From Elstree to PB. The Alloa half marathon 2016

Its been a busy and funny old week. I’ve kept training away since the Cambuslang 10k, but this week saw me disappearing to London, turning V45 then attempting to run a fast Half Marathon at Alloa. Wednesday and Thursday were spent down at Borehamwood/ Elstree. You may remember that I went for an audition, well we got the call and were brought down this week to film. I won’t give any game away here. I won’t tell you how we fared, but I will share a few pics from rehearsals. I had to cover my arms for the show as tattoos were frowned upon.


It was really good fun, met some interesting people over the course of the shows filming when we were there including a West End star who was competing alongside his wife. A highlight was when we were informed our filming would be the following morning, and when our competitors went to the hotel to study the periodic table and capital cities, me and Iain went to the pub and watched the Barca – Arsenal game, then the Munich – Juve extra time. And all this while pumped with painkillers after no sleep and horrific toothache. I will let you know when it shows, but we did discover that Richard and Alexander are fellow fans of Teenage fan club, which is nice….



Anyway, due to that I got no running done after Tuesday apart from a short leg stretcher on Saturday. So Sunday was to be the Alloa Half Marathon. Now I haven’t run hard in a half marathon since Haddington, every one’s favourite disaster blog. Since then I did a slow one at Dumfries, purely for my head. I was buoyed by my 10k at Cambuslang and a really good hill session this week, then heard how Scott Dickson had PBed at parkrun yesterday by being brave and running hard, and I decided that it was time to stop moping, being afraid, and get the finger out and start putting myself through the pain barrier again. I reckoned I was capable of going under 1.35, with a lot of hard work, and if things went right maybe even going close to my PB of 1.32:45. Nowhere near a given as I am not race fit, nor do I have a lot of mileage in my legs. Iain Littler and Marc Bromwich on Strava were telling me I would be sub 1.30 or sub 90, which is my half marathon dream but they were talking through their collective arses. A quick calc told me I would need to run approx 4.15 a kilometre. With those hills? Nah. Yes I mentioned hills. Have a look at the Alloa profile. Not counting a climb up to Sauchie in the first part of the race, the second section sees a steep long climb just after mile 10, with a brief respite before another long hill up into Alloa. “A PB Crusher” I had heard it called. “A widow maker”. OK maybe I exaggerate. Anyway aim still to go out hard and test myself. Yes the hills would slow me, but its then 2 miles or so downhill to the finish. Got there about an hour before start and saw the various MAC members who were running. Most of whom were looking for PBs. The legend in lycra has a PB faster than me set here last year. Emma is training really well and was just behind me at Cambuslang. Kevin hoping to get near 1.40. Susan making big improvements. Met my mate Dave who despite a cold was looking to PB. I told him he’d break 1.40. He didn’t believe me. So off to the start. With the sun scorching down I learned from my Haddington mistake and put a load of suncream on the baldy napper, and took a lot of liquids on. Did forget my nipple cream but can’t have everything….(ouch). Wore my shades. No point letting people see my pain. Shook hands with athletics smiliest man Robert Gilroy and we are ready to start.

Off we went and despite there being over 2000 runners the start wasn’t too chaotic. First couple of k round a loop from the sports centre back to the main road and I was round in 4.02 and 4.08. The third 3 had a downhill section and the watch told me 3.57 for this and then we had the climb into Sauchie with 4.18 and 4.15. Feeling OK here. Don’t get me wrong, not brilliant, but I knew that the next section was where the run would be determined, with an undulating but downhill section to Tillicoultry at about 10k then a 4 mile straight road section to Menstrie and the hill of doom. Now on the downhill section people were haring away from me. Didn’t care. Was all about maintaining a steady solid pace. I felt that unless I buckled I was on for getting under 1.35 and with a bit of luck getting close to my 1.32 PB. Managed to keep steady at about 4.10 pace down to Tillicoultry and through 10k in 41.35. All going to plan. Turned the corner for the long straight section and there was a bit of a headwind, but manageable. Between 11 and 13k my pace started to slow as I started to feel it, and I was averaging in the 4.20s so all slight thoughts of a sub 1.30 went out my head here. There is a wee bit where you come off the straight road for 50 metres then turn and go back down for some reason, at this stage I saw Emma maybe about 30 metres behind me. Tried to encourage her but nothing came out. I was toiling. The 1.30pacer came past me now an kept getting further away to add insult to injury. 15 and 16k s in about 4.20 again and I had done 10 miles in 1.08 exactly. Only 6 seconds or so slower than I did the Tom Scott 10 mile race in last year so that was a wee boost. Then the hill came.


It was long in the distance, but I actually got up it better than I thought. Didn’t lose as much time as I thought. PB still on. Flat section and although legs heavy I was still running a semi decent pace. Then hill 2 came. This almost destroyed me. I got up semi decent, but I was finished at the top. It’s fine to say there is about 2 miles to go and its downhill, but the legs were empty. The PB crusher. I was lucky to latch into a group about this time and was using them to try and keep my pace. My garmin was telling me my average pace was 4.15. This wasn’t just PB pace, this was 1.30 pace. If I could run the last 3k in an average of 4.14 I had a chance. The third k was the last part of the climb and that k was in 4.21. So looking at things I had to run as close to 4.10 for the last 2k plus. The legs were heavy. 20th k done in 4.05. Solid. Last k and a bit and the thighs were heavy. The calves were tight and I was wobbling. The pack I was with went away. I was watching in the distance for the turn to the finish and couldn’t see it. So near, yet so far. Was going to be close but I didn’t have the legs for one of my old 3.30k type finishes. Eventually people are turning. I looked at my watch not sure of how far exactly to go. 1.28.54. Man this was going to the wire. I felt dizzy, knackered, but gave everything I had, counting down in my head and got over the line stopping the watch.


Couldn’t focus on it. Wobbling. Grabbed my water quickly, struggled to open it. Felt faint. Nothing left. Wobbling. Got my medal. Got my banana, got my t shirt (though the medium I said sounded more like flewbilum). Sat down gulped my water and then looked at the watch. 1.29.34. A new PB by over 3 minutes and my first sub 1.30/ 90. I have to fair to myself and say I gave  it all out there, and also if there had been an extra 1 k I probably would not have finished. I guess that is what you call running/ pacing it perfect, unlike that place with the H name we won’t talk about anymore. Emma came in about 45 seconds or so behind, smashing her PB. Jim the legend beat his PB  by 10 seconds. Dave got his sub 1.40 with Kevin and Susan smashing theirs. In front of me Mark Paterson had finished in 22nd in 1.16. Phenomenal. Loads of people I haven’t mentioned, I’m sorry. What a day!


Official result through and a second quicker in 1.29.33. So today’s lesson for me? Look forward now and not back. Yes I was injured. Get over it, get the finger out, work hard, be brave and run for fun. Decent first race for me as a V45. What a buzz it is being back 🙂 Later blogpeeps.

Thanks to all the organisers and volunteers involved in today’s run. A great event that I will be back to.
Thanks to Iain McNicol, Some dude from Pointless and Gordon Donnachie for the pictures.




5 thoughts on “From Elstree to PB. The Alloa half marathon 2016

  1. Pingback: The only one I know – a Pointless blog | markgallmac

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