CLYDE AND SEEK

An oldy but a goody!

Jack Arnold – Bellahouston Harriers

Kenny Taylor – Dunoon Hill Runners and Westerlands Cross Country Club

 

Scouting out the route the week before
Scouting out the route the week before

Clyde, the aptly named mascot, was one of the stars of the recent Commonwealth Games held in our home city of Glasgow. The Thistle themed character appeared at venues, around the city and even managed to be cast in steel for his own series of statues across the city. Inspired by the success of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow two school teachers on their summer holidays with too much time on their hands set off to run all 29 Clyde mascots on Wednesday the 6th of August.

After studying the map we decided to start out in the west of the city and met in the Botanic Gardens. Together we estimated that a 13 mile easy paced trot around the city lay ahead of us and we set off in high spirits.

There are 29 Clydes in total spread across the city and the early morning saw us move onwards to Victoria Park before circling back to the Clyde at the Riverside Museum. 3 Clydes down and we were approaching 5 miles on the Garmins, not the easy start that we had expected and perhaps the first signs that the Geography teacher should not have been in charge of deciding the best route to navigate the city. Doubts were starting to creep into our minds about the size of the challenge ahead of us.

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Mid-morning saw us check off a number of West End Clydes in relatively quick succession including those at Yorkhill Hospital, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Kelvingrove Park. Re-energised we moved through the city centre collecting more QR codes on Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Bus Station and Queen Street Station. The QR codes on each statue were scanned using an app to chart progress towards completion of the trail. Looking online many families had taken this up as a challenge over the duration of the Games and we met many on route keen to be photographed with Clyde and positive about the Games.

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After queueing for a photo with the Big G in George Square (not technically a Clyde Statue but part of the official Clyde’s Trail route) and collecting another two Clydes on Buchanan Street and St. Enoch Square we broke for lunch and reevaluated our route. We were 1/3rd of the way through our challenge and at the 9 mile mark. And it was lunch – we were meant to be in the pub by lunch!

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Unperturbed we made out East passing through Glasgow Cross and Parkhead before touching base with Clyde in Tollcross Park home to the swimming events during the Games. By this point fatigue was setting in but we managed to sum up the enthusiasm to bound back towards the city centre at 8.5 minute mile pace – our fastest of the day. Clyde’s were scanned and photographs were taken at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and Bridgeton cross before we made our way to Glasgow Green. Security was tight and we had to get the long lens out to photograph the second giant Clyde of the day due to the dismantling of the Games Park.

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Legs were tiring fast so we stopped for second lunch on the banks of the Clyde. A quick scan of the Garmin showed we had passed half marathon distance expected and were now sitting at 15 miles. After looking at the map again we realised we had to cross the city en route to the BBC before crossing for statues in the South of the city. Heads down time as we collected statues at Broomielaw and Lancefield Quay before catching glimpse of the Hydro and Exhibition Centre where so much great action had taken place the week before.

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Crossing the Squinty Bridge and heading to the BBC we were buoyed by a chance encounter with an ex-colleague visiting the Science Centre with his son – in true Glasgow spirit we were reminded that our little jog was nothing on his mammoth task of entertaining a toddler for 6 weeks.

Desperate by now to finish we checked off Ibrox, home of the Rugby 7s, and made the long run along Paisley Road West to visit Clyde in The Gorbals before cutting south to Hampden and our temporary athletics stadium. Another pit stop saw a few more energy drinks guzzled and stockpiles of sweets replenished for the home straight.

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Map out again we decided to head to King’s Park before finishing the route in Queen’s Park with the final statue and giant wooden Clyde sculpture. Whether it was fatigue, delirium or poor map reading skills again the King’s Cross Clyde proved the hardest to find at a time when we would gladly have kissed his feet to appear in front of us. Feet shuffling much more slowly we quickened the pace yet barely noticed as the watches died on us. 6 and a half hours later we finished having clocked up an estimated 27 miles – passing our personal furthest distance of the marathon without even planning it.

