Race Report: The Great North Run 2015

Race Report: The Great North Run 2015

Date: 13th September 2015

Profile: Flat

Terrain: Road

Weather: Warm and sunny

Website: greatrun.org

Positives: excellent organisation, first class support, seems like the whole of Newcastle, Gateshead and South Shields get behind the event

Negatives: I hate to complain about sunshine, but it was unanticipated, and I could have done without it!

As with many runners, the Great North Run has been on my bucket list for years. I had secured a lace last year, but had to defer after I picked up an injury. So, I felt more than ready and a bit overwhelmed as the date for this race came around. To add to all of that, the news that Mo Farah was running just made it even more special.

The lead up to the event was great, with frequent emails from the Great Run team and numerous social media posts about the event really meant I was looking forward to it, and very excited. @TheWelshWookie and I had booked the ‘coach, sleep and run’ package from Glasgow, via Nirvana Europe, and we didn’t quite know what to expect. We knew that our accommodation would be in Newcastle University halls of residence, which were very near the start line, and we were open to just seeing how the weekend turned out. It was excellent, and I can’t recommend the Nirvana Europe package highly enough.

We arrived at Buchanan Bus Station on Saturday morning, and spotted our bus right away:  

 We were first at the bus stance, but before long, a few other runners arrived. There were 10 of us on the bus, and it was a great crowd of friendly, supportive runners – as I’m sure you’d expect. Due to the low numbers, the coach had been subbed for a minibus (albeit a nice, comfy one), and our driver, Frank introduced himself. He’d been drafted in at short notice, and – to be honest – didn’t have much of a clue about where he was going. But, being a friendly bunch, mobiles were used as sat navs, to get us to where we were going.

Anyway, we made it to Newcastle, and to our digs, which were at Castle Leazes. We were warmly welcomed, and headed to the check in area where we were given our room keys and a goody bag:  

  That was a lovely wee surprise! There were plenty of staff on hand to continue with the welcome, and to make sure we found our rooms ok. The rooms were basic, as you’d expect, but ideal, with a bed, sink, desk, shelves, etc. There was plenty of tea and coffee available in the communal kitchen area, which was welcome.  

 In the evening, @TheWelshWookie and I headed out into the city, to find our bearings. We easily found the start line, and snapped a picture of what would be the start muster in only a few hours:  

 We then wandered through the city centre, and down to see the iconic landmarks at the quayside, such as the millennium bridge, and the Sage building:  

 We noticed that there was someone on the roof of the Sage building. Imagine our surprise when we got home and watched back the coverage to discover that it was none other than fellow runner and thoroughly good bloke, Professor Brian Cox, recording the opening scenes for the TV coverage! 😀   

  After a quick bite to eat, we took a lovely stroll up past St James’ Park, and back to the halls of residence for an early night. 

 As ever, I had my race gear ready to go the night before: 

 We were up at a decent time, and had arranged to get our bags back to the mini bus at 8am, so that Frank could get the bus out before the roads were closed, and we arranged to all meet back at the South Shields pick up point by 3pm or 3.30pm for departure. We then went to the refectory for breakfast. There was a brilliant spread: while we stuck to our usual breakfast of fruit and yoghurt, there was plenty of porridge and bananas being consumed, as well as some folks enjoying a full cooked breakfast 😮

Wee were grateful for the Newcastle Uni goody bags, as we could use these for some snacks and a change of clothes at the finish line. The forecast was for grey, cloudy skies and cool temperatures, so I thought we’d need something warm to change into. It had been very chilly when we put our bags onto the mini bus. Little did we know that this was going to change!

But, as we had decided to take bags, we had to get these onto the baggage buses by 10.10am. So, at around 9.50am, we strolled up to the start area, which had been totally transformed from the evening before. We easily found the right buses, and stashed our bags. I remembered to take a photo in case I couldn’t remember where the bags were:  

  And then we made our way into the starting pen. As we did so, the sun broke through the clouds, and the heat began to build. There were plenty of large screens by each pen, which was fantastic: it really kept you entertained as you waited. I also did my first ever Periscope broadcast, and having watched it back, I definitely need to give more thought to what I’m doing in future. It was fun 🙂

    
  Anyway, we watched the start of the ladies’ race and the ‘wheels of steel’ wheelchair race, and eventually it as time for the start of the men’s and mass participation race. I was great to watch Mo Farah et al actually start, knowing we’d be passing through the start soon! Then, the Red Arrows were overhead, and looked fantastic: 

 Well, when I say soon, it took our wave over half an hour to get to the start line! As we walked towards the start, there was a real mixture of excitement and a touch of angst as I realised that the sun was staying out, and I had no sun cream on. Ooops!

