Today I drove something that will be approximately the Stirling Marathon route. I know that the start point won’t be exact, and that the final mile or so inside the city won’t be exact, but it’s not going to be far off. It will be my last chance to drive the route for a while, as the A820 (from Doune to Dunblane) will be closed for the next three months.
So, here’s what I saw:
The route seems to start at approximately 25ft above sea level. The first ten and a half miles are a fearsome climb all the way to Dunblane, at about 280ft. That’s the same kind of height gain as nemesis, the Wallace Stone Brae – but it takes over ten miles to achieve it.
After that we have another two mile uphill stretch from Bridge of Allan to Innovation Park to contend with, where we will gain 100ft. And the final stretch will involve a bit of a hill too, as we come in to the city.
This is clearly going to have to have some kind of impact on my training. I need to learn to be able to cope with hills, and I need to re-think my pacing.
I was thinking about the training plan for the marathon, and realised that it called for me to be out running on Wednesday evenings. I plan to take in a hill on that run, and the road back home from that hill is not illuminated.
So, I started looking around for reflective running clothing. I struggled to find what I want, but was inspired by an advert from the SportPursuit flash sale site. It was offering Craft Sportswear reflective running tights.
Sadly they didn’t have my size, but I was able to find them on Amazon. In normal use, they don’t look anything special, but when you shine a light on them…
The Great Scottish Run, or the Glasgow Half Marathon. It’s a race I’ve run twice before, and enjoyed both times.
The day dawned wet and slightly windy. I had a good breakfast of cereal followed by porridge, and drove to my local railway station. Only to see the train leave the station. Turns out I shouldn’t have got the 0934, it was the 0930. D’oh!
I drove off to Falkirk High, where I got the next train, about a half hour later. The train was full of runners, and I chatted fora while to the lady who was sitting next to me. She was a regular at this event, and was looking forward to a good run.
The train arrived in Queen Street station and I went out to George Square. A little bit of jogging around, then I went to join the queue for the loo, and then the baggage bus. Having dropped my kit off, all I had left to keep me warm and dry was a bin bag. I was the epitome of style as I sheltered from the increasingly heavy rain!
This is a big event – over 30,000 runners took part in the various events on offer. I was in the “green” wave, based on the time I had predicted for my marathon. I had entered a rather conservative 1:50, and that put me in the second wave of runners, starting ten minutes behind the elites and the “white” wave – those who predicted a 1:45 or better finish.
After some waiting in the rain and a really good mass warmup, the elites started.
Soon after, it was the green wave.
The course starts from George Square with a fairly sharp uphill stretch up St Vincent St. By the top of the hill there were already people walking, but I found that I was running very easily and was enjoying the run. The route continues downhill for a while before turning south and crossing the iconic Kingston Bridge – a motorway bridge across the River Clyde. It’s not somewhere that walkers can normally go, and usually I bask in the view. Today the rain meant that there was no meaningful view, and I was too focused on running to care.
We then went through a maze of streets that I don’t know well, and then hitting Pollokshaws Road – one of the main arterial routes leading out of the city centre. Here we headed south for about three miles until we reached Pollok Park, a huge park within the city.
I was amazed at how easily the running was coming to me. I’m not a natural athlete, but I really felt comfortable running. This lasted well into the park – just around seven miles – until I needed to stop for a pee. Well, what can you do? (that’s rhetorical – please don’t answer it). That stop cost me around thirty seconds, but soon I was on the road again.
Pollok Park had a few noticeable hills in it, and we then headed a mile or so north into Bellahouston Park, where again we were going up a hill. But as we came out of the park and on to Paisley Road West, that was the end of the uphill. The mile ten marker came up, and it was now just a case of pushing through to the finish.
I knew I was getting tired, but I was also aware that I was passing a lot more people than were passing me. I kept pushing as we crossed the Squinty Bridge, where there was a person receiving treatment from the marshals.
Once across, it was a straight run along the Broomielaw to Saltmarket, and then into Glasgow Green. As I ran through the McLennan Arch I started to push really hard. I could see the Glasgow 2014 statue, which is where I assumed was the finish. But no! there were still 100 yards to go. Just as the mile leading up to this point was the longest mile in history, this 100 yards was the longest 100 yards ever! But I got to the finish line and, with a few grunts and groans, stopped and began to get my breath back.
My time was on Facebook before I had collected my t-shirt and medal – 1:41:02 – a PB for me by over two minutes. I was delighted with that.
Now I have to start learning to run much more slowly for the Stirling marathon. But I definitely hope to enter this superbly-organised race again in 2018.
The Great Run company has published the new Stirling Marathon route, and it looks good. I’ve grabbed a copy of their map, and posted it here:
From what I can tell, it looks as if the route starts at or near the King’s Knot, where the race finished in 2017. It then goes out the A84 through the business park, past Craigforth and out past the Safari Park.
From there, it stays on the A84 to Doune – this will be a long and flat, but potentially a rather bleak stretch. It might be hard to keep a good discipline about pace here.
After that, into Doune and we turn right to head for Dunblane. That’s another rural stretch, and I could imagine that here too it might be difficult to keep the concentration going.
At Dunblane, there is a short rise onto the main road, and we turn right. We go past the Dunblane Centre and head south towards the Keir Roundabout. Again, there is a dip here – and a rise as we get to the roundabout and head towards Bridge of Allan. That rise continues until we are above the town, then there is a long sustained downhill towards the Uni.
When we turn into the University there is a pretty good-going hill taking us up and past the macrobert, out towards Innovation Park at the back of the Uni (where I took photos of the marathon last year). That is almost immediately repaid with a downhill, as we go back down to the junction where we entered the Uni. That’s probably the last big hill of the run (though there is a decent rise to go just at the end of the race).
From the Uni we turn left and run along to the A91. We turn north towards the sheer cliffs of the Ochils, and follow the road through the village of Blairlogie. We turn right onto Gogar Loan, running south across the flood plain and beautifully flat land on a tiny little single track road – let’s hope the field has thinned out by this point.
At the end of this road we turn right again and pass Manor Powis, then turn left when we hit the A91. We cross the Forth then turn right again, past the Forthbank Stadium and The Peak leisure centre. Along another flat stretch to the new cinema, and then doing something in the centre of the town to get to Kings Park Road. There’s a bit of a hill here, but not a huge one – though at twenty-five miles, it might feel pretty huge.
The finish appears to be in Kings Park itself – a beautiful formal Victorian park which I will be delighted to finally reach!
So, that’s my take on the route. It looks much better than that which was reported last year, and while there are some hills in it they appear to be mostly confined to the earlier part of the race.