Scottish Athletics Awards Night 2017

On the 26th September, Kenny and I were delighted when we received an unexpected message from Jog Scotland HQ – a notification of our being shortlisted for the ‘Jog Scotland Group of the Year’ award. We were both over the moon to be nominated for the award and are very lucky to have stumbled across a small pocket of runners in Glasgow’s Southside which has grown and transformed into a fairly large community of enthusiastic, friendly and encouraging Runbetweeners. Upon informing the group of our nomination they stepped up immediately: 30 tickets were snapped up and Susan did an incredible job of organising tables, tickets and transportation for an evening which promised to be fantastic. Kenny and I were also pretty chuffed that this took a little of the attention away from our failing to organise the long-promised ‘Group Night Out’.

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With sparkly dresses purchased and kilts readied, the group met at Run4It for the much requested group photo. Whilst it took a while to recognise everyone out of their lycra, we eventually got organised and managed a cracking photo of the group before piling onto the Vengabus and making our way to the Hilton – and the thirty of us definitely made an entrance as we slipped into the reception.

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It was at this stage of the evening that Chris Smith demonstrated his fantastic ability of making prosecco appear out of thin air –  an admirable and very useful skill! Between the bubbles and the laughter we began to spot the Olympians and famous athletes with whom we shared the floor. It was at this moment that we first realised the scale of where we were and what we were doing – prior to actually arriving, we hadn’t realised just how big a deal this evening was going to be.

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The awards got underway and Brian Burnett kept things entertaining with insightful interviews and interesting details of the nominees in each category. Shortly after Chris demonstrated that his resourcefulness applied to desserts as well as prosecco (thanks!), our award was called and, unfortunately, this would not be our night. This was the turn of Tain Joggers who had achieved some incredible things as a group. The initial disappointment of not winning was soon forgotten however as the dancefloor opened up and June grabbed me by the arm to teach me some Ceilidh dancing.

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The Runbetweeners may not have picked up an award on this occasion, but we had an incredible night which reminded us that we have come much further than we ever could have hoped initially. To think that our little group, which in some early weeks had attracted a grand total of 0 runners, had not only managed to fill three tables at an awards ceremony, and made the shortlist alongside some incredible groups, was truly humbling. Kenny and I are incredibly proud of everything that the group has achieved and the achievements of those runners within the group. We have a fantastic bunch of runners and love turning up on a Monday evening and hearing tales of parkruns, races and adventures. The enthusiasm is infectious and we cannot wait to see where the group will be at this time next year!

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Moira’s Run – 5k

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Blair-Alba ‘Delighted’ to Meet Marathon Talk’s Tom Williams @ Junior parkrun. Totally unrelated but it will annoy The Boy 

 

Thus is a bit of a belated report on a brilliant morning on one of those rare days when the sun splits the sky in the south side of Glasgow. Moira’s Run was the runbetweener run of choice for October and it proved to be a the perfect fit on a brilliant morning. Hectic, but (fun)run-filled, the morning took precise military planning as many of us managed to volunteer at junior parkrun’s first birthday event before making the mad dash towards Queens Park for the start of the 5k run at 10-30am.

 

This was my second year at Moira’s run and despite cutting it fine to meet the rest of the team I could immediately sense the same special atmosphere in the park that I’ve rarely experienced on race day. There’s an absence of ego, competition and nerves at Moira’s Run. Hard to put in to words it’s much more than another 5k. It was great therefore to bring such a large group to experience and support such a worthy cause.

 

 

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All the talk pre-run was about the hills; how steep, how many and how tough that steep downhill would be on the joints! To be fair The Boy and I had told people the route was undulating but we had kept a lid on how hard a run this is in order to get along a big crowd of folk. Thankfully The Runbetweeners as well as being running daft are also a generous lot and they were more than happy to support The Moira Fund in their annual fundraiser.

 

On to the run itself – a two lap course starting near the Glasshouse the route follows the perimeter path around Queens Park heading towards Shawlands before striking towards the Goals football complex. This section has a short climb, long steep descent and decent stretch of flat to get the legs going. Runners then head around the Queens Park duck pond before making their way towards the first of two significant climbs. This one sees the route work up the path towards the flag pole as you approach the 1.5k mark. This is a tough old slog but thankfully the route veers sharply to the left at the half way point and levels off passing above the refurbished bandstand.

 

A floral tribute on a bench reminds runners of the special nature of this run and you can sense the warmth and goodwill throughout the park.

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The route makes for the tennis courts before another sharp uphill section back towards the start/finish line for lap 2. Eeking out a smile for the assembled throng runners then make off to complete the second lap.
Finishing the route and receiving my medal from Moira’s Mum I was compelled to run back to support the other runbetweeners and participants out on route – it’s just that sort of run.

