A little guest post from Runbetweener wife, Vicki…
Instagram is a great tool for runners; I love scrolling through my feed, finding new places to run, race inspiration (oh I really fancy an ultra) and fancy new kit from smaller brands. So when I came across someone’s post about a ‘subrun’ in Glasgow I was intrigued. Now, the ‘subcrawl’ has been popular among students and non-students alike for years. The idea being that you travel on the subway in Glasgow and get off at each stop to have a drink in the nearest pub: a rather messy night and not the healthiest affair! The subrun however sees like-minded runners running between each of the 15 subway stops, covering a total of around 10 miles and seeing the sights of the City Centre and West End. Sounded fun to me and I knew another group of runners who would love it too. I suggested it to my fellow Runbetweeners and, thankfully, a large group agreed. I was planning on including it in my marathon training plan as it’s always nicer to run with others. A date was set, a route planned and at 10.30 on the 14th January we met at the St Enoch centre.
There were 22 of us starting the run in total, with some hardy marathon runners doing some miles before and some runners only completing part of the route. That’s what I love about the Runbetweeners group, it’s so inclusive, no matter what stage on your running journey you are at. We set off once everyone was accounted for, going for an anti-clockwise route, getting the city centre out of the way before it started to get busy. Running up Buchanan Street just before the shops opened certainly was strange, but nice and quiet without the usual weekend hustle and bustle. We soon hit our first stop at Buchanan station and took the obligatory group selfie. I was told a photo had to be taken at every stop. That was the subrun rules.
Miles passed by and it was nice to have a 1 min stop at every station; It broke up the run a bit and each stop allowed the group to stay together, with the faster runners waiting each time. Soon we were in the West End and as people started to wake up, the streets were getting busier. Luckily, most people found our big group of brightly coloured lycra amusing and made way for us as we ambled past. We ran down Byres Road towards Kelvinhall station and then to Partick for a quick wee stop before the longest and most exciting part of the run.
It was 2.5 miles between Partick and Govan stations and the route took us through the Clyde Tunnel. Most of our group had never run through the Clyde Tunnel before and it was definitely a novelty. To get through you have to buzz the control room and someone lets you in, closing the gate behind you. A bit spooky but completely safe and well lit. As can be imagined, the first part of the tunnel is a great, gentle downhill to get us going. The tunnel was full of cheers and laughs with everyone enjoying this strange experience. It did however get a bit quieter as we reached the middle – what goes down must come up!
We got out the other side and started to make our way to Govan station after a quick selfie to show we had survived the tunnel. On route we passed the Glasgow Front Runners who were completing the subrun in the opposite direction. A charge of “attack!” was heard from Anne at the front of our group however it was all laughs and high 5s as we ran past each other. The subrun has become a bit of a trend this month in the running community in Glasgow with several running clubs and groups taking part which is wonderful to see.
Sadly, Govan is where I left the subrun. A niggle in my injury left me limping a bit, so I bid farewell to the group and set of on the actual subway to meet them at the end while they completed the final 4 miles. A few others dropped off over the next 4 miles too, some completing longer runs and running home, and a few didn’t have 10 miles in their training plans yet. The final group met back at the St Enoch for a coffee to discuss what a good day was had. We have all agreed we must do it again later in the year and I maybe have another idea for a group Sunday long run up my sleeve. Might start taking over from Jack soon…
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve always loved Christmas. Falling asleep on the sofa in a cheap paper hat with a belly full of food and a familiar film in front of me whilst surrounded by family and friends has always been a highlight. In recent years however, I have discovered another thing which Christmas manages to do better than any other time of year. Running. Don’t get me wrong, I love a run any day of the year (and Strava has just informed me that last year I ran on most of them!) but Christmas running beats the lot of them and this year was particularly enjoyable – with a large portion of the credit going to parkrun…
In the spirit of giving, Vicki and I kicked off our running festivities by volunteering at Duthie Park Junior parkrun. Having been a member of the core team at Rouken Glen junior parkrun for the last year or so, I was intrigued to experience this relatively new event in Aberdeen. I was hoping to get a long run in so set the alarm for 7 and made my way to Duthie Park via the River Dee and Aberdeen Beach. Having enjoyed several years as a member of the Aberdeen University Boat Club, the run along the river was particularly enjoyable as I was able to reminisce of the icy mornings spent rowing up and down the river (often with a horrific hangover) and the eventful (!) socials held in the boathouse on the riverbank! I met Vicki at the park and we grabbed our Hi-Viz vests from the enthusiastic team of Teletubbies (At this point I realised I had forgotten my ‘festive fancy dress). Vicki’s younger cousin was making his parkrun debut at this event and it was great to see the enjoyment that the kids were getting from the event – it definitely gave the festive spirit a kick start!
