Three Lochs Way – Jacqueline Glass

An absolutely mind-blowing, epic challenge. Not much more needs to be said.

 

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Running an Ultra and Having a Blast – As You Do

 

Having run one ultra before it’s definitely for the hard core and there are none more so than Jacqueline Glass and June Macleod who undertook the Three Lochs Way last month with good friend Karen Hattie. The camaraderie amongst ultra runners is the stuff of legend and this comes across in Jacqueline’s review.

 

Ultra Running is undergoing a boom at the moment. As a result more and more events are springing up with several multi-stage events extending the parameters beyond even single run events. Many well established races like The Fling continue to grow and have been complimented by new races on a diverse and intriguing ultra calendar with races such as The Wee Eck Ultra and The Cowal Way Ultra in Argyll.

 

Sadly preparations were not ideal with bad news 24 hours prior to the off but this did not deter our dream team or the near 200 plus runners and walkers from completing the gruelling Three Lochs Way.  An unbelievable and awe inspiring achievement. Here Jacqueline recalls her race experience.

 

Loch Lomond, Gare Loch and Loch Long

 

It was in June 2017, together with my running buddies Karen Hattie & June Macleod, that we decided to take on a challenge – The Three Lochs Way on Saturday 7th April 2018. An event organised by Pure Challenge.

 

Less than 24 hours before the event we received an email advising the company had gone into administration and all future events were cancelled. As this information started to filter through to everyone who had entered, there was soon a Plan B in place as participants from all over the country took to social media. Soon there were alternative arrangements being made to ensure that the event would go ahead.

 

Training throughout the worst winter in years we unanimously agreed that we would go with Plan B! The challenge was still on!

 

Rewind several months – We started our training in January with none of us having run more than a half marathon distance. We decided we would adopt the Jeff Galloway run/walk/run technique. It meant we could increase our mileage by more than the recommended weekly 10 percent rule and so reduce the risk of injury and fatigue. This worked well for us and we settled into a 4:1 ratio.

 

Our longest run, three weeks before the challenge, was an out and back along the cycle path from Linwood to Longbar (just past Kilbirnie). We were elated to reach a milestone of 26.3 miles! We couldn’t believe we had run a marathon distance, (I know a marathon is 26.2!) complete with backpacks containing everything but the kitchen sink!

 

Tapering for me included the Tom Scott 10 miles the week before the event followed by a snowy Easter Monday Runbetweeners session a few days later.

 

Friday 6th April – The Night Before

 

June and I drove up to Balloch where we had booked accommodation for the night, a rustic and bijou B&B! Karen drove up with her husband Jeff, who was going to be our support on the day, and they were staying in Dumbarton. We arranged to meet for dinner in Balloch later that evening.

 

After a wee cup of tea, and getting our stuff organised for the morning, June & I toddled along the road to a local hotel to meet Karen & Jeff.  We soon discovered that the restaurant was almost full of people who had travelled to Balloch for the event. Conversations soon ensued about the disappointment of the official event being cancelled but everyone was optimistic about Plan B and looking forward to meeting up in the morning at various times to set off.

 

 

Saturday 7th April – Race Day

 

1.15am – I was wakened by growling and rumblings in my stomach! I curled up and prayed it would pass but no – a mad dash to the loo! Fortunately, our bijou room had a bijou en suite. I emerged 30 minutes later cursing my choice of dinner, a gamey pate followed by tempura mussels and anchovies. I thought a ‘fish’ dish would be ok! As I crawled back to bed June appeared to be sleeping soundly and blissfully unaware of the volcanic eruptions!

 

5.30am – The alarm went off. Crikey, needless to say the last thing I felt like doing was a 34 mile run/walk/hike! I did feel better though and Etna had settled so I wisely stuck to my normal pre run breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter and a banana which I had brought from home. June went to the dining room where fruit, yoghurt and cereal had been left out for the early risers.

