Stirling Marathon - Race Report

posted 24 May 2017, 13:13 by Enquiries campbeltownrunningclub

By Stewart Ireland

A marathon, its one of those words that people say without really thinking about what it means. People use it to describe something that takes a long time, like a movie marathon. However after my first marathon its not a word I'll take lightly again.

I was never really a runner in school or university; judo, rugby and swimming were my sports and I only ever saw running as a means to an end. It wasn't until 2014 when one school friend asked me to do Glasgow half marathon with him that I began to actually see it as a sport in its own right. I completed that run in 2 hours, 1 minute and change. Having maybe done 3 runs in 3 months. However the crowd support and the sense of achievement I got after was something that I think every runner experiences and wants to continue experiencing. I know I did. So skip ahead a few years and you get to mid November 2016. Mairi and I had unsuccessfully entered the ballot for London, much to her disappointment and my slightly more relieved feelings, we (she) began to look for alternatives and found Stirling's first ever marathon. We entered it.

Our training didn't start until January but when it did it was a very different animal to anything either of us had done before. I got used to maybe running twice a week and then go to the gym and lift heavy things around. Mairi ran as well but enjoyed jumping around at FBX classes and staying still on a spin bike. We both were fit but in different ways than what is required in a marathon. Therefore we set about on training, building it up slowly as you're meant too. Doubting yourself (as you're meant too) after a 10 mile run that has ended you but knowing on the day you have another 16 to go. Running through rain, wind and whatever else Kintyre threw at us. To the point where you can't remember a time before marathon training, when someone else says "exercise" and your brain goes automatically to planning 16 mile runs when all they mean is half an hour at the gym. To the point when you get a niggle but ignore it "for the sake of the run" and it grows into something more profound. Or in my case getting to the point when you finish a long run, feel so down about it that you start believing that you'll never manage the extra 8 or 6 miles that the marathon requires. But no matter how much you want it too time doesn't stand still and the big day looms closer and all you can do is show up on the day and hope what you've done is enough.

So the big day. May 21 2017. The Great Scottish Stirling Marathon. The day dawned and for once I was probably up in time to see it, such were my nerves. After forcing down breakfast and drinking one last litre of water we were on our way to the start line. At Blair Drummond safari park. Which to get to involved a drive, a wait, a bus, another wait and finally some elephants. Yep I saw an elephant on the start line, a real live one with tusks and everything. That bizarre sight actually calmed me down a little and after that I didn't really have the option of panicking anymore 'cause I'd started.

The first 4 miles to Doune were all up a fairly steady incline, which at the time I didn't really notice but looking back on it may have been harder than I realised considering there were 22 miles to go. Doune itself was great, it seems a little village but it felt like everyone living in the village was there to cheer you on. After a mile of that and a bit of deserved downhill we started another few miles of incline to Dunblane and onwards to Bridge on Allan. The weather turned a little at some point during this bit, going from overcast to smury rain that stayed for the rest of the day. But this kept me cool and I wasn't particularly bothered by it. As most people who look out the window will know the west coast of Scotland can offer much worse. Dunblane was another town with pavements of support and the 9 mile marker came around without me really feeling too bad. A small downhill into Bridge of Allen was a bit of a relief and then seeing the first supporters who I actually knew, Elaine and Stuart was a real boost at about 11 miles. We turned off the main road at that point and went into Stirling Uni. Which had just under a mile of fairly steep (for a marathon) uphill before turning around and coming back down. The grounds are lovely, I've seen them

before but I can't say I was bothering with them. It was just a blessing to know that the worst of the hills were behind you. As the route doubled back on itself I was able to keep an eye out for Mairi but didn't spot her. Hoping she was ok I carried on.

The half way mark was when I started to realise that the target time I had in my head (which I know you're not meant to have but I doubt anyone doesn't have one) was overambitious. I was running just over 8 minute miles. Which I hadn't planned on but felt comfortable at. Instead of trying to speed up to meet my overambitious time I realised that I had another 13 miles to go and 8 minute miles would get me there and if I felt comfortable then it would do.

Next came an overly long section with very little support, coming out of Stirling towards Alloa and then turning right over the bridge towards an industrial estate. Not only was this section about 4 miles long (14 to 18) it also was the longest gap between water stops, over 6 miles without any. I was desperate for some when it came but Mairi told me later that that water stop had actually ran out of water by the time she got there.

19 miles, almost there, 7 miles to go. Centre of Stirling huge amounts of support. But. The loops. I came onto the loops of central Stirling and was immediately met by runners flying past me, looking round I saw stripey numbers (eilte runners) and I though what the f@^£ is going on?? These runners had already completed at least one and maybe even two circuits of Stirling centre and here was me, just starting my first feeling slightly demorilsed by it. But there's nothing to do except carry on. So I did, up into Stirling city centre gave me goosebumps, the track narrowed until maybe four runners could run side by side and the crowds grew and grew and the walls of noise were uplifting and I began to understand a bit of the logic behind the loop system. The support. Buoyed by that I passed the castle and the finish line (which runners were to pass 2 times before actually finishing) and carried on up Drip road. The road name was appropriate as I was dripping with water, rain and sweat. I saw my dad there, who enthusiastically cheered me on (I would pass him once more at the same point before finishing). We ran through two pedestrian underpasses which was unpleasant. They were narrow and didn't allow for any manoeuvring but also were each at the bottom of a steep dip. Not very nice after 20 miles. Let alone 24 which it was on the next pass. The loop system continued to confuse and confound as I was passing mile markers saying 24 miles when I was on 21. This in hindsight is obviously meant for people on later loops but after so many miles I wasn't thinking to clearly. The loops started again and this time I was one of those faster runners coming up behind and through people who were just starting their first. Feeling sorry for them and the 9 miles they had still to do I carried on, as you have too.

The next loop was a bit of a blur, I had seen it all before and felt it all before. The only difference was Elaine and Stuart had moved into the centre of Stirling and were waving signs I can only assume were encouraging. I just wanted to be done but there was still 4ish miles left when I passed the finish line for the second time. Carry on I thought, again. Pass dad, carry on. Under the underpasses, carry on, through the throng at the start of the loop, carry on. Walk before the big crowd at the centre, carry on. Then the 800m to go sign finally appeared (again!) but this time it was for me, desperate for it to be over I picked up speed and made sure I "looked strong" coming over the line. I got emotional here. I had just done something I had severe doubts I would be able to do. I didn't care about my time then just the fact I had completed something I had built up so much, that I was so anxious about.

After getting my race pack and putting my medal on (which after a marathon would it be to much to ask someone to present it to you like at MOK????) I found my dad got a big cuddle and started to make my weary way to a place I could cheer on Mairi. I fell over a low wall to get to the roadside but got there eventually and there she was running on as she also does, so composed. She had one more lap to go so

After shouting very loudly I started to barge my way to the finish line to cheer her over it. I began to soak in what I had accomplished in the waiting area, with music blaring around me and so much positive energy. I felt almost dazed. She completed her final loop and came in "looking strong". We had both achieved something both of us had, for our own reasons, thought we would not be able to do.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey we both have been on, those who ran with us, supported us, put up with us and advised us. We are both very proud, weary but happy marathon runners.