Post 100 – and a bit of recovery time

It’s been a week since I completed the St. Cuthbert’s Way 100km ultramarathon.  My body feels back to normal, which makes me think it’s about time I did a bit of blogging! Dee and I travelled down to Melrose the night before the race so I could get registered.  We then stayed in a nearby AirBnb, then bright and early it was off to Holy Island for the start.  I lined up at 8am with 52 other starters feeling a bit nervous.  I was a under prepared and stepping into the unknown, but I got on ok…


Crossing the causeway to the mainland is a little odd.  A few hours later this road would be under the sea!

The race was quite an experience!  I finished in 26th out of 53 starters (42 finishers) in just under 17 hours – that’s a 1am finish!  The time was a bit slower than I had hoped for but I’m content with it.  Around the half way point the runner in front of me went over on his ankle at the top of one of the steepest hills I’ve ever been up.  So I helped him down.  It meant what should have been two of the fastest miles on the course turned out to be amongst my slowest.  Even after I got him to safety it took me a while to get going again.  I’m glad I did the ‘right thing’ but when you are exhausted and you see your target slipping away it can be hard to keep motivated.


Bit of a climb – glad there was some nice scenery behind me!


This wasn’t the only thing that slowed me down.  I went off a bit too fast to start with.  Took on too much sugar too early (I suspect).  Spent too much time at the aid stations.  Generally once I was exhausted I let little things get to me,  like my Garmin accidently turning off which nearly made me consider giving up – Dee made sure I didn’t dwell on it too long though.


Getting some coaching tips

Throughout the race the community around it was really special.  All the way through there were locals cheering us on and giving out food, I even got directions at one point.  After roughly a marathon distance I find can become a little emotional, this race was no different.  Dee (who was amazing all day, coming to every aid station and keeping my spirits up) saw me just before the 27.5 mile aid station, with this being over the magic emotional marker I was nearly in tears saying bye to her!  So I got myself composed and jogged another half mile or so to the aid station, the people here were lovely and one woman enquired about my CF Trust vest.  I explained I was running in memory of my brother who passed away a few years before, this she said was getting her quite emotional!  To maintain my dignity I thanked her, grabbed some fruit and was on my way!


Emotional aid station

As much as I wanted to finish faster, my experience was something that I won’t forget about quickly.  I wanted to finish before the sun went down but finishing in the dark was a cool, if a little creepy, experience.  I spent a good while running (and getting lost) through some forests with just my head torch and shadows for company!  It took my a while to realise the hundreds of bats were just the shadows off of the leaves.  In Melrose a woman and her son ran the last 150-200m with me, as did Dee.  Then when I got to the finish in the village hall the runners, their friends/family and volunteers applauded me which was a little overwhelming.

I collapsed into a chair, got my medal, ate pizza and drank a coffee.  Before leaving I applauded a few more finishers who I had ran with earlier in the day.  As much as I had just run the same race it was inspirational to see other people finish.


Felt Earned!

Now it’s a week on and I’m feeling recovered.  I went for a sports massage earlier in the week just to aid recovery.  On Thursday I managed a two mile run and I am about to head out to a group training class this morning.  I’ve had some time to reflect on the how the race went and I’m pleased.  Mentally I think I could learn how to deal with low points better.  I’ve heard when you are low you should focus on ‘why’ you are running.  It helped  but often took me a while to get there.  Physically, I needed more miles and more hills, but I knew that before I started.


If things had gone to plan, and I’d finished before sunset,  I wouldn’t have seen this awe inspiring view scene

Overall it was a great event, well done to the organisers Trail Outlaws for putting it on.  Dee really helped me throughout the day.  She was their at the start, at every aid station and at the end, I know this wouldn’t have been easy for her but it really made my day easier.  Thanks you Dee.


This group left me for dead by the top of the hill

Just to close I need to say sorry to my mum.  She text me twice during my race asking how I got on, panicking because I didn’t get back to her.  She’s quite keen on me sticking to ‘shorter’ distances, unfortunately I think I’ve got the ultra distance bug and if anything I’m trying to work out when my first 100 mile will be.  Sorry mum – I know what I am doing is a bit unusual but I promise I am okay.

