September 6, 2013

Whisky Galore! The Moray Marathon

When I knew I was going to be visiting my parents in Scotland I decided to google 'Scottish marathons' and hey presto up popped information about the Moray Marathon in Elgin.

with my dad at the start
It looked ideal; in a beautiful location, on the right date, and a low key yet well established event.  Given I was still in the very early stages of returning to running post forced lay off due to my stress fracture I resisted the urge to sign up right away but already scoped out the opinions of my sports med Dr and my physio, both of whom thought the time line seemed realistic for a 'participatory' rather than 'racing' marathon.  Perfect, I was in need of a race to look forward to and to motivate me to get back to a regular running routine.  It was nice to have a race too that I'd not know anyone else competing in, I didn't need that sort of pressure and in fact only told a couple of friends when I signed up.

start line in Elgin
Roll on a month or so and I was still only at running every other day and at about 50% of my regular training volume but race day was looming near and I'd got a few 2hr road runs in the bag, along with a 35km/ 4h15 trail run and 3 interval speed sessions with my run club.  Hmm, so what time was realistic to target for?  I really didn't know, my speed sessions had hardly been speedy and I was aware my legs lacked tarmac pounding acclimatization, but I figured that starting somewhere in the 4m15 to 4m25 range would be doable.  I resolved to ensure I kept a close eye on my Garmin for the first few kilometers, to try avoid getting carried away with excitement to be back racing.  My first km was 3m59, uh oh 'SLOW DOWN' I could hear my run club coach shouting it me in my head so I eased back and let a group of guys pull ahead.  I was left on my own in no woman's land - so much for hoping to meet some local runners!

The course was rural farm roads, followed by North Sea coastal views, mixed in with stone built villages so typical of Scotland, it was beautiful!  The views and my parents popping up along the route kept me cheery and I was happy to soon form a merry trio with local runner Tim (thanks for the course tips!) and an Aberdeen runner.  I was aware that we were picking up the pace a little but I decided to stick with it as it seemed manageable and the company was very welcome.  We rolled through half way somewhere around 1:28:30.  I figured now would be crunch time - could I hold on for a sub-3hr finish or would my lack of long training runs come to haunt me?  Only the next 21.1km tell ...

running with Tim and Tako
With about 16km to go the half marathon route merged with our full marathon route and soon the empty roads were much more full of runners.  Although I didn't like this intrusion at first, as it was now hard to see who was in which race, I soon began to use the half marathoners who streamed past me as targets to keep in eye sight.  One woman passed me and asked if I was leading the women's marathon to which I said I thought I was (though I now started to second guess whether I was or not!), she then pulled past me but I felt encouraged by our short exchange and decided to try start picking up the pace a little to try keep up with her.  It was great to have a moving target to follow.

As we entered the town of Lossiemouth there was a short climb and then the most spectators at any point along the course, this was great timing just as the going was starting to get a little tougher with about 10km to go.  At this stage I clocked a few sub 4 min/ kms and to help keep me going I aimed to keep all the remaining kms under 4 minute pace, in the end I didn't manage to do this but it kept me going as I would count of each km on my Garmin.  With 8km to go I was working to hang onto my pace and encouraged that by doing so I passed at least one marathoner and quite a few half marathoners.  The wind had been blustery all day but it was with 2 miles to go that we seemed to hit the strongest head wind of the day, not exactly welcome but in some way trying to battle against it distracted me from the fact that I just wanted to be at the finish line.

With the few final kms through the streets of Elgin I was concerned I'd get lost but the course was well marked and I glanced back once or twice to check there were runners behind me!  All in all I was delighted to cross the line in 2:53:52 - good for 1st female and 6th overall, and it earned me some grocery vouchers and a very nice bottle of MacAllan's whisky!

with my trophy and whisky!

finish line friends