The Scottish Half Marathon

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It feels like a long time since I sat down to write. The past two weeks have been so busy with plans and work and getting ready to go on my holidays, it just feels as though this month has been a whirlwind!

Last Saturday I achieved something that I am proud of and I wanted to share it here. I completed the Scottish Half Marathon. The Scottish Half is my 4th half marathon so far but this one was a little bit different. It was the first half marathon that I was really pushing to improve my time in and it was also the first race that I’ve ever done completely alone. The race was out in Prestonpans on the East Coast of Scotland and finished up in Musselburgh Race course. It was worth the 6am start to get out there…just!

The day was beautiful. This year we’ve had a dire summer in Glasgow so the last thing that I was expecting in mid September was the cloudless blue sky that I was met with as I walked to the Meadowmills sports centre from Prestonpans Station. It was just stunning. In fact, everything about that race was perfect. From the spacious and brightly coloured starting points along the track at the sports centre, to the ample space for warming up (I mean, how many races do you get to run where there’s a whole field and a track to warm up on?!), to the gorgeous route along the coast with families and residents out to support the runners. We were really spoiled!

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Having said that, it was not an easy race by any stretch. It was a hot day and coming from a relatively cool summer I could see a lot of runners suffering. I was pretty worried about getting dehydrated even though they had water stations well placed and some of the locals were also out with drinks for the runners…and their garden hoses! I kept a steady pace through out the race and although I could feel my body cramping up toward the start of the 12th mile I pushed hard and finished on 2 hours 7 minutes. For some people that time is pretty crap but I’m very proud because that is a full 9 minutes faster than my last half marathon. We finished up in Musselburgh Race course and the atmosphere was like one big party, I could tell that people would be hanging around for a while in the gorgeous weather soaking up the sun and the achievement. Not for me though, after I collected my medal (my favourite so far, it’s a huge majestic lion so what’s not to love!), I was straight back to Glasgow so that I could head out for my friends birthday – well after getting a bit lost in Waverly station….

To be honest, it was a little bit lonely doing a race all by myself but I had lots of messages of support from my friends and family and my boyfriend. Although I’m no stranger to going it alone, it was liberating to do this by myself but it did reinforce how much fun it can be to have someone there to share the experience. After a little nap and some pampering Chris and I headed out for my friends birthday and I had a well earned and much appreciated pint of Guiness! It was a lovely evening and although we didn’t stay out too late it was a great end to the day and nice to be surrounded by people who congratulated me on my little run!

I recovered really well afterwards which I’ll put down to doing a Yoga With Adrienne video every day of the week before and on the Sunday morning too – sadly although the Guiness was great I somehow doubt that that was the miracle cure! Although I discovered some pretty bad sunburn on my back the next day! I did wear suncream but it was a lesson not to miss out on my back in future…d’oh!

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All in all it was another great race experience and I’m grateful for the day and the support. Sometimes you have to just give it your all even if there’s no one there to cheer you on!

Go For It: RACE!

Race Numbers

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In front of Arthur’s Seat last week where the Great Edinburgh Run finished up. Races are also a good excuse to travel and experience a city or place in a novel way!

I’m a self confessed lover of running. It’s the one form  of exercise that I keep coming back to no matter what I try, it works for me. It isn’t for everyone. People can find it boring, or lonely, repetitive, not competitive enough…the list goes on! I’m not here to convince people to run if they don’t like it or suggest that it is the ultimate exercise, however, in the spirit of “Go For It”, I would like to make a suggestion to you and here it is:

Whether you love to run or could take or leave it, why don’t you sign up for a race?

Lack of motivation is a huge blocker for people looking to improve their fitness. If you have a race booked, no matter the distance, it gives you a target to work towards. Whether you care about times or not, you will know the race is coming and you will want to be ready. A lot of people , runners and non – runners alike, use a race as a starting point for their new push for fitness. From my experience and through people I have met, I can’t recommend challenging yourself to a race highly enough. Here are a few reasons why:

Races Bring People Together:

Competing in a race is an event in itself. Races draw all sorts of people from all walks of life. At last years half marathon in Glasgow I got chatting to a guy who went halves on a packet of safety pins with me, turned out he was a policeman and this was his first race! Races have a friendly atmosphere and are social in a safe and organised way. Most of the races that I have competed in have been with friends but when I am racing alone, I never feel like I’m on my own – probably because I’ll badger people for safety pins but there you go! – It’s a shared experience that you can celebrate afterward and a way to encourage the people you care about and rejoice in and appreciate each others success.

Races aren’t just about running:

If you are not much of a runner, why not try an obstacle race or a color run to get the benefit of the shared atmosphere without the potential monotony of something that you are not always keen on? Color runs are generally over a short distance and, we’ve all seen the selfies; they just look really cool! Obstacle races can also come in various physical ranges and engage you in different ways for the more adventurous and racer.

Compete With Yourself:

For people who like to jog, why not challenge yourself to a longer distance. I went from m first 10k to my first half marathon in four 4 months and even though my time wasn’t so hot, completing the half marathon gave me a great sense of pride and confidence. If running isn’t your go-to form of exercise, why not challenge yourself to a 5k. Racing for charity is a brilliant and worthwhile motivator but honestly, sometimes just completing something can be a reward in itself.

