weather but I think that the supporters are great. I'm freezing, I cannot imagine how cold they are. Due to being saturation, I am chaffing in places that I was not expecting. My full length tights have long zips going up the side of my lower leg; now bleeding. The waistband and ankle bands are creating permanent scars. I can only imagine the state of my braids!

I'm eagerly awaiting Heartbreak Hill. While I am not feeling particularly comfortable, it just sounds like it will be an exciting place. I get my loyal red cup topped up with beer near the start of the climb and then wave to my fans as I shuffle up. It's not massive but the atmosphere is. Cheers to you all. I think my beer is well watered down now with the rain and hail drops.

Until recently, everyone wanting to run the Boston Marathon had to qualify thereby making it a little special. The fastest get in, so someone like myself met the qualification criteria but was not necessarily confident about getting in because there are many faster runners. Now you can run for charities but there are no ballot places. As a child, I'd always wanted to run the Boston Marathon without knowing too much about the politics or difficulty (or the fact that apparently many runners CHEAT to get qualification times??!!) but now I am here as a fully-fledged adult running! So the whole running experience is amazing, even if I am having trouble with my hamstring seizing in the cold... I'll just keep slowing down so that I don't cause a tear...

And then there's less than six miles to go. Less than 10km. The weather has prevented photo opportunities because my phone cannot respond to touch with the constant wetness. I'm sure my waterproof mascara is holding up nicely. The supporter's signs are fabulous. I've finished my red party cup and am looking out for a finishing beverage. I spot a sign which says BEER. It says other things too but I have not read them yet. 

'You're offering beer?' I ask
'Can do, are you an Eagles fan?' they respond (they're offering a Philadelphian beer, I've just been to Philly!)
'I don't know, I'm from New Zealand!' (that's me again)  
'You can have a beer then!' (that's them again)
(as I am leaving) 'I can't believe she's actually going to drink a beer!'

And that is how I got my fourth and final beer of the run. Police continue to avoid looking in my direction, supporters continue to cheer and I get a little slower. What a wonderful event! I know that we are near the end as ghosts are shedding their ponchos and turning into runners. The road has become a little hazardous with clothing to be discarded for the finishing photo. I was too cold to remove the XL jacket so I am running to the line with it. Unfortunately, I will be returning the jacket with a broken zip. I'm no sure how it broke but I do know I spent half the race zipping it back down when it began flapping in the wind. Although, maybe it was Boston's way of saying that I'm a superhero.

In the finishing straight I cannot see Scott as there are people everywhere. I've run a personal worst but I do receive the best foil blanket/hoodie I've ever seen. A huge thank you to the marshals who stood at the finish line in the cold handing us those foil hoodies. A huge thank you to everyone who was out on the course marshaling, protecting or supporting. The weather was extremely MEMORABLE. But hey, I'd rather it memorable than boring. A huge thank you to Scott for braving the extremes to find me very quickly at the finish and get me on public transport as soon as possible. And a huge thank you to Kim and Daz for having us to stay and feeding us!

Apologies to wee Miss I who watched the race on television and burst into tears when I was not the overall winner. She wanted me to win and I feel I may have let her down. I will let the organisers know and they might be able to change the result.

Beaten by the blizzard

Cape Cod


Fortunately, there was no pipe band playing halfway through our return flight to Edinburgh. With the Boston Marathon being held on a Monday, we arrived back into Scotland on the Friday. I had an email from the London Marathon; they were expected a (UK) heatwave. It was going to break the record for the hottest race day had been. Well, this was tempting. To go from the worst weather for the Boston Marathon to the hottest for London... all within in the same week...

So I emailed my friend Nicole. She was willing to put me up and even offered a Saturday night out on the cocktails. I booked a flight for about 6am on the Saturday morning and spent the rest on Friday sleeping. It wasn't really a good IDEA but I feel it makes for a great STORY. On Sunday morning, it still didn't feel like a great idea but I donned my new Boston cap, sunscreen and smile.

There was chaos with the trains and we missed the bag drop off. I realize that it must be difficult to organize an event for so many people but I do wish these big events would do a better job of organizing the starts; it's kind of their job. We put our bags in the bag of a truck that may or may not be official. The helpers couldn't have been any LESS helpful and I end up running with my phone in my crop top and fashion sunglasses.