Christmas day was our turn to run and so we made our way to Hazelhead parkrun. This was a new parkrun for me and I was intrigued by the unusual profile of the route – 2.5km of climbing before turning around and enjoying a 2.5km downhill section through the woods. Vicki and I arrived nice and early but it became clear as we made our way to the start that Vicki’s injury was not going to play ball and so she decided it would be best to sit this one out. The atmosphere at the event was fantastic and the turnout was impressive. It was great to bump into Kyle Greig – an old friend from Uni – who has gone on to achieve some phenomenal things with his running since the days of our Tuesday night Social Run to the pub! I had a quick catch up with Kyle and then the Run Director led us all in a parkrun themed sing-a-long before starting the run. I enjoyed taking this one easy and took in the scenery as we made our way through the woodland. I would love to come back and have a shot at running this one fast as the long downhill second half would almost certainly lead to a nice negative split! After the run it was time to head home to make a start on food and presents – perfect!
After a couple of days running through the fields of Aberdeenshire it was time to fly to London and enjoy my second ‘new’ parkrun of the week. On New Year’s Eve I awoke early to make my way to Roundshaw Downs parkrun. I decided to make this part of my long run for the week and so enjoyed an easy 5.5M jog to and from the event to take my distance for the day up to 14M. The run itself was great and consisted of a couple of flat, muddy laps around the downs. The event was a fairly small one but as always the atmosphere was fantastic and I had a nice chat with the Run Director at the end.
New Year’s Day arrived and it was time for another parkrun! This time I was heading to Bushy park – the home of parkrun – with a big chunk of the family. We made our way to join the 1000 odd runners at the event and enjoyed the buzz that can only be generated by such a large event. This was my second trip to Bushy parkrun and I loved it just as much as I did the first time around. The route is nice and flat and the scenery is fantastic. Once again, I was surprised by the proximity of the deer and stags that graze in the park and enjoyed taking my foot off the gas to appreciate the view. After the run it was great to hear that the rest of the family had loved it too and we enjoyed our coffees in the park before heading home for another day of eating and napping on the sofa.
So there we have it! One week with four very different (free!) running events all over the festive period! I could have been greedy and gone for the Hogmanay double but maybe I’ll save that for next year…
Since running the Berlin Marathon, several people have approached me to ask about the sudden halting of my training updates on here. I managed to write up my training reflections for the first few weeks of the block however these soon fizzled out when things got a little hectic at work. For now, the details will remain on the pages of my training diary but here is a quick summary of the final few weeks…
Ticking off several key long runs containing chunky sections at Marathon Pace did wonders for my confidence and I found myself entering the taper period with my eyes fixed firmly on a PB. A particularly gruelling session took place three weeks prior to race day and is definitely one which I will repeat in future marathon endeavours. The session covered 24M and included 5 sets of 3M at Marathon Pace with 1M between each set at a pace roughly 45secs/mile slower. This was a tough workout but it never felt like I was out of control and this gave me a huge boost. We drove out to Paisley for this run and made use of the cycle path down to Lochwinnoch and back. This was ideal as we did not have to worry about traffic, hills or road crossings.
