Glasgow parkrun smash up

An early start yesterday morning for our first running challenge in a while. 5am alarms as The Boy and I headed out to attempt all four Glasgow parkruns in one go. This one has been on the list for a while but various commitments mean it has taken longer to get to than planned. Thankfully despite the early start we got a great day for it setting off as others were making their merry way home from a livelier Friday night out than either of us.



Sunrise over the Clyde – en route to Victoria Park

parkrun has obviously featured heavily in the press this week so it was good to get out yesterday and show a bit of solidarity with the parkrun community. For those who don’t know what parkrun is all about – in a nutshell it is a free, weekly timed 5km run / jog / walk organised by volunteers in parks all across the world. Free being the important word this week as one of the events in England fights attempts to bring in a charge for the use of their local park.


Anyway back to the plan which was to use the bikes to get between each of Glasgow’s four parkruns and run each route culminating at our local parkrun (Pollok) in time for the 9-30am start. In relation to some of our other challenges this one seemed reasonably straightforward. Perhaps even a more pedestrian and enjoyable morning lay ahead particularly since my best attempts to persuade The Boy that we should be running between each Park were thwarted – he wasn’t up for the full 31 miles and in hindsight I’m glad he reigned me in for once 🙂


Planning done we were facing about 22 miles of cycling and 12.4 miles of running. In terms of our own training and fitness at the moment this would be ok for both, perhaps maybe a bit too comfortable for us so we had to make it a bit more of a challenge – Royal Flush! If you’ve never heard of a royal flush in running circles it’s a term  coined by the guys at Marathon Talk (running podcast). Royal Flushing is when you try to do each interval (mile / km / 5km) in succession quicker than the last. This certainly added a layer to the challenge.



Stop 1 – Victoria Park

So after a 7 mile pre-dawn ride from the south side to stop number 1 we set off reasonably slowly just before 6am in the largely abandoned Victoria Park with the sun popping up above the horizon. Some (MarathonTalkers) may call this type of start sandbagging – a form of cheating where you deliberately go off too slow to make later miles easier. I like to think of it as experienced tactical move given what was to come 🙂 Anyway on to parkrun #1.


A relative newcomer to the Glasgow parkrun circuit Victoria was for a long time my local route and where I hold my current pb. It has become a much larger event in the last couple of years which is testament to the organisers and volunteers. This route comprises 3 laps of the park including the pond (with some bad ass swans who positioned themselves menacingly across the path on lap two) and fossil grove. A recent addition has been a Sunday Junior parkrun at Victoria, a first for Glasgow.


After what seemed like an eternity locking up the bikes, adjusting kit, updating the twitter feed (#glasgowparkrunsmashup – I’m assuming this was trending worldwide as our legion of fans set the alarm clocks to monitor the challenge) and watching The Boy try to set up his fancy gopro/selfie stick combo it was good to be running as we settled into a nice groove and reasonable pace. The Boy only went the wrong way once during the second lap – it’s like getting lost on a running track 🙂 – and we crossed the line in 25:33. 1/4 done.



Transition to Stage 2 and Arriving at Springburn Park


We spent far too long mucking about at the end of run 1 (more on this later) and getting lost on the cycle over to Sprinburn Park which was much more of a climb than I had remembered. The sun was now high in the sky though and the early frost on the paths was thawing out removing lingering doubts that some of the events may actually be cancelled.


The Boy and I have only been to Springburn parkrun a couple of times. A little smaller than the others it is no less of an event with enthusiastic and welcoming organisers. I think The Boy still holds the course record too. Two and a half laps with some undulation there is a really nice woodland section in this one. It was around about now that we realised we’d made the mistake of starting with the fastest parkrun in the city followed by the second fastest – and we were meant to be getting quicker. The Royal Flush was in danger and we realised for the first time that we hadn’t quite set aside the time that would be required for a leisurely tour of Glasgow’s parkruns.


The Boy was mucking about with his young folk technology at the start of this one with his selfie stick / go pro combo so I headed off on my own. I kept glancing back to see him catching me but there was no sight during the first two laps and I was panicking that he’d done a Jack and got himself lost. Thinking about doing extra laps this early in the challenge wasn’t a great thought. So it was a welcome relief to see him sprinting up behind me as we neared the final two turns into the home straight.


This one was definitely quicker in the legs as we warmed up into the challenge. 22:32 on the watch. 2/4 done. The sandbagging had gone badly wrong at this stage.