It’s not on my ‘official’ race list but next up is the Spartan Sprint next week in Edinburgh.  Better learn how to do some burpees – AROO!


Pre 100…

Quick note on this blog post: I am about to briefly mention preparing for my next race. However I’ve already run it. I wrote this Thursday/Friday but when I went to publish I had no signal! I’ll get my post race post up this week. 

Last i reported it was Wear Yellow Day for CF Trust.  I thought that was last Friday but it turns out it was two weeks ago!  Cricky time flies when you’re having fun!  The fundraising in my work went incredibly well.  There was a bake off (that I didn’t win), an Mario Kart competition (no luck here either) and the inaugural AutoRek obstacle course race “Tough Rekker” (team event and I don’t want to blame my team for our runner up spot but I am a finely tuned athlete).  Best of all we raised over £250 for CF Trust.  Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and it meant a lot to see everyone coming together to help with a cause I care about.

Two days later on the Sunday I must have still been high on sugar so decided to go out a 30 mile training run.  As I’m training for ultramarathons this is the sort of distance I need to be doing, but I can’t help but think my teenage self would be horrified.  Between the age of 14-19 I used to do track and field, primarily 100m and long jump, I was never anything special but picked up a few medals.  I used to find 200m a bit far and would be horrified when my coach would send me on a 5 mile run in the winter to build an endurance base.  Now here I am, with no coach to prompt me, CHOOSING to go run 30 miles.  Guess I’ve changed over the years.

Between the 30 miles and generally running more consistently I managed to break my monthly mileage best, hitting 119.1 (up from 110.8 in May).  If you read one of my blogs from earlier in June you will know I didn’t expect this as I was laid up for a bit with a minor calf strain.  I want to keep upping this each month as I think I realistically should be doing closer to 200 miles, but I’ll get there gradually…

Well I say gradually but tomorrow I have my second ultramarathon, the 100km St. Cuthbert’s Way Ultra.  Going by the race notes this will be about 64 miles, and I’ve already done 15 this month, so come Sunday I’ll already be on 79 for July.  So maybe I’ll get close to 200 before the 31st.

I’m just about packed up for my ultra.  Got everything laid out, I just need to put gear and food in either my backpack or drop bag.  I’m feeling a bit nervous as it will be the furthest I’ve ever gone and I’ve never seen any of the course. We’ll soon see how it goes…

Standing up and talking

A couple of weeks back the company I work, AutoRek, for invited me to talk at the quarterly update about my fundraising for Cystic Fibrosis Trust. My job as a software consultant means I’ll now and again need to present to small groups, maybe 6-8 people. This time it would be upward of 50 colleagues, a nerve wracking step up in numbers. That said, I knew It was a good opportunity to share my story so I agreed.

I was only speaking for a few minutes and know from previously working at a charity that a personal story has more impact. I started with a few facts about what CF is and what the Trust do, not a personal opening but having a few facts and figures helped ease me in. I then moved on to speaking about why the trust is personal to me, my brother Paul.

About a year before he passed away Dee and I went to visit him and his family. They stayed in Wiltshire so visiting was always a bit of a holiday. One of the nights Paul got in from work we were speaking about presentations, I think he had been doing one that day or had one coming up. He said he just doesn’t understand why people get so nervous when speaking in public. Safe to say I’m one of the people he couldn’t understand! I could get up and speak but it was more likely that I’d have been nominated than me volunteering. This is something I have worked on since then, basically putting myself out there to speak, although not necessarily seeking it out.  Between this and some advice he gave me about job interviews, ‘enjoy it because when else will you get to tell people how great you are for an hour’, or in this case I thought ‘how often do you get the opportunity to share something you are passionate about with this many people?  Be confident and enjoy it’.

