No I’m not out running trying to do crazy maths whilst writing this.  This post, this very one, is about Stirling Marathon.  And the title will become clear soon enough (I promise you won’t need one of those calculators with more buttons than a remote control).

The inaugural Great Stirling Scottish Marathon (what a bloody mouthful – it will be called Stirling from now on) was Sunday past – and my third marathon.  I had quite a complicated aim.  Under 4 hours but if it didn’t feel right at any point I was to pull back because I can’t risk the Half Ironman in 6 weeks (eeek, little poo came out) and I still need to carry on training for it.  So, one side of the scale to the next – under 4 hours but gentle walk to finish if anything happens.  

All runners were to get the shuttle bus as it started at the safari park in Blair Drummond which is on a bad road on a normal day.  Happy to report I handled this by myself with no issue.  Wow.  Feels like I might be growing up! 

Joking aside I was surprisingly calm about this event.  Admittedly there was the use of breathing techniques a lot but, no actual issue. 


Not until I needed the toilet.  The boast of plenty of toilets on the pre-race info was just ever so slightly exaggerated.  To the extent of there being more truth in the existence of Santa Clause than the number of toilets they had provided! I queued for over 40 minutes.  I watched the elites start, the fast club runners start, the orange wave, my wave and even the wave behind me before I had managed to relieve myself! As you’ll know from previous posts, I’m not too shy that I won’t ‘drop trou’ if needs must but I wasn’t about to do that with the risk of an antelope or a rhino coming up and sniffing my butt! 

What’s she up to?

So I was late starting.  Which meant weaving through hundreds of runners at a different pace to me.  I didn’t like it any more than they did.  I can almost forgive the women who elbowed me sharply in the ribs, almost.  There was a moment later on in the race when I saw her again thanks to the laps and I briefly considered tripping her up.  Joking! 

I had been dropped at the pick up by Joe, my daughter, my youngest and my mum.  Thanks to my daughters ability to sniff out a Marks and Spencer’s hot chocolate within a 5 mile range they were able to find somewhere to kill some time before heading to the course to try and spot me.

It was great running weather – we had just a spittle of rain.  Didn’t need sun glasses but was comfortable in shorts and vest.  Perfect.  The first section of the run was through a few small villages and there was great support from the locals.  Lots of kids out with sweets and high fives.  About 8 miles in I heard a familiar voice shout my name.  It was Gail from my work.  She sounded really surprised to see me which I’m putting down to being ‘surprised she actually managed to spot me’ and not ‘surprised I was actually running’.  Either way it was great to see her and I gave her a huge grin and wave as I went by.  Running.

A little further on and a lady from my running club jumped out from the crowd screaming ‘Go Perth Road Runners’.  Genuinely awesome enthusiasm.  Love it!! 

Not far past that and I see my family.  My daughters holding up the sign she ‘loving’ made for me.  (Loving should probably be replaced with bribed if I’m totally honest.  But a sign is a sign.  And it was for me! And I loved it!).  My youngest was shouting ‘go mummy’ and the other half was still smiling so I knew they weren’t bored yet.  My mum was still trying to get her camera turned on after I went past but that’s Nanny Netty for you ha ha.

Half way was a bit of a climb up and round the university.  On reflection it was barely a hill at all but at the time it was the equivalent of a hill race.  True story.  I spotted a couple of guys from my club and decided to try and use them to keep my pace up.  I was a little worried about having started at the very back and didn’t want to come in with an awful time.  I have a wave and ‘your going good, well done’ when I eventually caught them.  Not long after I did I spotted another from my club so did the same again.  Slightly harder this time, it felt he was running the same pace as me.  Then, just as I was about 100m behind him he veered off the road and in to the bushes. I won’t lie, I felt hard done to.  All that hard work to catch up with him and the only way I did was because he stopped to pee! How dare he! Did he not know I was chasing him down?? Ha ha.

The long straight in the by pass was awful.  It puts me off running the same course again.  It just seemed to go on forever.  Then at the end of it was the lead in to the dreaded lapping system.  I really didn’t think I would be able to count to 3 at this point.  It was very de-moralising passing signs for 22miles when you are only 17 in.  I was convinced I had gone the wrong way when I first saw 800m! That’s it, well done Ella, you have actually been that stupid that you’ve missed the laps.  Your names going to be all over the papers and all the social media sites.  Game over.