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Event Number 3 – Tollcross parkrun


The downhill transition on the bike to Tollcross was a welcome break for the legs but by this point we realised we’d be cutting it dangerously fine to get to the fourth and final event in time for 9-30am (this is when parkruns traditionally start in Scotland and we wanted to complete the challenge with the masses). We definitely picked up the pace on the bike arriving at Tollcross at about 8-25am just as the run director and volunteers were arriving to lay out the course for their own event at 9-30am.


Bike lock up and transition now down to a fine art we were moving before long this time around. Tollcross gives a different experience again complimenting the other routes in the city and is definitely worth a visit. I’d rate it as the trickiest and slowest course. This one is a two lapper with two steep climbs on each lap. The Royal Flush on legs that were getting more and more tired was a concern so The Boy took the lead on pacing.


Although we’ve both volunteered running this one you realise how much you take the volunteers for granted and they gave great support as we ran about like a couple of loon balls who’d turned up to the party an hour early. All over the country people are giving up their time to give the rest of us a run.


Anyway after the usual struggle due to the elevation on this one we ended up in need of a bit of a sprint finish (on the grass) to dip across the line in 22:26 preserving the Royal Flush attempt by 6 seconds. 3/4 done.


Sadly the cake table (the main reason you want to be visiting Tollcross parkrun) was just getting set up as we packed the bags and jumped on the bikes for the final transition. We had about 7 miles to cross the city back to the southside and it was approaching 8-55am. It was touch and go but some off road cycling and weaving in and out of the traffic got us into Pollok and locking up the bikes with a couple of minutes to spare. It was great to catch up with some of the Mondaynighters on the start line at Pollok.


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Pollok parkrun – Arriving in the Middle of the Briefing


For those who don’t know Pollok is the original and largest Glasgow parkrun which takes place in Pollok Park. Navigating your way close to the front of the field is important if you are after a quick pace given the number of runners participating so we just had enough time to slot in reasonably near the front of the pack. We spotted a few Bellahouston Harriers and I could see Jack was torn between race mode which would have meant getting off the go pro and backpack and stripping down to the vest and racing shorts but the cycling and three previous 5k efforts alongside the early start had definitely taken their toll on the legs.


Thankfully it was pacer week and after about 600 metres The Boy and I tucked just in behind the 22 minute pacer. I think we were both feeling it during the first 1.5k and by this stage I was considering sacking the Royal Flush idea and just dropping back and finishing the challenge but the legs loosened off as we approached the first of the two climbs in Pollok (again a two lap course) and we closed the small gap on the pacer and the large group chasing pbs. Dropping down off the hill and onto the second lap we stretched out the legs a little before moving up the field to ensure the Royal Flush element was met.


We finished less than a minute longer my overall Pollok pb so I am wondering whether a more rigorous warm up is required in future weeks. 21:23. 4/4 done and challenge complete.


So too was the Royal Flush – surely worth a mention on next week’s Marathon Talk? – and despite a bit of sandbagging at the start it was a decent effort considering the duration of the challenge and the naivety of doing the easiest routes earlier in the morning.


A fun challenge despite the fact that everyone else seemed to think it was a bit bonkers – always a measure of a good run for us I think. To top it all off we gatecrashed a hen weekend kicking off their celebrations with a bit of parkrun tourism before heading into the cafe to refuel.



Challenge Complete!


Basking in the glory of our achievements it was great to look around the cafe and see so many faces we knew from races / parkrun / the Harriers and our Monday night group. To us this is what parkrun is really all about – bringing people of all abilities together to promote both physical and mental wellbeing. Long many it continue and long may it be free.


Thanks as always to the volunteers who make it all possible.


Kenny and Jack


ps – as a small side note all the rides were negative split pace too. Double Royal Flush 🙂


Tom Scott Memorial 10Miler

Having really enjoyed the National Road Relays last weekend, I was particularly looking forward to stepping up to the longer distance of the Tom Scott Memorial 10 Miler. Last year this was my favourite race of the season (outside of the London Marathon) and I was keen to have another crack at it. It was also exciting to know that we were heading to the race with yet another phenomenal turnout from the Harriers which meant I could be sure of an epic support team along the route! Whilst a little chilly initially, the weather would be ideal for racing and, once the warm-up was done and dusted, it was time to shed the final layers, lace up the racers and make my way to the start line.


