The Troon 10k – A Tribute…

Thanks again to Runbetweener Paul Killen for this fantastic review of the very popular Troon 10k!

 

It’s Wednesday night

It’s like we’re on vacation

It’s Troon 10k time,

The Joy, the Elation

 

Through sand dunes and streets

And a country park

Past the golf course and houses

Before it gets dark

 

As some may know,

I’ve a demon to slay

T’was last year

Almost to the day

 

My race fell apart

In a horrible way

I’m not happy

People OFTEN heard me say

 

I’d got three K in

And felt really rotten

But thankfully nothing,

To do with my bottom

 

The legs were heavy

The brain was a mess

I considered quitting

I must confess

 

Plodding on like a Tortoise

Back to the shorefront

I was ****** by now

I have to be blunt!

 

But past the dunes

The wind did blow

I walked a bit

Just 400 to go

 

I got there, just

But mentally scarred

An awful experience

The race was marred

 

But now we come

To twenty nineteen

And I entered the race

To make the slate clean

 

So it’s Wednesday night

It’s half past seven

We’re off down the promenade

A good race, not a given

 

At the sand dunes it narrows

So there’s bumping and jostling

But it’s a friendly race

So not much squabbling

 

Round the bend

And over the hill

The pace is good

I feel the thrill

 

Now into the park

No piper is playing

I’m not dwelling on that

I’m not delaying

 

Through the park

And into the houses

No need to be

Quiet as mouses

 

There’s folk in the street

Both young and old

And some inbetween

So I’m told

 

The kids look for high-fives

And they’re given gladly

Coz not to do so

Would reflect on me badly

 

As I said

It’s a friendly race

And we accept their big cheers

With utmost good grace

 

Bypassing the water

I’m feeling okay

And as for the legs

The don’t disobey

 

Round the back of the golf course

There’s now a long straight

3K to go

Past gate after gate

 

The final hill

With a cop at the top

Stopping the traffic

So off we can pop

 

Down the hill

And back to the dunes

I’m thinking now

I wish I had some tunes

 

I’m digging deep

The end is in sight

And we pass the point

Where it went wrong that night

 

The Demon is slain

Hurrah we all cheer

But wait a minute

What have we here?

 

The wind is a blowing

There’s a spanner in the works

Can I get there in one piece

Disaster lurks

 

The wind did change

There’s some seeds of doubt

It’s still in my face

As it was on the way out

 

Using runners as windbreaks

I head to the end

Pulling out to pass

As we round the final bend

 

I huff and puff

But no houses to blow down

There’s the finish line

No need to frown

 

I’ve done it, Yippee

The Demon is slain

It’s worth the effort

It wasn’t in vain

 

But it’s not just the training

Sometimes it’s the mind

Take care, fellow runners

And always be kind

Tom Scott Memorial 10M

A huge thank you to Runbetweeners Kirstin and Paul for this fantastic write up of the Tom Scott Memorial 10M race. This has been one of our top races for the last few years and is always a great event…

The Warm Up

Strathy

View of from the finish line – the Loch at Strathclyde Park – a beautiful day (photo credit: Finola Ashe)

Kirstin: 31st March, first day of spring when the clocks go forward, and Mother’s Day. So naturally I was up at six to eat my porridge before going to collect Paul, and head to Strathclyde Park for the Tom Scott Memorial 10 mile road race. After a brief journey in which t-shirts/gloves/base layers and sunglasses were debated as racing options, we met Finola and were good to go.

Paul: An absolutely smashing day for a race; not too warm, hardly a breath (in the main) and glorious sunshine.  It was time for my first crack at a 10 mile race.  I’m definitely of the opinion that the weather helped lift me for this one.  Training had been good after the rigours of Strathaven, but I’d been a bit lazy the last couple of weeks.  I’d three targets in mind, but the middle one (a 1:25) was the realistic target (and had been for some time).

 

The Start Line

rungroup

Partaking in a leisurely warm-up, though we’d like to say we always look this at ease when running (Photo credit: Alan@allsport-images)

Kirstin: It’s funny how as a runner you can find such a sense of camaraderie standing in car parks and toilet queues. Personally, I was very excited to spot Mark Gallagher of Running Friends Scotland blogging fame. I didn’t fan-girl, but it was close. It was clear this was an impressive field, and over 700 runners, completing the 6k and 10 mile option set off together, making for a very impressive site to behold spread out across the loch in the park.

Paul: As Kirstin said, a hectic start (as anyone that’s done Parkrun up there will know) with both races starting at the same time.  Based on previous times, I’d positioned myself after the middle but hadn’t taken account of the 6K runners, but no harm was done. I went off at, I thought, a reasonable pace, but mile marker one passed in 7:34, and I forced myself to calm down.  The flat course didn’t help, I wanted to push, but once beyond the Parkrun bit it gets a bit undulating and we were soon turning on the main road towards M&Ds.  A long, steady, uphill, then downhill took me to 4 miles.

