The Troon 10k – A Tribute…

Thanks again to Runbetweener Paul Killen for this fantastic review of the very popular Troon 10k!

 

It’s Wednesday night

It’s like we’re on vacation

It’s Troon 10k time,

The Joy, the Elation

 

Through sand dunes and streets

And a country park

Past the golf course and houses

Before it gets dark

 

As some may know,

I’ve a demon to slay

T’was last year

Almost to the day

 

My race fell apart

In a horrible way

I’m not happy

People OFTEN heard me say

 

I’d got three K in

And felt really rotten

But thankfully nothing,

To do with my bottom

 

The legs were heavy

The brain was a mess

I considered quitting

I must confess

 

Plodding on like a Tortoise

Back to the shorefront

I was ****** by now

I have to be blunt!

 

But past the dunes

The wind did blow

I walked a bit

Just 400 to go

 

I got there, just

But mentally scarred

An awful experience

The race was marred

 

But now we come

To twenty nineteen

And I entered the race

To make the slate clean

 

So it’s Wednesday night

It’s half past seven

We’re off down the promenade

A good race, not a given

 

At the sand dunes it narrows

So there’s bumping and jostling

But it’s a friendly race

So not much squabbling

 

Round the bend

And over the hill

The pace is good

I feel the thrill

 

Now into the park

No piper is playing

I’m not dwelling on that

I’m not delaying

 

Through the park

And into the houses

No need to be

Quiet as mouses

 

There’s folk in the street

Both young and old

And some inbetween

So I’m told

 

The kids look for high-fives

And they’re given gladly

Coz not to do so

Would reflect on me badly

 

As I said

It’s a friendly race

And we accept their big cheers

With utmost good grace

 

Bypassing the water

I’m feeling okay

And as for the legs

The don’t disobey

 

Round the back of the golf course

There’s now a long straight

3K to go

Past gate after gate

 

The final hill

With a cop at the top

Stopping the traffic

So off we can pop

 

Down the hill

And back to the dunes

I’m thinking now

I wish I had some tunes

 

I’m digging deep

The end is in sight

And we pass the point

Where it went wrong that night

 

The Demon is slain

Hurrah we all cheer

But wait a minute

What have we here?

 

The wind is a blowing

There’s a spanner in the works

Can I get there in one piece

Disaster lurks

 

The wind did change

There’s some seeds of doubt

It’s still in my face

As it was on the way out

 

Using runners as windbreaks

I head to the end

Pulling out to pass

As we round the final bend

 

I huff and puff

But no houses to blow down

There’s the finish line

No need to frown

 

I’ve done it, Yippee

The Demon is slain

It’s worth the effort

It wasn’t in vain

 

But it’s not just the training

Sometimes it’s the mind

Take care, fellow runners

And always be kind

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Tom Scott Memorial 10M

A huge thank you to Runbetweeners Kirstin and Paul for this fantastic write up of the Tom Scott Memorial 10M race. This has been one of our top races for the last few years and is always a great event…

The Warm Up

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View of from the finish line – the Loch at Strathclyde Park – a beautiful day (photo credit: Finola Ashe)

Kirstin: 31st March, first day of spring when the clocks go forward, and Mother’s Day. So naturally I was up at six to eat my porridge before going to collect Paul, and head to Strathclyde Park for the Tom Scott Memorial 10 mile road race. After a brief journey in which t-shirts/gloves/base layers and sunglasses were debated as racing options, we met Finola and were good to go.

Paul: An absolutely smashing day for a race; not too warm, hardly a breath (in the main) and glorious sunshine.  It was time for my first crack at a 10 mile race.  I’m definitely of the opinion that the weather helped lift me for this one.  Training had been good after the rigours of Strathaven, but I’d been a bit lazy the last couple of weeks.  I’d three targets in mind, but the middle one (a 1:25) was the realistic target (and had been for some time).

 

The Start Line

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Partaking in a leisurely warm-up, though we’d like to say we always look this at ease when running (Photo credit: Alan@allsport-images)

Kirstin: It’s funny how as a runner you can find such a sense of camaraderie standing in car parks and toilet queues. Personally, I was very excited to spot Mark Gallagher of Running Friends Scotland blogging fame. I didn’t fan-girl, but it was close. It was clear this was an impressive field, and over 700 runners, completing the 6k and 10 mile option set off together, making for a very impressive site to behold spread out across the loch in the park.

Paul: As Kirstin said, a hectic start (as anyone that’s done Parkrun up there will know) with both races starting at the same time.  Based on previous times, I’d positioned myself after the middle but hadn’t taken account of the 6K runners, but no harm was done. I went off at, I thought, a reasonable pace, but mile marker one passed in 7:34, and I forced myself to calm down.  The flat course didn’t help, I wanted to push, but once beyond the Parkrun bit it gets a bit undulating and we were soon turning on the main road towards M&Ds.  A long, steady, uphill, then downhill took me to 4 miles.

