Tips for First Time Marathoners – The London Marathon 2017

A week on, and with the pain in my legs now a distant memory, it seems the time is right to review my 4th crack at the London Marathon and 6th tilt at the distance overall. Well not really a review – more a message to myself 7 years ago and hopefully to some of you gearing up to your first marathon.

 

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So Many Messages of Support

 

Setting off for Blackheath last Sunday I’ll admit I knew I was going to run strongly and that there would be no repeat of the infamous walk/crawl/drink beer strategy adopted on my last London in 2013. I had a 3:20 and 3:25 timing band on my wrist and knew with 100% confidence I would achieve this sensible goal in my marathon journey. Quite a jump from my previous runs of 4:02, 3:57 and 4:03. The reason was simple – with a badly bruised ego after several calamitous runs I was finally ready to listen to all the advice anyone who’d ever run a marathon before had ever given me. I’d made most of the mistakes they advised me to avoid and wonder in hindsight if that had to happen for me to finally accept what they were telling me.

 

When you tell other runners you’re doing your first marathon you will hear the same things all of the the time. Guys telling you about mistakes they’ve made and warning you not to make them too. But if you’re stubborn like me you’ll convince yourself they don’t apply to you, that you are ready to hit a strong performance before you are ready. Well the reality is that if you don’t treat it with the respect it deserves the marathon will bite you on the back side. For me I’ve had to learn from my mistakes before I got to this stage. I’ve sat head in hands at the roadside. I’ve clung on to barriers. I’ve willed people to stop shouting my name and longed for the ground to swallow me up. On the flip side my stubbornness has somehow got me around each of the previous 5 marathons I’ve run.

 

If you’re lucky you might be the type of person that listens to others or you might learn some of them in training. If not remember so many factors come in to play on race day so be prepared. So much has to go right – kit, weather, nutrition, health, pacing, ablutions etc. As a result your first marathon is unlikely to be your best or even the most pleasant experience but like most tough things in time you’ll only remember the good bits. You’ll dust yourself down and get back on again.

 

 

So what makes me so happy with last week’s effort? Was it time? No it was being in a mindset beforehand that I was going to enjoy it, run consistently (perhaps even a bit within myself) and make a good stride forward in my own marathon story.

 

And that is it. The realisation that I wanted to be happy with my performance and not beat myself up about a time afterwards. It’s the first lesson I was told and the one you’ll get when you tell an experienced runner you are doing the marathon – listen to them. Be happy with your performance and don’t chase a time goal. Running 4:02 in my first really annoyed me when I should have been really pleased I could get around and proud of that fact.

 

What else should you know?

 

Lesson two is let the field go. I’ve learned to pace races well in the last few seasons and every race I go to sees most folk hitting the start too fast and fading in the second half. Nothing gives you the feeling of a strong performance better than being able to pick up speed in the home straight (well maintain your pace in the marathon – hanging on in the final miles is as good as speeding up). Consistent splits will see you reel similar runners in who set off too fast. This is a timely boost (albeit based on the suffering of others but I’ve been the other so it’s ok). Negative splitting is difficult in the marathon but consistent pacing is possible for all.

 

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A Career in Professional Pacing Beckons

 

Lesson 3 – listen to your body and adjust your goal accordingly. You’ll know by mile 9 how you are feeling. Do a body MOT from head to toe. If this is starting to sound a bit like the runner’s cliche bingo it’s because the things you always hear are right. So if it’s not your day treat it as a training run and drop the goal pace. Trying to stick with Plan A when it is not going well will result in a really tough day out, probably a world of pain and maybe even some tears (I mean dust in my eye).

 

Lesson four – don’t let a costumed runner dictate your race strategy. Trying to stay ahead of someone dressed as a banana isn’t sticking to your race plan. It’s messing with your speed and that banana is just going to pass you later in the race. It’s a long way and that banana is probably a sub 3 hour marathoner once peeled. It’s a potential banana skin 🙂

 

 

Lesson five – when the pacer for your life goal goes past consider letting them go. When the 3:15 bus went past me last week I was so content it actually felt good letting them disappear over the horizon. It meant I was on pace. They should be getting further ahead of me. Rewind 3 years and I would have been trying to cling on to them for dear life. This resulted in the 3:30, 3:45 and 4:00 paceall passing me before the finish line. That’s a poor outcome in any book.

 

Lesson six – do not worry about your pace until the crowd thins. If you’re first mile is a minute down from goal pace, bonus. You’ve just had an easy mile and you’re in better shape than expected for the final 25.2. Unless you have the self discipline to catch it up at 2 seconds a mile for the final 25 let it go. If you try and catch it up you’ll bust yourself as you’ll try to do it in those very important first miles. Relax in to the race. Aim to feel strong certainly at half way. Similarly do not weave in and out at the start to get on pace. This will increase your total distance. 26.2 is crazy, who wants to run any more.