 

7.15am – Time for the off! We bundled our extra supplies into Jeff’s car and set off for the Visitors Centre where other runners/walkers had already excitedly gathered. We thought our Jeffing ratio of 4:1 would not be an option for the route and decided to run as much as possible and walk the challenging uphill sections. This proved to be a wise decision!

 

Stage 1: Balloch to Helensburgh 13.5km

 

Setting off from the visitors centre we passed through Lomond Shores, crossed a footbridge over the main road then a fairly steep climb to the ancient route of Stoneymollan road. This was an old coffin road used to carry the dead to a burial ground. Passing Goukhill Muir we crossed the Highland Boundary Fault with beautiful views over Loch Lomond.

 

The descent into Helensburgh was mostly rough track through open moorland and a deforested area with wonderful views of the Firth of Clyde. Our first checkpoint was in the car park of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House, aptly named as its quite a hike up the tree lined streets to reach it! We were pleased to see Jeff already waiting for us there. Our fellow Bellahouston Harrier, Colin, had joined Jeff to meet us too. We only stopped long enough to refill our water bottles, have a quick snack and a welcome rhododendron toilet break and then we were off again!

 

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Stage 2: Helensburgh to Garelochhead 14.75km

 

Leaving Helensburgh we passed through woods, farmland and moorland until we reached some tarmac on the minor Glen Fruin Road. We met lots of other runners/walkers on this road and no one passed without shouting out a friendly encouraging greeting. The camaraderie was fantastic and helped to pass the time on this long stretch.

 

We met Jeff and Colin again at Checkpoint 2 which was at the Garelochhead Military Base. There were a lot more people gathered here than at our first checkpoint. This is where the local volunteers, on hearing of our cancelled event, dropped off water bottles, bananas, home made flapjacks etc. Again the mood of everyone was upbeat and it was great to meet up with others we had met along the way! By now we were being recognised everywhere due to our rather brightly coloured leggings!

 

Stage 3: Garelochhead to Arrochar 19K

 

This route took us through the Ministry of Defence Garelochhead Military training area. A tarmac road then mostly boggy forest roads with the occasional rocky trail. The route was undulating to say the least. We encountered an almost vertical hill by which time my legs were just about to give up and I thought I may have to crawl up it!

 

As this was going to be the longest part of the route we had a short respite at Craggan carpark where again Jeff was waiting for us with some welcome goodies. We also unloaded some of our waterproof gear & other things from our rucksacks, that we realised weren’t now essential (to relieve our poor aching shoulders), checked our feet for blisters, changed our socks and were soon on our way again.

 

More rough tracks, steep ascents and descents followed but soon we could see Arrochar in the distance at the head of the loch. The scenery was spectacular with wonderful views over Loch Long to the Arrochar Alps. It was just too misty to clearly make out the Cobbler though. Our legs by now were tiring with the relentless hills and it was a relief to reach our last checkpoint at Slanz Restaurant in Arrochar.

 

As the restaurant had not been advised until that day that the event had been cancelled they had already erected a small marquee where a BBQ had been set up in the car park. The smell wafting from there was so enticing but as we still had another 11km to go we settled for one of Karens white choc & peanut butter blondies and a lovely cup of hot tea. A luxury also to use the restaurant’s loos!

 

Jeff, as always, was there to psyche us up, top up our supplies and waive us off with a cheery ‘see you soon’!

 

Stage 4: Arrochar to Inveruglas 11km

 

We had been advised by the restaurant’s owner that there was a detour in place a little further down the road. We passed some walkers we had met earlier and then heard them shouting ‘you’re going the wrong way’. We walked for a few miles on forestry track passing or seeing no one else, growing concerned we may have taken a wrong turn. Suddenly a guy appeared from nowhere biking towards us from the opposite direction. We stopped to chat and he reassured us that we were on the right track to Inveruglas. We never did see the walkers again!

 

This was without doubt the toughest stage of the route. Weary with tired legs on a long track with more ascents. The trail took us through Glen Loin woodland where the path climbs up a narrow pass to Coiregrogain with Ben Vorlich visible in the distance. We finally reached a tarmac path and from there it was only a couple of miles and a welcome descent to the main footpath into Inveruglas.

