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Glen Clova Half Marathon 2023 - James Barnet

The Glen Clova half marathon was a new race for me. After deferring from last year, this was the final DRR Grand Prix event of the year and final opportunity to get the half marathon gold standard in a local half marathon. Despite talk of people getting PBs at this race, it isn’t really a PB course. There are no big hills, but the abundance of undulations starts to become really testing later in the race. A chilly northerly headwind in the second half also didn’t help and I don’t know anyone that achieved a negative split. Nonetheless, it is the most scenic road half marathon I’ve ever run and there are probably few others in Scotland (and the UK) which can challenge it for scenery. Therefore I’d highly recommend it and would definitely do it again.

The race starts at the friendly Glen Clova hotel and takes a circular route from there southwards back down Glen Clova on the western side of the glen before then crossing over to the eastern side and returning back on the other road. I had been up this road a few times before to climb the Munros of Mayar and Driesh at the far end but had never really taken much notice of how undulating the road is. One would think that a road through a glen could be flat but the roads up and down through Glen Clova undulate over hummocky moraines left behind when the immense glaciers finally receded from this attractive U-shaped valley around 12-11,000 years ago. Therefore, there isn’t much flat in this race and you’ll often find yourself going either up or down.

The hills were bathed in stunning orange and russet brown autumnal colours as we headed a little northwards up the road from the hotel to the start. The weather forecast was set fair but some ominous clouds were moving across the sky and a few light showers were passing over the nearby hills. There was also more of a northerly breeze than we were expecting, which would inevitably play a role in the second half of the race.

Photo: Pete Bracegirdle

The first half of the race headed south and we were rewarded with a wonderful tail wind. The road undulated its way through the glen but the short ups were rewarded with some nice runnable downs and it was easy to get up to a good average pace. I was pacing nicely with George McKinley and felt good, letting Adam Hart slowly edge away. The sun kept appearing through the clouds and it felt even a little warm despite an ambient temperature of only about 6c. It was also nice to see some familiar faces at the halfway point with Jackie and Tim Heilbronn out on the course supporting. I was so in the zone that I didn’t fully realise who they were until after I’d passed them - sorry about that!

We all knew the second half of the race would be harder as we turned into the wind. Suddenly we were faced with a cold icy northerly blast in our faces, which although not as strong as it could have been, was just relentless and gradually sapped the energy out of the runners as the miles progressed. As some sort of compensation, this part of the race rewarded us with the best views as we looked up towards the head of the glen and the higher Munros beyond, coated in a fresh dusting of snow. The incredible contrast between the autumnal glen with its oranges and browns to the snow-covered Munros in full early winter mode was a sight to behold. But as the race went on and we all got progressively more and more tired, few could perhaps appreciate it as much as they should have.

For me personally, the race really started to become tough from around mile 10. A long gentle uphill into the wind reduced my pace to the slowest mile of the race so far and I started to realise that my gold standard time was going to be a struggle. That became compounded by more pronounced ups and downs from mile 11 and I really felt like I wanted to walk. I also experienced such fatigue that I was struggling to stay awake while running, something I’ve never experienced before. I could have quite comfortably curled up by the chilly roadside and gone to sleep! I had to keep willing myself on as although the standard was slipping away, I was still on for what I considered to be a good time on that course. I was also annoyed that I’d left my gel in my coat pocket and therefore didn’t have any nutrition in the race. I’ll never know if that would have reduced the late race fatigue or not…

Despite losing pace late in the race, it seemed everyone was in the same boat and I didn’t lose any positions, only losing time to George in front. Mustering all the energy I had, I pushed out some sort of faster pace to the finish line, finishing in 16th place in 1hr23mins2secs, just over a minute slower than my gold standard time. But given the nature of the course and having run a PB at Chicago marathon 5 weeks earlier, I’ll take that!

There were many strong results for Dundee with David Webster and Marcus Sheridan finishing 2nd and 3rd in the race, respectively, and Alison McNeilly and Hannah Barnet fi

nishing 3rd and 4th, respectively, but picking up prizes for 2nd and 3rd due to the way the age category prizes worked out. The DRR male team won second prize (David Webster, Marcus Sheridan, Adam Hart) and the female team won first prize (Alison McNeilly, Hannah Barnet, Eve Martin). There were also prizes for George McKinley (MV50), Malcolm Forbes (MV60) and Morag Taggart (FV60), along with several other DRRs achieving course PBs and standards. Well done DRR!

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