Running for RelayGB 2012: Two marathons, two days – 61 Miles Run

15 May 2012

What a wait for this event! RelayGB was an attempt to both break the Guinness World Record for the longest consecutive series of marathons in a relay while at the same time raising money and awareness for Brain Tumour UK <>. I had spent weeks drumming up support for this in Scotland where advertising had not reached the right running crowd. I got some 8 marathon legs covered through old friends (Jim Groark, Davie Boag, Kieran German), students (Amy Sutherland, Andrew Collister) and the good citizens at Metro Aberdeen Running Club who rose to the challenge superbly (this club can claim four and a half marathon stages on their own counting my two stages!).

I had registered to run the Inverbervie to Arbroath leg on 16 May, but had a late night call with race organiser, John Stanford, who was desperate for a runner to take on the Nairn to Elgin marathon on the 15th. So, it was an early start to get the 06.51 to Nairn from Dundee. I was quite nervous after having suffered another serious ankle twist 3 weeks previously and having only managed 3 runs all packed in just the week before. I had, however, knocked in a serious number of miles on the bike to keep the fitness ticking over.

I arrived in Nairn at 10.21 and met the RelayGB team just up the road in time for a 10.30 start. Close timing, but as it happened, the previous leg was running slightly late. Time to settle in a bit. To my slight surprise it transpired that the previous day two running clubs (Nairn and Forres) had entered late as a joint relay shift to take on this marathon leg, so my early start had not been required after all. Ok, move on – after all the more runners on each leg the better to make sure we maintained this epic of perpetual motion. And in a way the other teams being present on this leg actually took the pressure off me.  I felt woefully under-trained and wary of my injury. I told John I knew I had a half-mara in me but would try for the whole leg anyway. However I wanted the option to bin the marathon if the dodgy ankle felt like giving way. I simply did not know how today was going to go.

Me and Kirstin Grant leaving Nairn

We got registered quickly and I impressed upon the support team that as a diabetic I would appreciate the crew meeting me every 5-6 miles or so to which they duly agreed. For a number of reasons I never saw anyone from RelayGB until mile 12 by which time myself and the relay runner from Nairn were way off-course. The geniuses in the support bus reckoned that there was an obvious forest track we should have cut through which should have been easy to find using the GPS map supplied: The only problem was that the GPS they gave me had packed in at mile 6 so I was essentially running blind. This did not seem problematic as the Nairn club provided support of sorts (especially welcome supplies of water) in lieu of the Green Bus Crew who should have marshalled the route. When they did catch up I was already 3 miles off course. Not to worry, the Nairn team came along side and assured us we were on the right track to which the RelayGB support crew, armed with a functioning GPS, agreed. They told me they’d wait for me two miles further on at an obvious junction. Error, they actually made me go a further 2 miles off course. Spectacular cock up leading to ……  “And pause for a deep breath” (we had some hilarious exchanges about this at the end of the run).

Once back on track it was straightforward enough and I was met every 3 miles until just about the end of the course. I eventually went through the 26.2 mile mark in 3hrs 48:24 and completed 31 miles in sub 4hrs 25. Overall I was delighted with my run. At the end I did my blood tests for my diabetes and found I was slightly low (3.5), so topped up with banana, recovery drink and a can or two of Stella Artois. The blood sugar levels then returned to normal pretty quickly.

The RelayGB camper van near Foggieloan (Aberchirder), Aberdeenshire

John Stanford and I then shared the journey south with me being given unlimited access to the beer fridge on a lovely drive through Aberdeenshire while the support runners slept. I grabbed a quick pizza from the Turriff Kebab shop before getting some sort of sleep c. 11.30. Happy days – another (impromptu) Ultra Mara in the bag ……

16 May 2012
…..When I said sleep, I meant sort of rested in a moving camper van with five other runners from the support crew who, like me, were certainly in need of a shower. I woke up in time to say “fit like” to the runners from Metro Aberdeen Running Club as they gathered at Peterhead. I was like a half-shut knife though and not really with it when they set off. So I got back in the sleeping bag, and back to sleep for the slow journey through Aberdeenshire. At one point I sat bolt-upright at one point, hilariously at Menie Crossroads in Belhelvie Parish – This was right where I grew up and only about 500m from the house my father built – ‘The Graylings’. There was no point in sleeping at that point, but rather I moved up front and enjoyed the familiarity of the home turf, at all times conscious of the runners in front negotiating rush hour traffic, keeping the relay moving. Perpetual motion.