 

And that is about it. I was so determined to enjoy it and run steady that the miles flew by. The route merge where the Red and Blue starts come together and Cutty Sark passed the first 50 minutes with a carnival of music and dance as we passed through different boroughs. I was having a blast and the greatest danger of cramp was in my cheeks as I laughed and smiled my way along the first half of the run. Turning the corner to Tower Bridge I allowed myself to enjoy the iconic sights and crowd at one of the most special parts of the course. Turning right towards the notorious Isle of Dogs I cheered the elite runners coming the other way – 9 miles further up the road – rather than curse them for being so close to the end.

 

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Mile 14 – This Year The Banana Thorn in My Side Was a Giant Corn in the Cob

 

 

Another strategy I adopted from around mile 9 this time around was to count down the miles rather than count up. Mentally this helped in bringing the finish line closer and closer with each marker. Seeing my support crew twice helped as well as chasing the Road Runner vest several hundred metres ahead of me. The World Record for fastest Bishop, Monk and Nun was either just in front or behind me for most of the race meaning the crowds were noisier than normal and with the weather brightening up over the morning there seemed to be more people on the route than ever before.

 

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Mile 21 – Still Enjoying It But Lost The Ability To Direct Waves At People I Know

 

And so as I exited Canary Wharf I did another top to bottom body MOT and was in good shape aside from a nasty chafe on my right ankle – a new one on me. Vaseline-d up I was able to keep going with only minor discomfort. A great feeling with approximately seven miles to go. Then as always it gets tough and you need to dig deep. From the elite through the club runners to the run-walkers this is the same and what unites everyone who runs the marathon. If it was easy everyone would do it. Keeping going is the last thing you want but knowing you are well prepared and getting closer to home with every step will see you through.

 

This time around it was mile 22-24 when I started to hurt but nowhere near how bad it had been before and perhaps that is what got me through. I’d made mistakes by not listening to others and hurt big time in 2013 but maybe that is what it took for me – to learn the hard way. And then you see Big Ben and it still hurts. I used the mile dedication strategy for the final seven miles, thinking of someone during each mile. This hadn’t been planned and I found myself thinking of quite different people when the going got tough. This definitely helped.

 

And then you get near the finish and people tell you it starts to get easier again. Well this is one piece of advice that is wrong 🙂 It doesn’t get easier and the 1 mile to go, 800m to go, 600m to go and 400m to go will make you want to punch whoever thought it was a good idea to cruelly count down such massive distances at that stage of a marathon. The only one that helps is rounding the corner at Buckingham Palace with 200m to go and seeing that iconic finish line.

 

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Crossing the line in 3:22:31 I had managed a 35 minute course pb and a 22 marathon pb. I know I could have run faster but I was delighted. Anything faster would have been too big a risk, too big a jump and I wouldn’t have had a really great experience. So that is what a good performance is for me now. Incremental improvements towards my goals making sure I continue to learn how to run. The simplest of things but a much more complex sport than I ever imagined when I decided to become a runner back in 2010 with my first London Marathon.

 

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Lisa Covered As Many Miles As Me Out On The Course Supporting

 

It is such a great event. Full of emotion with great stories, real people, amazing sights and vocal support all around. I am really glad to have been lucky enough to take part in four. My only regret was not listening to other marathoners sooner.

 

Or perhaps all this is sentimental rubbish and the reason I ran so well was that I dressed backwards. Wearing my vest back to front in particular made The Boy’s year.

 

Tom Scott Road Race – 10 Miler

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Sunday morning saw a welcome break in London Marathon training as I joined a big squad of Harriers heading to Strathclyde Park for the annual Tom Scott 10 Mile Road Race. This would be my first time around the long standing event on the Scottish Racing calendar and I was looking forward to testing out the legs on the road after a winter of marathon training and cross-country. It was also great to see a few Runbetweeners both taking part (some in Harriers vests) and spectating around the course offering welcome encouragement.

 

Dropping down to 10 miles after a series of 18 to 21 milers over the last few months meant I could ditch the gels, water and bulky trainers for the trusted saltire vest and luminous racing shoes. Feeling faster already I even managed a pb before the start line as I clocked a 2 mile warm up with the ‘fast boys’. I usually use the first section of a race to warm up but I definitely noticed a looseness in the legs during the first mile that meant I was able to hit the ground running.

 

Looping towards the top of the Loch to begin with I was amazed how much shifting there was in the pack with runners moving forwards and backwards – this might have been down to the ‘gun time’ only policy forcing a lot of runners near the front of the pack on the start line. I seemed to have gauged it about right and settled in to a small pack as we made our way through the woods before working our way down the opposite side of the Loch.

 

Around this point the field thinned and I was focused on maintaining an even pace. The target was 6-45s. This would give an indication I was in good shape a few weeks out from London. Staying within this pace felt reasonably good and I reached the water station at 3 miles feeling pretty strong as evidenced by my glamour shot below.

 

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Photo Courtesy of Kevin Ramage – Facebook

 

Taking my usual race approach I started to pick up the pace in the middle section and started moving up the field. I always find this a good boost to my confidence and find the focus of catching each runner a good diversionary tactic.

