Sunday, 27 July 2014

Race Day

Name corrected the night before

Although it had been exceptionally hot and humid in the run up to the weekend, the weather appeared to have broken, and so “marathon morning” dawned grey and overcast – good dreich Glasgow weather. I don’t think you ever sleep well the night before a race, but then I hadn’t slept much in the few nights prior to it either, so to my surprise, I managed to get off to sleep OK. I was awake far ahead of my alarm, but tried to stay in bed and “rest”. Hayley and Susan were going for breakfast at 6:30, but I need to eat later than most, so I got into my kit and had my “bagcheck” prior to making my way to the dining hall.

The competition!
 The other two had been very helpful to me as team newbie, but it was nice to sit alone in a near empty dining hall and gather myself (ie stress!!). I made up another jam sandwich to eat down at the course and met the others outside to be escorted to the 7:30 bus. It was finally happening, yet didn’t seem real! What made it seem even more of a random group jaunt out, was that the bus couldn’t get to Glasgow Green due to road closures etc and so the driver just dropped us on what appeared to be a random Glasgow street and told us that we’d have to walk from there.
 It was now spitting with rain, so we were glad to be able to go into a tent and sit down once we found the warmup area. The guys were off 28 minutes (random) before us so we had a chance to wish them well before they went into “First call” (First call and second call were amalgamated, but basically this is an area where you have swop your ID for a chip, have your numbers, name and kit checked, and are allowed no electronics etc – and after which you have to be escorted if you want to go to the toilet etc).

In the warm-up tent

After the lads had gone into first call, we went out to the warmup area – this was basically the race route from about 200m in, so a few people were starting to gather along in. It was nice to get a couple of shouts as the three of us jogged together (good team bonding – everyone else was out running solo!! – and what’s more I got to run with two amazing Scottish marathon runners!!), then it was time to change our shoes, pin on our numbers, hand over phones etc, and head over to the start.
In the call room, one of the officials checking our chips, numbers and kit was none other than Sandra Branney - another amazing runner who held the Scottish Native marathon record of 2:37:29 from the Glasgow marathon way back in 1986 (a native record is the fastest time run on Scottish soil by anyone eligible to represent Scotland), yet had no artificial airs and graces. We must’ve been checked at least 3 times each – which I did find rather funny – as how anyone could think that you would run a better marathon with a mobile phone concealed in your knickers is beyond me!
There were no toilets in that area so we had to be escorted back to the warmup area every time we needed a nervous portaloo trip – and it certainly amused the officials to see how often girls can ask to go! At 9:20 we were sent out into the road to get ready. It was a relatively narrow road, and as the start gantry and press filled most of it, there seemed to be hardly anyone around. We were allowed a short warmup and then were called forward to the start line. We cheered and clapped as they announced the leading ladies – and then I dropped back to about 15m behind the others. I felt like a giant compared to some of the small African ladies, and knew that I needed to keep moving my knees to stop them “locking up” at the start so I gave people space so as not to distract them.

Super Support!
I don’t remember hearing a countdown as we were off before I even had time to think about it, which is amazing, as I’d been worrying about the first 50m of the race ever since I was selected. With minimal knee dramas I was away and running, and by the time we rounded the first corner I was with the back of the second group. As we headed up the first “incline” (ie hill), I heard a familiar voice shout my name, and spotted my friend Ian waving at me – that was an amazing boost as I knew that he’d driven all the way up from the Wickerman festival to support me!
As the hill topped out we rounded a corner and a big grin broke out across my face as I spotted my family at the side of the road with their support banner (unfortunately I didn’t realise they were going to move around to spot me in different places so they weren’t there when I looked at the same place on the next lap!). We were still running in central Glasgow so there was a huge crowd presence lining the roads – which became even more obvious as we ran down the pedestrianised area (I had wondered how that would affect the general public but everyone seemed happy to be supporting rather than shopping).

With Gladys

I knew that I wouldn’t see the leaders again until after the finish, but I could see Hayley slightly further down the street ahead of me. I knew that Gladys Ganiel (of NI) had a PB only 8s slower than mine, so I thought I might be running a similar pace to her. She did, however, cover the first couple of miles about 10s quicker than PB pace, so I figured she must be in great shape and that I should drop back and run my own pace to avoid blowing up spectacularly in front of the home crowd later on in the race. It didn’t really compute with me that I would then be running the whole way solo!
Concentrating under a bridge
As I ran under a road bridge, it suddenly became really dark and I couldn’t see anyone at the side of the route, but I know the support was there as the noise became deafening, and so I found that I couldn’t help but grin. Running alongside the Clyde and over the “squinty bridge” I recognised many friends – too many to mention everyone by name, but you know who you are and so I thank you all!
I’m not sure how it went for others but the first water station worked well for me – it was on the right hand side of the road as promised and Mark (a Team Scotland official) was holding out my bottle for me to grab. A comical moment was when someone shouted “run faster, you’ve almost got her” as Gladys was only a short distance ahead of me – little did they realise that we were only 5K into a 42K race!
There was plenty to look at (apart from the blue line on the road) as I ran along, as I spotted stilt walkers and entertainers as well as several Glasgow running clubs out to support and cheer. I had forgotten about the “inclines” in Bellahouston Park so was caught slightly unaware by them. They don’t seem so bad when you’re just doing a mile rep or a jog warmup, but in a race they suddenly appear much steeper, but again some familiar faces and shouts helped. It was noticeable that the wind was picking up as when you ran through a spray station most of the water was blown away from you rather than falling on you.

