|Kingston Bridge View, 2011
The Great Scottish run was my first ever half marathon, just two years ago in 2011. At that time, I didn’t think I could possibly run for thirteen miles. I had done a few 10ks, and couldn’t possibly imagine running twice that distance.
In the end, I did okay. I finished in 2:00:09. Had I not stopped midway across the Kingston Bridge to take a photograph, I would have sneaked in under two hours. But, really, how often do you get the chance to cross the Kingston Bridge on foot?
A lot of miles have passed under my trainers since then. While I still enjoy running, my ankles are beginning to get a bit graunchy, and I entered this year’s Glasgow Half thinking that it might well be my last. I am not training nearly as much as before, so I had to assume that my time wouldn’t be great. My PC for a half stands at 1:44:00, so I put my expected time down as 1:50:00, and was pleased to be put into the “white” group – the fastest of the “normal” runners.
Travel To The Race
In 2011 I drove to the race, and found it really hard to get parked. Eventually I got the car parked at St Enoch Sq, and ran to George Square just in time to start – even though I had arrived with over an hour to spare. This year, it was going to be different – I would take public transport. The race starts at George Square, just outside Queen Street Station. What could possibly go wrong?
So this morning I drove to Linlithgow Station, and managed to get the last parking space in the west car park – that’s right beside the platform – and went to check whether the train was running. The train I was wanting was on time, but there appeared to be significant problems with the ones that came after. No matter, I got onto my train and was on my way.
|Before The Race
Now, there is one problem with the Glasgow Half. The start and finish are in different locations, about half a mile apart. The bag drop is at the finish… So unless you want to add an extra mile and a half to your day you need to travel in your running clothes, carrying only what you want to take round the course with you (or are willing to throw away). I did feel a bit of a chooky travelling in the train wearing a vest and short shorts!
When I arrived at Queen Street I went out into George Square, which was less busy than I had expected. As a now-experienced runner, my first port of call was the toilets. There, I had my first experience of outdoor, “public” urinals. Immodest or not, they worked, and I made full use of one.
A kind lady snapped a photograph of me on my camera, the sight of which made me think I need to lose some weight or get a looser-fitting running vest!
Soon we were all lined up, waiting for the start. A radio announcer was telling us all what was going on, the sound being relayed through massive speaker stacks to George Square. I grabbed the Vaseline I had brought with me, applied it to strategic areas and left it in a bin.
And then… we were told that there was going to be a delay to the start. How long, they were not sure but it could be fifteen minutes. So I did what any sensible runner would do; I went back to the open-air urinals and ensured that my bladder was as empty as humanly possible.
After that, I went back into the white group muster area, got as close as I could to the 1:50 pacer, and waited for the start…
The announcer introduced the élite runners. I guess that they were doing things while he introduced them; I had no idea what they were doing or where. But soon we were started… or were we?
There are so many runners that the start employs a “pinch point” system. Here the path towards the start line narrows quite dramatically. That means that everybody is travelling to the pinch point rather slowly – walking. But when the pinch opens up again, people have enough space that they can start to run – or at least jog – over the start line.
The route starts with a bit of an uphill along St Vincent St. This seems to have gained some legendary notoriety, but really, it’s barely a hill worth talking about. The GPS plot says theat the rise is barely 50ft. Maybe it’s tricky because it’s the start, but I don’t see it.
Anyway, I tried to catch up with the 1:50 pacer, who had made it through the pinch point a decent bit ahead of me. When I got to him, I tried to slow down to match his pace but realised I didn’t want to slow down. So I carried on past him, running at my own pace. I self-consciously was not looking at the Garmin. I was just running as I felt comfortable. We turned south onto Finnieston St, downhill all the way. The route is very crowded at this point, and remained so as we turned east to go along the Clydeside Expressway and then join the motorway.
For me, this is one of the highlights of this event, to run over the Kingston Bridge! This motorway bridge that you normally would never get to set foot on. It’s a thrill, getting to look out over the Clyde from a great height, then you descend to West St and then turn into Scotland Street, roads that I only really know from the race.
It seemed as if we had barely started when we hit the first water station, at the three mile marker and in the shadow of the motorway overhead.
To the lady who slowed down at the water station (as she had every right to do), I say sorry. I did not want to grab you by the waist to let me edge past you, but I was hemmed in by other runners and could not slow down enough in time otherwise. But I think that what I did was better than belting into you at full speed!
By this time I realised that I had found a group of people of a similar pace to run with, that I was overtaking as many people as were overtaking me, and that we were going fast! I decided to stick with it and see where it took me.