 

Rounding the corner and switching back on to the main road I felt strong through mile 4 (a long gradual uphill climb – my Hill Running grounding is pretty helpful at times like this) and passed some familiar faces before latching on to the back of a passing Garscube Harrier who I had passed around mile 3. It was clear he was running comfortably and had decided to push the pace on a bit so from mile 5 onwards the speed gradually increased to a little over 6 minute miling. This would be closer to my 5k pace after almost 10k in the miles but I felt in good shape so went with it.

 

The course retraces the first miles between miles 5-6 before completing a full loop of the Loch towards the finish line. Pleasingly the pace felt pretty good during these miles until around mile 8 when my legs began to feel heavy – unsurprising given a 21 miler only a few days before and a reasonably paced tilt at Pollok the day before. Being able to see the finish so close across the Loch led to an uncomfortable watch check as I clocked that I still had more than 2 miles to go. Head down I was determined to keep the pace and dragged on by my new found pacemaker I was able to sustain it with a slight tailwind.

 

Exiting the small wood for the last time my pacemaker put the foot down and pushed on leaving me flying solo down the home straight. With just over a mile to go at this point I decided to aim for around 1k to go before picking up the pace one last time – the increase on tired legs led to an uncomfortable final few minutes but I was determined not to be passed.

 

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Photo Courtesy of Kevin Ramage – Facebook

I crossed the line in a little over 63 minutes, averaging 6-20s for the whole run setting not only a 10 mile PB (not hard as my only other 10 miler was around the hills of the Kyles 10 Miles) but an improvement of 8 seconds on my 10k PB during the race and 4 minutes quicker than I had targeted at the start of the race. A baw hair outside the top 100 in a very, very quick field so plenty to draw me back to this one next year. Hopefully The Boy will finally be injury free too so that he can mount a challenge after today’s run confirmed me as champion in the mini-league runbetweeners section of the winter championships.

 

A definite focus for the year will be to take a bigger chunk off my 10k time once London is out of the way.

 

Thanks as always to the marshals and organisers.

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/924814958/overview

Alloa Half Marathon!

This morning was a funny one for me. Alloa had been a target that I set myself back in January, as I was just starting to get some fitness back, after a fall from a curb in December left me with a badly sprained ankle and a severely bruised ego. Instead I found myself packing a bag to spectate at the event after the National X-Country of three weeks ago left me with stress damage to my shin. As much as I was gutted to be missing the race itself, I was excited to have the chance to see plenty of our ‘Runbetweeners’ running group in action – some of whom were taking part in their first ever attempt at the distance.

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As we drove down to Alloa the forecast was mixed. Glasgow seemed destined for rain but the BBC were adamant that the weather at our destination would merely be ‘cloudy’. Pulling into Alloa however it was clear that this would not be the case and, as the sun broke through a sky as blue as my Bella vest, I found myself shedding layers and preparing for a hot one. The run was a busy one and a crowded start area generated a fantastic atmosphere as the unconventional choice of ‘Westlife’ blared out over the speakers –  I guess that’s one way to ensure people get a quick start out of the blocks!

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The runners passed me by after a one mile loop brought them back round past the start and it was exciting to see the lead pack being chased down by a group including Colin  Thomas of Bellahouston Harriers and Shaun Lyon of Greenock Glenpark Harriers. As other familiar faces made their way down the course, it was nice to be able to offer a cheer of support and report back to interested parties. It wasn’t long before Paul Burningham flew by as the first of the Runbetweener contingent. Paul’s recent form has shown fantastic progress and he seems to be setting himself a PB every time he dons his trainers. Today would be no different.

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It was exciting to be watching Vicki taking part in her first half marathon since completing her debut at ‘Balloch to Clydebank’ last year. As she glided past enthusiastically, it was fantastic to see the progress that she also has made with her running and it was clear that she would be looking for a big PB today.

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Once the remaining runners had disappeared around the corner I set about on the most important mission of the morning: coffee. Rumour had it there was a D’nisi in Alloa and I was determined to find it. I was in luck. A short walk into the town centre and I was rewarded with a huge cappucino and the weather even took another turn for the better! I made my way back round the course away from the finish in order to see the runners coming into the final mile.

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Colin was the first Bella Harrier to come flying past en route to a finish time of 73:58 while Russell Whittington of the Road Runners, fresh from a Kenyan training camp with Colin, crossed the line in 78:13. There were several good performances in windy conditions including a great run by Neil Nairn who managed to improve on his time from last year by an impressive 5 minutes.

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I started to make my way back to the finish and it was great to see all of the Runbetweeners racing hard as they made their way down the long final stretch towards the welcoming, inflatable archway. At the finish line we discussed the race over some home baking and free samples of a strange BCAA concoction that was being handed out. Generally, the feedback was very positive with the event seeming to generate a good atmosphere and enough runners to maintain a good depth to the field. It was highlighted however that several water stations had run out by the time that some of our runners reached them and that the large crowds and limited toilet facilities meant that several runners missed the start as they were waiting in queues. I can only imagine that the unexpected hot weather meant that more water was being consumed than the organisers may have anticipated but it was a shame that some of the runners then had to endure the heat with no way of re-hydrating themselves. Hopefully this is something that is addressed for next year’s event.