Back to the presentation – I was looking forward to sharing a bit about Paul.  I spoke about how he achieved a lot in his career and how that had a big impact on me and the rest of our family. Well I said something like that, I started to fall apart a little talking about him, so I ad-libbed and it’s a bit of a blur. I just about held it together though and finished this section with my favourite quote about him.

After that I move on to the lighter subject of running. I went over the races I’ve done already, managing a joke about how running Glasgow to Edinburgh was quicker than the same commute on the train. Don’t think I’ll win any stand-up awards but people laughed and it made me less tense. I got a few horrified looks when I mentioned the ultra marathons I have coming up and the Glencoe Marathon, billed as ‘Scotland’s Toughest Marathon’.

For the most part I don’t think people were aware ultras were a thing so the general consensus was that I’m a bit mental. I understand that point of view. A few people asked me why I was doing the longer distances, I could probably raise a lot of money racing a 10km every month so it’s a fair question, oddly I had never thought about it, but have since.  It’s because I want to take on challenges with a chance of failure.  I didn’t come up with this myself – it’s stolen from “Lazarus Lake”, the race director of the Barkley Marathons (featured in the documentary The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young).  This time last year the furthest I’d ever run was 10km races. I knew ultramarathons existed having read ‘Born to Run’, but took it to be something I wasn’t capable of – I was training for a half marathon and could maybe see myself doing a full marathon at some point but that was about it.  

The distance isn’t overly important to the fundraising, the big numbers don’t do any harm I’m sure, but they are helping with my confidence.  Losing Paul, along with some work issues around the same time, knocked my confidence.  This has improved since, partly due to doing well in my job, the support from Dee and my family, and due to time being a healer.  But running has brought me back up to a much more positive place.  I might not be going out winning races, in fact in the Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultra if it wasn’t for a second wind of sorts in the last 10-15km I might have been in the last three finishers, but I am doing thing I didn’t think I was capable of.  Ultra distances are one thing but even some of the train runs I’ve done were tough to the point I don’t know why I didn’t pull out (yes Glentress – I mean you!)  It’s amazing how confidence in one part of your life bleeds into other aspects of your life.  Feeling confident in my personal life and with my running meant that I was able to get up in front of my colleagues to share my story and a cause I am passionate about.

On the subject of my presentation… I closed with saying that I would appreciate any donations to my JustGiving page, but it was more important to me that support went to CF Trust, and if anyone was looking for a cause to raise money for them to please consider CF.  And AutoRek as a company has embraced this.  We already have a main charity that we support, The Beatson Cancer Charity, who offer a lot of support to cancer patients and their families with a big fundraising challenge of climbing Ben Nevis – Team AutoRek Trek Ben Nevis.  Obviously I need to save my legs so am giving it a miss!  Despite this focus we are also doing a fundraising day today for the CF Trust wear yellow day.  There will be cakes, games and and a lot of people wearing yellow – for a small donation obviously.  It means a lot to have that support from your employer, I like to think it was my powerful speech but I suspect it’s just their generosity.

Maybe hearing about my presentation isn’t why you’d read a running blog but I felt like I wanted to share my experience. I wouldn’t say it feels like a weight has been lifted because nothing was weighing me down but I do feel good for having done it. It has reinvigorated my desire to fundraise and run – I didn’t even realise I needed reinvigorated! I enjoyed it and would happily do again. If you aren’t confident in your public speaking I would highly recommend sharing something you are passionate about.

I’ll share how we get on with wear yellow day – hopefully it will be a more of a colourful and upbeat blog.

P.S. I’ve been running with no injury issues this week.  It’s a running blog so thought I should mention it!

Tatties, Running and Reflection

I’m feeling in a reflective mood. It’s the beginning of CF Week, where the Cystic Fibrosis Trust will be sharing updates on how the money raised is put to work, finishing with ‘Wear Yellow Day’ on Friday 23 June. As CF Trust are the charity I am raising funds for during my running this year is an obvious time to take stock and reaffirm why I am doing the fundraising. On top of this CF Week is beginning the day after the anniversary of Paul’s death. If you have read some of my earlier posts of my JustGiving page you’ll know Paul was my older brother who passed away 18 June 2014 after living with Cystic Fibrosis. He was a big influence in my life and I am doing all my fundraising in his memory.