 

About another mile along this footpath which runs alongside the busy A82 and then the Inveruglas Visitors Centre and the end was in sight! Jeff was there to greet us with a giant medaille en chocolat and a bottle of fizz!

 

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Jacqueline, June and Karen

 

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MANCHESTER MARATHON – KAREN ROSLING

Our second Manchester Marathon report of the week comes from Runbetweener Karen Rosling. After a brilliant training block and a great first 16 miles it’s a really honest account of what happens when things don’t go to plan during the Marathon.  Karen’s story shows that sometimes things don’t play out the way you want on the day and this is something most marathon runners are unlucky enough to understand. At the time it can be hard to accept after all the work you’ve put in but it’s important to regroup and recognise the enormity of the achievement.

 

Despite debilitating stomach problems Karen showed real grit and determination to finish the run when others would have chucked it and gone home. A truly heroic effort. We also love the bit about Vicki popping up at the right time and supporting Karen across the line. Well done Karen on a fantastic run.

 

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After nearly 4 months of marathon training through the most horrific weather conditions the plan was complete.  I was feeling fit and ready to go both mentally and physically. We had a fair few ‘character building’ runs which helpd me develop the mental strength I would need to get me through the 26.2 miles and across the finish line.  Trusting the taper was the hardest part of the plan as the miles and frequency of training diminished. Marathon panic set in.  Phantom niggles played havoc with my mind and I worried while I was resting for race day I was rapidly loosing fitness.
Race day was here! Surprisingly I was calm when I woke for breakfast and I remained calm throughout the morning, excitement was building.  We were actually going to undertake the huge challenge of the marathon.  After a mad and very stressful dash to the baggage drop, which turned out to be further away from the start than our hotel we followed the crowds of buzzing runners to our starting pen.  Once we had eyes on our pacer, the man that was going to keep us in check we settled and slowly made our way towards the start.
Garmins ready, we were soon on our way.  The first 4 miles passed with ease, keeping to the plan of starting off easy we kept with our pacer but everyone was wanting to keep right by him and it was becoming more and more difficult to run without tripping over feet.  We decided to run just ahead of him.  Unbeknown to us we had increased our pace and as we went through the 10k mark our main man wasn’t just behind us like we thought, he was nowhere to be seen.  Feeling good we pressed on, afterall we may need this time for the latter half of the marathon should we ‘hit the wall.’
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Donnan and Karen maintain an impressive early pace
Running good and feeling fresh, we were ticking off the miles.  The crowds and bands throughout the course offered amazing support and we were now looking for our own cheer squad.  Expecting to see Vicki, Lee and Anne around miles 8 -9 the next miles were passed reading spectators posters, giving kids high fives and scouring the crowd for our friendly familar faces.  As we passed and heard Vicki shout our spirits were lifted and so was our pace.  The crowd really do motivate you and keep you going.
As we reached the half way point, I started to feel my stomach growl and spasm.  Here I was the girl with the toilet phobia looking for a portaloo – I wouldnt use a portaloo if you offered me a million pounds!  As the miles passed my pace slowed and my stomach gave me more and more trouble.  By mile 16-18 I was now down to a run walk and by mile 18 I knew I could not run another step.  At this point I managed to convince Donna to leave me, and hoped she would still be able to get a decent time.  From here on in I spent my race looking for the portaloo.
My race really wasn’t going how I had dreamed.  As I walked fellow runners tried to encourage me to run but my stomach just wouldn’t let me.  I was starting to get upset and angry at the situation.  I had trained so hard and I knew i was better than this.  With my head down I walked and walked and walked, the miles taking longer to pass and the clock seeming to speed up. As I continued my sub 4.30 dream was gone and my sub 5 hour wasn’t looking good either –  I phoned my mum.  Answering the phone she was cheering, she thought I had finished but what she got was a blubbering me!
As I passed a marshall, I asked her where the next toilets were she simply pointed ahead and said that way.  I asked how far and she shrugged her shoulders.  It took great willpower for me not to punch her right between the eyes.  If only she knew how desperate the situation was.  Turns out the toilets were 3 miles ahead!  Not a good situation at all, at the aid station I seen an empty bin bag which I tied around my waist just incase.
 As I approached mile 22 I decided to phone Vicki to tell her to go home as I wasn’t finishing anytime soon.  The reality of the situation was just upsetting me and I wished the ground would open up and swallow me.  I started to look for another way to the finish line, at this point I realised I did have the grit, determination and stubborness I needed to finish this.  The marathon wasn’t going to beat me.
At mile 25 Vicki had walked to meet me.  She was a true angel, never have I been so glad to see a friendly, smiling face coming towards me.  I don’t know if she was as pleased to see me.  I honestly don’t think that I would of finished the race without her.  As we rounded the corner onto the home stretch I really didn’t thimk I could walk another step.  I could see the finish but I was done.  I eventually crossed the line in5 hours 20 minutes.  Totally gutted and so disappointed. 
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But as I crossed the finish I knew I would need to do another marathon.  On this occassion the marathon beat me but I will be back to beat the marathon and hopefully achieve my goal time.

