Kilmacolm Half Marathon

I have relatives who live in Kilmacolm, so when I saw that the village had its own half marathon it seemed like a great opportunity – visit the family, run a half marathon – what could be better?

As the day approached, I realised that the answer to that question was “the weather”.  The forecast was for heavy rain and a 15mph wind from the south.  Oh joy!

I arrived at my relatives’ house on the Saturday evening, and went for a short walk round the park that would serve as the start point for the race.  Kilmacolm has a reputation for being a prosperous town, and the park reflected that.  The weather was fine, the park attractive, the food and company in the evening were excellent.  All was well.

Lovely weather the night before!

Next morning I got up early and completed registration formalities.  The weather was still okay, but I took some consolation from my race number – if the weather were to get worse, and I should be blown over it would look the same as when I was standing up!

Race number

I went back to the rellies and had breakfast.  First some Cheerios, and then a plate of porridge.  I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of porridge, but I’ve read so many articles about how good it is for running that I thought I should give it a try.  After that I got changed, did some warm ups and went back to the park. 

All ready to go

By this time, the weather had changed dramatically.  Runners were huddled in groups, sheltering from the wind in the lee of buildings, watching the rain battering those who were unable to find cover. 

More weather

I had a last-minute pit stop and then walked to the start line.

Waiting for the start

This was a smaller race, with around 150 entrants.  We gathered below a “Start” banner that had been strung across the street and listened to the race briefing.  A countdown, and it was time to go.

The out-and-back route took us approximately a mile northwards from the start over country roads.  Then we joined the cycle path, which is built on top of a disused railway line.  From there, it heads south – into the wind – all the way to Bridge Of Weir.  There is a small section of the route where we have to leave the old railway line and go through a modern housing estate, but apart from that it’s cycle path all the way.  And downhill all the way!

So, outbound was downhill and into a headwind.  The return was uphill, but with the wind behind us.

I realised soon into the race that I was going too fast, but my body isn’t very good at changing once it has found its pace.  I also found that I wasn’t comfortable with the Strava app on my Apple Watch.  Whereas a Garmin reports your pace averaged over the last thirty seconds or so, it wasn’t clear to me how much averaging is performed by Strava.  I have now found out what information is displayed, I should really have checked that before setting out.

The other thing I wasn’t sure about was the fact that it was an out-and-back race.  I’ve never done one before, and I expected that it would be a bit boring.  But to my surprise, I really liked the format.  It let me break the race down into four chunks – halfway along the outbound section, the turning point, halfway along the return section, then the drive to the finish line.

The route was attractive, though the rain was unrelenting.  Somewhere about a mile short of the turn I started chatting with a lady who was running at a similar pace, and we ran together for about three or four miles.  I liked that, it helped pass the distance and take the mind off the amount of work we were both doing.

After going through the housing estate I realised that this was the last couple of miles, and I tried to up my pace a bit.  A final mile uphill, then back onto the country roads to get to the finish line.  I was shattered by this point, and I think it shows on my face.  But the time really shocked me – 1:43:17.  My previous best for a half was 1:44:00 at Alloa, and that was when I was in training for the marathon.  So maybe the bad conditions did suit me after all!


No bling, but a nice t-shirt, a very well organised race and a great weekend!  Thank you to the race organisers and especially the marshals for braving such awful weather throughout!  

Total distance: 21173 m
Max elevation: 100 m
Min elevation: 37 m

Monklands Half Marathon 2017 Race Report

This is a lovely race that perhaps doesn’t get the publicity it deserves.

I came across it via the Scottish Running Guide, and jumped at the chance of doing the race.  I come from near this area, indeed my parents live just a couple of miles from the route of the race.  So I paid my money and signed up.

The weather forecast for the day of the race was dull and overcast – perfect for distance running.  And my plan was simple.  I would set my Garmin’s “Virtual Partner” to 8:45 per mile, and just run at that pace all the way around.  That way I would see whether I still had anything left in the tank for any possible longer run I might be considering…

Come the morning I drove to Coatbridge, noting a distinct lack of clouds on the way.  I tried to park in the grounds of the school that served as the start and end point of the race, but when I saw all the other cars in front of me being turned back I did a quick U-turn and drove to the Drumpellier Loch car park.  From there, I had a roughly one mile walk back to the school – I think I should have listened to the parking marshals who apparently were directing people to a closer car park.