 

Running Hard

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Kirstin: I had also set off at a fast pace (we all were there for a PB), and enjoyed the first half of the race. However, at mile 5, as you run back along to the Watersports Centre, I was overtaken by scores of faster club runners on their final sprint home. This should have been inspirational but was just demoralising as I knew had to go round the loch again at this point. Paul was significantly ahead of me at this point, so his view was slightly different…

Paul: Past 5 miles and heading towards the Watersports Centre was the long straight, and a wee bit of wind.  Comfortable at this point I was approaching the Centre for the first time (we were to head round the back) when the lead out cyclist past and announced the lead runners were coming through.  The leader passed me about 50 metres before the turn off point.  I don’t know why, but I wasn’t really happy with that. (Kirstin: I would take being half as slow as the winner any day of the week!)

 

The Long Road Home

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Kirstin: At mile seven I caught the lovely Terry Nimmo from the Bellahouston Roadrunners (also a Runbetweener), and she was absolutely my saviour in the final stretch. I’d pushed myself way too hard in the first half. Every inch of my body hurt and I was so ready to quit, but Terry expertly coached and coaxed me round to a personal best at this distance of 1:37:15. I can’t thank Terry enough.

Paul: I’d settled into a rhythm, enjoying the scenery, avoiding (or failing, as it turns out) the midges with one full lap of the lake (6K) to do.  I was feeling it a bit, but knew there was only one more up and down section to go.  I decided to assess the situation at 8 miles.  At 8 miles I was looking to be almost bang-on a 1:20 time.  That was my top target and was outstanding in its own right, but I was feeling it.  But I’m stubborn, so Go Hard or Go Home. 800 metres to go the Low Battery warning came on obscuring all timings on my watch – but I didn’t want to press the button for fear of pressing the wrong one.  Lets be honest, we can’t have Strava having incorrect data!!  Crossed the line in 1:19:14.  Delighted, I was.  Nowhere near the front, over 30 minutes behind the winner, and I couldn’t have cared less as under 1:20 hadn’t really felt realistic.

 

The Finish Line

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Amazing how quickly you can recover with a medal and mars bar in hand! Paul, Terry, Kirstin and Finola from left to right (photo credit: Finola Ashe)

Kirstin: At the finish I met with Paul and Finola again, who had blasted their races and came out with amazing PBs. Paul looked like a car windshield, covered in the midges which has plagued us the whole way round, which was testament to his speed. A caramel log and a mars bar later, and suddenly I was feeling great again. Funny that. On the whole I enjoyed the race (though nobody warned me about the hills or the midges). I recognise that this is a fast course for fast runners but it pushed me to a PB, and was another race I am proud to say I’ve completed.

Paul: I had a medal, a mars bar and a midge beard…and a smile.

Inverness Half Marathon

Thanks to Runbetweener Finola Ashe for her excellent race report. Japes is a fantastic organisation and always on the lookout for pilots.

 

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(Warning, pop the kettle on before you settle down to this)

I came across a group called Japes about 18 months ago, and when word got out back in January that there was going to be an outing to the Inverness half, the word ‘No’ just wasn’t in my vocabulary and as it turns out, this was to be my 11th run with this lovely crowd of people!

Japes is a donation funded inclusion project, imagined and brought to fruition by the unstoppable Nelson Liddle. Japes allows people that for whatever reason are not able, to be involved in events and experience things that they wouldn’t normally do. Japes has 2 customised purpose built wheelchairs that are called joelette’s.

Japes is basically a group of like-minded runners (crew) that escort a Pilot (person in the chair) around courses, up hills, you name it and Japes have done it! Everything from parkrun, 5km, Santa dashes, 10km, half marathon, full marathon and even scaled Ben Lomond and Mount Snowden recently, Japes has achieved it all.

So I got all packed up and set off on Saturday morning as I was staying in a hotel the night before the main event and we had arranged to meet our pilot David Munn at Cheshire House in Inverness (where he lives) on Saturday. Japes do a ‘Meet the pilot’ before any outing to let the pilot see and experience the joelette so that there are no surprises on race day, we were using the twin-wheeled joelette.

This joelette is specifically designed for road events.

After meeting David and one of the carers Jason at Cheshire House, it was off for a half mile trial run round the block to ensure everyone was happy. Then for me, it was off for a quick walk around town before meeting some of the crew later for dinner and a catch up.

Race Day!

After breakfast in the hotel, it was off to registration to pick up my number and meet the crew for a cup of tea before heading back to Cheshire house to get David and then it was off to the start line for us all. Due to 2cm of snow and high winds being forecast throughout the race, it was not 1, not 2 but 3 changes of clothing later before I was as ready as I would ever be.

I should at this point say, that we always try and make sure that the pilot has the best, most comfortable and enjoyable experience we can provide. We had heard in advance that David likes 80’s pop and so with Kylie, Wham, Spandau Ballet and a bit of Queen on Nelson’s homemade sound system, off we set blaring towards the event area. On the jog round to the start, the reaction and support was amazing and this makes it even more special for the pilot.

Last minute checks and the starting pistol went off, we were on our way and the sleet had started!

