Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Quick review of 2015

It's been a much better year for me running wise. I lost more than 2 stone between January and the end of March, which, along with the benefit of some new medication to control my asthma, made a great difference to my running. Race highlights of the year were 3 successful ultra marathons (Fling, Clyde Stride and Devil), and a sub 20 5k for the first time for quite a few years. I didn't achieve the other targets of a sub 1.30 half marathon or a sub 40 minute 10k, but at least a got a lot closer than the last few years, with 3 half marathons in the 1.32 to 1.33 range and a 41.27 10k.

Of course the overall highlight of the year was our wedding at Norton House in November. We had a wonderful day shared with many of our friends and family, and then enjoyed a stunning honeymoon in St Lucia.

The West Highland Way Race in June went really well. Weather was kind, we didn't experience any particular problems from an organisational perspective, and Sandra ran a superb 21.57 to smash her PB by well over an hour and achieve her target. Paul Giblin continued to astound us all as to what was possible with another course record; this time he ran 14.14.44 (on his own for the full 95 miles!) to take 6 minutes off his course record from 2014.

With 2 days to go I've run 1,761 miles for the year. That's higher than the last few years but I'd hoped to get a bit closer to 2,000. However a couple of marathons, the wedding, and an niggly back injury in the last quarter of the year slowed me down a bit. It takes me to over 45,000 miles since I started running; I'm eyeing up my 50,000th mile towards the back end of 2018, all going well.

So, we've almost arrived at 2016. Entries for the WHW Race are just about finalised and a lot of the marshals are already signed up. I'm going to be 50 in January (I know, hard to believe..) and to mark this special year I've decided to run my longest ultra marathon ever - I've entered the Cateran 110 in May. I'll do other races in the build up, such as the Alloa half marathon in March, but the Cateran will be my main running focus for the next few months.

For those interested in such things, a full list of my 2015 races and times is set out below. All the best to you all for a successful 2016.

Jan-2015 5K Parkrun Edinburgh 22.36
Mar-2015 6.7 miles Lindsays Borders Marathon relay, leg 2 47.38
Mar-2015 Half marathon Loch Katrine 1.32.56
Apr-2015 5K Parkrun Falkirk 21.28
Apr-2015 10K Round The Houses, Grangemouth 42.23
Apr-2015 53 miles Highland Fling Milngavie to Tyndrum 10.49.33
May-2015 10K Antonine Trail 46.14
May-2015 Half marathon Edinburgh 1.32.35
Jun-2015 8.5 miles Milngavie Trail Race (Mugdock Park) 1.03.35
Jun-2015 5K Sri Chinmoy Race (The Meadows) 19.58
Jun-2015 6 miles Mabie Trail Race 44.09
Jul-2015 5K Sri Chinmoy Race (The Meadows) 20.06
Jul-2015 2 miles Sri Chinmoy Race (The Meadows) 12.23
Jul-2015 38 miles Clyde Stride 6.19.00
Aug-2015 42 miles Devil O' The Highlands Tyndrum to Fort William 8.14.46
Aug-2015 10K Irvine 41.27
Aug-2015 3K Glasgow Green 11.48
Aug-2015 6.5 miles Harmeny Handicap Balerno to Harrison Pk 42.33
Sep-2015 2 miles Sri Chinmoy Race (The Meadows) 12.36
Sep-2015 Half marathon Scottish, East Lothian 1.33.33
Oct-2015 Marathon Kielder 3.43.22
Oct-2015 Marathon Loch Rannoch 3.41.35
Nov-2015 5.5 miles East League Cross Country (Alloa) 42.32
Nov-2015 13.5 miles Water of Leith Handicap Race 1.34.41

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My 100 marathons - numbers 1 to 10

In 2014 I hope to complete my 100th marathon and my 100th half marathon. To mark the occasion I am raising funds for SAMH, the Scottish Association for Mental Health, a charity of which I am a Trustee. If you wish to make a donation please visit my Justgiving page at the following link:

I thought it would be interesting (for me if no-one else) to look back on my memories of each marathon. It may take a while to pull together, but here are my thoughts on the first 10.

Number 1 - Glasgow, September 1984 – 3 hours 35 mins

I had watched the Glasgow marathon in 1983 and decided it was something I wanted to do the following year, once I had turned 18. I followed the ‘Glasgow Herald’ training plan religiously from April to September, ran well on the day and a bit to my surprise found it a fairly easy run. I was a marathon runner.

