Category Archives: Races

Waterside Half Marathon

The Waterside Half Marathon was number 14 in my #18in18 Challenge and, as if that wasn’t prestigious enough for the organisers, it also doubled up as the NI & Ulster Half Marathon Championships!

If you don’t know Northern Ireland, the race is located in our second city, Londonderry or Derry, or Derry-Londonderry, or Stroke City or even the Maiden City. Stuff it, it’s based in the same city as Channel 4’s Derry Girls!!!! That’s all you need to know.

And, before I begin the story of my race, let the facts show it was one of the slowest I’ve done this year although still reasonably comfortably within the cut-off time. You’ll find out why if you read on.

In addition, I just didn’t run your bog standard 13.1 miles, it was more like 16. That was because, with the Dublin Marathon less than two months away, Iverene and I added distance on before and after the race to bring our miles up. In effect, this was a long run with a race stuck in the middle.

In order to reach that distance we decided on 1.5 beforehand, the race, and then 1.5 afterwards.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t feeling it during the warm-up. Whilst I always find warm-up runs difficult it’s usually just because I’m creaky and, well, it *is* a warm-up after all. But, with the benefit of hindsight, this felt different. It wasn’t fast or anything like that, I just felt worse than normal.

We did the warm-up around the starting area at Ebrington Square and then an out and back over the Peace Bridge before taking our place at the very back of the pack for the start.

My pre-race tactics were to try to maintain 12-minute miles all the way round. That meant not going too fast at the start in the hope that the energy saved would help me in the latter part of the race when I would likely struggle.

And I did manage it during the first few miles but what I hadn’t reckoned on was the sizeable inclines right from the beginning so whilst I was reserving my pace I was still working hard because of the climbs. I might as well not have bothered.

For two miles it was up, then a steep drop before some more little rises. This brought us to around the halfway mark when the Foyle Bridge happened … I took one look at it and thought, ‘nah’. I just didn’t have the appetite to run it. It’s a brute of a thing which, according to my Garmin, rises to almost 180 feet and just seemed to go on and on. At the bottom I couldn’t see across to the other side. It was quite daunting.

The race hadn’t been going terribly well anyway but this just zapped any linger enthusiasm I had left so I made the decision just to walk over the bridge and finish the race without any real regard for time or pace, other than to make sure I was within the 3-hour cut-off.

It was quite a sombre experience being on the bridge. Because of its height, it tends to attract people struggling with their mental health and a very recent initiative this summer has led to numerous messages of hope being to the railings all along the bridge. It was sobering, but also uplifting, reading them.

Once the bridge had been navigated the course was more or less flat, hugging the River Foyle for the remainder of the run. Normally I would relish this but, I’m afraid to say, I wasn’t in the mood for it on this occasion.

For me running is as much mental as physical, and I wasn’t enjoying this so I basically stopped trying. It was a lovely course, the support throughout was fantastic but none of that encouraged me to put anything into it.

I knew we had to go back over the Peace Bridge to finish but we passed it after about ten miles so it was quite demoralising to have to run past it before turning to come back again. So near but yet so far.

And even when we crossed the bridge we then had to run out and back the length of the square before turning for the finish which was the other side of the tree line. I knew it was there, but I couldn’t see it. It felt like I’d never get to that final turn. I knew if I could see the finish I’d put in more effort to get there but, given my mood, I couldn’t even be bothered doing that.

In the end, thankfully, I did see it and I just sauntered over the line. Disappointed but relieved. After a brief rest, a drink and collecting my medal, it suddenly dawned on me I still had more to do. I really wasn’t in the mood for it and I’d hoped Iverene would have forgotten about it. But, alas, no.

I managed just short of a mile before, being unfamiliar with the area, we ran out of somewhere to run so we went back to the square thinking a lap of that would bring us up to distance. Unfortunately we were still short. By now I couldn’t really be bothered with doing laps so it called it a day but Iverene ran on to do two more laps. Fair play to her, on another day it wouldn’t have been much of an issue for me but today wasn’t my day.

I think I ended up at 15.7 miles – more than enough in my mind. It did bring me over last year’s overall total mileage which was a significant milestone with still a third of the year remaining!

Before I finish, a special word for Iverene. Not just for her company all day but to congratulate her on a new personal best, coming in under 2:30, an absolutely fantastic performance!

For me it’s a case of gathering myself together and going again this Sunday in Chippenham for #15.

Relive my run


Ecos parkrun 01.09.18

A curious parkrun today.

It was on my plan as an ‘easy’ run and my time, in the end, reflected that. My second slowest parkrun in 2018, and 15th out of the 22 I’ve done so far … so not great.

Yet, by the halfway point, I was on target for a personal best. But, for some reason, after that I just lost interest in it. I’m not really sure, and it was definitely an unusual sensation, but I just couldn’t be bothered.

There was a big turnout this morning, and plenty of runners around me at all points on the route which isn’t always the case. Despite that, and despite knowing what I had potentially in my grasp, I just couldn’t find the oomph to push on.

Normally I would shadow the runner in front for a little while and then move on to the next one if I could. That didn’t happen this time. Not because it couldn’t, but because I wouldn’t.

Thinking logically about it, I have another half marathon tomorrow and, given this was designated as an ‘easy’ run, I perhaps had that rattling around in my mind and having run the first half as a tempo run my mind and body decided that was enough for one day.