Manchester Marathon – Susan Redpath

This is our first of three guest posts this week as some of our heroic Manchester runners reflect on their epic marathon journey. Susan Redpath has well and truly caught the running bug having run the Stirling Marathon in 2017 and looked to step up her performance levels in Manchester. Well safe to say Susan performed brilliantly, knocking 16 minutes off her Stirling Marathon time showing the results of a tough winter’s training.

 

A great read as she looks back on training in apocalyptic winter conditions, following a more structured programme, becoming more aware of training principles, training fatigue, recovery and the importance of a supportive running buddy.

 

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Susan and Jill putting in the hard graft during the winter

 

It’s the beginning of December and the start of Marathon training. Eek! Having talked a few fellow runners into doing it after Stirling Marathon and booking our hotel rooms in June, the beginning of the training was here, eek again! Manchester is billed as the fastest and flattest Marathon in the UK so I wanted to give it a go to try to run a sub 4 hour Marathon having completed my first marathon in Stirling in 4:13:57 in 2017. The mileage is not too bad to start with but oh wait, here comes the freezing temperatures which means ice, slippy roads & pavements. We didn’t have that last year. Oh dear, that’s because it was a full 6 weeks earlier. That’s ok, we can run on the grass when it’s icy. Oh how the weather got so,so much worse into the plan playing complete havoc with my plan and my legs and my head! But let’s stick with talking about the plan just now, we can come back to the weather.

The plan was hauled off the Hal Higdon website. Fellow Runbetweener & Harrier Gillian pointed me that way last year when we were training for Stirling. Hal who? No idea who he was or even that people followed marathon plans! I had always just got out and ran. No plan, no tempo runs (had to ask what that meant!) or speed sessions, just a blether with some running pals, mostly on a Sunday before I started going to the Runbetweeners sessions on a Monday (started May 2016). I then joined the Bella Harrier running crew in March 2017 so I had done way more running than before Stirling in 2017 so was feeling more ‘intermediate 1’ than Novice marathon runner, so I printed that one off.

 

Still felt a bit of a novice though but I liked the ‘intermediate’, it made me sound like I knew what I was doing. Ok so plan in place, I’m sticking to it. Too much too soon the year before resulted in an IT band injury. That was sore and is apparently a classic injury for a novice marathon runner but here I was as an intermediate so I knew better, right? Kind of but does anyone really know what they’re doing? It’s all trial and error, limits and recovery are personal to you. I’m old so I’m going to take longer to recover than a twenty something year old. So the 18 week plan was in place, now to implement it.

 

That’s where my running buddy, drinking Prosecco partner in crime, fellow Creme egg lover & Runbetweener (we met there) and Harrier comes in; Jill Mair. The pocket rocket! We ran as much together as we could and tried to do as many of our long runs together. This is important as it takes the pain & boredom out of the long, long runs and there are a few! You keep each other going. Three hours of running go by much more easily with company unless you’re running through a foot of snow, not once but several times. So let’s talk about the weather.