I just enter a pen near the back with an igloo, three dinosaurs, the Milky Bar kid and a couple of lassies in their seventies who qualified with Good for Age times. Epic ladies!! I start slow and get slower. This is a tactic to ensure that I get the best sun tan possible; albeit with t-shirt and short lines.

The Queen started the marathon although she did not actually run herself. Unlike in the Faroe Islands where the mayor started the race and went on to run the half marathon herself.

I understand that it was a hot day, even for the spectators. I understand that the price of a pint in London is undesirable. But even still, Londoners were very stingy with their beers. Did no one think; it's a warm day out, I wonder if I should sell my three inch squared apartment and load up the ice box with craft beer for all those runners who are thirsty? No one did. At the expo (which I raced through as quickly as I could but it's a health and safety nightmare with overcrowding) I asked the shite beer sponsor if they would be providing any beer en route. The humourless guy with an inability to grow even the remotest of beards replied that it would be irresponsible to provide beer during the race. And that, my dear readers, is why he works for that shite beer company. I did eventually get a can of a different shite beer and that was greatly appreciated. I was also offered wine once my beer can was empty but given that the girl was drinking it straight from the bottle, I decided it might not be the Riesling from my home town that I typically prefer. A big thank you to her though.

I was responsible; I drank water too!

Sometimes I saw other runners with Boston Marathon attire and we had a wee chat. None of us were really feeling the running aspect of the day but were enjoying the novelty of the double. They had perhaps prepared for the double, whereas I had not. If there was a runner sitting down, I went for a chat to make sure they were ok. If there was a runner sitting down in the shade of a tunnel, I sat down with them! There were runners collapsing but always plenty of us to help out. I knew I would make it to the finish and did not care how long it took. Other people were struggling, why have them stop?

Throughout the run I managed to keep communication with my cousin who was supporting on the course with her husband and children. Conveniently placed opposite the Vaseline folk from St John's Ambulance (remember all that chaffing from Boston?) it was a good focus to get to and then stop for a chat. Thanks for the support Jessica!

And I was probably walking! I do enjoy a good marathon sign.

Big Ben may have passed me. A tree may have passed me. I did beat the Emoji poo though.

And then I finished. My second personal worst in a week. Nicole and I were held up in the exit due to the changing of the guards. Fortunately, Nicole and I did not meet at the J sign as originally planned as that was out the exit and would have been a nightmare. Apparently, that was put in the race notes or something. Well, some of us only flew back into the country and decided to run on Friday...

On the start line I had heard rumours that the day was not going to be as hot as expected and therefore not break the record. I was disappointed by this. It would have made my story much less cool. Fortunately, the sun shone brightly and it was recorded as the hottest race day the London Marathon has had! Phew. From Baltic to blazing in six days.

Sadly, there were a number of people on social media who attempted to deflate the achievements of the runners by saying that it was not that hot and people run in much hotter conditions all over the world. Of course they do. Even on a hot day, Britain is not that hot. I have run further in hotter conditions. But it is hard to run a marathon in mid-twenties when you have just had a very cold winter and no acclimitisation. If people had expected it to be that hot, people would have ensured they trained in multiple layers, inside gyms or something to help their bodies prepare. But it was unexpected until the week of the race so cut runners some slack. It was snowing when I flew out of Boston! Also, just don't be assholes. You've achieved something greater? Good for you. You need to tear people down because you are insecure about your own achievements?  Speak to a professional who can help you with that. 

Well done to the runners who stumbled, sprinted or fell across the line.
The following week I went ice skating and canoeing. Marathon running was so last week.

Boston and London finishers attire

Monday, 13 November 2017

Loch Ness Marathon 2017

Nessie on her home turf


For millions of years I have lurked peacefully in my home Loch of Ness. There was a brief period when my home was subjected to inspection from nosy tourists but they do not cause me too much bother. However, since 2002, there is one day a year when some non-swimming folk pound the ground next to my Loch of Ness. I poked my head up a few times to check out the action and fortunately no one spotted me. They were too busy staring at the neon shoes of the runner in front. There is quite a number of these folk. So, I have decided to give the event a go myself. 
Today I have donned a kilt and Scottish bonnet in an attempt to fit in with the running creatures. I even stayed in accommodation with three older blokes and took a wheeled machine with the ordinary humans to the start line. The boys got quite the surprise when I walked out of the bedroom in the morning. Fortunately, my wheeled machine had a toilet but I must say that the entering of said machines is a bit of a shambles. One in front of us even broke down! 
Nessie with kilt (because the costume was for a 7 year old and my physique differs from that of a child's) 
The heathered landscape creates a barren start. Fortunately, the man in charge of our wheeled machine lets the human folks and myself stay sheltered inside. He is what is referred to as a good bloke. In typical running event fashion, there are not enough port-a-loos and many creatures have to go heather. Going heather when you are the Loch Ness Monster is a difficult endeavor. 