 

It’s really hard to convey what makes Moira’s Run so special but it just seems to bring the best out of people and really represents everything that is great about living in Glasgow. An event that could be a solemn and sombre occasion is so happy and upbeat. What a great testament to the organisers and legacy to Moira.

 

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Retiring to runbetweeners HQ for the morning to refuel post race we were treated to a feast by Mary which rounded off a great morning.

 

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If anyone would like to donate to Moira’s Run which supports families who have experienced bereavement following the murder or manslaughter of a loved one you can find details on their website at http://www.themoirafund.org.uk

 

Alternatively why not enter Moira’s Run 2018, raise some money and take part in what must be the friendliest, most rewarding and uplifting event on Glasgow’s running calendar. We will definitely be back in numbers next year…. and hopefully someone can iron out those hills.

 

 

 

A very late summary of my final preparations for the Berlin Marathon.

Since running the Berlin Marathon, several people have approached me to ask about the sudden halting of my training updates on here. I managed to write up my training reflections for the first few weeks of the block however these soon fizzled out when things got a little hectic at work. For now, the details will remain on the pages of my training diary but here is a quick summary of the final few weeks…

Training

Ticking off several key long runs containing chunky sections at Marathon Pace did wonders for my confidence and I found myself entering the taper period with my eyes fixed firmly on a PB. A particularly gruelling session took place three weeks prior to race day and is definitely one which I will repeat in future marathon endeavours. The session covered 24M and included 5 sets of 3M at Marathon Pace with 1M between each set at a pace roughly 45secs/mile slower. This was a tough workout but it never felt like I was out of control and this gave me a huge boost. We drove out to Paisley for this run and made use of the cycle path down to Lochwinnoch and back. This was ideal as we did not have to worry about traffic, hills or road crossings.

Taper

I took a fairly short taper and maintained a slightly higher mileage than in previous Marathon build-ups. This definitely helped me psychologically as I was running well and it was nice to be running comfortably on a regular basis in the lead up to the race. I also followed a similar eating plan to my Amsterdam Marathon effort of 2016 – if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it!  This meant that I spent three days doing a ‘carb-depletion’ phase at the start of the week and then followed this up with four days of ‘carb-loading’. On the day prior to the race I settled back into a regular (although still fairly carby) diet in order to avoid feeling bloated on race day. I know that there is a lot of debate regarding the effectiveness of ‘carb-depletion’ but it seems to have worked for me in the past so I’ll continue to do it.

Race Day

On the morning of the race, I woke up very early for breakfast. I have struggled in the past with stitches when eating late and have since found that eating 4hours before my marathon does the job and works for me. I went for my standard pre-marathon breakfast of porridge, banana and a coffee and then sipped an isotonic drink throughout the morning. I also had a small flapjack a couple of hours later just to keep hunger at bay.

The Result

I was over the moon with my results of 2:31:31 – a shade faster than I had been hoping for and a shiny new PB. I loved the route and will follow this brief summary up soon with a full review of the race itself.

The Cowal Way Chase Ultra

On Saturday the 21st of October I anxiously headed to Dunoon to compete in the first ever Cowal Way Chase Ultra event – a combined ultra run with relay option and cycle between Glenbranter and Portavadie in the heart of Argyll. This was my first official tilt at an organised ultra (the less said about CLYDE AND SEEK the better) and I was looking forward to a relatively low key introduction to ultra running on home turf.

 

With a dearth of long runs in the bank post London (all the way back in April) this was always going to be a slog but with so many fellow Dunoon Hill Runners toeing the start line I was keen to support this new event. Sadly the weather had taken a real turn for the worse on the morning of the race and the stunning Argyll landscape was largely clouded from view during the run. This did little to dampen spirits as runners gathered under the gable end of the village hall in a vain attempt at seeking shelter from the elements. The rain was relentless throughout the run making conditions tough going although it did ease prior to the start of the run.

 

So on to the course. The route itself is predominately run on undulating (code for uphill or downhill) forestry track with sections of flat road running. The relay and solo runners set off first (under the watchful gaze of the Adventure Show’s Dougie Vipond) before the cyclists chase in hot pursuit. The difference in start time allowed most of the runners time to reach the summit of the first peak before the bikes start passing. At a little over 1,000feet in under 4 miles this is a tough start to the run as you climb up through the forest before reaching the highest point of the route. The long descent into Glendaruel gives some respite to tired legs as runners and cyclists reach the changeover point for relay runners and bag drop area. At this stage approximately 10 bikes had overtaken me, each less impressed with shouts of ‘gies a backie’.

 

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Reaching the checkpoint around 11 miles I wasn’t hungry or thirsty but I was most definitely gubbed. The climb had taken it out of me and despite everyone’s advice I had set off way too fast. Sitting in 4th place at this stage my hopes of catching anyone ahead of me were gone. My legs felt heavy and my breathing and energy levels just weren’t right. A lack of preparation on the hills meant what was to follow was unfortunately not going to be pretty. It was more about a finish now than a time or position.

