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.



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 – 


Photo credits:

Claire Lamont

Alan G Forsyth Photography (snapped by Pam)

Paul Paterson

Cowal Hill Race

Just in the door from another brilliant pilgrimage home for the Cowal Games held annually in Dunoon on the last weekend of August. A welcome addition in the last few years has been a hill race up The Camel’s Hump and this was the main reason for heading down this time around. This event definitely fits the criteria of great value local races within easy reach of Glasgow with a stunning backdrop in terms of both scenery and the Highland Games.


After marshalling last year I was ready to toe the line again this morning hoping to improve on previous performances where I’ve either blown up after hitting the hill too hard or not attacked the downhill with enough aggression.


The 6km route starts outside the newly refurbished Burgh Hall on Dunoon’s main street. After a course and safety briefing we were off. A fast flat start ends quickly as within 50 metres the route turns left up John Street where you are faced with a steep but relatively short climb which really gets the heart rate going.


The chart below shows this to be the case and while I’ve been wearing my heart rate strap again in recent weeks I really need to read up more on the benefits of HR training and get a better understanding of what each effort means and feels like on the context of different sessions and races.


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Expensive Technology Confirming That I Was Working Hard


Anyway back to the race. The route levels off as you make your way up John Street until you enter the trail turning quickly into a foresty track. This is a trail I know well from previous efforts on the race, training sessions with Dunoon Hill Runners and boyhood adventures. It’s basically all uphill from here until the top.


The first few hundred metres are hellish and at the back of my head I knew if I could get to the first gate I could relax on the more gentle climb to the top of the hill. At this stage, around 1km into the race, I was sitting in around 10th place and thankfully feeling in good shape. Passing the gate I started to pass a few runners although the lead group were stretching their lead.


The route, still climbing, disappears into the forest above Dunoon with the sound of the pipes filling the air from the stadium below. This is another tough little section as although most of climb is done and the elevation is kinder the terrain underfoot becomes more scree like making it difficult to maintain a regular cadence.


It was great to see Morven (although I had heard her long before) at the Phone Mast, pretty much the highest spot on the route. Dropping down in to a break in the wood the underfoot conditions change for a third time and the effects of the previous week’s weather were immediately obvious. Thankfully I managed to stay on my feet this year putting to bed the ghost of 2015 as this marked the spot where I slipped and fell hard in my last go at the race.


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Still Looking Far Too Happy – Thanks to Morven for This Snap


At the end of the grassy break in the forest a short, but steep, climb leads to the top of the Camel’s Hump where the view of The Firth of Clyde and The Holy Loch opens up. It’s pretty much all down hill from here with the first 500 metres on open hillside with plenty obstacles and loose boulders giving a short technical / fell aspect to the race. With conditions underfoot slippy and the heart of a mouse I struggled to keep the brakes off, taking my time to navigate the worst of the conditions. More downhill practice is definitely needed but I was glad I had the extra grip on my trail shoes this time around. Exiting the wood I sadly passed one of the early pacesetters holding his wrist after what I assume was a slip on this tricky section.


The route meanders down a forestry road over the next kilometre where it joins the High Road headed back for Dunoon and the finish line. The runner behind was closing in on me during this stage of the race and I was starting to feel heavy legged after the exertions of reaching the top. Exiting the forest road and getting back onto the hard tarmac gave me a chance to pick up the pace and use the road speed which makes up the bulk of my training.


Approaching Dunoon it was obvious any chances of passing the runner ahead were gone and it was just a case of making sure I wasn’t passed. After you reach the Grammar School it is just a short hop into the back gate at the stadium to the finish. Kudos to Iain (the race organiser) for getting the finish even closer to the refreshment tent this year. I was well spent having emptied the tank on the last km and a bit along the road and glad to see the finish. It was great to hear that Michael and Grant of the Hill Runners had picked up 1st and 3rd place respectively. Although still to be confirmed it seemed I’d managed to come home in 5th place, which I was pretty pleased with, finishing just behind a member of Manran – the headline act in the Ceilidh Tent later in the day.