Not focussing that well, but there is light at the end of the tunnel

On his anniversary this year I went running (surprising I know), taking part in the Great Scottish Summer 10km and the Great Scottish Tattie Run in Edinburgh. I woke up feeling a little low but the day ahead definitely distracted me. First up was a 10km run around Holyrood Park, not an easy flat course though, although not a lot of the inclines were steep they did go on and on and on and on and… you get the idea.  As with most of my runs this month I did it with Dee who is earlier in her running career than me so it gives me the chance to support her.  I was in two minds about going out hard in the 10km to set a PB on or going to help Dee.  I’m glad I choose the latter.  When Paul passed away Dee gave me a lot of support, so being able to support her too (in a much smaller way) was a more fitting tribute to the day.  Although I’m sure if you ask Dee she would rather I would be quiet with the encouragement!


It’ll be fun they ‘Fun’ said… Ok it kind of was

A couple of hours after the 10km we then took part in the Great Scottish Tattie Run (tattie being a Scots word for potato) which was roughly a kilometre run while carrying a 20kg sack of potatoes (10kg for women).  Definitely a more fun focused event!  The route was six laps between two cones which hadn’t been measured out in any accurate way that I could see.  Men and women ran separately to avoid congestion and I decided to take this one easy, simply because I was not prepared!  It was a good laugh, and by the end of it there was the added obstacles of tatties covering the course!  The whole event was pretty laidback and I even had a pint of beer at the end of it.  You also get to keep the potatoes which is great, until you remember that you got the train through and the station is about a mile uphill from the park…


Better than a protein shake

On the train home I got a bit more reflective, messaged some of my family and started googling CF trust and Paul. Not sure if this was a good or bad idea. It not that I read anything upsetting but I had went from distracting myself all day to focussing on stuff that would upset me. I read a bit about what CF Trust are doing this week with their campaigns to bring treatments to the people that need it most. Then about how Paul’s employer, Nationwide building society, more present the Paul McAllister award to their Executive Leader of the Year. All positive stuff but I still had a few teary moments.

I guess it got me thinking a bit about legacy. Paul has left an impact on so many people – colleagues, friends and most importantly family. I thought “I hope I’m lucky enough to leave even a quarter of the legacy Paul has”. But now I realise that’s an insult to his memory.  Paul didn’t do as well as he did or inspire other people through luck.  He worked hard and was a good person.  I just need to find my own path and do the same…


Paul McAllister

As mentioned earlier CF Week includes a ‘Wear Yellow Day’ on Friday.  I will be taking part with the support of my work to help in the the fight for a life unlimited.  We will be raising fund to help the CF trust beat last year’s £15,000.  You can involved by simply taking a #CFYelfie, but why stop there? Organise an event, like a cake bake or open garden day, and turn everything yellow, including your guests!

I’m Still Here

I’m not very good at blogging. I mean what I wrote is ok I think but I’m inconsistent in actually writing it. Previously I did a photography blog and it slowly faded away as well. No. Wait. Not “as well” – I can turn this one around!

So what have I missed.

Way back in April, once I’d gotten over the Glasgow to Edinburgh race, I ran the 10 mile Great Edinburgh Run with Dee. As mentioned in my last post this was the first time she’d run beyond 10km. It was a tough race with some hills pretty early on to take it out you for the rest of the race and another late on when you just want to see the finish. She did well, even saying it was preferable to a 10km – personally I think it was because of my company but maybe Dee’s eyes have just been opened to the joys of longer runs.

