Fit4Life at Stirling marathon, 21st May 2017

Fit4Life at Stirling marathon, 21st May 2017
Thanks so much to Senior Geoff Hamilton for this amazing report!
When Lyndon first told Sam and I about the Stirling marathon, running through the university campus where we first met, we knew we had to do it. We planned on having a nostalgic romantic run through all our old haunts, but didn’t count on the six gooseberries who decided to join us (Lyndon, Ana, Clare, Viv, Hilary and Olywen). Olywen also had her lovely family with her, so we were quite a crew. We also persuaded our nephew Paul (who had never run before) to join us, and the three of us decided to run for the Butterfly Club which is a summer holiday club for children and young people with severe and complex needs, and close to our own hearts as our great-niece Emily gets great benefit from it and they are struggling for funding.
Sam’s cousin Eleanor (who lives in Stirling) kindly offered to help us transport everyone from Glasgow airport, and took us all to her house where she gave us all a good feed of rolls and sausage. Her husband Ian then drove us round the course so we could get to know the lay of the land. We had assured everyone beforehand that it was a flat course, but of course flat is a very relative term and in Scotland it just means no mountains, but some people were not happy (except Clare, who loves hills).
The night before the marathon, Sam and I went to one of our old favourite restaurants in Stirling for a romantic dinner for 9. The craic was mighty with Clare providing the main entertainment as the pre-race nerves kicked in. We then headed off for an early night before the big day.
The following morning we got a shuttle bus out to the Blair Drummond Safari Park and had a long walk through the park to the start line. Sam was a bit worried about running back through the lion enclosure as she didn’t think she could outrun a lion, but after I pointed out that she only needed to outrun the person next to her she was fine.
There were three waves at the start. Liz McColgan and Zola Budd (wearing shoes) were going in the first one, and Lyndon in the second one as he was going for a much faster time than the rest of us. The rest of us all went off in the final wave. Brendan Foster got us started and gave Sam and I a special shout out as we passed him. We soon split into three groups: Olywen, Viv and Paul at the front, then Sam and I (nobody else wanted to be a gooseberry), and then Hilary, Clare and Ana.
There were some great costumes on show, but their guides were not always the best. One person ran as Baymax (Big Hero 6) in an inflatable costume looking like a Michelin man, but with absolutely no visibility. Sometimes his guides forgot to tell him about the bumps in the road and he tripped along the whole marathon course. Another blind guy (“Blind Jay”) dressed up in a kilt, but his “guides” accidentally guided him into a fence. Fortunately, nobody was hurt and it provided great entertainment for the rest of us.
The course went through a few towns with rolling countryside and fantastic views in between. The first town we came to was Doune and we were hit with a wall of noise – the support was fantastic with even the local pipe band out in force. The next town was Dunblane, home of Andy Murray and former home of Sam and myself. The support here was fantastic too. My PhD supervisor was out in support, but didn’t seem to recognise his star pupil. We then passed the place where I proposed to Sam (in a drunken moment of weakness), so I got down on one knee and … tied my shoelace – I’m not making that mistake again!
After Dunblane it started to rain (not real rain – just what they call Scotch Mist), which was very welcome because it was quite warm. The next town was Bridge of Allan, another one of Sam’s old residences. Yet again the support was fantastic. Then we had a loop round the University of Stirling campus under the shadow of the Wallace monument. We passed our old departments where we first studied and the halls of residence where we first … sorry my mind wandered there – back to the report. This took us to the half way point. It was at this point that Hilary came bounding past us looking as fresh as a daisy. She had stuck with Ana and Clare for the first 10 miles, but then decided to push on and she looked strong.
At mile 14 Sam’s knee got really sore – at exactly the same point as it did in the Dublin marathon. She stopped for some pain killers but decided to push on. The next section of the course was along a quiet bypass, but as we approached Stirling the support was great again. We had to do two and a half loops around the castle, which was tough – running past the finish line twice before being allowed to cross it. With two laps to go for us, we heard a shout of “showpony coming through” from behind, and Lyndon came past, still in best dressage form and looking strong with only one lap to go for him. Eleanor and Ian, Olywen’s family (Ian, Peter and Lily) and Paul’s partner Aidan provided great support along the way. We then saw our great-niece Emily being pushed along in a wheelchair with her family, and it brought it all home to us exactly what we were doing this for. After saying hello, we ran round the corner where Sam had a “moment” before we were able to continue.
With one lap to go, one of the crowd offered jelly babies and vaseline. I was getting tired, so rubbed the jelly babies on my nipples and ate the vaseline, which powered me through to the end. Viv, Olywen and Paul had stuck together throughout, and Hilary came bounding past them on the final lap still looking strong. Paul, with his new Auntie Olywen and Auntie Viv was taking sweeties from everyone, until they reminded him not to take sweeties from strangers. Sam was really struggling with her knee by this stage, particularly on the downhill sections, but she gamely kept going, intent on getting a sub 5 hour time. She even had a sprint at the end as she emptied the tank and we crossed the line together. An emotional moment! Then Ana and Clare also finished together looking ecstatic, and of course Clare did not get emotional at all.
Even though there were a few hills on the course there were some fantastic performances and new PBs. First home was Lyndon in 4:17 (a PB by 9 minutes), then Hilary in 4:45, then Olywen, Viv and Paul in 4:50 (a PB by 11 minutes for Viv and a first marathon PB for Paul), then Sam and I in 4:56 (a PB by 31 minutes for Sam) and then Ana and Clare in 5:26 (a PB by 1 minute for Clare). We all agreed this was a great marathon with fantastic scenery, and I for one will definitely be back next year. Viv said she would never run another marathon, and stuck to her word for at least another 48 hours.
If you would like to donate to the Butterfly Club (I know a lot of you already have) you can still donate here:

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