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This was a fantastic turnout from the Runbetweeners and we managed to get 14 of the group across the finish line! Hopefully we can choose another race in the near future to target and get another great showing. Well done to the following Runbetweeners who absolutely smashed it today: Paul, Jill, Susan, Sarah, June, Jacqueline, Vicki, Pauline, Anne, Kirsty, Angela, Stephanie, Liz, Jennifer (Sorry if I’ve missed anyone!)

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Reading about running…

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I love to run. I also love to read. It will come as no surprise therefore that my bedside table is always hidden under a mountain of books and magazines about running. I am always on the lookout for new recommendations and often have people ask me to share my own favourites so I thought I would stick all of my opinions in one place by writing them down here! Please let me know your own thoughts and suggestions so I can continue to fuel my habit…

There are too many for me to cover in a single blog post so below you will find a mere selection of my favourites in no particular order…

Two Hours – by Ed Caesar

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Kenny and I are both big fans of the ‘Marathon Talk’ podcast and I had heard them discussing Ed Caesar’s ‘Two Hours’ a couple of times on the show. After their discussion of the book throughout December I started putting hints out to Vicki that it would be a great present and lo and behold, on Christmas morning I had a shiny new copy of it nestled under the tree!

The book did not disappoint and is a really interesting read with plenty of information about the marathon as an event. It follows the history of the marathon from its formation up to the modern day and discusses the changes in approaches and attitudes to the distance over the years. It also follows the story of Geoffrey Mutai and his rise to marathon prominence. The book would definitely appeal more to someone who is interested in following professional marathon running and its history as opposed to someone who is purely focused on their own enjoyment of the sport.

Born to Run – by Christopher McDougall

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One of the first books that most people will encounter when looking for something related to running, this was a real eye-opener for me. It manages to combine interesting stories about running, technical theories and a sense of adventure all in a very light and enjoyable book. The different elements that make up this book are all very well balanced which help to make it very readable for anyone with an interest in running who is not necessarily looking for something too scientific or technical. This is a book that I would read again.

Natural Born Heroes – by Christopher McDougall.

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Having read and loved ‘Born to Run’ (see above), I was very excited about Christopher McDougall’s latest work. This one promised to deal with our natural ability to overcome physical challenges and consider some phenomenal feats of strength and endurance. I was particularly interested in this book as it appeared to deal with lots of the concepts which I had encountered in my time spent training in Crossfit.

The book was actually very different to what I expected. Large chunks of it are based around the historical events of WWII on the island of Crete which I was not expecting at all. This was however really interesting and these chapters proved to be some of my favourites. There is not as big a focus on running in this book as I thought there would be but it is an interesting and enjoyable read nonetheless.

Running with the Kenyans – Adharanand Finn.

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Another classic which seems to be on every runner’s bookshelf. I came to this pretty late and it had been recommended to me by loads of my pals. This is another book which combines interesting stories with a sense of adventure as it follows Finn’s experience of running out in Kenya and also those of moving his family out with him. It is not a book that will provide you with any real information about improving your own technique or running ability but will definitely provide some inspiration to get out and run. This is possibly my favourite running book to date.

The Way Of The Runner – Adharanand Finn.

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Inspired by my enjoyment of his earlier book, I recently picked up a copy of Finn’s ‘The Way Of The Runner’. In this work Finn travels out to Japan to learn about the fascinating culture that surrounds endurance running in the country and also the Ekiden running community. The different approach of the Japanese to running is an interesting contrast to that of his experience in Kenya although it does mean that Finn struggles to get as involved in the running community in this book. There is still however a fascinating insight into the sport and, having read this, I have made it a priority to get out to Japan myself and experience the running culture of a country which produces an unbelievable number of elite marathoners. Again, this book offers little in the way of technical information but huge amounts of inspiration and fascinating experiences.

Advanced Marathoning – Pfitzinger and Douglas.

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This was another book which  I had heard being referenced on ‘Marathon Talk’ as Tom Williams followed one of its programs in his own marathon preparation. After it was also recommended to me by a running friend, I decided to investigate further. This is a very detailed technical guide to marathon running. It can be split into two parts: the second half of the book is a collection of training plans based on different weekly mileages; the first half is a detailed explanation of the theory behind the plans and the reasoning behind each of the sessions which is prescribed. This means that you could quite easily just use the programs and get the benefit of clearly structured training, however I was also intrigued by the theory and enjoyed learning about the different types of training and the physiological effects that these would have. This is a very detailed, technical book which is aimed providing the information that you would need to train for a marathon. These does make it a fairly challenging read (particularly if, like me, you have limited scientific knowledge when it comes to physiology!) but it was interesting nonetheless. I often dip into the book when planning my own training but is not something that would be read for entertainment.

Don’t Stop Me Now – Vassos Alexander.

