Hackney Marshes parkrun

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

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

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

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

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

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Making Waves at the Troon 10k

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

London Marathon 2018 – A race like no other!

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

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

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

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

We were off!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring on the next one…

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Confessions of a serial spectator – top tips for supporting!

“This isn’t my first rodeo” – a phrase uttered by me on a few occasions last weekend as I was complimented on my ability to whizz and direct my way around Manchester to find good cheering spots during the marathon. As a former running widow, before I took up running myself, I have been to many a race to cheer on Jack and have become great at finding good places to spot runners. Finding my way around an unknown city with ease has become second nature and last weekend earned me the nickname ‘Satnav’!

So without further ado, here are my top 5 tips for race spectating –

1.       Before you do anything, download Google Maps and any transport apps that will help you get around on the day. During bigger races, Google Maps also shows the race map on the screen, so you can see how close you are to the race – handy when running off a tram and finding your way to a good spot! For major cities I swear by the Citymapper app which has helped me navigate my way around Manchester, Berlin, Amsterdam, New York and London. This app is incredible, simply put in where you are going and it tells you how long it will take through different modes of transport – walking, cycling, public transport and even Uber. It gives clear guidance step-by-step on how to make your way to your destination and has offline public transport maps available.

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2.       Work out with your runner how long they are going to take and where they would like to see you. By working out how long they will take for each mile, you will be able to check if you have enough time to get to your agreed spectating points, whether by public transport or walking. There’s nothing worse than agreeing to be at miles 5 and 9 then on the day realising that this is a logistical nightmare! Downloading a pace guide can help as this will tell you when to expect your runner at each mile. My friend’s husband had worked this out perfectly during Manchester which really helped. Also consider how busy the race/city will be. In Manchester, we were lucky to squeeze on one tram as it was completely crammed. Had we missed that tram we may have missed our runners, so do take this into consideration if you are trying to see them more than 2 or 3 times. As London is so busy during the marathon (and Jack is super-fast), for my own sanity and ease of spotting him, I will probably only see him at one or two spots on route before I must race my way to the end.

*side tip – also agree where to meet at the end of the race. This was something we didn’t do at Amsterdam and it was only by pure chance that I found Jack at the end. Don’t agree to meet at the finish, it will most likely be crazy. Most races put on lettered meeting points which are a good place to find people.

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3.       If there is one, download the official tracking app for the race. These can be unreliable as so many people are trying to get on it at once, especially at London, however they can give a good guide of how your runner is doing and when they will get to your spot. At Manchester, my friend’s husband was able to see that she started 8 minutes after the official start time and we could then use that to calculate when we would see her. The app was also able to tell us if anyone had slowed down or sped up. These are also great for tracking at home I you can’t make it to the race.

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4.       Have a spectating plan. Trying to spot your runner in a sea of people is hard, your eyes are darting around the place and unless they are wearing something distinctive, you may miss them. The same goes for them, if they have their head down concentrating or just soaking up the atmosphere, they may not notice you. Agree with your runner what side of the road you will be on, that way they can try and stick to that side and see you. Another good tip I’ve had in this area is, if you know the route well, agree on a landmark to stand beside, eg I’ll be outside the bike shop, or beside the red post-box. Mile markers can get busy too so tell your runner you will be 200 yards away from it. If there are a couple of you spectating, agree in advance that one of you will take photos and the other look out for the runner otherwise you both might miss them. At Inverness I was on my own and while trying to fiddle about with my phone camera I almost missed my friends. Sometimes it’s better to just soak up the atmosphere and give huge cheers rather than trying to get a photo at every spot.

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5.       Finally, take a bag. This is my way of getting a few tips in one to keep it to a top 5! My race day essentials for spectators starts with a battery pack. Watching races can be a long day and if using your phone to take photos, track and navigate, it will drain your battery. I got mine from Amazon for about £10 and it has about 2/3 full charges in it when it’s full. Secondly, get a travel card for the city you are in, this saves time and money on the day. Next, maybe take some extra gels, energy drinks or snacks for your runner if they would like you to. Things happen in a race and they may lose some so it might be handy to have spares. Finally, fill with your runner’s essential post-race items. They will have their own bag drop but, just in case, have some extra layers in there for them (and for you – it can get cold watching!), salty food to replenish those lost salts, sugary food for a pick me up, and plenty of water. Prosecco, beer or champagne never go amiss either!

There you have it, my top tips for spectating. Other than these, just shout really loud, make sure you’re seen and give them all the support you can! Remember that lots of runners may not have the support that your runner does so give them a shout too, especially if they look like they are struggling and need some encouragement. Races are a truly inspirational and humbling experience for runners and spectators, so just soak it in and enjoy.

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Renfrewshire AAA Road Race Champs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Runbetweeners Review 2017

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

10. Sheffield Hallam parkrun

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

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

 

9.  The Jimmy Irvine

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

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

 

8. Tom Scott 10 Miler

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

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

 

7. Cowal Hill Race

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

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

 

6. Moira’s Run

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

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

 

5. Bellahouston Harriers Time Trial

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

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

 

4. Run Mhor Half Marathon

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

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

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

 

3. The Kyles 10 Miles

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

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

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

 

2. The Coigach Half Marathon

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

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

 

1. London Marathon / Berlin Marathon

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

Festive Running!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scottish Athletics Awards Night 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Training

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

Taper

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

Race Day

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

The Result

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