Marathon Fatigue

In the 8 weeks since I completed the Reykjavik Marathon I’ve run 5 times. Rewind through the years and it’s a familiar story; after completing the London Marathon (4 times), in the months after Glencoe, the autumn after Orkney. Seven times now I’ve started and finished a marathon yet after each marathon I’ve hit the wall with my own training in the immediate months that follow.

 

As running has become more important in my life I’ve ensured that I maintain contact with the community by coaching, spectating or volunteering in the months following a marathon but it’s taken a long time to return to a regular routine with my own training. So what’s going on?

 

Before I get going on to the main thrust of this blog it’s worth pointing out I’ve loved every one of the marathons I’ve done. The distance made me a runner, it introduced me to running clubs and therefore lots of my current friends. 26.2 miles gives me a sense of personal achievement which completing other distances can’t come close to. I enjoy the adulation from non-runners which only seems to be afforded to marathon runners. I love the history of the distance. I love training consistently, motivated by a looming goal. I enjoy listening to podcasts on long runs, something I rarely make time for otherwise. I enjoy having an easy go-to topic of conversation with other runners. I’ve loved the intimacy of events like Orkney and Glencoe, the unique atmosphere of London and running through phenomenal backdrops such as Reykjavik. I wouldn’t change those memories for anything.

 

Some of you will already be thinking; ‘It’s ok’, ‘ You should take a break’. It’s true, a break is well earned and necessary post-Marathon to allow the body to recover. Depending on the rule you go by this usually involves somewhere around 3 to 4 weeks of inactivity. One day per mile raced seemed to be to be the most fashionable recovery mantra around the time of my first marathon (although does this apply to all distances? If so why does nobody stick to it?). Why though do I fall out of good habits so easily and for so long after a marathon? This is not an anti-marathon blog. However after each one completed I’ve totally fallen off the rails running wise and it’s taken a marathon effort to get back into the routine of running regularly.

 

I’ve spent a long time pondering this and still can’t quite put my finger on it;

 

Being brutally honest I just couldn’t really be bothered running over the past 8 weeks. This can go on for several months (6 after my first marathon). I know I have gotten frustrated that my times over other distances have tailed off and it can seem like a long road back (the irony being the road back gets longer with each passing week).  As a result I get more and more frustrated with myself as well as losing the positive wellbeing and mental health benefits of running.

 

Is it the frustration of not quite hitting a target in an event where you invest so much time but only get one chance to perform? Unlike other distances where you can pencil in another effort in a matter of days whilst allowing your body a good amount of recovery. Certainly in my last two marathons this isn’t the case as I’ve dropped my time significantly.

 

Is it physical fatigue? I’m not so sure on this one as I see people running ultras and long runs on a much more regular basis than I do with no ill effects. I’ve run decent times soon after a marathon where I’ve signed up to races and gone along just to see how I feel.

 

Is it sour grapes that I haven’t quite reached a level of performance which I have in other distances? My 5k, 10k, 10 Mile and Half Marathon times should put me on course for a time just outside the 3 hour mark but I’ve never even come close.

 

I’m not sure what the answer is. I do know running is great for me in so many ways though and I don’t like it when I am not in that regular routine. Hard to break, difficult to pick up.

 

What do others think? For every amateur runner churning out brilliant personal bests over the marathon distance, for every runner ticking the distance off their bucket list…… there’s a more silent minority steering well clear of the distance. Not everyone reckons you should complete a marathon to be classed a runner despite what you might think. There are several vocal proponents of complete abstinence. There are coaches who tell you not to bother. Yet the lure of the distance, the kudos lavished on marathon completers by non-runners, the prestige of participating in the majors keeps drawing us in. This is despite the marathon often being an anti-climax for those, like myself, who become time obsessed.

 

It’s a split decision amongst amateur runners.

 

In summary this blog is not so much about what is the right recovery but about the growing feeling that marathon running might be having a negative impact on my running performance. It’s hopefully something that will spark some thought and debate. It’s aimed at anyone thinking about or who has recently completed a marathon. Seven marathons in I find myself contemplating retirement from the big distance – the perceived holy grail of running. At least for the time being.

