Marathon Blog

With a growing Senior (aged 19+ years) membership, we’re keen to highlight the events, people and efforts that this group are undertaking.

Marathons for many people are something which, although perhaps included on a ‘bucket list’ – remain something of an un-achievable dream. However, for many Orkney runners this dream has been (or is soon to be) realised!

Whilst many might think that our Senior club members are former Junior athletes this, in fact, is not usually the case. Many of our Senior members are relatively new to running, having taken to the roads or hills in order to improve general fitness or to take benefit of the feel good factor of just ‘getting out there’! They are more like you or I than you might imagine!

We hope to feature a number of our Senior club members’ stories on this website over the coming months, however, we start off with the ‘un-achievable dream’ – the Marathon!

It’s a little known fact that, one of the ways which you can enter into the London Marathon is via the British Athletic Clubs’ entry process. Over the years Orkney Athletics Club have been successful in enabling a number of our club runners to participate in this event – and we are delighted to say that 2017 will be another of these years!

As you can imagine, interest in gaining a place in the London Marathon is keen and with only one potential place to be had, the only fair way to allocate it was by way of a draw, with Senior Club Member, Gary Tait being the name selected to gain the place.

We asked Gary if he would be kind enough to write a regular blog to let us know what sort of preparation is required for entering a Marathon event – and also so that we could keep up-to-date with how his training is going – and perhaps also to provide some inspiration or information to others who might be considering a Marathon in the future? Huge thanks to Gary – as he agreed!




OAC Senior Member entrant in the 2017 London Marathon – Gary Tait

April  2017

Hi again folks.

Well that’s it,it’s all over!Orkney Athletic Club Senior Member, Gary Tait with his London Marathon finisher's medal

The London marathon took place on Sunday in glorious sunshine. It was one of the best days of my life to line up with 40,000 other runners from all over the world and complete the 26.2 mile course of the worlds best marathon.

Unfortunately things didn’t get off to a great start as I got the flu the week before I left and was still feeling terrible on Sunday.

Me and Dianne left on Friday morning and got the first flight to Edinburgh along with David Grant’s mum and dad and also Sharon and Duncan Gray. We then caught the flight to Heathrow and landed just before 12.

I’m glad Jimmy and Evelyn Grant were there too as they kept us right on getting into London and which underground line to take and so on. After walking to our hotel which was right beside the London eye, we had a quick bite to eat and headed back out to go to London Excel where you register and pick up your race number and timing chip. The number of people all heading the same way made it pretty easy to find and we spent a couple hours there looking round the exhibition centre. I even bumped into Steve Backshall who does all the adventure programs on tv and he seemed like a really nice guy. His wife Helen Glover was running on Sunday and did really well. After heading back to the hotel we spent the rest of the day exploring the Westminster area and walking along the Thames.

On Saturday morning we went a walk through St James Park and along to Buckingham Palace which was good to see. By this time I was starting to feel pretty rough again so I went back to the hotel and slept for a couple hours while Dianne went to do a bit of shopping but fortunately got lost and never found the shops!! I tried going for a run on Saturday evening but within 10 minutes was exhausted and feeling sick so went right back to bed.

Worry had really set in by now. It was bad enough doing a marathon, but attempting it with the way I was feeling was not going to be good, and so I had a sleepless night and didn’t drop off till around 5 in the morning. When my alarm went off at 6 it’s fair to say I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind but got up, had a shower and went down and forced some breakfast down.

After a final check that I had everything I needed, I headed for the train station and away I went to Blackheath and the blue start area. I found a tent doing tea and coffees and after a caffeine boost and some fresh air, headed to my start pen and waited for the start. Once we got underway I was surprised how quickly the pace actually picked up and I was soon bang on my 9 minute mile pace and felt ok. The first 10 miles went pretty well. Then at 12 miles I started to feel unwell and was sick twice before I got to Tower Bridge. I got going better again for a little while after that but started getting cramp twinges at 15 miles, which I suspect was due to dehydration after being sick. I managed to keep the cramp at bay just by slowing my pace a bit and just tried to enjoy the next few miles.

Senior Orkney Athletic Club member, Gary Tait running in the 2017 London Marathon

The temperature was climbing all the time and I was glad of the cold showers every few miles to cool me off a bit. By 18 or 19 miles I was really starting to feel it but kept going – the encouragement you get from the crowd is fantastic and really helps. Looking at my watch I knew a 4 hour finish was out the window but thought 4:15 was still possible. Then at 22 miles the guy in front of me threw a water bottle right under my feet while I was on a metal manhole cover and my right leg shot out in front of me, overextending my knee. After that it was just a case of making it to the finish line, walking, limping and jogging when I could. 

As I came to the corner at Westminster Bridge with about a mile to go, I heard somebody shouting my name and turned to see Tim Ross jumping up and down and waving! To see a friendly face at that stage was a huge boost and I managed to run most of the way from there to the finish. And what a feeling when you pass under the finish bridge, absolutely brilliant! Then once I got my finishers medal and goody bag it was a long slow walk back to the hotel, a hot bath and a cup of tea.