Ice, wind, snow, rain and lots of it, particularly the snow. We even travelled to the coast one Sunday to avoid the snow (at my suggestion) in Glasgow only for it to snow half way through our 14 mile run, finishing through a snow storm and an inch of snow on the beach! It never snows at the coast! It did that day and some. Another Sunday we ran 12 miles in six degrees below freezing. I couldn’t feel my fingers for most of it despite the gloves. Poor Jill fell on that run but no lasting damage except another jacket with a hole in it.

 

Hal recommends a half marathon about half way through the plan. There aren’t many in February in Scotland. Actually the only one that we found was in Livingston, a new race. So we entered. Now I think there’s a reason why there are no other half’s at all at that time of year; sheet ice. I mean ice everywhere and no attempt at gritting it by the organisers. This was a complete disaster. The race should never have gone ahead, it was far too dangerous. I said at the start ‘let’s go home, I don’t want to get injured’. Obviously we ran it . “We’re here now so let’s treat it as a training run.” So we did and I fell half way round. Whacked my knee straight down onto the tarmac & winded myself trying to catch the ‘jolly green giant man’ in front. Ouch! Picked myself up and carried on of course. It was character building and I’m happy to report that my character is now huge after the weather we had to train in! So it was Jill 1:Susan 1 for the fall total but I lived.

The countdown was now on and the mileage was increasing ever rapidly. It was now getting serious and the reality becoming more and more apparent that I actually was running another Marathon. We were doing 18.5 mile training runs in mountains of snow around Glasgow which was really tough going. What was I thinking? I was scunnered with the training. I’m so tired but hey, I can actually eat and drink loads and not worry too much, bonus! Oh I just want this over with. What’s my marathon pace? Marathon pace? What even is that? What if I need the toilet half way round and I can’t find a loo? Then 3 weeks of tapering began. Everything started to hurt and I’m not sure why. Most of it was in my head of course. Maranoia is real, look it up. All the self doubt set in but before I knew it, it was time and there was no turning back.

 

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Team Glasgow

We travelled down to Manchester by car the day before and met up with fellow runners and had a nice night at Zizzis carb loading and exchanging (mainly toilet) stories. An early night and early awake to get to the start about an hour before. Standing in the queue for the toilets most of that time of course. Before I knew it, we were over the start mat and all the anxieties disappeared. Telling myself ‘It’s another training run’. 

Jill and I ran together for the first 16 miles and chatted all the way round. Such a great atmosphere and so much fun. A highlight for me was at mile 6 when the Proclaimers ‘500 miles’ belted through the speakers of the stage next to the course with the ‘118’ runners on it. The atmosphere was electric and I felt great. The pace was on track for a sub 4 hour marathon. 

We caught up with another fellow Harrier, Tania at mile 16 and that’s when I started to feel it and my pace slowed. Miles 16 to 22 were tough for me so I was grateful for Tania’s company. I felt tired and sore but I knew if I dug in I’d feel better. The course has sparse support at this mileage point as it’s difficult to access other than by foot or bike and wondered if that had an effect on me too. I managed to pick my pace up for the last 4 miles just as the support starting building up again. I wasn’t letting the sub 4 hour marathon elude me. I knew the good for age time (3:50) was out of reach but Sub 4 Hours wasn’t. The noise was incredible from the crowds on the final leg which gave me a real boost. Manchester didn’t disappoint and I finished in 3:57:19. Not quite a good for age time but I’m really delighted! London next year, anyone fancy it?

 

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Renfrewshire AAA Road Race Champs

With the first phase of my training towards this year’s London Marathon being focused on consolidating speed over shorter distances, this morning’s 5Mile Renfrewshire Champs has been a target in my diary from the outset. Recent sessions have been going well and the consistency of my training since January meant that I felt pretty confident lacing up my flats this morning.

We were greeted by exceptional conditions upon arrival in Greenock and the smell of coffee and home baking at race registration provided ample motivation to get round the course at lightning pace. The Harriers were missing a few notable faces due to the previous days’ Master’s XC, however there were still plenty of saltires huddled around the start line and we knew that there were potential team prizes up for grabs.

