Running takes you places in the world that you may never get to go to otherwise. For the Glasgow2Edinburgh Ultramarathon that place was Ruchill Park in Glasgow. Fabby. I remember travelling to Glasgow on a bus for work during one of my first weeks in Scotland and seeing the tall building blocks come into view as we approached the outskirts of the city. I was awfully confused as to why these giant office blocks were not based in the CBD and declared them illegal when I found out that they were for housing! At least here there is a large park. I hope there aren't any locals hoping to come out for a family picnic today though as there's no toilets and about 200 nervous ultrarunners constantly nipping in and out of those flower beds...
I've forgotten to bring the right forms as I spent too much time trying to make a decision as to which backpack to take. There's a bit of compulsory kit to carry but I've been loving the VapourShape. Obviously I didn't do a trial pack the night before as I was far too busy making pasta for my drop bag, so was shoving foil blankets and baby wipes in and out of bags at 6am in the morning. The final result was that I had happily managed to put everything in my VapourShape as planned but then had to run to the station to make the train on time. My biggest concern of the day now became whether I could run to the station fast enough to also get a coffee for the train. Folks, I am pleased to tell you that I managed it. Two successes already and it wasn't even 7am. Today was going to be just swell. Although I have forgotten my flash cards for studying for my exam tomorrow. Darn.
Clashing with John Duncan
Keep the canal to your right. That's about all there is to it. I will do my best with that but I'll make no promises. The race starts so we run. It is flat. There's a bit of misty rain action. Johnny Fling and I run together, he's using me for pacing and I'm using him for protection. There could be undesirables about and I don't fancy jumping in for a swim in order to save myself. He's also saving beanies. The first one's owner turns around quickly and gets it returned promptly but another I carry back to Edinburgh giving it a fine view of the canal by attaching it to the back of my backpack. Weight training folks.
Auchinstarry Bridge (CP1) 13 miles
The first checkpoint comes along at about half marathon distance. I actually assumed that we had already covered that distance prior as my legs are a bit sore. This is probably due to our pace which I estimate to be high-rate plodding and therefore faster than I would normally go.
Johnny Flinger stops to powder his face and I continue on in search for a bathroom. Oops, I was supposed to phone Scott to tell him that I was here so he knows to get on a train. My phone is in the top inside pocket of my bag. Picture this folks; right arm up over my shoulder, move zip over, left arm over shoulder, continue pulling zip, repeat with inside zip, grab ziplock bag, open, grab phone, call Scott, leave voice message, right arm back over, source pocket, ziplock bag in, left arm over, find zip, pull across, repeat. I feel amazing. That is one of the my biggest achievements to date.
Photo thanks to Helen
I spend the next ten miles constantly looking left at the shrubs in the hope of hearing the tell-tale toilet sound of Celine Dion blasting from the bushes. None. At one point I chat to a guy from Forfar which gets me uber excited. Unfortunately, he's a bit more conservative at a road crossing than me so I don't get to ask him about how many of Scott's family he knows or what he thinks of Forfar's new Gregg's store. It'll be ok though, as there will be a bathroom soon and then John and Forfar-dude can catch me up and chat can recommence. Pace estimation is now a persistent, forceful plod.
Bathroom spot! No, that looks like a reasonably major road there. Plod on. Another attempt. Oops, creek. Just saved myself from diving on in there. You know what, this is just going to have to do. Cliff-side. Johnny Fling flies past screaming some abusive comment. Back on track, we come around the corner. Now I've never been here before but that is unmistakingly the Falkirk Wheel with an accompanying bathroom block. I feel like a right dick.
Falkirk (CP2) 22 miles
Someone helpful hands me my drop bag and I dig out my pre-cooked chicken mug shot pasta with plastic fork. All mushed in a plastic bag looking delicious. I didn't realise until this morning that I didn't have a pottle to put the pasta in so had to go for the zip-lock bag option. This will prove to be a good decision when I can't find a rubbish bin further on and need to stuff it in the front pocket with my drink bottle. I chase Johnny Fling down through a tunnel. There's a bigger tunnel to come though.
Spooky tunnel time. I start off relatively confident. Then I think that there are no more railings and that I am going to fall in. I try to get my headtorch out of my bag but I wobble, panic and decide not to make any drastic sideways body movements. Not so good with my octopus arms now am I. John-ster helps me out with some lighting for a bit and then just leaves me crying to myself.
