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!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

London Marathon 2017


Creating a Road Runner

Ohh, you like running?! Have you done London? Anyone who partakes in the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other sport called running knows the London question. For the record; the London Marathon is not actually any longer than any other marathon. Statistically, by average running times, London is probably the slowest flat marathon in the world. I have a Statistics degree so I am sure I could jiggle some numbers around to make that true. So I was never that interested in entering until I got sold on how many people would be out cheering. I love a good cheer. And the good for age time requirement for women is considerably more lenient than the men's so I got an automatic place and did not have to go through the ballot tragedy. I could have gone for a championship place but you had to be a member of a club and you could not run in costume. They were two sacrifices that I was not willing to make.

Then came the costume drama. With the encouragement of a friend; the idea of running as a three dimensional bird came about. Then life went a bit crazy and I did not decide to come back to the UK until the end of February which left little time to make a costume with my poor sewing skills. There were also the trips to Bologna, London and Iceland that were to hinder my weekend sewing availability (who cares about the actual running training)! So three dimensional went out, and bird stayed in. Initially it made sense to run as a Kiwi bird. However, the Kiwi is rather dull. Brown birds were then ruled out. My older sister has a long-standing disagreement with peacocks so they were out. I liked the idea of a flamingo but ultimately decided on Road Runner.

As a child I went to the USA and met Wile E Coyote himself. He foresaw my future as a Road Runner and drew up this plan to capture me back in in 1997.
After many Google searches and YouTube demonstrations I managed to make a tutu and weave in some ostrich feathers. I did not feel the desire to make a You Tube video of my own. So many talents, so little time. A client kindly donated the hat and Scott (the sewing power that he is) sewed on the eyes, beak and hat feather. I am sure friends thoroughly enjoyed the Snap Chat updates of my progress. The costume was taken for a test run at 6am one morning in Edinburgh. Scott assumed this meant running up a quiet street once or twice. I had other ideas; the gym or local park. No other runners batted an eyelid as I checked out the possible chaff areas in the costume as the sun rose. A lesson I learned was that I would need to Vaseline my arms to prevent tulle chaffage. Both meep meep and beep beep are down as official languages for Road Runner; I went with meep meep. See my Instagram @petitefeetrunaway for a video of the practice run.

Navigating London

Registration for the marathon was at Excel, in East London. The start line for the marathon is in Greenwich in  South East London. The finish line for the marathon is in Central London. We were staying in West London. Fortunately we opted for the 06:20am train from Edinburgh on the Saturday morning which gave us time to endure the nightmare that is mass registration. The week prior I had a minor panic when I realised that I had never been sent a registration letter, the very item you need to register. Fortunately, they got one in the post to me pronto and my costume making was not in vain. Hilariously, there was also a Games Convention on at the registration venue. It made for a nice game of what are they here for?

Avoid registering on the Saturday if you can (we couldn't) as it was rammed. Registration is like an arcade; flashing lights, terrible music and the feeling of being pinballed around the families who have decided to take their granny and young children there for a day out to pick up daddy's registration number.

The young girl scanning my racing chip was super friendly and efficient. Possibly too efficient as my chip did not end up working during the event!  

Riding the tube as Road Runner
Meep meep

To the Green Start

In classic London form, half of the tube stations were closed on the weekend. The marathon gave out brilliant instructions as to where each runner should go depending on their coloured race start. We changed somewhere for the Maze Hill train. We all played a wonderful game of sardines and I tickled other runners with my feathers. Hoards of red start runners got off at Greenwich station, leaving us greenies to take seats before getting off at Maze Hill and walking half the marathon route to the start line.

I won't pee but please provide the runners with more port-a-loos!


As I arrived into the Green Start the announcer was calling for us to put our kit bags into the trucks which were to be transported to the start. There were many people unable to fit on the train so I don't think they would have managed to get to the start in time for the bag drop. After accidently joining the urinal queue for some time I then spent another 40 minutes in the unisex toilet queue. With five minutes to start, I exited the port-a-loo and felt rather sorry for the huge queue still waiting.

