Sunday, October 6, 2013

Great Scottish Run 2013 Race Report

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 Race

The announcer introduced the √©lite 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 √©lite 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

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston Marathon

I've just seen the pictures coming in from Boston - this is horrific.

My thoughts are with all the victims, their families, the Police, fire and medical staff... everyone involved.

Edinburgh Rock and Roll Half Marathon 2013 Race Report

I knew that the weather was going to be a significant player in the Rock And Roll Edinburgh Half Marathon 2013 when the noise of bins being blown around the street made it hard to sleep the night before.  Inevitably, I managed to drop off to sleep just a few seconds before it was time to wake up again!

Princes St - view from the bus
The race was scheduled to start at 0920, and train times were such that I wasn't sure I could make it on time. So instead, I followed a friend's suggestion to drive to Edinburgh Airport and get the Airlink bus into the town centre.  I parked in the Short Term car park at the airport, which made the day rather pricey - it was £16.90 for a half-day of parking.  I did not notice whether this bus stops at the "park and ride" car park near the airport, but the price was the only complaint - everything else went smoothly.

Before boarding the bus, I popped into the terminal building for a quick pee.  It was quite fun to walk around in full running gear and see the looks you got.  Some time I definitely want to fly in an "unallocated seating" flight dressed in a bright vest and running tights.  Bet the seat beside mine is the last to be filled :-)

Runners heading towards Holyrood Park
Onwards into the town centre, and the weather was miserable.  The bus made good time to Waverley, and I got out.  My geography of Edinburgh town centre isn't great, but there were enough runners to follow that I got to the park pretty easily.  Plus a large collection of folk dressed as Elvis...

The start area was being continually lashed with strong wind and cold rain, and so most folk ended up trying to huddle behind things.  Things like buildings, walls, tents, etc.  We ended up being much more spread-out than the organisers had planned, and so we had difficulty hearing the PA system.  Suddenly word spread that it was five minutes to go, and we were to assemble at the starting line.  I stuffed my gear into my bag, wrapped the thoughtfully-provided cable tie around the counterfoil part of my race number, and joined the bag check queue.  As I did, a lovely rainbow showed over the Queen's house.  The queue disspated, I dropped my bag, and went to the start area.

Honestly - not waiting for a pee!  Just standing in the rain!
The start area was a funnel enforced by crush barriers at the sides.  There were flags to indicate the different corrals, but there seemed to be only one entrace, with everyone pushing to get it.  It was hard to make your way to your own corral, so most people ended up huddled wherever they could get in.  And when I say "huddled", it's not that far off the mark.  Normally, there is plenty of space at a start and space between folk... this time I reckon that people were standing as close together as they could for warmth!

In the starting area, I noticed a few people wearing yellow patches with "1:45" on them.  I asked what that was about, and was told it was to identify the pace group they were in.  There was a gentleman with bright yellow balloon tied to his waist - he was the pacer.

Just before the start
The race started, and we ran out of the park and headed downhill and generally north-east.  It was lovely - the sun even came out.  Just after mile three we hit the waterside, and had a lovely run along the river.  I had left the 1:45 pacer behind, frustrated by his slow pace.  I was running fluidly and easily, and I was invincible!  The race was extremely well-organised and marshalled, with water, energy drinks and gels available at various points of the course.

Just before mile 5, we turned away from the waterfront and started going round the houses a bit as we made our way towards Duddingston.  That was uphill and into a bit of a headwind, and suddenly I wasn't quite so invincible any more.  From 4.5 to 7.5 was uninterrupted uphill, and the stretch at the back of Arthur's Seat - uphill and with a strong headwind - was misery.  The 1:45 pace man passed me, and I was ready to throw in the towel.  I was thinking of nine minute miles, or maybe ten, or maybe just walking for a little while!

Bag reclaim queue
We turned a corner in the park and had a full half mile of downhill.  It was glorious!  At the bottom of the hill, a glance to the right showed the finishing line - but there were still four and a half miles to go!

We climbed up to the Cowgate and continued through the Grassmarket, before cutting south and running along Melville Drive and through The Meadows.  Then we turned into Buccleuch Street, Lothian Street and the George IV Bridge.  This brought us to the top of the Mound, and it was pretty much all downhill from here on.  Through Princes St Gardens, right down the side of Waverley Station, along Market St and then joining the Canongate.  Down, down and down to Holyrood Park and that glorious finish line!

My friend Suzanne at the finish!
After the finish, there were various people handing out water, medals, fruit and bananas.

