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!

London Marathon 2018 – A race like no other!

What a crazy week it has been! As I stood nervously on the start line of the London Marathon, eyes gazing beyond the bouncing shoulders of the elites ahead of me and down the welcoming slope of Shooters Hill, I had a plan in my head of how I would like the race to pan out: I knew what pace I would be aiming to settle into once the Queen had signalled the start of the race; I knew that every fifth mile I would be squeezing a slightly warmed, but very welcome, carb gel down my throat and I knew that various groups of family and friends would be poised at a number of well thought out stations along the route, ready to yell messages of support (or friendly abuse) as required. I hadn’t, however, put much thought into what might happen after the race. I am sure that if I had, I would not have imagined that I’d be standing 24 hours later with a BBC Camera perched at the back of my classroom and with an e-mail flashing at me from my computer asking me to phone the local newspaper back ASAP. This was not necessarily going to be the race that I had planned, but it was certainly one which I will never forget.

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Training had been fantastic. Since crossing the finish line in Berlin seven months earlier, London had been the focus. I had put in the hours in training through a tough cross-country season, gruelling solo runs along the Clyde Walkway and even ploughing through snow courtesy of the ‘Beast from the East’. Smashing several of my PBs along the way, this was one of the most consistent training blocks that I have ever managed. The goal had always been to break 2:30:0 and I was feeling confident that this was definitely on the cards…

Then I thought about the weather. As my taper drew to a close and the carb-loading commenced, I began to think about possible race-day conditions. Most forecasts were indicating that this was going to be a warm one and to be honest my initial thoughts were relief that it wouldn’t be as cold as the training that I had suffered through in our typical Scottish Winter. It was when I started hearing whisperings of ‘the hottest London Marathon ever’ that I was forced to take things a little more seriously. At Berlin, on a cool, wet September morning, I had not consumed any water for the duration of the marathon. I knew however that in a hot London race, this would not be a sensible tactic.

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I lined up on the start line with a bottle filled with ice having taken on the advice I heard on Marathon Talk about ‘pre-cooling’. I had spent the previous hour sitting in the shade with the iced placed periodically across my shoulders and the back of my neck in order to lower my core temperature. I ditched the ice and found myself squashed in amongst the other excited athletes in the Championship Start. Having had difficulties with congestion in the past, I managed to make my way to the front and found myself tucked in just a few rows behind the pros. Seeing the likes of Kipchoge just ahead of me was phenomenal and it is moments like that which make running in a big city marathon that little bit special. Before I had a chance to get too star struck, the Queen appeared on the screen to press her button and start the race.

We were off!

People talk about the fast start at London but nothing quite prepares you for it. The long slope of Shooters Hill falls away before you and it can be very difficult to stick to a planned pace. I went through the first 5km in 17:16 – a little quicker than intended. I managed to hold myself back a little over the next 5km and settled into a pace that I felt I could sustain. Just before the half way mark I passed over Tower Bridge and felt a huge rush as the crowds roar filled the road – there is nothing quite like this moment and it never fails to take my breath away. I had found that my comfort levels were fluctuating through the first half – I had moments where I felt fantastic and others where I felt lethargic. This seemed to be a turning point however and the next 5 miles were great. I started to really enjoy the run and found I could work the crowd a little for an extra boost.

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Then I reached mile 18. This is where I first experienced the sensation that everyone who has run a marathon will know well. This was the moment that I realised I was slowing down. It is a strange feeling. I didn’t feel particularly ‘tired’, I simply realised that I was putting in the same amount of effort and yet not travelling at quite the same pace. This is where marathons are made or broken. It is a fine line that needs to be walked (or jogged!) when you still have 8 miles to complete of the race. A voice in your head is telling you to slow down to ensure that you reach the finish (this was accompanied by images of the incredible Callum Hawkins collapsing in the final stages of his marathon only weeks earlier) and yet a voice in your heart is whispering that you just need to grit your teeth and see how deep the well goes.

