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!

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.

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  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.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/05/14/happy-birthday-springburn-parkrun/

    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!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/polaroid-clydebank-10k-2016/

  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?

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/brian-goodwin-10k-2/

     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!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/a-parisian-parkrun/

  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…

https://twitter.com/search?q=glasgowparkrunsmashup&src=typd

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/glasgow-parkrun-smash-up/

     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!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/12/25/bushy-parkrun-a-christmas-cracker/

  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!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/dunoon-ride-run/

     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.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/tom-scott-memorial-10miler/

  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.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/southside-six-2016-ss6/

     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.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/running-a-mok-in-campbeltown/

      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!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/amsterdam-marathon-2016/
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.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/kyles-10-miles-2/

 

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.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/toward-for-a-tenner/

  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 😉

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/07/23/there-is-no-finish-line/

 

 

West Districts: X-Country

After a gentle warm up tail running at junior parkrun this morning it was down to Ayr for the West Districts. Cross Country and me are not great friends but the Renfrewshire and West District events provide a decent platform for the mere mortals like myself without the fear I associate with the National events. Despite being lapped by many of the superstars at this event this year I was determined to put on a better showing today.

 

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Brilliant Setting on a Crisp Winter’s Afternoon

 

Arriving just in time to see the ladies passing on lap 2 of 3 there was just enough time to cheer them through, get stripped and screw in the cross country studs. Glad I remembered after running the event in Renfrew in my track spikes. A gentle warm up to see the hills which I had missed on the way in proved this was going to be a trickier course but the ground seemed good to firm – as ideal as it gets at cross country. Heading over to the start line though it became clear that the curse of the men’s race was to strike the course too – a route totally churned up by a packed morning and early afternoon of racing. This made for heavy work around the home straight and start area on each of the four laps.

 

Settling in behind an obviously more experienced cross country runner I hugged the edge of the route desperately seeking some firmer ground and remembering the best line for subsequent laps. The Boy flew out of the traps and seemed to be winning his personal battle as I saw him tear off into the distance. While the first half of the lap was boggy in parts the second half was undulating. The hills won today for me with the second half of each lap being more favourable than the first.

 

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The Boy in Full Flow

 

 

Around the half way mark The Boy approached on the other side of the tape telling me he had put around 600metres between us in just under two laps. This made me fearful that a potential ‘lapping’ by some of the big guns might be on the cards again. This drove me on during lap three alongside some incredible cheering (a lot of random shout outs about hash tagging from the Bella Babes) which lifted the spirits at the traditionally tricky mid race stage.

 

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Leaning Back and a Concerning Complexion

 

Gunning it down the home straight for the third time I was pleased to be picking off one or two runners by adopting a wide and firm race line. Feeling strong (I definitely went off way too easy again) I was even more pleased to cross the start line without being lapped this year. So much so I skipped a little jig of joy and almost fell flat on my face in the mud. Refocused and with only a lap to go I managed to take another couple of places. An enjoyable run out but one I should perhaps have pushed harder – something I definitely need to try and bring over from my road running and a pretty common theme from the cross country events I have done to date.

 

 

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New Shoes Purchase This Morning 😦

Great course, great weather, brilliant podium place for the junior team and everyone’s favourite sweets and cakes in the tent afterwards 🙂 As always thanks to all the officials and marshals out on the course and involved in putting on a great event.

 

 

Drumchapel / Tollcross parkrun

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What a great morning at Tollcross parkrun yesterday. The original plan was a Team Runbetweeners visit to Drumchapel parkrun in the north of the city but that one unfortunately fell victim to the cold weather. Thanks to Brian for the early warning.

After some hastily rearranged travel plans we made our way towards the east end, scene of Jack’s wedding day run and one of numerous stops on our now infamous tour of the Clydes. Tollcross parkrun prides itself on two things – it’s hills and never having been cancelled.

Always keen to try something a bit different we were not sure if the new route would be a blessing or a curse for those trying Tollcross for the first time. The alternative course has less hills but more laps. It was very hard underfoot yesterday leading to the first challenge. Shoe selection. The lesson learned is that you can definitely have too many running shoes as I struggled to decide between road, racing and cross country shoes. Turning around for advice it was obvious that everyone else had trail shoes 🙂

After wishing everyone luck we were off. Hugging the cones around the middle field before dropping down and climbing sharply round the bank of trees. After that it’s back to the start line and repeat another three times. I set off crazily fast and was far too close to The Boy even although he was cruising. Slowing back a little I settled into a battle with two teenage boys who burned me on the downhills and who I caught on the uphills.

