The Rise and Fall – Haddington Half marathon

It was always going to come. After a few months of improvements and PBs there was always going to be a lull, a fall, and I thought I was prepared for it. What I wasn’t prepared for was the extent of it.

After my 3k on the Friday I had possibly the best track session since my return and loved it, ran really well. Club run on Sunday and was to be 10 – 12 miles easy for Haddington half prep. Got to about 5 miles – the furthest point out at Chatelherault – and started getting a really sharp pain in my foot, as if I had went over on it, or twisted something which I didn’t remember doing. Within half a mile I couldn’t go any further. I had to go tiptoes/ limping/ walking to the house at the park (a further 2 miles)  where John the coach was going to pick me up after he finished his run. Cheers to Nick for staying with me. My plan from here was to take each day as it came then to see if I could do Haddington. i had to miss the time trial and see my lead there totally wiped out, my chances of finishing top 3 in that diminishing. If I was to miss Haddington then my 7 point Division 2 lead would turn into a deficit as well, so I really wanted to do it. Don’t want to lose both in the one week. With every day the foot felt a little better, and a wee 10 mins on the treadmill at the end of the week made me think it was do-able.

So Saturday comes and I feel good. Decided at 11.30 to travel through for the 2pm race. Good MAC squad there, with my divisional rivals Jim, Ross and Scott. Had a decent warm up and thought I felt really good. My first mistake. The gun went after John Burns eventually made the starting line and we were off. Ross went off fast, so I decided to go with him. The first 2k were ridiculously fast. The sun was beating down hard. The wind was picking up. But I felt pretty good. The 5k time was stupidly fast though, a couple of minutes inside the target I had set myself as I had concentrated on Ross rather than my own run. Eejit. And the hills were still to come. I passed Ross about this time, and Richard Murciano from Hamilton passed us both. We got to a downhill and Ross sprinted past me. saying he would see me on the uphill…. not sure what that was all about…. and then we hit the first long uphill. It was a slog but I got past Ross and hit the pace hard again to try and shake him off whilst trying to keep within touching distance of Richard. We hit some long straight undulating roads and the wind was horrendous, I was really toiling and running on my own but got through 10k in the time I was looking for to attempt a sub 1.30. But I was struggling. I didn’t feel good at all. Managed to get my pace consistent over the next couple of k until 13 and 14 where  started wobbling as we hit another hill. I started to really fade here, and was looking behind me. Every vest was Jim or Ross, maybe even Scott. I didn’t take enough water on as didn’t want to break my stride and rhythm. Ks 15 16 17 I managed to hold relatively consistent but groups were starting to pass me now. 1.30 was now slipping away, but with only 4k to go I was still on to challenge my 1.32.45 PB. l was 4k away from all but ensuring the league title. This was what was keeping me going. In my head I had been looking for a place to drop out as I was gone, but on country roads there was nothing. On the 18th kilometre it all fell apart. This was a minute slower than my slowest before then and the wheels were coming off. I looked round to see if any MAC vests were behind me and stumbled. My legs had gone. Wobbling like jelly. I was still convinced I could get there but in truth I could hardly stay upright. Going from side to side. Horrendous. A couple of runners now were concerned for me but I was gone, not just in my legs but in my head as well. As they tried to guide me off the road I kept saying, “I’m finishing, it’s just round the corner, I need the points.” and then fell. I couldn’t get up. A Portobello  athlete (I think, he appears to have finished in 1.32) helped me into the side where I tried to get up again and fell again. Thanks to the runners who tried to talk sense into me here, but I was gone in the head. I took a seat then tried to get up to run ( I know) and promptly collapsed into some nettles and couldn’t move. At least I was off the course and no-one could see me.

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My arm is like a the victim in a slasher movie today. I kept babbling that I was just round the corner and was going to walk and I needed the points. What I needed was fluids. I had crawled about 50 meters now, convinced I could finish. Rather delirious. And keeled over. Vomited here. Couldn’t stand, couldn’t keep myself upright. Saw a wee bit of sense and realised I was finished. Was told to get back to the seat and someone would be along to pick me up but I genuinely couldn’t move. A steward gave me their water but I needed more. After about 10 or so minutes i was able to get on my feet and the steward (whose name I have forgotten, sorry) helped me back to the course and I was driven to the finish. I was then given about 15 cups of orange which I demolished. I was heavily dehydrated. it was a warm warm day. I had no protection on my baldy napper. A sugary cup of tea and a plate of brownies and I was able to walk a bit. Totally embarrassed and humiliated. Thanks to the stewards, first aiders and MAC squad that helped me. Good thing was my foot wasn’t an issue, it had held up. Everything else had fallen apart instead. So where did I go wrong? I am not as good as I thought I was. I guess arrogance and stubbornness replaced ambition today.  I should have run my own race. I should have covered my head. I should have taken on more fluids at EVERY drink station and not worried about me losing time or places. I went off far too fast. There is no shame in slowing down when not feeling at best and losing time and places wouldn’t have mattered.. My wife Elaine is understandably annoyed as two runs in a row I haven’t completed and have needed help. “This needs to stop.” A valid point. She is a student nurse and sees people in a bad way every day and not self inflicted like myself. Food for thought.

So here I am reflecting the next day. Arms and legs and back all covered in scratches and cuts. Throat red raw (maybe I was coming down with something too, who knows). Hand and thumb really sore from collapsing onto them. Didn’t sleep as really bad calf cramps all night. And utterly humbled. The rise and fall. The rise took 4 months, the fall took a week and it hurts. I don’t know where I go from here if indeed anywhere. If I have a third one in a row where I need help then my running career is simply finished. My title chances are gone as I am probably too scared to attempt the Dumfries half marathon or indeed any half marathon ever again. Why was I so hung up on trying to win the division? Validation. Stupid eh? But that is away, not that anyone else even cares about it anyway. Thanks to all for reading since I started this blog. It’s taken on a life of its own and I have mostly enjoyed the path it has taken but I don’t know if it will continue now to be honest, and I don’t know where the running is going to go now. The rise and fall is complete, maybe it’s time to fade into the background and just get on with whatever I am going to do, if anything. Thanks for everything blogpeeps, until we meet again.

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6 thoughts on “The Rise and Fall – Haddington Half marathon

  1. I’ve been there Mark, more than once. That’s what makes us runners a special breed. We get knocked down but we get up again. We work our way back SLOWLY and come back even stronger than before. Take a rest but don’t give up.

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  2. That’s some meltdown. I wouldn’t give up though as you can learn from it but you need to prepare better in future. Chasing after other people at the start is not a good strategy in a 10k never mind a half. These longer distance races require discipline and a sound race strategy. Forget any rivals and run at a pace based on a realistic time. You have a GPS watch? If you’re feeling good at the halfway point then pick it up. It’s not like a 5k where you can just rocket off at the start and hang on for grim death. Also being properly hydrated before you start is important. Only you know if you were but it sounds to me like you weren’t as a fit person should be able to run for an hour and a half without suffering severe dehydration. It wasn’t the Sahara you were running across. However, you’ve done well the past few months so it would be silly to just give up.

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