When we got just passed 1 mile marker, we had a quick stop for David to put on a rain poncho as it was becoming increasingly clear there wasn’t going to be a break in the weather and we didn’t want David ending up cold and soaked through for the duration. After this quick pit-stop, things were going well but by the time we got to the first water station at mile 3, it was clear that the T in the park flimsy freebie type poncho David had on, just wasn’t going to cut the mustard for the full event.

The wind and sleet were relentless at this point and so we pulled up, stopped to have a drink and get the big bad boy industrial waterproof cover on him. It just so happened at this water station there was a Red Cross Landrover and the first aid guys kindly gave us a blanket to help keep David all cosy and warm beneath the rain cover.

At this point of the course, we knew that the main uphill climb was just in front of us between miles 4 and 5.5. As we progressed on and got to the bottom of the hill, there was a left hand turn that took us up into woods, where there was thankfully a bit of protection from the wind. It was during this uphill section, that we had a slight malfunction with the joelette that brought us to a grinding halt (literally) twice. There was a location pin that stabilises the joelette that wouldn’t click into place properly but we quickly decided that this wouldn’t stop us or ruin David’s run and so we took the next couple of miles gingerly and slowly. There was even a break in the snow/sleet/wind (whatever it was) and the sun came out for at least a couple of minutes!

 

As we approached the next water station around the 6 mile marker, we decided to stop, get drinks, some much needed fuel on board (Jelly babies) and properly fix the joelette if we could. Ted (crew member) managed to expertly get us going again but after this 10 minute stop, the weather had turned yet again. We were rapidly getting cold and so upped our pace slightly over the next section to get us all warmed up again.

Miles 6-9 were through a residential area with a make shift band out playing (brilliant), lots of cars tooting and shouts of support, which were all met with big smiles and waves from the Japes gang. We were happily singing to Kylie and Wham the whole way, much to the entertainment of fellow runners who were around us. I always liken a Japes run to a kitchen party or I also call it ‘the party at the back’.

By mile 10 (just a parkrun to go!) although the weather had deteriorated even further, the crowds were starting to gather again and as we went over Ness Bridge at mile 11 we were then onto the finishing road home.

Runners who had already finished were cheering us on and we ran passed Cheshire House again with David’s co-residents all out shouting words of encouragement for him, it’s at this point that words are difficult to find to say thanks to these folk for making David’s journey all the better.

At last we had reached mile 13, it was down to a lap of the race track before the finish line which was in sight and the stadium was busy.

 

Over the finish line we went, medals, fruit, shortbread, t-shirts all taken on board, we were delighted to finish in one piece.

We made our way back to Cheshire House for some much needed tea and cake very kindly put on by the staff.

David had big smiles all over his face and this is what Japes is all about, showing off his medal and telling the stories of what happened out on the course but most importantly, giving him an experience and happiness of something that wouldn’t normally be possible.

Just look at David’s smile!

 

Whilst we had been running round, I said to Helena (crew member), I absolutely love running with Japes, it is teamwork at its best and the sense you get of helping others experience what able bodied runners can do is immense (I can’t actually think of a word that describes the feeling properly). I found this run particularly poignant, as David is roughly the same age as myself. It makes me feel very blessed in what I can physically do and what I can achieve on my own and as long as I am capable, I will be out running with Japes, it was an absolute pleasure and honour to run with David!

If you fancy reading a bit more about what Japes get up to, visit www.japes.scot or the Japes facebook page.

On a last note, I bet you are all wondering what our time was……well we normally measure Japes runs by the longer it takes us, the more fun we are having out on the course.

I was swithering whether to actually put this into the race report or not because it means absolutely nothing to me…..not a jot!

REMEMBER – Running is NOT all about times and personal bests, it’s so easy to forget about the fun side of it!

But to curb your curiosity, our moving time was 2.39.17 with our official time of 2.48.07….get in there!

FAQ’s

Q Is it fun? Yip

Q Is it harder than running a normal half marathon? Yip but you are on such a high with adrenaline that you don’t notice until you try and get out of bed the next day

Q How many crew does it take? With the twin wheel, I would say minimum 3 but we rarely do an event with less than 7 crew

Q Do all the crew run the full distance? Yes

Q Are you pushing the chair for the full distance? No, we purposely have more crew than are needed on the joelette at one time. This allows folk to swap out, rest your arms and recover before going back on.

Q What speed do you run at? Anything between 10-12 min miles if running but we have walking breaks if the terrain is difficult or if it’s a steep hill.

Q Would you recommend it? Yip, I think it should be mandatory that every runner does a Japes run.

Q Would do it again? Absolutely, r

ead paragraph 1 again, this was my 11th event as a Japester and it’s totally addictive!

Stathaven Striders Half Marathon

Thanks to Paul K. for his review of the Strathaven Half Marathon which was contested in tough conditions yesterday. Well done to everyone who took part and thanks to Paul for his excellent race report. First time we’ve heard of blogging as a race completion strategy.

 

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Well that’s the first race of the year for me under the belt, and what a way to start. I had a plan to run hopefully four or five half marathons this year and, both wanting to start early and keep some motivation over the winter, had signed up for the Strathaven Striders Half.

 

This had, pretty much, kept me going over winter and, with my trusty training partners Finola and Kirstin, helped me run some ridiculously early Sunday long runs. If I never see Stewarton Road again, I’ll be a happy man.