The support right from the beginning was amazing. As we ran through the tunnels and underpasses of the first mile or two, there was a lot of supportive ‘Oggie, oggie, oggies’ which was amazing! I had such a huge smile on my face!

The support as we ran over the Tyne Bridge was unbelievable – the streets were full, and nowhere on the course was unsupported. As we got to mile three, we had an impromptu pit stop so the ‘TheWelshWookie’ could use the facilities. And then, at mile four, it was my turn to stop. But, I stopped at the St. John’s Ambulance tent, in search of some sun cream. Fortunately, they carry sachets of Factor 30, God bless them!

Once I was suitably smothered in cream, we could get back to the run, and into our rhythm. After two early stops, and a crowded field, as well as a hot, hot day, we decided to just take the run easy, and make the most of it – savour the atmosphere. And that’s what we did.

We waved as we passed charity buses, we sang along as we passed the many music points, including joining in with ‘Sex on Fire’ and ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ amongst other tunes. We high fived many, many kids who lined the route. It was awesome!

We were blown away by the support. And the food! Wow! I have never seen so many people with so much food for runners. Yes, there were tons of jelly babies and jelly beans. But there were also people handing out ice lollies and ice poles, polo mints, fresh lemonade, a young guy even offered us a can of Strongbow! 😉

Our favourite was the lady offering fresh sausage rolls, telling us that they were lovely – she sounded just like Sarah Millican! 😉 It was just awesome!

I won’t say that this race flew by – it didn’t. Miles 6 – 9 did, but there were a couple of tough points, too, particularly the hill at mile 11. It wasn’t as bad as I had expected, but it was tough. Just then, the Red Arrows were back overhead, and their aerial display really kept us entertained.

Then, there was the downhill stretch towards the sea, which was tough on the joint at that stage, and we found ourselves running the final mile along the water front. The support was outstanding.
We could hear music behind us, getting closer, and as it did so, it changed to ‘Uptown Funk’. Just what we needed for the final stretch! So, there we were, belting it out as we ran along the front, when we realised that the music was from a runner pushing another participant in a wheelchair. Wowee! And, yes, they did overtake us!

Then we were at the finish, and we crossed the line, in true Mobot style. Wow. I have goosebumps thinking about it now 🙂

There was a short walk from the finish to the medal collection, where @TheWelshWookie and I had to split up, as we were funnelled through the finish by t-shirt size. I collected my medal, give to me by a young guy with a hearty ‘well done’, which he must have said hundreds or thousands of times already.

We met back up again, and then walked to the baggage buses to retrieve our gear. There was a huge changing area, which was great, as I could get into some comfy clothes for the bus journey home. We then made our way to the bus, to find that only two guys had gotten there before us! So, we had time to chill out, have some snacks, and enjoy the sun, before boarding the bus back to Glasgow.

Here’s a map of the race: 

  Our stats: 2:39:01 my slowest HM to date, but that didn’t matter in the slightest

The Medal: 

 Goody Bag: Lucozade, water, crisps, cereal bar, samples and leaflets: 

 T-shirt: A pretty cool finisher’s medal. Excuse the wild hair – I’d taken off my visor, and the wind picked up just as I was having my pic taken! 😮  

  
I had left my Nike SportWatch in my room (which the staff kindly returned to me), so I used my Nike App to record the run. I’m not sure what happened, as it recorded the run as almost 15 miles!

I can understand why people rate the GNR so highly. I really is the King of Half Marathons. If you ever get the chance to run it, take that opportunity! And if you have run it, what were your thoughts about it? I’d love to hear them.

Monday Motivation

Monday Motivation

How are you all feeling after the weekend? Did you manage a run?

