Saturday 10th April was the date of this years GEDM, it had changed from last years earlier date which meant for a hot day and it also being closer to the Highland Fling, which takes place on April 30th.
Having said that, the weather did make the run more challenging but also more enjoyable.
I arrived at Glasgow on the morning of the race having been given a lift by Ferelith, upon arriving, I registered and took in my final fluids. Ruchill Park was where the race began and it allowed for everyone taking part to get to know one another. I had been looking forward to meeting a couple of people at the start of the race and was happy to see Mark Barrow and Mimi Anderson there.
Mark had popped up to say hello ahead of his VLM challenge and Mimi was up from her home in England to take part.
We were told to follow the canal and we wouldnt go wrong, fairly straight forward then! There was a short detour at the Falkirk tunner due to a landslide but we were told it would be well marked. I was pleased to avoid the Falkirk tunnel as I dislike the feeling inside it but the shade would have been nice.
The gun went off and off we went, I set out with a time in mind but after going out too fast at the d33 in March I decided to take it easy. My 305 read 7 minute 40 second mile pace and I was happy with that.
Before long (roughly 3 miles) I was in 2nd place, I was surprised by this as I hadnt given any thoughts to challenging for a position, it worried me that again I had perhaps went out too fast. I felt good as I went along and I slowed it to 8 minute mile pace to be safe.
Upon arriving at checkpoint 1 (Achinstarry Bridge – I think?) Ferelith was there to meet me, I took a new drink from her carried on, I completed the first 13 miles in 1hr 40 minutes and felt good. I was surprised to still be in 2nd place but kept the focus purely on my own race. I arrived at checkpoint 2 which was the Falkirk Wheel, this is where we would leave the Forth/Clyde canal and join the Union Canal.
I had been overtaken at the checkpoint by one runner. I quickly followed him up the hill to the Union canal, keen not to be overtaken because I had taken too long at the CP. As I arrived at the Union canal I started running with a guy named Colin, I think his name was Colin Hodge or Montgomery, I cant be sure because two Colin’s finished a few places behind me. I discovered that this was his first ultramarathon, with it being my 2nd official event I was pleased to hear that he was giving it a go as well. I had run several 40/50 milers and one 100 miler but never any official events until this year.
I noticed that my pace had slowed to 9 minute miles and I was keen to keep motoring on so I said good luck and went back up to 8 minute miles.
The heat by this point was starting to tell, my face was dry and layered with salt from the evaporated sweat, it felt good though.
I reached checkpoint 3 at Linlithgow which meant I was at 33 miles and still in 2nd place. I was told that the 3rd place was only 5 minutes behind me, which sounds a lot but it isnt in an ultra. I had completed the 33 miles in 4hrs 30 minutes which was just 6 minutes slower than my race in Aberdeen of the same distance, had I done it again? Went away way too fast?
As I started away from Linlithgow I knew I had less than 23 miles to go, lets than a marathon, the back of the race hadn’t quite been broken yet but nearly. I bumped into another runner named Richard, he wasn’t taking park in the race but was running form Linlithgow to Edinburgh for Marathon training. We chatted and stayed close to one another all the way to Edinburgh.
By checkpoint 4 I had started to lose pace, I was down to 10 minute miles and fluctuated between 9 and 10 minute miles for a good distance. This meant that I was now in 4th place, I wasnt at all bothered because I had not set a target and now my main goal was to finish. The repetative nature of the course was really getting to me and it did make me wonder how I was going to run on a treadmill for 24 hours, I am still wondering actually. I was craving a hill or some kind of variation on the flat route.
By this time the usual things started to happen, the mind games, thoughts like “why am I doing this, its too hard.” ”if i just stopped at the next checkpoint I would be happy with my decision because I dont have anything left to give.” “just stop, this is a waste of time, its a nice day you could be in a beer garden relaxing with Friends” this happens to me in every race, no matter the distance, its my alter egos way of telling me im not good enough to do it, I have to push that voice down and own it and thats exactly what I did. I clung on to anything that would let me, at checkpoint 4 I wanted to stop but i clung onto the fact that my drop bag would be waiting at the end of the course and I would need to go and get it, I wouldnt want to see people finishing if I hadn’t manged to. This spurred me on! Its strange the things that motivate you. Thats the trick with Ultras I think, having the mental strength to push it all away and have confidence in your ability and belief in your own mind.
It really helped having the runner Richard at parts, great to ease the silence, althought I tend to go inwards during races so I usually just listen.
I got to the final checkpoint at Ratho knowing the finish line was in site, a few more miles to Edinburgh and familiar turf. Strangely with 5 miles to go I felt great and had managed to climb out of the mental hole in time for a sprint finish. With about 2 miles to go, a competitor, I dont know who, went to overtake me, which would have put me into 7th place. I was determined not to let that happen, I had worked hard all day to get here and I wasn’t about to let someone past me with a mile to go.
I picked up the pace and ran the final mile in 6 minutes 14 seconds fending off the late challenge, strangely he backed down after a couple of 100 metres but I kept going at the fast pace, making me wonder why I couldnt have run like that for a few of the last miles, again strange what motivates you!
At the end i arrived at Cargo in 6th place in a time of 8 hours 38 minues, a time I was delighted with, the race was won by Grant Jeans in 7 hours 14 minutes, showing me that I have still a long way to go but I will get there, watch this space!
I waited at the end for Richard to end his run, I owed him a lot for the banter through some tough parts of the course. I also waited for Colin who I had been with at Falkirk and was pleased to see him cross the line in 9th or 10th place (whichever Colin he was)
Special congratulations to Mimi Anderson who took 1st female and 11th overall with a time of 9hrs 7mins.
The Fling is at the end of the month but before that the Strongman run in Germany this Saturday.