The 2018 Alloa Half Marathon was originally scheduled to be run on 18th March, but bad weather caused the organisers to postpone the event – and today was the new date.
Okay, this was it. After eighteen weeks of training, five hundred miles of running and who knows how many hours, it was time for the Stirling Scottish Marathon.
After last week I was keen to get started again. The snow was melting and the training plan called for the longest week of the entire plan. That is, the greatest number of miles in the week of any week. Clearly this was going to be an important week in the plan. Even if I wasn’t 100%, it was time to pull on my big boy tights and get on with it.
That’s not a sentence I expect to write very often.
Anyway, Monday was – as usual – a rest day.
Tuesday called for five miles. The weather wasn’t great at lunchtime and I knew I was going to have to go to the gym in the evening, so once again I decided to use the treadmill. I had bought a fancy new running vest when I was in London, so I wore that. I don’t think that this photograph of me from the display of the treadmill really flatters me or the vest, but you can at least see that it’s blue!
After that, it was the Wednesday middle distance run. I had been in Aberdeen during the daytime, taking my daughter to a University visit. By the time I got home, unpacked the car, and got the house sorted out it was much later than I usually go for runs – but I managed to get out and had a little visit to the town centre in the rain!
Max elevation: 111 m
Min elevation: 23 m
For some reason that I can’t quite remember, it was even later on Thursday. I didn’t get out until almost 10pm, and decided to re-use part of the route I had taken the day before. Not much to say about this run, it was a straightforward five miles in the dark.
Max elevation: 111 m
Min elevation: 27 m
After a rest day on Friday, it was time for an eight mile medium distance run on Saturday. The training plan says that this should be run at training pace, not marathon pace. I guess that this is because it’s a long week. My route took me west along the canal to the Glen Burn, then I retraced my steps back as far as the Wallace Stone Brae. Up the hill, turn left and head for home.
The weather wasn’t great to start with, but when I was coming back along the canal, it really took a turn for the worse. I don’t know if it was hail or rain hitting me in the face, but it was nasty and it stung! It’s not often I would turn onto the Wallace Stone Brae and be glad for it, but this time I was!
Max elevation: 152 m
Min elevation: 74 m
And then the long one. Sunday. Eighteen miles.
I have memories of eighteen miles being my nemesis back when I was training last time. Eighteen miles is the point where I started to fall apart. Eighteen miles is where I fell apart during the marathon itself. I have baggage about eighteen miles.
Anyway, I drove to Stirling Uni, trying to get to my usual starting point – only to find that the road was blocked because there was some work being done on the aerial walkway between buildings. I parked in a different car park and found a loo where I could pee and change.
Not only that, but change into shorts! The weather, while still cool, was a lot better than yesterday!
My route was to be similar to the route I ran for the fifteen mile route I did a couple of weeks ago, but with an added lap of the Loch and a wee extra bit to make up the distance.
It was strange starting from a different part of the campus, but I set off round the loch, going down to the University entrance then swinging back up the route through the University that we will be taking on the day.
I had fuelled myself very carefully before leaving – porridge early in the morning, a nice burger roll and another tub of porridge at lunchtime. It was now about 1330 and my body wanted rid of some of that. So I had to stop at the public loos in Causewayhead park to do that.
After that, just straight out through Tullibody to Alloa. Where again I stopped at the loo, this time in the Leisure Bowl. I’m not gratuitously talking about bodily functions here; my point is that I need to get control of my bladder before this race.
At the other end of my body, I had a bit of a nutrition strategy on the go here. Checking the current Stirling route map, it appears that the rest stations are at miles 4, 7, 10, 13, 15.5, 19, 21 and 25. I plan to walk through each rest station, for a self-counted 30s. During that time I will take a gel and some water. I was practising the gel consumption today.
There were times through the route that I felt quite cold – I don’t know if that was down to the shorts. Maybe long tights would have been better. But the main point is that I never felt exhausted, and I never felt despairing. I was, perhaps, running a bit faster than I should have been, because I was frankly bored and wanted the run to be over!
When I got to the Uni I very deliberately added a few hundred yards – enough to get me over 18.5 miles. I wanted to prove to myself that I could go beyond 18 miles. So my final distance was 18.54 – maybe I should have gone on to 18.56 so I could round it up rather than down!