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As the starter pistol fired, the athletes burst into life and the narrow start created a fantastic atmosphere as people jostled for position in the early stages. I knew that I wanted to get tucked into a group early on in the race – the exposed middle section along the esplanade was in the back of my mind – and so I found myself in the middle of the chasing pack and ticking along at a pace that felt pretty comfortable.

As we left the park and made our way onto the promenade we had formed a clear group of half a dozen runners and were chasing a lead group of similar size. I was feeling great but decided that patience was the key and so stuck in behind the leaders of the group rather than trying to catch the leaders. On the approach to the half way point we closed the gap on a couple of runners who had dropped off the back of the lead group and, as we turned to head back to the park, we started to catch a few more.

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I had no idea of my position as we re-entered the park but I was feeling great and realised that we were into the final mile. I knew that a few rivals were close behind me and didn’t fancy leaving things too late so I put my foot down and decided to kick for home. It was half way through the mile that I realised I was catching a couple of runners whom I recognised as being fantastic athletes. As I closed the gap, a small collection of Bella Supporters gave me a cheer and indicated that the guys in front were in 3rd and 4th position. These were runners who I have never been able to compete with in the past and as I saw them getting closer I realised that I would not necessarily get many chances to finish ahead of them. I gritted my teeth and slipped past the pair of them with about 500metres to go. Terrified to look behind me, I realised that it was all or nothing and so worked into a sprint (or as close to it as I could muster!). I crossed the finish line in 3rd place and was over the moon at the prospect of my first individual medal in a championship event. I was then informed that the race winner was not from a Renfrewshire club and so was not eligible for a prize in the championship – meaning that I would be awarded a silver medal! On top of this, Bella took the team silver prize in the men’s race and several medals in the ladies race also!

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This was a massive result for me and is a medal that I am incredibly proud of. I can’t wait to see what the next few months bring!

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The Runbetweeners Review 2017

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Wow that was faster than a quick spin around parkrun – 2017, over in a flash. Another good year for both of us both on and off the road with pbs, great races, running abroad and new friends made. So before we start setting out goals at the beginning of a new year it’s that Oscar-esque moment that races up and down the land have been waiting for: the now annual Runbetweeners pick of the best races around in 2017.

 

Prior to the glittery prizes being handed out (there are none before anyone contacts us) we both agree that this years major highlight has been the real establishment of The Runbetweeners running group in the south side of Glasgow – to such an extent that we’ve now both been ‘spotted’ on at least two occasions. In true Ant and Dec fashion though it’s clear some of you are still not sure which one’s The Boy and which one is Kenny. The best ‘spot’ was definitely as we cheered on the Stirling Marathon and two runners after a few double takes gave us a shout of ‘it’s definitely them. It’s The Runbetweeners. The most handsome runners in the south side of Glasgow’. We might have added the ‘most handsome’ bit in case the shouter is reading this 🙂

 

Anyway back to the group, we are delighted that our numbers continue to grow and many of our members are taking on new and exciting personal challenges. We have had great times together with monthly trips to taste some of the best cakes the central belt has to offer, often with a sideshow of a parkrun or charity 5k.

 

Unbelievably, we were shortlisted for JogScotland Group of the Year towards the end of 2017. We had a great night at the Scottish Athletics Awards with an impressive 30 members in attendance and although we did not win the main prize it was a huge honour to even be considered and to rub shoulders with the great and the good including Callum Hawkins, Laura Muir and Sammi Kinghorn.

 

This blog though is about the races we most enjoyed in 2017 and ones we’d encourage you to look out for in 2018. Hope you enjoy and let us know if you agree or have your own favourites.