But it was a good experience too. On previous occasions when I’ve been running well and then slowed down I would have beating myself up over wasting too much energy early on and burning up. Today, however, I was reasonably relaxed about it. I didn’t stress, or throw a tantrum. I just ran to the finish, got my barcode scanned and went home.

No drama, just another run. There are bigger fish to fry this weekend, and this month.

Relive my run

Storming The Castle 10k/401 Festival of Running Virtual Half

So that’s half marathon #13 of 18 done.

I suppose the best, easiest and most straightforward way to describe this one is to start at the start.

As I said, this was the 13th half marathon of my planned 18 this year. On this occasion it was a virtual one to coincide with the 401 Foundation Festival of Running in Portishead.

I couldn’t make it in person for the weekend but decided to avail of their virtual option instead. That way, because it was linked to an actual event, I was comfortable counting it as one of my 18 … just as I had done with the Reading Half back in March.

However, I decided to incorporate the Storming The Castle 10k into my total distance for the day. This race is one of the most popular of its kind in Northern Ireland and is always a good day out finishing, as it does, in the shadow of the 12th century Carrickfergus Castle. It’s actually the second time in a few weeks I’ve started and finished here, #11 was along the same course earlier this month so it was an route I was familiar with.

With the actual race only being 6.2 miles it meant, of course, that I had to find another 6.9 miles from somewhere and, by some absolute miracle of persuasion, I had coerced Bronagh and Iverene into doing this with me.

To take the edge off slightly we decided to do a warm-up mile first. That meant that after the 10k we would have done over half our miles for the day which we hoped would be important psychologically.

Half-an-hour before the race was due to start we set off on our warm-up, not really sure where to go but it seemed we were far from the only people doing this so just followed everyone else.

It was a good exercise and when we returned to the 10k start we were nicely limbered up. Soaked to the skin, admittedly, but ready to go with a mile already chalked off our overall target for the day.

After a short break the race itself got underway. I tucked myself in behind the 70 minute pacers. I can run faster than this but because I knew I had almost the same again to do afterwards I reckoned that pace would be fine for now.

And so it proved. It was comfortable, and fun. I was enjoying myself.

Then, at 5k, I was suddenly struck by a stitch. This hardly ever happens to me and, unfortunately, it slowed me a bit as I tried to deal with it.

I can only put the stitch down to eating a protein bar just before the race started. I don’t normally eat that close to a run but it was included in our race pack and rather than not use it I didn’t think it’d do much harm to have it there and then. I’m not usually prone to stitches but I also don’t usually eat straight before a race so logic suggests the two are linked.

Anyway, I lost touch – but not sight of – the pacers. Once I was back running I easily maintained my pre-stitch pace but I had no real appetite to make up for lost ground. If I was ‘only’ doing 10k then it would have been different but I was looking at the bigger picture.

In the end I finished just over nine minutes faster than last year which, over a 10k, was a pretty hefty chunk of time. I was disappointed it wasn’t more because it easily could have been but I suppose I can’t grumble too much.

That was the easy bit of the day out of the way. It was my second time doing this race, it’s one of my favourites but it was a shame I couldn’t avail of the post-race hospitality this year, always a highlight.

Now came the difficult bit, the remaining 5.9 miles to reach half marathon distance.

What was once a good idea suddenly seemed like the worst thing ever. I didn’t want to do it, Iverene didn’t want to do it and Bronagh didn’t want to do it.

However, we are all taking part in a much bigger race at the end of October so today was all about keeping up our training. Plus, from my own point of view, if I didn’t carry on then I’d have to find another half marathon from somewhere in order to meet my #18in18 target.

My goodness, it was tough. Mentally I had already run a race. I had ‘finished’ for the day yet here I was going again. Physically, too, there were already over seven miles in my legs and now I was forcing them into keeping going for what was effectively a third run of the day. There was the lull between the warm-up and the race, and then a further period of inactivity between the race ending and this which didn’t help either.

The race took us past the castle in the direction of Belfast so, for this extra run, we decided to go the opposite way, away from the castle and up to the power station on the edge of town.

None of us had much of a clue where we were going, it was just a case of keeping the sea to our right until we ran out of town whilst hoping we had done enough miles so that when we turned back we would finish at the castle, beside which we were parked.

This was a real war of attrition. It was gentle but it was tough. It definitely didn’t feel like a good idea anymore.

And it rained. It rained a lot. My already sodden club t-shirt was, quite literally, sticking to me. Then the rain stopped, I began to dry out a little and my t-shirt start to rub. Believe me, runners nipple is very much a ‘thing’. This was a first for me … ouch, ouch and ouch again!

Anyway, by the time we got back to the castle we, annoyingly, still had a mile to do. I just wanted this over and done with so it was a case of just running around the small harbour, then around the car park in ever decreasing circles until, blissfully, the magical 13.1 miles appeared on my Garmin.

Thanks to Bronagh and Iverene for sticking with me. Huge apologies, too, for putting you through this but I honestly don’t think I could have carried on without you.

But it was done. Three runs in one day. 13.1 miles under my belt, another half marathon chalked off, just five to go … and the challenge continues next week in Londonderry! The end is in sight and, being perfectly honest, it really can’t come quick enough.

Relive my run