I saw the pace drop a little but reasoned I was still on target for my goal and that I could afford to be a little careful for a few miles. As I reached mile 22 however I realised that things were slowing more than I could afford and that the initial target was falling out of reach. I battled on in the heat and felt positive as I continued to pass other runners who were also struggling in the midday sun. I was forced to accept that the 2:30 target was not going to happen today but realised that a PB was still on the cards. I knuckled down, focused on the positive and fought my way onto the Mall.

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Crossing the line in 2:31:04, I felt a strange cocktail of emotions. As relief at finishing and the pride of having a medal draped over my shoulders mixed in with the tinge of disappointment at not hitting my target I felt strangely conflicted. This was a PB (my previous being 2:31:31) but it wasn’t the PB I wanted – I was still a 2:31 marathoner, no one really cares about the seconds! It was moments later however that I felt my first taste of overwhelming satisfaction (and slight incredulity!) as I glanced at my phone to see a message from a friend declaring me the 33rd finisher. Thirty-third?!? I thought this must be a mistake but soon had it confirmed and I was ecstatic – I had not even considered my position in the race as I had been too busy thinking about my time.

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I enjoyed a very quick celebration with my fellow runners, my brother, friends who had travelled down to watch and, of course, my wife Vicki before we needed to rush away for our flight back to Glasgow! A quick shower, a few slices of pizza in a plastic bag for the journey (thanks to my awesome sister-in-law Laura!) and a short train journey took Vicki and I to Stanstead for the final leg of our journey. A short delay to our flight meant that we were back in our flat just after 11pm and finally my head hit the pillow for a few hours kip before work on Monday morning and I enjoyed dreams of a nice, quiet day in the classroom…

“Jack, you’re needed in the headmaster’s office now – apparently it is urgent!”

My colleague had just burst in during my second period of the day with no idea what I was wanted for – but it sounded important! I was a little scared (and more than a little confused) as I entered his office but was greeted with a handshake and invited to take a seat.

“The BBC are on the phone. They want to come in for an interview – and they want to film you teaching your S3 class”

Despite my fear that I would make a fool of myself on camera, and after a stern/desperate chat with my pupils, things actually worked out OK and the footage on Reporting Scotland didn’t make me look like a complete idiot! I was overwhelmed with the messages of congratulations that I received after this and I even got a free Greggs in the morning from the staff who had seen my interview! What a bonus!

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The week since has been fantastic. I may not have achieved the initial target but I am incredibly proud of the result. I am now left planning for the future – I know that I have more to offer in the marathon, but for now it is time to reflect and recover. In the meantime I need to thank a few people who helped in the long road to London:

  • Bellahouston Harriers – for providing a huge level of support to all of us who were running.
  • Matt – who put up with almost daily questions and who provided an unparalleled level of advice and guidance throughout the training block.
  • The Locker Room – for that extra touch of motivation when needed.

And most importantly to Vicki who put up with months of my obsession, anxiety, bragging and distraction, all the while struggling with her own injury. I couldn’t have done it without her support.

Bring on the next one…

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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

The Road to Berlin: Week Seven

Week Seven: 21/08/17 – 27/08/17

Total Mileage: 73.3M

Monday:         Rest

Tuesday:         13M (10 Progression)

Wednesday:   7.3M Recovery

Thursday:       8x600m reps off 90sec jog recovery

Friday:             AM: 4.5 M Recovery

PM: 7.25M Easy

Saturday:        8M Easy + Strides

Sunday:           24M (20 Moderate)

 

Reflections:

This was a tough week and a bit of a mix to be honest! Things started fantastically and I felt great on the progression run. I managed to work down to a couple of reps at 5:25/mile and felt strong. This was a similar session to one which I completed before my Marathon in Amsterdam last year however this attempt ended up being significantly faster than that effort – a nice little confidence booster!

