8Moira’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.

 

 

 

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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/

Coigach Half Marathon

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A Proper Course Map

 

After several aborted attempts we excitedly made the journey north last weekend for the 2017 Coigach Half Marathon, the 6th running of the race. Starting in the village of Achiltibue, by Ullapool, the epic drive started after work on the Friday via Inverness before completing the 5 hour road trip on the morning of the race.

 

Leaving Ullapool it became obvious why our friend Catherine sold this as a must do race. The mountains grow in stature and loom over the single track road which leads towards Achiltibuie with each passing mile and as you near the coast you are met with stunning views over the Summer Isles. This was our first visit to this part of Scotland and without doubt the landscape provided a stunning backdrop for a race. Off to a good start.

 

Registration was friendly and professional showing again that the level of service you get at local runs is usually far superior to mega city events. Another bonus was receiving change from my £15, a very fairly priced event.

 

After checking in with friends in the neighbouring village of Achnahaird and settling in to our digs for the weekend we headed back to the start line. As the map shows this is a looped course that hugs the coastline before heading inland and back towards the start area. As promised there was also some decent elevation (this would be greater than either Arran or Run Mhor, two tough courses I’d attempted earlier in the year). This was about as much as I knew about the route so I set about trying to get some local knowledge prior to the start of the race.

 

In the 90 minutes after arriving at registration Catherine and her family had told me about the two big climbs on the route (the one I could see and the bigger one I couldn’t), the volunteers at check in had told me to save something for the last few ‘tough’ miles and I’d also learned the finish was not downhill to the community hall but up a pretty steep gravel path to the school playing field. And also the start line was 1km out of town 🙂

 

Despite all this I knew that the course played to my strengths on the uphill with a reasonable amount of elevation giving me the opportunity to hold on to some faster opponents. The route was also remeasured and would be shorter this time around meaning I’d already saved approximately 400 metres on last year’s entrants.

 

After waiting on ‘Uncle Angus’ to park the bus and jog back to the start line the ladies were called to the front of the field of 49 runners – good to see manners are alive and kicking. Race instructions were on the wry side – right up my street. And then we were off….

 

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Feeling Good At the Start of the Course – Photo Credit Anne McGee

 

The first couple of miles descend to sea level and with the wind at your back it is difficult not to go off too fast. In fact after a few hundred metres I found myself in unknown territory as I briefly led the field. Quickly realising how dangerous this would be I moved behind the lead pack of 4 runners who were clocking along at a decent pace. I decided at this point with local knowledge fresh in my mind to slow down a little in advance of the hills, wind and tough final few miles and watched the leaders gradually open up a gap on me. I’d decided to target as close to a 1:30 half as possible given the undulation so was conscious of bagging some time on the faster downhill miles without going crazy. Not always an easy balance.

 

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By the time we reached the foot of the first climb at the 5k mark I was totally isolated but enjoying the views out over the Summer Isles. Gritting my teeth the climb was tough as the wind now moved across the route rather than at our backs but with the top generally in sight most of the way it was a case of getting the job done. Rounding the first corner the route levels off briefly allowing runners to refocus energies on the scenery and dodging the sheep lazily meandering their way across the track. Around this time I closed the distance quickly and passed the runner in 4th place, noting that the field ahead has stretched with the 3 runners now well spaced out.

 

A long and enjoyable downhill section follows the first big climb. Checking my watch I was well on for 1:30 and was comfortably beating my pb pace from the Glasgow Half on these easier miles. Feeling good I tried to open up a bit of a gap on the runners behind by pushing hard through this section.

 

 

Turning inland around the 6 mile marker the second, and biggest, of the climbs stretches out before you with an encouraging cry from the marshal, ‘there will be water at the top… if it’s not blown away!’. The wall of wind at this point was fierce as you meet it head on for the duration of the ascent. A bad combination in anyone’s books. Focusing on the runner ahead I worked hard in the climb and reached the top looking reasonably fresh (see picture above) having moved into third place. Sensibly the volunteers at the water station had moved beyond the hill to a sheltered section of the route.

 

Potentially the best bit of the course the profile is downhill for the next couple of miles as the road heads towards Achnahaird where Lisa and I were staying for the weekend. Lochs and mountains enclose you and provide respite from the wind making for enjoyable running. With all eyes on the runner in second place it was in hindsight a bonus that Natalie Stevenson of Fusion Triathlon Club came blazing back at me on the downhill section as we were able to work together through this section. This caused me to run these miles faster than I would have on my own. I was racing rather than pacing my own race.