I took a fairly short taper and maintained a slightly higher mileage than in previous Marathon build-ups. This definitely helped me psychologically as I was running well and it was nice to be running comfortably on a regular basis in the lead up to the race. I also followed a similar eating plan to my Amsterdam Marathon effort of 2016 – if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it! This meant that I spent three days doing a ‘carb-depletion’ phase at the start of the week and then followed this up with four days of ‘carb-loading’. On the day prior to the race I settled back into a regular (although still fairly carby) diet in order to avoid feeling bloated on race day. I know that there is a lot of debate regarding the effectiveness of ‘carb-depletion’ but it seems to have worked for me in the past so I’ll continue to do it.
On the morning of the race, I woke up very early for breakfast. I have struggled in the past with stitches when eating late and have since found that eating 4hours before my marathon does the job and works for me. I went for my standard pre-marathon breakfast of porridge, banana and a coffee and then sipped an isotonic drink throughout the morning. I also had a small flapjack a couple of hours later just to keep hunger at bay.
I was over the moon with my results of 2:31:31 – a shade faster than I had been hoping for and a shiny new PB. I loved the route and will follow this brief summary up soon with a full review of the race itself.
This morning I took part in my first Paisley 10k. I’m not quite sure how I’ve avoided this one which is always a popular date in the running calendar. I’d been looking forward to this one since entering a few months back as it meant getting back to my old stomping ground after teaching in the town for 6 years. By complete coincidence I’d spent the night before being absolutely blown away by an ex-Paisley Grammar pupil in the lead role in the stage adaptation of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. And so it was cycling past The Grammar on my way to the start line that I made my mind up to try and give a season’s best performance.
The 6.5 mile cycle warm up has worked well in the past for me as a leg loosener and I arrived in what I thought was good time in the centre of Paisley around 30 minutes before the start of the race. Despite this I got stuck in the bag drop queue for a while meaning I missed my chance of getting close the front of the start pen. I tried to wriggle my way through but with a record breaking field of runners I accepted my fate and positioned myself on the edge of the start pen hoping to at least avoid getting boxed in.
However with a few minutes to go the crowd surged forward and I managed to navigate a path closer to the front. This was still a long way off my regular competition but gave me a fighting chance of catching them. Determined not to let this put me off I took a wide route over the first km which encompasses a small loop past two of Paisley’s most iconic landmarks – The Town Hall and Paisley Abbey. By now I had caught Billy from the Harriers who would surely have given me more of a ribbing about my poor pacing yet again following the Mens 10k if he’d seen me coming.
Heading around the back of Gilmour Street station the route settles into a reasonably flat and fast one on wide roads. Around 2km I caught Janine, Donald and Mark from the Harriers. A quick scan of my vitals told me that I had run the first mile in close to 6:20, too fast given how much weaving I had done and how slow the first 400m had been. Despite this I felt pretty comfortable. With a sensible head on this would have been a good spot for me to sit in as part of a pack and regroup but I felt strong and decided to try and maintain the pace as long as possible passing the guys and exchanging pleasantries.
Between 3 and 4km I caught sight of Paul B. and Neil from the Harriers on the horizon and I tried to reel them in over the next few kms. I was sure I would have settled into a good rhythm by now but my second mile split was 6:12. I was getting faster. Pleased to be holding a pace that could put me on for a new pb and feeling good I was still regularly passing other runners due to my delayed start giving me confidence in my fitness, speed and potential on the day. Passing Paul I gave him the shout to try and keep Neil, who seemed to be maintaining the distance between us, in sight for as long as possible.
Approaching the half way stage the route switches to the pavement before dropping down slightly to an underpass giving you a view of those ahead on the other side of the busy road. This meant only one thing – after the turn there would be a climb. Turning the corner into the underpass I was pleased to get a shout of ‘Mon Mr Taylor’ given that there can only be a small number of pupils left at Paisley Grammar who I actually taught.
Cresting the small climb I was still feeling strong and enjoying the relative speed at which the miles (and the kms even more so) pass off in the middle distance events. The next km sees you approach the canal section of the race. A switchback onto the main path and you can really start to open up the legs if you still have the energy. Around this point I was slowing slightly as much due to the small climbs in these miles as the fast start and this would be where I lost precious seconds and my concentration lapsed. With about 2km to go I contemplated picking up the pace but I could still see Neil from and Mark from Motherwell A.C. ahead giving me two good benchmarks that a good time was on. If I could close the gap slightly, coupled with my slow start, my chip time would be good and I could smell a sub 39 minute pb. Sadly for Neil as I almost got within shouting distance he took a wasp in mouth situation and had to stop to clear his throat.