The thing about a race is, no matter the distance you ran,or the time it took you, or how many times you stopped, or how God awful the weather was – racing: the only time when sun can be worse than rain- once the race is over you have done it. You forget or laugh about the horrible hill or when you were caught downwind of someone’s spit (yeah…) and you remember it for what it was: an achievement, and one which will inspire you further in your fitness journey. Or just anything in life really.

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Chris and I last Sunday after completing the Great Run Edinburgh 10 Mile Race. It was tough, my time was 1hr 38 and the course had a very high rate of elevation. I am once again proud to have completed a race and have learned from this one just like every other.

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2 Years on – Where I’m Coming From

You may have been reading my last couple of posts and thought to yourself, who is this person and why is she so bothered about being a healthier? What the big deal about running a half marathon in 2 hours? In this post, I talk a little bit about what has gotten me to this point and will hopefully give some insight into who I am and where I am coming from.

I’ll put my hands up and say that I haven’t always been the healthiest person. I dabbled sports at school, luckily enjoy the gym which has gotten me through my late teens and university. Growing up in Dublin with an Irish mammy, I have always been fond of the butterier things in life and of course, the food carnage that ensues after a night’s drinking. Other than knowing the basics I never really had much of a passion for fitness.

Two years ago, I started running. I signed up for my first 10k in January 2013. It was the Dublin Women’s Mini Marathon, which takes place during the June bank holiday. So I had 6 months to train. And I couldn’t run for 2 minutes. For some people that isn’t even a joke.

And I am one of those people.

Me, after running the Flora Women's Mini Marathon in June 2013
Me, after running the Flora Women’s Mini Marathon in June 2013

Why did I sign up for the mini marathon? I had never run before, I wasn’t particularly unfit (or I didn’t think I was until I tried to run for 2 minutes!) or unhappy with the way I looked. The reason I signed up for the Mini Marathon was because, honestly, I wanted to achieve something that year. Just one thing. As you may have read in my earlier post, I quite like to set goals for myself. In this instance, I had finished up at Uni the September before, I was working in the same part time job that I had been doing for the past 3 years all the way through college. I was desperately looking for other work, any work at all that would give me the means to move out of my parents house and eventually get to do what I really wanted, which was to travel to New York on a graduate visa (I fell in love with the place when I was there while travelling around the states in 2010). But by January 2013, that opportunity was slipping away. And I wasn’t getting any interviews. It is hard when you are literally calling and emailing agencies everyday. When you are constantly on recruitment websites and you don’t ever hear anything back. You go to an interview and you don’t get the job because you’re a lovely girl but they are looking for someone with more experience. And no one will give you a chance to prove yourself.

It is an all too familiar tale for a lot of people and it is not a nice place to be. I felt stuck. I felt like nothing that I’d have done up till that point mattered because it doesn’t fit in with this employers’ view of what I should be. So I wanted to do something for myself. I quite liked exercise, but couldn’t afford a gym at that time so I figured, why not? Entering a mini marathon would (hopefully) give me the motivation to keep at it, and running is free so what have I got to lose?

I entered the mini marathon that January. I went on a trip to Scotland in February and met my now boyfriend. It was slow progress but I managed a 5k run in March. I visited Scotland again in April. In May, still with no job on the horizon, I decided it was time to make a big change, I was going to leave Ireland. I ran the mini marathon on a scorching hot bank holiday in June. At the risk of sounding like that saddest person ever (if I don’t already), I nearly cried when I crossed the finish line. I was so proud.

I ran a 5 mile race in August and then, in my wisdom, I signed up for my first half marathon (13 miles) in August. I moved to Scotland on September 8th. I got a job 1 week later. 1 month later I ran the Great Scottish Run Glasgow half marathon.

My 1st Half Marathon Result
My 1st Half Marathon Result

The next year saw me run another 2 half marathons (well, one 15 mile race and the Great Scottish Run again) and a return to the Women’s Mini Marathon. Almost a year to the day since I started, I was promoted at work and what I had hoped would be a job to get me through has become the beginning of a career.

Waiting patiently to run the Balmoral 15 mile trail race, the furthest distance I have run so far
Waiting patiently to run the Balmoral 15 mile trail race, the furthest distance I have run so far

I miss my family and friends at home of course, but I have also met some friends for life here and honestly I’m just happy. The truth is, that I believe that pushing myself physically in terms of fitness, has also made me push myself in every other area of my life. It’s not that I had never made a change or done anything worthwhile before I started running, I just found that those major changes like moving away and starting off a new job, meeting new people in another country, all felt in some ways more manageable because I felt like I was making small achievements alongside that with my running. That gave me a lot of confidence. Fitness and my fitness achievements (however small) have become a passion for me. I will always struggle with some of my lesser passions – crisps and lie ins to name just two, and I have probably given in to them a bit more in the last while than I should have.

But I find, and I hope that you find this too, whatever your goal is, that once you start having little victories, even when you fail at something, you have the confidence to go back and try again. Because you know that you have the determination to get there in the end.

My parents were waiting for me when I finished the Flora Women's Mini Marathon for the second time. I'm looking forward to returning for the 2015 race, it's become a bit of a tradition with my friends and I!
My parents were waiting for me when I finished the Flora Women’s Mini Marathon for the second time in 2014. I’m looking forward to returning for the 2015 race, it’s become a bit of a tradition with me and my friends!