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This was a book which I sought out after hearing an interview with Vassos on a podcast. I did not know the extent of the man’s running obsession and I was intrigued to find out more. The book is structured as a series of short chapters based on his own experiences which makes it very easy to dip into when you have a spare few minutes. It is a very light and entertaining insight into Vassos’ experiences of running and provides plenty of funny and also inspiring stories based on his running exploits.

At the start of every chapter, Vassos includes an insight into the experiences of a different runner and we get a snippet of information about a huge range of characters including the Brownlee brothers, Jenson Button and Nell McAndrew. These fascinating interactions add another element to the book and make it a fun and easy read.

There are plenty of other books on my shelf which I am working my way through so this post is certainly to be continued…

Running with an Olympic Legend!

Last Friday I finished work, jumped on the train and made my way down to Sheffield for my sister-in-law’s birthday. After a fantastic evening filled with food, drink and catching up,  I set my alarm for an early morning adventure at Sheffield Hallam parkrun. Now I have actually done this parkrun before however last time I was sneaking out of my hotel on the morning of my brother’s wedding armed simply with a map and my barcode. This time I was a little better prepared and had the luxury of a lift and some company for my morning as my dad would be running also while my mum and brother watched on with a coffee.

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As we walked into the park things looked much busier than my last encounter here. On my run in December 2014 there had been just 354 people taking part, on this Saturday there were over 700. There had been rumours circulating that local hero and Olympic Gold Medalist Jessica Ennis would be taking part in her first parkrun on this very morning and it appeared that this prospect had drawn out a lot of runners! I was a little starstruck when I lined up alongside Jess on the startline but I managed to get a cheeky selfie before the run instructions began and she was great.

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As the countdown to the start began it became clear that this would be a congested start. The BBC had cameras on Jess as she lined up at the front and I think a lot of people were keen to get in the picture! After a few seconds we were away and it took me a while to find my stride. The initial section of the course involves a small loop before heading straight back up the path from which you have started. In these busy conditions it was a little tricky to maneuver through the crowds but eventually things opened up and we climbed the path through Endcliffe Park. The route follows a gentle slope up alongside a rive until eventually leaving the park. A sharp right turn then leads into a long steady downhill section on the pavement just outside the park itself. On my first lap it felt as though it took up to this point for my legs to really get going (possibly due to my poor warmup – I may have been slightly distracted by Jessica Ennis!) but the long downhill really gave me a chance to open up and get some pace going.

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At the bottom of the hill it was another short loop inside the park before heading back up the slope again. This time around I found that I was overtaking runners and gaining on the runner in front. I started to settle into my rhythm a little and began to feel strong. As I hit the top of the hill I turned right and prepared to push down the hill towards the finish but things were just a little crowded. The pavement was only really wide enough for two people side by side so it made it a little tricky to pass. I was able to pick up the pace a little but definitely had more in the tank.

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Coming into the finish again was very busy but the marshals were fantastic. The huge turnout made it a little awkward as the final mini-loop is very tight and it is a little difficult to get through the traffic to the finish funnel. The parkrun volunteers did a great job however of making this as clear as possible and, while it maybe cost me a few seconds, it was a great atmosphere and a lovely route.

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After the run I got chatting to a few people from other parkruns. Notably, Paul Sinton-Hewitt was taking part and made the time to have a chat with me about parkrun. I told him of my experiences on the core team at Rouken Glen junior parkrun and of my trip to Bushy park on Christmas morning. He was brilliant and had plenty to say about running in Glasgow and of his experiences with the community. I also had a good chat with a guy from Woodhouse Moor parkrun who was working his way round the Yorkshire events.

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All in all this was a great morning. My two Sheffield Hallam parkrun experiences have been fantastic and both stand out for different reasons. I wonder what will happen next time I am down…

Happy Birthday – The Runbetweeners Turns 1

If it hadn’t been for a Facebook reminder this one would have passed us by completely. So it was a hastily organised first birthday celebration at training tonight. Thanks very much to John from Brookes for donating the cake.

 

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A year of many personal achievements for all our members and it’s been great to see you all progress and catch the running bug whether it be road, trail, 5k, half marathon, full marathon or triathlon.

 

Keep signing up for races, telling us about the best ones, and encouraging new folk to come along to Glasgow’s friendliest running group.

Dunfermline parkrun

Last minute plan to head somewhere exotic for parkrun last Saturday with Dunfermline narrowly winning out over Ayr. Friday night selection criteria was for a parkrun we’d:

 

a. Not done before; and

b. Could get to without getting up stupidly early.

 

So we set off at 7-45 arriving at Pittencrieff Park shortly before 9am giving us the unusual (we’re never early) luxury of some sightseeing and route scouting in advance of the run. The park is full of plenty interesting things to see and was busy even at that early hour, not only with marshals setting out the course but with new year resolutioners arriving en mass for their military fitness class. This did give us a bit of a scare as we wrongly assumed that a mass warm up was perhaps part of the Dunfermline experience.