All creatures huddled together near a sign that read 4:30. Overly ambitious for some among us (Norm, who interestingly tries to take off ahead without us noticing). Keith keeps his pace calm while Ally and I go slightly ahead. Running proved more difficult than expected due to overpopulation issues. There are not many of us in Loch Ness but far too many squeezed onto this road. These human folk are making me cough and sneeze. Must be their germs I am not used to. 
After a few miles, I pass two of my cousins who are also having a go at this land maneuvering event. They are also named Nessie as we have strict naming guidelines in our community. And all you humans just thought there was one of us! International guests are particularly joyful at my presence; they can go home and tell their loved ones that they have indeed seen the Loch Ness Monster. I do aim to please.

The land is undulating. Like waves. But I live in a loch where we have less waves and more boat splash. I am surprised at the undulation. Perhaps I should have read the land description; I think it was on page 712 of the advertising pdf I was sent. However, downloading limits are tight below the surface. I've not trained for this event; how do you train from the depths of a loch? 
With a long-legged land dweller

One of the land dwellers tickles my fancy and I decide to run with him. His name is Scott. Like the land. After a while he needs to relieve himself so I travel backwards up the hills waiting for him. We rejoin at about half way. Despite having longer legs than me, he is looking a little worse for wear. He's not looking as bad as the some of the long legged folk though. Everyone is busting their legs to stay hanging out with the infamous Nessie. Some others have donned kilts too; family tartans like mine I assume. A spectator cheers out for a crocodile which makes me speed up in fear. However, I suspect he was cheering for me and just wasn't a local. I have deceived him. 

An issue I wasn't expecting was chaffing. Down my neck. Down my sides. Chaffing that was to leave scars. It turns out monsters have side seams and head pieces. Engineer ?????? suggested that for my next running attempt, I attach the head piece to a cap to stop it moving around so much. A wise thought. Vision is limited. That's just a down-side of being Nessie. Most of the route has been a small road with trees. It sounds nice but after a while it is rather boring. Even the sight of my home loch is not as interesting from above. 

We pass through a small village and the few spectators who are out give great cheers. The fine rain (it soaks you through) does not bother me too much. I am used to being covered with much greater amounts of water. At the 19 mile mark, Scott and I decide to part ways to increase the chances of relationship survival. I will finish 14 minutes ahead of him, a Nessie personal worst. I glide up some hills, passing the bedraggled human folk. It must be my home turf advantage. Some runners are worried that they are hallucinating. I do nothing to lessen their concerns. With my head sliding from side to side and my kilt swaying, I soar into Inverness. Spectators do a great job of keeping spirits up; particularly important as the finish line can be seen for miles before it is reached. 

I'm waving to children, grannies and their dogs. Their is an arch indicating the end of this event. I am photographed with some children, who may have been a little scared. Scott needs a bit of support upon finishing (just a touch over the four over mark) and I am a bit of a hit in the ladies changing tent. Drizzle continued to drizzle. The soup was awful. The beer tent was closed. Seriously, no beer left?  

My new human pals all finished after an eternity and I was then allowed into the wheeled vehicle to drink some beers I had stashed away. I opted not to keep the key on me because I couldn't imagine that Norm would get beaten by Nessie. On the wheeled journey home, I noticed a few other human folk coughing. Norm really wanted me to mention this.  Maybe I've passed on some of my monster germs to them. I look forward to getting a million years wear out of my new marathon t-shirt; just like my new pal Norm.

Special thanks to Shona for the fabulous breakfast in rural Perthshire on the drive up! 

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

West Highland Way Race - Support Running


We were a last minute support crew. A ‘caught-up-in-emotion’ during Rock DJ at a Robbie William’s concert kind of support crew. Some people get emotional over Angels but I’m a different type of person. The type of person you would like to run with over the Devil’s Staircase as the sun is going down. And that was Alan Crawford’s thought too. So Scott and I hired a car and with two weeks to go, we didn’t bother with any other preparations.