 

As everyone does, it’s weather watch time in the week running up to a big race. Last year had, apparently, been predominantly snow and there were multiple warnings about the conditions in the briefing emails. Given that it was a) February and b) in Strathaven going towards the windfarm, I was under no illusions; a sunny, balmy race this wasn’t going to be.

 

I dressed on race day with a short sleeved base layer, t-shirt and shorts, but had about three different outfits in a bag with me. Registration over, and the long-sleeved base layer was quickly donned. Training had been going well but looking at the conditions (and having had a sore throat last week) my approach was planned and a revised, conservative, time of under 2 hours was agreed on (I was, of course, arguing with myself in my head). There was a good Runbetweener turnout as well, although a few were masquerading as Bella Harriers!!!!
We set off, walking, from the school – behind the obligatory piper – and round to the start. Pre-race briefing had been held indoors. Overcast and blowy, it was a sign of things to come. The race was off promptly at 10:15 with a wee wriggle round some houses and side streets, and we were then out onto the country lanes.

 

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I’d talked to a few folk that had done this before and knew that the outward half of the loop was uphill, and that was true. I can think of only one proper downhill section in the first half of the race. Although appearing to be always on the up, there weren’t any significant hills to start with (I’m thinking of Stewarton Road again), but the problem was the wind. The race’s tagline was ‘Run With The Wind’ and they weren’t wrong. I’m told it was, in parts, around 20 mph gusting to 40 mph – and you felt every bit of it from about a mile out, until about four and a half miles. It blew into you, or across you; there was no respite or let-up – it was constant. I started writing this report in my head at this point to take my mind off it.

 

 

The weather made the view bleak and other than one family cheering on Carol (I hope she did well) the only other spectators were three horses and some sheep. I must mention the very patient cyclist who got caught up with us near the start. He graciously freewheeled until there was a clear space to pass, rather than weaving in and out. He also appeared open to bribes for a backie. Although bleak, there was a good bit of banter on the course, especially when the forecasted rain started. I felt my decision not to race hard was vindicated.

 

At four and half there was the first significant hill, but in the blink of a 90 degree turn, the wind died. Wow, I couldn’t believe the difference, and wasn’t bothered about the hill either, longish as it was taking us up to the water station at roughly halfway. I found it getting a bit busier on this hill, passing folk who’d started off too fast. However, in turn, I found a few passing me.

 

The water station also coincided with the top of a hill and a nice big downhill section followed. I fairly flew down this, and nearly paid for it later, bit it felt good. Downhill, over halfway, no real wind – what could go wrong? Plenty, as it turned out.

With the out part being uphill there is a reasonable assumption that the back part was predominantly down, but that didn’t feel like it was the case (Garmin & Strava will call me a liar though). I’m beginning to think of Arran last year which appeared to be 13 miles all uphill despite starting and finishing at the same point.

 

Country lanes had, momentarily, turned into farm tracks, but still flat. At just over 8 miles I took a gel to help with the final section. But half a mile later I was in trouble – the wind was back, with a vengeance, and so was the uphill nature of the course. One corner almost had me at a standstill, and a post race look at Garmin (eventually) showed that, albeit briefly, my pace had dropped to 10:53 a mile! It had been 6:35 a mile on the downhill at half way, and was roughly 2 minutes a mile slower than training pace. Iron Maiden’s ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ popped into my head and I was acutely aware of the lack of support in terms of my training partners, or friendly faces. Race days are definitely different to training runs.

 

The wind so bad, directly into my face, that at this point I was questioning my own sanity, and post race discussions found out that I wasn’t the only one. It was also at this point in the race that I lost my target runner. I spent most of the first part about 20 to 30 metres behind her, but had overtaken her before half way. She passed me and was off, and I felt absolutely spent. The wind didn’t die again until about 11 and a half miles and, hand on heart, I can say that those three miles were some of the toughest I’ve run. The mantra of one foot in front of the other was so appropriate. Thankfully the course began to level/go down and allowed a measure of control to return.
The legs were heavy as we entered the last mile, but I knew that bit was downhill and I was determined to finish as strong as I could. Entering the park with 200 metres to go, all over thickish grass, it was hammer down and making the whole thing look like a breeze. You need to put a show on, after all my kids were watching.

 

I’ll be honest to say that I found the race tough, as did many others. Brutal (in terms of the wind) was an often used, but apt, word. Without the wind, I’m sure that would be a different race, but it’s fair to say that the race is definitely a test. I was glad of my training – especially Stewarton Road, and would have struggled on this occasion without it.

 

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One final surprise, seven seconds off my PB. That’s my 5K and Half PBs broken this year already. Don’t know how I managed it, can’t explain why, but I’ll take it. Don’t know what that says, though, about either my performance or my previous PB, but I look forward to answering that question throughout the year.