 

10. Sheffield Hallam parkrun

JA: I returned to Sheffield Hallam parkrun at the start of 2017 and was chuffed to be lining up alongside the incredible Jess Ennis! The run was a fun and fast one and the atmosphere was fantastic. It was also nice to have a chat with Paul Sinton-Hewitt himself at the end of the run and to discuss the experiences that I have had as part of the team at Rouken Glen Junior parkrun

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/running-with-an-olympic-legend/

 

9.  The Jimmy Irvine

KT: A great run for both of us. I loved the undulating, lapped course around Bellahouston Park. This one makes the Top 10 for me as I am convinced it’s one of my best ever race performances. A day when I felt good, ran hard and secured a massive pb.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/the-jimmy-irvine-10k/

 

8. Tom Scott 10 Miler

KT: This was my first shot at the 10 mile distance and another cracking day when everything just seemed to click. I felt strong throughout and was able to reel in a number of runners on the small inclines in the second half of the route. This was a key race in my build up to London and showed I was coming out of winter training in good shape for the new season. A real confidence builder.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/tom-scott-road-race-10-miler/

 

7. Cowal Hill Race

KT: This is a proper race. A real traditional no-frills event. Cheap to enter with a small field of runners it is a tough uphill slog followed by a sprint to the finish. With beers and food on tap and free entry to The Cowal Games at the end this one has everything you would want. I love going back to Dunoon to catch up with the guys in the Hill Runners and was pleased to finish so high up the field.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/08/26/cowal-hill-race/

 

6. Moira’s Run

JA/KT: This was a great day out with The Runbetweeners and a brilliantly appropriate race for our club. The sun always shines on Moira’s run with the race itself taking second place to the wonderfully happy atmosphere that engulfs the park. Great to see so many familiar faces and a brilliant effort by all of The Runbetweeners on a very tough course.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/11/16/moiras-run-5k/

 

5. Bellahouston Harriers Time Trial

JA: The Harriers Time Trials this year were all fantastic and the July event was a particular favourite of mine this year. The cheap entry cost, enthusiastic turnout and fantastic post-run soup always make this a good experience but this event was also my first time at dipping below 10minutes which had been a big barrier on the horizon for a while. Loved it!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/07/09/bellahouston-harriers-2m-time-trial/

 

4. Run Mhor Half Marathon

KT: I loved the scenery, the climbs and the race with this one being a battle to hold on to position from the start for me. With the right amount of road, trail and challenge this suited me to a tea. I was pleased to run so quickly on a very tough course following a reasonable break after the London Marathon. The food and drink at the end didn’t interest me in the slightest or have any bearing on my decision to rank this one so highly 🙂

JA: As Kenny has mentioned, the stunning location of this run made it a fantastic experience and the climb at the end, whilst horrific during the running, led to a particularly incredible view. Also, any race that ends with a free pint and a fish and chips van is going to be good with me!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/06/25/run-mhor-2017-a-top-ten-route/

 

3. The Kyles 10 Miles

KT: Another race that seems to be blessed with guaranteed sunshine. This has become a must do event for our calendar for the last few years. I was again pleased with my run and a big course pb. Pleased to see so many familiar faces making the journey and hopefully more will make the trip this year.

JA: This was our third trip to the event and we have had a hat-trick of glorious weather. This was a big PB for the both of us and it was great to sit out in the sun after the race and enjoy a beer and a burger with a group of good pals.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/kyles-10-miles-round-3/

 

2. The Coigach Half Marathon

KT: About as perfect an event as I could imagine making the 5 hour journey totally worth it. Incredible scenery, fantastic hospitality, a challenging route and brilliant post-race catering. If The Boy had made the journey this would definitely have been our race of the year. As it is it’s ranked as our highest place race in Scotland for 2017.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/10/20/coigach-half-marathon/

 

1. London Marathon / Berlin Marathon

KT: I’ve never felt so comfortable in any race and knew I was on for a big pb at London this year. This is just a special race. The emotion, the support, the sights and the noise are overwhelming at times. I focused on enjoying the experience this time around after learning harsh lessons and having my butt kicked in previous marathons and managed a near 20 minute pb with plenty left in the tank for my next visit to the big smoke.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/tips-for-first-time-marathoners-the-london-marathon-2017/

 

JA: The entire build up to this event was a fantastic experience and I loved having good mates (and a wife!) to prepare with in the weeks prior to the event. The weekend away was awesome and the race went perfectly to plan. Vicki and I both ran nice PBs and it was great to celebrate the run with our pals afterwards in Berlin.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/a-very-late-summary-of-my-final-preparations-for-the-berlin-marathon/

 

 

Festive Running!