I hadn’t though.  When I hit the underpasses I knew I was going the right way.  Along with the bypass the underpasses were atrocious.  I didn’t think they would bother me but the 3 times down and up and trying to get past people in a tight space was near impossible.  I hope that gets changed.  The big benefit of the lapping was the regular support.  Now that is something you can’t complain about!  It kept me going in the hardest miles.

I wasn’t really checking my watch much but when I was trying to keep on track with my laps I couldn’t help but notice my time.  22 miles and I did a quick calculation.  Ok, going to have to be careful if I wanted to make the 4 hour target.  The underpasses were really killing my mood so I decided if I at least beat my last time of 4hrs 9 then I would be happy.  There was quite clearly a blister forming on my left foot as well as some other infestation no doubt so that would be a good enough goal.  Another check and I really was cutting it fine.  Think of the Half Ironman Ella, don’t be silly.  23 miles and I try to do maths again.  I’ve got a Parkrun distance to go and I’m at about 3hrs 25.  Parkrun is 3.2 miles.  

Even at 10 minute miles I can still get under 4hrs.  

And I’m running faster than 10 minute miles.

Don’t slow down!!! You can get in under the 4 hours!! You can do this!!

I stop to walk for a second and get my breath. Naturally.

Whatever ecosystem was generating in my left trainer screamed out in pain.  

Ok, I needed to start running again. 

Knowing I ‘had this’ I slowed my pace.  I was now at the 800m mark and happy to see the finish.  2 women in front of me held hands, raising them in the air.  I won’t lie, this did irritate me a little.  I was about to come in in under 4 hours and I wasn’t going to get a good finish photo because I would be blocked by their arms. (I’m all about the photos).  I tried to speed up past them and crossed the line just to the side.

I checked my watch.

3hrs 55m 26seconds.

Possibly the happiest I have ever been at the end of a race!! I find Joe and I’m jumping.  ‘3hrs 55!’ I scream at him.  ‘I know!’ He says. 

I’m very, very happy.  Nike might have been going for a sub 2hr attempt, but for me, this was the equivalent.

I also see Kenny at the finish who has run 110 marathons.  110!! He’s looking for the baggage bus which he thinks might be quite far away but there are no signs.  I’ve got to be honest, this washes over me at this point as I’m still so happy with my time.  I’m soon grumbling though when I realise he is of course correct (it’s Kenny, he genuinely knows everything) and I have to make my way, gammy foot and all, on a new adventure that requires a map and compass to try and find the bus.

Back at the car and my smile comes back.  It’s thankfully not a long journey home but my daughters had a hard day and falls asleep – so I take a photo of her.  That’s one for her 18th! 

At home after I’m changed and showered I phone my mum to check she’s ok.  It was an early morning start for her and she hasn’t been too well recently.  I’m so glad she made it though.  My dad had planned on being there too but he was babysitting my nephew.  

It’s most likely one I would do again.  I love the thought that I was there for the very first one – and the medal says that too, it’s a nice touch.  

Now.  On to the small matter of this Half Ironman…..

Yes I did wear my finisher tshirt to work the next day.
Wife vs Husband – wife wins!

There’s not many races my husband and I do together but 2017 was starting with one.  Afraid of being beat by his wife he suspiciously got ‘sick’ beforehand so it was touch and go whether or not he would participate.  Excuses set however and we were off to Edinburgh.  Again.  We went to registration and I was ecstatic to discover I had jumped from 87 to 212 in the year. Joe was 336. No comment.

It was cold but not as cold as the year before.  I wasn’t as nervous as I had been either – surprisingly that didn’t hit me until I was 3 people away from jumping in the pool.  This was a change.  Previously you got in the water and waited until you were told to go.  This was new.  I don’t like change.  And I especially don’t like unexpected change.  I watched everyone getting in and tried to suss out the best way to do this.  Climb down the ladder.  Walk over to the wall and then push off.  I repeated this time and time again so I knew what to do.  