Number 2 – Glasgow, September 1985 – 4 hours 23 mins

This was so different from the previous year. I ‘forgot’ to do any training until the Monday before the race. An 8 mile easy run convinced me, somewhat foolishly, that my natural fitness (!) would see me through the full race. Dressed up as Robin (running with my friend Gordon who was Batman), we set off into the rain at as easy a pace as possible. I managed to keep running for 23 miles before the wheels fell off big style. I struggled to the finish, then struggled to get back to the car, and couldn’t walk up or down stairs for the next fortnight. This marathon running wasn’t as easy as I had thought… a bit of training made it a lot easier. Who would have thought?

Number 3 – Dundee, May 1991 – 3 hours 17 mins

In the four and a half years from September 1985 to April 1990 I had put on a lot of weight and lost all my fitness. That changed when I moved to Troon and started running, first of all simply to get fit and then, as I was enjoying it, to try and get faster. In October I joined the local club, Troon Tortoises, and saw my times come down and down. I trained hard all winter towards the Lochaber marathon in April 1991, and believed I was in shape for a sub 3 hour finish. The inevitable happened. I went off too fast, fell apart just after the half way point, and needed a lift back in a police car from 18 miles. I was totally devastated about my failure and decided to do Dundee a few weeks afterwards as my way of getting ‘back on the horse’, without wearing a watch and simply running to finish. I have 2 distinct memories of this race. The first was seeing the lead car come back down the course with its clock when I was about 15 miles, and realise quite how slowly I was running. I gave myself a good talking to and pushed on over the last 11 miles, passing well over 100 people. The second was reaching the finish, going in to the Caird Hall to get changed, and being offered a drink of lager by a runner beside me. When I said no thanks – my stomach was in bits – he asked me if I was driving. It didn’t occur to him that it was probably the last thing on earth I wanted to drink at that particular moment.

Number 4 – Loch Rannoch, June 1991 – 3 hours 18 mins

I loved the Loch Rannoch marathon but don’t remember a great deal about this particular race, maybe because I did it (and the half) quite a few times, and the years sort of merge in to one another. It was a loop round the village (3 miles) the 23 miles round the loch, going through the grounds of Rannoch School at about 20 miles. The route was hilly, particularly at the far end of the loch, and normally hot. I’m fairly sure I just set out to run – a bit like Dundee – and not worry too much about my time, but to be honest I don’t remember too much about it.

Number 5 – Inverclyde, August 1991 – 2 hours 59 mins

While I didn’t remember much about LR, I remember almost everything about Inverclyde. The race started on the prom, headed up to Port Glasgow, turned and came back through Greenock, along through Gourock and out to the Cloch lighthouse, then turned and came back in to the prom. I thought sub 3 hours was on and went for it, running at a steady and very consistent 6.45 pace. Things started to hurt around 21 / 22 miles, but by then I knew I was on for sub 3 and dug in. I still remember seeing the 25 mile sign as I came back in to the prom – I was really hurting by this stage, but determined to keep it going. The prom is on a bit of a curve, so I didn’t see the finish line until there was less than half a mile to go, and it was a wonderful feeling when I crossed the line in 2.59.00. That was it – I was a sub 3 hour marathon runner. At the time I really thought that all my marathons would be sub 3 from then on… if only I had known….

Number 6 – London, April 1992 – 3 hours 22 mins

I picked up a frustrating shin splint injury in October 1991, and despite some good physiotherapy from Hugh Hunter at Crosshouse Hospital, didn’t really get in to any serious running until late January 1992. I had a place in the London marathon and was keen to do it, so tried to ease up my mileage in the hope I would be able to finish, although clearly not at the same pace as my last marathon at Inverclyde. That was effectively what happened – I had enough to get round, but found the last 6 miles hard going and slowed quite a bit over the second half of the course. Still, it was good to experience the London marathon for the first time – in those days the race finished on Westminster Bridge and you came up the Mall in the opposite direction.

Number 7 – Black Isle, October 1992 – 3 hours 7 mins

This marathon came highly recommended from a couple of the more experienced runners in the club. It was a horrendous drive up the A9 in terrible rain on the Friday night – the marathon was on the Saturday – and the people in the B&B I was staying were actually out looking for me as I reached Fortrose. My knee had been giving me problems for the few months before, and I was going in for an operation the Friday after the marathon which was going to keep me out of running for at least 6 weeks. I took the view that my knee was going to get fixed anyway, so there was no point in worrying about any pain from it during the race. We were bussed across the Black Isle to the marathon start, and ran all the way round the Isle and back to the finish at Fortrose. I ran fairly well throughout. It was a cold day with a biting wind, and there was a long 2 mile climb around 17 miles coming out of Cromarty. I had hoped that the run down the other side of the hill would be better, but the wind was so strong that it made the last 6 miles very hard. I was pleased to finish, pleased with my time, and the post race shower in Fortrose Academy was one of the best I have ever had.

