Monday, 10 October 2011

Neil McCover Memorial Half Marathon 09.10.11

Today was the inaugural race of the Neil McCover Memorial Half Marathon.  A celebration to remember the life, achievements and difference that Neil McCover made to the world of running, the police force and his family.

It was a successful first turnout of the race with over 400 runners registering for the race!

This would be only my 3rd half marathon race and one in which I was aiming to smash my previous PB of 1.50.48 set at the Glasgow Great Scottish Run last month, and a very similar time of 1.50.57 at the Helensburgh half.  If I could get under the 1 hour 50 minutes I would walk away happy!

I arrived at the Kirkintilloch sports centre to pick up my race pack at the dreaded hour of 8am on Sunday morning!  It was good that the race was an early start in a sense that I could get back home and enjoy the day but dragging myself out of bed with the thought that I was about to run 13.1 miles was not pleasing!  The race pack included my number, timing chip and a cracking technical t-shirt, one of the best yet.  It did cross my mind to head back to the car and go home as getting my t-shirt before the race was a bit of a novelty, then I reminded myself that I don't ONLY run for the t-shirts and medals....

I met John Smith and Moira Nicol  in the registration hall.  We then became the 'jammy's' as all three of us wore the jammy's t-shirts, supporting the Simpson's Special Care Babies Unit.  This was my first time flying the colours and felt privileged to do so! 

John and Moira ran the Loch Ness Marathon last weekend so to turn up at this time of the morning the following weekend really does show determination!  John and Moira had the opportunity of meeting Neil McCover when he came along to Strathclyde parkrun to help out on its initial set-up, they tell me he was a really nice bloke.

Ross Goodman was next to arrive, completing the Strathclyde parkrun team!  After a long wait and a quick warm-up the masses were walked down to the starting line on the main road outside the sports centre.  A few brief safety points were given over the world's smallest megaphone and the runners were set on there way!

photo by Richard Leyton

We started of slow, running about 8.30 - 8.45 minute miles.  I was planning on initially sticking with John and Moira who were taking things easy after last weekend.  The first couple of miles gave an idea of how the course was going to be, hilly.  We kept a good steady pace for those first couple of miles when all of a sudden John shouted 'come-on' and before I knew it my pace had increased to 7.15 per mile.  Things didn't slow up for the whole mile and I was beginning to wish that I just hung back with Moira.  The weather was totally against us with strong side winds and heavy rain.  The pace became a bit more comfortable by the 4th mile and I felt like we were back on target to break my PB.  We passed my jogscotland buddy Lindsey Gray who was runner her first half marathon in over 4 years.  A few inaudible shouts of encouragement and we carried on.  I used the crowds in front as a bit of a wind breaker and stuck by John's side for most of this mile, the course continued to undulate and I found that my recent hill work paid off as every hill we came across I was passing two or three runners at a time.  I still had some fight in my legs but the wind really did get to me and by the 5th mile John had made a good 10-20 metre gap in front of me.  I took on some water at the first water station but I think it knocked me off my stride a little.  I managed to keep John in my sight and knowing that John's PB was 1.39 for the half marathon distance, I thought that if I could keep him in my sight at least I knew I would break the 1.50 marker.  John continued to power on and I tried my best to keep my pace going over miles 6, 7 and 8.  These are the miles that I felt things slowed down for me in both Glasgow and Helensburgh so I was happy to see that my gramin was telling me I was running between 7.30-7.45 minute miles for each of them.  At the end of mile 8 I also took on board my energy gel to keep the legs moving.  Then it hit us! The hill at mile 9.....

 photo by Claire Thompson

This was a real challenge for me.  Running the last 9 miles faster than I had ever ran 9 miles before, breaking my 10K time unofficially by nearly 3 minutes in the first 10K of the race and continuing to increase my pace, then coming across this long steep hill.  By the time I had came around the first bend my pacemaker John was no longer in sight but I knew that if I just got myself up and over this hill there MUST be a downhill section at some point?  I tried my best at keeping my speed up and I managed to stay around the 8 minute mile mark for the duration of the hill but from this next photo you can see that I really did struggle....

photo by Claire Thompson

Once I had conquered what felt like Kirkintilloch's own Mount Everest I had to get myself back together!  This wasn't easy as I was expecting to run straight back down the other side of a hill yet things just seemed to keep on climbing.  I welcomed the sight of another water station.  My pacemakers now became anyone that was in front of me and managed to overtake a number of club runners which spurred me on a bit.  When we reached mile 11 I had told myself that I could run the remainder of the course at 10 minute mile pace and still finish in under 1.50.  Then I had to think about how gutted I would feel if I had slowed down from this point and how I would feel once I crossed the finish line, telling myself I could have done better.  Running is a constant battle in your head and you always have to think about how you will feel crossing the line knowing that you could have done better, it often picks you up and gets you going.  Before I knew it I was in amongst houses weaving through streets, many of the locals out at their front gates shouting us on, finally at mile 12 I heard what I had wanted to hear from that very first hill when one of the local's shouted......'its all downhill from here'.  This gave me a sudden burst of energy, I had kept my pace throughout the whole race, this in itself was an achievement for me, I knew that I was going to break the 1.50 marker with only a mile to go but by how much?

Running downhill all the way to the sports centre I had a real feeling of relief, you never remember how hard it is until you are out there, but you also never remember how much you enjoy it until you are out there!  Especially when you can see the finish line!

It was a cross country finish over the grass in front of the sports centre, with 153 runners already crossing the finish line before me the grass had become a complete mud bath, after I got over the fear of falling on my backside I actually quite enjoyed finishing over grass!  My coach, running partner and friend John Smith was at the finish line shouting me on and I completed the course in a chip time of 1.44.47 (gun time of 1.45), beating my last PB by over 6 minutes!  

John managed to break away and finish with a time of 1.41.28 and Moira coming in not far behind me in 1.54.34.  Ross crossed the line in 2.28.32, celebrations all round for the Strathclyde parkrunners!

Here is a wee photo of the jammy's!

You can donate to the Simpsons Special Care Babies Charity here:

All in all a great day out, a fantastic course and it made it all the better running with friends!  Looking forward to next year!

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