 

Not feeling hungry at this point the checkpoint was perhaps several miles too early in the route to benefit me properly.

 

Heading out of Glendaruel the route passes along two or three miles of road which should have been heaven to me but I felt like I was running in hot tar. As I reached the start of the second climb I was glad of the excuse to power walk the next 5-6 miles which mainly involved a lot of climbing and trying to stay warm and as dry as possible. Around this time I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, isolated and tired on a bleak day. Looking back I wish I had waited for some company and spent some time moving forward with someone else. This is one of the key aspects about the ultra running community that I really envy and with a relatively small field it was just not possible at this stage of the run.

 

From the top of the second peak I adopted a jog-walk strategy with anything remotely looking like a climb fair game for a walk.

 

My watch died shortly after the 35km mark which at the time felt like a disaster. As I hadn’t looked it for a while I had literally no idea how much further I had to go which was hard to take. The mental endurance required to complete an ultra (alongside a marathon) is definitely as important as your physical endurance. It was now just a case of one foot in front of the other as I carried along the well marked route towards the promised post-race refreshments.

 

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As it turns out the end actually came a lot quicker than I though as Portavadie suddenly appeared in view as I dropped below the cloud level at the end of the second big descent. The expected onslaught of runners overtaking me had not arrived as I’d apparently built a decent enough lead in the first half to cling on to 5th place.

 

Photo Credit @capturedbyGG (facebook)

 

So after my first crack at a near 50k course will I be rushing back any time soon?

 

First let’s start with the positives:

  • I ran the first ever Cowal Way Chase Ultra which means I have the potential to go into the annals of history as an ever-present should I return next year
  • The event was really well organised, low key and friendly
  • I know most of the route offers stunning views although I did not see them on the day
  • Race entry included full use of the indoor and outdoor spa and infinity pool facilities at Portavadie plus soup, tea coffee and a hot buffet style feed later in the afternoon once all the competitors were home

 

Areas for development:

  • I was undertrained for such a long distance after a relatively low mileage block of training post-London
  • I set off way too fast. Even although it felt easy it was arrogant to think I could carry on at that sort of pace for 30 miles on such a challenging route
  • The climbs were long and tough and even worse my knees hurt badly on the downhill sections
  • I found the course lonely and hard going in such bad weather conditions

 

 

 

All in I need to carefully consider whether ultra running is for me. I definitely get the appeal, the camaraderie, the wild places, the personal battle but my running has been going so well in the middle distances and on the road that it was tough to take such a battering during a pretty much universally successful season. Sharing the day though with my fellow Dunoon Hill Runners was amazing and there were some awesome performances through the field from super-fast times to longest distance run in both the solo and relay runs.

 

Thanks as always to the marshals who supported brilliantly in tough conditions, some in more than one location along the route and a huge well done to everyone who took part.  This event is another option on a burgeoning sporting calendar in Argyll and one cyclists and runners would do well to consider for next year. With a top feed and amazing facilities at the finish line I’d be tempted to return…maybe just as a relay runner next time around.

 

A special mention to Charlie Collins who put in such a huge amount of work to get the event off the ground.

 

 

The Jimmy Irvine 10k

This was my first stab at the legendary Jimmy Irvine which is somewhat surprising given how popular the event is among the Glasgow running scene. A really interesting article about Jimmy is hyperlinked below. 

A normally flat route traversing the inside of Bellahouston park and Mosspark Boulevard this years route stuck mainly to the inside of the park with a trip to the highest point thrown in for good measure. A nice touch for those pining the loss of the Southside Six and flagpole bagging this year.

 

 

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Thankfully There Was a Lead Bike for The Boy to Follow

 

Inspired by Laura Muir and Mo Farah I decided to double up and run both the Short Course X-Country at Kirkcaldy and the Jimmy 10k this weekend. For me racing, within reason, has never been detrimental to my performance as long as I am careful with my training load (this does not take much persuading on my part). I have certainly lived by that mantle in the last 6 weeks, limiting myself to one or two sessions a week with a splatter of iconic races thrown in to the mix. Racing brings a joy that training can’t quite match and gorging on them is easy at this time of year. 

Feeling in good form the target was to break 39 minutes for the first time after carding 39-08 twice already this year. My 5k and half marathon times in recent weeks meant bar disaster this was a realistic goal. 

 

Heading to the Jimmy I was buoyed by the news that the course was only a little hillier than previous years and likely to be only marginally slower. This news came from the Oracle Matt via The Boy so in running terms was indisputable after being crushed through super computers, cross referenced and studied in depth. On top of this it was a crisp, clear morning, perfect for racing.