 

Trying not to stray too far from the start line we were glad to see that the course had an excellent looking cafe very close to the finish. What was immediately apparent however was that the hills were likely to rival Tollcross for severity, regularity and incline.

 

We headed, as we do on first time visits to make sure Jack doesn’t get lost, to the first timers briefing muster point and were given a warm welcome and a brief summary of the route. 3 laps of approximately 1 mile each and the promise of ‘the big hill’.

 

 

As usual I was far too close to The Boy for comfort in the first 100 metres (either he’s a slow starter or I’m an over-enthusistic starter) but by around the 400m mark he’d opened a gap with another runner which grew and grew with each twist and turn thereon. I tucked into a pack of 3 as we descended the hill to the bottom of the park giving a chance to open the legs in the opening 1km. The route then loops around with a steep slope (aka ‘the big hill’) of approximately 150m before flattening out again and running around some of the park’s main attractions.

 

Twisting over the next 300 metres you loop round and under a bridge with a short ascent before starting the next lap (a nicely positioned sign warns you to turn to the right on lap 3 for the finish – duly noted as I did not want to be running any reps on ‘the big hill’).

 

The next two laps saw me settle into a regular pace and work hard on the flat and downhill allowing for a small recovery on the uphill and I was pleased to finish in 20minutes dead in 4th position. I’ve tended to find that a first visit never results in a personally fast time as I like to suss out the route. The Boy got faster and faster crossing the line 1st in a good time considering he was ‘going to take it easy’.

 

Nice to talk to local runners at the end and hear about @13thrunner who has started her own blog to record her first steps into the world of running. Well done on your first parkrun.

 

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The only proof that we were in Dunfermline ‘running’

 

Thanks as always to marshals who did a great job of encouraging everyone with cowbells and hand clappers. Dunfermline seems to be an incredibly inclusive parkrun and the marshals gave every single runner and walker strong vocal encouragement. The post run scone in the cafe did not disappoint before we hit the car home. The upside of the long commute to this one was that it gave us plenty time to plan out many more daft challenges for 2017. Watch this space…

 

I think we’d both agree that Dunfermline was definitely worth a visit and actually much closer to Glasgow than either of us predicted (well not The Boy who described where he was to his wife on the phone as ‘I’m not sure where I am, oh hang on yes I am, I’m in outside Glasgow’).

The Runbetweeners Review 2016

At this time of year (well we’re a week late but most of you will be used to us being late by now) folks normally sit down, reflect on the previous 12 months and plan for the year ahead. It’s been a pretty phenomenal year running wise both on the track (and road, trail and hill) and off it with visits to old and new races near and far including some international excursions, the growth of our own running group and the launch of Rouken Glen Junior parkrun. A year of pb’s for both of us but what have been the highlights?

Between us we have raced a lot in the last year making it hard to narrow down the list to just 10. Therefore we went for 12 So here follows the countdown of our best 12 races from 2016.

Look out for next week’s blog post as we pick 12 races for 2017.

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  1. Springburn parkrun (Kenny) – 14th of May 2016

This one makes the list as I managed to break 19 minutes for the 5k for the first time in a shiny new pb of 18-47 (gaining qualification to the elite sub 19 minute pack at the Harriers). Jack, in the middle of a heavy training schedule, decided to pace on this one allowing me to shadow him around the two loop course. Running in a small pack is something that I’ve learned this year can be extremely effective in pursuit of personal best times. An added bonus on this one was gate-crashing Springburn’s 2nd birthday celebrations meaning there was cake aplenty at the finish.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/05/14/happy-birthday-springburn-parkrun/

    11. Polaroid Clydebank 10k (Jack) – 19th May 2017.

The Polaroid series has been a staple of my running calendar for the last few years and in 2016 I approached it in a slightly different way. In the past I had entered all four events but this year I decided to enter just one and to target it for a personal best. I was over the moon to break 33minutes for the first time here and this made it a highlight of the year for me!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/polaroid-clydebank-10k-2016/

  1.  Brian Goodwin 10k (Kenny) – 17th of June 2017

Another pb for me on a brilliant evening in Pollok Park. After dipping under 40 minutes for the first time at Troon a few weeks before, I was delighted to take a good chunk off  my 10k time finishing in 39-30. An annual event, the race is organised by our club – Bellahouston Harriers. Knowing I was pacing the Men’s 10k a couple of days later, I decided to take this one easy but felt good from the start and again used similar runners to pull me along. Moral of the story: if you are feeling in the zone just go for it. A two lap course, the route takes in many of the flatter parts of the park and Haggs Road. To top it off entry includes a beer and a burger. What more could you ask for?

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/brian-goodwin-10k-2/

     9. parkrun du Bois de Bolougne. (Jack) – 26th March 2017.