Number 8 – London, April 2003 – 3 hours 38 mins

This still ranks as one of the worst marathons I have ever run. I had my knee operation, recovered well, and felt really good when I did a 20 mile warm up race at Hereford in 2.12 at the end of February 1993. Maybe I just came back to quickly. I knew as soon as I started the marathon that things weren’t right – my legs felt like lead – and it just got worse as the race went on. The only consolation I could take was that I finished. With the benefit of hindsight I think I had a virus, and it didn’t go away for a couple of months.

Number 9 – Taunton, April 1994 – 3 hours 4 mins

I didn’t do another marathon in 1993, and targeted Taunton as my spring marathon for 1994. I drove down to London on the Friday, then across to Taunton on the Saturday. It was a 2 lap event – I was under 3 hour pace at the end of the first lap, but felt things slip around 17 miles and slowed considerably over the last 8 miles or so to finish in a slightly disappointing 3.04. It was a long drive home, and a huge struggle to get out the car at a service station.

Number 10 – Belfast, May 1994 – 3 hours 7 mins

This remains one of the most memorable marathons I have ever done, not because it was a particularly good performance but because it was the first time I had been to Belfast, and in 1994 Belfast was still in the middle of the troubles. I flew in and out of Belfast for the day and the level of security at the airport was something I had not seen before, particularly when flying between 2 British airports. The marathon route took us on an incredible tour of Belfast: through the Protestant Shankill area, along the Catholic Falls Road, round the affluent university area, through the shipyards, before finishing in the centre of Belfast. It was a wonderful way to see so many different parts of the city. I had a mixed run; by 12 miles I was really struggling, but seemed to rally in the latter stages to finish fairly strongly. My overriding memory is looking across at a soldier in the Falls Road, with his gun pointing towards the runners, and seeing a child playing around him, running under his legs, and not even noticing he was there. The soldiers had become such a part of daily life, they were barely noticed.

Numbers 11 to 20 to follow in due course……

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

West Highland Way Race 2014 – A Race Director’s Perspective

Now that the dust has settled on the 2014 race, I thought it was a good time for me to do my annual blog posting and stick down my thoughts on the race, while it is still relatively fresh in my mind. So here goes…..

I knew I had a hectic week coming up at work in the lead up to the race (of which more below), so I went in to the office on Sunday afternoon to get various bits and pieces sorted out, such as allocating the numbers to each runner, collating the support and medical details in a format they could be easily printed and accessed, chasing the few runners still needing to provide bits of information, and so on. I was there for 4 hours, but it was time well spent and I felt better when it was all finished. Everything felt under control with only a few days to go.

As expected it was a busy week, both at work and with some of the other things I am involved with. Monday was a busy day of meetings, then I had a Scottish Athletics board meeting at night where the board met the management team who will support and look after the Scottish athletes at the Commonwealth Games. It was great to see how well advanced the planning was, how enthusiastic everyone was, and I came home totally inspired. On Tuesday morning I attended at a sports law conference – not sure it was the best time to be hearing about various cases where event organisers were held liable for problems with their events – and then back to a number of meetings in the afternoon. At night I headed round to Run and Become to help with the packing of the goody bags, but by the time I arrived around 7pm it was just about finished thanks to some excellent work from Adrian, Murdo, Norman, Julie and Scott. Wednesday morning saw an early start: a taxi picked me up at 5.30am to take me to Waverley Station, and I headed through to Glasgow on the first train. I was chairing a series of question and answer sessions with Eilish McColgan, Nigel Holl (CEO of Scottish Athletics) and Stephen Maguire (Director of Coaching of Scottish Athletics): Glasgow on Wednesday morning, Dundee on Wednesday evening and Edinburgh on Thursday morning. Each of the three seminars lasted for around an hour and a half, with audiences of between 45 and 85 people, and after a train delay I didn’t get back home from Dundee until after 11pm on Wednesday evening. It was a long day, and possibly not the best preparation for the busy weekend to come. After the Eilish seminar on Thursday morning we had our weekly board meeting, then I had a quick check of my e-mails before heading through to Glasgow for a SAMH board meeting. I arrived back in Edinburgh about 7.30pm, finalised a few race bits and pieces in the office, put on my Out of Office, and headed home about 9pm. By the time I got home Sandra was in bed; I had hardly seen her all week.