The route exits the canal path at the 9km flag giving a clear indication that it is time to put the foot down if you have still got anything left in the tank. Although I was still feeling strong I was continuing to slow coming off the canal path. Unfortunately there is also a small rise up to the Coat’s Memorial Church so you’re doing well to maintain pace at this point.
A watch check would definitely have helped me at this point in knowing a. How much further was to go, and b. How close I was to my pb.
Route experience would definitely have helped me at this stage as I was concerned that the finish might take us around the back of Gilmour St. again. As I was beginning to struggle with the pace I definitely took my eye of the ball at the most important stage. As it turns out the final 600m is a racer’s dream with a gentle downhill sprint to the finish line. I picked up the pace from about 500m to go after a strong show of encouragement from the al fresco dining Harriers but dropped off this pace slightly with what turned out to be about 200m to go worried that we’d be directed to do a loop of the town square before seeing the finish line. As it turned out it’s a straight run down the main street before a sharp left turn into the main square.
I crossed the line in 39:11 in position 100 (a few places higher on chip time). A PB equaling effort and a result I am pretty pleased with all things considering as I’ve only had a couple of weeks of solid training under the belt since returning from Japan. It’s definitely given me confidence for the next couple of months with some exciting new and old challenges to look forward to.
It was great to see such a strong turnout from the Harriers at this one and to catch up with so many others who seemed pleased with their runs in the main. This is definitely a race I would do again and I am confident that if I run as well next year course knowledge would definitely see me dipping under my current pb.
As always thanks to all of the marshals and race organisers – particularly those that gave their time for free.
With Kenny off exploring Japan this weekend, I decided to do a little tourism of my own. Vicki and I made our way down to Sheffield to visit some family and enjoy a couple of days of drinking coffee and eating cake in a variety of cafes and tearooms. Throw in a parkrun and you have all the ingredients of a pretty successful mini-break!
Our initial plan had been to re-visit Sheffield Hallam parkrun as this is very close to where we would be staying. We were surprised however to discover that the event was cancelled this weekend due to a local festival taking place within Endcliffe Park and so we set our sights on Graves parkrun – a new event for us and an exciting (though hilly!) prospect.
Vicki and I were both planning to squeeze a few extra miles into our Saturday morning (Vicki was hoping to make this her long run while I was hoping for half a dozen easy miles before my long run tomorrow!) and so we set the alarm and Vicki set off solo at 7:30 while I grabbed myself a welcome cup of coffee and curled back under the duvet for an extra half hour in bed. As the clock struck 8 I popped out the front door and joined Vicki for the short, yet mountainous, run across town to Graves Park. We arrived at the park with about 15minutes to spare and my brother Tom joined us for the pre-run briefing before we took our places on the start line. The event was fairly busy, potentially due to the event cancellation at Hallam parkrun, and the friendly, welcoming atmosphere that seems to be an ever-present aspect of the parkrun experience was in full flow. After a few words of advice and encouragement we were off.
My plan was to run 6 miles at approximately 7minute miling and so I took up a position which was fairly close to the front without being too near to the sharp end – I did not want to get carried away in a battle against someone which could potentially ruin my plan for the session.
The run begins with a long sweeping downhill section through a park with stunning views out over the surrounding countryside. It was fantastic to experience this without the pressure of racing and I enjoyed settling into a rhythm and taking it all in. A friendly shout from the marshal at the bottom of the hill directed us towards a narrow footpath through the farm and I found myself bounding along between fields full of slightly puzzled looking sheep. The pathway here was fairly narrow here but fortunately this was not a day when overtaking was a priority and I tucked in behind the runner in front of me who was keeping a nice steady pace. If I were returning to Graves in future and planning on racing this route, I would definitely make it a priority to go out hard and secure a place at the front before reaching this path as overtaking here would be near impossible.