It was good to cross paths so often with the rest of the team who seemed to be enjoying it (of sorts). The Boy made a burst for home with about a lap and a half to go and the youngsters left me for dust around the same time.

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Two runners hit the 100 mark yesterday and the legendary John Softley was doing his 300th. This meant the post race snacks were even better than normal with a couple of customised cakes on offer. Thanks for that. A great event and we’re looking forward to heading to Drumchapel again in the near future. To complete a day of running we headed out for a 10 mile cool down followed by the Bellahouston Harriers Christmas Night out.

Run to the Hills!

Last week I fell victim to Kenny’s latest scheme – taking on a hill run! I have always been intrigued by the concept of hill running and have often thought that I would actually quite like to give one a go. I do enjoy getting off road and exploring when out for a run so I figured that powering up and down a hill could be fun! When it transpired therefore that Kenny, Iain and Paul – all fellow Harriers – would be heading out to Tinto for a 4.5 mile challenge, I found myself signing up.

After a journey filled with whispers of the difficulty that would face us, we arrived at the base of the hill. And what a hill it was! Tinto towered over us as we collected our numbers and prepared for the race.

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With the Renfrewshire X-Country Championships coming up the following week, I had been advised to watch my footing during this event – the loose, rocky surface and rapid descent could potentially be hazardous. With this in mind, I decided to use the run more as a training exercise than a flat out race and I am definitely glad that I made that decision!

Standing at the base of the hill, I tucked myself into the middle of the pack and, on the gun, began my ascent. I made a conservative start, aware of the long climb ahead, and found myself slowly moving up the field. At about two-thirds of the way up I started to really feel the burn in my quads and, as the runners around me slowed to a walk, I joined them and found myself striding up the hill for much of the final section.

GOPR1830.JPGCircling the cairn at the top of the hill, I decided to try and stretch the legs out on the way down in order to make up a few places. I took a dozen speedy strides down the hill before I realised that I had absolutely no control over my pace! Panic set in and I reminded myself of the other races on the horizon. I settled into a pace which I found fast enough but at which I still felt I was in control of my legs (just about!) and less likely to do myself some damage.

At about half way down the hill, the path became a little more clear and I was able to push the pace on a bit and finish the race with a sprint. On the descent I had been overtaken once and had managed to overtake one person myself, leaving me sitting in 18th position. The other Harriers had put in some decent performances also with Iain finishing 69th, Kenny 90th and Paul in 95th despite a fall on the way down.

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Sitting in the cafe afterwards with a pot of tea and a huge scone, we reflected on the afternoon’s race. I had enjoyed the experience but I felt a little lackluster about the race itself. The event was very well organised, great value and had a brilliant atmosphere but I did not feel challenged in the same way that I do when racing on the roads. I felt that my commitment to a number of other races meant I was unable to really commit to the downhill section and therefore did not feel that I had pushed my body physically. I believe that, were I a committed hill runner, and that this had been my target race of the season, I would have got more out of it but it felt like I had too much to lose by really pushing it.

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I’m sure loads of people will disagree with me but I came away thinking road running is more of a challenge. When you have no ‘obstacle’ to overcome, the ‘race’ becomes more pure – there is nothing to hide behind other than your own fitness. Over a 10km flat road race, for example,  I can push my body to its absolute limit. In future I will continue to run on hills but I think I will only use them as training runs – they don’t mean enough to me to risk injuring myself and ruining my season. This was a fun day out, and a good experience, but I haven’t been converted to hill running just yet!

 

Southside Six 2016 (SS6)

 

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Sold out in minutes this was my second SS6 having run in 2014 in a time of 2:02:41. Taking in six of the best parks in the south side of the city this is a tough, undulating urban course with enough stairs, hills, twists and turns to last a lifetime.

 

Meeting at the flagpole at Queens Park (home of race HQ) I was reasonably confident I could dip under the 2 hour mark and perhaps more.

 

The route winds down through Mount Florida – this should not take place at faster than 5k pace so I reigned it in a bit just in the nick of time – before a tough climb up into Kings Park and an even tougher climb over the brow of the hill to the first checkpoint (I’d forgotten in my head about this climb when mentally preparing myself last night). At each checkpoint you are given a sticker to show you have made it to all 6 parks.