Despite being a long way behind the top four this was a run where I felt good and worked hard giving another good indication that my running continues to improve. Importantly I feel like I am applying my experience a lot more effectively in races resulting in better performances. Naively experience wasn’t something I would have ever factored into a running race before becoming a runner myself. Rather I would have reckoned the fastest guy would always win. Now I know there’s a lot more to it.


It was great to watch the ever-growing army of Dunoon Hill Runners enter the stadium with a string of excellent performances including a first female for Lucie Noakes.


If you stumble across this blog because you are thinking of the Cowal Hill Race I would definitely recommend it. £5 includes entry to the stadium which is normally £18. With live music, family entertainment and a friendly atmosphere you’d struggle to get better value. Throw in a well organised hill race at less than 200m elevation and this is a great entry into the often daunting sport of hill running.race organiser


As always a huge thank you to the army of volunteers at registration and out on the course. Particularly to my mentor and old Geography Teacher Mr Livingstone who assumed his usual marshalling duties at the top of the Camel’s Hump. Well done to race organiser Iain Cairns for another great wee event. I look forward to 2018 whether I am marshalling or running.



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The Hill

The Runbetweeners Review 2016

At this time of year (well we’re a week late but most of you will be used to us being late by now) folks normally sit down, reflect on the previous 12 months and plan for the year ahead. It’s been a pretty phenomenal year running wise both on the track (and road, trail and hill) and off it with visits to old and new races near and far including some international excursions, the growth of our own running group and the launch of Rouken Glen Junior parkrun. A year of pb’s for both of us but what have been the highlights?

Between us we have raced a lot in the last year making it hard to narrow down the list to just 10. Therefore we went for 12 So here follows the countdown of our best 12 races from 2016.

Look out for next week’s blog post as we pick 12 races for 2017.


  1. Springburn parkrun (Kenny) – 14th of May 2016

This one makes the list as I managed to break 19 minutes for the 5k for the first time in a shiny new pb of 18-47 (gaining qualification to the elite sub 19 minute pack at the Harriers). Jack, in the middle of a heavy training schedule, decided to pace on this one allowing me to shadow him around the two loop course. Running in a small pack is something that I’ve learned this year can be extremely effective in pursuit of personal best times. An added bonus on this one was gate-crashing Springburn’s 2nd birthday celebrations meaning there was cake aplenty at the finish.

    11. Polaroid Clydebank 10k (Jack) – 19th May 2017.

The Polaroid series has been a staple of my running calendar for the last few years and in 2016 I approached it in a slightly different way. In the past I had entered all four events but this year I decided to enter just one and to target it for a personal best. I was over the moon to break 33minutes for the first time here and this made it a highlight of the year for me!

  1.  Brian Goodwin 10k (Kenny) – 17th of June 2017

Another pb for me on a brilliant evening in Pollok Park. After dipping under 40 minutes for the first time at Troon a few weeks before, I was delighted to take a good chunk off  my 10k time finishing in 39-30. An annual event, the race is organised by our club – Bellahouston Harriers. Knowing I was pacing the Men’s 10k a couple of days later, I decided to take this one easy but felt good from the start and again used similar runners to pull me along. Moral of the story: if you are feeling in the zone just go for it. A two lap course, the route takes in many of the flatter parts of the park and Haggs Road. To top it off entry includes a beer and a burger. What more could you ask for?

     9. parkrun du Bois de Bolougne. (Jack) – 26th March 2017.

What better way to spend my birthday that by striding around a Parisian park – they even let me cross the line first (there’s no winning in parkrun, apparently). This was my first international parkrun and was followed with cake and champagne under the Eiffel Tower. An awesome day and a birthday I will never forget!