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The beer, crisps, chocolate, coke and lucozade consumed at the nearest pub to the finish line went down a treat and sore legs were glad of a seat. Given the buzz that we witnessed as we visited each statue it was sad to hear the next day that the Clyde on Edmiston Drive had gone missing, presumed stolen, and that the other outdoor statues were to be removed for safe keeping. Despite what people who know us might say we both have strong alibis of being asleep the next morning when he was knocked!

The trail was great fun but maybe not the casual run we had anticipated. People Make Glasgow who monitor and promote the trail said on Twitter that we were the only people they had heard of who had actually run the trail and it is not surprising. Despite how much tougher the route panned out than anticipated it was great to be out and about and soak up the last of the Commonwealth spirit and we both had a great laugh the way you only can when things do not quite go to plan. It is sad that the challenge is no longer there for others to try but gives us both the best shout at a course record we will probably ever get!

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In numbers the day panned out as follows:

– 29 Clyde statues, hedges and wooden replicas of the mascot himself visited

– 27 miles covered across Glasgow in total – the furthest either of us had ever run – Jack also ran 2 miles to the start line!

– 12 (approximately) strangers who expressed interest in our tour of all the clyde mascots

– 7 hours – yip 7 hours on our feet

– 6 parks visited (Botanics, Victoria, Tollcross, Glasgow Green, Kings Park, Queens Park)

– 3 the number of Clydes who had their QR code removed meaning our score card is not perfect (we do have a photo at all 29 destinations though

– 3 bottles of energy drink each

– 1 Clyde that had to be viewed from a safety perimeter fence which Jack and I tried to breach

– 1 Clyde covered in rice and curry sauce

– 0 the number of times our epic adventure retweeted or trended on Twitter despite trying to drum up support throughout the day online!

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http://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/558662067

MOK RUN 2015

VIEW FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE PACK

Returning to MOK Run 2015 for the May bank holiday we knew we were in for a well-organised event and an epic weekend of running and entertainment. This was our second visit to Campbeltown and we hoped to implement our now ‘experienced’ race strategies on the stunning Kintyre course. Sadly our tour guide, local hero and cousin of everyone in Campbeltown John Barbour succumbed to, yet another, injury resulting in his withdrawal from the 10k and more importantly the rest of the weekend’s entertainment as he opted to stay home in Glasgow. Lisa didn’t manage to toe the start line either having been ill the week before which was disappointing given the effort she had put into her training.

Ready for action
Ready for action

So on Sunday morning we (‘The Boy’ – aka Jack – and I) made our way to the start pens having reluctantly turned down the Full Scottish breakfast on offer at the B&B. I don’t remember there being start pens last year and I wasn’t really paying attention so ended up a bit closer to the front than usual. I felt confident though having finished 18th in the half marathon last year, still my best performance in an organised race. Then I remembered that all the whippets doing the 10k were at the same start so started to edge my way backwards to ensure I didn’t fly out of the traps too quickly. Conditions at the start were best described as fresh and I adopted the penguin strategy of getting to the middle of the crowd for warmth.

Bowser set off quickly giving me my now favoured race tactic of hunting him down. My pacing has improved a lot recently and as usual a many of the runners let their adrenalin get the better of them setting off quicker than perhaps they had planned. As we reached the 1km mark everyone was settling into their groove and the 10k runners peeled off leaving the half marathoners staring ahead at the long and gradual incline on the main road out to the North of Campbeltown. It was at this point that I passed John and it was good to see that he had slowed early enough in the race to allow for a good consistent run.

The initial stretch of the race is about 3.5 miles in total with a gradual incline along the main road. I had remembered the start as being tough last year but the wind this time around made conditions very tricky and most runners were trying to pack together for any small respite and shelter. Despite sitting on the left shoulder, then the right and then directly behind a few runner’s it was becoming clear that the wind was defying normal laws of nature and was in fact coming in strongly from every single direction.