 

The route then moves on to Linn Park which is well sign posted, lucky for me as every time I try to run the route on my own I always get lost somewhere in here. After a formula 1 esque sticker pit stop (no stopping involved) I managed to pull away from a group of 3 Bellahouston Road Runners at this point. Always a good thing but perhaps a little early to be launching a strike for home, particularly I had planned to run steady and finish strong.

 

Next up is a long road section with some good descent towards Rouken Glen park (home of my school running group and newly launched junior parkrun which attracted 159 juniors this morning for our second run). It was great to get so many shout outs from Monday runners, Harriers and friends around this section of the course. After sticker point 3 (around 6.5 miles in) came a tough, but short, climb up into the woods / golf course area and it was around here that my legs started to feel heavy and my breathing became more of struggle. Thankfully this is followed by a good long stretch of downhill trail but it’s around this stage of the race that you realise what a toughie you’ve taken on as the early hills catch up on you. Maintaining pace in the next two parks and the middle section of race was key to my plan.

 

Down through Thornliebank the next target is Pollok park with a long section leading you through a mixture of trail and worn path before you arrive at Pollok House and sticker point 4. I started to get a bit of a second wind at this point and used the blue sky and autumnal shades in the trees to trick myself into thinking I was having a brilliant time. A gaggle of Harriers at the exit to Pollok gave me renewed energy moving in to the last five miles.

 

Entering Bellahouston Park you can see the climb immediately due to the open nature of this park. Meandering around won’t get you away from it. The Stairs up to the flagpole. This is when you go full on gladiator mode and imagine yourself getting up the Travelator at the end of the show. Two steps at a time is a gamble as you might fall flat on your face but one step and you’re potentially just going to stop dead in your tracks.

 

Reaching the top and 5th sticker point I forgot to take in the rewarding view and instead focused on getting my breath back for the final push on the home leg to Queens Park. Knowing the route is a killer here as this leg should be relatively short but the curvature on the road makes it much longer.

 

Still exiting the park I couldn’t believe there was a 5k to go sign as by my reckoning we only had around 2.3 miles to go.

 

Head down and grind it out time had truly hit. I focused on passing three more runners before Queens park and by the time I reached Strathbungo has succeeded in catching two of the runners ahead of me and managed to sustain a decent pace given I had limited long run training in my legs.

 

I could happily have chucked it at this point given what I knew was to come next. Looping round Queens Park you could be lulled into a fall sense of achievement but the SS6 saves it’s biggest sting until last. Rounding the corner the long uphill stretch, and final set of stairs, was at least blinded from view by low winter sun. Immediately I heard my name and cries to the effect of get a move on.

 

The final sticker point at the bottom of the stairs is the time for blanking out everything around and just getting the job done. 32 steps in all followed by another climb and a right turn into the home straight. Another climb. Crossing the line of this race is one of the most rewarding experiences you will get in Glasgow as I can’t think of a more challenging event.

 

Superbly marshalled, organised and great value for money this is one of the best races around. Well supported, it has a real community feel and as a relative newbie to the southside of Glasgow I am proud to say that the best race in Glasgow starts and finishes in my own front garden. Despite the hills and stairs it still gets a place in The Runbetweeners 3 must run races.

 

That’s two decent half marathon plus efforts in the last month on minimum long run training so I am glad to still be getting the benefit of my Spring Marathon training. Speedwork with the Harriers means I continue to get faster and I managed an improvement of 8 minutes this time around. It was great to see some of the other runners finishing – notably Gillian and Karen (thanks Karen for asking me to run up the final hill again!).

 

Too much support out on the course to mention but the loudest cheers still come from Kirstie despite her summer transfer to Kilbarchan – always much appreciated!

 

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/767704068

Kyles 10 Miles

After stumbling across this picturesque race last year, Kenny and I booked ourselves in early for a return visit – it did not disappoint!

Last year we had both loved the race but it had been a last minute entry and we had not even considered the possibility of making a weekend of it. This year we knew better and decided to make the most of the event by booking ourselves in to the Kames Hotel for a couple of days to fully enjoy the post-race BBQ and ceilidh.

