Drumchapel / Tollcross parkrun


What a great morning at Tollcross parkrun yesterday. The original plan was a Team Runbetweeners visit to Drumchapel parkrun in the north of the city but that one unfortunately fell victim to the cold weather. Thanks to Brian for the early warning.

After some hastily rearranged travel plans we made our way towards the east end, scene of Jack’s wedding day run and one of numerous stops on our now infamous tour of the Clydes. Tollcross parkrun prides itself on two things – it’s hills and never having been cancelled.

Always keen to try something a bit different we were not sure if the new route would be a blessing or a curse for those trying Tollcross for the first time. The alternative course has less hills but more laps. It was very hard underfoot yesterday leading to the first challenge. Shoe selection. The lesson learned is that you can definitely have too many running shoes as I struggled to decide between road, racing and cross country shoes. Turning around for advice it was obvious that everyone else had trail shoes 🙂

After wishing everyone luck we were off. Hugging the cones around the middle field before dropping down and climbing sharply round the bank of trees. After that it’s back to the start line and repeat another three times. I set off crazily fast and was far too close to The Boy even although he was cruising. Slowing back a little I settled into a battle with two teenage boys who burned me on the downhills and who I caught on the uphills.

It was good to cross paths so often with the rest of the team who seemed to be enjoying it (of sorts). The Boy made a burst for home with about a lap and a half to go and the youngsters left me for dust around the same time.


Two runners hit the 100 mark yesterday and the legendary John Softley was doing his 300th. This meant the post race snacks were even better than normal with a couple of customised cakes on offer. Thanks for that. A great event and we’re looking forward to heading to Drumchapel again in the near future. To complete a day of running we headed out for a 10 mile cool down followed by the Bellahouston Harriers Christmas Night out.

Renfrewshire X-Country Champs 2016

This year I missed the start of the cross country season due to being focused on the Amsterdam  Marathon in the middle of October. I enjoyed spectating at a few of the events but was definitely missing out on the challenge and camaraderie which seems to be such a prominent feature of cross country races; there is something about running through the cold, wet mud with a load of like-minded (odd) people which generates an atmosphere like no other. So it was that I found myself lining up on the start line at the Renfrewshire Championships for my first x-country of the season.


The rain stayed away and the cold was soon forgotten after a decent warm up with a few of the other Harriers. We just about made it back to slip on the spikes, lose the layers and get in a few strides before being called back to take our positions on the line. As I looked to my right I spotted a few exceptional runners from Inverclyde who looked like they meant business as well as a few mates from other clubs whom I knew would be looking to put down some fast times.


A blast of a whistle announced the start of the race and we were off. After an overenthusiastic burst away from the start I realised I had been a little over-keen and so dropped the pace to settle into a rhythm. I found myself striding along with Cris Walsh sat on my shoulder for the duration of the first lap. I knew Cris would be putting in a good performance on the back of an excellent year including a great result representing Scotland in X-Country last weekend. We continued to run together until I nearly took him out when I lost my footing turning a corner on lap two. We both recovered very quickly, and I don’t think my time was affected in any way, but I was unable to match Cris as he strode away up the hill. I settled into my stride and, naively, believed I would make up any lost ground on  Cris over the downhill section that would follow. Needless to say, this didn’t happen! Any ground that I was able to make up was soon lost again as  I found myself struggling to match his pace on the uphill sections of the course.


As we hit the final lap I put in a final burst and managed to close the gap on Cris slightly but it was too little, too late. I finished the race in 32:55 (8seconds behind Cris) to take 9th place. We managed to claim bronze in the Men’s competition and there were some great results for the Harriers all round. Cris did well to claim silver in the V40 race while Anne Macfie took bronze in the V50 category.


This was a great day, and I definitely will have benefited from the session, but I did finish a little disappointed with my performance. I struggled to find my rhythm and my splits would suggest that I switched off a little in the middle.This was definitely a learning experience however and it was nice to get a proper race under my belt after my marathon. It has definitely given me a focus again and a renewed motivation to get things back on track. Next week is the Glasgow Uni 5 Miler and I cannot wait to toe the start line once more…


Run to the Hills!

Last week I fell victim to Kenny’s latest scheme – taking on a hill run! I have always been intrigued by the concept of hill running and have often thought that I would actually quite like to give one a go. I do enjoy getting off road and exploring when out for a run so I figured that powering up and down a hill could be fun! When it transpired therefore that Kenny, Iain and Paul – all fellow Harriers – would be heading out to Tinto for a 4.5 mile challenge, I found myself signing up.

After a journey filled with whispers of the difficulty that would face us, we arrived at the base of the hill. And what a hill it was! Tinto towered over us as we collected our numbers and prepared for the race.


With the Renfrewshire X-Country Championships coming up the following week, I had been advised to watch my footing during this event – the loose, rocky surface and rapid descent could potentially be hazardous. With this in mind, I decided to use the run more as a training exercise than a flat out race and I am definitely glad that I made that decision!

Standing at the base of the hill, I tucked myself into the middle of the pack and, on the gun, began my ascent. I made a conservative start, aware of the long climb ahead, and found myself slowly moving up the field. At about two-thirds of the way up I started to really feel the burn in my quads and, as the runners around me slowed to a walk, I joined them and found myself striding up the hill for much of the final section.

GOPR1830.JPGCircling the cairn at the top of the hill, I decided to try and stretch the legs out on the way down in order to make up a few places. I took a dozen speedy strides down the hill before I realised that I had absolutely no control over my pace! Panic set in and I reminded myself of the other races on the horizon. I settled into a pace which I found fast enough but at which I still felt I was in control of my legs (just about!) and less likely to do myself some damage.