Friday arrived – I always think of the Friday as race day – and I was up at 7am. I had to pick up a few things from the office before meeting Donald and Elaine at Run and Become at 9.30am to hand over numbers, pins and race info for the relay. I also met Steven, who was kindly helping out by transporting goody bags and race merchandise from Edinburgh to Milngavie in the van. Once the van was packed Steven dropped me off at Arnold Clark in Sighthill where I picked up my own van. I popped in to Sainsbury’s to pick up a few bits and pieces (including an extra packet of sandwich bags for the runners’ medical cards, as I was worried we might not have enough), had a quick bite to eat and headed home to pack the van. Sandra was already packed, and we left the house at 1pm. We had something to eat at McDonalds at Straiton then headed to Milngavie. The traffic was heavy but we got there about 3pm, and after a bit of a mix up about what Premier Inn we had booked we checked in for Sean and Laura, who were going to stay there for a few hours’ sleep after the race had started.

We didn’t stay in Milngavie but headed up to the Oak Tree, where we had a room booked. We stopped on route at the Beech Tree to check Lynne (the owner) was able to leave the car park gate open for race traffic, had a quick drink, then arrived in Balmaha around 5pm. After something to eat and a shower, we left at 7.30pm to set up registration at St Joseph’s Church from 8pm. Most of the helpers arrived shortly afterwards and before too long everything had been set up. It was clear that everyone knew what they were doing and there were a lot of experienced helpers in the room; it certainly made my job easy having such a good team around. This was something that happened throughout the whole race - the quality of people helping with every aspect of the race was great, and I am hugely appreciative to them all for all their efforts. Martin Stone from Sportident, the timing people, also arrived and set up the electronic cards.

As usual, there was a bit of rush when registration first opened, then it quietened down until closer to the start of the race. I did a quick interview with John for the podcast, went to see the Trossachs people, and said hello to many of the runners arriving. I had a bit of a panic when I couldn’t find the medical sheets, but thankfully they re-appeared amongst the car park passes. All seemed to go smoothly; as ever the lady from the church was a fantastic help, and great to work with. We are lucky to have people like her helping with the race.

At 12.30am Sean and I gave the race briefing, and it was almost time to start the race. I love the last half hour before the race starts. There is an incredible atmosphere – a mixture of excitement, nerves and general terror – but it is a fantastic sight to see everyone line up beside the tunnel. It meant a lot to me to see that Nigel Holl, the CEO of Scottish Athletics, had cycled down to see the start; I was also delighted that there had been no sign of the ‘Challenge’ which I later heard had started with its five runners further up in Milngavie. At exactly 1am I blew the hooter, and the runners were away. It didn’t take long for the runners and their support to clear, and Milngavie Station started returning to normal. We packed various bits and pieces in to the van, finished tidying the hall, and headed off. The first milestone – a successful start – had been reached.

Sandra and I headed up to the Beech Tree, saw the first runners come through, and had a quick word with George and Karen. In the darkness I didn’t recognise Alan, Rosie Bell’s husband, which was a bit embarrassing. We didn’t stay there too long, but headed up the road to Balmaha, making a quick detour to Garadhban Forest. We were too late arriving there to see Paul Giblin and Robbie Britton go through – it was already clear that these two guys had made a great start and were capable of something very special. We also saw the first of the ‘Challenge’ checkpoints which I thought looked a bit pathetic. From there we did a quick turn and travelled to Balmaha, said hello to Davie at the checkpoint - providing a couple of new people for the midges to devour - and quickly went in to the sanctuary of the Oak Tree. We were able to get Wifi in there and follow the runners going through the checkpoint via the Sportident app, while enjoying a welcome coffee and bacon roll.

We stayed in the Oak Tree for quite a while, following the race and chatting to the support crews who came in. After a while we decided to take a drive up to Rowardennan and see how things were going there. The road up was quiet, but Paul and Robbie had already passed through by the time we arrived. We didn’t stay long; had a quick word with Richard and Robert from the safety of our car – the midges were as bad as I have ever seen them – then returned down the road to the Oak Tree. We didn’t see many runners at all and were able to get some idea of how much the field had spread out, even at this early stage of the race.