Lining up for 10 miles around Edinburgh

Following on from that in May I took part in the Monklands Half Marathon. I mentioned before that I wanted to do this in under 90 minutes, but I didn’t do anywhere near enough speed work. Going into the race I decided if I could set a PB if be happy. I am fitter than I was at my only previous half marathon, Great Scottish Run 2016, but I had trained specifically for it, now I’m just running a lot. I figured 01:40:00 was probably in reach which would be a five minute PB. Things didn’t quite go to plan though. I went out too fast at the start, my first three miles were all around the seven minute mark meaning I was just about on for the 01:30:00 mark – way too fast. I eased off the pace a bit going I hadn’t blown it. Despite another couple of unintentional fast miles I mainly held it together – although with a mile too go I felt like quitting. In the end I managed a PB – 01:35:34. This took 10 minutes of my best! It was slower than my initial goal but way ahead of what I expected on the day! Needless to say I was delighted – made the bleeding nipples worth it (forgot my anti-chaff).

Ignore the sign, it’s definer the finish!

Might need a new vest

After the half marathon I decided to try to set myself a new benchmark in terms of miles in a month. In April I managed just under 109.8 miles, so my obvious goal was 110 miles. I ended up with 110.8. The main difference between April and May way that in April nearly 50% of the distance came from one race. Whereas in May my milage was much more consistent. I’d like the distance to increase but I’m happy that I’m running more regularly now. Even managed a few more trail runs during a weekend away to Kenmore which was a nice change of scenery.

Looking down on Kenmore

I’d obviously like to continue this upward trend of miles in June, maybe even beating my target by more than a mile this time. Half way through the month I’m thinking it’s unlikely though. On my third run of the month, a nine commuting run to Glasgow, I got to four miles and felt a pain in my calf. Hoping it was cramp I a stretched and walked for a mile but it didn’t ease up. So after a trip to the physio and a week off, I have just started jogging again. So halfway through the month my total miles are just over 30. I did manage a race prior to my injury, a 10km at the Salomon Sunset series in Edinburgh. It was a pretty tough trail run around Holyrood park that Dee and I ran together. It was a good event though. There were some Salomon athletes doing Q&A sessions and one of them, Donnie Campbell, taking some trail running workshops. Despite some train issues getting home it was a good evening. The next morning after only a few hours sleep I was relieved I hadn’t got a spot in the Milngavie 8.5 Mile trail race. Dee wasn’t so lucky. Off we trotted to Milngavie where Dee did herself proud with her second trail run in 12 hours and I got to practice my other hobby of photography!

Finished together

Dee putting power hiking into action

I still have another few June races this weekend. The 5km Recovery Run in Glasgow on Saturday and two races on Sunday – The Great Scottish Summer Run 10km and The Great Scottish Tattie Run (one mile carrying 20kg of potatoes). Ideally I was going to try for a 10km PB but as my calf is still not 100% I’ll be taking it a bit easier.

The closest I got running on Global Running Day

I’ve decided on most of my races for the rest of the year now. Still a bit flexible on a few (I may only do one in September) and December/January seems to be down time for race organisers so if anyone knows of runs around then let me know!

  • 03 Jun – Salomon Sunset run Edinburgh – 10 km
  • 18 Jun – Great Scottish Summer Run – 10km
  • 18 Jun – The Great Scottish Tattie Run – 1 Mile
  • 16 Jul – Saint Cuthbert Way – 100km
  • 27 Aug – Malmesbury 10 km – 10 km
  • 02 Sep – Highland Perthshire Marathon – 26.2 Miles
  • 10 Sep – From Hel’ n Back – 12 km
  • 01 Oct – Glencoe Marathon – 26.2 Miles
  • 21 Oct – The Dramathon – 26.2 Miles
  • 18 Nov – Glentress Winter Trail Half Marathon – 13.1 Miles
  • 18 Nov – Glentress Winter Trail Night 10km – 10km
  • 19 Nov – Tweed Valley Forest Ultra Trail – 65km
  • Dec TBC
  • Jan TBC
  • 25 Feb – Glentress Trail Marathon – 26.2 Miles

I Think I Needed That

I seem to have decided to take a break after my ultra.  I don’t remember making the decision, but it seems like my subconscious did it for me.  Ok, ok.  I’m making excuses, I know I just couldn’t motivate myself to lace up my trainers and head out.  It’s not like I’ve been completely sedentary though. I generally go to a couple circuit/group training classes per week which I’ve kept up.