  1. #Glasgowparkrunsmashup (Both) – 15th of April 2016

2016’s answer to the Clyde Trail this was the one that was meant to send us trending worldwide. Unfortunately while we were up before dawn the rest of the running world was asleep, uninterested or both. The idea was simple – run each of Glasgow’s 5 parkrun routes in one go arriving at Pollok in time for the 9-30 start. As usual planning a sensible route was almost the undoing of this challenge as we cycled between each of the parks. Much harder than anticipated when the idea was hatched over a beer or two – 15.5 miles of running, more on the bike and very little enthusiasm, interest or support for a daft idea making this everything a good runbetweeners challenge should be Surely still a record? parkrun UK we are still waiting on official notice…

     7. Bushy parkrun (Jack) – 25th December 2016

This Christmas I decided to head back to where it all began and took part in Bushy parkrun. Lining up alongside 1200 other parkrunners for a free 5k run on Christmas morning was incredible and the atmosphere was even better than I had expected. I will definitely be back!

  1. Dunoon Ride and Run (Kenny) – 2nd of April 2016

A momentous day as I topped the podium at this event in my hometown. Put together by the team at No Fuss Events the concept of this one is to bring the cycling enduro concept to running. Basically there are four timed stages and you can walk / jog or sprint between each. A 5k out along the prom is stage 1. Stage 2 is a gentle uphill trail section of around a mile. Stage 3 is two laps of the ash track at the local stadium. The final stage is a trail and road downhill smash up finishing on the newly restored pier. Total times from all four stages are added together and the lowest time wins. Simple. In this case the winner was shocked – especially since I’d taken a wrong turn on the first 5k section. My first and likely only victory – hopefully the event never happens again and I can lay claim to the title for the rest of my running days!

     5. Tom Scott Memorial 10Miler (Jack) – 10th April 2016.

This was a favourite of mine in 2015 also. There is a huge field at this event and there is always an abundance of fast runners. This means that there is usually a good pack to run in. At this year’s event I felt great and managed to run with a brilliant group of good mates who were all hitting good levels at fitness at the same time. The result was a fantastic pack run with a train of Harriers and a big PB for myself.

  1. The SouthSide Six (SS6) Kenny – 6th of November 2016

One of our absolute favourite races of the year and a Glasgow institution. The only reason the SS6 is not at the top of the list is that it’s been there before. This year Jack gave the run a pass leaving me to join the others toeing the line in this challenging 16-mile course. For those who’ve not done the race before it’s a 6 park tour of the south side painfully climbing to the highest peak in the two hilliest collecting stickers along the way. A brutal finish up the stairs and slopes of Queens Park, this one is always worth it for the excellent feed alone. This route sells out quickly so register for facebook updates to ensure you don’t miss out in 2017.

     3. MOKrun 1/2 Marathon (Jack) – 29th May 2016.

Our third visit to the Mull of Kintyre and, despite not coming home with the trophy, we still loved the experience of the weekend. A friendly, well organised event with a fantastic route and a brilliant post-run Ceilidh. Magic.

      2. TCS Amsterdam Marathon 2016 (Jack) – 16th October 2016.

After four months of focused training, I finally made my way over to Amsterdam in an attempt at a new pb. A brilliant weekend and my first international Marathon – I’m sure it wont be the last!
And the number 1 race of 2016 in our humble opinion….

  1. Kyles 10 Miles (Both) – 10th of September 2016

This was our second visit to the Kyles of Bute and this race did not disappoint. A challenging and hilly route the 10 mile distance is a good marker to test out speed endurance. Guaranteed good weather (we’ve been twice and it’s been sunny both times), unbelievable scenery, beer on tap at the end and a BBQ followed by a ceilidh in the evening. A cracking race; low key, excellently marshalled, reasonably priced and growing in popularity year on year. A worthy winner of the title of 2016 Runbetweeners Race of the Year.