 

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Beating the Speed Trap on the Downhill

 

With the support crew out in force at the bottom of the hill I passed through Achnahaird in good time and feeling fit. Nothing though was going to prepare us for the section between Achnahaird and Achiltibuie where the relatively gentle climb was exacerbated by the worst head winds of the day. Natalie and I passed the runner in second place between mile 10 and 11 but the pace dropped dramatically on this section as the combination of physical and mental fatigue took their toll.

 

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Stretching ahead and giving myself a bit of a gap in second place it took all my efforts to keep going as you can tell from my very bad poker face in the picture above. With the balls of my feet burning badly again in my new shoes it was very much a case of ticking off each step and talking myself through to the end after being a tad ambitious in the middle section of the course. Mental note – remember all local knowledge in future races as the final miles definitely required something in reserve.

 

Turning in to the final mile and a half of the course and heading back (up) through Achiltibuie the relatively gradual incline felt a million times harder that the first climb or second ‘big’ climb earlier in the route. It was now a case of getting to the end and trying to hold on to second position.

 

Rounding the final corner at the 13 mile marker the last thing I wanted to see was a gravel track headed steeply uphill to the finish line and it was at pretty much walking pace that I completed the course. I was absolutely delighted though to finish on the podium and in second place on a tough course. My time of 1:25:39 was within a minute of my pb which on this route was a real step forward given that I didn’t manage to break 1:30:00 at Arran on a course with 70 metres less elevation.

 

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All in this was another top race and a definite contender for the most scenic route I’ve run. It would definitely be on the list for an annual visit. I absolutely loved everything about the route and it must rank as one of Scotland’s most friendly races. The final ace in the pack was a great post-race buffet in the Community Hall. A top event this run was small, friendly, scenic and challenging in just the right measures.

 

These are the days when you need to be really grateful that I’m able to be out there in such amazing places. For me this was about as close as it gets; the day when I managed to hit a rich vein of form on a course well suited to my strengths in a remarkable part of our beautiful country.

 

Well done and thanks as always to the race organisers and everyone who gave up their time on the day to help out including Anne McGee who uploaded some of the photos (copyright) to the events page and is raising money for the Highland Hospice.

 

Strava geeks check out my race performance below:

https://www.strava.com/activities/1234998509/overview

Kyles 10 Miles – Round 3

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The Scottish Wife Carrying World Championship Squad in Training

 

Our pick for race of the year 2016, there was never any doubt that The Boy and I would be in Tighnabruaich yesterday for the annual Kyles 10 Miles Road Race. With the biggest every entry it was great to see so many familiar faces toeing the start line as well as many of our friends taking on this iconic race for the first time. Importantly though the race remained small enough to retain the intimate community vibe which has made it such a popular and well regarded event.

 

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The Sun Always Shines on the Kyles 10 Miles

 

There was a good turnout from both Bellahouston Harriers and Dunoon Hill Runners  this year meaning I was in for a no-win scenario plumping for a colour clashing combo of Harriers vest and Hill Runners buff after donning the local vest. Whilst my usual rule is ‘when in Argyll or on a hill don the Hill Runners vest’ I had travelled down from Glasgow with my Harriers team mates and wasn’t even too sure if my Dunoon vest had made it through the laundry cycle after the Cowal Hill Race.

 

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I wish I could just follow The Boys lead and not worry about my racing attire

 

Most pleasingly though for The Boy and I was the strong turnout from our Monday night running group. For some this was their longest race to date and they did brilliantly on a tough, but ultimately rewarding, route.

 

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Overview of the Route

 

On to the race itself I’ve promised The Boy I will keep it brief (for a fuller course overview see previous posts). So in a sentence this is a looped route with 6 hilly miles followed by four reasonably flat miles on open country roads. And if the editor had his way that would be it. Perhaps he’s keen to keep this one close to his chest, I wonder why?

 

If I really have to keep it short and you’re going to stop reading here all I will say is this is a race that you should seriously consider doing at least once.

