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!