After the narrow pathway things opened up again and we found ourselves snaking up through the fields and back out of the farm. We passed ponds and woodland before returning to the large open field in which we began. This meant a return up the hill, this time on grass, to the start line before he route retreated itself. Again, this hill is definitely one worth remembering if returning here for a fast race as it is a fair climb and the grass could be energy sapping underfoot. It is not a finish that I would like to be reaching neck and neck with a rival!
The second lap was very enjoyable as things had spread out a bit and I was happily plodding along in a steady rhythm, taking in the beautiful views of Graves Park and already thinking about the forthcoming breakfast of bacon and cream cheese bagels (an absolute belter of a post-run brekkie in my book). I crossed the finish line pretty much on the pace which I had planned and made me way back round the route to cheer on Vicki and Tom as they tackled the final hill. Barcodes were scanned, photos were taken and breakfast was organised. Tom and I jumped in the car home while Vicki ran back to squeeze in her final few miles down the epic hills which had been conquered earlier in the morning.
This was a a fantastic parkrun and definitely one worth experiencing if you find yourself in Sheffield. It is not as quick as the Hallam event but it is a beautiful park with plenty to see on the run. The hills are challenging without being nightmarish and the event is busy without being over-crowded. All in all, this was a very enjoyable morning of running – and the bagels were not bad either!
The Berlin Marathon has always been the ‘A’ target for 2017 and, as I begin my race-specific training, I thought I would keep a record of my training and reflections for each week online. I currently keep a handwritten training diary which enables me to keep an eye on my training and track my progress over the year however during my preparation for the Amsterdam Marathon 2016 I found it interesting to read the training diaries of other runners online and so this year I have decided to add my own contribution. My current marathon PB is 2:34 which I secured at Amsterdam last year. I would like to build on that in Berlin. This will be a fairly short marathon block as I struggled with injuries earlier in the year and decided that I would delay the marathon-specific work and focus instead on building up some speed. I also took an easy week prior to commencing this next period of hard work during which I cut my mileage drastically, had a massage and generally took things easy!
Week One: 10/07/17-16/07/17
Total Mileage: 68.5
Monday: AM: Strength + Conditioning (light)
PM: 6M Recovery Run
Tuesday: AM: 4.75M Easy
PM: 7M Easy + Strides
Wednesday: PM: 11.5M (3X2M at Tempo)
Thursday: AM: 6M Recovery Run
Friday: PM: 8M Easy
Saturday: AM: Springburn parkrun
PM: Strength + Conditioning (light)
Sunday: AM: 18M Easy
This was a bit of a mixed week for me. I introduced a more specific running strength and conditioning element to my training and took this at a low intensity due to it being a new addition to my training.
Wednesday’s Tempo run was hard going and it was a very hot day. I made a couple of big mistakes which had a negative impact on the session. Firstly, I don’t think I managed my hydration through the day effectively and I really felt this during the later stages of the session. Secondly, I took the first couple of miles far too quickly which meant that I faded in the later stages and particularly struggled in the final mile to hold a tempo pace. After this session I felt horrific and had to jump into Tesco for something to drink. It was definitely a lesson in preparation and I will be certain to manage these things more effectively in future!
Saturday was a chance to put in a fast 5k run at Springburn park run and, again, this was a disappointing experience. I had managed a PB of 9:59 at the hilly Bella Harriers 2M TT last week and hoped to build on that by pushing for a sub16 minute parkrun. It became clear in the first mile however that my legs were not going to play along and they felt heavy and tired almost immediately. On reflection I believe this could have been down to a couple of things but mainly my very short warmup due to a late arrival at the park. I think I probably still had some of Wednesday’s tempo in my legs also. I crossed the line in 16:18 which was frustrating but I am happy that this was a blip which I can overcome easily.
Sunday was a good one! I really enjoyed the 18M Easy run which I took solo. I like the new route which took my along the Clyde Walkway for a large portion of it and I will use this again. I held an average pace of 6:43 per mile which felt comfortable and I managed to stick to this pace consistently throughout the run. It was nice to complete this run exactly as planned.
