One of my first blogs had me talking through my early running days. This was partly to give a bit of context in case someone popped by that hadn’t heard it all before (possibly more than once). It also turned out to be a bit of a fun – if self indulgent – trip down memory lane, so I wanted to pick up from where that left off. Part One is here.
After finally running my first marathon in 2014 on the doorstep of where I grew up in the ‘no bad’ Loch Ness surrounds, what to do next? It’s pretty hard to top that sort of scenery. Well, my over-eagerness meant I didn’t have to think about it – I was already signed up to run in Florence just seven weeks later!
Florence is stunning. It’s a pretty small city in the grand scheme of things, but while I couldn’t even begin to do it justice, there’s enough art, history, architecture and delicious food to keep anyone happy. And Michelangelo’s David is here, which could be reason enough in itself to visit.
As for the running; I was starting from the back as I didn’t have a ‘previous best’ at the time of entry. If anything, this helped control my early pace. I wasn’t trying to beat my Loch Ness time here, I just wanted a steady-paced race where I didn’t die in the last 7 miles…I was travelling alone, so no one to collect the pieces if it all went wrong! I ran a pretty evenly paced race through some narrow, cobbled streets, with a slight negative split thanks to the slow start. I was delighted at not having to stop and walk at any point, and the real race highlight was running over the Ponte Vecchio around 40km.
A really fun race, and great having people shout “Scozia!” enthusiastically shouted at me thanks to the little flag on my race bib. Oh, and the time: a 3:32, two minutes down on Loch Ness but a much more enjoyable running experience!
And so plans were made for the spring 2015. I would go back to Inverness, and that would be my tune up for a second foreign marathon, this time in Paris. The Inverness HM is a lumpy course, but fortunately most of the “up lump” is early. I’d hoped to improve on Silverstone from a year before, and took myself a little by surprise to dip under 90 minutes (by 7 seconds!) for the first time, knocking nearly 5 minutes off my previous best. Nothing was wiping the smile off my face on the train journey home!
Paris got me a marathon time I’d been after at Loch Ness, a 3:24 I felt I was capable of but didn’t have the experience to help convert during my first. It was a hot day, but I felt good. It was also a weekend where I met a group of folk who are simultaneously brilliant and make me do bad things like sign up for daft races in daft places. Ach, they’re okay really…
Other stuff went something like:
- ran Edinburgh to North Berwick 20 mile Road Race
- first sub-19 5k in the Scottish Road Champs in April (on the same ground I got my first sub-20)
- 10k PB at Penicuik in May(41:3x)
- ran a horrible Edinburgh Marathon…rotten pacing, but also a windy day and a dull course. Don’t do it to yourself!
- Completed the Seven Hills of Edinburgh race in 2h 15, ticking off ‘a silly thing I quite fancied doing’
- new 10k PB in Musselburgh in July (41:0x)
And that lead to my first marathon “major” in Berlin (the others being London, New York, Boston, Chicago and Tokyo, in no particular order). I was jammy enough to get a place through the ballet, and my good friend who’d ran the half there with me before was back for his first marathon. The target? Another PB, of course!
I left it so late to arrange travel that the cheapest way to do it was to fly in to Prague, train to Berlin [,run marathon,] then train to Hamburg and back. The bit in the middle was a bit of a blur, but the race went better than I’d hoped.
I paced steady early, partly helped by an unbelievably busy start down the Tiergarten, and increased the pace bit by bit as I had more confidence. My last 5k were the quickest of the race, and each of those last kilometres themselves were faster than the last. While Chester the following year was quicker, this was an incredibly satisfying run in a brilliant city. (Time, 3:20:xx, then a PB)
To top it off, my friend finished the race, was still able to walk, and later proposed to his boyfriend! Celebratory drinks were had…quite the weekend!
I then went and broke my HM PB a week later at the Great Scottish Run in Glasgow, with a 1:27:23, and no, this wasn’t the year with the short course! I put it down to the euphoria keeping me together.
I ended the year with a bit of a change, in taking on the seven sister in the Beachy Head marathon, starting and finishing in Eastbourne. Bloody hell, that’s a tough course. It felt mighty satisfying to get round – with lots of walking involved – and a totally different experience when you’re not chasing a time.
I’m guilty of putting a lot of pressure on myself to achieve certain things in my running, and if you’re like me, I’d urge you to look at something like this, or Snowdonia as an entirely different way to challenge yourself. The views make it worthwhile, and the pain’s only temporary…I could walk within a week!