Turning sharp left on to the road past the farm to the beach the wind continued to hinder progress but I decided to string out the pack of runners and pick up the pace a little in the hope of getting a new PB on the course. This worked although one or two runners came with me. By the time I reached the beach I was glad that ‘The Boy’ hadn’t appeared on the way back to Campbeltown placing me roughly the same distance behind him as last year. As I reached the small summit of the first sand dune ‘The Boy’ flew past at exactly the same point as he had done in 2014, bounding up the hill without another runner in sight well on course to defend his title. A few more runners passed on the way down to the beach before the iconic stretch along the sand. Heading to the water mark seems to be the preferred option to ensure a run on the wetter, and therefore, harder sand. The added bonus is that it provides a great backdrop for the race photos afterwards.

After turning on the beach at the 6-mile mark it was amazing to be able to hear, breathe and run upright as someone had decided to turn off the wind machine. The wind never feels as strong on the back but it was good to get a little helping hand on the way home. Climbing the dunes off the beach sucks and drains the energy from your legs in a way that no undulating road race ever will. It certainly takes a good while to get back into your stride and I traded places several times with runners in the next mile as we found our rhythm again. Turning right onto the airport road I again looked to pick up the pace conscious that I was heading for a marginal PB.

For much of the first half of the race I had been running with the first lady, not Michelle Obama, and it was great to see and hear so much support from the runners nearer the back of the field who were yet to approach the half way mark. About 400 metres onto the airport road we were surprisingly brushed unceremoniously aside as the eventual female winner flew past us. I had assumed she would slow in the next minute or so given the rapidity of her burst but to her credit she increased the distance over the next few miles.

This pass spurred me on to a few 7-minute miles where I felt comfortable and again I started to pass a few more runners. Feeling comfortable I kept up this pace as we returned towards the town of Campbeltown again and managed to set my sights on a few more targets, I mean fellow runners. I had roughly counted the runners coming off the beach and reckon I’d been about 30th at that point so I was keen to ensure a top 30 finish. It goes to show what a strong field was entered this year as I had been in the top 20 with a slower place at the 2014 race.

Entering Campbeltown I had managed to sustain my pace and buoyed by the finish line even managed a quicker final mile on the final descent to the promenade crossing the line in 1:34:40. I felt strong for the second half but the legs certainly suffered with the pace. Almost two minutes quicker than last year I was really pleased as MOK Run is certainly among the more challenging courses around.

One of the highlights of the race are the incredible hand crafted medals, sandwiches and Danish pastries dished out at the finish area and it was great to get out the cold into the refreshment tent. ‘The Boy’ managed a 5 minute improvement on his PB and retained his title costing me dinner in the process as our obligatory ‘most-improved’ bet again saw me losing out. It was great to then watch Bowser come in and ‘The Boy’s’ Mum and Dad who had travelled up from London on the back of the good press they had about the event last year. They were proud as punch of ‘The Boy’ but equally had both run strong races leading many to question their true parentage given their youthful appearance.

Didn't keep him waiting too long
Didn’t keep him waiting too long

After watching the prize giving we headed to the pub for a couple before initiating the most crucial part of our race strategy, the afternoon siesta. We’d flagged badly at the ceilidh last year and wanted to make sure we had the stamina required to celebrate in style and enjoyed a great dinner in Whiskey Macs before heading to the Victoria Hall for another great night of live music, dancing and a chance to see the early race photos projected onto the wall. Despite not winning the raffle again we had another great night with ‘The Boy’ and I lasting until the DJ set, a big improvement on last year’s performance for the second PB of the day.

Monday morning provided another highlight with an excellent, and well earned, Full Scottish before we all headed home. Lisa and I stopped at the wedding venue on the road home to drop off the 250 odd beers that had been weighing down the car for the last week to complete a memorable weekend.

https://www.strava.com/activities/311560222

A walk in the park…or 50!