At about half way down the hill, the path became a little more clear and I was able to push the pace on a bit and finish the race with a sprint. On the descent I had been overtaken once and had managed to overtake one person myself, leaving me sitting in 18th position. The other Harriers had put in some decent performances also with Iain finishing 69th, Kenny 90th and Paul in 95th despite a fall on the way down.


Sitting in the cafe afterwards with a pot of tea and a huge scone, we reflected on the afternoon’s race. I had enjoyed the experience but I felt a little lackluster about the race itself. The event was very well organised, great value and had a brilliant atmosphere but I did not feel challenged in the same way that I do when racing on the roads. I felt that my commitment to a number of other races meant I was unable to really commit to the downhill section and therefore did not feel that I had pushed my body physically. I believe that, were I a committed hill runner, and that this had been my target race of the season, I would have got more out of it but it felt like I had too much to lose by really pushing it.

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I’m sure loads of people will disagree with me but I came away thinking road running is more of a challenge. When you have no ‘obstacle’ to overcome, the ‘race’ becomes more pure – there is nothing to hide behind other than your own fitness. Over a 10km flat road race, for example,  I can push my body to its absolute limit. In future I will continue to run on hills but I think I will only use them as training runs – they don’t mean enough to me to risk injuring myself and ruining my season. This was a fun day out, and a good experience, but I haven’t been converted to hill running just yet!


Southside Six 2016 (SS6)


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Sold out in minutes this was my second SS6 having run in 2014 in a time of 2:02:41. Taking in six of the best parks in the south side of the city this is a tough, undulating urban course with enough stairs, hills, twists and turns to last a lifetime.


Meeting at the flagpole at Queens Park (home of race HQ) I was reasonably confident I could dip under the 2 hour mark and perhaps more.


The route winds down through Mount Florida – this should not take place at faster than 5k pace so I reigned it in a bit just in the nick of time – before a tough climb up into Kings Park and an even tougher climb over the brow of the hill to the first checkpoint (I’d forgotten in my head about this climb when mentally preparing myself last night). At each checkpoint you are given a sticker to show you have made it to all 6 parks.


The route then moves on to Linn Park which is well sign posted, lucky for me as every time I try to run the route on my own I always get lost somewhere in here. After a formula 1 esque sticker pit stop (no stopping involved) I managed to pull away from a group of 3 Bellahouston Road Runners at this point. Always a good thing but perhaps a little early to be launching a strike for home, particularly I had planned to run steady and finish strong.


Next up is a long road section with some good descent towards Rouken Glen park (home of my school running group and newly launched junior parkrun which attracted 159 juniors this morning for our second run). It was great to get so many shout outs from Monday runners, Harriers and friends around this section of the course. After sticker point 3 (around 6.5 miles in) came a tough, but short, climb up into the woods / golf course area and it was around here that my legs started to feel heavy and my breathing became more of struggle. Thankfully this is followed by a good long stretch of downhill trail but it’s around this stage of the race that you realise what a toughie you’ve taken on as the early hills catch up on you. Maintaining pace in the next two parks and the middle section of race was key to my plan.


Down through Thornliebank the next target is Pollok park with a long section leading you through a mixture of trail and worn path before you arrive at Pollok House and sticker point 4. I started to get a bit of a second wind at this point and used the blue sky and autumnal shades in the trees to trick myself into thinking I was having a brilliant time. A gaggle of Harriers at the exit to Pollok gave me renewed energy moving in to the last five miles.


Entering Bellahouston Park you can see the climb immediately due to the open nature of this park. Meandering around won’t get you away from it. The Stairs up to the flagpole. This is when you go full on gladiator mode and imagine yourself getting up the Travelator at the end of the show. Two steps at a time is a gamble as you might fall flat on your face but one step and you’re potentially just going to stop dead in your tracks.


Reaching the top and 5th sticker point I forgot to take in the rewarding view and instead focused on getting my breath back for the final push on the home leg to Queens Park. Knowing the route is a killer here as this leg should be relatively short but the curvature on the road makes it much longer.


Still exiting the park I couldn’t believe there was a 5k to go sign as by my reckoning we only had around 2.3 miles to go.


Head down and grind it out time had truly hit. I focused on passing three more runners before Queens park and by the time I reached Strathbungo has succeeded in catching two of the runners ahead of me and managed to sustain a decent pace given I had limited long run training in my legs.


I could happily have chucked it at this point given what I knew was to come next. Looping round Queens Park you could be lulled into a fall sense of achievement but the SS6 saves it’s biggest sting until last. Rounding the corner the long uphill stretch, and final set of stairs, was at least blinded from view by low winter sun. Immediately I heard my name and cries to the effect of get a move on.


The final sticker point at the bottom of the stairs is the time for blanking out everything around and just getting the job done. 32 steps in all followed by another climb and a right turn into the home straight. Another climb. Crossing the line of this race is one of the most rewarding experiences you will get in Glasgow as I can’t think of a more challenging event.


Superbly marshalled, organised and great value for money this is one of the best races around. Well supported, it has a real community feel and as a relative newbie to the southside of Glasgow I am proud to say that the best race in Glasgow starts and finishes in my own front garden. Despite the hills and stairs it still gets a place in The Runbetweeners 3 must run races.


That’s two decent half marathon plus efforts in the last month on minimum long run training so I am glad to still be getting the benefit of my Spring Marathon training. Speedwork with the Harriers means I continue to get faster and I managed an improvement of 8 minutes this time around. It was great to see some of the other runners finishing – notably Gillian and Karen (thanks Karen for asking me to run up the final hill again!).


Too much support out on the course to mention but the loudest cheers still come from Kirstie despite her summer transfer to Kilbarchan – always much appreciated!