A short northwards stretch led us onto Paisley Road. Just after the four mile mark we saw the élite athletes coming the other way – their pace was amazing! They were at mile 7.5 while I was just over four miles… Like most of the other runners there, I applauded them all as they passed.
In my previous Glasgow Half, the crowds along this stretch were massive. This time they were much smaller – there were still lots of people there, and the support great – but the weather was really agin us. It wasn’t cold, but the air was really wet with the ever-present threat of rain. I’m not surprised that a lot of people chose to wave from their windows, rather than the pavement.
Just shy of mile five, we turned left into Dumbreck Road, and from there to Mosspark Boulevard and then into Bellahouston Park. At mile six we had been told to expect a wall of motivational sound; instead there was a PA system belting out Gangnam Style. But really, who needs external motivatoni when you are half way round and you are still keeping up with the group?
We were back onto Paisley Road W, heading back into town, then turned off onto roads I didn’t know that led us to the Clyde Arch. Or, as it is better known, the Squinty Bridge. This bridge seems to be one of the best-loved of the new structures in Glasgow – I wonder if it’s because it has such a cool name?
Once on the north side of the river we turned right and went past the new Hydro Concert Hall. Apparently. I don’t remember it at all – I was in the doldrums by this point, focused a few yards ahead of me and just working at staying in touch. We got to the wonderful Riverside Museum of Transport, and went round the back of that past the Tall Ship. If there was a 10 mile marker there, I didn’t see it. Which is a pity, because it’s nice to say “there’s just a Parkrun left to do”.
A small rise over the Clydeside Expressway seemed like hard work. At least the wind was behind us as we turned onto the Expressway, and when we turned right at Finnieston St the world’s loudest samba band was playing. This kind of band, or the pipers at every mile marker provided far more motivation than music played over a Tannoy…
On the home stretch now. Well, the home 1.5 miles. This was the longest one and a half miles in history. A water station at twelve? Really? To focused to pause there… I caught up with and recognised a form from behind and realised it was an ex-colleague. He picked up the pace and we ran to the finish together. I lost him… no, there he was ahead of me. 400m to go! Through the archway and into Glasgow Green. Keep going… 100m to go… and then, YES, job done.
I tried to stop my Garmin, but it was refusing to do as I asked it to. Eventually stopped it at 1:44:11. Eh? 1:44:11? That would make this possibly a PB – and here I was, wondering if I might manage 1:50.
After The Race
Mrs Ham wasn’t able to be at the race because the elder Hamlet was needing driven to figure skating class, but one of Mrs Ham’s cousins was on hand. She had been given a bag of stuff I would need after the race, which she gave me and took a post-race snap of me with my bling. Then she went back to the finish line to watch for her partner finishing.
I headed for the complimentary massage tent – thank you very much, Band Of Scotland, I appreciate it! There was a short queue, where we were encouraged to change out of our wet clothes. I hadn’t even realised I was wet, and am still not sure how much was sweat, or did it rain?
The massage wasn’t a gentle one, it was a good, professional sports massage on my calves. Once again, thank you.
|If you insist…
Then I started walking towards Queen St to get the train home. At that point, a friend called me to say that she was at Glasgow Green for other reasons, and did I fancy meeting up for a coffee. Did I just!
So, we went to the People’s Palace for coffee. It has a wonderful conservatory, and extraordinarily slow baristas. But the coffee and cake went down an absolute treat – so thank you, Fiona! It was she who took this photo of me beside a rather appropriate sign in the rather beautiful conservatory restaurant.
When it was time to leave, Fiona offered to drive me to the station. But try as we might, we couldn’t get to Queen Street Station – all the roads seemed to be closed for some event in the town centre… Instead, she dropped me off at Cessnock Underground Station and I took the subway to Buchanan Street.
|Glasgow Subway Train
This took me back to my University days – I used to take the subway every morning from Argyle Street to Hillhead. If it was a 9am lecture, you used to find
yourself much closer to your fellow students than you may choose – Delhi’s had nothing on how densely packed these subway trains were! But this time it wasn’t so bad. I got to Buchanan Street, and with a short walk to Queen Street I found a train heading back to Linlithgow and leaving in five minutes. I even got a seat!
While on the train I found my official time – 1:43:29. A personal best by 31s. A crowning moment of a really enjoyable day! Though I don’t think that Haile Gebrselassie, who finished in an incredible 1:01:09!
|The Route according to Endomondo and my Garmin