In Pollock Park
Turning a corner on top of a hill, I could see that Gladys had almost caught up to Hayley (and indeed they worked together for most of the rest of the race), but I also spied a Lesotho runner coming back to me (and I got her in Pollock Park). Just after entering Pollock Park, I spied the most “interesting” supporter on the route – a Shetland pony being held at the outside of a 90 degree bend with a large saltire tied over her back (the benefits of running alone....those running in groups at this point said that they missed her!). I knew there were several sharp hills in Pollock but Derek Hawkin (running in the men’s race)’s mum was standing halfway up the first one wearing a blue wig shouting encouragement, and the second one (up to the Burrell collection) was lined with people, so I actually enjoyed them, despite the rain that was now falling. An unexpected bonus was the fact that all of the sleeping policemen in the park had been removed for the race, so no excuses for accidental trips on tired legs.

A Happy Runner!
The next few miles stretched out in front of me with no runners in sight, and less support on the roads (though it was gathered in pockets). I felt comfortable tripping along, with the only slight upset being the 3rd feed station. It was manned for us by one of the triathlon support squad, and instead of holding out the bottle as prearranged he just pointed to show where it was on the table next to him – not really an issue at all, but anything unexpected can throw you off your stride.
Back into the centre of town and the support had built up again – I spotted my Running Club feather flags with many familiar faces on both sides of the road, so I just couldn’t stop grinning. I was loving being out there, though admittedly, I would have preferred to have people to run with.
Passing my DRC mates
As I came round to the start/finish gantry, I could see that the race was being led by one of the Kenyan ladies, as they showed her time, along with mine (in 18th place) and that of those just ahead of me. It did amuse me that we were given a bell to mark our final lap (of 13.1miles) and that the lap counter had gone down by 1. I felt quite upbeat about the run so far, and thought I’d held my own pace quite well, but I knew the second lap would be tougher as the wind had picked up a bit.
Rounding a corner to start the climb back up into town, I saw an English runner sitting down at the side of the road – the medic in me wondered if she was OK but as she was sitting up with 2 Clydesiders beside her, I realised that I could not really be of extra help and so had better just get on with my own run (I later learned that it was Aly Dixon who had pulled out with calf/Achilles pain). Unfortunately, because I was looking over to the right to see what was happening, I didn’t notice my family over to my left (and so I probably wasn’t smiling in those pictures, heading alone up another hill).
I started to reel the next runner in and passed her just as we entered the pedestrianised zone again (much to the delight of the crowds), though I worried that my sister wouldn’t be impressed with me as she was Namibian (my sister spent her year out after school in Namibia), and then managed to pass another couple of runners over the course of the lap (1 from Rwanda and another from Lesotho), though I didn’t spot that one of them was running barefoot (or so I was told afterwards).
After the initial sea of noise I found the second lap much harder going as I seemed to be permanently running into the wind. Many of the crowds further out on the course had dispersed – either driven away by the weather or else they had headed towards the finish in time to watch the leading men – though the Shetland pony was still there!! I actually had to remind myself on certain occasions, eg in one of the parks, that I was in a race, not just out for a run (as I’ve run there before) and I could see neither other runners, nor supporters.
The third feed station was destined to be my nemesis, as on this occasion I wanted some plain water, but they’d run out – and the water tables beyond the “national” tables were completely empty and unmanned, which didn’t exactly help the way I was feeling. I knew that it was not the conditions or the race to be able to run a good time, so I tried to focus on the whole experience of being there and actually enjoy soaking up every minute of it. By the time I came back into town for the final 3 miles and saw my friends and clubmates again, I was starting to flag. They gave me a boost, as did the talking to I gave myself (“you’re actually running in the Commonwealth Games – this will never happen again”)!

The final corner
I had a motorbike following me by now, and the roar of support was pretty continuous for about a mile. There was a brief respite of a quiet section before the final river crossing (the 8th of the race) back to Glasgow Green. In my head I knew there was only about a mile to run, but the corner appeared to be getting further and further away from me, hovering out of sight as the path twisted slightly.

The Finishing Straight
Finally I rounded the last corner (almost a U-turn) and saw the finish gantry away in front of me. The crowds were deafening here, as they all started banging the boards like there were at the F1 GP. It was an amazing experience and I crossed the line with my arms raised and a huge grin on my face – what a memory that’ll be!!

To the Finish!!!
Looking at the clock, I was really disappointed, but then I thought about what I’d just done – I’d run a marathon for Scotland, in Scotland, at the Commonwealth Games, at pretty short notice – and I’d run it alone (though with amazing crowd support) – and I’d done what I set out to do – my best on the day....and no one can take that away from me (and many people commented that I should get a medal for being the happiest runner as I couldn't stop smiling!)!!!!!

Much has been reported on the race, but respect to all who took part, all who supported, those who couldn’t be there, but especially to my awesome teammates Derek, Ross, Susan and Hayley for whom I’ve the most admiration, running the way they did that day - #GoScotland !!

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on your very fast finish and being the 3rd female finisher from Scotland! I visited Scotland a few years ago. How fun it would have been to be there for the games.