Sadly, that was the point at which problems started.  The weather had badly affected the planning, and I could see teams of workers hammering in massive tent pegs to hold down the marquees.  The baggage check tent had to have its frontage shut down because of the wind, and so the volunteers getting bags from the tent had to go all the way round to the back of the tent to get them.  Everything slowed down, in spite of the valiant efforts of the volunteers.  I had to wait over fifty minutes to get my bag - to be fair to the organisers, they did have people coming round giving out foil blankets, and that made a huge difference.  The weather had closed in again, and it was cold and wet.  There were a lot of grumpy runners.

I feel sorry for the organisers here; you plan for a certain level of disruption but this was

beyond what they expected.  There is scope for improvement, I am sure they will try to get these problems resolved in future years.

Race bling!
The times were posted in the later part of the afternoon - I was delighted to have completed in 1:45:18.  Not my PB, but my second-best time.  And in these conditions, I was delighted!  The bling was nice too - a big, heavy medal and a rather nice t-shirt!

A huge "thank you" to all of the volunteers and helpers who forced themselves to turn up in these awful conditions!

Where Have I Been?

I've not been doing well here recently, have I?

Truth is that after the Edinburgh marathon, I started having sore ankles.  It took me a lot longer than it should have for me to get to the Physio, and during that time I wasn't running.

Once the pain was overcome, I realised just how quickly and how completely fitness disappears... and it has really taken me until recently to get back into any kind of shape.

So, with any luck, I may be back!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Loch Ness: Second Week's Training

This week seems to have been a week of things not going quite to plan.

My first run was on Tuesday, where I went on my usual workday route, expecting my phone to shout at me to do some parts of the run faster and some parts slower. It was threshold training, and was meant to be 5 x (5+1) (that is, five sets of five minutes at 80% exertion followed by a minute of recovery time).

But for some reason, my phone wasn't talking to me. It wasn't that the volume wasn't turned up, for it counted me in to start, but it just refused to sing out the distances or the threshold intervals. So I ended up with a recovery run... which was actually quite nice!

Thursday saw the Biggart Baillie Giffnock Festival of Running, in which I was down for the 10k. I have already blogged about this here, suffice to say I ran hard, achieved a good time (for me) of 47:45, and came away happy but exhausted in spite of terrible weather.
On Saturday I had planned a parkrun, but when a plea for volunteers went out I opted to help out instead. So I spent a chunk of the morning as Funnel Marshal, followed by a trip to the Stables tearoom for a chat and some coffee.

Then home, and out for my Long Slow Run (I'm going to be otherwise occupied tomorrow). I must have procrastinated for at least two hours before eventually getting out. The weather was more like October than June - strong wind, rain and dark grey sky.
On the run, however, I discovered that it was warmer than I had realised, and my running jacket was much too warm. More importantly, I discovered that I was still knackered after Thursday night.

I got round my twelve-mile route, though I did have to walk for the final thirty or so yards of Wallace Stone Brae. The pace was lower than it should have been, and while I can blame some of that on the wind the truth was that I wasn't good for much more.

With fortuitous timing, this coming week is going to be something of a cut-back week anyway. I need to travel to Stevenage for work on Thursday; the weekend is going to be spent moving my parents' caravan around and I'll have precious little time to manage any running. Maybe a rest will do me some good anyway, I'm feeling pretty tired just now.

1,000 miles in 2012

Good week, with 26 miles being above the weekly average required

18-14 Jun 2012

Number of runsThree
Links Tusesday - 5.99 miles (775 cal)
Thursday - 6.14 miles (731 cal)
Saturday - 12.49 miles (1624 cal)
Total mileage this week24.62 miles
Calories burned this week3,130
Total mileage Loch Ness training44.75 miles
Calories burned Loch Ness training5,643
Total mileage this year480.60 miles
Calories burned this year50,419

Friday, June 22, 2012

Biggart Baillie Giffnock 10k Race report

The Biggart Baillie Giffnock AAC 10k was my first race in my training for the Loch Ness marathon.  Held almost at the summer solstice, the event was far more than a simple 10k.  It was billed as a "Festival Of Running", the event had a 1k race, a 5k race and a 10k.  It was held in the beautiful Rouken Glen park, and was clearly intended to be a great family event.  I could easily imagine families picnicking in the park, being entertained by the pipe band and proudly watching those family members who were runners running through the park, cheering as they reached the finish line.

The weather as I left the office
Sadly, the weather wasn't playing along.  At the risk if using a colloquialism, it was... widdling down!  All day, the rain had been falling and it certainly wasn't letting up as the evening approached.  If anything, it just got heavier and heavier.

I had a bit of a drive from Fife in the East of Scotland over to the south west side of Glasgow, and so was a bit late in arriving.  I wasn't able to take part in the "aerobic warmup" that had been billed.  Instead, I got to the park and rushed to the pavilion to collect my race number.  Then I dashed back to the car where I changed for the race.  Well, by "changed" I mean that I took off my jacket.  There was no way that my running tights were coming off - I was much too cosy!