Parkrun sign

On 24th December 2011 I was persuaded by my mum and dad to try a slightly different start to my Christmas morning: parkrun. We made our way to the cold and wet fields of Riddlesdown and were joined by 59 other runners all keen to start their day with a 5k run. The run itself was not my fastest ever – i ended up on my backside whilst negotiating one of the particularly muddy corners – however I was taken in by the enthusiasm of the marshalls and the fun atmosphere of the event. I was so impressed that I determined to find my nearest parkrun event on my return to Glasgow and two weeks later I found myself lining up in a huge field of 318 ready for my first ever Pollok parkrun.In the four and a half years that followed I went through phases of regular attendance followed by spells of very infrequent visits and thus yesterday I finally reached my 50th parkrun.

Conditions were great for running and my recent form had been pretty good. Since finishing the London Marathon three weeks previously I had managed to secure new Personal Bests at both 2Mile (at the Bellahouston Harriers Time Trial) and at 10k (Helensburgh 10k) and so was feeling confident of putting in a decent performance. During the warm up I did feel heavy in the legs and realised that this was probably the price of running a fast 10k two days earlier. I bumped into a few fellow Harriers before the start of the race and realised that there were a few runners present who would be applying the pressure right the way up to the finish line.

The run was a tough one and I spent most of it running in a small breakaway group of three before managing to find an extra gear in the final kilometre to break away. I was happy with my eventual finish time of 16:33 – just outside of my personal best – as I feel that once the Polaroid 10k series is out of the way, I should be able to knock a few more seconds off and hopefully challenge my pb.

Over the 50 parkrun events that I have completed I have managed to tick off the following locations:

Pollok Park (37)

Riddlesdown (4)

Tollcross (2)

Victoria Park (2)

Sheffield Hallam (1)

Eglinton Park (1)

Falkirk Park (1)

Aberdeen (1)

Springburn Park (1)

Jack’s Virgin Money London Marathon 2015

Huddled in a damp corner of an over-sized marquee and nursing my steaming cup of coffee, I took a moment to take in my surroundings. Four gentlemen shared my shelter, listening to the ominous rain tic-tacking on the fabric roof, and each shifted uncomfortably in order to avoid the elephant in the room. In this tent however, the elephant was a gorilla: the fastest gorilla in the world no less! Preparation for The Virgin Money London Marathon 2015 had begun months earlier for many and the final pieces of the puzzle were being carefully put into place in this small corner of Blackheath Common. I watched, intrigued, at the variety of pre-race rituals that unfolded before me: a man, dressed head to toe in clinging Lycra, spooned thick porridge from a thermos flask; another athlete grimaced as he threw a concentrated shot of beetroot juice to the back of his throat, a solitary purple drop trickling down his chin. The race was not due to start for another three hours but already a steady stream of people were arriving at the Red ‘Fast Good for Age’ Zone.

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The early bird catches the worm!

 This was to be my first experience of the London Marathon in six years and my first in the blue vest of Bellahouston Harriers. My preparation had been as good as could be expected – I only missed one week of training during the build up when a half-marathon left me with a particularly sore shin – and I was anticipating a large PB. Shortly before the start I was joined by a few fellow Harriers and discussion of breakfast choices provided little cover for the nerves and excitement that made even a conversation about porridge bristle with tension.

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I tied and re-tied that barcode at least three times before the start of the                                                                            race!