On Wednesday however I had to stop my run half a mile early due to really bad stomach cramps. I had further stomach issues on Thursday too, though thankfully I was still able to complete the session.

On Friday and Saturday I was made it through all of the runs with no further issues which was a relief and I felt great. I am really starting to feel fit just now and these runs felt fantastic.

Sunday was a big one. 24Miles with the middle 20 at 6:20/mile (approximately 30seconds ahead of Marathon Pace). I made my way round Pollok Park before heading up along the cycle route towards Paisley and along the canal before turning and heading back on myself. It was really useful to have company on the first section of this run and Darren and Stuart ran with my to the half way point. It was also a nice boost to see Cris and Craig when I was heading back as we used the same route for our similar sessions. I felt great on this run and the pace felt comfortable – again it was a huge confidence boost as I enter the final month of preparation. I did get a bit of a fright when I stopped however as I attempted to stretch my calves (which had been very tight) and I got a sharp pain up my Achilles and left calf. After a couple of minutes the pain disappeared  and things seemed to clear up. I decided to take a day off tomorrow and to focus on a stretching/icing/foam rolling strategy to get through it! Fingers crossed…

 

 

The Road to Berlin: Week Six

Week Six: 14/08/2017 – 20/08/17

Total Mileage: 82.3M

Monday:          8M Easy

Tuesday:          12M (10 Moderate)

Wednesday:    8M Easy

Thursday:        8x 1km reps

Friday:              AM:  5M Recovery

PM: 6M Easy

Saturday:          8M Easy + Strides

Sunday:             22M (13.1 Steady)

Reflections:

This has been the heaviest, in terms of volume, that I have done in a very long time (possibly ever!) and I was a little concerned coming into it about how my body would cope. I am delighted to have got through it unscathed and have actually really enjoyed the sessions.

Monday’s easy run was a gentle start to the week – which was nice as this would also be my last day off before work started up again! It was nice to get back into the ‘run commute’ habit on Tuesday with a longer Moderate run along the Clyde which felt very comfortable. It’s always reassuring to have these sessions as at the start of the program I know that this run would have felt far more laboured. Another easy run on Wednesday took me to 28 Miles and it was nice to feel like the legs were simply ticking over.

On Thursday I had to plan for an 8x1km interval session as part of my run home from work. The goal was to get a couple of miles of warmup in at a nice easy pace (which would also take me conveniently down to the Clyde Walkway) and then bust out the kilometre reps along the Walkway towards Glasgow. I needed to get two mins of jogging recovery in between each rep too which meant that the total distance covered would be significantly further than just the 8km. I hit the reps at ~10km pace and felt great. There is something very reassuring about beginning a rep and seeing that it I only 0.62miles to go when you’re used to counting down in full miles! I had to do a little doubling back on myself when I got to Glasgow Green in order to fit all of the reps in but this was not a problem and I enjoyed a nice easy few miles back up to the flat once they were done.

Friday and Saturday were reserved for more easy running. I made sure to hit my strides on Saturday as I had missed this from my session earlier in the week. For Saturday’s run I enjoyed a nice few miles down to Pollok parkrun where I ran round with Paul Houston (and had a good chat!) before knocking out a few easy miles home again.