The main success of the weekend was that I drove part of the way from Edinburgh to Tyndrum. I did not drive us into a loch or up the rear of a tour bus. My first attempt at UK driving may have got off to a jerky start but it was successful in the end. Much like Alan’s West Highland Way race this year to be honest.

Alan and Terry were running together and had the combined force of their Susans and the Gang of Giggling Ladies looking after them. When we joined the crew at Auchtertyre; they had the Love Bus full of coffee and cheer. Alan had been vomiting up the Lochside, leaving Terry to hold his hand. When they arrived into Auchtertyre, they were already one hour down on their target time of 24 hours and just going for the finish. Terry lost 2kg off his petite 62kg frame and had instructions to eat. He’d been unwell for a month with a virus, and although he was still a good looking bloke, you could see in his face that he wasn’t too well. Alan was feeling ok by then but did spend a considerable amount of time faffing with his feet.

The boys did not need my support running skills for the next section as they were still sharing their opinions on each episode of Love Island. Once they reached Bridge of Orchy, they decided it was time for my excellent chat. Fortunately, I had only consumed the one beer at the pub and was still able to find the trail. Terry was slow up the hills but could run the flats reasonably well. Alan was strong up the hills but ran slower on the flats. If we went as slow as the slowest runner on the hills and flat, we were going to be out for a long time. Both were feeling an amount of pain that resulted in whinging.

And then there was some weather; howling wind, sideways rain, freezing rain. I ran in the 2012 race which was a very wet year but I did not remember it being this cold along Rannoch Moor. I met Terry that year for the first time as I was lost having to take a diversion into Tyndrum. We then ran to Glencoe pretty much together before I threw a tantrum and stormed to the finish.  This year I was fortunate enough to be in long tights and be wearing a non-waterproof waterproof jacket. The boys had jackets of varying waterproofability (can you believe that word is not yet in the dictionary?!) but no trousers on. Everyone was well cold. It was important that they moved as much as they could. Alan went on ahead and Terry dropped back; throwing his toys.

I ran between the two, providing little support to either. Basically, I just ran back and forth keeping myself warm. There was a beautiful rainbow amongst the wild weather. Terry told me where I could shove that. He’s actually a really nice guy, he was just in quite a bit of pain. Alan enjoyed the rainbow; which was a lovely start to what would be a long night on the Way.  Eventually I went ahead to deliver the runners’ orders to the crews. They both needed a change of clothes and to get warm. Terry also wanted a sleeping bag to sit in. And he wanted someone to sit in the sleeping bag for him until he arrived so that it would be warm. I also delivered the message that Bill Hiers may have to do some talking to Terry to keep him going. There were a lot of painkillers being consumed.

As I entered Glencoe, Keith Hughes came running towards me looking for Matt Stoner. Matt was on for his first goblet and had been running between Terry and Alan. Like the boys, I knew he was cold and not moving too fast. But he was in high spirits and after getting warm would make it to the finish.

Leaving Glencoe was hard as we left Terry wrapped up in the Love Bus. He was in great hands but I was worried as I had never seen him like this before. Alan was crying that he had deserted Terry and was worried he wouldn’t continue. Don’t worry folks, we would later hear that Bill and Susan got Terry in for a sub-30 finish. The long term consequences of this were unknown at the time of the blog’s publication. Thanks to Lorna for checking up on all the runners at Glencoe!

As neither of my waterproof jackets are waterproof anymore, I opted to wear two for the next sections. As I had changed into dry gear (no one wants the support runner being a liability by getting cold and I’ve already got a cold and chesty cough - I hope Alan doesn’t notice), I was now wearing tights and long-sleeve tops that I had reserved for my pyjamas that night. Never mind. I changed in the backseat of the car; ripping my merino pants and eating pizza whilst pantless. Living the dream. I made Alan wear his waterproof trousers and he’d stolen Susan’s rain jacket. That poor lady stood in the rain for FOUR hours earlier waiting at Beinglas.