Finally, a short footnote to those races that didn’t quite go to plan in 2016. No prizes for guessing which race ends up in the number 1 slot. Bang goes the idea that the runbetweeners will ever make our fortune Stateside…


  1. Toward for a Tenner (Kenny) – 6th of August 2016

Before I go on – Jack won this race, it was brilliantly and cheerfully marshaled, well organised and positively reviewed by local and visiting runners. I’ll be going back in 2017 and this race offers excellent value relative to other similar half marathons.  The addition of a 10k race makes this an inclusive running festival. Any negative feedback that follows is down to my own race naivety. On a positive note I suppose you learn more from the nightmare races than the ones that go well but this was everything that could go wrong in one race for me.

Starting far too fast and thinking I was in much better shape than I was, I decided to launch an attack on a near 5 minute pb on this one. There is no excuse really as this is my neck of the woods therefore I should have anticipated the wind factor which made running out in the first half a much more demanding effort than it would otherwise have been. Struggling badly the group I was in gradually put some serious distance between me and them as a stream of runners gradually passed me with words of genuine encouragement.


However I couldn’t help but slow to a near standstill by mile 7 reaching a point of exhaustion usually associated with a heavy session of sprint intervals or hill reps. Burned out by half way I managed to drag myself home thanks to the support and encouragement of my friends from Dunoon Hill Runners who were out in force (plus the fact is was an out and back course and all my gear was back at the start line). The first race I’ve run/walked in a long time and a massive positive split on the second half of the race. Meeting a friend who suffered an underwear malfunction and was running pantless for the final miles perked my spirits at mile 10 giving me the last ounce of strength to jog home the final 3 miles. The closest I’ve come to DNF’ing yet.

  1. Nationals – Short Course X Country (Kenny) – 5th of November 2016

Not a bad run – in fact I ran pretty well. Also not down do my hatred for the terrain as I’ve enjoyed the x-country much more this year. Perhaps I’m developing a love for the grass and mud as I become more experienced, fitter or maybe it was just down to the fact the weather has been much better than equivalent events in 2015.

This had all the ingredients to be a good one – I’d been training well, top athletes such as Laura Muir were competing and the event was reasonably close by meaning we could get there early enough to see some of the top junior and female races.

However the choice of venue was a strange one. The route was a two lap, pancake flat circuit around a playing field. Single file around the park perimeter the route lacked imagination or the challenge you would normally associate with such a prestigious race in the Scottish Athletics’ calendar. As a result it didn’t get a look in on the blog. Shame.

The worst race of 2016 award goes to…

1. Sommer Sports Florida Clermont 5k (Jack) – July 2016

You will have heard me rant about this one before I am sure but what kind of race doesn’t set up the finish line! Having got up early on my honeymoon to go and race this 5k in Florida, I was loving leading the pack for the whole race. I built myself up a nice lead and kept running for the finish – only to find that the finish line wasn’t there yet! I kept running down the road until I realised there was a problem and when I turned back the finish line had been constructed behind me! Witnesses at the end of the race spoke to the organisers and it was decided that I would still get the trophy but an angry competitor (relegated to second place) kick up a fuss and I did not get it. The organisers then ignored my email (I know I got petty!) and refused to respond to my questions on Twitter. I’m going to stop writing about it now because it’s getting me angry again haha -for more info read the review 😉



Dunoon Ultra


What a great weekend helping out at the inaugural Dunoon Ultra 55k and Relay. Centred around Loch Eck the route is a tough one with plenty of climbs but lots of great views. The weekend and the atmosphere started for me as I got on the boat on Friday night when I bumped into some of the runners and spent some time catching up with my pals from Dunoon Hill Runners and answering lots of questions about the route, bag drops and bus transfers at registration.

Onto Saturday morning and after loading up the car with drop bags at Race HQ I headed out to Benmore to meet the remaining marshals. I was part of the team based at checkpoint one – the first chance the ultra runners had to pick up food, refill water battles and recharge their batteries. This was around 8.5 miles in. Situated at the road crossing above the Whistlefield it is a tough climb up Puck’s Glen, before a fun descent followed by the beginnings of the climb to the highest point about Loch Eck. Estimating a lead time of approximately an hour and approximately 2 hours to see everyone through we were all impressed to see all the runners through in quick fire.