 

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Great Scottish Run – Kirstin

Regular Runbetweener Kirstin has written us a fantastic guest review of last week’s Great Scottish Run…

Having joined the Runbetweeners over two years ago, and strangely turned into someone who can run and enjoys running, the GSR Half seemed like the ideal challenge to take myself to the next level. I’d completed one half marathon before – on holiday in Amsterdam in Oct 2017 with no training behind me other than the GSR 10k – and after months struggling to train for an eventually cancelled Alloa Half, I decided I was finally going to conquer this distance. The timing of this race was perfect, as I could take advantage of the lovely summer weather and long daylight hours to actually put in the significant training that had always been lacking from my race efforts.

My training officially started with the Run the Blades 10k– from then on I added a mile a week to my long runs. I knew there were some issues with my general fitness, so I also joined a 10 week strength and conditioning class, and I know this has had a huge impact on my stamina. The training was tough at points, but I knew it was necessary, and on the morning of the run, I knew I was able to run the distance, and run it well.

Race day arrived. The train journey in to the city centre was very busy with runners, and it was great to be able to see the 10k runners along the Clyde as we approached Central Station. I had downloaded the app on my phone, so I knew my fellow Runbetweeners including Kirsty Cunningham and Susan Redpath were well into their 10k efforts and I vainly tried to spot them. A short jog later, and I was at the start. I had a target time in my head, based on my Kyles 10 Miles effort, and on the week of the race slowly started vocalising this, slipping out to people that “I’m really keeping it a secret, but I want sub 2:15”. However, something funny happens to me when I’m on the start line of any run though – I get competitive. And as soon as I found myself in the green wave – front and centre – I knew I wanted 2:10. I couldn’t see anyone I knew around me that I could run with to help me secure this target, or even a pacer (short people problems), but I decided I should push myself and before I could question things further it was time for a cheesy choreographed mass warm-up and then we were off!

The run starts by following the same route as the 10k, with an incline up St Vincent street, a quick jog round trendy Finnieston, and then the highlight of running over the Kingston Bridge! My pace was fairly fast for the first three miles – I decided I needed to make this time at the start to give me a shot at 2:10, but then I steadied myself out and settled in for the long haul. I didn’t know the next part of the route too well, but I soon found myself on familiar territory as many of my training runs had been around Pollokshields, leading into Pollok Park. Knowing where I was going really helped, as I could set myself clear targets. There was also great support from Runbetweeners spectators Donna Gillon, Jenny Brown and Blythe Lindsay.

Running through the park was lovely as always, but when we came out and made our way to Bellahouston we found ourselves in a very cold, heavy shower and running into a headwind. This mile wasn’t pleasant. Soon though we were out of Bellahouston and on to the home straight. I really couldn’t believe how quickly the race was passing and how strong I felt. I checked my watch at every mile and my pacing was really steady. I knew I could make 2:10, and unbelievably I saw I could get home sooner than that! From miles nine to twelve, my mantra became “maintain”. I was so scared of running out of steam, and this part of the race was hard work – but I wasn’t giving up! Running over the Squinty Bridge I got another boost, with great encouragement from Ian McBain of GFR. From then on, it was straight alongside the river to the finish. This is such a fantastic part of the course – everyone has given their all, and it really putting in their best efforts. Unbelievably, as I hit about 12 and a half miles I spotted June MacLeod ahead of me. This is how I knew I had just run the race of my life, as June is a much faster runner than me. In June’s defence, she was on her twentieth mile of the day, as part of her Bamburgh Marathon training. I chased June to the finish and was absolutely delighted to finish in 2:08:28.

This race really is a special one. The huge number of participants across the 10k and Half Marathon events, and the family mile and races for young people the day before gives Glasgow a huge buzz. A huge number of Runbetweeners not yet mentioned in this report participated including Gillian Glass, Karen Rosling, Anne Williamson, Jill Mair, Paul Burningham, and Jacqueline Glass. (Jack and Kenny ran too of course). The event is wholly inclusive, but also provides the ideal challenge and I can’t wait to return next year.

OutRun Race Report

Thanks to Kirsty C. for her guest piece on last month’s OutRun organised by Glasgow Frontrunners and held in Kelvingrove Park. Brilliantly coordinated to fall on Kirsty’s birthday it sounds like she had a ball. A great review and by the sounds of it one to pencil in the diary for next year. 

 

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The Boy, Jennifer, Kirsty and Sarah

 

The morning of 18 August dawned grey and drizzly but that could not dampen the excitement Jennifer Laskey, Sarah Grant and myself as we prepared to take on the undulating course of OUTRun organised by the Glasgow Frontrunners.

 

We headed to the leafy West End and parked easily on Kelvin Way 45 minutes before the 930am start time. Making our way to the bandstand to collect our numbers and hand our baking into the cake stall (you can’t go wrong with a race with a cake stall). (I’m signing up tomorrow).

 

The bandstand was full of runners and volunteers mingling and chatting with many sporting rainbow face paint. Our favourites were the Unit 4 Cross Fit contingent in gold lame (short) shorts and vests with the logo “A place for everyone, their dug and their unicorn”. We were proudly sporting our rainbow shoelaces kindly provided by Coach Jack Arnold, who came along to support us, but regretted not having worn our own gold lame shorts.