So although the race didn’t go as planned it was still a brilliant experience and one I’ll never forget. Well done also to all the other Orkney runners and especially Tim who finished in an unbelievable time.


Regards Gary.

March 2017

Hi again folks.

Well, this will be my last blog before I head down to London for the marathon.

Thankfully after February’s disasters March has gone ok for my training. My first week off this month I managed a few short runs but my legs were still far from right after the ankle and hip problems I had all of February. Both my heels were still badly blistered as well after doing a long hike with a poor choice of shoes and socks. I really should have known better.

Me and Dianne then headed down to Inverness for the half marathon, I was really looking forward to doing this race for the first time as I’d heard it was such a fun and friendly event. Unfortunately me and Dianne both got a stomach bug on the Saturday and were feeling pretty poorly all day. However, come Sunday morning I was feeling a lot better and headed to the start line. I was hoping for a time under 1 hour 40 minutes but because I hadn’t run much for 3 weeks my legs got pretty tired around the 10 mile mark and I had to slow down a bit, so I crossed the line in 1 hour 42 minutes but thoroughly enjoyed the whole day.

The next couple of days I was busy with wind turbines but managed a couple of runs up to Marwick Head on the Wednesday and Friday. Then on Sunday it was the last cross country race of the season followed by the presentation of prizes and a cup of tea in the Sandwick hall.

The rest of this month has been a mixture of gym sessions, short runs, cycles and my last long run before the marathon, an 18 mile run pacing myself to 9 minute miles which is my aim for London. I would be over the moon if I could finish in 4 hours but we will just have to see how it goes.

It’s amazing how quickly the winter has gone but at the same time I’m so glad the weather has started to improve. I dread to think how many hours I’ve spent running in gales, rain, hail and frost since October!

So the next few weeks will be spent doing shorter runs, gym sessions as well as loads of stretching to try and stop my legs going solid again.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Orkney Athletic Club for the chance to take part in the London marathon and I honestly can’t wait to go down. It’s something I’ll probably never get the chance to do again and I just hope I can put in a decent performance and make it to the finish line in or around the 4 hour mark.

I will let you know how the race goes and try to include some photos of my weekend in London.


February 2017

Hello again folks.

In my last blog I was pretty positive and upbeat with how my training was going, I’d reached the magic 20 mile mark and I was feeling reasonably fit and healthy. What a difference a few weeks can make!

This month my legs have decided to give up and I’m feeling worn out to say the least. It all started on my first long run this month. I did a 20 miler to Skara Brae and back and my legs felt really stiff and sore all the way. I tried a couple of 5 mile runs a few days after but my shins and hips were too sore to get any good out of the runs at all. I was always worried too much road running would have this effect but the fields and paths are just too wet to use at the moment.

I decided to have a break for a week to see if my legs would improve, so I did no running until the cross country race in Sandwick. I did feel better at that race, but my legs were still really sore and stiff. I decided a trip to the doctors was in order and after some tests and investigations I left with a course of anti inflammatory tablets. That was a week ago and they are certainly starting to help and I have been spending 30 minutes a day stretching and using a foam roller. I’m going to leave it another full week before I try a run but I’m pretty hopeful the break will have done me the world of good and I will start back feeling fresh and rejuvenated.

I’m off to Inverness for the Half Marathon on the 12th of March, so we’ll see how that goes. It certainly hasn’t been the kind of month I was hoping for but, as I said, I think the break is probably what I’ve been needing and I can’t wait to get out for a run again in a week or so.

I was lucky enough to get an entry for the Hoy Half Marathon again this year and I am already looking forward to that. It’s such a good day out and must be one of the most beautiful courses anywhere.



January 2017

Hi again folks

It’s been a fairly quiet month on the training front for me as I’ve been working for most of it either in Flotta or repairing wind turbines damaged by the lightning in December.

I said in my first blog back in October that I hoped to be running 20 miles by the end of the year, well I missed that deadline by a week or so but on the 8th of January I ran from my house to Skaill and back – a distance of 20.3 miles. It was a real mental boost to pass the 20 mile mark and I wasn’t even too sore after it which was a bonus!

When I was training for the St Magnus Marathon last year I never got over 18 miles before the race and on race day by 19 or 20 miles I was pretty much out of the race with cramp and tiredness. I learned a lot that day and will certainly pace myself better in London and take on more fluids.

I managed to fit in a couple of 8 or 9 mile runs up to Marwick Head, but on my second one I slipped and fell on the greasy path going down to Marwick Bay and ended up on my back, winded and with a sore head! Luckily nothing was injured except my pride!

Me and David ran the 4th cross country race of the season in Sandwick on the 15th and I could certainly feel that Christmas and the New Year had taken their toll on my fitness, so it was back to healthy eating and a lot less alcohol after that. All the rest of my training this month has been done in the gym, but I think strength training is just as important as long runs and it makes a nice change too.