We then moved on to help marshal the longest on-road stretch leading into Glenbranter – seeing the runners again at mile 14 and spotting some of the second leg relay runners shortly after the changeover. Again everyone was looking great, smiling for photos (see link below) and supporting one another on the course.

Onwards to Glenkin (around 25.5 miles in) and after guiding some of the runners across the road it was from here that I picked up my last marshalling role of the day as the tail runner shadowing the runners home for the final 7miles. Climbing out of Glenkin is tough enough and thankfully I didn’t already have 25.5 miles in the legs. There were some very angry and eerie crows in the woods at this point and I was glad to be able to see the final runners for company 🙂

Reaching the top of the final ascent and nearing the Camel’s Hump we started the long and gradual descent  (apart form the last climb) into Dunoon. This gave me a chance to chat with Kirsten, hear about her experience and see the town from a great vantage point. Hitting the tarmac for the last mile and a quarter Kirsten showed real grit and determination to cross the line in 9 hours exactly – an epic effort and she was given a hero’s reception at Dunoon Pier before summing up the energy to manage one last sprint to catch the soon to depart ferry!

Credit to the runners, many running for great causes, who remained in good spirits throughout and well done to Dunoon Presents and Dunoon Hill Runners for organising a great new event. I only picked up two pieces of litter on the last 8 miles of the course and these both looked like they had been there for years.

Looking forward to the next one already 🙂

My camera was passed around most of the day and this is what it managed to capture. Enjoy.


Toward for a Tenner

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After managing to manipulate our holiday dates it became clear that I was going to be able to make the Toward for a Tenner Half Marathon in Dunoon this year having missed out last time around. Bookending the Orkney Marathon at the start of the summer holidays this would be the ideal end to the summer and I (in hindsight naively) thought a relatively easy run to see how the rested legs would hold up in advance of some longer races over the next two months. Having done little running for the previous four weeks an easy 9 miles around Budapest the previous Saturday reassured me that I still had a decent level of endurance off the back of my marathon training and was in reasonable nick.


Fast forward a week and it was great to see so many Dunoon Hill Runners behind the scenes welcoming hundreds (literally) of runners off the Argyll Ferry to race HQ in the newly refurbished Dunoon Pier. A gentle jog along the West Bay to the start line and I took my position tucked in among some familiar faces aiming for a sub 1:30. With a current pb of 1:32 I somehow convinced myself that if things went well a sub 1:30 could be on. The wind would definitely play a factor and sheltering in behind some tall and / or wide runners was the game plan overheard prior to the gun (or should I say pipes and cannon).


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Thankfully The Boy’s Racing Shorts Were Censored Out of This Shot


Setting off I hung off the back of a group of about 8 runners over the first 4k ticking over at 6min55sec miling. An ominous feeling of something not being quite right consumed me around this point and I started to drift from the pack running the next few miles largely on my own occasionally passed or passing another runner. Although my mile splits were slipping and conscious that the gap between me and the pack was growing I convinced myself that running 7-20s into the wind for a few miles would be ok as I’d come flying back towards Dunoon with the wind at my tail.


I maintained a reasonable pace as we passed through Innellan en route to Toward and the turning point via the Lighthouse but the effort was taking it out of me and the gap between me and the pack was growing more and more with each passing mile.


Ticking over I was pleasantly (and not jealously at all) surprised to see The Boy coming back at me on the other side of the road having completed the 1 mile loop around Toward before I even entered the loop. So 6 miles in and he’d already put a mile between us. The Boy had built up a good lead by this point of about 250 metres and managed to give me some encouraging words at a point where I was starting to feel uneasy on my feet.


The shade and protection afforded by the trees around the loop at Toward provided welcome relief from the strong head winds and uncomfortable temperature of the first half of the race. Turning for home I was aware that today wasn’t going to be a pb day and focused on getting to the 10 mile mark within 8 minute miling positive in the knowledge that I had built up a decent pace on the first half of the race and wouldn’t be too far of my season opener of 1:32.