 

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Just the right amount of elevation to test the legs 🙂 on the official scale of bumpy to mountainous

 

For those who want a little bit more keep reading…

 

The route is situated in one of the most incredibly scenic parts of the now Rough Guide awarded most beautiful country in the world. There are too many vistas to mention but the top views on the route include a short sideways glimpse of Ostel Bay, one of Argyll’s hidden gems, and jaw dropping panoramas over the Isle of Arran. With an early September date in the race calendar it provides a good test before Autumn Marathons and 1/2s and there’s more than a decent chance of good weather – the two good days in May and then again in September after all are what we Scots refer to as summer.

 

 

As well as the views the organisers manage to maintain a level of personal service alongside a professional race day experience that rivals the best out there. This was evident again despite a larger entry this year. This includes contact in advance with the organisers through to on the day assistance.  Throw in an incredibly friendly welcome from marshals, locals and interested passers by and you’ve got the key ingredients for our kind of race. The true test of a race as everyone knows though is in the post race refuelling options and here the Kyles 10 Miles triumphs with refreshments on tap, home baking and burgers cooking on the BBQ within metres of the finish line.

 

 

This year’s race went well overall with The Boy and I both recording course best times and bookending the top 10 much to our delight. It was great to see both Harriers / Hill Runners and friends of the Runbetweeners running strong on a tough route. Interestingly if my school running club had entered as a team we’d have been in with a good shout of a team prize.

 

Personally I felt strong over the hills but struggled to pick it up on the flat final 4 miles, a now familiar tale. After reaching the top of the shinty / golf course hill at the 1st mile marker I worked with ‘man in red running top’ to close the gap on the ever consistently fast Iain Morrison and a runner from Garscube Harriers. Closing the gap over the next two miles ‘man in red running top’ and I continued to climb and descend at a good pace over the outward section of the loop. Having someone to battle against definitely contributed to a personal best performance for me but on the final descent towards Carry Farm I struggled to maintain the downhill pace, gradually losing contact with ‘man in red running top’. This left me hopelessly adrift and running alone for the final few miles. Digging deep I was pleased to see later that I managed to maintain a sub 20 min 5k pace over the last section of the route when it felt like I was wading in treacle. The last mile was brutal with my legs feeling heavier with each passing step but I was delighted to cross the line in a little over 66 minutes.

 

The Boy was already gearing up for a two mile cool down by the time I finished and looks in great shape ahead of his tilt at the Berlin Marathon in two weeks. Congratulations to him for the win with a 40 second improvement on last year’s effort and for photo of the day.

 

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Most impressive yesterday though were the performances by The Runbetweeners who have caught the running bug badly. Despite the odd blister and tired legs everyone loved the route and it was great to see everyone coming home with giant smiles across their faces. It really was a fantastic achievement by each of them. A good warm up for tomorrow nights time trial 😉

 

 

As always thanks to the race organisers and marshals who give so tirelessly of their own time. It is much appreciated.

 

Race sträva – https://www.strava.com/activities/1176057742/overview 

 

Photo credits:

Claire Lamont

Alan G Forsyth Photography (snapped by Pam)

Paul Paterson

Graves parkrun – A little bit of tourism!

With Kenny off exploring Japan this weekend, I decided to do a little tourism of my own. Vicki and I made our way down to Sheffield to visit some family and enjoy a couple of days of drinking coffee and eating cake in a variety of cafes and tearooms. Throw in a parkrun and you have all the ingredients of a pretty successful mini-break!

Our initial plan had been to re-visit Sheffield Hallam parkrun as this is very close to where we would be staying. We were surprised however to discover that the event was cancelled this weekend due to a local festival taking place within Endcliffe Park and so we set our sights on Graves parkrun – a new event for us and an exciting (though hilly!) prospect.

Vicki and I were both planning to squeeze a few extra miles into our Saturday morning (Vicki was hoping to make this her long run while I was hoping for half a dozen easy miles before my long run tomorrow!) and so we set the alarm and Vicki set off solo at 7:30 while I grabbed myself a welcome cup of coffee and curled back under the duvet for an extra half hour in bed. As the clock struck 8 I popped out the front door and joined Vicki for the short, yet mountainous, run across town to Graves Park. We arrived at the park with about 15minutes to spare and my brother Tom joined us for the pre-run briefing before we took our places on the start line. The event was fairly busy, potentially due to the event cancellation at Hallam parkrun, and the friendly, welcoming atmosphere that seems to be an ever-present aspect of the parkrun experience was in full flow. After a few words of advice and encouragement we were off.

