The Southside Six has become one of Glasgow’s ‘must-do’ events since six local runners first attempted a route designed to take in as many of the Southside’s parks in one manageable outing as possible. The first official run in 2011 saw over 200 people complete the 16mile circuit and the race has gone from strength to strength thanks to its reputation as a well organised yet challenging event. With this year’s race filling up in half an hour, I was over the moon to have secured a place – clearly I had forgotten just how difficult this route had been! Perhaps I should have had a look at this photo from the 2014 event before applying…
When I arrived at Race HQ it was clear that this year’s race would be a warmer one than my previous experience of the event. I pinned my number to my Bella vest for the first time in a good few months and nervously made my way to the flagpole. I knew that I was not quite at the same level of fitness as I had been last year however I also knew that the two runners who had finished ahead of me last time out would not be running and the competitive voice in my head was beginning to wonder whether I would be able to beat my 3rd place of 2014.
The race got off to a flying start and I managed to sit in with my Bella teammate Cris Walsh for the first few miles. Having been unable to race for a few months due to a calf injury, it felt great to be back in competition and the buzz of being involved in an event such as this was fantastic. Over the first half of the race we managed to pull away from the field and by the time I left Pollok Park I had managed to develop a decent lead. As I left the park an element of doubt crept in as I started to overthink my performance. The hilly nature of the course meant that it was very difficult to judge my pace and I began to worry that the guys behind me would start making up ground in the second half of the race. When I hit Bellahouston Park I knew that one of the biggest challenges of the race was ahead – a steep climb up the steps to the monument.
The steps were even harder than I remembered and it was with a huge sense of relief that I found myself striding down the hill on the other side! This relief however was short-lived as, to my surprise, a runner appeared suddenly from a side-path and took up his place ten yards in front of me. I assumed this mystery runner was just a local out for a sunday run however a glance at my Garmin confirmed that he was maintaining a steady 5:45 minute per mile pace – not exactly what I would expect of someone out for a Sunday training run! After thirty seconds or so I was sitting on the guys shoulder and he turned to me, revealing his race number, and asked if I was the current leader! When I told him that I was he apologised quickly and acknowledged that he had taken a wrong turning – skipping a large section of Bellahouston Park (including the evil staircase!). We ran the next mile or so side by side and then found ourselves entering Queen’s Park.
The final few hundred metres of the race are truly horrific. Having completed a short loop through Queen’s Park, runners find themselves at the bottom of yet another traumatic climb (with another couple of sets of steps for good measure!) up to the flagpole and the finish. I was already feeling pretty frustrated that the hard work I had put in to gaining a decent lead had gone to waste when I was joined by yet another runner who had accidentally cut a section of the course! He bounded through the wrong gate into Queen’s Park, cutting a substantial section of the course, to join in the battle to the finish! As the three of us hit the bottom of the steps I couldn’t help but feel a surge of anger that the hard work I had put in over the last 15.5 miles could be for nothing as it all came down to a sprint finish. Fortunately the anger gave me a bit of a final adrenaline rush and I managed to pull away from the competition in the final straight and I crossed the line in first place.
As soon as we crossed the finish line the first fella to have taken the wrong route was very apologetic and acknowledged that he had made a simple mistake – he voluntarily stepped down from the podium as he realised that he had made up a couple of places through his error. It became clear that the other runner, whilst he had skipped a section of Queen’s Park, had not gained any positions through his error and so held onto his second place result.
All in all this was an enjoyable race and I was delighted to take first place. While it had been the last thing I wanted to see as I approached the final straight, being joined by two other runners for a final battle did make for an exciting finish and made collecting the prize a little sweeter. Post-race hospitality was superb as always and the soup from Mark’s Deli was exactly what was needed! A huge thanks to the race-organisers and marshals for such an incredible experience and I will see you again next year!!