 

With so much pressure (from myself) to perform it’s quite literally all your eggs in one basket hoping everything (weather, course, guts, fuelling and health) aligns perfectly on one day of the year. The reality is everything is not going to align unless you spread the risk and enter a lot of events. The trade off is not worth it for me – you’re going to be training a lot more on your own and your performance in more club friendly and social events is likely going to suffer. That’s not to say I’ve not hit great 5k and 10k times during my training blocks but these have tended to come around the middle third of a training block when runs of around 12-14 miles are common.

 

So one week back in to training what’s next? Well I’d like to replicate the same consistency and commitment I’ve proven I can over several marathon training blocks to other distances for the 2019 season. I hope to get back close to my 5k and 10k pb times in the near future and work hard over the x-country season. I have the endurance in my legs from a marathon training block that will undoubtedly help. I have arranged some middle distance runs with a group of guys from the Harriers on a Sunday as this is a type of training I’ve only really focused on when completing a marathon block.

 

Could it be that the marathon just isn’t my distance? Maybe I should focus on the 5k through Half Marathon range where I am happy with my performance level. Perhaps as runners we don’t often think about what discipline is our strongest and work on that. We simply see running as running when some of us are built for speed and others for endurance.

 

As I develop my coaching skill set and look in from the outside I guess I am looking at year on year progress as I move from one training block to the next. This was sacrificed in the second half of 2018 as I concentrated my efforts on the marathon which was never part of my grand plan and this is perhaps behind my current frustrations.

 

Non-runners might not be as impressed if I drop below 18 minutes for the 5k or get closer to 1 hour 20 for the half but I know these will be greater achievements than running another marathon. That can wait for now. I’m just glad to be back running.

 

Hopefully this doesn’t put anyone off the marathon. Just take your time though and consider if it is right for you – do you want to get faster over shorter distances first? If you go for it remember completing it really is the goal and the achievement. Times are for seasoned marathon runners. Tell people that when they ask how it went / or if you have a goal time in mind. (Remember our previous blog on First Time Marathon Running). Look after yourself. Increase incrementally and build in easier weeks to allow your body to adapt and recover.

 

On a side note. I actually fatigued during training prior to Reykjavik. I only did about 60% of my planned long runs and dropped out of regular hard sessions in the crucial 12 weeks leading up to race day. Despite this I ran well (11 seconds inside my pb although the course was later measured as 200 metres short). Maybe something for a future blog but I actually think I could run the same time tomorrow as I think it’s much more a mental test than a physical one.

 

 

 

 

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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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/

 

 

Tom Scott Road Race – 10 Miler

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Sunday morning saw a welcome break in London Marathon training as I joined a big squad of Harriers heading to Strathclyde Park for the annual Tom Scott 10 Mile Road Race. This would be my first time around the long standing event on the Scottish Racing calendar and I was looking forward to testing out the legs on the road after a winter of marathon training and cross-country. It was also great to see a few Runbetweeners both taking part (some in Harriers vests) and spectating around the course offering welcome encouragement.

 

Dropping down to 10 miles after a series of 18 to 21 milers over the last few months meant I could ditch the gels, water and bulky trainers for the trusted saltire vest and luminous racing shoes. Feeling faster already I even managed a pb before the start line as I clocked a 2 mile warm up with the ‘fast boys’. I usually use the first section of a race to warm up but I definitely noticed a looseness in the legs during the first mile that meant I was able to hit the ground running.

 

Looping towards the top of the Loch to begin with I was amazed how much shifting there was in the pack with runners moving forwards and backwards – this might have been down to the ‘gun time’ only policy forcing a lot of runners near the front of the pack on the start line. I seemed to have gauged it about right and settled in to a small pack as we made our way through the woods before working our way down the opposite side of the Loch.

 

Around this point the field thinned and I was focused on maintaining an even pace. The target was 6-45s. This would give an indication I was in good shape a few weeks out from London. Staying within this pace felt reasonably good and I reached the water station at 3 miles feeling pretty strong as evidenced by my glamour shot below.