Toeing the line reminded me of just how many fantastic runners were competing in this event – being the National Championships, I probably should have been aware of this already but it had somehow slipped my mind! The familiar nerves made an appearance at this point and thoughts remained fixed on keeping my footing as the crowded start would make the first few strides a little tricky. Nevertheless we got away with no difficulties and it was not long before I found myself tucked into the middle of a pack of Harriers. There are few feelings quite as satisfying as running at speed in a pack with your mates and feeling strong. As the group moved up the field it became clear that there would be four of us working together over the flat and fast course. Colin took the lead within the group and set a brisk pace which I knew would lead me to a good time and possibly a shiny new PB. A glance to my left and my right revealed Cris and Gregor also ticking over at a strong pace and this only added to the positive feeling as we made our way through the early miles.


As we completed the first loop of the Loch I felt great. The group were still running well and we had managed to move up the field with some success. The Bella cheer squad were once again out in force and gave us a massive boost as we entered the second half of the race. It was at about the seven mile mark that thoughts of the finish started to creep in. I had been feeling very strong so far although I definitely noticed the increase in pace. Colin led the group on and the pace continued to build. It was at about the eighth mile that we started to spread out a little and I began to worry that I would not be able to hold on – the pace was increasing steadily and doubt was creeping in. The knowledge that the remainder of the course was pancake flat, and that there were two rapid Harriers chasing me down, just about kept me going as the finish line approached. It was surprising to find a second wind for the final few hundred metres and  I managed to put in a final burst to cross the line in 54:26 – A big new pb!


Having shaved thirty seconds from my previous best, I was over the moon with the performance. It was an added bonus then when I was told that we were in with a chance of a National Medal. The results were announced and we had taken the silver! Awesome! Not only that, but the Bella women’s team had also taken the bronze medal and Fraser and Erica had both claimed individual victories for their own age categories. All in all it was a great day for the club – last year we had one runner in the top 20 finishers in the men’s race, this year we had four. Things are moving in the right direction! I made my way home happy with my medal and got fired into an amazing curry and a beer to celebrate. A great end to a great day!


National Road Relays – Livingston

This morning, Kenny and I piled into a car full of Harriers and made our way out to Livingston for the National Road Relays. Neither of us had taken part in this event before however the idea of a 6-person relay team, alternating with short and long legs, was one which sounded a little bit different and therefore caught our interest. Fresh off the back of his glorious victory yesterday, Kenny was lined up with a long leg and I too found myself faced with the prospect of the 5.8mile distance.


It was a funny experience, stepping into the hall in which teams from across Scotland were preparing for their own personal battles. The usual ‘pre-race buzz’ was certainly there, but there was also a strange sense of calm – many of the runners would not actually be treading the start line for another couple of hours as they awaited the arrival of their teammates. For me, as the sixth runner in my team, the realisation that I would not actually be running for a while led me to enjoy a rather different approach to the race from usual. I armed myself with a coffee and a banana, stuck on an extra couple of layers, and picked a spot where I could watch the start of the race and enjoy the later drama of the changeovers.


Bella Harriers were lucky enough to field several teams which meant I spent the next couple of hours able to watch many of my club-mates burst out of the start line and dig deep as they returned to pass me again for the final hundred metres or so. It was fascinating watching the race unfold and over the course of the first four legs, the leading team changed four teams. Bella were putting in some fantastic performances and (of course) were the loudest set of cheerleaders going! I watched Kenny stride confidently away from the start line as he took the fourth leg for his own team, motivated, I am sure, by his performance of yesterday (as well as the prospect of some post-race macaroni cheese), when I realised that I was actually going to have to make a move myself and prepare for my own leg! I waited until Colin handed over to Gregor, who would be running our penultimate leg, before jogging back to the hall to shed my layers and get warmed up.


As I laced up my racing shoes I couldn’t help but notice the HUGE crate of scones which Mike had provided and realised that I had found my motivation – I had to finish my leg as quickly as possible in order to return in time for a large coffee and a scone with jam. The start itself was a bit of a funny one. As I would be waiting for Gregor to complete his leg before I could start, it was impossible to know when I would begin! I decided to get a fairly swift warm up in before heading down to the holding pen at the start line. A quick briefing from Tom Keenan on team performances so far revealed that we were on track for a big improvement on last year’s time – the realisation that my five team mates had put down some great times added to the motivation that I needed to put in a solid performance. I did not want to be the one to let the side down! I spotted Gregor striding along the final straight and took up my position on the start line.