For us, we had our local running weekend. It kicked off on the Friday, with the ‘Dookers Dash’ races for children. By all accounts it was great fun, with t-shirts and medals for all! Unfortunately, I missed it, as work got in the way, as it does 😉

However, Saturday morning broke with beautiful sunshine, which was a lovely change! The Tarbert 5K and 10K is now in it’s third year, and the previous two years have been wet and miserable – particularly last year. So, the sunshine made a welcome visit, and we headed into the village, ready to run.

When we had collected our bibs the night before, I had said that we had to get some extra mileage in to keep our half marathon training on track. One of the wonderful race organisers, Lorraine, suggested that we tag along at the back of the 5k, before getting the 10k done. What a brilliant idea!

So that’s exactly what we did. We ran the fast, flat 5k route, but took it easy, and stayed towards the back of the pack. Then we had a quick change into fresh tops and trail shoes for the mixed surface 10k. And it was fantastic! As ever, the support, the marshalling and the organisation was second to none – these girls can give the big events a good run for a lot more money! We did the 5k in 33.15, which, even though it was taking it easy, was 3 minutes faster than my recent ParkRun time. Woop!

I don’t want to go into any more detail now – I’ll save that for my race report. But if you’re after a challenging, multi terrain 10K which is well organised and supported, I’d tell you to add this one onto your list. Well worth it, especially for the gorgeous tablet at the end!

I feel like our half marathon training is going OK after Saturday. @TheWelshWookie and I had lost some ground last week due to having nasty colds, but running the two races on Saturday really boosted my confidence. I think we could easily have gone further had we wanted to. I want to get out at least three times this week, maybe four if we can, as I won’t get a long run in this Saturday. We’ll do a final long run of 10 or 11 miles or so a week on Saturday, and then we should be all ready for our first Great North Run. Yay!

If you need a little boost to get you out the door this week, here it is:  

 Have a wonderful week!

Race Report: The Inaugural Carradale Canter 10K

Race Report: The Inaugural Carradale Canter 10K

Date: 12th July 2015

Profile: Undulating

Terrain: Mixed: road, sand and trail

Weather: Warm and sunny

Website: https://www.facebook.com/greatcarradalecanter

Positives: brilliant course, with a mix of hills, flat, beach, road and trail. Excellent support, awesome views

Negatives: not a negative, but a quick field on a difficult course left me fourth from last 😮

Carradale is a picturesque village nestled on the east coast of the Kintyre peninsula, some 25 miles south of Tarbert. It’s blessed with a lovely harbour (with a working fishing fleet) as well as a golden sandy beach and a great network of forestry trails. If you read my post about crewing for Julia at the Kintyre Way ultra, you’ll perhaps remember that Carradale is also located on the Kintyre Way.

As ever, I had my race gear ready to go the night before:  Fortunately, the race wasn’t an early one as it was scheduled for an 11.30 am start (I’m assuming this might be to do with the tide, making the beach section easier to run), and so this morning we had plenty of time to get ready, have breakfast and the drive the long and winding road to Carradale (yes, THE ‘long and winding road’ that Paul McCartney wrote about 😉 )

The sun was shining as we arrived in Carradale. We parked in the primary school car park, and as we were doing so, waved to the marshals we knew, who were having their briefing. We walked to the harbour for registration, and as we walked, saw that the village was a little hillier than we had remembered!

The registration area was pretty busy when we got there, and when we checked in, I realised that I’d been given bib number one! Wowee! I realised, looking around at the other runners, that I might actually be the first runner with bib #1 to finish last 😮 

  
We checked our bags, then chatted to other runners as we waited for the race briefing, and everyone was relaxed and having fun. Then we had a short walk to the start of the 10K, where we had our race briefing. Instructions today included things like ‘watch out for adders’ and ‘beware of the mud’…. I knew this was going to be an interesting race!

Here’s a map of the race:

 The race was started by a countdown and a starter’s pistol, and we were straight onto the road leading back into the village – and it was a tough hill! It got the legs working from the start. TheWelshWookie and I knew we’d be slow, and so we kept to the back of the pack. The support was great from the start, with villagers out in their gardens to support us all.