Thankfully for everyone involved, I make it out alive and rewarded myself with a waffle. I was due for dessert anyway. John is not feeling too well and has dropped off the pace a little. I carry on, eager to meet Scott further along the canal to swap over my drink bottle and pass over my dutifully carried pasta plastic bag slush.
There's been a bit of mud action. It's not dramatic, I just need to be careful where I place my feet as my baby toe won't appreciate any sudden landings requiring it's strength. We've had no problems so far. Things in general are working at a moderate level which is harder than I'd usually like to be working halfway through a run but I truck on and pick off other runners slowly as I head towards Linlithgow. I've been able to see a guy in a white top for a while in the distance who has also been pacing other runners at the same pace as me. I make a note to myself not to pass him before Linlithgow but he stops to try and sneak in a wee walk. There's a sign under a bridge for the Linlithgow Golf Club so I tell him to fake it a bit longer until we get into the checkpoint. Easy for me to say as I know I am getting more supplies here from Scott :)
Linlithgow (CP3) 34 miles
Rab Lee is hanging out at the checkpoint causing trouble and evading the paparazzi. Rumour has it he was trialling an animal suit... I've now managed to get a sticky face from a combination of custard, coke and milk being splashed about haphazardly. I purchased a return ticket from Edinburgh this morning which means that this is my last chance to use that ticket and bail out as there are no more train stations that I know of. It's not that I was being negative about my prospects this morning, I like to think of it as being realistic. How far can you go with an extra stone and counting the stairs to your flat as your weekly exercise? We shall soon find out. And so far, further than I thought! Super-fabulous.
Linlithgow custard stop
And then I feel like rubbish. I must have been mentally holding onto that Linlithgow checkpoint. Ada's coming towards me with a whip. I use some bad language. The legs are tired. Estimated pace; spiralling plod.
White t-shirt guy is named Lee Wallington from Bristol and we spend the next hour chatting races, self-employment and seeing the world. We didn't actually exchange names but his chat was good so I stalked him via Google. Turns out we were both at the Tooting Bec 24 hour race a few years ago simultaneously having terrible experiences so he was a little bit easier to find. Lee smacked out six 100-milers last summer. That's pretty epic. Unfortunately, I need to use the bathroom and have to bail rather suddenly.
The field has really thinned out and it's a bit lonely not having anyone even in the distance. I have exams tomorrow so try to do a bit of revision in my head. I wonder if being presented with my running kit is going to become a conditioned motivating operation reflexive after this? Alright, that's enough study done. Broxburn will be coming up soon and I better have my wits about me when running through there. Better to be safe than sorry too, so better punch the pace up a wee bit.
Oh, and just for a wee bit of perspective, the lead runners have already finished. Thankfully, I didn't work this out at the time because that would have been mighty depressing. Although rumour has it that Marco is running sub three hour marathons. I think that's probably just because he has longer legs than me.
Broxburn (CP4) 42 miles
I've made no secret of the fear that I get when running through Broxburn. Keziah greets me with an epic cheer and hug. Or maybe I hug her as she's trying to do her job recording numbers and preventing drunks from pinching the oranges. The memory is a bit foggy. There's more runners wiped out on the side of the canal getting their feet fixed. That seems to be a recurring theme at the checkpoints today. I don't have anything to do so I carry on. Lee stopped at the checkpoint before me so I am hoping that he'll catch me up shortly.
Keziah told me that the second lady wasn't feeling too well and that I would catch her. My care factor for catching her is zero. There's still a good possibility of me throwing the towel in and walking the rest of the way. What am I even doing as third woman? That's ridiculous. Unfortunately, I turn the corner and pass another lady as she is walking. Bugger-ness. I guess that's unavoidable now and I have to trundle past.
A bright-shirted young guy is running along ahead getting some words of encouragement from his father who is riding a bicycle. He should really let him have a turn. Bicycle father asks me if I have had a second wind or if I've been running this pace the whole way. I've no idea, I assume it's still the Broxburn fear within me.
Further on a runner is admiring the view from a bridge. Don't jump dude, it's not that bad. Soon we'll be able to source a bus home if we wanted to! Truck on folks, not far to Ratho. I get a holler from the pub coming in. Where was my coffee Helen?!