 

Running Hard

runpaul

Kirstin: I had also set off at a fast pace (we all were there for a PB), and enjoyed the first half of the race. However, at mile 5, as you run back along to the Watersports Centre, I was overtaken by scores of faster club runners on their final sprint home. This should have been inspirational but was just demoralising as I knew had to go round the loch again at this point. Paul was significantly ahead of me at this point, so his view was slightly different…

Paul: Past 5 miles and heading towards the Watersports Centre was the long straight, and a wee bit of wind.  Comfortable at this point I was approaching the Centre for the first time (we were to head round the back) when the lead out cyclist past and announced the lead runners were coming through.  The leader passed me about 50 metres before the turn off point.  I don’t know why, but I wasn’t really happy with that. (Kirstin: I would take being half as slow as the winner any day of the week!)

 

The Long Road Home

runkirstin

Kirstin: At mile seven I caught the lovely Terry Nimmo from the Bellahouston Roadrunners (also a Runbetweener), and she was absolutely my saviour in the final stretch. I’d pushed myself way too hard in the first half. Every inch of my body hurt and I was so ready to quit, but Terry expertly coached and coaxed me round to a personal best at this distance of 1:37:15. I can’t thank Terry enough.

Paul: I’d settled into a rhythm, enjoying the scenery, avoiding (or failing, as it turns out) the midges with one full lap of the lake (6K) to do.  I was feeling it a bit, but knew there was only one more up and down section to go.  I decided to assess the situation at 8 miles.  At 8 miles I was looking to be almost bang-on a 1:20 time.  That was my top target and was outstanding in its own right, but I was feeling it.  But I’m stubborn, so Go Hard or Go Home. 800 metres to go the Low Battery warning came on obscuring all timings on my watch – but I didn’t want to press the button for fear of pressing the wrong one.  Lets be honest, we can’t have Strava having incorrect data!!  Crossed the line in 1:19:14.  Delighted, I was.  Nowhere near the front, over 30 minutes behind the winner, and I couldn’t have cared less as under 1:20 hadn’t really felt realistic.

 

The Finish Line

finishline

Amazing how quickly you can recover with a medal and mars bar in hand! Paul, Terry, Kirstin and Finola from left to right (photo credit: Finola Ashe)

Kirstin: At the finish I met with Paul and Finola again, who had blasted their races and came out with amazing PBs. Paul looked like a car windshield, covered in the midges which has plagued us the whole way round, which was testament to his speed. A caramel log and a mars bar later, and suddenly I was feeling great again. Funny that. On the whole I enjoyed the race (though nobody warned me about the hills or the midges). I recognise that this is a fast course for fast runners but it pushed me to a PB, and was another race I am proud to say I’ve completed.

Paul: I had a medal, a mars bar and a midge beard…and a smile.

Great Scottish Run – Kirstin

Regular Runbetweener Kirstin has written us a fantastic guest review of last week’s Great Scottish Run…

Having joined the Runbetweeners over two years ago, and strangely turned into someone who can run and enjoys running, the GSR Half seemed like the ideal challenge to take myself to the next level. I’d completed one half marathon before – on holiday in Amsterdam in Oct 2017 with no training behind me other than the GSR 10k – and after months struggling to train for an eventually cancelled Alloa Half, I decided I was finally going to conquer this distance. The timing of this race was perfect, as I could take advantage of the lovely summer weather and long daylight hours to actually put in the significant training that had always been lacking from my race efforts.

My training officially started with the Run the Blades 10k– from then on I added a mile a week to my long runs. I knew there were some issues with my general fitness, so I also joined a 10 week strength and conditioning class, and I know this has had a huge impact on my stamina. The training was tough at points, but I knew it was necessary, and on the morning of the run, I knew I was able to run the distance, and run it well.

Race day arrived. The train journey in to the city centre was very busy with runners, and it was great to be able to see the 10k runners along the Clyde as we approached Central Station. I had downloaded the app on my phone, so I knew my fellow Runbetweeners including Kirsty Cunningham and Susan Redpath were well into their 10k efforts and I vainly tried to spot them. A short jog later, and I was at the start. I had a target time in my head, based on my Kyles 10 Miles effort, and on the week of the race slowly started vocalising this, slipping out to people that “I’m really keeping it a secret, but I want sub 2:15”. However, something funny happens to me when I’m on the start line of any run though – I get competitive. And as soon as I found myself in the green wave – front and centre – I knew I wanted 2:10. I couldn’t see anyone I knew around me that I could run with to help me secure this target, or even a pacer (short people problems), but I decided I should push myself and before I could question things further it was time for a cheesy choreographed mass warm-up and then we were off!