The 12pm start was ideal and allowed us to have a decent night’s kip and a reasonable breakfast before we would need to start thinking about warming up. Nevertheless I still felt a little disappointed at having to turn away the full cooked breakfast in order to stick to my reliable pre-race bowl of porridge! The weather was certainly better than that of the previous day and, as we made our way to the start, conditions were looking fantastic.

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I have been working my way through a marathon program over the last couple of months and, with only 5 weeks to go until my target race, this would be a real test of how effective that time had been. The hilly nature of the course meant that it would be difficult to judge my current fitness levels purely on time however I knew that I would get an idea of where I currently sit by comparing my time to that of last year. I certainly felt fitter this time around, but an official confirmation was the goal!

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As I warmed up, any hope of a first place finish disappeared when I spotted Neil Renault preparing to take his place on the start line. I also spotted Broc Drury, last year’s winner, fitting in some final stretches before taking his own place and I hoped I would give him a good battle. Last year Broc beat me by a couple of minutes however I was confident that this year I should be able to knock some time off my previous performance and therefore believed I could hold on to him for a few miles at least (I was wrong!).

The race began with the familiar climb up and out of Tighnabruich – which seemed to never stop – and I found myself tucked in behind Neil and Broc. I soon realised as we crested the hill however that I was running a little too fast and that I would have to let the pair of them get away. And so they did – quickly! I settled into a steady rhythm and felt good despite the horrifically undulating first few miles.

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As I reached the half way point I was still sitting in 3rd and felt great. I calculated that I was on for a pb and decided to try and pick up the pace a little, safe in the knowledge that the remainder of the course would be relatively flat. It was also at around this point that I remembered to actually look around and take in the spectacular surroundings that I was encountering. Last year I barely noticed the beauty of the route as I was too busy staring at the road before me! Some of the sights were truly stunning and I started to plan less strenuous trips to explore the area further in future.

During the second half of the race I started to pass the walkers who were completing the same route but had started earlier in the morning. This was a great distraction as I had been running solo for a while now and the cheers of support were fantastic motivation to keep pushing. I will be the first to admit that I struggle to maintain pressure on myself to really push hard when I am running alone and the eyes of these walkers was exactly what I needed to inspire me to keep digging deep.

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Coming into the final miles I was pleased to note that I still felt strong. I knew I was running much faster than I had done last year and my legs were feeling surprisingly fresh after all of the climbing in the first half of the race. I was able to  maintain a nice pace into the final mile and then really kick for home when I spotted to huge gazebo that promised the finish and a burger!

I was over the moon to finish in 56:51 – two and a half minutes quicker than last year and nearly thirty seconds inside the previous course record. Neil had managed to win in an incredible 53:33 with Broc crossing the line just over a minute later.

As I crossed the line it was great to be joined by Vicki and Lisa, along with Kenny’s dad, to cheer Kenny to the finish as he managed to sneak inside the top 20. Burgers were eaten and we wandered over to the local pitches to take in some of the shinty before grabbing a cuppa and a cake in a local tearoom. After that it was a chance for some shuteye and recovery before hitting the post-race ceilidh (and fantastic buffet) where we learned how to dance like helicopters.

All in all this was a brilliant weekend and I will definitely be back!

 

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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https://www.strava.com/activities/668914848

St Magnus Marathon, Orkney. 3rd of July 2016

 

Summer holidays finally here, Lisa and I travelled to the wonderful islands of Orkney last week to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Completely coincidentally 🙂 we also happened to be there at the same time as the inaugural St Magnus Marathon. It had taken a while to convince Lisa that Orkney (and therefore the Marathon) would be the ideal destination but it did not disappoint with brilliant weather, long days and stunning scenery.

 

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11pm at Night

After a couple of days sightseeing we set off early on Sunday morning for the stunning backdrop of St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall. A field of approximately 100 runners amassed giving the race a very different feel to previous marathon experiences in big city events.

 

The small field meant that there were many nice touches such as the ability to community regularly online with race organisers in the run up to the event and the option to have personal drinks, gels and other food on numerous drinks stations around the course. A privilege normally only afforded to elite runners.

 

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Surveying the start line

I arrived on the start line in good shape after a number of pbs this year but still doubtful that I could perform to my potential at the marathon distance given previous disastrous experiences at the distance.  During training I had significantly increased my mileage, including a good amount of race pace and tempo miles, however long runs continue to be my nemesis. Work, illness and injury meant as usual I had not completed as much of my plan as I would have liked. But I was here and I was fit.