 

It was a good chance to spot the runners from other Frontrunner groups around the country. Newcastle, Manchester and London were all represented. The Frontrunners are Scotland’s largest LGBTQ+ club so there is an LGBTQ+ focus to the event but it’s very much open to all and we found it a very welcoming and inclusive event.

 

At 920ish the group warm-up led by a man in a cape on the bandstand stage started and runners joined in enthusiastically (some more so than others). The rain was off and it was a lovely cool morning as we were then piped round to the start line just outside the bandstand.

 

At 930 over 370 of us set off to tackle the 5 mile course. The route is entirely within Kelvingrove Park and starts off fairly flat before climbing for half a mile or so. Before getting up the hill we were well supported by June MacLeod and Kirstin Campbell who had kindly given up their mornings to marshal and were in fine voice. We were encouraged up the hill by the sound of a steel band at the top and lots of friendly volunteers and supporters.

 

The course is an out and back and runs by the side of the river. It flattens out after the hill and then you head north through the park. At around 2.5 miles the faster runners started to come towards us on their way back and we enjoyed seeing their pace and determination. The hill at the first mile has to be done in reverse on the way back and seemed much tougher but again, steel band and marshals provided lots of encouragement.

 

It was then more or less downhill all the way to the finish. We ran past June and Kirstin again and then onto the home strait where Jack, Jennifer and Sarah were there to cheer me across the line. Disappointingly, I hadn’t practised my cartwheels so was unable to finish in style and claim a prize but we enjoyed seeing others do so.

 

We made our way back to the bandstand for our finishers’ bags and one of the nicest race T shirts we’ve ever had and got ourselves in line for the cake stall (did we already mention the cake stall?). Bakes are donated and are free to runners but donations to SAMH were welcomed.

 

The race was won by Jonathan Roebuck in 27:31 and the first woman was Toni Mcintosh in 31:07. Sarah and Jennifer finished in a pacey 43:23 and 43:58 respectively and were happy with that. I was a good bit behind them in 49:28 but my time was irrelevant for this one . I’d never run a timed 5 mile race before so had no benchmark and my running had not been my priority over the summer. I ran this one with no pressure and it was much more about enjoying the atmosphere and spending time with my friends on my birthday. It’s a cracker of an event – I found it very joyful and uplifting and that, and a good laugh with friends, did wonders for my mood and sometimes that’s all you need from your running.

 

So Runbetweeners, would we recommend this one? The answer is a an emphatic yes. If you like Moira’s Run (and don’t mind hills) then you’ll like this one too. Lovely route, lovely people, lovely cake, cheap to enter, an excellent T-shirt and a prize for the biggest team which we think the Runbetweeners could claim next year (not to mention the prize for best bake). We’ll see you there!

Hackney Marshes parkrun

There’s something quite exciting about visiting a parkrun for the first time. The consistency of the parkrun model ensures that each event shares the same comforting familiarity yet it is always intriguing to discover the subtle variations that each has to offer. This could be a difference in size, terrain, route type or even simply the accents emerging from the masses. Regardless, these nuances are what give each event its identity and are precisely what makes parkrun tourism such an appealing prospect.

Last weekend I found myself visiting my brother in London and so, naturally, Vicki and I spent some time researching the local parkrun options. After much deliberation, we settled on Hackney Marshes. I had enjoyed hearing about this event on the ‘Running Commentary’ podcast (well worth a listen on a long run!) and fancied the sweeping, flat route through the woods that surround the mass of football pitches. Unfortunately, due to her injury, Vicki was unable to run this time so she contacted the event team and offered to volunteer as Timekeeper for the morning. She got a bit of a fright when she realised the size of the field but manage to keep her cool and record an accurate set of results (although she could definitely have stopped the watch a few seconds early for me!!)

The morning of the run was stunning; the sun was shining and the park was buzzing with runners, footballers, cricketers and dog walkers all taking advantage of the weather. I managed a quick warmup loop without getting lost (a bonus!) and then took my place on the start line. After a brief introduction from the Run Director we were off. The route winds gently away from the start on a long, flat path through the trees between the pitches and the River Lea and the shade was welcome as we made our way along the course. I took the lead and felt quite good as I hit the 2km point which was marked with a 180 degree turn. Heading back the way we had came, it was great to get some friendly shouts of encouragement from the runners coming the other way and the path was wide enough to accommodate traffic in both directions.

Shortly before reaching the ‘start line’ I found myself directed off on a side-path for a 250m detour before another 180 degree turn and a final push to the finish. I felt OK but the legs were definitely lacking the spring that they had enjoyed pre-marathon. Today would not be a day for PBs but certainly served as a good wake up call. I made my way through the finish funnel to the cheers of my 18 month old nephew and claimed the first finisher token in a time of 16:02. I was fairly pleased with the time as I knew I wouldn’t be in prime 5k shape having been focused on the marathon for the last 3 months, however it was a little annoying to be so close to 16minute mark and not dip under – there’s always something!

The morning was complete when I returned home to a fantastic bacon roll and mug of coffee before spending the day celebrating with family and swapping my trainers for my dancing shoes in Shoreditch that night. This was a great parkrun experience and it all comes back to the volunteers without whom these events would not be possible. Thank you!