I’ve always loved Christmas. Falling asleep on the sofa in a cheap paper hat with a belly full of food and a familiar film in front of me whilst surrounded by family and friends has always been a highlight. In recent years however, I have discovered another thing which Christmas manages to do better than any other time of year. Running. Don’t get me wrong, I love a run any day of the year (and Strava has just informed me that last year I ran on most of them!) but Christmas running beats the lot of them and this year was particularly enjoyable – with a large portion of the credit going to parkrun…

In the spirit of giving, Vicki and I kicked off our running festivities by volunteering at Duthie Park Junior parkrun. Having been a member of the core team at Rouken Glen junior parkrun for the last year or so, I was intrigued to experience this relatively new event in Aberdeen. I was hoping to get a long run in so set the alarm for 7 and made my way to Duthie Park via the River Dee and Aberdeen Beach. Having enjoyed several years as a member of the Aberdeen University Boat Club, the run along the river was particularly enjoyable as I was able to reminisce of the icy mornings spent rowing up and down the river (often with a horrific hangover) and the eventful (!) socials held in the boathouse on the riverbank! I met Vicki at the park and we grabbed our Hi-Viz vests from the enthusiastic team of Teletubbies (At this point I realised I had forgotten my ‘festive fancy dress). Vicki’s younger cousin was making his parkrun debut at this event and it was great to see the enjoyment that the kids were getting from the event – it definitely gave the festive spirit a kick start!

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Christmas day was our turn to run and so we made our way to Hazelhead parkrun. This was a new parkrun for me and I was intrigued by the unusual profile of the route – 2.5km of climbing before turning around and enjoying a 2.5km downhill section through the woods. Vicki and I arrived nice and early but it became clear as we made our way to the start that Vicki’s injury was not going to play ball and so she decided it would be best to sit this one out. The atmosphere at the event was fantastic and the turnout was impressive. It was great to bump into Kyle Greig – an old friend from Uni – who has gone on to achieve some phenomenal things with his running since the days of our Tuesday night Social Run to the pub! I had a quick catch up with Kyle and then the Run Director led us all in a parkrun themed sing-a-long before starting the run. I enjoyed taking this one easy and took in the scenery as we made our way through the woodland. I would love to come back and have a shot at running this one fast as the long downhill second half would almost certainly lead to a nice negative split! After the run it was time to head home to make a start on food and presents – perfect!

After a couple of days running through the fields of Aberdeenshire it was time to fly to London and enjoy my second ‘new’ parkrun of the week. On New Year’s Eve I awoke early to make my way to Roundshaw Downs parkrun. I decided to make this part of my long run for the week and so enjoyed an easy 5.5M jog to and from the event to take my distance for the day up to 14M. The run itself was great and consisted of a couple of flat, muddy laps around the downs. The event was a fairly small one but as always the atmosphere was fantastic and I had a nice chat with the Run Director at the end.

New Year’s Day arrived and it was time for another parkrun! This time I was heading to Bushy park – the home of parkrun – with a big chunk of the family. We made our way to join the 1000 odd runners at the event and enjoyed the buzz that can only be generated by such a large event. This was my second trip to Bushy parkrun and I loved it just as much as I did the first time around. The route is nice and flat and the scenery is fantastic. Once again, I was surprised by the proximity of the deer and stags that graze in the park and enjoyed taking my foot off the gas to appreciate the view. After the run it was great to hear that the rest of the family had loved it too and we enjoyed our coffees in the park before heading home for another day of eating and napping on the sofa.

So there we have it! One week with four very different (free!) running events all over the festive period! I could have been greedy and gone for the Hogmanay double but maybe I’ll save that for next year…

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.

 

 

 

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/