Alan had a solid run to the bottom of Devil’s Staircase. He was a bit dizzy on the way up the Devil’s; hot then cold, hot then cold butt he made good progress. The paths leading down into Kinlochleven were essentially rivers and all the good paths were taken by water. Fortunately, I’d predicted this and carried an inflatable dinghy with me. After making all the runners blow it up for me, I floated into Kinlochleven drinking a mulled wine. Unfortunately for the competitors, their presence on the dinghy would have been deemed as cheating so they were left to make their way by foot. We did make it into Kinlochleven before it was dark. Congratulations to all the runners who came down there in the dark; top effort indeed.

Just before Kinlochleven I floated past a number of runners; including Bob Allison who was very spaced. Again, he made it to the finish. Alan just wanted a very quick stop here which I was in full support of. Weigh in, bathroom and fill up bottles. He was drinking coke, Irn Bru and eating a few sweeties. I didn’t push the food intake, he would make it to the finish on coke and Irn Bru alone if he needed to. It turns out, that he did just that. I, on the other hand, stuffed in more pizza and then started eating Alan’s sweets. There wasn’t a lot of chat going on but I did have to ask about the white Skittles. Ultrarunners are weird but to have a fascination with just the white ones? Odd. Turns out, they were released for Pride. Fun fact for the weekend.

Climbing out of Kinlochleven, Alan starts leaping over frogs. Hallucinated frogs. The trail itself is actually frogless. There is a giant log covering the path, so we take the path that has not been deliberately blocked. I have been on this section twice before; both were five years ago and during the day time. It is now dark and I need to be careful to lead us in the right direction. Keith Hughes on the other hand, has completed the WHW ten times and later leads Matt on the wrong path. Looks like Alan chose his support runner well. I’m not too sure what to do. How much chat does he want? How much should I push him? I opt for, running on the flat and downhills. Walking any inclines. If I can get away with running up a small incline, I do.

It is dark and wet underfoot. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it doesn’t. We have enough layers, we are not cold. Alan pees every three minutes and 26 seconds. We look back and see a line of headtorches coming off the Devil’s staircase. It’s a nice sight and reminder that we are fortunate to already be on Lairig Mor.  I lead at the front; setting the pace and only occasionally hearing a sad whimper from behind me when Alan couldn’t catch up. In the dark I would use exaggerated marching arms for when we were walking and an exaggerated high bounce for running. Alan doesn’t complain so there are no stern words. Walk. Jog. Walk. Alan thinks that this is the fastest he has done this section. It isn’t but I am giving him a ton of positive reinforcement so he feels that he is going faster.

Although we have been on our own since Kinlochleven there are now some head torches behind us.  They stay behind us until we are running down the fire road (aka, spiral of death). With two miles to go, Alan decides that he needs to take off his waterproofs. My suggestion that maybe he could wait until the finish is not supported. He sits down on the fire road and we make a meal of getting his waterproofs off. His jacket weighed a ton. For maximum waterproofness, he had worn a giant cycling jacket since Glencoe.

Alan is now peeing every two minutes and 41 seconds.

I have not been looking at the time as I knew that we would not finish for under 24 hours so did not see the point in worrying. Plus, we were having a blast. It is now that back of 3am, 26 hours into the race. I ask Alan for his worst time, hoping that I would not be the one responsible for creating it. It turns out, we are on for his second best time! Whoop! So Alan runs solidly (albeit a little slow) and we pass a runner and his support coming through Braveheart carpark. Earlier in the race, there wasn’t much difference between the runner and the support runner, however, now there is quite a big difference in the leg movement!

The road to the leisure centre was a little longer than I remember. I am pleased that I didn’t have to run 95 miles, 30-something has been quite enough. Big Al enters full sprint across the line to take the race in 26 hours and 22 minutes. Quite a finish for 3:30am. A huge congratulations to him and a big thank you to the Love Bus and Susan for looking after us and keeping Scott company.  Thank you also to their pals for letting us crash at their apartment. My sleeping bag still stinks from crashing in it without showering. Ewwww.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Torshavn Marathon, Faroe Islands