Whether it was battling against the wind in the first half, the heat (didn’t imagine I’d ever say that about a race in Dunoon) or some undiagnosed tropical disease my legs turned to jelly around this point and it felt like I was carrying someone on my back. As I approached Innellan I was feeling light headed, getting gradually slower and contemplating chucking it. I allowed myself a short walk before breaking into a gentle jog. Around this point I was being regularly passed by more consistent and prepared runners.


Leaving Innellan I was delighted to get a couple of Haribo into me and meet up with Scott who’d had a wardrobe malfunction and who joined me for a couple of miles. Undoubtedly the company got me to the finish line on a difficult day. 500 metres from home I had to let Scott go as I slowed to a crawl along the promenade before mounting the last reserves to cross the line in a time of 1:43.


Overall not a great day at the office and the fact that my quads are still burning two days later serves as a reminder that four or five sessions in five weeks is wholly inadequate training for a half. Chalking it up to experience I now have some hard sessions planned before a possible outing at the trial Glasgow Marathon and The Wee Eck ultra (50k) over the next 8 weeks. One thing is for sure there will be no pb chasing on either. My previous season form was based on a solid base of winter training and I need to be back training consistently to complete both of these challenges.


Or maybe I just need some short shorts like The Boy?



Big shout out to all the marshals on the course for their great encouragement, to The Boy (I look forward to his take on the run) for a comprehensive victory in the Half and to Lisa for setting an impressive new PB in the 10k, a great result in tough conditions.


The Toward for a Tenner event is great value – chipped timing, a t-shirt and a medal. A good route in a town full of great people at an ideal time of the season for anyone working towards an Autumn Marathon. Double the number of runners compared to last year this event is sure to go from strength to strength and hopefully becomes an established event on the Scottish Racing Calendar. I look forward to coming back stronger and more prepared next year.


Splits below for anyone who can empathise with a run that just slipped away from them.


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x-country debut – renfrewshire championships

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Aside from another middle-aged text speak blunder (calling it cross-x a few times on social media this week) I felt well prepared for my debut on the grass yesterday as I set off with The Boy for the Renfrewshire X-Country Championships at St Columbas High School in Gourock yesterday: new studs purchased, my wallet emptied further for a speedy harriers vest and a bag full of energy replenishing foods.

Nagging doubts about finishing dead last were heightened on the journey to Gourock as we were diverted and got lost several times giving more time for The Boy and Paul to build the tension with stories of horrific conditions and leg-sapping routes. Throw in lashings of rain on the drive down and the senior race being the final run of the day I was frequently told that the course was sure to be churned up adding to the challenge.

It’s worth pointing out at this point that my only previous x-country experience had been as a spectator at the Nationals last week at Bellahouston – a 4k sprint – so I was a little surprised to find out we’d be running over 5 miles, even worse it was a 5 lap course. I hate lap courses.

So within two weeks of ‘trying’ a training session at Bellahouston I’d found myself lined up alongside experienced runners including loads of familiar faces from mass participation road races (usually the folks you see coming back the other way on out and back courses while your still heading for the turn) including my former colleague Christina Rankin (Kilbarchan) – regular podium topper on the Scottish Hill Running circuit. Oh and Derek Hawkins was running – yeh the guy from the Commonwealth Games.

An actual gun went off which scared the b-jee-sus out of me. I don’t know if this happens regularly at races as despite being a seasoned runner I’m usually so far back from the start line the first I know about the start is when the heels in front of me start inching forward.

Approaching the first corner the smell of the gun filled by lungs as I gasped for breath, position and footing on the mud. And then the course opened up in front of me. Up and down, absolutely no flat, plenty of mud and lots of vocal support from the Harriers coaches, friends and families. And then we were still running – not back at the school for lap 2 yet. So a wee bit more. Up and down, still no flat in site and even more mud but at least there was still lots of vocal support out on the course.