Sunday was the big one. This was a session which has been staring out of my plan at me for a few weeks and which I have been fairly intimidated by. Not only was the idea of running 22M with 13 of them at target race pace terrifying, I was scared of the implications if it proved too big a task – if I could not manage half a marathon at my goal pace, what chance would I have over the full thing! I set off with Walshy nice and early to get the first 5M in at an Easy pace. This was great and it was really helpful to share the session with someone. We were both nervous but definitely took confidence from having the other there. As we hit 5M, Walshy and I parted ways to complete the faster section at our own target paces. My goal was to keep the mile splits in the 5:51-5:53 area for the first half and then see how I felt. As the clock ticked along I soon realised, to my absolute joy, that the pace felt comfortable! I hit the half way mark pretty much on track (except for one poor split which I am blaming on tree coverage messing with my GPS) and decided to pick things up for the next 7M. I picked up the pace to 5:45/mile and felt great. With a mile or two to go it did start to feel like a little effort to maintain the faster splits but I still felt strong and my HR suggested I wasn’t working too hard. I hit the final mile and threw in a 5:41 to see how the legs would cope. This was a bit more of an effort but I felt great and was delighted to get through this section of the run. As I hit the 13.1 mark, I reached Walshy and we exchanged a few words about the run – we had both had similar experiences with the pace and were buzzing with adrenaline. Together we climbed back towards the Southside to complete the 22Miles. My final mile felt tough – the legs were completely empty. At first I was a little concerned about this but I figure it was to be expected as we had made the decision to hit the run without gels or water. After a decent feed, I was able to look back on it as a very positive session and a real confidence boost as we come into the last 5 weeks.

This has been a pretty full-on week but it has been great. The volume and quality of the progressive sessions seems to be paying off and I am feeling very strong. I have had some tightness in my calf (left) but daily stretching and rolling seems to be working. I will monitor this closely and continue with the additional exercises I am doing.

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The Isle of Arran Half Marathon – Boats, Trains and Automobiles

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Team Bella Before The Race

Just back from another enjoyable day trip, this time to the Isle of Arran Half Marathon. Another great local event which ticked a number of runbetweener requirements; reachable as a day trip, scenic and a relatively small field. Safe to say the Isle of Arran Half Marathon is another fine addition to the list of road races on our great tour of Scottish Classics.

An early start was required for this one as we (minus The Boy) caught the 8-40am train from Glasgow Central. Method of transport number 1 gave plenty time to catch up with other runners. Ross, the returner and experienced Arran runner assured us this would be undulating but flatter than Run Mhor last week putting my mind at ease. The boat crossing, method of transport number 2, passed smoothly as we waited for the canteen queue to die down before ploughing into the breakfast rolls ignoring Brian’s no food 3 hours before a run rule.

Upon race entry runners have the option of bundling coach travel to the start line at Blackwaterfoot and when we disembarked at Brodick we were efficiently directed to our awaiting coach – method of transport number 3. Slowly ascending out of Brodick it was clear that undulating would be the theme of the day as we quickly crossed the String Road to the east coast of the island.

Registration at the finish line gave runners the chance to scope out the final 200m lapped section of the course around the grassy field. After a short pre-race welcome and briefing we were off, this time by my preferred mode of travel; foot – method of transport number 4.

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Registration / Start / Finish Area

I’ll sum up this race pretty quickly as it didn’t go particularly well for me personally. My race pretty much split into 3 parts. A Trilogy so to speak…

Episode 1 – Flying (almost gave me the excuse to call the article planes, trains and automobiles)

The first few miles are predominantly uphill. This occurs at a time in the race when everyone is pumped with adrenaline and running too fast. You would think I’d learn by now but no I went off at sub 1-30 pace on the inclines draining the energy stores early doors. This was going to come back and bite me big time in future episodes. Despite this I was feeling good and mile 4 provides a good bit of downhill into Machrie where the cross winds coming off the sea hit you for the first time. I was hitting 6-22 per minute miling and things felt pretty good. I was in a pack of 3 with two runners from Garscube Harriers and we had built up a reasonable gap on the runners behind.

Episode 2: Driving with a Flat

Turning at the hairpin out of Machrie things started to fall apart pretty badly as I was dropped by the two other runners . First by a few metres and then by a good 15 seconds over each of the next few miles. Thinking back this was the time I needed to dig in but my legs were tired from my exertions at Run Mhor the previous week and just as I started to slow Team Garscube seemed to move up a gear. Looking back at my Strava profile this is the longest and steepest incline in the route and although it feels reasonably gentle while running it was clearly taking its toll as I started to suffer badly.