My plan was to run 6 miles at approximately 7minute miling and so I took up a position which was fairly close to the front without being too near to the sharp end – I did not want to get carried away in a battle against someone which could potentially ruin my plan for the session.

The run begins with a long sweeping downhill section through a park with stunning views out over the surrounding countryside. It was fantastic to experience this without the pressure of racing and I enjoyed settling into a rhythm and taking it all in. A friendly shout from the marshal at the bottom of the hill directed us towards a narrow footpath through the farm and I found myself bounding along between fields full of slightly puzzled looking sheep. The pathway here was fairly narrow here but fortunately this was not a day when overtaking was a priority and I tucked in behind the runner in front of me who was keeping a nice steady pace. If I were returning to Graves in future and planning on racing this route, I would definitely make it a priority to go out hard and secure a place at the front before reaching this path as overtaking here would be near impossible.

After the narrow pathway things opened up again and we found ourselves snaking up through the fields and back out of the farm. We passed ponds and woodland before returning to the large open field in which we began. This meant a return up the hill, this time on grass, to the start line before he route retreated itself. Again, this hill is definitely one worth remembering if returning here for a fast race as it is a fair climb and the grass could be energy sapping underfoot. It is not a finish that I would like to be reaching neck and neck with a rival!

The second lap was very enjoyable as things had spread out a bit and I was happily plodding along in a steady rhythm, taking in the beautiful views of Graves Park and already thinking about the forthcoming breakfast of bacon and cream cheese bagels (an absolute belter of a post-run brekkie in my book). I crossed the finish line pretty much on the pace which I had planned and made me way back round the route to cheer on Vicki and Tom as they tackled the final hill. Barcodes were scanned, photos were taken and breakfast was organised. Tom and I jumped in the car home while Vicki ran back to squeeze in her final few miles down the epic hills which had been conquered earlier in the morning.

This was a a fantastic parkrun and definitely one worth experiencing if you find yourself in Sheffield. It is not as quick as the Hallam event but it is a beautiful park with plenty to see on the run. The hills are challenging without being nightmarish and the event is busy without being over-crowded. All in all, this was a very enjoyable morning of running – and the bagels were not bad either!

                            

Beating the Drum…better late than never!

Well this is a bit late as I managed to delete my first write-up. Here goes the second attempt:
Last Saturday our Runbetweeners JogScotland group made the trip across the city to visit Drumchapel parkrun. Fifteen members of the group (plus the two handsome leaders) would be running the route and Finola would step up as a Marshal for the event. Meeting outside Run4it in order to organise lifts gave Kenny the perfect opportunity to explain just how tough the hills of Drumchapel would be. Kenny had run the route before however I hadn’t yet had the privilege and this gave him the perfect opportunity to wind me up with tales of mountains to be scaled. I decided to take his stories with a generous pinch of salt – after all, I have fallen victim to Kenny’s jokes before!
When we arrived at Drumchapel it was clear that this was a very friendly event – the smaller numbers definitely give it a fantastic atmosphere of community and appreciation. Our group all looked fantastic in their new Brooks running t-shirts and we were made to feel very welcome – even getting a special mention from Brian the Run Director! Chris was also pleased to get a shout for completing his 100th parkrun and the invitation of post-run cake was widely appreciated! 


After a short pre-run brief we were off. The route begins with a fairly sharp downhill path that twists and turns out of the woods. As I was filming the event on my GoPro, arm pinned to my side in order to maintain a steady shot, it was pretty tricky maintaining my balance on this winding section but I just about kept my footing! The downhill start serves as a nice introduction before the inevitable levelling out. The route then undulates slightly for a few hundred yards before the first real climb. This short-lived ascent is soon conquered however and then another nice downhill into the woods is on the cards. At this point in the run I concluded that the hills here ‘aren’t too bad actually’. 

Then we hit the big climb.

This was a much more notable ascent and it was at this point that I heard a familiar voice approaching from behind me. Kenny had caught up and we decided to run the remainder of the route together (I think he just wanted to get in the video!). Once we had reached the summit, things levelled out and made their way back to the start for the end of lap one.

Repeat.

Repeat again.