What better way to spend my birthday that by striding around a Parisian park – they even let me cross the line first (there’s no winning in parkrun, apparently). This was my first international parkrun and was followed with cake and champagne under the Eiffel Tower. An awesome day and a birthday I will never forget!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/a-parisian-parkrun/

  1. #Glasgowparkrunsmashup (Both) – 15th of April 2016

2016’s answer to the Clyde Trail this was the one that was meant to send us trending worldwide. Unfortunately while we were up before dawn the rest of the running world was asleep, uninterested or both. The idea was simple – run each of Glasgow’s 5 parkrun routes in one go arriving at Pollok in time for the 9-30 start. As usual planning a sensible route was almost the undoing of this challenge as we cycled between each of the parks. Much harder than anticipated when the idea was hatched over a beer or two – 15.5 miles of running, more on the bike and very little enthusiasm, interest or support for a daft idea making this everything a good runbetweeners challenge should be Surely still a record? parkrun UK we are still waiting on official notice…

https://twitter.com/search?q=glasgowparkrunsmashup&src=typd

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/glasgow-parkrun-smash-up/

     7. Bushy parkrun (Jack) – 25th December 2016

This Christmas I decided to head back to where it all began and took part in Bushy parkrun. Lining up alongside 1200 other parkrunners for a free 5k run on Christmas morning was incredible and the atmosphere was even better than I had expected. I will definitely be back!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/12/25/bushy-parkrun-a-christmas-cracker/

  1. Dunoon Ride and Run (Kenny) – 2nd of April 2016

A momentous day as I topped the podium at this event in my hometown. Put together by the team at No Fuss Events the concept of this one is to bring the cycling enduro concept to running. Basically there are four timed stages and you can walk / jog or sprint between each. A 5k out along the prom is stage 1. Stage 2 is a gentle uphill trail section of around a mile. Stage 3 is two laps of the ash track at the local stadium. The final stage is a trail and road downhill smash up finishing on the newly restored pier. Total times from all four stages are added together and the lowest time wins. Simple. In this case the winner was shocked – especially since I’d taken a wrong turn on the first 5k section. My first and likely only victory – hopefully the event never happens again and I can lay claim to the title for the rest of my running days!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/dunoon-ride-run/

     5. Tom Scott Memorial 10Miler (Jack) – 10th April 2016.

This was a favourite of mine in 2015 also. There is a huge field at this event and there is always an abundance of fast runners. This means that there is usually a good pack to run in. At this year’s event I felt great and managed to run with a brilliant group of good mates who were all hitting good levels at fitness at the same time. The result was a fantastic pack run with a train of Harriers and a big PB for myself.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/tom-scott-memorial-10miler/

  1. The SouthSide Six (SS6) Kenny – 6th of November 2016

One of our absolute favourite races of the year and a Glasgow institution. The only reason the SS6 is not at the top of the list is that it’s been there before. This year Jack gave the run a pass leaving me to join the others toeing the line in this challenging 16-mile course. For those who’ve not done the race before it’s a 6 park tour of the south side painfully climbing to the highest peak in the two hilliest collecting stickers along the way. A brutal finish up the stairs and slopes of Queens Park, this one is always worth it for the excellent feed alone. This route sells out quickly so register for facebook updates to ensure you don’t miss out in 2017.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/southside-six-2016-ss6/

     3. MOKrun 1/2 Marathon (Jack) – 29th May 2016.

Our third visit to the Mull of Kintyre and, despite not coming home with the trophy, we still loved the experience of the weekend. A friendly, well organised event with a fantastic route and a brilliant post-run Ceilidh. Magic.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/running-a-mok-in-campbeltown/

      2. TCS Amsterdam Marathon 2016 (Jack) – 16th October 2016.

After four months of focused training, I finally made my way over to Amsterdam in an attempt at a new pb. A brilliant weekend and my first international Marathon – I’m sure it wont be the last!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/amsterdam-marathon-2016/
And the number 1 race of 2016 in our humble opinion….

  1. Kyles 10 Miles (Both) – 10th of September 2016

This was our second visit to the Kyles of Bute and this race did not disappoint. A challenging and hilly route the 10 mile distance is a good marker to test out speed endurance. Guaranteed good weather (we’ve been twice and it’s been sunny both times), unbelievable scenery, beer on tap at the end and a BBQ followed by a ceilidh in the evening. A cracking race; low key, excellently marshalled, reasonably priced and growing in popularity year on year. A worthy winner of the title of 2016 Runbetweeners Race of the Year.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/kyles-10-miles-2/

 

Finally, a short footnote to those races that didn’t quite go to plan in 2016. No prizes for guessing which race ends up in the number 1 slot. Bang goes the idea that the runbetweeners will ever make our fortune Stateside…

 

  1. Toward for a Tenner (Kenny) – 6th of August 2016

Before I go on – Jack won this race, it was brilliantly and cheerfully marshaled, well organised and positively reviewed by local and visiting runners. I’ll be going back in 2017 and this race offers excellent value relative to other similar half marathons.  The addition of a 10k race makes this an inclusive running festival. Any negative feedback that follows is down to my own race naivety. On a positive note I suppose you learn more from the nightmare races than the ones that go well but this was everything that could go wrong in one race for me.

