Grit, Sweat & Smiles: Alloa Half Marathon

Having completed over a quarter of my 2016 100 x 10k challenge, by hitting #26, I’m ahead on the runs but behind on the blogs. Here’s a few 10km runs to catch up on:
        RBR_2    RBR_3
  • 10km #20 – Celebrating 20 by joining the Red Bridge Runners, Glasgow City.
  • 10km #21 & #22– Nike Thur & my own game to cover Glasgow Green.
  • 10km #23 – Nike Sunday. 16km along the river out west, and back along the canal.


Paint Park Green Nike 20km

10km Run No. 24 – RBS Sports Relief 

For 10km #24 I participated in the RBS Edinburgh sports relief 10km,  a tough cross country course. One half had tree bark underfoot, which didn’t allow any traction burning the thighs, and the second half was hilly across the gogarburn grounds, but I was chuffed to cross the line 3rd and enjoyed possibly the only time I will finish with a podium place 🙂


10km Run No. 25 & 26 – Alloa Half Marathon

Distance: 21.1km

Time: 1.33.29

Two days later, questioning whether I should even be running, I found myself taking on the Alloa Half Marathon. I had signed up last minute, simply because over the last month every runner has talked about it, as the first decent ‘Half’ (21.1km) of the season, so I thought why not? Having concentrated so heavily on 10ks I shrugged off the memory of the 25km West Highland Way run that almost left me sick, and the fact I was currently hobbling around two stiff legs that felt like tree trunks. Pleasantly, after some of the more adventurous/ horrendous weather’s I have enjoyed this year, today was cracking sunshine. I jumped on a bus to Sterling and fortuitously taxi shared to Alloa where the crowds and excitement was instantly evident.


As the gun was fired I found myself somewhere towards the front of the 3,000 pack, and the speed that the super marathon runners set off at was alarmingly scary. I forced myself to hold back, I’m currently not trained at this distance and after recent successive 10km runs and the RBS podium place I needed to again last the distance. That alone is a difficult thing, deliberately slowing yourself down slower than you are use to, deliberately letting floods of runners past you when despite your own intentions it’s geared up as a ‘race’, and deliberately sticking to your own common sense and game plan regardless of the actions of the crowds around you. As with life, sometimes you have to slow down to go faster.

For running the first 5 km’s, I had 4 mins – 45 seconds (4.45) a km in mind, but I still completed 1km in 4.21 so again tried to slow it up, which I managed to do for the next 5kms, pushing myself on 10 seconds quicker when I wanted to, and slowing myself down 20 seconds when I wanted to. I was comfortable and pleased to be in control of my pace. A few km in, you find the majority of runners around you have found their pace and you can use this as a benchmark to control your own. I took the liberty to enjoy the scenery and got in a few photos along the way.


Half way around I felt comfortable, my body was warm and my legs were loose, so I continued to ramp it up a gear and try to catch back some ground. Problem was, just as I tried, I turned onto a very long, very open 6km stretch fighting against the wind, just enough to make an exerted effort that even more challenging. I dug deep and started overtaking clusters on the road.

Interestingly the fear of slowing down and losing ground had now changed into the fear of speeding up and burning out. I put my inner voice to one side and stuck to my gut instinct. At times I wasn’t sure how long I could keep it up, but I kept passing runners, one runner or one pack of runners at a time, and the sense of positive ‘movement’, making up ground, was motivational and kept me steaming forward.


The Alloa Half has an infamous hill, and towards the end of the run it hit me… A long soul-destroying climb that stretches out into infinity and makes you question your sanity. I put my head down digging deep once again and ploughed forward. Through the grit, I barley realised overtaking two clusters of runners on the climb and only just caught sight of the chap puking up to one side of me. Sometimes, with the hardest challenges you just want to get it done, and get them out the way. I reached the final stretch and continued to challenge myself. Most encouraging for me, I had controlled my pace fairly well throughout, I had stuck to my own ‘go slow then gain ground’ game plan, managed to smash the hill (and avoid puking) and still managed the final km in 4.08 with a strong sprint finish clocking a time of 1hr, 33mins , well ahead of my own expectation.

There’s no sweeter feeling than sprinting through that finishing line, collecting your medal (oh yes), chowing on a banana (they never taste so sweet) and swigging water back into your system with a sense of personal achievement.  Garmin Stats.


Another highlight was hanging around and watching all of the other thousands of runners finish. You could see that same grit, self determination and sense of achievement on every single person. Perhaps it was the rare spring sunshine or the fact I was still high on endorphins, but I felt quite moved. I stared back at the sweat, the tears, the pain but also the joy, smiles, and triumph and could only feel deeply inspired.

Talking of inspiration, my fundraising for health and nutrition in rural Gambia continues and I plan a visit to further set up the project in May/June.

I have been challenged to a 35km town-to-town run while I am there, which truly would be an adventure! Meanwhile, the 10km’s seem to be in hand (24 done) and I’m only 29 seconds off my sub 40 minute target. I have  a feeling the ‘Half’ has also entered the blood stream and there are a few more of those, and room for an improved time, yet to come!

Challenge yourself, embrace grit, sweat and pain, but smile, and find your own joy, happiness and sense of achievement!

Thanks for reading,

Paul 🙂

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Full Timings, stats and run maps linked from my Results Page

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