The Runbetweeners Review 2017

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Wow that was faster than a quick spin around parkrun – 2017, over in a flash. Another good year for both of us both on and off the road with pbs, great races, running abroad and new friends made. So before we start setting out goals at the beginning of a new year it’s that Oscar-esque moment that races up and down the land have been waiting for: the now annual Runbetweeners pick of the best races around in 2017.

 

Prior to the glittery prizes being handed out (there are none before anyone contacts us) we both agree that this years major highlight has been the real establishment of The Runbetweeners running group in the south side of Glasgow – to such an extent that we’ve now both been ‘spotted’ on at least two occasions. In true Ant and Dec fashion though it’s clear some of you are still not sure which one’s The Boy and which one is Kenny. The best ‘spot’ was definitely as we cheered on the Stirling Marathon and two runners after a few double takes gave us a shout of ‘it’s definitely them. It’s The Runbetweeners. The most handsome runners in the south side of Glasgow’. We might have added the ‘most handsome’ bit in case the shouter is reading this ­čÖé

 

Anyway back to the group, we are delighted that our numbers continue to grow and many of our members are taking on new and exciting personal challenges. We have had great times together with monthly trips to taste some of the best cakes the central belt has to offer, often with a sideshow of a parkrun or charity 5k.

 

Unbelievably, we were shortlisted for JogScotland Group of the Year towards the end of 2017. We had a great night at the Scottish Athletics Awards with an impressive 30 members in attendance and although we did not win the main prize it was a huge honour to even be considered and to rub shoulders with the great and the good including Callum Hawkins, Laura Muir and Sammi Kinghorn.

 

This blog though is about the races we most enjoyed in 2017 and ones we’d encourage you to look out for in 2018. Hope you enjoy and let us know if you agree or have your own favourites.

 

10. Sheffield Hallam parkrun

JA: I returned to Sheffield Hallam parkrun at the start of 2017 and was chuffed to be lining up alongside the incredible Jess Ennis! The run was a fun and fast one and the atmosphere was fantastic. It was also nice to have a chat with Paul Sinton-Hewitt himself at the end of the run and to discuss the experiences that I have had as part of the team at Rouken Glen Junior parkrun

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/running-with-an-olympic-legend/

 

9.  The Jimmy Irvine

KT: A great run for both of us. I loved the undulating, lapped course around Bellahouston Park. This one makes the Top 10 for me as I am convinced it’s one of my best ever race performances. A day when I felt good, ran hard and secured a massive pb.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/the-jimmy-irvine-10k/

 

8. Tom Scott 10 Miler

KT: This was my first shot at the 10 mile distance and another cracking day when everything just seemed to click. I felt strong throughout and was able to reel in a number of runners on the small inclines in the second half of the route. This was a key race in my build up to London and showed I was coming out of winter training in good shape for the new season. A real confidence builder.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/tom-scott-road-race-10-miler/

 

7. Cowal Hill Race

KT: This is a proper race. A real traditional no-frills event. Cheap to enter with a small field of runners it is a tough uphill slog followed by a sprint to the finish. With beers and food on tap and free entry to The Cowal Games at the end this one has everything you would want. I love going back to Dunoon to catch up with the guys in the Hill Runners and was pleased to finish so high up the field.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/08/26/cowal-hill-race/

 

6. Moira’s Run

JA/KT: This was a great day out with The Runbetweeners and a brilliantly appropriate race for our club. The sun always shines on Moira’s run with the race itself taking second place to the wonderfully happy atmosphere that engulfs the park. Great to see so many familiar faces and a brilliant effort by all of The Runbetweeners on a very tough course.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/11/16/moiras-run-5k/

 

5. Bellahouston Harriers Time Trial

JA: The Harriers Time Trials this year were all fantastic and the July event was a particular favourite of mine this year. The cheap entry cost, enthusiastic turnout and fantastic post-run soup always make this a good experience but this event was also my first time at dipping below 10minutes which had been a big barrier on the horizon for a while. Loved it!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/07/09/bellahouston-harriers-2m-time-trial/

 

4. Run Mhor Half Marathon

KT: I loved the scenery, the climbs and the race with this one being a battle to hold on to position from the start for me. With the right amount of road, trail and challenge this suited me to a tea. I was pleased to run so quickly on a very tough course following a reasonable break after the London Marathon. The food and drink at the end didn’t interest me in the slightest or have any bearing on my decision to rank this one so highly ­čÖé

JA: As Kenny has mentioned, the stunning location of this run made it a fantastic experience and the climb at the end, whilst horrific during the running, led to a particularly incredible view. Also, any race that ends with a free pint and a fish and chips van is going to be good with me!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/06/25/run-mhor-2017-a-top-ten-route/

 

3. The Kyles 10 Miles

KT: Another race that seems to be blessed with guaranteed sunshine. This has become a must do event for our calendar for the last few years. I was again pleased with my run and a big course pb. Pleased to see so many familiar faces making the journey and hopefully more will make the trip this year.

JA: This was our third trip to the event and we have had a hat-trick of glorious weather. This was a big PB for the both of us and it was great to sit out in the sun after the race and enjoy a beer and a burger with a group of good pals.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/kyles-10-miles-round-3/

 

2. The Coigach Half Marathon

KT: About as perfect an event as I could imagine making the 5 hour journey totally worth it. Incredible scenery, fantastic hospitality, a challenging route and brilliant post-race catering. If The Boy had made the journey this would definitely have been our race of the year. As it is it’s ranked as our highest place race in Scotland for 2017.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/10/20/coigach-half-marathon/

 

1. London Marathon / Berlin Marathon

KT: I’ve never felt so comfortable in any race and knew I was on for a big pb at London this year. This is just a special race. The emotion, the support, the sights and the noise are overwhelming at times. I focused on enjoying the experience this time around after learning harsh lessons and having my butt kicked in previous marathons and managed a near 20 minute pb with plenty left in the tank for my next visit to the big smoke.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/tips-for-first-time-marathoners-the-london-marathon-2017/

 

JA: The entire build up to this event was a fantastic experience and I loved having good mates (and a wife!) to prepare with in the weeks prior to the event. The weekend away was awesome and the race went perfectly to plan. Vicki and I both ran nice PBs and it was great to celebrate the run with our pals afterwards in Berlin.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/a-very-late-summary-of-my-final-preparations-for-the-berlin-marathon/

 

 

Run Mhor 2017 – A Top Ten Route?

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.

 

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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 ­čÖé 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.┬áSticking 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 ­čÖé

 

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.┬áDuring 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.

 

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Hunting a Lost Boy in Vain

 

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.

 

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Well Deserved Post Race Refreshments

 

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.┬áThe 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 ­čÖé

 

As always thanks to the race organisers and marshals for giving up their time so we could enjoy our run.

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/1051933610