This time last year I was running 26.2 miles at Stirling, this year I contented myself with running half that distance.
Just a few weeks after running the Alloa Half marathon I was hoping to improve my time a little this time around
I had been watching the weather forecast for a few days, and it was gradually improving. At the start of the week the forecast was 3C and 50% chance of rain, but come the day my car was telling me it was 10C on the way to the event.
I parked at Linden Avenue, which still had a decent number of spaces available around 0715, and joined the throng of runners walking the short distance to King’s Park. The area was well set up with a huge array of portaloos and urinals at one end of the park, a stage at the opposite end and baggage buses out on the road. I used the first, second for the mass warm-up – a wee bit of aerobics which was great fun to do.
Finally I went to the buses, stripped down to my vest and shorts and left my bag on the bus. It was time.
The start was a bit weird. It was a mass start. We were to start out on the road with marathon runners on the left, and half marathoners on the right. We would keep that configuration until the end of Queen’s Road, at which point the marathon runners would go left onto Dumbarton Road and the half marathoners would turn right onto Albert Place. What ensued was a rather crowded mess; I joined the throng through a gap in the crush barriers and the whole thing was just a bit of a pain. But no matter, we got across the starting line and the race was on!
The route took you out of King’s Park and then through Stirling’s pedestrianised shopping street. It continued gently downhill to Cowane Street then turned back on itself to Goosecroft Road, before crossing over to the new cinema and heading out of town towards The Peak. After that we went round the back of the football ground and through the school, with many a twist and turn before we came out to the A91.
The run changed its character a little here, opening out onto a wider road (A91) for just over a mile. I successfully passed the 2:15, 2:10 and 2hr pacers here, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t see them again until I had crossed the finish line.
At the A907 roundabout we turned left to go along the Alloa Road. There were a few people gathered at the roundabout to cheer us on, and as we got closer to Causewayhead the numbers increased. A few kids on the inside of the Causewayhead roundabout seemed delighted to get a high five – thank you to them for their support!
I have often run from Stirling Uni east along the Alloa Road, and had never really noticed that it goes downhill when you’re going that way. But there was a distinct climb all the way when you are travelling west!
Eventually we reached Stirling Uni, where we take a sharp right turn and go up through the University. I live halfway up a hill, so all my runs from home involve some degree of hill training. That was definitely to my advantage here, as I was able to get up the hill and pass a few people on the climb. I spent much of this stretch chasing the 1:45 pacer, but didn’t quite manage to catch up with him. Soon we were rewarded by reaching the back gate of the University, and a steep downhill to the A91 Hillfoots roundabout, and here I somehow managed to get past the 1:45 pacer as we started heading south on the A91.
The A91 is quite a tough stretch to run. Up until this point I had been overtaking loads of people – albeit that number was diminishing as the race progressed. Now there was very little passing going on as we had all mostly found our natural positions on the run relative to each other. So the couple of miles from mile 9 to 11 were a bit of a slog.
Our route took us back pretty much the way we had come, though this time we didn’t have to twist and turn through the school and the football pitch. Instead we ran in front of The Peak, and back past the cinema. And this is where we started to climb, with the last mile being pretty much uninterrupted uphill.
Going through the shopping street was great – there were large crowds there cheering us on. Then we pass the end of the street, and there is still quite a hard stretch to get through before the finish. The final stretch is up a short hill into King’s Park, and the audience here was great – shouting our names and cheering us on. Thank you to all of them!
Thanks to STaylor Photography for this photograph as we came out of the shopping area…
And then I was through! I didn’t quite collapse, but I was definitely tired and I don’t think I could have given much more. My time – 1:42:11 – was three minutes faster than Alloa and my second-best ever half marathon time. I collected a goody bag with T-shirt, medal and an assortment of goodies from Kellogg’s and JointAce, and gratefully accepted the embrace of the grass for a few minutes as I got my breath back.
And that was about it! I collected my stuff from the baggage bus, and hung around for a while to cheer on some finishers. I was impressed to see the first two or three marathon finishers, who managed their 26.2 miles in a time I wouldn’t have thought bad for a half!
I did notice that someone had collapsed about a hundred yards short of the finish line, but I only noticed because there was already a group of around five marshals there, getting the runner onto a stretcher to be looked after. So full marks to the organisers for having skilled marshals available. Indeed, I would say that the marshaling, the signposting, the road closures etc were absolutely first-class throughout.
There are some issues to do with the start that need to be thought through, but all in all this was a first-class event and one I plan to do again in 2020.