On our return the Oak Tree was jumping and after a bit of chat we decided to head to bed for a couple of hours’ sleep. I have to give a huge thanks to Lucy, Sandy and family for opening up the Oak Tree for us on race night. It makes a fantastic difference to the support crews to be able to get something hot to eat and drink, and to be able to use the facilities. We went to bed about 5.30am, but I was wakened by two phone calls and two texts and decided at 7.30am would be as well getting up. Still, two hours of disturbed sleep was better than none, and after a shower and some breakfast we were ready to head further up the course.

As we travelled along the south side of Loch Lomond I spoke on the phone to Sean. It was clear that Paul and Robbie were continue to run at a record pace, and our biggest problem was ensuring that Martin (the Sportident timing man) arrived in time at each checkpoint. We had a fairly slow trip up Loch Lomond – the traffic was already heavy and moving slowly through the roadworks. We called in to Beinglas and I was pleased to see it all looked calm, both at the field where everyone was parking and at the checkpoint. We spoke to Helen and John and watched some of the runners come in. Many of them looked shattered, but I always found the section in to Beinglas one of the hardest and I was confident they would pick up on the next section.

Just before leaving Graeme told me that there had been an accident on the A82. I asked one of the Trossachs guys about it, but it seemed to have been cleared so we continued north. I would have liked to have gone in to Auchtertyre but we needed to go to By The Way and check the relay registration. From all the feedback Auchtertyre worked extremely well this year, marshalled in the usual professional way by Lee and her family. This was a theme throughout the weekend: people at checkpoints who knew exactly what they were doing, and looking after the runners and their support teams superbly. The race is really lucky to have so many experienced people giving up their weekend to help, and I am hugely grateful to all of them. It certainly makes my role as RD much easier to know everywhere is in such good hands.

It was no surprise to see the relay registration at By The Way working well, with Donald and Elaine fully in control. At around 11.40am I headed over to the relay start, gave a quick briefing 10 minutes before the start, then set the 32 runners off at exactly 12 noon. The runners coming through Tyndrum just before the relay start were given a fantastic reception – the race instructions had asked all relay runners to make a point of congratulating the full race runners as they passed, and it certainly seemed to happen at Tyndrum. Hopefully it happened elsewhere too. We didn’t hang about long and drove to Bridge of Orchy, said a quick hello to Sean and Laura, then continued on to Glencoe. I was already aware that the car park was going to be full of people taking part in a biking competition, but my heart sank when I saw it. This was normally our easiest checkpoint in terms of parking; today it had the potential to be a nightmare, particularly later on when more runners were arriving. Still, not much we could do at this stage, and it was just something else for the experienced team of Alan, Silke et al to cope with. I think they did an excellent job; although very busy at times, they managed to get everyone through successfully.

We would have liked to have headed to Kinlochleven, but Paul was going so quickly that we would not be able to get there before him. We had just left Glencoe when we received a text from Julie, saying Paul had already been through Kinlochleven, arriving there at 12.42pm. That was incredible - he was motoring, and a new record now seemed a certainty. We did a quick calculation – not easy when you haven’t had much sleep – and reckoned we should be able to get to Lundavra in time to see him, but didn’t have much time to spare. The traffic remained slow, and the wee road up to Lundavra is never the best, but we got there about 15 minutes before Paul came through and had time for a quick chat with John and Katrina, who were setting things up. They were in for a long shift, but on the positive side there was a nice breeze and it seemed to be keeping the midges away. Paul passed through, didn’t stop for more than a minute, and looked very strong as he ran up the hill out of the checkpoint. We jumped in the van and down to Lochaber Leisure Centre, let the team there know Paul was on his way from Lundavra, and headed out to Braveheart car park to see him coming in. We had a bit of a chat with his crew before he arrived; once he reached Braveheart carpark we jumped back in to the van, headed back to the Leisure Centre, and waited for him to reach the finish. It was very emotional seeing him cross the line and record his time at 14.20.11, 47 minutes faster than his time from the previous year. We had seen something very special indeed; a truly world class performance. We didn’t have long to wait for Robbie, who finished in 14.47.48. That was another outstanding performance, one that was 20 minutes faster than the old record. It had been an outstanding race between the superb athletes.

We stayed at the Leisure Centre for a while, watching the faster runners arrive. Fionna Ross, the first lady, arrived in a time of 18.45, the third fastest time ever by a lady. Not far behind was the female winner for the last two years, Rosie Bell, who recorded a PB of 19.02 and the fourth female time ever. It had been a day of incredible performances at the front end of both races. Conditions were good – overcast, not too warm, with a dry course – but there is no doubt Scottish ultra-running performances have moved up a level over the last few years, both on the male and female sides.