Strategically the Green Start is the start for the z-list celebrities and the average good-for-age runners. The z-list celebrities get left alone on this start line as no club marathon runner has any idea who any of them are.

The shuffle for pens begins. I am supposed to be in pen three but none of the pen three runners are able to get to the elusive pen three. I imagined the pens to be in a line but instead they snake around. Pen four is the only pen guarded by marshals who won't let anyone through to access their pen. So pens 1, 2, 3 , 7, 8 and 9 are all hanging about next to the start with nowhere to go. Once the race starts we all clamber through the barriers. I suspect golden pen four was the last to cross the start amongst the chaos.

London Marathon Start Line

Running With a City

Despite the disorganised pens, the Green Start is not too large and it is easy enough to get across the line after a few minutes. I'm not worried about pace and just relax into the jog. Sandra Beattie comes floating past, having colour coordinated her outfit with mine. She's a gem like that. In an unprecedented move, I have a loose bun in today rather than the twin braids. A lesson learned during the costume trial run was that my long hair pushes my tail feathers to the side so I had to tie it up. This is why trying out your costume is so important before race day.

Whacking out a bunch of high fives to excited children (and adults) I don't worry about passing anyone and meep meep along. Ignoring runners shout at each other as they worry about being four seconds off their pace, I wave at all my fans who have gathered on the course and try and strike up conversations. Many running clubs have the name Road Runner in them. This excited me and initially I did a lot of road runner related cheering to them. Unfortunately, the club runners were all depressed during the event and failed to return the cheers. Potential research project; Depression in Club Runners During Fun Runs.

Runners, runners everywhere
The London Marathon takes about 46,000 runners. That is the same size as the city I grew up in. Yes, it is a city. It has a cathedral. So that is how that works. After three miles, the Greenies joined with the Blue Start. There was no drama in this and I was excited at the prospect of seeing more costumes as costumes were a bit thin on the ground at the Green Start.

As we run downhill on a straight bit of road, I can see a sea of runners ahead. All I can see are heads bobbing. It is amazing. I exclaim my thoughts out loud. The runners remain silent. Mostly I run on the edges so that I can wave to the crowd and high five all my dedicated supporters. Children yell things such as; go duck, quack quack, it's Donald, and go birdy! I wonder the last time Road Runner was on television. Women typically yelled love the tutu and go fairy! For some miles, I was surprised to find an actual fairy running behind me so perhaps I was not being cheered for at all. Mostly it was the men who recognised me for who I truly was and gave me a meep meep!

Scott was looking to give me a cheer at about the 10km mark but I knew it would be hard for either of us to spot each other. I am unaware that my tracking chip is not working so Scott waits here for hours as the London Marathon app shows me as not having started the race yet so he does not know that I have already run past. The crowds near the Cutty Sark were huge. I was going crazy, they were going crazy. Supporters offered water, sweets and oranges. Sarah is getting a load of cheers. The crowd loves Sarah. For miles, I ran near Sarah. What a popular lassie. It was a shame that Sarah did not love the crowd back as much. I passed that bad attitude.

A Garmin beeps. As Road Runner, I take this as bird speak and meep meep back. This was not appreciated. Ahead I can see a dinosaur. I get my phone ready for a selfie and try to get myself next to the dinosaur. There is a guy running next to dinosaur and he really needs to speed up his pace so I can get my photo. He needs to stop hogging dinosaur. Eventually I get my opportunity. Here's Gemma the dinosaur who was more than happy to partake in a selfie! Congratulations to Gemma the dinosaur who set the Guinness World Record by running under four hours dressed in a full dinosaur suit! The happiest costume runner I met.   

Gemma the record setting dinosaur

Big skyscrapers appear at the end of the street and then the course takes a right turn onto the London Bridge! I do hope that today is not the day that London Bridge falls down. Although I did eat a large pizza last night. And if that was not enough excitement, the course does an out-and-back and we can now see the elite men running towards us! I stick tight to the edge tape getting crazy excited for all the elite runners. A few others join me in whooping and clapping for the runners as they zoom past. I cannot stop smiling. Being ignored by the elite runners as they focused on their big money wins was probably the highlight of the event for me.