There were plenty areas to catch a view of the lead pack as the route snaked it’s way around the grounds of the school and then I remembered my bet with The Boy – the pints were on him if he didn’t lap me twice / on me if he did.

Round the tower and the perimeter of the football pitch and I recognised the start / finish area marking 1/5th of the race. I was ready for chucking it at this point but realising I’d started off a little bit too hard I eased off the pace a little and settled into a rhythm at the start of the second lap. My motivation is to get a strong winter of structured training under my belt and events like this will hopefully help me become a sub-40min 10k runner next year.

Well none of that was in my head. My heart was thumping and every hill seemed harder to scale than the first lap. And then I rounded one of the gentler corners and hit the deck. This was when I could happily have walked of the course and hit the showers before beating the queue at the 50p per item buffet in the canteen but I somehow found the motivation to get back on my feet and plough on…. that sub 40min 10k in 2016?

No way – it was my bet with The Boy! So I picked myself out the swamp and continued to plod up and down, no flat, through the mud, cheered on like a superstar by the Harriers support crew lap after lap. And it actually got easier. There were no Road Runners around to take down – the only pre-race advice I’d been given by Paul C – so I engaged in my own personal battle with a runner from Kilbarchan.

Towards the end of my fourth lap I was lapped by Derek Hawkins and then the guys in 2nd to 5th place but I made it to the finish / start area for my final lap without being passed once by The Boy. Result 🙂 Unfortunately I still had a lap to run. So head down I passed a couple of runners and managed to round the hairpin at the football pitch for the first time without veering dangerously off course before crossing the line in 41minutes.

A great experience and I’ve already signed up to the next race in the series at Bellahouston in December.

As for the pints – I’m still waiting. Thanks to The Boy – not for persuading me to run my first x-country but for heading over to Dunoon with me after the race to help with The Dunoon Hill Runners annual quiz. A great way to finish the day – over £800 raised for two great local charities and a great day out for The Runbetweeners.

Social Media – Has it Run it’s Course?

Interesting little video below that many of you have no doubt seen doing the rounds recently.

I am convinced that a number of people will be glad that The Boy and I set up our blog recently if only because it has stopped us clogging up their respective timelines with our online wittering about running.

The video poses the question – should we keep schtum about our training or let the world know every time we lace up those trainers and pound the pavements / trails?

In my experience blogging, social media and all things web 2.0 has been really important in my own running ‘career’. Take Facebook – this is a great way to connect with other runners, encourage, support and learn. In particular social media has been really important in raising awareness of charity runs and allowed others to support me and vice versa. It allows us to see real commitment and earn our sponsorship as our friends follow the training journey through dark and wet winter runs into the spring marathon season.

My involvement with Dunoon Hill Runners has also shown me the power of Social Media. I am certain that the instant update nature and notification culture of this medium gets people out more often and has allowed those with an intrigue in running to see that it can be something for them. Without Facebook the club would not have experienced the exponential growth that it has. Our online presence has generated a buzz and allows members to get real time updates on training, to engage with the club and to arrange additional runs with other runners. Often a post about some obscure race or extreme ultra run will take off and before you know it people are running more often and further than ever before due to peer support (or should that be peer pressure? An added benefit is the witty banter that comes from free.

All the same I appreciate that for non-runners our online ramblings are perhaps too regular and this may actually detract people from joining our ranks. Maybe we should stick to the closed groups and the blog…. oh and I still need to master twitter 🙂 This would allow people to access online ramblings in doses suitable to their appetite.

Kyles 10 Miles

Recommendations don’t come much higher than the stellar race reviews I got from fellow Dunoon Hill Runners who took part in this event last year so it was a no brainer that I would travel to one of my favourite parts of the world to take part in the 6th Kyles 10 Mile Road Race last Saturday. Argyll’s Secret Coast is a stunning part of the world and one of those Scottish destinations that if we had the weather would make you never go abroad again.