I would have liked to have seen every finisher, but also wanted to see how things were going at Kinlochleven, so we headed back down the road. When we arrived I said hello to Dr Chris, Julie and team and remarked that it all seemed very calm, although we all doubted if that would be the case later on! There is decent internet access at Kinlochleven so I was able to get an update of how the race was developing, and we stayed there for an hour or so, seeing various runners come in. Most looked tired at this stage – not surprisingly – but they knew they were in to the final straight, and most left in a positive frame of mind. The only downside was that the midges had made a reappearance, even inside the community centre. We left Kinlochleven and headed up to Lundavra again, where by now the bonfire was going well with quite a few people waiting for their runners to pass through. We stayed there for the best part of an hour then headed back to the Leisure Centre.

Alan and his finishing team had things well under control at the finish, with the finishing runners going through the routine of recording their time with their card, being given a printout of their splits, being weighed, then given some tea and toast. By around 5.30am I could hardly keep my eyes open, so popped in to the van for a quick nap. I woke up just after 7am to the noise of Fiona Rennie approaching her 10th race finish, and I managed to dive out the van, just in time to see her crossing the line in one of the race’s emotional moments. For the next few hours the runners finished in various states, ranging from very tired to absolutely shattered. We grabbed a quick breakfast at Morrisons around 9am, then at 11am I headed down to Nevis Centre to set things up for the prizegiving.

The seats had been laid out in theatre style and it looked fantastic. I was glad I had scripted it all the week before, as I was far too tired to do much thinking at that stage. We started the prizegiving just after 12 noon, and as always it was a very emotional occasion. Paul received a well deserved 5 minute standing ovation for his outstanding run, then every finisher received his or her goblet. There were special presentations for the first 3 men and women, for the five people who had completed 10 races, and for the oldest finisher. Finally we reached Frits, the 157th (and last) finisher, with race winner Paul presenting him with his goblet in another of the race’s emotional moments. I tidied things in to the van, we had a couple of drinks in the Nevis Centre, went for a bit of sleep (although had slightly more than expected as we both slept through the alarm), had a great night out in the pub, had a good catch up with quite a few runners over breakfast the next morning, then travelled back down the road. I returned the van on the Tuesday, tidied a few things up, and that was it. The race was over for another year.

More than one week on, I am delighted with how it all went. I’ve mentioned them a number of times already but the team who helped out in every area were superb, and played a key part in making this race the wonderful event that it is. Ultimately, though, the West Highland Way Race is about the runners. I witnessed some wonderful performances over the weekend, at the front, at the middle and at the back of the field. Paul’s performance was exceptional, but everyone who earned their goblet achieved something special; something that will stay with them forever. It is a privilege for me to be the Race Director of such a fantastic event.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Race Director's Story: the 2013 West Highland Way Race

We were heading down the road yesterday and Sandra said that a lot of people would be interested in hearing my story of the WHW Race. I'm on holiday today (Tuesday), and I realise if I don't write it all down now it will never happen. So here goes...suspect this might be a long post but I'll start typing and see where I get to....

I'll start this story on the Monday before the race. Less than a week to go, and it is obvious from the various posts on Facebook and Twitter that all of the runners were going through their various stages of taperitis, getting more and more excited. Only a few more sleeps to go. I realised I was going to struggle to do much running this week, so got up and 5.30am and ran with Sandra in to the city centre when she was doing one of her last runs, the headed back to the flat at a bit of a faster pace. Run done by 7am. I had a busy day at work - there aren't too many quiet days - then headed out to South Gyle to chair a Scottish Athletics board meeting. The meeting went really well. There is a real positive feel at the moment in Scottish Athletics; I feel that the whole sport is coming together, right from the top level where hardly a weekend goes by without more athletes achieving the Commonwealth Games standards, through to the clubs where we are seeing some fantastic results with the Club Together programme. The quality of the Scottish Athletics team is superb, and I left the meeting at 8.30pm on a real high, greatly encouraged by the way things are going. I stopped at the office to leave my suit and change in to my cycling kit, so I'd be able to cycle in the next morning, then stopped on the way home for a Chinese as it was too late to be cooking. Sandra was in bed when I got home and it was about 11pm by the time I had unwound enough to go to bed.