I was hoping for a first legitimate sub 1-30 and this was throwing a spanner in the works despite building up a 60 second buffer in the first 4 miles. Apparently there was some downhill on this section but my legs still wouldn’t believe you if you told them. The sound of my flat footed trainers slapping off the tarmac confirmed what I knew… I was gubbed and struggling to keep my legs turning over. Exiting Episode 2 on to the String Road I was hoping for a gentle downhill home straight back to Blackwaterfoot with a sub 1-30 still a possibility.

Episode 3: Towing a Caravan

Unfortunately for me on the day the hills kept coming and they all felt like mountains by this stage of the race. Devoid of energy my mind started giving in and I slowed down badly on miles 10 and 11 which rolled back towards Shiskine. Team Garscube were now small dots in the distance and I was just hanging on. Despite a decent amount of descent into the finish I just couldn’t get going again until the home straight missing out on my sub 1-30 target by 9 seconds on the official results.

Collapsing in a heap I was surprised to have run it so close as I had given up the chase at the start of episode 3. However I had been hoping to be comfortably under the 1-30 mark so was a bit disappointed with my run. As usual my mood was perked up pretty quickly by a goody bag containing home made rolls and biscuits. A real nice touch and it was great to hear Brian who I had travelled with had finished in 10th spot with a huge pb. Coming 2nd in the V60 category he beat all of the V50s too. An incredible and inspiring effort. Finding out Team Garscube had put two minutes on me showed me what I think I am capable of on a flat course. 15th place overall so not too bad.

It was great then to turn my attentions to spectating as I watched the rest of the guys from Rouken Glen Juniors and Bellahouston Harriers come in. We then headed for a couple of refreshments in the local hotel before catching the bus back to Brodick. After a good feed on the ferry home we managed to cadge a lift home to the southside – method of transport number 5 by my count – arriving knackered and stiff after a hard run.

As always thanks to the marshals and race organisers. This was a really well organised event with a community feel. Small touches like the rolls in the goody bags complimented traditional aspects like the lack of chipped timing giving this race an authentic feel which is sadly lacking from the mega-city events where you feel more like a number than a participant.

A tough race that I am glad I did – maybe next time I won’t do another hard race quite so close.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1064661436/overview

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 🙂 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.

 

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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. 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.

 

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

Dunfermline parkrun

Last minute plan to head somewhere exotic for parkrun last Saturday with Dunfermline narrowly winning out over Ayr. Friday night selection criteria was for a parkrun we’d:

 

a. Not done before; and

b. Could get to without getting up stupidly early.

 

So we set off at 7-45 arriving at Pittencrieff Park shortly before 9am giving us the unusual (we’re never early) luxury of some sightseeing and route scouting in advance of the run. The park is full of plenty interesting things to see and was busy even at that early hour, not only with marshals setting out the course but with new year resolutioners arriving en mass for their military fitness class. This did give us a bit of a scare as we wrongly assumed that a mass warm up was perhaps part of the Dunfermline experience.

 

Trying not to stray too far from the start line we were glad to see that the course had an excellent looking cafe very close to the finish. What was immediately apparent however was that the hills were likely to rival Tollcross for severity, regularity and incline.

 

We headed, as we do on first time visits to make sure Jack doesn’t get lost, to the first timers briefing muster point and were given a warm welcome and a brief summary of the route. 3 laps of approximately 1 mile each and the promise of ‘the big hill’.

 

 

As usual I was far too close to The Boy for comfort in the first 100 metres (either he’s a slow starter or I’m an over-enthusistic starter) but by around the 400m mark he’d opened a gap with another runner which grew and grew with each twist and turn thereon. I tucked into a pack of 3 as we descended the hill to the bottom of the park giving a chance to open the legs in the opening 1km. The route then loops around with a steep slope (aka ‘the big hill’) of approximately 150m before flattening out again and running around some of the park’s main attractions.

