Thursday night and I had another steady run. Not long, not fast, not comfortable. Poor Jim felt his calf go half way round and had to slow down, possibly too much after the GNR. Friday I went out and ran on my own, just 5.5k, but despite the continual presence of the back pain I was able to run, just not very fast or to full capacity. I can’t stretch out the way I would like at all. I took the decision to therefore run the Dumfries Half. My entry was in and I knew from the runs that I had done that I had general fitness and stamina if nothing else. I made the decision to enjoy the run and the day, not to go off racing, not to get involved in anything but to simply enjoy running and hopefully completing a half marathon with no pressure, something I had never done before. We all know what happened at Haddington now (https://markgallmac.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/the-rise-and-fall/) , so I had to exorcise those demons. Run for fun. Like Hughie Green at the front door, that opportunity was knocking. (Man that reference is old.)
Jim unfortunately had to withdraw so I made the trip down myself, my sat nav taking me on magical mystery tour but I arrived in plenty of time. I was drinking plenty. Had eaten breakfast. After being piped into the school ( a lovely touch) I pinched some of Eddie Toal’s flapjacks when I met him and Craig inside. See? Learning from Haddington mistakes. Had a laugh of the state of Chris who perhaps had had a couple of sherberts too much the night before. I was very relaxed. Went out a wee jog to ease the back before we started and exchanged high 5s with Cambuslang’s Kerry-Liam Wilson. He even high 5s better than me. Would take a lot for anyone to beat him today. Had a wee natter with Benji Smith a cracking runner who has rejoined MAC after 9 years away, we got a male group photo, and then we were all ready to start.
Chris and Ben went to the front, whereas I stayed in the middle along with Marcus. Off we went and for the first time I didn’t go racing off at the start. Was all about getting a wee pace. My aim after last weeks 13 miler was to try and get under 1.50, if feeling ok then I would try and average near the 5 min p k mark and aim for 1.45. But that was all by and by, I wanted to enjoy the run and most importantly finish it. I was having a wee natter with Marcus to see what he wanted to get out of the run. His aim was to break 1.40 so I told him to go away, nicely of course. Eddie and Craig would be round about that time so after the first wee climb there’s a couple of miles slightly downhill. The worst thing for my back is actually downhill, so I reigned it in, like a good boy, and let Marcus go away. Never normally would I let anyone get away from me like that but I didn’t care. My own wee personal battle today, racing is for next year. Marcus caught with Craig and Eddie and the three of them pushed themselves on. At 5k I was through in 23.30, 3 minutes slower than my Haddington debacle. I was actually on my own, which I didn’t want. There was a group 50 – 100m away containing Marcus, Eddie and Craig, and another about 50 m behind. I took the decision here to ease back into the group behind to enjoy the run rather than kick off into the group in front, I quite frankly could not be arsed getting involved in racing which I would have ended up doing. If I had went on and then not finished I would probably never do another half. Off they went and back I went. I spent the next few miles running alongside a lady from Enniskillen and a fella running for Children with Cancer UK that I’ll call Daggie as it said it on his vest. People would come and go but I was sticking to my gameplan, sticking to my pace and enjoying the running.
I was people watching. Daggie asked if we were going back the way we came, realising that we had came down a hill so it would be an uphill finish. Took a turn at maybe about 4 1/2 miles and had an uphill stretch against the wind. Strangely I find uphill ok compared to downhill so this was ok, maintained my steady pace. My companions dropped off and I caught up with another group, but we came to a downhill stretch taking us to 10k and Daggie and co. were sprinting past me. I was ok with that. For today 😉 10k was in 48 mins, 6 minutes slower than Haddington. But I was looking out onto (I think) the River Nith, it was looking nice. Coming out of the fields we were running through Glencaple. People were cheering, it seemed a nice wee place. I was halfway and feeling really good. Not only that but I was feeling happy. We turned the corner in Glencaple to see a climb, a long climb, one that Strava would later tell me was a mile and a half long. I was motoring up it fine and came alongside Daggie again who had started walking, I tried encouraging him up and he started jogging again, but I heard him stop again. Hope the big fella made it to the end, let me know if you read this Daggie? Eventually finishing the hill we hit the turn to take us back up toward the finish. A small downhill section then about 3 miles or so uphill. I felt quite good and was passing by folk now. All along I’m waiting for 18.2 k so I would be past my Haddington disaster. I didn’t realise how much that had affected me, 16 – 18k I was petrified. But got past the barrier and with 3k to go I was again on my own. I could see a group of 5 probably about 300 – 400 metres ahead so decided to try and chase them down. It was gradual but with the exception of my back I actually felt really good. I saw a photographer and even gave him a wee wink and a Fonzie thumbs up (man, another old reference, what’s happened to me?).
About half a mile to go and I caught the straggler of the group. There were another 4 in the group but they had spread out by now. No 2 was passed at about 200 to go, then I sprinted really hard for the line. It was great fun, 3 of us sprinting against each other for the last 50 and I came out on top, thanks Errick Hannah and Donna Burnett for a fun ending. Only one from the group had stayed away by a matter of seconds but all good. High 5 from a steward for a good finish. 1.42 was a decent time in my shape and I was happy with negative splits despite the second half of the race being mostly uphill.
As for the others? Marcus got his sub 1.40, brilliant mate, and Eddie and Craig weren’t far behind him. I was happy to actually have been within touching distance of these guys despite not racing it. Chris was 4th and 3rd in the West District race, Ben had an excellent 9th, Angela got 3rd female West District and after checking her birthlines Tracey got first v40 in the race. Kerry- Liam won the race by minutes and speaking to him after the race he had found the hill long as well, so nice to know that even the best share the same concerns as us plodders. So what did I get out of it all? I really enjoyed the run. I’m not in shape and it could be a while until my back is ok again but I am in good general fitness. The Haddington monkey is off my back now. Next year if I can get into good shape I may try and beat my half marathon time, but it will get the respect it deserves. Couple of small races until the end of my season then probably take a break if the back still being a swine. XC not a big thing for me this year. Couple of runs in it for fun, but that’s it. Because strip it all away, the quest for PBs, the championships, the training, I bloody well enjoy it. I will do that every now and then, go out and just enjoy a run, watch others on their quests. It makes me feel alive. Sometimes just put on the running shoes, clear the mind and let it happen.
Thanks to Steve Angus and Clare Barr for the pics.