We soon turned off to the left, and headed down a country lane to the beach – my first ever race section on the beach! Although it was tough, I surprised myself, because I really enjoyed it – I had a smile plastered on my face. A lady asked to take our picture (I think she liked the skort). She had camera problems, but we stopped and waited, to let her take a snap – I think we were happy for the break, but it did cost us a couple of minutes (not that time was a concern for us). I loved dodging the jelly fish and the flotsam and jetsam, and before we knew it we were back onto a track road, and heading for the forestry section.

The forestry part was great – lovely and cool, shaded, soft underfoot. We were soon way behind the pack, and had the run to ourselves. We didn’t see any adders, but were treated to an awesome aerial display by a golden eagle – lucky us 😀

Next was a short section back on the road before heading onto the kintyre way at the Network Centre (you’ll see pictures in my blog post here), and then we were at the hilly part – a steep climb up a forestry track to the highest point of the race. Well, that got the heart going! We walked it, unsurprisingly! Next was a great downhill section for about a kilometre along forestry roads.

Finally, we had the last section: into the village along the main road, back along a side road, up a short grassy hill, down a track, through a field, over a style and then onto the harbour road, where we could see the finish line 🙂

We reached the finish line to a somewhat subdued welcome – but we were not far from last, and people had been waiting to see the finishers for a looooong time by then, so I’m thankful they stayed!

I was handed a goody bag which contained the medal, and grabbed a bottle of water. Other runners were really chatty, and we had a great catch up with quite a few people about how we’d found the run, and how amazingly scenic it was.

TheWelshWookie and I then headed to the barbecue, and joined the burger queue. As we were waiting, the prize giving was taking place. So while we cheered and clapped for the winners, I didn’t manage to take any pictures. Sorry! We were in the queue with Karen, one of our fellow SUPercisers, which was fab. We enjoyed our burgers in glorious sunshine, watching a seal play in the harbour, before heading home to Tarbert. On the walk back to the car we chatted with Gail from Campbeltown about running adventures, and I was struck once again as to how friendly and supportive runners are of each other. 

 Our stats: 1:17:17. My, my – slow, even by my slow standards! No matter, it was worth it.

 The Medal: Engraved, and it came with stickers to add your time to it. No, don’t think I’ll do that!

 Goody Bag: banana, bottle of water and an ace buff style scarf!

 T-shirt: None, but no problem with that

When I got home, I uploaded my run and was greeted with this milestone:

  
And right away, I reset my Nike Coach for the Great North Run training – nine weeks today! :O

I’d definitely do this run again. You’d never know it was an inaugural event as it was so well organised and supported. Roll on next year’s event!

Marshalling the MOK Half Marathon

Marshalling the MOK Half Marathon

2015 marked the 10th Anniversary of the fantastic Mull of Kintyre half marathon and 10k. Two years ago, I PBd at the 10k, and that PB still stands :). The lasting memory I have is of the fantastic support from the crowds and the marshals. @TheWelshWookie and I were signed up and training to run the half marathon this year, but due to a few issues we ended up withdrawing. Instead of being negative about it, though, we turned it into a positive and volunteered to marshal instead 😀 
So, at 9.30 this morning, we found ourselves in Campbeltown, at the Victoria Hall, being allocated our spot. As we walked to the hall, we enjoyed watching people set up:  

 Knowing that we might not get the chance to see the finish line later, I took a quick snap:  

 The actual finish was just past the war memorial, tucked just out of sight from the finishing straight. The organisation was great, the briefing was very professional and covered most issues:  

   The route begins and ends in the town centre, while the main race takes runners out of town, along West Port beach, past the world class Machrihanish golf course, Campbeltown Airport (one of the short listed sites for the UKs space port due to its massive runway) and back into town. Our point was just before mile 9, not long after the tough-on-the-legs beach section.

We stocked up on jelly babies before we set off, knowing that , with 1/3 to go, a sugar rush might just be what runners need 😉

Our spot was  great: we could watch the runners come along the main road just before mile 4, on their way out to the beach, long before they got to us. Here’s our view of the road: 

We were parked in a lay by, so I enjoyed taking some pics of the cows in the left hand field and the sheep in the right hand field:   

   Oops- the cows seem to have been a lil camera shy- sorry! 