Just outside Aberdeen our vehicle moved ahead. We got to the Esplanade at Aberdeen only minutes before the Metro Aberdeen and other Peterhead runners arrived. No time to put up the banners, only just enough time to get the trainers on and go for a recovery run down, then up the Esplanade to join the group for the last 300 m or so. My legs felt good, and I was encouraged to see a really happy group of runners come in to finish an event like that – not racing, just running. After the t-shirts and bling were dished out, it was a breakfast (and showers for some) at the Leisure Centre. I fed the RelayGB crew ‘Aberdeen Butteries’ back in the camper van too – proper running food, and not for the faint-hearted!

Then came the drive down to Inverbervie and my thoughts turned to conversations with friends, particularly Jim Groark who had knocked in a 50 mile straight Ultra for Relay GB the previous week. I had also been encouraged by Andrew Fletcher who had also done two marathons for the event, and travelled some distance to do so; inspiring stuff –  I wondered just how much I had in me today. My good friend Kieran was waiting at the Inverbervie changeover, as were Carolyn Pierpont and the relay team from Bare it All for Brain Tumours <;. We did not have too long to wait before the two women from Metro Aberdeen arrived in a great time of just under 4hrs to hand over the baton. And so it was I was I found myself off and running again. For some reason I had persuaded myself I was fit for another half marathon  at least. Kieran agreed to meet me in Montrose to take over my shift for me, with the option to meet me sooner if I was struggling (I had no idea how this would go, this was new ground).

This was very different running to yesterday being on a much busier road, mostly on my own with the van meeting me 3 times on the way to Montrose. When I saw them on the outskirts of town the support crew asked if I was up for it and I felt pretty strong so said I’d keep going for the whole marathon. I met Kieran about a mile further on in Montrose High Street and we pushed on together for the second half of the marathon, running together at a steady pace. We did not see the support crew again for another 8 miles by which point Kieran was dehydrating a bit. By mile 23 I called John Stanford to ask for a water delivery for Kieran and asked the lads in the van to make sure they made sure he was properly hydrated and given appropriate directions. I was starting to seize up now. When we were 2 miles north of Arbroath, and the van was with Kieran, I kicked out. What’s that mantra “the faster you run, the sooner its done”? I made the 26.2 in just about 4hrs and the finish line at 29.6 miles in c.4hrs 35 mins. Kieran did a very presentable 16+ miles in support of me from the “halfway” point at Montrose, and without the knowledge he would finish the leg for me if needed, I probably would not have tried the second marathon in two days. John Stanford looked genuinely elated when I finished. Huge hug and a beer straight into hand (OK, Stella again, but it never tasted so good).

I did my blood test and found I was low again (shock me – 2.4 today). Nigel in the support crew fed me a banana, recovery drink and Pringles and I was straightened out in time to see Kieran come home. The crew made me feel very special at the end of this one as did several runners via txt and twitter for whom I have the utmost respect. I would be a liar if I did not admit that today felt good – I mean really, really good. I think today I took a step up somewhere in my head with regard to running. Two marathons (actually 2x mini-Ultras) in 2 days: 61 miles (100km) in sub-9 hrs total running time – not at all shabby given I did not even know I could finish a half marathon only yesterday.

Martin Hookway dropped me at my front door in Tayport on the way to meet the runners finishing the Arbroath to St Andrews leg. I was supposed to be going into St Andrews to see the hand over. I was too tired. And, as I had promised myself since about the outskirts of Montrose, I had a hot bath, a stout dram (Glendronach 18yo) and an early night. Sweet dreams? Oh Yes!


Me and Kieran German at the end of the Arbroath stage


About Tentsmuir

Tentsmuir is a 50 something ex-marathon/ slow-ultrarunner/ sort of mountainbiker with Asthma and Diabetes. He is often to be found going round in circles in the Tentsmuir Forest trying to make sense of the contradictions in history, Buddhist philosophy and Scottish malt whisky. Also to be found stravaiging in the Scottish mountains, in deep jungles or lurking on Twitter @Tentsmuir
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