I went in to the office at 7.30am on Tuesday to spend an hour and a half on WHW stuff before starting my (paid) work. We were meeting at night to pack the goody bags, so I needed to make sure we had an up to date list of runners, along with the details of everyone's garment size. I had another full day but stopped at 5.30pm for a call with Martin Stone, the owner of SPORTident who were providing the timing equipment for the race. It was really useful to go through everything with Martin and by the time our call had finished I was confident we had (almost) everything in place to make sure it all went smoothly at the weekend. The only thing that I hadn't thought of was the fact we needed tables at each checkpoint to sit the timing stations on; it wasn't a problem as we still had time to get them. At about 6.40pm I headed round to Run and Become where Adrian, Murdo and Julie had already started packing the race goody bags. It didn't take us too long to get through them, and when we finished at 8.30pm I headed back to the office to work on the support crew and medical information. Everyone had submitted the information on time and in the correct format, but it was still a bit of a job to go through it all and ensure it was in a format that could be easily used if we were faced with an emergency situation on race day. By 11pm I had done more than half the entries, felt I had broken the back of it, and left the office and cycled home. Another late tea on my own and it was time for bed. No run for me today but that was fine; anything this week was a bit of a bonus.

I had set myself an objective of having everything done for the WHW Race by the close of play on Wednesday, so got up early again and headed in to the office. There were 5 things on my 'To Do' list in respect of the race: speak to Alan Kay about the Glencoe checkpoint, in particular making sure the route to the checkpoint was clearly marked so no-one could go wrong (there had been a bit of discussion on Facebook about people missing the checkpoint last year and I didn't want this to be an issue again); meet Adrian at 8am for a coffee and final de-brief to ensure we hadn't missed anything; ensure all the support crew information was in the correct format and had been sent to the Race Control team, along with all the contact numbers; script the prize giving for Sunday; and write up the race briefing for the Friday night. I was out of the office at various meetings for most of the day, but by 5.30pm I was able to start working on WHW stuff and had finished everything on the 'To Do' list just after 8pm. I cycled home with a feeling that everything had been done and was under control. Sandra was still up when I got home - I think she had forgotten what I looked like - and we had a couple of glasses of wine before heading to bed.

Thursday is always my busiest day at work as we have a board meeting in the morning, and I was pretty much back to back with meetings until 1pm. After that I travelled through to Glasgow for a SAMH board meeting, but managed to get a slightly earlier train which gave me time to pop in to the Blackfriars Bar and say hello to those at the WHW lunch. I had a quick coffee and headed along to the SAMH board meeting at 3pm. It finished about 6.30pm, I headed back by train to Edinburgh, then cycled home from the office. When I arrived home Sandra was still out at the Barefoot Ted presentation at Footworks Colin McPhail's shop, so I decided to head out for a run. I don't know if it was the adrenalin, the hot weather, or a combination of both, but I was absolutely flying - 5 miles in 7.04 pace, which is much faster than I've been running recently. Sandra arrived back, we had some tea, and I headed off to bed.

Although the race doesn't technically start until the Saturday morning, I always feel it is race day when I wake up on the Friday morning of WHW Race weekend. I had taken the day as a holiday but had a lot to do, so set the alarm for 8am and got up then. I packed all my kit for the weekend and at about 10am I headed out for a run. I combined this with collecting my van for the weekend from Thrifty at Haymarket - killing 2 birds with the one stone - and again I was delighted how well I ran, 7.25 pace for 5 miles, a decent pace considering how hot it was. Before going home I called in to the office to collect all the things needed for race day, such as the medical cards, the parking permits, the emergency contact information, pens, and the trophies for those who were in line to finish their 10th WHW Race. Sandra was ready when I arrived home at about 1pm, and after a quick sandwich we headed through to Milngavie.

Stan had collected the finishers' goblets from Glencairn Crystal a few weeks earlier, and I had arranged to meet him in Milngavie at 3pm to hand them over. That all went to plan, and shortly afterwards two of Sandra's backup team (Susan and her partner Howard)arrived at the Milngavie Premier Inn, where Sandra had booked a room to let her relax for the few hours before the race. Susan and Howard headed out for a run. I went along to Tesco in Milngavie to collect a few things and, more importantly, to give Sandra the chance to have a couple of hours sleep. I arrived back at 6pm and we headed through to the Beefeater for our pre race meal. Unfortunately the service was terrible, and I didn't have time to finish my meal before I needed to head along to set up registration at St Joseph's Church at 8pm.