The run starts by following the same route as the 10k, with an incline up St Vincent street, a quick jog round trendy Finnieston, and then the highlight of running over the Kingston Bridge! My pace was fairly fast for the first three miles – I decided I needed to make this time at the start to give me a shot at 2:10, but then I steadied myself out and settled in for the long haul. I didn’t know the next part of the route too well, but I soon found myself on familiar territory as many of my training runs had been around Pollokshields, leading into Pollok Park. Knowing where I was going really helped, as I could set myself clear targets. There was also great support from Runbetweeners spectators Donna Gillon, Jenny Brown and Blythe Lindsay.

Running through the park was lovely as always, but when we came out and made our way to Bellahouston we found ourselves in a very cold, heavy shower and running into a headwind. This mile wasn’t pleasant. Soon though we were out of Bellahouston and on to the home straight. I really couldn’t believe how quickly the race was passing and how strong I felt. I checked my watch at every mile and my pacing was really steady. I knew I could make 2:10, and unbelievably I saw I could get home sooner than that! From miles nine to twelve, my mantra became “maintain”. I was so scared of running out of steam, and this part of the race was hard work – but I wasn’t giving up! Running over the Squinty Bridge I got another boost, with great encouragement from Ian McBain of GFR. From then on, it was straight alongside the river to the finish. This is such a fantastic part of the course – everyone has given their all, and it really putting in their best efforts. Unbelievably, as I hit about 12 and a half miles I spotted June MacLeod ahead of me. This is how I knew I had just run the race of my life, as June is a much faster runner than me. In June’s defence, she was on her twentieth mile of the day, as part of her Bamburgh Marathon training. I chased June to the finish and was absolutely delighted to finish in 2:08:28.

This race really is a special one. The huge number of participants across the 10k and Half Marathon events, and the family mile and races for young people the day before gives Glasgow a huge buzz. A huge number of Runbetweeners not yet mentioned in this report participated including Gillian Glass, Karen Rosling, Anne Williamson, Jill Mair, Paul Burningham, and Jacqueline Glass. (Jack and Kenny ran too of course). The event is wholly inclusive, but also provides the ideal challenge and I can’t wait to return next year.

Getting over your run – A physio’s guide.

A huge thanks to Eilidh Dorrian of Phyzz.ED for putting together this guide to recovery to help our runners get over their Great Scottish Run! For more tips and advice, Eilidh can be found on Facebook @Phyzz.EDphysiotherapy .

 

So you have decided to do the Great Scottish Run. For some of you it would have been an easy decision but for others, this might have been one of the most challenging things ever. Weeks of training, sweating, chaffing and blisters and it’s finally here. But then what?

Here are a few simple tips to help you recover.

1. Hydrate

After you finish, a wee celebratory drink might be the first thing you think of, however your muscles and the surrounding tissue need to be hydrated. Drinking water will help the blood circulate round the body, flushing out the lactic acid and helping lubricate the synovial fluid in your joints. Drinking a sports isotonic drink will also benefit muscle recovery and stop night cramps.

2. Drain the lactic.

If your legs have been feeling the burn in the final stages of the run it means lactic acid is saturating the muscle. As soon as you can, use gravity to drain the lactic out.

Find a wall, lie on your back with your legs straight up the wall.

Draining your legs helps get the lactic back to your kidneys to be processed.

3. Ice Bath

I know the last thing your going to want to do is dive feet first onto a bath of ice but trust me, it’s for your own good.

If you can’t face a bath, then why not try the cold water in the shower. Run it over your legs. 7 mins if you can but anything is a bonus.

4. Protein

Help your body rebuild and refuel. A good balanced meal with a good balance of carbs and protein will help muscle recover.

5. Massage and Rolling

Hmmmmmm. Massage is often mistaken as a great way to get lactic out your legs as you cross the finish line.

Both massage and rolling should be put off for at least 24 hours following the finish of the run. Massage will release more toxins into your blood and can have the opposite effect, overloading your wee bod and hampering it’s recovery!

6. Physiotherapy.

If in doubt and you’ve tried everything and still feel sore, get it checked.

Enjoy and good luck to all.

Hackney Marshes parkrun

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Confessions of a serial spectator – top tips for supporting!

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

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

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

img_2476

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

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

img_2477

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

img_2478

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

img_2479

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

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

img_2480

 

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.

img_2188

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.

img_2184

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!

img_2187

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!

img_2183

Coigach Half Marathon

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 21.46.59
A Proper Course Map

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 22.43.05
Feeling Good At the Start of the Course – Photo Credit Anne McGee

 

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

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 14.13.08

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 21.47.30
Beating the Speed Trap on the Downhill

 

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

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 21.47.38

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 21.48.05

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Strava geeks check out my race performance below:

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