Runners start to slow down (or I start to speed up) before the half way mark. I pass a chef with a heavy-looking pot. I ask him if he could have carried a lighter one. He was not pleased. I pass a guy running his 50th marathon dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and matching shorts and pass on my congratulations. He's sweaty but happy. Then there is a cheerleader carrying pom poms that must be annoying by now. She is less than cheery. I pass a guy that seems to have a monkey's face near his crouch. Unusual. Some young boys are excited further up the course; they have just spotted a Spiderman. At one point the crowd start going wild; I think it is for me... only to get passed by Mr Tickle. We could have a tickle-off; my feathers and his arms but he seems on a mission.

Sign/banner highlights included;
  • Shortcut this way (arrow pointing in opposite direction).
  • You think you're tired, my arms are knackered (after marshalling at the Scottish 5km Championships on Friday night and having to hold my arm up for about three minutes, I do appreciate their pain.
By the halfway mark people are starting to pull up on the sides; cramp, stomach aches, setting off far too fast... On the Thursday night before the marathon I ran the Seven Hills in Edinburgh. It takes a few hours. My friend Keith took us off-piste down Arthur's Seat and I keep slipping. Initially I worried that I was going to break a leg before the marathon. Then I decided that the London Marathon would be a good one to do with a broken leg as you could do it on crutches and still probably not be last. So I do hope that the runners who have pulled up to the side decide to walk to the finish anyway.  There are possibly runners on the Red Start that are still waiting to cross the start line. 



The Jamaican bobsled team on their way to a world record


At about mile 17 I pass the Jamaican bobsled team. Two guys, one (fake) bobsled. Full lycra suits and helmets. The crowd loved them. They will go on to set a Guinness World Record but I'd rather not have them beat me. So after sneaking a pic, I swiftly pass them and put a bit of a kick in so that they do not pass me back. I feel sorry for the people who had those two sprinting past them in the finishing straight. Hassled forever by your mates when they look at that finishing photo. 

My crowd participation is interrupted briefly when I see Sandra ahead and swoop in for a quick chat. What was not discussed was that she was on for a flyer of a personal best! And then I hear my name yelled from the side lines! No, not chicken you fools; Antonia! It's my Kiwi turned London pal, Nicole! Whoop, whoop! And the way that it works is that once one person cheers for someone, it becomes contagious. So now I am getting screamed at all the way down the line. I am going wild with my arms waving about, expressing my thanks. Quite frankly though, I am struggling to keep on top of all these autographs that are being requested. 

Um, is that another nun in front of me? 

And now it is time for some weaving. I had been warned that I would spend trainer loads of energy weaving between runners for the first few miles. Because I was not trying to hit a certain pace, I didn't find myself weaving too much. But now that the runners are fading like a Borneo playground, I am am playing a game of dodge before you trip. The people that are walking are reasonably good at moving to the side (which is great but also cramps my crowd access for high fives). It is the runners who are now the problem. The majority do not realise how slow they are now going. Clear the space folks, this Road Runner is flying through on a London high. 

I give Lyndsey a holler as I pass. She's looking out for a barrier-jumping opportunity. She's got herself so thirsty, she's going to stop for a pint. I also pass the Blue 3:30 marker despite passing the Green 3:30 mile marker miles ago. So, were we late starting?! The balloon pace markers are a nightmare; runners unable to run a certain pass without all holding hands with balloon pace runner.

I am hoping that I am in a thousand photos. I am that runner waving to every television camera. That runner giving you the thumbs up. I posed so well for a photo another supporter I knew assumed I had seen them when they took the cracking photo below! And that is how I was posing for everyone. 
Mile 22 of the London Marathon

Then at 23 miles, I get a shout out from Ian Beattie. Whoop, whoop! A line of fans go insane. There is now a nun in front on me. And that fairy from earlier on. Sorry, have to pass, my tutu puts your tutu to shame. And it is a runner's birthday! He's put a wee note on the back of his running top! Which he had carried balloons too. I'm excited. He's obviously in for the celebration, that's why he's let others know of his special day. I give a loud cheer as I pass; I feel like it may even be my own birthday! It turns out, he's not up for the celebration any longer. Peaked too early perhaps? 