 

Twisting over the next 300 metres you loop round and under a bridge with a short ascent before starting the next lap (a nicely positioned sign warns you to turn to the right on lap 3 for the finish – duly noted as I did not want to be running any reps on ‘the big hill’).

 

The next two laps saw me settle into a regular pace and work hard on the flat and downhill allowing for a small recovery on the uphill and I was pleased to finish in 20minutes dead in 4th position. I’ve tended to find that a first visit never results in a personally fast time as I like to suss out the route. The Boy got faster and faster crossing the line 1st in a good time considering he was ‘going to take it easy’.

 

Nice to talk to local runners at the end and hear about @13thrunner who has started her own blog to record her first steps into the world of running. Well done on your first parkrun.

 

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The only proof that we were in Dunfermline ‘running’

 

Thanks as always to marshals who did a great job of encouraging everyone with cowbells and hand clappers. Dunfermline seems to be an incredibly inclusive parkrun and the marshals gave every single runner and walker strong vocal encouragement. The post run scone in the cafe did not disappoint before we hit the car home. The upside of the long commute to this one was that it gave us plenty time to plan out many more daft challenges for 2017. Watch this space…

 

I think we’d both agree that Dunfermline was definitely worth a visit and actually much closer to Glasgow than either of us predicted (well not The Boy who described where he was to his wife on the phone as ‘I’m not sure where I am, oh hang on yes I am, I’m in outside Glasgow’).

The Runbetweeners Review 2016

At this time of year (well we’re a week late but most of you will be used to us being late by now) folks normally sit down, reflect on the previous 12 months and plan for the year ahead. It’s been a pretty phenomenal year running wise both on the track (and road, trail and hill) and off it with visits to old and new races near and far including some international excursions, the growth of our own running group and the launch of Rouken Glen Junior parkrun. A year of pb’s for both of us but what have been the highlights?

Between us we have raced a lot in the last year making it hard to narrow down the list to just 10. Therefore we went for 12 So here follows the countdown of our best 12 races from 2016.

Look out for next week’s blog post as we pick 12 races for 2017.

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  1. Springburn parkrun (Kenny) – 14th of May 2016

This one makes the list as I managed to break 19 minutes for the 5k for the first time in a shiny new pb of 18-47 (gaining qualification to the elite sub 19 minute pack at the Harriers). Jack, in the middle of a heavy training schedule, decided to pace on this one allowing me to shadow him around the two loop course. Running in a small pack is something that I’ve learned this year can be extremely effective in pursuit of personal best times. An added bonus on this one was gate-crashing Springburn’s 2nd birthday celebrations meaning there was cake aplenty at the finish.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/05/14/happy-birthday-springburn-parkrun/

    11. Polaroid Clydebank 10k (Jack) – 19th May 2017.

The Polaroid series has been a staple of my running calendar for the last few years and in 2016 I approached it in a slightly different way. In the past I had entered all four events but this year I decided to enter just one and to target it for a personal best. I was over the moon to break 33minutes for the first time here and this made it a highlight of the year for me!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/polaroid-clydebank-10k-2016/

  1.  Brian Goodwin 10k (Kenny) – 17th of June 2017

Another pb for me on a brilliant evening in Pollok Park. After dipping under 40 minutes for the first time at Troon a few weeks before, I was delighted to take a good chunk off  my 10k time finishing in 39-30. An annual event, the race is organised by our club – Bellahouston Harriers. Knowing I was pacing the Men’s 10k a couple of days later, I decided to take this one easy but felt good from the start and again used similar runners to pull me along. Moral of the story: if you are feeling in the zone just go for it. A two lap course, the route takes in many of the flatter parts of the park and Haggs Road. To top it off entry includes a beer and a burger. What more could you ask for?

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/brian-goodwin-10k-2/

     9. parkrun du Bois de Bolougne. (Jack) – 26th March 2017.