 

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Photo Courtesy of Kevin Ramage – Facebook

 

Taking my usual race approach I started to pick up the pace in the middle section and started moving up the field. I always find this a good boost to my confidence and find the focus of catching each runner a good diversionary tactic.

 

Rounding the corner and switching back on to the main road I felt strong through mile 4 (a long gradual uphill climb – my Hill Running grounding is pretty helpful at times like this) and passed some familiar faces before latching on to the back of a passing Garscube Harrier who I had passed around mile 3. It was clear he was running comfortably and had decided to push the pace on a bit so from mile 5 onwards the speed gradually increased to a little over 6 minute miling. This would be closer to my 5k pace after almost 10k in the miles but I felt in good shape so went with it.

 

The course retraces the first miles between miles 5-6 before completing a full loop of the Loch towards the finish line. Pleasingly the pace felt pretty good during these miles until around mile 8 when my legs began to feel heavy – unsurprising given a 21 miler only a few days before and a reasonably paced tilt at Pollok the day before. Being able to see the finish so close across the Loch led to an uncomfortable watch check as I clocked that I still had more than 2 miles to go. Head down I was determined to keep the pace and dragged on by my new found pacemaker I was able to sustain it with a slight tailwind.

 

Exiting the small wood for the last time my pacemaker put the foot down and pushed on leaving me flying solo down the home straight. With just over a mile to go at this point I decided to aim for around 1k to go before picking up the pace one last time – the increase on tired legs led to an uncomfortable final few minutes but I was determined not to be passed.

 

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Photo Courtesy of Kevin Ramage – Facebook

I crossed the line in a little over 63 minutes, averaging 6-20s for the whole run setting not only a 10 mile PB (not hard as my only other 10 miler was around the hills of the Kyles 10 Miles) but an improvement of 8 seconds on my 10k PB during the race and 4 minutes quicker than I had targeted at the start of the race. A baw hair outside the top 100 in a very, very quick field so plenty to draw me back to this one next year. Hopefully The Boy will finally be injury free too so that he can mount a challenge after today’s run confirmed me as champion in the mini-league runbetweeners section of the winter championships.

 

A definite focus for the year will be to take a bigger chunk off my 10k time once London is out of the way.

 

Thanks as always to the marshals and organisers.

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/924814958/overview

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/

 

 

Jack’s Virgin Money London Marathon 2015

Huddled in a damp corner of an over-sized marquee and nursing my steaming cup of coffee, I took a moment to take in my surroundings. Four gentlemen shared my shelter, listening to the ominous rain tic-tacking on the fabric roof, and each shifted uncomfortably in order to avoid the elephant in the room. In this tent however, the elephant was a gorilla: the fastest gorilla in the world no less! Preparation for The Virgin Money London Marathon 2015 had begun months earlier for many and the final pieces of the puzzle were being carefully put into place in this small corner of Blackheath Common. I watched, intrigued, at the variety of pre-race rituals that unfolded before me: a man, dressed head to toe in clinging Lycra, spooned thick porridge from a thermos flask; another athlete grimaced as he threw a concentrated shot of beetroot juice to the back of his throat, a solitary purple drop trickling down his chin. The race was not due to start for another three hours but already a steady stream of people were arriving at the Red ‘Fast Good for Age’ Zone.

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The early bird catches the worm!

 This was to be my first experience of the London Marathon in six years and my first in the blue vest of Bellahouston Harriers. My preparation had been as good as could be expected – I only missed one week of training during the build up when a half-marathon left me with a particularly sore shin – and I was anticipating a large PB. Shortly before the start I was joined by a few fellow Harriers and discussion of breakfast choices provided little cover for the nerves and excitement that made even a conversation about porridge bristle with tension.

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I tied and re-tied that barcode at least three times before the start of the                                                                            race!