By the third lap the hills were taking their toll and I can see now why Drumchapel has a reputation as a tough course. The woodland location and trail underfoot however make this a picturesque and enjoyable run. The marshalls were fantastic (especially Finola obviously!) and the event was a nice change from the usual Glasgow parkruns that we find ourselves doing.


Post- run, the runners headed off to the cafe for well deserved coffee and cake while Kenny and I had to disappear to the Emirates for some JogScotland/SAMH Mental Health Awareness training. The Runbetweeners all did fantastically well on the challenging course and reported back that they’d enjoyed the change of scenery. I am sure many will be back to take on the hills again.

Special thanks to the volunteers at Drumchapel for putting on such a fantastic event and for making us all feel so welcome. We will definitely be recommending people head over and pay you a visit!

Bellahouston Harriers 2M Time Trial

2 Miles is not a distance which we get the opportunity to race over very often. It is short enough that it is going to hurt from the gun and long enough to give you time to think about the pain. However the Bellahouston Harriers 2 Mile Time Trials always manage to attract a decent crowd and the atmosphere is consistently electric. This month’s edition was no different. At just two pound entry (with post-race soup included in the fee!) this has to be one of the cheapest running events on the calendar and the fact that it can all be over (relatively) quickly makes it an ideal opportunity to test your fitness once a month over the summer.

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After a very social warm-up lap, we made our way, slightly nervously, to the start line at the entrance to Cartha. Tom didn’t hold us there for too long however and after a few words of thanks and last minute instructions we were off.

The first half of the route follows a gradual downhill towards Lochinch and it was during this speedy section that the first thoughts of doubt crept into my head. The nature of the distance means that a slow start can be very hard to recover from and the slight descent encourages a fast start. I found myself, as always, wondering whether I had in fact gone off with a slightly too much enthusiasm. The run was missing a couple of notable Harriers who normally give me a good target and so I found myself striding solo towards the White House. I checked my pace slightly and focused on maintaining an efficient form and trying to relax, knowing that the downhill section would not last forever.

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As I turned the bend at Pollok House and began the ascent, I felt better than I remember feeling in previous attempts. It was during the climb however that the fear started to creep back in – could I really hold this pace up the hill which never seems to end? I broke the hill up into sections in my head and focused on these smaller targets, allowing myself the idea that I would reconsider my pace after the next goal had been surpassed. This seemed to do the trick and I managed to crest the hill without having to make too great a sacrifice in pace.

As I hit the sharp bend onto the final downhill section of the route I felt great and seemed to pick up a second wind from somewhere. The slightly muddy surface underfoot however meant that I had to check my stride a touch as I bounded down the pathway and this seemed to provide another boost of much needed adrenaline as I panicked that I was going to have thrown away my chances of beating my previous time. Emerging from the path with 400m to go I kicked on and the encouragement of several Harriers at this point was incredible. The final section is always longer than you think it is going to be and I was grateful for another shout of encouragement from Robbie Ferguson as I re-entered Cartha for the final twisting metres.

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I crossed the line feeling strong but empty, satisfied that I had given everything in the final stages of the race. I was unable to really think about anything else going on at this stage and so did a bit of a double-take when Tony announced my time for me. 9 minutes and 59 seconds. A nice personal best and my first ever sub-10 minute performance. It was great to see Stuart and Darren both sprinting over the line shortly afterwards, each producing their own PB performances.

It was a night of many stand-out performances with Kenny also securing himself a big PB and several of the Runbetweeners making their debut over the distance. The event is a small one, but the atmosphere is always fantastic and there is a lot to be said for a short, fast race with friends followed by a hot cup of soup and a crusty roll. It is a great example of what makes Bella Harriers such a brilliant club to be part of.

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If you fancy joining us for the next one, it will take place on 10th August and is open to everyone. Thanks to Ann, Tony, and Stuart for the photographs.

The Isle of Arran Half Marathon – Boats, Trains and Automobiles

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Team Bella Before The Race

Just back from another enjoyable day trip, this time to the Isle of Arran Half Marathon. Another great local event which ticked a number of runbetweener requirements; reachable as a day trip, scenic and a relatively small field. Safe to say the Isle of Arran Half Marathon is another fine addition to the list of road races on our great tour of Scottish Classics.