Talking of the car, there was ample parking space in the park, something that I much appreciated.

Having pinned my number to my vest with the pins provided by the race organisers, I rushed back to the pavilion for a visit to the gents, then joined the throngs walking to the start.

Scott Sport Photography's photo of me
There was a pretty decent turnout (according to the result page, 324 finishers), and we were started by a klaxon.  We ran a loop of paths within the park, back under the "start" arch and then took a different path, which led us out onto the streets.  All this way I realised that I was being swept along far too quickly by the crowd, and I struggled to "screw the nut" a bit and reduce my pace.  For heavens sake, it was 7:45pm - fifteen minutes to wine o'clock - and I was having real trouble getting myself tuned in to running at this time of night.  I think that the aerobic warmup that I missed would really have helped me get into the right frame of mind, but after the first mile or so I began to get my head into the right place.

Mile markers - or rather, kilometre markers - were provided by helium-filled balloons that struggled to stay "up" as the rain tried to push them "down".  But I must say that I like kilometre markers - they come around so much more quickly than mile markers!

The race continued along roads that had one lane closed off for running.  Soon we turned off Rouken Glen Road and on to Stewarton Road, and at this point the climb started.  Over two miles we climbed about three hundred feet.  During this time, I found I had a reaction I've never had before - a gagging in my throat.  I stopped and almost was sick, but then it passed and I was able to run again.

By the time we got to mile four we were at the top of the hill, and we turned on to Ayr Road.  From this point on my pace never dropped below eight minutes / mile, and I was able to enjoy the downhill almost all of the way to the end.

Finally we reached the finish.  As well as the 10k Dri-Fit t-shirt, I was given a 5k t-short because there were some left over from that race.  A banana to help provide some energy, and we were done.  I walked back to the park, shouting encouragement to those approaching the finish line, and drove home for a well-deserved shower.

This was such a lovely event, I do feel sorry for the organisers.  It should have been the wonderful family event I described; the organisation was impeccable, the roads cleared for us to run on and a beautiful park to start and finish in.  But the weather just didn't play ball.  Shame.

On finding the results, I came in in 47:45, a PB for me for a 10k.  I came in chip position 87 out of 324 finishers.

So, thank you to the organisers - it was a great race.  What a shame the weather let you down.  My thanks also to Scott Sports Photography for allowing me to use the picture above.

GPS track is at

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Loch Ness: First Week's training

Good grief, I just cannot believe that we're back into this already!

Falkirk Parkrun In The Rain
Training started badly this week when I missed my Tuesday lunchtime run because a meeting over-ran.  But on Thursday I went for my usual six mile run out to Aberdour and back.  It was meant to be four five-minute threshold sessions with a minute recovery between times, but I misjudged the pace at the start, and blew up a bit.  So I managed three "over threshold" sessions, and an elongated cooldown!

On Saturday at Parkrun, "cool" was the word.  In fact, "Bloomin' cold" was more appropriate.  And it was wet.  And windy.  So in fact, maybe "miserable" was the summary.  But huge credit and thanks to the organisers and the volunteers, they were there braving the weather and the run went ahead.

Ally Mckay's photo of me from Parkrun
When I got up in the morning I decided to wear nice cosy running tights over my shorts, and a waterproof jacket over my vest, just to wear until the moments before the start of the run; I would take them off and run in vest and shorts.  Well, I managed to get the jacket off but changed my mind about baring my legs, which stayed cosy, warm and covered!

As for the time, well I forgot my barcode (idiot!), but my Garmin time was 23:49 - which is a touch faster than average, so I was happy!

Today we moved on to my first Long Slow Run of the new session.  This was a route that was one I had done many times before, but with an extra tweak at the end to get the distance up a bit.  Eleven miles, just enough to get me over twenty miles for the week.  And why did I care about my weekly total?  Well...

Which part is towpath, which canal?

1,000 miles in 2012

Apart from the "run a marathon" thing, another challenge that a lot of distance runners seem to set themselves is to run 1,000 miles in a year.  And no, I still don't quite have the confidence to call myself a distance runner, but it might be worth going for the 1,000 miles.

As of today, I stand at 455.98 miles for the year.  And it's mid-June.  So I reckon I'm pretty much on-target, and if I manage the distances I'm hoping to achieve in the next few weeks I should be able to get ahead of the game

So, it's time to reset the statistics, and start the tables afresh:

11-17 Jun 2012

Number of runsThree
Links Thursday - 6.01 miles (706 cal)
Saturday - 3.07 miles (367 cal)
Sunday - 11.05 miles (1440 cal)
Total mileage this week20.13 miles
Calories burned this week2,513
Total mileage Loch Ness training20.13 miles
Calories burned Loch Ness training2,513
Total mileage this year455.98 miles
Calories burned this year47,289