What better way to spend my birthday that by striding around a Parisian park – they even let me cross the line first (there’s no winning in parkrun, apparently). This was my first international parkrun and was followed with cake and champagne under the Eiffel Tower. An awesome day and a birthday I will never forget!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/a-parisian-parkrun/

  1. #Glasgowparkrunsmashup (Both) – 15th of April 2016

2016’s answer to the Clyde Trail this was the one that was meant to send us trending worldwide. Unfortunately while we were up before dawn the rest of the running world was asleep, uninterested or both. The idea was simple – run each of Glasgow’s 5 parkrun routes in one go arriving at Pollok in time for the 9-30 start. As usual planning a sensible route was almost the undoing of this challenge as we cycled between each of the parks. Much harder than anticipated when the idea was hatched over a beer or two – 15.5 miles of running, more on the bike and very little enthusiasm, interest or support for a daft idea making this everything a good runbetweeners challenge should be Surely still a record? parkrun UK we are still waiting on official notice…

https://twitter.com/search?q=glasgowparkrunsmashup&src=typd

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/glasgow-parkrun-smash-up/

     7. Bushy parkrun (Jack) – 25th December 2016

This Christmas I decided to head back to where it all began and took part in Bushy parkrun. Lining up alongside 1200 other parkrunners for a free 5k run on Christmas morning was incredible and the atmosphere was even better than I had expected. I will definitely be back!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/12/25/bushy-parkrun-a-christmas-cracker/

  1. Dunoon Ride and Run (Kenny) – 2nd of April 2016

A momentous day as I topped the podium at this event in my hometown. Put together by the team at No Fuss Events the concept of this one is to bring the cycling enduro concept to running. Basically there are four timed stages and you can walk / jog or sprint between each. A 5k out along the prom is stage 1. Stage 2 is a gentle uphill trail section of around a mile. Stage 3 is two laps of the ash track at the local stadium. The final stage is a trail and road downhill smash up finishing on the newly restored pier. Total times from all four stages are added together and the lowest time wins. Simple. In this case the winner was shocked – especially since I’d taken a wrong turn on the first 5k section. My first and likely only victory – hopefully the event never happens again and I can lay claim to the title for the rest of my running days!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/dunoon-ride-run/

     5. Tom Scott Memorial 10Miler (Jack) – 10th April 2016.

This was a favourite of mine in 2015 also. There is a huge field at this event and there is always an abundance of fast runners. This means that there is usually a good pack to run in. At this year’s event I felt great and managed to run with a brilliant group of good mates who were all hitting good levels at fitness at the same time. The result was a fantastic pack run with a train of Harriers and a big PB for myself.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/tom-scott-memorial-10miler/

  1. The SouthSide Six (SS6) Kenny – 6th of November 2016

One of our absolute favourite races of the year and a Glasgow institution. The only reason the SS6 is not at the top of the list is that it’s been there before. This year Jack gave the run a pass leaving me to join the others toeing the line in this challenging 16-mile course. For those who’ve not done the race before it’s a 6 park tour of the south side painfully climbing to the highest peak in the two hilliest collecting stickers along the way. A brutal finish up the stairs and slopes of Queens Park, this one is always worth it for the excellent feed alone. This route sells out quickly so register for facebook updates to ensure you don’t miss out in 2017.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/southside-six-2016-ss6/

     3. MOKrun 1/2 Marathon (Jack) – 29th May 2016.

Our third visit to the Mull of Kintyre and, despite not coming home with the trophy, we still loved the experience of the weekend. A friendly, well organised event with a fantastic route and a brilliant post-run Ceilidh. Magic.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/running-a-mok-in-campbeltown/

      2. TCS Amsterdam Marathon 2016 (Jack) – 16th October 2016.

After four months of focused training, I finally made my way over to Amsterdam in an attempt at a new pb. A brilliant weekend and my first international Marathon – I’m sure it wont be the last!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/amsterdam-marathon-2016/
And the number 1 race of 2016 in our humble opinion….