 

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I decided to jog to the start rather than cycle or get a lift and the 2 mile warm up loosened the legs and cleared the head. The midday start was ideal allowing the paths to clear of any ice after one of the first big freezes of the year. It was great to see so many Bella vests and Runbetweeners both racing and supporting as I made my way to the start line.

 

Starting pretty close to the front of the pack I anxiously questioned whether I had positioned myself too close to the rapid guys so I set off at a comfortable pace over the first 600 metres or so rising slowly towards the farthest reach of the course. The new route heads out towards the Nithsdale Road exit before turning 180 around a cone giving the rare opportunity to eyeball the opposition both in front and behind. The next 400 metres then climbs to legendary Southside Sticker Stop number 5, thankfully up the gentler path rather than the steps. Sadistically this was one of my favoured parts of the course as the field thinned and I took a few scalps. Working hard on the climb I maintained my sub 4min km pace on what I knew would be the tougest section of the course hoping I hadn’t expended valuable energy this early in the run.

 

Reaching the summit I enjoyed opening up my gait through the long downhill drag towards Paisley Road West and the 2km marker. This was a cracking section to pick up the pace and let loose. The route then follows the outermost path in the park past the sports centre before heading for Mosspark Boulevard. Flat and fast it’s important to keep on top of your effort levels in the middle section of this run.

 

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Exiting the park briefly the route reenters the park before turning back on itself brutally into a previously unnoticed headwind. Gritting the teeth you head towards the second of the three laps (I am not sure this is an accurate description of the route as you only cover some parts of the course twice) where I was immediately spurred on by The Runbetweeners Support Squad who had placed themselves brilliantly on a section of the course that was to become very familiar over the next few km.

 

Approaching the cone for the 2nd time a quick body check told me I was in good shape and heading for a new pb (a pretty big one at that) if I could maintain the pace. Giving The Claw the eyes I felt strong as others around me started to fall back as i tried to corner the cone at race speed. Forcing me much wider than turn 1 I focused on the pack ahead and set about catching as many runners as I could. 
Heading towards the 5k mark we passed the support team again and the encouragement spurred me back out towards the furthest reach of the course, this time running the outermost path past the sports centre in the opposite direction. Around this point I got detached from other runners, noting as he passed in the opposite direction that this had happened to The Boy too. After lauding the benefits of pack running earlier in the year this spurred me to kick again to reach the group in front.

 

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Passing the sports centre around the 7.5km mark I was starting to struggle although the terrain was dead flat. It was therefore nice to get some shouts of encouragement as runners passed in the opposite direction. I really liked this about the New course and spent a large part of the switchback sections exchanging words of support with friends out on the course over the final few km. It was such a sunny day it was hard not to feel inspired and upbeat amongst so many friends. 

 

Heading back to the Boulevard the relatively small incline felt worse than the trip to the summit of Mount Flagpole this time around. With the knowledge that I was nearing the head wind again, and on ever-tiring legs, this was the point in the race when you just need to get the job done. 
The strategy now was to pick up some places over the final 2km, this would ensure I had the best chance of maintaining the pace I had set throughout. It was great therefore to head back into the heart of the park and receive such an incredible amount of support for a third time. At the same time the Boy was approaching the finish and looked to be running well despite being isolated on his way to an incredible 4th place just a little outside his own pb. 

 

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With just over 1km to go the route heads out to the cone for a third time before heading back to the start / finish zone giving a fourth opportunity to pass through the wall of noise in an area of the park that should surely be named ‘Runbetweeners Racket’. Spurred on by cheers and the buzz of my watch indicating 6 miles I kicked for home only spotting the clock at the final second clicking to 38:00 as I crossed the line.

 

With a previous pb of 39-08 and a race target of 38-30 I was delighted to see the time but slightlt gutted that I had missed a landmark time of sub 38 after apparently coming so close. The way a runner’s mind works sometimes is pretty cruel.  
It was therefore with great relief that on checking my garmin and chip time I clocked in at 37-55. A pb of 1minute 13 seconds. 

 

In conclusion then I won’t have a bad word said about this excellent pb potential course. Superbly marshalled, excellently supported and diligently organised this is one I will definitely be back for next year. Just the right amount of elevation to make it interesting this creative route made the most of the limited space and road restrictions to deliver a great race experience.

 

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https://www.strava.com/activities/1272453181/overview

 

There were great performances right through the field with The Boy leading the Harriers to team prize alongside strong runs from Harriers and Runbetweeners on a tougher than anticipated course – sorry Oracle Matt 😉

 

Thanks to Kenny Phillips and Claire Fitzsimmons for the awesome race shots and to everyone from the Bellahouston Road Runners for their efforts in organising a great event. 
Article on Jimmy Irvine – http://www.scottishdistancerunninghistory.scot/jim-irvine/