An early start was required for this one as we (minus The Boy) caught the 8-40am train from Glasgow Central. Method of transport number 1 gave plenty time to catch up with other runners. Ross, the returner and experienced Arran runner assured us this would be undulating but flatter than Run Mhor last week putting my mind at ease. The boat crossing, method of transport number 2, passed smoothly as we waited for the canteen queue to die down before ploughing into the breakfast rolls ignoring Brian’s no food 3 hours before a run rule.

Upon race entry runners have the option of bundling coach travel to the start line at Blackwaterfoot and when we disembarked at Brodick we were efficiently directed to our awaiting coach – method of transport number 3. Slowly ascending out of Brodick it was clear that undulating would be the theme of the day as we quickly crossed the String Road to the east coast of the island.

Registration at the finish line gave runners the chance to scope out the final 200m lapped section of the course around the grassy field. After a short pre-race welcome and briefing we were off, this time by my preferred mode of travel; foot – method of transport number 4.

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Registration / Start / Finish Area

I’ll sum up this race pretty quickly as it didn’t go particularly well for me personally. My race pretty much split into 3 parts. A Trilogy so to speak…

Episode 1 – Flying (almost gave me the excuse to call the article planes, trains and automobiles)

The first few miles are predominantly uphill. This occurs at a time in the race when everyone is pumped with adrenaline and running too fast. You would think I’d learn by now but no I went off at sub 1-30 pace on the inclines draining the energy stores early doors. This was going to come back and bite me big time in future episodes. Despite this I was feeling good and mile 4 provides a good bit of downhill into Machrie where the cross winds coming off the sea hit you for the first time. I was hitting 6-22 per minute miling and things felt pretty good. I was in a pack of 3 with two runners from Garscube Harriers and we had built up a reasonable gap on the runners behind.

Episode 2: Driving with a Flat

Turning at the hairpin out of Machrie things started to fall apart pretty badly as I was dropped by the two other runners . First by a few metres and then by a good 15 seconds over each of the next few miles. Thinking back this was the time I needed to dig in but my legs were tired from my exertions at Run Mhor the previous week and just as I started to slow Team Garscube seemed to move up a gear. Looking back at my Strava profile this is the longest and steepest incline in the route and although it feels reasonably gentle while running it was clearly taking its toll as I started to suffer badly.

I was hoping for a first legitimate sub 1-30 and this was throwing a spanner in the works despite building up a 60 second buffer in the first 4 miles. Apparently there was some downhill on this section but my legs still wouldn’t believe you if you told them. The sound of my flat footed trainers slapping off the tarmac confirmed what I knew… I was gubbed and struggling to keep my legs turning over. Exiting Episode 2 on to the String Road I was hoping for a gentle downhill home straight back to Blackwaterfoot with a sub 1-30 still a possibility.

Episode 3: Towing a Caravan

Unfortunately for me on the day the hills kept coming and they all felt like mountains by this stage of the race. Devoid of energy my mind started giving in and I slowed down badly on miles 10 and 11 which rolled back towards Shiskine. Team Garscube were now small dots in the distance and I was just hanging on. Despite a decent amount of descent into the finish I just couldn’t get going again until the home straight missing out on my sub 1-30 target by 9 seconds on the official results.

Collapsing in a heap I was surprised to have run it so close as I had given up the chase at the start of episode 3. However I had been hoping to be comfortably under the 1-30 mark so was a bit disappointed with my run. As usual my mood was perked up pretty quickly by a goody bag containing home made rolls and biscuits. A real nice touch and it was great to hear Brian who I had travelled with had finished in 10th spot with a huge pb. Coming 2nd in the V60 category he beat all of the V50s too. An incredible and inspiring effort. Finding out Team Garscube had put two minutes on me showed me what I think I am capable of on a flat course. 15th place overall so not too bad.

It was great then to turn my attentions to spectating as I watched the rest of the guys from Rouken Glen Juniors and Bellahouston Harriers come in. We then headed for a couple of refreshments in the local hotel before catching the bus back to Brodick. After a good feed on the ferry home we managed to cadge a lift home to the southside – method of transport number 5 by my count – arriving knackered and stiff after a hard run.

As always thanks to the marshals and race organisers. This was a really well organised event with a community feel. Small touches like the rolls in the goody bags complimented traditional aspects like the lack of chipped timing giving this race an authentic feel which is sadly lacking from the mega-city events where you feel more like a number than a participant.

A tough race that I am glad I did – maybe next time I won’t do another hard race quite so close.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1064661436/overview