Before we knew it, the leading runner was in sight, running the straight which was gently climbing up towards us:  

  the next couple of hours flew by, as we clapped, cheered, supported and offered jelly babies to the intrepid runners. The thanks, chats and support we received was incredible, and really humbling. All of the runners did so well.

All too soon, we were stood down and all marshals were invited back for complimentary coffee and Danish pastries. Never ones to turn down free food 😉  we made our way back to the finish line. The tent was busy, and everyone was in good spirits;   

  

 The pastries were soooo worth it!

We stayed for a short while, supporting runners as they crossed the finish line, while jealously eyeing up the medals and goody bags that could have been ours. Oh, well, there’s always next year 😉

We had a brilliant time, and can’t wait to run it again in 2016.

Volunteers and Marshals

Volunteers and Marshals

This weekend will be the third race in a row where I have marshaled or helped, rather than running. I’m really looking forward to it.

First, was the Inveraray Jail Break which was great fun, and very wet. Next was manning a checkpoint and crewing for Julia at the Kintyre Way ultra.

Sunday brings the fantastic Mull of Kintyre half marathon and10K. We are registered for the half, however life got in the way, training was derailed and so we’re marshaling instead. 

Volunteering to help has been a huge positive for me. My mojo has returned from its wee trek away, and I have a new found appreciation for race organisers and runners too. 

There’s a new campaign launched to highlight the need for volunteers, supporters and marshals, and it’s being supported by Jo Pavey: If you haven’t already, check out joininuk for more information.

If you’re running the MOK on Sunday, look out for me: I’ll have jelly babies, and plenty of vocal support! 😉 

The Inveraray Jail Break

The Inveraray Jail Break

I woke up early this morning: after yesterday’s paddle boarding escapades, I didn’t want to accidentally sleep in. I opened one eye, a little worried that the forecast snow may have arrived. I got up, peeped out of the window, and was surprised to see that it was only wet. Huh, yes, only wet.

@TheWelshWookie was already up, so we had breakfast and got ready for our morning of marshalling. I layered up: winter running tights, long sleeved running top, running socks……. And, no, I wasn’t actually running today! I added a fleece sweater, welly socks, water proofs, hat, scarf, gloves and wellies. We were out the door and on our way to Inveraray. 🙂

About an hour later, we arrived. We parked up, and finished getting ready. My outfit was completed with one of @TheWookie’s fluorescent work jackets- no one was going to miss us. The briefing was scheduled for 10am, so we made our way to Inveraray Jail. On the way we were stopped twice- once by someone who held up traffic just wanting to know what was going on, and then by a runner wanting to know about parking.

Here’s the start of the race, outside the jail: I should point out that the Jail is now a museum, which is well worth a visit. I’m sure I’ve shared pictures before 😉

Registration and briefings were held inside, which was just as well because the rain was torrential. We knew we were in for a soaking- but we were well prepared for that. 

 Fee, the wonderful race organiser (and jog Scotland leader, and cycling organiser, phew! Some how I missed taking a pic of her!) gave us our briefing, handing out emergency contact details and advice. Everything was so well organised: we even had a lift to our marshalling point!

Off we went, into cars, up to Inveraray Castle. We reached the marquee, and thought we’d be walking to our point. But, no, further transportation had been provided! There before us was a vehicle and trailer for us all to pile into! Now, I didn’t manage a proper picture of the actual vehicle, but it was like this, with a trailer attached. I think ours was bigger:  

We loaded up: I was in the trailer, and off we went! 😀 it was brilliant! I did remember then to take a quick snap: 

We were positioned at a gate, and were first to be dropped off. Here’s the wee truck as it left us, climbing upwards: 
We had around half an hour until the race started, so we had a good chat- in the rain- and got ready. Here’s our view- the runners came along the road in the distance before beginning their ascent: 

And, of course, I had time to pose 😉 

It was soon 11am, and only 6 minutes 30 seconds later the first runners were already reaching us, and we were well past the 2k mark. Wow! So impressive!

