Alloa Half Marathon

Last Sunday I ran Alloa Half marathon, I had been looking forward to this race for quite a while. It has been 2 years since I last ran Alloa and with the weather forecast looking fair I was hoping for a new PB.

Before we left the flat I had looked up my current PB for 1/2 marathon, 1:22.16 at Alloa in 2011. That was my target and a target I felt I could easily beat. In the back of my mind I was aiming for sub 1:20. 

I arrived at Alloa in plenty time but even then, parking was a nightmare. I ended up jumping out and letting Mandy find a space as she wasn't running the race. Once I picked up my race number which was really easy and straight forward, I headed in to the sports centre and met up with the other Pitreavie AAC runners who were racing since it was a Club Championship race.

Due to one thing or another I was getting a bit stressed about the race so decided to head to the loo with about 45mins until the start of the race. I ended up having to jog to the local ASDA since all the sports centre toilets and the additional portaloos had queues longer than my bladder would allow.

Before I knew it, there was just 10 mins to go so I decided to head out in to the cold weather and wait on the start line for the gun. Standing there, in the cold, I realised I needed the toilet again but there was only a minute or two to go before the race was to start. With crowds of people down either side of the road I didn't have an option of nipping behind a bush, so I waited.

The gun went off and I instantly needed a drink, my mouth was dry and I just didn't feel right but I still needed to the loo and I was now 2 miles in to the race. Eventually I had to give in and at 5 miles I found some bushes, did what was needed and then rejoined the masses, making up a couple of places at the same time. 

I had forgotten how much uphill there was in the first 4 or 5 miles of this course and this may have been my undoing! At about mile 5 or 6 a fellow Pitreavie athlete who wasn't racing today was standing in the cold cheering us all on, this gave me a good boost and my pace was still looking on target for smashing 1:20. 

Then came mile 6, from here there is usually a head wind for the next 4 miles but not this year, a nice tailwind was with us today but I also had a massive stitch! I told myself to relax, sort my breathing and it would go away, but it didn't. If anything it got worse, so bad I had to stop and every time I tried to run it came straight back. It wasn't long before some of the other Pitreavie runners had caught me, shouted over to ask if I was OK and then passed me. A number of other runners also checked that I was OK, which was really nice of them and after me shouting back to them that it was just a really bad stitch they too were heading off in to the distance. 

Time went past and I finally felt I could run again but looking at my average pace on my Garmin, 1:20 was now out of the question and even getting 1:22 was going to be a tall order. I got running again, passing a number of the people who had asked if I was OK and one of the guys mentioned it was good to see me back out racing again with another guy asking if I had now warmed up. I gave a laugh and nodded and then continued to chase down the two Pitreavie runners.

I was feeling much better and I could now see the two guys up in front and I was closing in on them, maybe 5 or 6 runners between me and the two of them. Mile 9 is 'the hill' which just kills your legs and then it feels like the climb continues until mile 11 and this is when the stitch decided to come back, again flooring me and reducing me to a crawl. Once I had got rid of the stitch for the second time I decided enough was enough and to just get home at what ever pace I could manage without a third stitch. 

I did finish the race and crossed the line in 1:25.43 which isn't bad considering but it does make me wonder what time I was on for if I hadn't had to stop. 

Looking back, Mandy and I have analysed what might have caused it and this is what we are thinking :-

  1. Ate too late the night before or breakfast didn't agree with me 
  2. Drank too much coffee before the race
  3. Stressed too much about what pace I had to run
  4. Didn't run to how my body was feeling
  5. Went off too quick for the first couple of miles
  6. Stressed about things I couldn't control prior to the race
  7. Generally had a bad day at the office

I would say all or partly all of the things above could have caused the stitch and in the future I am going to register for a race but then take myself away from all the pre-race chat and just find a quiet place to sit for 30mins. Get my head straight, concentrate on the task at hand and listen to my body, not my Garmin!

Since Alloa I haven't been out for a single run due to snow, lack of motivation and now, being completely full of the cold. My body aches and I don't want to go out in the cold. Roll on the warmer weather! Unfortunately the London Marathon isn't going to change dates so I will need to find some time to get out for a couple more long runs before the big day so fingers crossed I can shift this cold one more time and get some more runs in!

Owain Williams

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