Making Waves at the Troon 10k

After a brief but thorough downpour earlier in the afternoon, the skies cleared and the stage was set for a fast evening of running at the Troon 10k on Wednesday night. Among the eager runners lining the seafront stood several Runbetweeners, many of whom were anxiously preparing for their first 10k of the season. This was not an event that I would be participating in myself, instead I had the troublesome task of cheering from the sidelines and patiently awaiting the famous fish and chips while the runners got battered (sorry!) by the increasingly noticeable wind.

As we stood at the start line, I was amazed at the number of participants that this race attracts – I always forget the size of the event and it is a testament to the Troon Tortoises that it runs so smoothly every year. I did not realise until I was informed on the evening that members of the club are not allowed to enter the event themselves and are instead expected to assist in its running. It is on a separate night later in the week that the members then run the route themselves in a more private race after which they bestow upon themselves (quite rightly) the race day t-shirt. The impressive organisation of the Troon Tortoises was a stark contrast to the pre-race preparation of Kenny Taylor, who realised two minutes before the start of the race that he was wearing the wrong trainers and was forced to dash back to his bag, moving faster than Gillian Glass when a new race appears on the calendar!

Trainers switched, Kenny made it back to join the masses and moments later they were off. The runners weaved along the seafront as wave after wave they were released from their pens. A bold start from Michael Deason in the blue and yellow vest of Shettleston Harriers made his intentions clear and he led the charge with Richard Mair of Kilmarnock and David Millar of Irvine Running Club in pursuit. Hundreds of smiling faces followed the lead pack away from the sand and around the golf course as the wind guided them gently away from the start line.

The chief support squad of Vicki, Finola and I, made our way to a point at roughly 4miles where we would be able to see the runners pass before making our way back to the start. Here we watched as the lead group passed, with daylight between each of them, looking strong into the final stages. Many familiar faces passed by with runners from a vast number of local clubs making the effort to attend this event. Mark Porter of Bellahouston Harriers flew by on his way to smashing his PB shortly before Kenny came bounding around the corner on track for a fast time of his own. Following in Kenny’s wake were fellow Harriers Neil Nairn and Mikey Gowans who both went on to absolutely annihilate their own PBs – surely a great sign for both with Neil having recently run the London Marathon and Mikey closing in on his race in the Edinburgh Marathon at the end of the month.

Leading the charge for the Runbetweeners were Paul Burningham (running for Bella Harriers) and Jenny Brown. This was a huge race for both runners as Paul succeeded in dipping under 40minutes for the first time and Jenny managed to finish as 13th female on her debut over the distance in an impressive time of 43:22.

There were great performances all round from the Runbetweeners with a bucketload of PBs from Gillian Glass, Kirstin Campbell, Karen Rosling, June McLeod and Clare Taylor. Jacqueline Glass also put in a great performance and managed to equal her PB which suggests it’s only a matter of time before that barrier is crossed!

As the race drew to a close, the rain decided to make an appearance and we disappeared swiftly into the local chippy for a feed. Annoyingly, were too late for fish but we left with a steaming bag of chips in hand and made our way back home feeling pretty pleased with our little mid-week trip to the seaside!

Well done to everyone who took part and thank you to the members of the Troon Tortoises for putting on such a great event – The Runbetweeners will definitely be back!

London Marathon 2018 – A race like no other!

What a crazy week it has been! As I stood nervously on the start line of the London Marathon, eyes gazing beyond the bouncing shoulders of the elites ahead of me and down the welcoming slope of Shooters Hill, I had a plan in my head of how I would like the race to pan out: I knew what pace I would be aiming to settle into once the Queen had signalled the start of the race; I knew that every fifth mile I would be squeezing a slightly warmed, but very welcome, carb gel down my throat and I knew that various groups of family and friends would be poised at a number of well thought out stations along the route, ready to yell messages of support (or friendly abuse) as required. I hadn’t, however, put much thought into what might happen after the race. I am sure that if I had, I would not have imagined that I’d be standing 24 hours later with a BBC Camera perched at the back of my classroom and with an e-mail flashing at me from my computer asking me to phone the local newspaper back ASAP. This was not necessarily going to be the race that I had planned, but it was certainly one which I will never forget.

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Training had been fantastic. Since crossing the finish line in Berlin seven months earlier, London had been the focus. I had put in the hours in training through a tough cross-country season, gruelling solo runs along the Clyde Walkway and even ploughing through snow courtesy of the ‘Beast from the East’. Smashing several of my PBs along the way, this was one of the most consistent training blocks that I have ever managed. The goal had always been to break 2:30:0 and I was feeling confident that this was definitely on the cards…

Then I thought about the weather. As my taper drew to a close and the carb-loading commenced, I began to think about possible race-day conditions. Most forecasts were indicating that this was going to be a warm one and to be honest my initial thoughts were relief that it wouldn’t be as cold as the training that I had suffered through in our typical Scottish Winter. It was when I started hearing whisperings of ‘the hottest London Marathon ever’ that I was forced to take things a little more seriously. At Berlin, on a cool, wet September morning, I had not consumed any water for the duration of the marathon. I knew however that in a hot London race, this would not be a sensible tactic.