 

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The day before we had driven the route in reverse and although I had looked at a route profile weeks before I was surprised by how undulating the course actually was. Add to this a couple of niggles the week before and it was time to reevaluate my race goals. I decided to set off in pursuit of a 3:30:00 marathon.

 

 

Setting off through the narrow main street of Kirkwall I was comfortable being boxed in for the first half mile having learned that a slower start is more favourable to a quick start at the marathon distance. As the route widened I began to move through the field climbing out of Kirkwall Bay. A climb that surprisingly lasted for most of the first 4 miles of the race. Although gradual, the climb put me behind my goal race pace. I was reassured therefore to pick up a couple of runners (Michelle and Neil) from Moray Road Runners who I had earlier overheard discussing a similar strategy to mine. The next mile gave a sharp downhill recovery although I was conscious not to be over zealous in recouping lost seconds.

 

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As busy as it got 🙂

Even in the early stages there was good support on the course as many runners had their families out and about with the advantage that they were able to drive ahead a few miles at a time and see us at multiple locations. A good local turnout in the race also meant that many Orcadians were out and about to giving great support to all runners. Lisa did a good job of making sure as many people as possible were shouting for me.

 

A light drizzle fell around miles 5-7 but the scenery meant it was easy to pass the time detracted by the stunning backdrops. Around this point the two Moray Road Runners put a small gap between us and I dropped off the 3:30:00 race target. I could tell that we were gaining on a group of about 8 runners approximately 400 metres further ahead so decided to let a small gap grow happy in the knowledge that I was at least running at a consistent effort if not pace owing to the undulation.

 

 

After passing through Finstown I managed 5k at a decent pace on one of the flattest stretches of the course between miles 10 and 13. I opened my legs up a little, was feeling reasonably good and had just collected my first personal drink out on the course. Feeling like a pro I was perhaps over cocky as my gel which had been sellotaped to my drink exploded on opening covering me in the sweet sticky stuff.

 

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A combination of stronger head winds and, albeit shorter, climbs meant my pace again began to drift at this point. A short sharp climb around the half way stage was followed by a good descent in a pattern that marked out the next 5 miles of the route. Thankfully I was still running comfortably and knew that my effort level was probably a better measure of progress at this stage rather than pace if I was to ensure that I did not blow up in the final miles of the race. With the sun out again it was nice to run a short distance with some other runners.

 

As I neared mile 18 I could tell that the distance and undulation was now catching up on me and I was aware that my pacing had drifted to a point that I would not be able to be made up in the final miles of the course in pursuit of 3:30:00. With goals reevaluated in my own mind I decided I’d be happy with any sort of pb.

 

 

Everyone knew that miles 19-23 were to be the toughest on the course and I really struggled, even on the downhill, to maintain any sort of pace around this stage of the race. A short walk up the steepest climb was necessary but gave me enough of a respite to run the final 5km although by now I was slowing with every mile. The thought of the end was all that was keeping me going. Two brutal climbs in particular made this a brutal section of the race on tired legs.

 

But for once rather than feeling sorry for myself it was time to appreciate my surroundings and how fortunate I was to be able to take parts in events like this. The marshals were great, Lisa was giving enthusiastic support and the views at this section of the course were incredible. I’d almost completed a really tough but spectacular course and a decent pb was still within reach. Summiting the final climb the Brough of Birsay came into view meant the end was in sight.

 

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A final stinger in the tale was half a mile of off road running along a grass path before a short climb to Birsay Hall. But by now I was running with a couple of other runners and I was grateful that I could tuck in behind and follow them home. The look of relief captured as I crossed the line says it all.

 

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On reflection I am glad to have taken on a completely different marathon experience. The UK’s most northerly. Although the course was extremely challenging Lisa and I had a brilliant time incorporating the run into an incredible holiday in a stunning location. Who knows where our second wedding anniversary will take us?

 

As always thanks go to the race organisers and volunteers who did a brilliant job putting on an extremely well organised event in a stunning part of the world. If you don’t mind hills I’d definitely recommend this one. Make sure you plan a few days around the race to see Orkney though. It’s well worth it.

 

3:44:42 – 12 minute Personal Best.

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/633571087/overview