 Having dumped my bag on the lorry, I made my way to complete the most important, and always memorable, element of the pre-marathon ritual of thousands – a final trip to the notorious portaloos. Emerging, thankfully, in one piece I had a moment of panic as I realised that the rest of the runners were making their way to the start line! I jogged over but was frustrated to find myself stuck at the back of the pen – not ideal when targeting a fast time. I surveyed the crowds in front of me and realised that there was no chance of me squeezing nearer to the front of the field; I would just have to accept this starting position and make up for any lost time later in the race. It was as I came to this realisation that I noticed something else which caused me some concern: a puddle was appearing underneath the man standing directly to my left. A quick glance across and I realised that he had in fact pissed himself. Shorts soaking, and with a sheepish look on his face, he caught my eye and smiled. I was speechless. I don’t know whether I was more disgusted by the fact that the puddle was creeping ever closer or concerned about the severe chafing that this man would surely suffer when running 26.2 miles in a pair of sopping wet shorts! Distracted by the spread of the puddle, I was shaken back to the reality of my situation as the loudspeaker burst into life – we were off! There is something incredibly anti-climactic about the start of the London Marathon; the months of training, the hype of the Expo and the buzz of the morning’s preparations build to the bang of the starter’s pistol…and then nothing. For a good few seconds after the gun signals the start of the race there is silence and all is still. Movement slowly ripples through the runners as people gradually gain enough space to move forward. Any hope of settling into race pace in the first mile are soon shattered as I creep through the first half a mile at barely a jog and spot a familiar face thirty yards ahead of me – Mr Gorilla, inflatable banana and all.

Getting into my stride...
Getting into my stride…

After a foolish second mile spent trying to make up for lost time I soon settled into my rhythm. It was not long before I found myself running alongside ‘Tim’. I did not know Tim before the race however it soon became clear that we were aiming for similar targets and we spent the next ten miles matching each other’s stride. Tim had wisely printed his name on his vest and I was blown away by the support this earned him – for a while I was convinced that he must be a celebrity runner! I will definitely be following suit next time! Eventually I lost Tim however his place was filled by a familiar face. As I passed the fifteen mile mark I heard my name and glanced across to see James – a man I had worked with ten years previously serving drinks to members of Farleigh Court Golf Club. I had known that James was running, and that he would probably be aiming for a similar time to me, however we had not spoken prior to the race and in a sea of 38,000 runners it had not even crossed my mind that we might cross paths. We exchanged a few words and then the next few miles saw us exchange positions in the race at least half a dozen times.

Paula
Paula

It was at around the 20 mile mark that the shouts about Paula started. Several supporters yelled that Paula Radcliffe was not far ahead and that we could catch her. I had not spotted Paula at all during the race and part of me doubted that she was actually that close – what can seem a short distance to a spectator is invariably much longer when running it. I therefore stuck to my planned pace as things were getting tough. I felt a couple of twinges in my shin – and was a little worried that it was going to blow up – but fortunately these faded into the background as the finish line edged slowly closer.

Support squad ready for action!
Support squad ready for action!

As I approached the twenty three mile mark I spotted the large fluorescent signs that my fiancée and mum had spent the night before putting together. The timing was perfect as I was really beginning to suffer now and I could focus on the distant signs getting closer. I knew that once I passed my family, it would be 5k to the finish – nothing but a parkrun! The cheers of encouragement from my family spurred me on and I was able to maintain some sort of form in the final few miles although the pace did start to ebb. As I turned into the final mile I was searching for the finish line. I realised that I was going to narrowly miss out on my target time but that I was still on track to get a time which I could be pleased with. I crossed the line one minute behind Paula Radcliffe and slowed to a walk. It’s amazing how quickly your body can give up once it has achieved its goal – I don’t think I could have run another step at that moment. I hobbled down the mall with my medal and raided my goody bag for any chocolate I could find. Before I knew it I was settled under the ‘B’ tree (for Bellahouston!) with my team mates and I was joined by my family. A few photos later and it was time to head home for steak and wine before catching a late flight back to Glasgow in order to make it to work in the morning!

Glasgow's finest
Glasgow’s finest!

            I sat at work on the Monday, medal firmly lodged in my pocket, and reflected on my phenomenal weekend. The experience of London was everything that I had hoped it would be and, even though my finishing time was not quite what I had hoped, it was still a time I was incredibly proud of. In the infamous words of Arnie: I’ll be back.

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