Overall this was a mixed week. Wednesday and Saturday’s runs were disappointing but I take some comfort from knowing where I went wrong and that it is easily fixable. Sunday was a much better run and allowed me to finish the week on a positive note. I managed to get a decent number of miles in as well as a couple of strength and conditioning sessions and feel good about going into week two.
2 Miles is not a distance which we get the opportunity to race over very often. It is short enough that it is going to hurt from the gun and long enough to give you time to think about the pain. However the Bellahouston Harriers 2 Mile Time Trials always manage to attract a decent crowd and the atmosphere is consistently electric. This month’s edition was no different. At just two pound entry (with post-race soup included in the fee!) this has to be one of the cheapest running events on the calendar and the fact that it can all be over (relatively) quickly makes it an ideal opportunity to test your fitness once a month over the summer.
After a very social warm-up lap, we made our way, slightly nervously, to the start line at the entrance to Cartha. Tom didn’t hold us there for too long however and after a few words of thanks and last minute instructions we were off.
The first half of the route follows a gradual downhill towards Lochinch and it was during this speedy section that the first thoughts of doubt crept into my head. The nature of the distance means that a slow start can be very hard to recover from and the slight descent encourages a fast start. I found myself, as always, wondering whether I had in fact gone off with a slightly too much enthusiasm. The run was missing a couple of notable Harriers who normally give me a good target and so I found myself striding solo towards the White House. I checked my pace slightly and focused on maintaining an efficient form and trying to relax, knowing that the downhill section would not last forever.
As I turned the bend at Pollok House and began the ascent, I felt better than I remember feeling in previous attempts. It was during the climb however that the fear started to creep back in – could I really hold this pace up the hill which never seems to end? I broke the hill up into sections in my head and focused on these smaller targets, allowing myself the idea that I would reconsider my pace after the next goal had been surpassed. This seemed to do the trick and I managed to crest the hill without having to make too great a sacrifice in pace.
As I hit the sharp bend onto the final downhill section of the route I felt great and seemed to pick up a second wind from somewhere. The slightly muddy surface underfoot however meant that I had to check my stride a touch as I bounded down the pathway and this seemed to provide another boost of much needed adrenaline as I panicked that I was going to have thrown away my chances of beating my previous time. Emerging from the path with 400m to go I kicked on and the encouragement of several Harriers at this point was incredible. The final section is always longer than you think it is going to be and I was grateful for another shout of encouragement from Robbie Ferguson as I re-entered Cartha for the final twisting metres.
I crossed the line feeling strong but empty, satisfied that I had given everything in the final stages of the race. I was unable to really think about anything else going on at this stage and so did a bit of a double-take when Tony announced my time for me. 9 minutes and 59 seconds. A nice personal best and my first ever sub-10 minute performance. It was great to see Stuart and Darren both sprinting over the line shortly afterwards, each producing their own PB performances.
It was a night of many stand-out performances with Kenny also securing himself a big PB and several of the Runbetweeners making their debut over the distance. The event is a small one, but the atmosphere is always fantastic and there is a lot to be said for a short, fast race with friends followed by a hot cup of soup and a crusty roll. It is a great example of what makes Bella Harriers such a brilliant club to be part of.
If you fancy joining us for the next one, it will take place on 10th August and is open to everyone. Thanks to Ann, Tony, and Stuart for the photographs.
Yesterday we travelled north to take part in the second Run Mhor half marathon. This was one we’ve been looking forward to since entering several months ago following several recommendations of ‘this will be right up your street’. Reading the pre-race blurb it certainly ticked a lot of the boxes including a scenic run, small field, driving distance from home and post race refreshments within hobbling distance of the finish line.
In April I had been lucky enough to stay at the Mhor Hostel for a couple of nights as a birthday treat giving me the advantage of checking out the route in advance and on the car journey I enjoyed winding The Boy up about the route. With experience though came the knowledge of ‘that hill’ and in hinsight blind naivety might have been a better option than knowing what was coming around the 10 mile marker.
