I’ll start by laying my cards on the table – the EMF half marathon was probably the best race I have ran in my life. The weekend was set up in perfect style by watching an EAC 1-2-3 at the EMF 10k on Saturday morning. Knowing I had the half marathon on Sunday morning, I couldn’t help but think to myself “I want a wee bit of glory too”. Bryan made an attempt to ruin my race by hosting a BBQ on Saturday afternoon. I won’t deny I was tempted to forget the race and join in with some serious beer drinking, but the can of weak lager that Bryan provided put me off having a second drink. Instead, Vik provided me with what I now believe to be the pre-race drink of champions – American Cream Soda. I head home early from the BBQ to do some Power of 10 stalking of my opponents.
Looking at the recent race times of the other athletes, it looked like I would be in a 4 way race for 5th place. With prizes for the top 5 finishers up for grab, this gave me a sniff of the glory I wanted. I sent a text to Garry to remind him of this. He replied telling me that 5th was mine as I was the form athlete. Nae pressure.
I woke up early for the unsociable start time of 8am. I stuffed down an energy gel and a banana for breakfast, and headed to the start with my mate Keith who’s popped through from Airdrie. As we lined up to start, I was blethering away to Jenny, Iain, Stuart and Michael when I realised that pre-race favourite Andrew Douglas was a no-show – my chances of a prize had increased.
As the gun went off, I started steadily on the downhill 4 miles to the coast. Within a mile, 2 runners were long gone and another was off ahead in 3rd. A group of 5 of us formed behind and quickly pulled back the guy in 3rd place (who then fell off the back of our group). I realised I was in a race for 3rd.
Within the first mile, Bryan Mackie’s face appeared behind a camera lens – he was out on his bike to give support. As we continued downhill, Bryan would appear to take photos, but I wasn’t helping him out as I was more than happy to hide in the middle of the group and keep out of the breeze. We were knocking out some fast mile splits, but I felt relatively comfortable. After about 5 miles I noticed Bryan talking on his phone (is that illegal while cycling?). I knew straight away he’d be updating Garry on the race.
I crossed the 10k mat in 33:33. My 10k PB is 33:20. Oops. Had I started too fast?? I didn’t think so – it was mostly downhill and I felt great. I sat at the back of the group thinking “3 out of the 5 of us will get a prize and I hope I’m one of them”. I found it hard to keep the smile off my face as I was loving being in a race! Even though I won the Loch Leven half marathon a couple of weeks previously, I was on my own from 6 miles, I was struggling and the miles lasted for an eternity, In this race I was running hard but felt like I was floating. I could have gone forever at that pace.
I then realised I didn’t care if I missed out on a prize – I was having the time of my life. After 8 miles things changed. I was still feeling great, and I was still loving it, but I WANTED a prize and I wanted it to be 3rd – I wanted on that podium as Bryan, Dan and Robert had done the previous day. I went to the front of the group and pushed the pace, thinking I could break the group.
Bryan was still cycling on ahead and stopping for some photos and to give a few words of encouragement. The other athletes’ breathing became more laboured as we headed past the finish area on our way towards Cockenzie. As we headed up a short incline, I eased off to see who was still with me. The answer came quickly as 4 athletes appeared along side me. My efforts to split the group hadn’t worked very well. I retook my earlier position at the back of the group. I still felt great and couldn’t believe how quickly the race was going by.
I had decided earlier I would push at 10 miles, but as we passed 10 miles I decided against it and though I would wait for the last mile. As we approached the hairpin turn round the cone to head home, I deliberately was last of the group to go round, but made sure I wasn’t last to come out the turn as I put in a burst. One of the group upped the pace too and I went with him. The group was broken as I heard footsteps fade behind us. “Ok”, I thought, “I’ve got a prize! But will it be 3rd or 4th?”. I was to find out later from Bryan that the group hadn’t really broken that much and the others were right behind. Luckily I didn’t know that at the time!
As we reached the 12 mile mark I upped the pace and moved in front of my foe. He immediately upped his pace and moved ahead of me again. “Hmmm. The force is strong in this one”. The wind still seemed to be into our faces so I sat in behind again and realised it was going to come down to a sprint finish.
I spent the last mile checking my watch. I reckoned it would take me 6 minutes to run the last 1.1 miles, so I decided when my watch split hit 4 minutes then I was going for it. 4 minutes duly came and I thought “That finish is still a long way away. Maybe I’ll wait a wee bit longer”.
Just then, the recurring vision of the ‘face of the EMF’ appeared on his bike alongside me with some fantastic shouts of encouragement. I then thought – that clown’s got out his bed early, probably still drunk from his BBQ, to come and give some support – I’m not going to finish 4th and then tell him that maybe I should’ve ran a braver race.
The 26 mile mark for the full marathon was approaching, but the finish was round a corner out of site. My decision was made. At the 26 mile mark, sprint like hell, and keep my fingers crossed. I’d decided that if I couldn’t run flat out for 0.2 miles then I didn’t deserve 3rd, but at least I’d know I’d given it a go.
As soon as I passed the 26 mile mark I was off, fully expecting the foe to go with me. I was running like my life depended on it. I rounded the corner to see the 13 mile mark – only 0.1 to go. I rounded another corner and could see the finish – it seemed miles away. I tried to hold my form and just moved my legs as fast as I could. The line arrived eventually and I punched the air as I crossed in 3rd place!!! Woo hoo! I wee sweary word probably came out too. I turned round to see the foe was 20-30 meters behind me being chased by the rest of the original group – I think he died when I put the foot down.
I ran over to give B-Mac a (manly) hug. I was ecstatic – a podium finish when I was hoping for 5th, and a new PB of 1:11:45. Races don’t come any better than this. Maybe I should retire now? Not a chance. Huge thanks to Bryan – getting out his bed to drag me round to a PB. He was lucky it was only a hug he got at the end.