Anyway – I’m thinking the break from running may have done me some good.  On Easter morning I went out a little three mile run, with the intention of doing a couple of easyish paced miles (8:46 and 8:08) then stretch my legs a bit more in the last mile and I managed that in 6:06 which according to my Garmin and Strava it a new 1 mile personal best for me.  From memory I think that is about 20 seconds faster than my last fastest.  So I’ve convinced myself that not running for two weeks has made me faster…

I need to sit down and work out a plan. That said I’m going to get back to logging some decent miles while I’m working on that. This Sunday I’m going to be running the Great Edinburgh Run 10 mile with Dee which I’m really looking forward too! Dee’s furthest run to date is 10 km but this will be her first steps towards a half marathon – or maybe the run that will talk her out of it!

DISCLAIMER: The final paragraph is not to do with running!

To add to my excuses I was down in London for a long weekend. I might not have ran or trained at all when I was there but did do something kinds sports related – went to see Melanie C (aka Sporty Spice) in concert. Dee is a big fan so I got us meet and greet tickets for Christmas. It was a pretty fun day, Melanie was really nice to talk to and i was really impressed with the gig.

Maybe never again?

I’ve needed a week to recover from my first ultra marathon. Not physically though, 3-4 days and I was ok, but it’s taken me a week to bring myself to write about it!

Getting briefed – got to meet my new Twitter friend and ultra running Yoda @glenntail

Last Saturday I ran 54 miles from Glasgow to Edinburgh in around 11 hours 40 minutes. Physically I think I am capable of doing it faster but mentally i really struggled for long periods. The mental struggle i faced was boredom. I’ve never been bored running. People sometimes ask me if I get bored when I’m running and I’ve never really understood why. I sometime have headphones in but generally don’t feel I need it these days. But after the third checkpoint (around 33 miles) i really struggled.

Nice to see some wildlife

This sounds daft when I say it but the course was too flat, by 40 miles I was desperate to run up a hill just to use my muscles a bit differently. The hill would maybe have changed the scenery too. For 90% of the course I had trees on my left and the canal on my right. When I closed my eyes to sleep afterwards that was all i could see. Oh and iIgot sunburn too. There we go, I think that’s all my moaning out the way.

Yup canal on the right

I know I’m coming across really down about the experience but I’m still glad I did it. That said, I wish I’d spoken to someone who’s done the race as I think I’d have been able to prepare for the boredom. Now I’m not a fan of treadmill running but i think it would have done a lot more gym running. I can’t think of another way to replicate the flatness of the course.

Interesting cave/tunnel section – still that bloody canal though

A few years ago I didn’t know there were races longer than a marathon, six months ago I finished my first half marathon and in the last month I did my first and second marathons. Now I’ve done more than a double marathon. I don’t really feel pride in myself but I am pleased with my progression. I know that I’m pushing my limits and that’s what i am wanting to do as part of my fundraising for CF trust this year.

Ok – granted the Falkirk Wheel was pretty cool but it was also before the boredom broke me

I say I’m pushing my limits, and in terms of my races I am. However my eyes have been opened this month to the fact my training is barely getting me through. For May and possibly June I’ll be cutting the race distance to half marathons at the most to give me a chance to regroup and maybe work on my pace. I hope to do so another ultra this year (with hills and nice scenery) and I’ll definitely be better prepared!

Made my own energy gels! Does that make me a real runner?

Next up for me is the Monklands Half Marathon on 14 May. Just to commit myself to a goal I’m hoping to go under 90 minutes which would be a 10-15 minute PB!

Brief break in the monotony for this landscape

If anyone reading this is considering the Glasgow to Edinburgh race in future years I would recommend it. It is small and well organised. At the end there was even massages on offer (I had a sports foot massage which started off as pain relief but descended into tickle torture). I’m in no rush to do the race again but I know I could do it faster. So certainly not next year, probably not the following year, the year after that’s a doubt too… anyway​, one year I’ll be back to do myself justice!