I drove from Edinburgh to Stonehaven in the morning, parked in the leisure centre car park and strolled across a field to the rugby pavilion where the race would start and end. Putting two fingers up to the midweek BBC weather forecast, the start area was bathed in bright sunshine with just enough of a breeze to keep the temperature down to about 20 degrees. Registration was straightforward, and I sipped on a carbohydrate / electrolyte drink like a personalised cocktail served in a holiday bar as I waited for the action to start.

The first hint of what was to come was delivered by the lady taking the warm-up. “Those of you who have done this race before will know why I have chosen this song”, she said, before throwing on “Yazz – The Only Way Is Up”. Hmmm. I kept to my customary position on the fringes, stretching a little, watching the folks doing the warm up and wondering why they were choosing to burn off all that energy.

Stonehaven startWith about 10 minutes to go before the advertised start time of 11.15, the announcer called runners to move to the entrance of the playing fields where the race would begin. I found myself in a narrow path as the final instructions were ominously interrupted by an ambulance making its way through the pack. The pack re-assembled in its wake, counted down from 5 and were off.

UphillAfter a short straight, the narrow path morphed into a 180 degree right-hand hairpin bend going up as we entered the streets of Stonehaven. “Going up” was the theme of the next few miles. In fact, this definitely was a race of two halves, the first half mostly up, and the second half mostly down. The first two miles took us though the town, past an industrial area before crossing the A90 and heading out into countryside.

Mile 1: 8.36
Mile 2: 8.16
Mile 3: 8.56

The race continued going up. And it was hot! The breeze seemed to have gone away and the sun was having it all. When I got back to my car later, the thermometer was measuring 24 degrees and it felt like that out on the road. I was thankful I had decided to wear a bandana, as the incline and the heat were conspiring to create record sweat.

Stonehaven - police slowStonehaven around the topAlthough I had brought my headphones up in the car, I had made a spontaneous decision not to use them in the race. I am not sure why, as I always run with them. I actually found this quite rewarding as the running craic was good.“Is this the last hill?” was voiced in desperation, more than once. Then, when finding a bit of level or decline, as flat runners put their feet down, “At least the pain is self-inflicted now”. After 4 miles the course levelled out and offered up some downhill action, and I was able to appreciate the gorgeous countryside. The appreciation was short lived as the weather seemed to have brought out the fly population, and runners were clearly game targets. Everyone seemed to have a cloud of flies around them and those wearing hats were giving a free ride.

Mile 4: 9.22
Mile 5: 8.05
Mile 6: 7.51

Support along the course, although sparse, was enthusiastic. This was exemplified by the group of Fetch folks around mile 6 offering great vocals, jelly babies and, best of all, water mist. This was just the boost we needed before taking on the final climb up to a right turn onto Slug Road and the start of the return journey. With the exception of a couple of shortish inclines thrown in for fun, the second half of the race is mostly downhill, and payback for all those tough miles at the start. I found myself trailing a pack of runners by about 50 metres, and pushed to try and catch them. Clearly everyone was enjoying the slope though, as the gap stayed fairly constant for the next two miles.

Mile 7: 8.54
Mile 8: 8.28
Mile 9: 7.49

Stonehaven the road homeStonehaven 11 milesThe roads were open for this race, meaning cars were passing on both sides for the duration of Slug Road. This was just one long roadside run. It also meant for a gap in the water stations just when I wanted some water to accompany my second and last gel. I have been toying with the idea of not bothering with gels at all on a half marathon, but stuck with 2 x High5 non-isotonic gels for this race. I can stomach these without water, but prefer a couple of gulps. The nature of the road meant that there were no water stops between around 7 and around 11.5 miles.

Mile 10: 8.10
Mile 11: 8.25

As we crossed the A90 again I could see the sea ahead and knew we were nearing home. I was feeling very comfortable and knew, despite the hilly start, that a good time was on. As we entered the town again I pushed hard and caught a couple of runners who had been ahead of my for the whole duration of Slug Road. Before I knew it we were heading down a steep hill with a sharp left hairpin bend to navigate, the same one we had encountered at the start but in reverse, and the final run-in was there. Two runners passed me as we ran down the narrow path, before a share left brought us into the playing field and a 100m sprint to the line. I gave it all I could, but didn’t manage to catch them. However, recording a 6.20 pace at the end of a half marathon is a nice consolation!

Mile 12: 7.51
Mile 13: 7.56
Final bit (pace): 6.20

A new PB of 1:48:53! I am very happy with that, particularly given the hills and the heat.

Stonehaven Elevation

In summary, a testing course for sure, with a total elevation of 227m, but the pain of the first 4 miles up-hill is paid back over a long period in the final part of the race meaning the course is not as slow as you would think. The organisation and marshalling were second to none, and the on-course craic was friendly and fun. I am bringing a fly zapper next time.

Official result:

Time   1:48:53
Position 126 / 332 (38%)
Category   19 / 41

Stonehaven Half Marathon up to about Mile 12, when my battery ran out. 3s time lapsed.

  1. juliaL49 says:

    Oh, it was even warmer than in Edinburgh on the weekend!

    Regarding the gels: I found that you might not feel like you need them but if you go without it does make a difference. Have you done longish runs without gels (and loading up before/after)?

    • mockjogger says:

      I have started testing how my body reacts on long runs. Last weekend I ran 17 miles and just took 3 jelly babies and water but no gels. I did find myself running out of steam towards the end, but thinking back on it, I was low on carbs the night before and am not sure if it was the lack of carbs or the lack of gels that got me. I have been reading up on the pros and cons of training on low carbs to encourage the body to be more efficient in burning fat when glycogen runs out. My plan is to try a few long runs with carb loading but without gels and see how I go.

  2. Brian Pendreigh says:

    Good blog, great video. You seem to be doing a fair number of runs that I have also been doing – the back of my head features briefly in Stonehaven: The Movie. It is good to read someone else’s experiences on the same run. I am not at Dundee, but will be running (in an unfamiliar animal rescue charity vest) down at GNR. Keep up the good work, Brian (HBT)

    • mockjogger says:

      Thanks, Brian. Glad I captured the back of your head 🙂 I am still getting used to running with an iPhone strapped to my chest but intend to give it a couple more run-outs anyway. Next time you are in the same race pop over and say hello. I have not done GNR before and am expecting it to be completely mad.