There are runners sitting and laying along the edges of the track. The medics and marshals are all over them. None look too serious thankfully. 

Finishing straight of the London Marathon!

With 600 metres to go, I get some cheers from my right. It's Scott and Nicole! Scott realised that there was something wrong with my tracker and once Nicole got in touch to say that I was running (and not still at the start line, trying to be the last over the line like I usually am). For the finishing straight, the runners are incredibly lacklustre. We are all going to finish with a clock time of 3:29. The crowd on the other hand are still creating a riot. Not an actual riot, although London does love one. I am cruising on in and I cannot help but pass the lot of them. This will not make for great television viewing. The viewers love a committed finish! One girl glances sideways as I come past. She is not a happy runner. Her finishing photo will be ruined when Road Runner appears coming past. Ohhh, speaking of photos, there's an official camera! Cheesy smile and double thumbs up... 

My finishing video now looks like a moving screen capture as I pull the same pose and fail to look up at the video camera. The online viewers did not get to see this however, as a z-list celebrity finished at the same time. The marshals are trying to help the girl who is devastated she got beaten by Road Runner. 

My face hurts from smiling too much. My legs are fine. Did I crowd surf the marathon?

Road Runner in Trafalgar Square
London Marathon medal

I've Done London

Scott informs me that he did not see too many costumes. However, there was a carrot who was absolutely storming it. Also, a lobster beat me by a good ten minutes. So runners, the majority of us can share that 'I got beaten by a (insert ridiculous costume here)' feeling. 

No, I did not get my medal handed to me by one of the royals. I had already finished a burger and had two pints before they bothered to show up and hand out five minutes of medals. I even wore my mental health charity headband that all runners were give. Sadly, some runners were too serious for this. I managed... and I already had a hat on!  

Thanks to everyone who stood for hours out on the course to cheer on their friends, family and strangers. in some ways the London Marathon is like a free ride; the cheers carry you so far you don't really need to put too much effort into the running!

My advice for running London would be; unless you are an elite athlete, it is a fun run. Enjoy yourself, don't stress about your time and weaving. I have also embraced the post-London thing. Scott and I rode the train back to Edinburgh on the Sunday evening after the marathon; I was dressed as Road Runner and still wearing my medal. I wouldn't do that after an ultra but people will offer their congratulations if you have run London so go for it!

And where was Wile E Coyote? Well, Scott realised that wearing a giant tube of dynamite on his back to support the London Marathon might get him arrested so decided against it! Costume ideas for next year welcome!

Road Runner playing on escalators with Nicole 

All the Funny Stats

I was given an official time of 3:25. It's no world record (or would it have been...)
The stats are funny;
  • In the first 32km I passed 4440 people and 365 passed me. Given that it only took me three minutes to get across the start line and I started earlier than I should have because my race entry time was much faster, soooo many people went off crazy fast!
  • In the last 7km I passed 788 people and eight passed me. Work out these stats by kilometre.
  • I beat 80% of men. Currently getting an ab workout from the laughter.
  • Overall I was 5461st out of 33933. All that tells us is that there were a lot of non starters or non finishers.
  • 4% of women were ahead of me. Go the ladies!! Assuming that was the entire elite field right?


Help, My Chip Didn't Work!

Never fear, I emailed them the same day and within a week they had not only given me a chip time but also a whole bunch of splits. Whether they were actually my splits, I didn't know as I did not run with a watch. But it didn't really matter, I just wanted an official time so I can get an automatic entry for next year! Interestingly, the put two chips on the important folk so chip failure must be common. 

If it happens to you, just email them with the following;
- your number
- start line
- finishing chute (left, middle, right etc.)
- clock finish time estimate
- any photos

I had a photo that I took before I crossed the start (because I was so excited) that showed the clock time and some photos that both myself and others had taken. If you zoomed in on the photos, you could see I was wearing my chip. 

A week later, I provided some quality support at the West Highland Fling race!

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 h...