I was counted down to my time and then climbed down the ladder.  The ladder ended.  My feet didn’t touch the floor.  I kept going down.  And down.  And down.   Not forward.  Then I couldn’t find the wall. What the actual hell was happening!! Eventually after 6 hours I reached the surface, grabbed the wall and pushed off.  I say pushed off but it was more of a duck under the water and back up again – there was no movement forward.  The next guy had already climbed in.  So naturally panic set in.  I couldn’t breathe, I was swallowing soooo much water.  I was petrified of how deep it was (I hadn’t touched the bottom despite plunging deeper than the titanic) and it was twice the length I am used to swimming.  I stopped half way through the first length chocking on the water.  This was awful.  I got to the end and tried to calm my breathing.  Someone passed me and that was it again – panic stations galore – I even started breast stroking for a few seconds! Now I’m not knocking those that breast stroke, Christ many are faster than my front crawl, but I had practised front crawl and I wanted that sub 9minutes.  

I remembered what Joe had said to me the first time I had done this triathlon. Very basic, very straight to the point.  ‘Calm. Down.’ (Was a bit more colourful than that but it worked).  I eventually found my rhythm and slowly started to get through it.  I even managed to pass a few people who had obviously gone out too fast. 

I was too embarrassed to turn round and see if I could see Joe when I climbed out the pool so I just ran to T1.  As I went through the doors in to the cold I heard ‘It’s Ella!! Go Ella!’.  It was Gosia from one of my running groups.  She was volunteering as a Marshall.  That cheered me up no end and put my mind back in a good place.  Thank god!

I couldn’t get my trousers on over my Tri suit but I knew I couldn’t handle the cold without them so I persevered.  I was slow, very slow,  but I needed to be.  And do you know what, that’s ok.  I wasn’t out for the win.  I didn’t want to risk catching a cold because I didn’t spend that extra 10seconds putting a top on.  I could have gotten changed indoors but I braved the outside.  

Off on my bike and could I get my bloody gloves on? Could I heck.  I ended up wobbling dangerously side to side to put them on.  3 times round Arthur’s seat.  3 times up that hill.  Up.  That.  Hill.  However.  I was on a better bike than last year, and I like to think I am a little bit fitter than last year. (Think a lot of yourself there love).  I did find it easier, and I enjoyed it.  Most of all, I didn’t die.  There was a man in a long army style coat standing at the side cheering everyone on so I smiled and thanked him that first time and had a joke with him the second and third.  I saw a few numbers in the 300’s go past me but I expected that.  There’s always a few elite types.  I kept watch for my husband as I had expected him to catch me in T1 but hadnt seen him yet.  

On the downhill I decided to go for it and went flying down.  A bit too fast as I was yelled at to slow down and if I had had my porridge like I should have done it would have been making a reappearance.  Good thing my clothes are black that’s all I’m saying.  

In to T2 and surprisingly I didn’t fall off and I was able to run ok.  Well, as good as you can in cleats.  It felt like I was trying to run on heels. Not great.  I frantically looked over to Joes section to see if his bike had gone genuinely believing if he hadn’t passed me he must have pulled out.  He really shouldn’t have done it as he really wasn’t well but apparently winding him up that I was going to beat him was too much for him to take.  His bike wasn’t there so I knew he must have been out on the course.  

Trainers on and I grabbed a gel and took off.  Then quickly went back to take my helmet off.  It happens.  It was only a few steps, no big deal.  My legs were ok to run on which I really was shocked at given I had just ran every day in December (and the last 3 in November, that’s an important point).  I did find the hill quite hard but another smile and joke with the man in the long coat and I made it to the top.  All the while watching over my shoulder for Joe.  Downhill and I tried to give it the last of what I had in my legs.  Up the last incline and through the finishing banner.

I went straight over to the transition area and looked for Joes bike.  It was there so I searched the crowd, couldn’t see him, so went back down the course.  The marshalls asked if I was supporting or gloating.  ‘A bit of both’ I cheekily laughed.  To be fair it wasn’t long before he came up that last hill and yes, I made sure he knew I was there.  

It was actually quite nice cheering him over the line for once.  It’s not something I normally get to do.  He hasn’t done any races himself so there’s been no opportunity for me to play the eccentric, supportive wife screaming from the sidelines.  It will happen though.  And he will love it!

Of course I know I didn’t actually beat him.  He started a good 10 minutes after me and was only a few minutes behind me finishing.  

But.  I was first over the line.  That is an actual fact.  

He pretty much died after it and is still ill but that’s what stubborn does to you.  We have a race we are both doing next year and I am more than aware he will beat my ass.  But for now, I won!

Love you.