After being well marshalled into our parking slot we registered and caught up with the rest of the Harriers – many of whom were returning to take part in their second Mhor Run (big pressure on them now to remain ever presents). The Boy warmed up as we all huddled together to stay warm before he studied the route map carefully, keen to see how many hills there were and how many opportunities he would have to get lost. This attention to detail is perhaps one of the many reasons why he will in every race, regardless of distance, run 1 minute a mile faster than me.
The event saw a big increase in runners this year with 200 runners registered for the Half Marathon, 100 for the 10k and a well attended kids run. This was testament to the word of mouth effect a well organised race can have amongst the tight knit running community. There are still many gaps in the racing calendar and small towns would be well placed to consider hosting sporting events given the economic benefits a run can bring. Kingshouse certainly lived up to the billing with a warm welcome from the friendly registration team.
On to the race itself. The first mile climbs gradually out of Kingshouse before dropping down again into Balquhidder around the two mile mark passing the resting place of Rob Roy. I was passed in the second mile by two runners as the pack naturally ordered itself after a typically adrenaline fuelled first mile 🙂 This section gives the legs a test of what is to come.
Around this time I started to think that I was probably around 11th place after setting off ambitiously up the hill before regaining my composure and settling into a 6-45 pacing strategy. Sticking to my pre-race plan my aim was to run as close to 7 minute miling as I could over the route meaning that I needed to dip under this marker in the early and flatter miles to ensure some money in the bank before ‘that hill’.
Turning past Loch Voil I took a second to enjoy the scenery. A small roadside percussion band were serenading the runners, the sun was peeking through the clouds and you couldn’t have picked anything better to be doing on a Saturday lunch time.
The next few miles of the course were my favourite during the training run. Passing through a tree lined hamlet the valley then opens up as you snake along the river bank enjoying the flat surface and opening the legs. The gap between me and a crop of runners stubbornly remained over the next two miles but as we started the first of two climbs in the forest above Stathyre I closed down and passed two other runners. I pushed hard over the next section and really raced the uphill miles, pleased in my mind that I was perhaps now within shot of a top 10 place.
The downhill section into Strathyre is a welcome treat after the wannabe ‘small’ hill that would be unfavourably referred to in any other race that couldn’t boast ‘that hill’. At one point just approaching Strathyre I almost took a wrong turn down a lane before realising the sign was just ahead of the concealed turn in the road ahead. This was to prove crucial later on.
The route returns to the start/finish zone along the cycle path for a few miles and this was a chance to try and hunt down another runner within sight but this gap remained consistent despite trying to close it several times. Heading out of Kingshouse for the second time this time around we headed north parallel to the main road (the second lap of the half marathon follows the single lap route covered by the 10k runners). We had done this lap first when on holiday earlier in the year and I was looking forward to the first mile through the woods. By this time though my legs were starting to grumble after the exertion of trying to put a gap between me and the two runners I had passed at Strathyre. I had hoped to ease back a little content in the knowledge I had dropped them by this stage.
The next two miles are gently undulating but feel properly mountainous by this stage and it was unfortunately somewhere in the woods that the heavy breathing and footsteps appeared behind me – definitely not part of the plan. I managed to hold off for around half a mile before being passed by a runner I assumed had been the guy I saw stretching out a cramp around mile 2 – not one of my Stathyre passes but still a place. Doubts about a top 10 finish crept in.
Despite this the section here is a great bit of the route as the 10k runners pass in the opposite direction as they approach the end of their race, offering encouragement whilst unwittingly wearing the joyous look of ‘my beer is closer than your beer’ across their pained but soon to be relieved faces.
As we approached Lochearnhead I became increasingly conscious of another runner nearing me and he drew alongside as we crossed the bridge. Mustering up some words of encouragement for him he told me that him and the runner in front had gone the wrong way just before Strathyre and were trying to claw back positions. This meant I was still in good positioning and perhaps still in with a shout of a top 10 finish perking up my spirits a little at a tough stage in the run. Despite being slower than both (they had clearly covered more ground than me with their misdirection) I actually managed to latch onto the two guys as they hunted down the guy one place ahead of me who had stubbornly maintained the gap between us.