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I lined up on the start line with a bottle filled with ice having taken on the advice I heard on Marathon Talk about ‘pre-cooling’. I had spent the previous hour sitting in the shade with the iced placed periodically across my shoulders and the back of my neck in order to lower my core temperature. I ditched the ice and found myself squashed in amongst the other excited athletes in the Championship Start. Having had difficulties with congestion in the past, I managed to make my way to the front and found myself tucked in just a few rows behind the pros. Seeing the likes of Kipchoge just ahead of me was phenomenal and it is moments like that which make running in a big city marathon that little bit special. Before I had a chance to get too star struck, the Queen appeared on the screen to press her button and start the race.

We were off!

People talk about the fast start at London but nothing quite prepares you for it. The long slope of Shooters Hill falls away before you and it can be very difficult to stick to a planned pace. I went through the first 5km in 17:16 – a little quicker than intended. I managed to hold myself back a little over the next 5km and settled into a pace that I felt I could sustain. Just before the half way mark I passed over Tower Bridge and felt a huge rush as the crowds roar filled the road – there is nothing quite like this moment and it never fails to take my breath away. I had found that my comfort levels were fluctuating through the first half – I had moments where I felt fantastic and others where I felt lethargic. This seemed to be a turning point however and the next 5 miles were great. I started to really enjoy the run and found I could work the crowd a little for an extra boost.

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Then I reached mile 18. This is where I first experienced the sensation that everyone who has run a marathon will know well. This was the moment that I realised I was slowing down. It is a strange feeling. I didn’t feel particularly ‘tired’, I simply realised that I was putting in the same amount of effort and yet not travelling at quite the same pace. This is where marathons are made or broken. It is a fine line that needs to be walked (or jogged!) when you still have 8 miles to complete of the race. A voice in your head is telling you to slow down to ensure that you reach the finish (this was accompanied by images of the incredible Callum Hawkins collapsing in the final stages of his marathon only weeks earlier) and yet a voice in your heart is whispering that you just need to grit your teeth and see how deep the well goes.

I saw the pace drop a little but reasoned I was still on target for my goal and that I could afford to be a little careful for a few miles. As I reached mile 22 however I realised that things were slowing more than I could afford and that the initial target was falling out of reach. I battled on in the heat and felt positive as I continued to pass other runners who were also struggling in the midday sun. I was forced to accept that the 2:30 target was not going to happen today but realised that a PB was still on the cards. I knuckled down, focused on the positive and fought my way onto the Mall.

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Crossing the line in 2:31:04, I felt a strange cocktail of emotions. As relief at finishing and the pride of having a medal draped over my shoulders mixed in with the tinge of disappointment at not hitting my target I felt strangely conflicted. This was a PB (my previous being 2:31:31) but it wasn’t the PB I wanted – I was still a 2:31 marathoner, no one really cares about the seconds! It was moments later however that I felt my first taste of overwhelming satisfaction (and slight incredulity!) as I glanced at my phone to see a message from a friend declaring me the 33rd finisher. Thirty-third?!? I thought this must be a mistake but soon had it confirmed and I was ecstatic – I had not even considered my position in the race as I had been too busy thinking about my time.

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I enjoyed a very quick celebration with my fellow runners, my brother, friends who had travelled down to watch and, of course, my wife Vicki before we needed to rush away for our flight back to Glasgow! A quick shower, a few slices of pizza in a plastic bag for the journey (thanks to my awesome sister-in-law Laura!) and a short train journey took Vicki and I to Stanstead for the final leg of our journey. A short delay to our flight meant that we were back in our flat just after 11pm and finally my head hit the pillow for a few hours kip before work on Monday morning and I enjoyed dreams of a nice, quiet day in the classroom…

“Jack, you’re needed in the headmaster’s office now – apparently it is urgent!”

My colleague had just burst in during my second period of the day with no idea what I was wanted for – but it sounded important! I was a little scared (and more than a little confused) as I entered his office but was greeted with a handshake and invited to take a seat.

“The BBC are on the phone. They want to come in for an interview – and they want to film you teaching your S3 class”

Despite my fear that I would make a fool of myself on camera, and after a stern/desperate chat with my pupils, things actually worked out OK and the footage on Reporting Scotland didn’t make me look like a complete idiot! I was overwhelmed with the messages of congratulations that I received after this and I even got a free Greggs in the morning from the staff who had seen my interview! What a bonus!

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The week since has been fantastic. I may not have achieved the initial target but I am incredibly proud of the result. I am now left planning for the future – I know that I have more to offer in the marathon, but for now it is time to reflect and recover. In the meantime I need to thank a few people who helped in the long road to London:

  • Bellahouston Harriers – for providing a huge level of support to all of us who were running.
  • Matt – who put up with almost daily questions and who provided an unparalleled level of advice and guidance throughout the training block.
  • The Locker Room – for that extra touch of motivation when needed.

And most importantly to Vicki who put up with months of my obsession, anxiety, bragging and distraction, all the while struggling with her own injury. I couldn’t have done it without her support.

Bring on the next one…

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