Truth be told, Scott busted me booking this trip for myself two weeks before the marathon. I read about it and couldn't get over it, so decided to go. Scott decided to come too and participate in the half marathon. It was our wedding anniversary after all. So we booked the only accommodation left (a lovely top storey flat overlooking the water) and excitedly packed outdoor clothing. What is in the Faroe Islands? Hills, waterfalls, puffins, geese, ducks and sheep. The animals are inbred so they are now special to the Faroe Islands.
A few other interesting snippets of information;
  • in December, the Faroes get an average of six sunshine hours for the whole month
  • the Gulf Stream prevents the Faroes from getting crazy cold, although it is still cold
  • the average high in summer is about 12 degrees Celsius
  • there are far more men than women so there are a number of brides from Thailand and Indonesia
  • they are part of the Kingdom of Denmark
  • the Faroes have the highest fertility rates in Europe... not much else to do I guess
  • the waterfalls trundle down the sloping hills like rivers
  • they are building two sub-sea tunnels
  • helicopter is the only public transport to some islands
  • they have a saying which goes 'if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes' because the weather is so changeable
  • the architecture is crazy cool
  • nothing opens in the mornings on Sundays
Torshavn puts on their annual Cultural Night on the first Friday of June which coordinated nicely with the marathon. Who said the Faroe Islands wasn't a happening place? Local drunks and too many prams just like any other public event in the UK. The marathon started at 1pm on the Saturday. This suited us fine as we spent the morning relaying between the bed and bathroom due to a Japanese dinner the night before that may have involved some undercooked scallops.
Torshavn Marathon start line
On the start line we already had fans. We met Anne and Balfour from Dunbar while waiting at the airport for the bus (it was a picturesque journey from the airport to Torshavn) and they have come to watch the marathon start. Both the half and full marathon start at the same time but once we have crossed the start I leave Scott trailing in my dust with the hope of nabbing myself a Faroese fella if it looks like I am visiting on my own. Although I am secretly pleased that he is pacing himself.
The first 8km involves a lap and a half of the town and then heads out along the water before the course turns back on itself. Entrants have come from all over the world; Mexico, Australia, USA, loads from various places in Europe and one mega babe from New Zealand. What a lass she is. There is not a lot of chat going on but I am feeling a friendly vibe. The town loop is undulating but nothing that bothers me this early on. Some people are walking them already. I hope that they are running the half marathon, otherwise it is going to be a long day.
To our left are a line of elderly people in wheelchairs holding Faroe Island flags with their carers. All the runners give them a big cheer.
Torshavn Marathon course profile
At around 9km we start to head down a long descent. I turn to the identical German guys on either side of me and ask if we will be running back up this. Their answer is 'yes, so pace yourself little girl.' I make a mental note to look forward to this climb about 37km in. And to pace myself like a... well, something that is good at pacing and to not be passed in the second half. We all settle in, waterfalls to our left, sheep and water to our right. Eventually the first half marathoner makes his way back towards us, flanked by cyclists who cheer for all of the runners still heading out. The lead runner gives a smile and thumbs up as we clap and cheer. He's powering up a big hill as we cruise down.
A hill on the marathon course, photo by Faroephoto
Excitement builds as more half marathon runners come towards us. There are water stations approximately every 4km and I have only accidently grabbed an energy drink once with all the language confusion. As we are running along the coast, we are all being careful where we place our empty bottles and cups. Throw to hard to the right and they'll be in the ocean!
I have already become pals with the photographer on the motorbike. He's aware of my best angles.
They said that this race was hilly and they were right. My legs can still easily run up the hills but other people are slowing. I clap and cheer for each runner as they come towards me; well done, go go, good running. I was even saying bravo for a while. It's nice to see so many Faroe Island race vests. All the runners acknowledge my cheers for them; much politer than the London Marathoners!
At the half marathon turn around point, the marshal is excited that I am running the full. Sweden or Norway? she asks. I tell her New Zealand but she asks me the same question on the way back so she must have been a little confused. Nonetheless, she was a joyful face and it was to be a long, lonely day marshalling. Once the half marathon runners had turned around, there were not many of us left on the road. There is a big hill however. On the up side, it will be downhill on the way back.
I run next to a young guy who doesn't seem to keen to let me past. I decide he might want to chat and offer him some sweeties I have stored in my crop top. He's not keen for the sweeties or the chat. Ahead I can see a group of runners together on the opposite side of the road. They have all stopped for a photo beside an impressive waterfall.
By Faroe Island standards, the day is a scorcher. I have opted for arm warmers, which I should really roll down but cannot be bothered. Others are dropping layers off on the side of the road; they can collect them on their way back. Given that it rained all the other days we were in the islands, we are lucky today. Nothing like a famous Faroe Island tan. I can see runners who are ahead of me across the bay. There is someone in a vibrant orange top that I will see if I  can catch on the way back. Just for a bit of entertainment.
SHEEP! Photo by Faroephoto
I giggle with a Swedish lady as we cross a cattle stop. Bambi on ice, Bambi on cattle stops. I have small feet, I am scared they will get trapped! We are at about the 18km mark now and I have been taking it easy so decide to accelerate a little. It has been flat and I am enjoying the sunshine. I pass quite a few people over the next 10km. There are a couple of guys adding to the waterfall as I pass. There is also one guy running in a full paramedic / first aid attire. I think that something must have happened and ask how far he needs to run. Maybe, this is part of the Torshavn Marathon first aid requirement; to have someone on course running. But no, he's running the whole course like that as an entrant. I bet he wishes it wasn't as high as 14 degrees today.
At the 20-something mark, the first marathon runners are coming towards me. They all respond to my enthusiasm; some with their own enthusiasm, most with pleasant surprise. Quite a few 'oh, thank you very much, you too.' I probably look like a talking sheep with all my hair.
Kaldbak Church, Faroe Islands
At 25km I reach the turnaround point. There is a wooden church with a grass roof. Gorgeous. I have half a banana to show my appreciation. I am powering past a number of people; still hooting and cheering. It is a party after all. Some runners are walking up the wee hill towards me. Quite a sensible decision as there are a number of monster climbs on the way back. I admire the sea birds in the bay and get on a high fiving mission with the runners coming towards me. Miss Congeniality award, here I come.
More cattle stops. Water on the left now, waterfalls on the right. Unfortunately for orange top man, he has slowed considerably and I pass him much earlier than anticipated. Short-lived entertainment there. After about 28km, I won't see another runner going in the same direction as me for 7km. There are a few runners coming towards me. One old fella has only covered about the same distance as I have still left to run. I just hope he is having a good time and has packed himself a solid dinner. At 32km there is a hill. At 33km there is a bigger hill. I'm still ok, I can handle these. There is a strong headwind which means there is no respite on the downhills now.
All by myself... that line, on repeat, in my head, for about half an hour.
Wahoo, photographer on a motorbike! Say SHEEP!