At this stage no amount of position maths, split analysis or post race meal planning was going to detract from the fact that ‘that hill’ was now here. It started much steeper than I remembered it when I told Lisa to walk one set of poles and jog the next. Race mode on there was no way I could walk it though…. was there? It was touch and go but I was glad of the company at this point and actually closed the gap on the two ‘lost boy’ runners on the climb as we hair-pinned our way up the hill. Under two minutes of running I later found out thanks to Strava segments that I had reached the summit only 4 seconds slower than The Boy who was probably now close to the finish line 🙂
As the lost boys stopped to hydrate I carried on in pursuit of finish line safe in the knowledge the net elevation was very much downhill for the last few miles. It didn’t take them long to pass me again and within a mile I was again chasing them down. At this point I expected the downhill to help pull me towards the finish but it never really felt that I was running on anything other than flat as the drop stretches over a much greater distance than the short but brutal climb. During the time there were 3 runners in sight but each was running well and I was struggling after the effects of the previous 10 and a bit miles.
Approaching the home straight I was pleased to meet the Bella girls running in the opposite direction en mass toward ‘That Hill’. With some mutual ‘mon the bella’ shouts of encouragement exchanged they definitely looked to be enjoying the run much more than me but I was pleased to hear that I was possibly in around 10th place by their reckoning whilst ‘The Boy’ had not got lost and was apparently looking good for the win.
Gritting my teeth I tried to pull onto the shoulder of one of the ‘lost boys’ several times in the final cruelly undulating section of the route but he was able to respond strongly each time so I convinced myself I should be gracious and let him keep at least one spot after his additional yardage early on. Chasing other runners definitely pulled me home to a quicker time than I would if I had become detached and running solo meaning I was able to maintain and regain a decent pace on the approach to and descent from ‘that hill’.
By my reckoning before ‘that hill’ I had built up about a 90 second buffer for a sub 1:30 (which would have been my first official time under the 90 minute marker after the Great Scottish Run 2016 episode) so I was a little bit disappointed to pass the 2km to go sign on 1:23 giving me next to no realistic chance of dipping below 90. It was still good to stretch the legs though as the final section of the route passed through the woods just outside Kingshouse again. With a chunky half mile post 13 mile marker this was a tad over the official half distance (in any other business we would call this ‘extra free’) making the 90 minute marker a bridge too far this time around.
Exiting the wood with 200 metres to go and roared on by super-supporter Kirsty Cochrane I managed one last kick and almost gained a place. It wasn’t to be though leaving my top 10 finish in jeopardy after crossing the line in a time of 1:32:20.
At this stage my plan had been to collect my race position token from StuWeb van, change into warm clothes and then get some food but as usual this all went out the window when I noticed the proximity of the post race refreshment tent. My cool down therefore involved a welcome complimentary Mhor 84 beer and having a good chuckle at The Boy doing a professional cool down. I was please to hear The Boy had picked up the win and was pleased with his run. He reminded me about getting my official timing print out. Confirming my time I was slightly disappointed to get a placing of 12th after gunning hard for a top 10 but The Boy told me that some half marathon runners had done the 10k and were appearing in the half results meaning the final results might change.
So does Run Mhor deliver? In one word absolutely.
This was a great, but tough, event. I ran hard and thankfully my marathon training seems to have me in better shape for the half than I have been before. Measuring 13.5 miles officially with over 200m of ascent it wouldn’t be too unrealistic to think that I could run 5 minutes quicker on a flat course. But that wasn’t what yesterday was about. It was about finding another intimate race in a new part of Scotland to add to our list of must-do running experiences and Run Mhor is really an event to watch as it will surely grow in popularity again next year. The scenery above everything else is what makes this one.
Will we back? 100%
Would I recommend it to others? As long as they won’t make it harder for me to get in the top 10 – 100%
Oh and one last thing – when the final results were published there I was sitting pretty in 8th place. Absolutely delighted.
Runbetweeners 1st and 8th. Now to get the organisers to instigate a team prize next year 🙂
As always thanks to the race organisers and marshals for giving up their time so we could enjoy our run.