I bounded away from the start line with no real idea of how far away my nearest competitors were or how quickly those behind me would be chasing. A cheer from the rest of the Harriers sent me on my way and before I knew it I was striding uphill and breathing pretty heavily. The first mile passed quickly (a little too quickly according to my Garmin) and I managed to pass a few of the short leg athletes who had started ahead of me. There was still no sign of the team in front of ours and this proved to be the way of the race. I found myself running alone for the middle few miles and this was incredibly challenging. I knew that I wanted to put down a decent time in preparation for next week’s Tom Scott 10 Miler, yet it is incredibly hard to motivate yourself to continue to push and suffer when you are running in isolation (or at least that’s how it felt to me at the time!).

Sprint Finish

With a mile to go my route rejoined that of the short leg runners which gave me something to focus on as I slowly reeled in a few bodies. The final section however was tough and seemed to go on forever. I could hear the finish line for what felt like an eternity before I could actually see it – courtesy I am sure of the fantastic Bella cheering squad – which meant that I kept thinking it would be around the next corner. Four or five corners later I was finally spat out onto the final straight and was able to put in one last push towards the finish line. I crossed the line in 32:02 and was delighted. This was the boost I needed in preparation for next week and I can’t wait to get out and race again. I also discovered that Kenny had put in a solid performance with 38:20 so it was a decent weekend for the both of us!

Bella Squad

It transpired that the Harriers had experienced a fantastic day across the board. Our men’s first team came home in 11th place (a huge jump from last year’s 18th and the highest finishing position for a Harriers Male team since 1991) and the Women’s Masters team took home a bronze medal after some fantastic performances. Particular mention should also go to women’s captain Caroline Cochran who put in a great run as part of the medal-winning team during her final run as a Harrier. Post-run coffee and cake was hugely appreciated and Kenny even managed to find himself a mammoth portion of macaroni – some epic carb-loading for next week’s race, perhaps?!


Dunoon Ride & Run

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The Pier


Just in from a great day in Dunoon. A unique event which incorporates both a ride (bike) and run element. A few hardy souls completed both.


The race (run) afforded me the opportunity to combine a quick visit home with a home race. It was great to see so many hill runners on the course – running and marshalling. A friendly and encouraging welcome was assured at each of the transitions.


What are transitions? Well the race is a four stage affair with a short transition in between each. Only the four stages count towards your final time so you get an opportunity to recover between each stage. It also means you need to keep a little in reserve early in the race. Mental note for next year to actually do this 🙂 Times shown below including transition times when I spent most of my time eating jelly beans and jelly babies.


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Final Times


So leg one – a gradual jog from the newly refurbished pier to tap in our the timing chip and then off for leg 1 –  4.8km mainly along the promenade with a nasty sting in the tail at the end a 0.5km climb through the woodland area at Hunter’s Quay Holiday Village. I was pleased to lead the group home on stage 1 as I knew it would be my best leg as it was mainly on the road. Big respect to Roger who waited for me after I ran the wrong route for about 25 metres and let me back in front.


Transition 1 – a short downhill jog to the start of leg 2. A half track / half woodland trail 1.3k from Hafton House to the High Road. Brutal uphill and I could definitely feel the effects of stage 1. Local knowledge meant I knew when I had reached the top of the hill and could open up the legs for the final downhill section.


Transition 3 – a longer jog into Dunoon Stadium for the section I was most looking forward to – two laps of the 400 yard (yip not metre) track. Full guns blazing I went out too hard but managed to hold on to complete the distance (just over 800 metres) in 2 minutes and 50 seconds.


Transition 4 – 1.6km jog to the top of the Bishop’s Glen (glad the climb wasn’t in the race) and then off on the home leg. A sprint downhill through the woods followed by a flat mile along the West Bay. Total leg length 3.3km.


All in all a great event which finished in the great setting of the newly refurbished Dunoon Pier which will also be the big finish area for the Wee Eck Ultra later in the year. Big thanks to Dunoon Presents and No Fuss for putting on the event and to all the great Dunoon Hill Runners Marshals. I’d maybe even consider the ride and run next year (an extra 3 stages and 33 miles on the bike).


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The Start / Finish Hub


Oh and one other thing; for the first time since the Dunoon Primary School Sports Day Skipping final I was first in the male run to top off a brilliant day. Great to see Lucie on top spot for the girls too. I am currently considering retirement from organised races as it’s a result unlikely to ever be matched again. All sections shown on my Strava Profile below.


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The Winning Medal 🙂