Photo by Faroephoto

Monster hill at 36km. There are now two runners ahead of me. One cramps and has to take a break halfway up. Arms pump, legs pump. I'll survive the hill, it's the wind that is a pain. Another climb at 37km. It's another long slog. I pass the second guy, we're both going to make it now. Five kilometres to go; that's the hills done. It has been hilly.
I start to overtake half marathon walkers. One girl is limping badly. We are heading back to the town. There is a short, sharp hill. What the?! I don't remember this being downhill when I ran out! I storm up in defiance. I say hi to my local sheep. Interestingly, many of the sheep are black or brown. I'll have difficulty explaining that to my children with Autism when I get back to Scotland. No, sheep are white Antonia, don't be silly. They are white in all the pictures. Sheep ARE only white. Except for Baa Baa Black Sheep. He's black. Oh, I see your photo, that must be Baa Baa Black Sheep and his family! Teaching fail.
Kilometre markers are counting down. I'm in the middle of the town but I'm not quite sure where to go... turn past a grass-roofed house and there is the finish! Hurrah! Lots of people sitting in the sunshine cheering. I've just run my slowest time in seven years but I am pleased. Hurrah! Great times indeed. Now, for a beer and some fish soup... Local club members have also made cakes but unfortunately I still feel a little unwell from those scallops...
I came first young lady, second lady including the older birds and 11th overall (which is more exciting). I came home with three medals; thankfully checked in bags are included with Atlantic Airways so the weight was not an issue! A nice aspect of the out and back course is that you get to see all the other runners in the field. It was nice to watch the other runners finish; blue t-shirt guy, German guys, orange t-shirt guy, Swedish lady, Paramedic Man...  We are all on first name basis now of course.

Scott paced himself well to run a good ten minutes faster than he predicted for the half marathon; just a few weeks into training for the Loch Ness Marathon.
Celebrations post run were delayed for a few hours while I hung about in the apartment with my head down the toilet. When we found a pub full of locals later, they entertained us by being very enthusiastic football fans. Even the bus ride back to the airport on the Sunday had a jovial atmosphere. So how were the Faroe Islands? Brilliant fun. The marathon? Well-organised and also brilliant fun. It's the clear choice for anyone's anniversary!

1st on this podium...

...but second on this one!

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