There were three races: one for full jail breakers, one for junior jail breakers and a kids race. The first two races came up past us- the full race made its way up to Dun Na Cuaiche, where they were rewarded with fabulous views and the skirl of the pipes 😀

Here’s Dun Na Cuaiche, from the finish- it’s at the top of the hill, I’m sure you can make it out: 

We really enjoyed being out there, supporting the runners. It was humbling, how many runners were working hard but still found time to smile or thank us :). Runners are a great bunch, aren’t they? 😉

Before we knew it, the runners were on their way back down. Everyone did so, so well. I was really surprised how quickly everyone was past us- both ways- up and down that hill. And I was so caught up that I didn’t take any photos of any runners – not one! Sorry about that!

We were then picked back up by the wee truck, and taken back down to the finish line at the Castle: 

Although we were a little cold and very wet, we had a great time. The marshals each had a goody bag, containing water, a cereal bar and some delicious home made tablet. Yum!
We grabbed a coffee, and walked back down towards the car park, ready to head home after going to church first.

Now that we’re back home, we’ve had a dip in the hot tub to thaw out, and we’re now enjoying a cuppa with that delish tablet.

 Thanks to Fee for such a great event!

A 5×50 Hat Trick

A 5×50 Hat Trick

Well, better late than never- for the third year in a row, I’ve signed up for the 5×50 Challenge. 

This challenge encourages all participants to carry out 5k of walking, running or cycling each day or 30 minutes of activity- an exercise class, fitness DVD or strength training.

    

It kick off tomorrow, so if you fancy signing up, you’d best get your skates on! Sign up here.

I’m off for a wet and windy run- wish me luck! ☺️

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

Every day is a celebration of one issue, group or another. Take Thursday, when we celebrated both World Book Day and International School Meals Day. Most days pass by, and while some will be making the most of a special day, it’s a normal day for the rest of us.

But today, well, today is a day for celebrating and raising awareness of women’s issues around the globe. It’s a day to do something for women at home and abroad who need a voice.



Feminism and equality is a tough topic. It makes some roll their eyes, while for others it’s their life. As important as the blood in their veins. 

While in many parts of the world women can’t vote, can’t go to school, cannot drive and can’t even expose their skin, the way we do when we run. Actually, that’s another freedom they don’t have.

Nearer to home, women are still battling with inequality: in pay, in opportunity, and in charging. Ever notice how advertising is largely aimed at women, and how that perfect life depicted on TV presses those maternal or femininity buttons? I guess it’s one of the reasons I love running: the attraction of a similar but different approach: the appeal of words like ‘strong’ and positive affirmations like ‘this girl can’.

 Overcharging is something I’ve been aware of since I read about the French group Georgette Sands back in November. I’ve been mulling inequality in pricing over since then.  

Every day, we pay more for similar goods and services than men. Next time you are shopping, check for yourself. How much do you pay for basics: shampoo, deodorant, socks? Come to think of it I probably pay more than @TheWelshWookie for running vests and trainers too. 

Having said all that, we are in the enviable position of having the choice to purchase these goods. The issue of how poverty affects women is much, much more important. To celebrate IWD, the global charity One is highlighting how poverty is sexist, and affects women much more than men- it clearly shows the ultimate effects of inequality. The importance of empowering women to provide for their families through education, training and support is critical.



This is also the theme of SCIAF’s 50th anniversary campaign this year: ensuring that women farmers have the right tools and employ traditional sustainable farming techniques is much more likely to enable this generation to have hope, and future generations to have prosperity. You can read about  one of these farmers, Mary Jackson, here.

During their 50th Anniversary, energy pound given to SCIAF is being fund matched, pound for pound, by the Government. 



If you do one thing on International Women’s Day, perhaps it could be to stand shoulder to shoulder by supporting those who would be most likely to share their last with you. To me, that’s sisterhood in action.

Jantastic!

Jantastic!

If, like me, you’ve had a wonderful week of eating, drinking and lazing then you might be ready for a fitness shake up. So, wit this in mind, I’ve just signed up for Jantastic 2015!

I’m all set, and raring to go again on 5th January.

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Bring it on! 😀

Christmas.

Christmas.

This year’s celebration has been muted by the dreadful crash in Glasgow’s George Square on Monday, killing six people, including three from my home town.
The lorry crashed into the Millennium Hotel at Queen St station, just as we were sitting in the Grand Central hotel at Glasgow Central station: we are feeling lucky.
Best wishes to you all for the festive season, make the most of every minute.

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