  1. Kyles 10 Miles (Both) – 10th of September 2016

This was our second visit to the Kyles of Bute and this race did not disappoint. A challenging and hilly route the 10 mile distance is a good marker to test out speed endurance. Guaranteed good weather (we’ve been twice and it’s been sunny both times), unbelievable scenery, beer on tap at the end and a BBQ followed by a ceilidh in the evening. A cracking race; low key, excellently marshalled, reasonably priced and growing in popularity year on year. A worthy winner of the title of 2016 Runbetweeners Race of the Year.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/kyles-10-miles-2/

 

Finally, a short footnote to those races that didn’t quite go to plan in 2016. No prizes for guessing which race ends up in the number 1 slot. Bang goes the idea that the runbetweeners will ever make our fortune Stateside…

 

  1. Toward for a Tenner (Kenny) – 6th of August 2016

Before I go on – Jack won this race, it was brilliantly and cheerfully marshaled, well organised and positively reviewed by local and visiting runners. I’ll be going back in 2017 and this race offers excellent value relative to other similar half marathons.  The addition of a 10k race makes this an inclusive running festival. Any negative feedback that follows is down to my own race naivety. On a positive note I suppose you learn more from the nightmare races than the ones that go well but this was everything that could go wrong in one race for me.

Starting far too fast and thinking I was in much better shape than I was, I decided to launch an attack on a near 5 minute pb on this one. There is no excuse really as this is my neck of the woods therefore I should have anticipated the wind factor which made running out in the first half a much more demanding effort than it would otherwise have been. Struggling badly the group I was in gradually put some serious distance between me and them as a stream of runners gradually passed me with words of genuine encouragement.

 

However I couldn’t help but slow to a near standstill by mile 7 reaching a point of exhaustion usually associated with a heavy session of sprint intervals or hill reps. Burned out by half way I managed to drag myself home thanks to the support and encouragement of my friends from Dunoon Hill Runners who were out in force (plus the fact is was an out and back course and all my gear was back at the start line). The first race I’ve run/walked in a long time and a massive positive split on the second half of the race. Meeting a friend who suffered an underwear malfunction and was running pantless for the final miles perked my spirits at mile 10 giving me the last ounce of strength to jog home the final 3 miles. The closest I’ve come to DNF’ing yet.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/toward-for-a-tenner/

  1. Nationals – Short Course X Country (Kenny) – 5th of November 2016

Not a bad run – in fact I ran pretty well. Also not down do my hatred for the terrain as I’ve enjoyed the x-country much more this year. Perhaps I’m developing a love for the grass and mud as I become more experienced, fitter or maybe it was just down to the fact the weather has been much better than equivalent events in 2015.

This had all the ingredients to be a good one – I’d been training well, top athletes such as Laura Muir were competing and the event was reasonably close by meaning we could get there early enough to see some of the top junior and female races.

However the choice of venue was a strange one. The route was a two lap, pancake flat circuit around a playing field. Single file around the park perimeter the route lacked imagination or the challenge you would normally associate with such a prestigious race in the Scottish Athletics’ calendar. As a result it didn’t get a look in on the blog. Shame.

The worst race of 2016 award goes to…

1. Sommer Sports Florida Clermont 5k (Jack) – July 2016

You will have heard me rant about this one before I am sure but what kind of race doesn’t set up the finish line! Having got up early on my honeymoon to go and race this 5k in Florida, I was loving leading the pack for the whole race. I built myself up a nice lead and kept running for the finish – only to find that the finish line wasn’t there yet! I kept running down the road until I realised there was a problem and when I turned back the finish line had been constructed behind me! Witnesses at the end of the race spoke to the organisers and it was decided that I would still get the trophy but an angry competitor (relegated to second place) kick up a fuss and I did not get it. The organisers then ignored my email (I know I got petty!) and refused to respond to my questions on Twitter. I’m going to stop writing about it now because it’s getting me angry again haha -for more info read the review 😉

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/07/23/there-is-no-finish-line/