Half DRAM, Dundee, Sunday, July 29, 2012

Colin Blackburn

…they didn’t.

Still, I had a half marathon to run so I hobbled downstairs – whoever thought spiral staircases were a good idea was clearly not a runner with DOMS – and ate a lot of cereal. My landlord, housemate and friend, Chris, had offered me a lift to, you’ve guessed it, Camperdown Park before he headed off to do some orienteering. I vaguely toyed with the idea of forgetting about the race and doing some orienteering as well but I had paid £13.10 and eaten a lot of cereal. The start for the half and the full marathon was beside the Mansion House in the centre of the park and as I approached it was clear that this was a bigger affair than yesterday’s parkrun. With a 1000 runners, 800 of whom were doing the half, there were a lot of people milling around. The whole thing was very well organised with various stalls – taping, energy drinks, etc., and baggage vans to take any bags to the end of the half out at Broughty Ferry.

After getting myself prepared and getting rid of the bag I set off for a light warm up through the woods, well the queues to the loos were a bit long! Near the start line I bumped into my colleague Scott who is also using this as a stage on his GNR training. We didn’t have much time to chat before we were off. The course took a loop through the park before crossing a very busy road into Templeton Woods. As this race had police support the road was closed for 15 minutes to allow the field to get across. In fact the police managed the traffic at the handful of other major road crossings on the route. The minor roads were handled by a plethora of marshals and elsewhere the course was very obviously marked. The course uses what is known as the Green Circular, a fairly lightly trafficked loop around Dundee. It was a mix of surfaces from woodland tracks, secluded cycleways and the occasional but unavoidable main road pavement.

The first couple of miles were distinctly uphill and on relatively narrow and occasionally muddy tracks, so I took it easy and didn’t waste any energy trying to get past people. In fact the few people who did pass me on the section were stood puffing and panting further up the hill – that’s no way to race! Once the first couple of miles is over the course heads gradually downhill all the way to the finish. There was the odd footbridge or section where the cycleway rose up a road embankment, not real hills by any means but you certainly felt them after a few miles. Also, after the initial woodland section the course was fairly exposed and the sun had come out – a very, very rare event in Dundee – so I am pleased I wore my hat and that I had put some sun cream on. Given the weather, the four water stations were also very welcome, especially the last two with big bowls of jelly babies.

When my watch beeped at the 16km mark I finally felt qualified to let the thought, “only a parkrun to go”, cross my mind. And it did! A mile or so further the road started to drop down to Monifieth and I started to feel I was nearly there. I grabbed a quick swig at the final drinks station, chewed a few sweets and finally saw the Silvery Tay. The last climb was the disturbingly steep railway foobridge and then it was on to the esplanade, back west towards Broughty Ferry. Up until this point I thought a sub 1:50 was on, then the headwind hit! I don’t think I have ever been to Broughty Ferry on a calm day and this was no exception. My only consolation was that I had a little over a mile to go while the marathon guys would have this headwind for at least another 10 miles. I dug in, got my head down and headed for the finish. I just missed my target and crossed the line in 1:50:47 but was very happy with that and equally happy to be comfortably in the top third of the field.

With my medal and goodie bag collected – Haribos, cereal bar, a nice High-5 drinks bottle and a 10% discount from a local tiling company! – I found my bag, got changed and headed back to the bus that had been laid on to get us half DRAMers back to the start. Once the bus had negotiated the Dundee traffic and dropped people at the bottom of the park – did he not realise how tired our legs were? – I got back to the start line to see the first marathon runner come in in 2:43. That’s a great time given the final three miles are uphill and the headwind – though chatting to him briefly he said that the headwind did die down a bit. He still beat me getting back on a bus!

Unfortunately Chris didn’t offer to collect me but today there was no way I was jogging home so I just ambled back which I think helped my legs. I got back in plenty of time to watch the last hours of the far from disappointing women’s road race! Well done Lizzie Armitstead! Well done also to the organisers, marshals and police that made for such a great race.

I then fell asleep and dreamed of getting a half marathon PB in the GNR…

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