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.

Coigach Half Marathon

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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….

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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

Kyles 10 Miles – Round 3

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The Scottish Wife Carrying World Championship Squad in Training

 

Our pick for race of the year 2016, there was never any doubt that The Boy and I would be in Tighnabruaich yesterday for the annual Kyles 10 Miles Road Race. With the biggest every entry it was great to see so many familiar faces toeing the start line as well as many of our friends taking on this iconic race for the first time. Importantly though the race remained small enough to retain the intimate community vibe which has made it such a popular and well regarded event.

 

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The Sun Always Shines on the Kyles 10 Miles

 

There was a good turnout from both Bellahouston Harriers and Dunoon Hill Runners  this year meaning I was in for a no-win scenario plumping for a colour clashing combo of Harriers vest and Hill Runners buff after donning the local vest. Whilst my usual rule is ‘when in Argyll or on a hill don the Hill Runners vest’ I had travelled down from Glasgow with my Harriers team mates and wasn’t even too sure if my Dunoon vest had made it through the laundry cycle after the Cowal Hill Race.

 

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I wish I could just follow The Boys lead and not worry about my racing attire

 

Most pleasingly though for The Boy and I was the strong turnout from our Monday night running group. For some this was their longest race to date and they did brilliantly on a tough, but ultimately rewarding, route.

 

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Overview of the Route

 

On to the race itself I’ve promised The Boy I will keep it brief (for a fuller course overview see previous posts). So in a sentence this is a looped route with 6 hilly miles followed by four reasonably flat miles on open country roads. And if the editor had his way that would be it. Perhaps he’s keen to keep this one close to his chest, I wonder why?

 

If I really have to keep it short and you’re going to stop reading here all I will say is this is a race that you should seriously consider doing at least once.

 

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Just the right amount of elevation to test the legs 🙂 on the official scale of bumpy to mountainous

 

For those who want a little bit more keep reading…

 

The route is situated in one of the most incredibly scenic parts of the now Rough Guide awarded most beautiful country in the world. There are too many vistas to mention but the top views on the route include a short sideways glimpse of Ostel Bay, one of Argyll’s hidden gems, and jaw dropping panoramas over the Isle of Arran. With an early September date in the race calendar it provides a good test before Autumn Marathons and 1/2s and there’s more than a decent chance of good weather – the two good days in May and then again in September after all are what we Scots refer to as summer.

 

 

As well as the views the organisers manage to maintain a level of personal service alongside a professional race day experience that rivals the best out there. This was evident again despite a larger entry this year. This includes contact in advance with the organisers through to on the day assistance.  Throw in an incredibly friendly welcome from marshals, locals and interested passers by and you’ve got the key ingredients for our kind of race. The true test of a race as everyone knows though is in the post race refuelling options and here the Kyles 10 Miles triumphs with refreshments on tap, home baking and burgers cooking on the BBQ within metres of the finish line.

 

 

This year’s race went well overall with The Boy and I both recording course best times and bookending the top 10 much to our delight. It was great to see both Harriers / Hill Runners and friends of the Runbetweeners running strong on a tough route. Interestingly if my school running club had entered as a team we’d have been in with a good shout of a team prize.

 

Personally I felt strong over the hills but struggled to pick it up on the flat final 4 miles, a now familiar tale. After reaching the top of the shinty / golf course hill at the 1st mile marker I worked with ‘man in red running top’ to close the gap on the ever consistently fast Iain Morrison and a runner from Garscube Harriers. Closing the gap over the next two miles ‘man in red running top’ and I continued to climb and descend at a good pace over the outward section of the loop. Having someone to battle against definitely contributed to a personal best performance for me but on the final descent towards Carry Farm I struggled to maintain the downhill pace, gradually losing contact with ‘man in red running top’. This left me hopelessly adrift and running alone for the final few miles. Digging deep I was pleased to see later that I managed to maintain a sub 20 min 5k pace over the last section of the route when it felt like I was wading in treacle. The last mile was brutal with my legs feeling heavier with each passing step but I was delighted to cross the line in a little over 66 minutes.

 

The Boy was already gearing up for a two mile cool down by the time I finished and looks in great shape ahead of his tilt at the Berlin Marathon in two weeks. Congratulations to him for the win with a 40 second improvement on last year’s effort and for photo of the day.

 

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Most impressive yesterday though were the performances by The Runbetweeners who have caught the running bug badly. Despite the odd blister and tired legs everyone loved the route and it was great to see everyone coming home with giant smiles across their faces. It really was a fantastic achievement by each of them. A good warm up for tomorrow nights time trial 😉

 

 

As always thanks to the race organisers and marshals who give so tirelessly of their own time. It is much appreciated.

 

Race sträva – https://www.strava.com/activities/1176057742/overview 

 

Photo credits:

Claire Lamont

Alan G Forsyth Photography (snapped by Pam)

Paul Paterson