Coffee or beer please?
Ratho (CP5) 47 miles
This mileage is quite an accomplishment. Fifty miles is the most weekly mileage I have done since I ran 75 miles in the Glenmore race in September. Some would call it cheating to use your races as your big running weeks rather than actually training but I like to think of myself as multi-tasking.
I get some help adding water to my drink bottle. I tend to lose feeling in the extremities after running a while. A guy is phoning in his beer order to his pals waiting at the end. Or phoning his wife to get the bairn ready and pick him up. Personally, I would have called my pals instead for the beer but he'd already started the call. There's a guy in white that I can see ahead. I really fancy a chat but I can't seem to gain on him. He also keeps looking behind him which makes me think that he doesn't want me to catch him. Which also means he's unlikely to want to chat when I DO catch him! Oh, he's gone left. The canal is not left. Bush is left. Oh, I see. He's been conscious of where I was as he needed to use the little boy's room. That's uber polite. I probably shouldn't hang about the bush waiting for him though. That'd look well dodgy.
Booyah! That's me running over the Edinburgh bypass. I am jolly pleased with myself too. I do a few fist pumps to myself as I am trucking along, all alone. I haven't seen another runner since my last pal went bush. I am in a glorious mood when I see Sarah on the canal and scream unintelligible words at her and the bypass and the upcoming oasis of Sighthill. Some may think of Sighthill as bearing a resemblance to Broxburn but I used to work with a client there so I have a wee bit of a soft spot for it. Last year I worked there on Sunday mornings so have done many a run from this base. Unfortunately, not many of them were on the canal. Because canals are boring.
There's no time to be getting comfortable though as we're coming into Westerhailes. I pump a few weights at the outdoor gym, leap over a few Rottweilers and truck on. There's been a red t-shirt ahead of me for ages that I have been trying to catch for a chat. He stops to walk on a few cobbles and suddenly I'm there and smack bang into another runner walking. I try to urge red t-shirt on as he had been running strongly but he needs a break. The other runner gives me the pleasure of his company. I see a sign saying two miles to go but I am not sure whether that is going to be viewed as good news or bad news so I keep quiet. After a bit he also needs to take a walking break. I can't stop though as I know I won't start again. This part of the canal is reasonably familiar to me and with cyclists and families about there's no letting up now. I am careful to put my feet down flat and strong once I get on the cobbles to prevent any rolling onto my baby toe. There's a sign saying I am nearly there! People are cheering although I can't see the finish chute, am I going to have to run to the door of the pub?! How convenient.
Super chuffed. It's not dark yet so I will have come in under ten and a half hours. That's brilliant. I'm really proud of running the whole way. My teammate Stevie came in third, just a minute behind second. Apparently I came in second female, presumably three light years behind Fionna Ross. That totally counts as a win to me. It's about 5.30pm. I've run it in eight and a half hours. I need to lay down. Preferably on that massage table.
Sandra McDougall has bought treaties. I come off the massage table to find that Donald is eating the last donut reserved for me. I believe he's going to get a box of Krispy Kremes delivered to me as compensation. Plain glazed are my favourite thanks.
I speak to my white-shirted pal that went bush. He's a Bosnian living in Austria and has brought his family over for the weekend. He didn't plan on running but after a day in Glasgow, he knew he had to get out somehow... Red t-shirt comes in with a sprint finish. Lee comes in with the guy who called his wife instead of his pals. It's happy days all round.
I'd been finished a while before the ladies pointed out that my hair was a riot. Disaster. I head to the pub to cure the pain. I live a short walk from the finish. Delightful.
My toe wasn't problematic during the run at all. Once the running shoes were off, the foot swelled but is back down already. My lack of running reared it's head early on but I really enjoyed it. A very satisfying experience. Thanks to the race organiser James for dealing with my disorganisation in the lead up and letting me know when a space became available only a few weeks before. Thanks to the supporters and volunteers. Some parts of the canal were quite isolated so the check points really gave me a burst of energy. Thanks to Scott for dealing with a bit of train chaos and still remembering to get me my new Osmo/almond milk combination obsession for post-race recover (before the beers people).
You'll be pleased to know I took my exam the next day and got a stellar exam result. Must have been all that study I did during the race.