 Having dumped my bag on the lorry, I made my way to complete the most important, and always memorable, element of the pre-marathon ritual of thousands – a final trip to the notorious portaloos. Emerging, thankfully, in one piece I had a moment of panic as I realised that the rest of the runners were making their way to the start line! I jogged over but was frustrated to find myself stuck at the back of the pen – not ideal when targeting a fast time. I surveyed the crowds in front of me and realised that there was no chance of me squeezing nearer to the front of the field; I would just have to accept this starting position and make up for any lost time later in the race. It was as I came to this realisation that I noticed something else which caused me some concern: a puddle was appearing underneath the man standing directly to my left. A quick glance across and I realised that he had in fact pissed himself. Shorts soaking, and with a sheepish look on his face, he caught my eye and smiled. I was speechless. I don’t know whether I was more disgusted by the fact that the puddle was creeping ever closer or concerned about the severe chafing that this man would surely suffer when running 26.2 miles in a pair of sopping wet shorts! Distracted by the spread of the puddle, I was shaken back to the reality of my situation as the loudspeaker burst into life – we were off! There is something incredibly anti-climactic about the start of the London Marathon; the months of training, the hype of the Expo and the buzz of the morning’s preparations build to the bang of the starter’s pistol…and then nothing. For a good few seconds after the gun signals the start of the race there is silence and all is still. Movement slowly ripples through the runners as people gradually gain enough space to move forward. Any hope of settling into race pace in the first mile are soon shattered as I creep through the first half a mile at barely a jog and spot a familiar face thirty yards ahead of me – Mr Gorilla, inflatable banana and all.

Getting into my stride...
Getting into my stride…

After a foolish second mile spent trying to make up for lost time I soon settled into my rhythm. It was not long before I found myself running alongside ‘Tim’. I did not know Tim before the race however it soon became clear that we were aiming for similar targets and we spent the next ten miles matching each other’s stride. Tim had wisely printed his name on his vest and I was blown away by the support this earned him – for a while I was convinced that he must be a celebrity runner! I will definitely be following suit next time! Eventually I lost Tim however his place was filled by a familiar face. As I passed the fifteen mile mark I heard my name and glanced across to see James – a man I had worked with ten years previously serving drinks to members of Farleigh Court Golf Club. I had known that James was running, and that he would probably be aiming for a similar time to me, however we had not spoken prior to the race and in a sea of 38,000 runners it had not even crossed my mind that we might cross paths. We exchanged a few words and then the next few miles saw us exchange positions in the race at least half a dozen times.

Paula
Paula

It was at around the 20 mile mark that the shouts about Paula started. Several supporters yelled that Paula Radcliffe was not far ahead and that we could catch her. I had not spotted Paula at all during the race and part of me doubted that she was actually that close – what can seem a short distance to a spectator is invariably much longer when running it. I therefore stuck to my planned pace as things were getting tough. I felt a couple of twinges in my shin – and was a little worried that it was going to blow up – but fortunately these faded into the background as the finish line edged slowly closer.

Support squad ready for action!
Support squad ready for action!

As I approached the twenty three mile mark I spotted the large fluorescent signs that my fiancée and mum had spent the night before putting together. The timing was perfect as I was really beginning to suffer now and I could focus on the distant signs getting closer. I knew that once I passed my family, it would be 5k to the finish – nothing but a parkrun! The cheers of encouragement from my family spurred me on and I was able to maintain some sort of form in the final few miles although the pace did start to ebb. As I turned into the final mile I was searching for the finish line. I realised that I was going to narrowly miss out on my target time but that I was still on track to get a time which I could be pleased with. I crossed the line one minute behind Paula Radcliffe and slowed to a walk. It’s amazing how quickly your body can give up once it has achieved its goal – I don’t think I could have run another step at that moment. I hobbled down the mall with my medal and raided my goody bag for any chocolate I could find. Before I knew it I was settled under the ‘B’ tree (for Bellahouston!) with my team mates and I was joined by my family. A few photos later and it was time to head home for steak and wine before catching a late flight back to Glasgow in order to make it to work in the morning!

Glasgow's finest
Glasgow’s finest!

            I sat at work on the Monday, medal firmly lodged in my pocket, and reflected on my phenomenal weekend. The experience of London was everything that I had hoped it would be and, even though my finishing time was not quite what I had hoped, it was still a time I was incredibly proud of. In the infamous words of Arnie: I’ll be back.

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