Having said that, Drumpellier Loch is rather pretty.

Eventually I got back to the school.  Registration was smooth and painless, and I retired to the changing room to pin my race number on and get togged up for the race. 

A crowd had gathered in front of the school, and then at some unspoken signal we all walked over to the start line.

Aaaaand… we’re off!

After the first hundred metres or so I looked at my Garmin, and was pretty shocked to see it saying I was running behind my pace.  Sure, it was warm, and I was running slightly uphill, but it felt like faster than 8:45.  Strange.  I started running a little faster to try to catch this Virtual partner, and wondered when I had become quite so unfit!

By half a mile I knew that the Virtual Partner was definitely wrong.  The same watch was telling me I was running 7:50 to 8:00, yet I was falling behind the Virtual Partner all the time.  I tried messing around with the watch and still I couldn’t get it to make sense to me.  I had the option of stopping to fix it (if I could) or just running.  Oh, sod the plans.  I ran.

The route (below) takes you along the road to Drumpellier Loch (hello, parked car!).  This was the only uncomfortable part of the race, as the road is quite narrow, is open to traffic and doesn’t have a pavement.

From there, there are two full laps of a route that goes through the park, then along roads that mark the boundaries of the park.  Finally, another half-lap of the same route before turning back through a housing estate to get back to the school where the race started.

For lap one, I felt great. I was running smoothly and (for me) fast.  I knew that the stretch from mile 4.5 to 5.5 was quite harsh, but it still felt okay.  When I saw a friend marshaling at the five-mile marker, I was able to greet him with a big smile and some very fast banter.  But I was also aware of the temperature climbing as the sun rose in the sky.

My mum was spectating at this point, and she managed to grab a quick snap as I passed.

The second lap was a different story.  I was getting really tired by this point.  I made the classic mistake of not taking a drink, because I felt that I needed a wee.  I had no gels or anything similar with me, and my breakfast had clearly not been quite up to the job.  I was bushed.

As we went through the park, I was really tired.  I started walk / jogging, and I think I had about four separate walking sections.  But that was quite good, in as much as I was able to get back to running for the final three-quarters of a mile or so.

A final downhill stretch and there was the finish line

(don’t let the picture fool you – there were loads of people there and great support – the picture was taken before the race started!) and I felt more tired than I did i the Alloa Half a few weeks ago.  Why?

Probably a combination of bad preparation and hot weather.  But after getting changed I walked back to the car and then on to my parents’ house, where a cup of coffee and a Greggs’ Steak Bake revived me in short order.

A good race, though, and one I will hope to do better in next year.

Total distance: 20993 m
Max elevation: 93 m
Min elevation: 73 m

Alloa Half Marathon 2017 Race Report

The last time I ran the Alloa Half Marathon was in 2012, when I was right in the middle of training for the Edinburgh Marathon. I was strong and confident, and I was five years younger. But now I was going to try a half marathon, having not run any event longer than a Parkrun in three years… What could possibly go wrong?

I found a parking space in Alloa and walked the short distance to the Leisure Bowl. I didn’t remember the race as having so many participants last time, it seems to be growing year on year.

Registration outside the Alloa Leisure Bowl

After registration, I went for a pee. Just as many races, getting to the loo before the race proved to be a bit of a pain. However, with nature duly honoured, it was time to go outside and enjoy the pipe band before the race started.

The route was pretty much the same as that which I wrote about five years ago. But this time there was a noticeable headwind whistling along the Hillfoots, making this stretch a bit of a trudge. I was, however, helped by an innovation – a portaloo at Menstrie, around the seven mile mark. That was forty seconds well spent!

The Tillicoultry clock tower at mile 5
The Hillfoots road just seems to go on forever

Menstrie Brae was certainly more of a significant impediment this year than last time. I noticed that there was an Andy Scott statue at the top of the hill that I hadn’t seen before – it turns out that the statue was damaged in a car crash in February 2011 and re-erected in 2012. The statue is of a running man with sharp, painful bits of metal sticking out of his legs… was it a comment on the half marathon?

Man In Motion

I managed to keep going throughout the race, though the last section was pretty hard. But I got there, and gratefully hauled myself across the finish line for a chip time of 1:49:29.

A welcome sign…

Five years on, five minutes slower. I’ll take that.

Me and my bling
Total distance: 21164 m
Max elevation: 48 m
Min elevation: 6 m