Dunoon Hill Runners - Raring to Go

And so it was – a glorious day for a drive up Loch Lomond before crossing the Rest and Be Thankful en route to one of Scotland’s most iconic view points over the Kyles of Bute. Jack (The Boy) managed to blag a last minute slot so we headed up for a rare joint foray discussing his forthcoming stag night which is likely to set both our training schedules back months. Arriving an hour before race start we decided to park at the start line and walk up to registration. This gave us our first taste of ‘shinty hill’ and an indication that undulating was perhaps a slight understatement in the course description.

Pleasantries exchanged and the competition sussed (The Boy is more interested in this than me – I was more concerned with the bake sale happening in Kames Hall and wondering how many cakes 10 miles would earn me) we were back to the start before we knew it in the baking heat of the Argyll sun. That’s right when the sun was out from behind the clouds it was scorch – a taps aft kind of day.

And so we were off – Adopting my now trademark slow-burn I eased into the race on the first mile uphill past the shinty pitch and the golf course. The mile marker was marked with a ‘cheeky’ fellow and the messages and posters of encouragement at each mile certainly helped pass the time and raise a smile or two along the way. This is as tough a first mile as you will find in any race and it is important to set a steady pace and hold something in reserve.

A gradual downhill through the second mile meant two things –

1. It allowed me to pick up my speed

2. We were surely in for another uphill climb soon

Feeling strong we turned left and started to head south. By now I was warmed up and running around 6-45minute mile to 7-30minute mile depending on the lay of the land. I was even picking off a few runners who’d perhaps set of too fast or were feeling the effects of the climb out from the start. I settled into a rhythm about 20 metres behind a chap who seemed to be doing a good job of reeling in a runner or two every mile. The course is up and down at this point but the scenery certainly helped take the mind off the climbs.

My mind started to wander on mile 3 thinking about work, passing a minute or so. Shockingly on looking up I realised my pacemaker had opened up a lead of about 60 metres. Lack of concentration has always been my downfall in team sports and I hadn’t really considered until now what impact it could have on my running.

I spent the time until mile 4 closing the gap again. In the distance spectacular views of Arran began to appear and I was pleased to get a glimpse of Ostel Bay as we climbed again nearing the southern most point of the route. Around mile 5-7 I started to feel the effects of pushing the pace but managed to hold strong as we turned to head north. By now we were passing some of the walkers who had set off on the route an hour early. A great idea to involve more people in the event. In the opposite direction one of the only vehicles we passed all day on these tranquil country roads approached. Despite being an open-road event the course felt safe and marshals guided runners on the sharpest corners.

I was starting to plot my end-race strategy and knew I had enough in the tank to attack the final 3 miles but decided to hold off until 8.5 miles. I was glad of this decision as the further north we ran the stronger the head wind seemed to get. This definitely exacerbated the heaviness in the legs. My experienced pacemaker decided to tuck in behind me although I’m not sure the wind was coming from the same direction to allow him to benefit from my wind shadow. It was only right that I did some of the work and we passed another few runners and a lot of walkers between miles 6 and 8. Passing me again my pacemaker headed for home and we had a bit of a smack down in mile 8 until I managed to pull away in the final mile.

I finished strongly and felt I could have gone for another mile or two which was a confidence booster in my longest run for a while. Again it showed that I had set off too conservatively and I need to learn to push myself harder in the earlier stages of the race. However I really enjoyed the race and that continues to become more important to me. The scenery, company and course was excellent. Added in some great performances from The Boy in second place and my Dunoon Hill Runners team mates and it was a great day all round.

The weather continued to reward us and to top it off there was a BBQ at the Kames Hotel right on the finish line. Despite leaving our wallets at the start line we managed to get back in time for a burger and the prize giving.

Post Race Priorities - Raiding the Goody Bag
Post Race Priorities – Raiding the Goody Bag

I’m a certainty to return next year and I think this race now goes up there with Mok Run as one of my must do races in the season. A friendly field, spectacular setting and a challenging course. Just gutted we didn’t realise there was a ceilidh. Next year. We’ll be back.