Anyway, I was very heartened by this training run. I was able to go as far as I wanted, and I wasn’t too tired to continue. I was never forced to stop (other than for the loo!) and my walking stretches at the pretend rest stations were all planned.
I’m beginning to have some confidence for this marathon. Not for my time – right now I cannot see how I can possibly manage round at 9 min/mile. But I do believe that I can finish it. So I’ll probably damage myself in the next few weeks and end up unable to compete!
If nothing else, I ran forty-five miles in a week – that is the most I have ever done (probably the most I shall ever do, too). So all in all, a good week!
Max elevation: 50 m
Min elevation: 4 m
This was the week when the wheels fell off my training. I guess it happens to everyone, let’s just hope that was the one time and I’ll be fine from here on in.
The week started off okay on Tuesday with a four mile run. I did this on the treadmill because I was at the gym anyway, taking my son for his weekly PT session.
Then on Wednesday, things started to go a bit wrong. A weather system dubbed “The Beast From The East” struck. This was apparently a result of “sudden stratospheric warming” over the Arctic, which brought cold, cold weather down to us here.
I did go out for a short run, but conditions were such that I wasn’t comfortable running on my own. So I made do with a three mile run in the wind and snow – it certainly had quite an effect on my hair!
Max elevation: 111 m
Min elevation: 69 m
By Thursday there was no way I was getting out of the house to go for a run. And even if I did try it, every step would be into deep, soft snow – hardly ideal conditions.
Friday was lost in an effort to clear the street and my driveway of snow. By the end of that I had done quite enough exercise – and something else was wrong. I was excessively tired, and I was feeling lousy. Everything I ate went straight through me, and I had no energy. Something just wasn’t right.
On Saturday I was determined to do something. I still didn’t think that the roads were all that safe, but I could at least get out to the gym. And it was true, the weather conditions didn’t impede me there, but I was still feeling awful. I went to do eight miles, I lasted just over four before going home and spending much of the rest of the day in bed.
And then Sunday wasn’t much better. I was still unwell, and didn’t make it out. So my totals for the week were pretty uninspiring.
This was a “step back” week, where the distance dropped back a bit to give me a chance to rest. In truth, I’m not quite sure it worked out that way.
My first day of running – Tuesday – saw me do just over four miles on the treadmill. I could have gone at lunchtime, but things were busy at work and I knew I would be going to the gym later, so I decided I would just wait until taking Cameron to the gym in the evening.
That was pretty much where normality stopped.
Wednesday saw me travelling to London with my daughter Jenni, who had an interview for a University course there. We travelled on the train, Leaving home quite early, so I didn’t manage a Wednesday mid-length run.
I tried to make up for that on Thursday by going for a decent run near my accommodation in Bethnal Green. I went out around Victoria Park, and parts of Regent’s Canal. Conditions were pretty reasonable and I got in a decent run, which made up for missing Wednesday’s run. Though in truth, it was as much a photo-walk as it was a run!
Max elevation: 19 m
Min elevation: 12 m
Friday was another day of travelling, as there was an Applicants’ day at Nottingham Trent University. So we drove down on the Friday, and back home on the Saturday after seeing the University’s presentation. That kept us very busy, with no time for running.
And so we got to Sunday and the long slow run. I really was not feeling ready for this after the week I had had. But I managed to get myself up and out, and went out past Tesco, then picked up the canal to head eastwards along the canal.
I went east as far as the far end of Linlithgow Golf Club, then decided to try a little detour. There was a road that went south round the golf course, before returning to the canal at its western end. I do wish I had looked at a contour map before starting off, as this was a sudden and unexpected hill!
The road went past a field that appeared to have some kind of standing stone in it, but I can’t find any reference to it in the literature.
The road eventually returned to the canal towpath and I was able to finish my run off with a gentle easterly wind pushing me along.
Max elevation: 149 m
Min elevation: 60 m
So, that’s the end of this “stop back” week. If the past three weeks were “we’re getting serious now” then the coming three weeks are “are you serious?” The distance increases quite substantially and it is going to be a tough journey.
Let’s see how it goes!
|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|
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.