Starting far too fast and thinking I was in much better shape than I was, I decided to launch an attack on a near 5 minute pb on this one. There is no excuse really as this is my neck of the woods therefore I should have anticipated the wind factor which made running out in the first half a much more demanding effort than it would otherwise have been. Struggling badly the group I was in gradually put some serious distance between me and them as a stream of runners gradually passed me with words of genuine encouragement.

 

However I couldn’t help but slow to a near standstill by mile 7 reaching a point of exhaustion usually associated with a heavy session of sprint intervals or hill reps. Burned out by half way I managed to drag myself home thanks to the support and encouragement of my friends from Dunoon Hill Runners who were out in force (plus the fact is was an out and back course and all my gear was back at the start line). The first race I’ve run/walked in a long time and a massive positive split on the second half of the race. Meeting a friend who suffered an underwear malfunction and was running pantless for the final miles perked my spirits at mile 10 giving me the last ounce of strength to jog home the final 3 miles. The closest I’ve come to DNF’ing yet.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/toward-for-a-tenner/

  1. Nationals – Short Course X Country (Kenny) – 5th of November 2016

Not a bad run – in fact I ran pretty well. Also not down do my hatred for the terrain as I’ve enjoyed the x-country much more this year. Perhaps I’m developing a love for the grass and mud as I become more experienced, fitter or maybe it was just down to the fact the weather has been much better than equivalent events in 2015.

This had all the ingredients to be a good one – I’d been training well, top athletes such as Laura Muir were competing and the event was reasonably close by meaning we could get there early enough to see some of the top junior and female races.

However the choice of venue was a strange one. The route was a two lap, pancake flat circuit around a playing field. Single file around the park perimeter the route lacked imagination or the challenge you would normally associate with such a prestigious race in the Scottish Athletics’ calendar. As a result it didn’t get a look in on the blog. Shame.

The worst race of 2016 award goes to…

1. Sommer Sports Florida Clermont 5k (Jack) – July 2016

You will have heard me rant about this one before I am sure but what kind of race doesn’t set up the finish line! Having got up early on my honeymoon to go and race this 5k in Florida, I was loving leading the pack for the whole race. I built myself up a nice lead and kept running for the finish – only to find that the finish line wasn’t there yet! I kept running down the road until I realised there was a problem and when I turned back the finish line had been constructed behind me! Witnesses at the end of the race spoke to the organisers and it was decided that I would still get the trophy but an angry competitor (relegated to second place) kick up a fuss and I did not get it. The organisers then ignored my email (I know I got petty!) and refused to respond to my questions on Twitter. I’m going to stop writing about it now because it’s getting me angry again haha -for more info read the review 😉

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/07/23/there-is-no-finish-line/

 

 

Bushy parkrun: A Christmas Cracker!

Having hurt my ankle attempting to run to parkrun in Leamington last week, I took the entire week leading up to Christmas off running. The sudden removal of running from my life was a bit of a shock to the system and I was keen to get back into the swing of things. This year I am spending Christmas at my parents’ house just outside of Croydon and so decided to ease back into things with a bit of parkrun tourism – and where better to pay a Christmas visit than the place where it all began: Bushy parkrun.


Lining up before the run (not a race! 😉) it was clear that this would be an experience. 1262 people (including Santas, Elves and the odd turkey) made their way through the misty park to congregate at the start line and there was a powerful dose of Christmas spirit in the air! 


The sheer volume of runners definitely gave the event an added buzz; the start line must have been forty people wide and the crowds wound their way back across the park. I was not planning a fast one today but didn’t really want to get stuck right at the back so I took up a position three or four rows from the front – squashed tightly between a man in a turkey hat and a woman dressed as a Christmas Pudding!


As the starter announced “Go!”, the charge was on and chaos ensued for a couple of hundred yards as people jostled for position but things eventually spread themselves out as we hit the first bit of path and made our way across the park. I was a little worried about my ankle today and was only intending a slow jog round but the atmosphere swept me up. As the watch beeped to tell me I had actually run a fairly quick first mile I made an effort to slow things down and settled into a group. Fortunately my ankle felt ok so after a slower second mile I decided to see if I could make up a few places and started working my way up the field – I couldn’t let the guy in a full elf suit beat me!


Coming into the final section of the race I jumped out of my skin as a huge stag appeared just to the side of the path on which I was running! I then spotted the other seven or eight deer which were grazing just behind it. I couldn’t believe these huge animals were quite happily minding their own business so close to a path which had over a thousand people (many covered in jingle bells!) running along it. Amazing.


As I crossed the finish line I was surprised to see that I had managed to work my way up to fourth position. I was also pretty impressed (if somewhat confused) with the huge, twin funnel! Nevertheless, the funnel management was impeccable and it was clearly a well oiled machine! Dad also had a good run, crossing the line in a new course PB, and we made our way home for a full fry up before crashing on the sofa with a beer and Christmas TV. 


A huge thanks to all at Bushy parkrun for an awesome event, dad for the lift and mum for the breakfast  – is there a better way to start Christmas than parkrun?