I have entered for the Inverness Half Marathon which is on the 12th of March, so that will be a good warm up for London and also a chance to judge my fitness in real race conditions. In February I intend to do a couple more 20 mile plus runs but also do some speed and hill training to build up my stamina and strength.

I suppose I only really have another 6 or 7 weeks until I need to start tapering my training back down, so the next month or so will be really important.



December 2016

Hello again folks.

I can’t believe 2 months have passed since I signed up for the London marathon. Back in October I thought 6 and a half months was plenty of time to train and get ready but the weeks are just going by so fast. I said in my first blog that I hoped to be at the 20 mile mark by the end of 2016 but I’m afraid I haven’t been past 15 yet.

I work 2 weeks on and 3 weeks off and because I start at 5 in the morning and I’m not home till 8 at night, I’m just not getting any training in while I’m working. In my 3 weeks “off” I also work servicing and repairing wind turbines so between 2 jobs, training for a marathon and trying to fit in some family life things are a bit hectic at the moment.

I have been trying to do a bit more road running this month to prepare my legs but after a couple of 15 mile road runs I have picked up a couple of niggling injuries so I will be careful not to overdue it. I’ve done quite a few good long off road runs this month and I find them so much easier on the legs. Me and my son David also ran the 3rd cross country race of the season on a cold and blustery day in Sandwick. It was still really enjoyable though.

I’ve been using the Dounby gym a lot again this month and for some reason I’m happy to spend 10 or 15 minutes at the end of my work outs doing stretches where as I never seem to get round to it after a run outside, a shower and a cup of tea seem much more appealing.

I have booked my hotel in London for the marathon weekend, I went for one right beside the London eye and as I have never been before I hope me and Dianne can fit in a bit of sight seeing. I also had to cancel and re-book our family holiday to Tenerife for next year which was booked right in the middle of the marathon weekend, I booked it before I decided to sign up for the marathon! We are now going in May so I can relax and eat and drink as much as I want without feeling guilty.

So once Christmas and the new year have passed, I need to push on and get past the 20 mile mark. When I was training for the St Magnus marathon last year I found the jump between 15 and 20 hard for some reason but I need to get there then build up steadily and hopefully not pick up more injuries.

So, Merry Christmas and happy new year to everybody and I’ll update you again on my progress at the end of January.


November 2016

Hi again folks

This month started off with beautiful calm weather which gave me the perfect chance to get in some long runs around the Birsay coast. Some days it felt more like July than November. Me and Dianne then went down to Edinburgh for a short break and in between eating and drinking I managed a few good runs around the Grass Market and Castle area. This was a real contrast to running up Marwick Head. When I got home me and my son David took part in the first cross country race of the season and as always me and Ian Sutcliffe had a good battle. I would like to thank Jim and Pat Maxwell for all the hard work they are putting into the cross country again this year.

The weather took a turn for the worse in the next week or so and some of the runs I did in the wind and rain were tough to say the least. One day up at Kitchener’s Memorial I was running as hard as I could but was still being blown backwards! That’s when the reality of training for a marathon in the winter month really hit home. I have been using the gym in Dounby a lot in the last couple of months and although the treadmills not as good as a real run it seems a good option when it’s blowing a gale and raining.

Last weekend me and David took part in the second cross country race of the season with beautiful frosty conditions at Kierfold in Sandwick. It’s good to see lots of new faces at the races this year.
Tomorrow I intend to run home from Skaill Bay along the road which is around 10 miles or so.

So on the whole it’s been a successful month of training with a huge variety of locations and conditions. The only downside was losing my first toe nail last week with another ready to fall off,the pleasures of being a runner!!.


I was lucky enough for my name to be picked out of the hat last week to win the Orkney Athletic Club’s place in next year’s London Marathon. It’s a race I have watched every year on the tv and have always fancied a shot at it. I will be 45 when the race comes around in April, so it’s as good a time as any to have a crack at it.

I started running more than 20 years ago after speaking to a work colleague out in Flotta where I work as an engineer on the boats. Stewart Marwick has been running for a long time and used to race for OAC, both in Orkney and down south. It was Stewart who got me started and has continued to give me good advice on my training and racing.

When I started running it was only a way to keep fit for my real hobby which was motocross. I raced in the Orkney motocross club every second weekend for over 20 years and still have a shot now and again, but my running has changed from something I had to do, to something I want to do.

I started doing cross country running about 4 years ago to try and keep my fitness up over the winter and I really enjoy it, probably more than road running to be honest. My first road race was the Hoy half about 10 years ago and since then I have done a bit more every year; 10k’s, Rousay lap etc. This year I also did the St Magnus Marathon which was a first for me. It was a good learning experience and one I hope will help me when I go down to London in April.

As far as a training plan goes, I intend to do most of my training off road. I normally run from the Birsay Links over Marwick Head and down to Marwick Bay and back.  This is a 5 mile lap and at the moment I’m doing that twice. If I can get up to 4 laps by new year I think I’ll be well on the way to marathon fitness.

I have been asked to do a monthly blog on how my training is progressing – so I will update you again in 4 weeks time!


October 2016

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