When I arrived at the Church Hall there were a few helpers already there, including Davie Hall (who was in charge of registration) and George and Karen, who were involved with the sweeping. Martin Stone arrived shortly afterwards with his timing equipment, and everything was set up and ready to go by the 'opening time' of 9pm. As in previous years, we had quite a crowd wanting to register at 9pm, presumably so they could head back and relax a bit before the race. After the initial rush things quietened down a bit. I headed out to see Stuart Ballantyne and his team from Trossachs Search and Rescue - they were already set up at the far end of the car park and collecting drop bags for Rowardennan and Inversnaid. The Trossachs guys provide great support to the race, and I was delighted to see that everything was working in accordance with the plan. The atmosphere in the Church Hall was great - I love seeing so many nervous and excited people in the few hours before the start of the race. It was a pleasure to work with the lady from the church. She couldn't have been more helpful, even making tea and coffee for the team working on registration. I later found out she was supposed to be on holiday that week, but changed her arrangements because she enjoys the race so much and the people associated with it. Not for the last time, it brought home to me what a great race this is, and what a fantastic group of people it is who are associated with it.

At 12.30am I headed out and gave the race briefing. As always, I could smell the tension in the air. It is a magnificent sight to look out and see so many people who were about to head off on this massive challenge. I was a bit nervous about quoting Fiona's inspirational words - I hadn't been able to do it when I was practising the night before without tears running down my face - but it all went well, and I hope it sent people off with a poignant reminder of what this race is really about. At about 12.50am I headed to the start line, gave the '10 minute to go' announcement, saw Sandra and wished her all the best, and got ready for the start. At exactly 1am I pressed the hooter and everyone was off. We had 181 runners, all hoping to make it to Fort William before noon on Sunday. It was a nice feeling to see everyone head off - it felt like the first part of the planning had been completed successfully - and there was an odd silence in the car park which had been so noisy just a few minutes earlier. I collected a few things from the hall, which had already been tidied by the registration team, and headed across to the van.

I left Milngavie and started to head towards the Beech Tree. Lynne on the Radio was on Radio Clyde - she's had a bit of banter with Sandra in the past about her running, so I sent her a tweet saying I had just seen 181 runners head off on the WHW Race to Fort William. She read it out almost right away, which amused me greatly, although I suspect few people heard it. Soon afterwards I arrived at the Beech Tree which was busy, with the car park almost full. The owner there is lovely - she opens her wee hut each year and sells hot rolls and coffee - so I had a quick coffee, said hello and thanked her. It is one of the things I love about the WHW Race - there are so many people who appreciate it and want to help out in any way they can. After that I headed to Drymen, expecting to have a bit of time before anyone arrived. But no sooner had I got there and the first 2 runners went through - Paul Giblin and Robert Souter. I looked at my watch and couldn't believe it; 1.29. What were they doing running at that pace? Surely it was too fast? It also caused a bit of panic - that was much faster than we had expected or planned; would the checkpoints be ready in time? I headed straight back to the car and drove round to Balmaha, to let the checkpoint team know they might be in action quicker than they had expected. Fortunately Davie was there already, and Martin arrived shortly afterwards to set up the timing station. It was all under control, so I headed across to the Oak Tree for a coffee and a roll.

Sandra and I have known the owners of the Oak Tree, Sandy and Lucy, for a few years. They are a lovely couple, and opening up the Oak Tree to serve coffee and rolls at that time in the morning is a wonderful gesture. I had a quick chat with Lucy, ate my roll, and headed back out to the car ark to see the first few runners coming through. We checked that the timing system was working properly - it was - and then I headed up with Martin to set up the Rowardennan checkpoint and timing station.

The midges at Rowardennan were bad, so I was glad when we had everything set up and the drop bags laid out. Paul Giblin arrived in a super fast time, and had opened up a large gap from the second runner. Already it was clear that, if he could hold it together, we were going to see something special. I headed back down the road, stopping between the camp sites to see the runners come through. Sandra passed looking strong, and I headed down to the Oak Tree where I had planned to grab a few hours sleep.

Unfortunately the plan to sleep did not work. I lay on the bed with my mind racing, adrenalin pumping through my body, and unable to get to sleep. Just as I had almost dropped off, my phone woke me with a text to sat the checkpoint team were not able to get in to Beinglas Farm because the gate was locked. I didn't even know there was a gate, but this was a problem. There is only an intermittent phone signal at the Oak Tree, so I wasn't able to phone Adrian or speak to Ross or Noanie who were in charge of the checkpoint. I felt pretty helpless; miles away, no phone signal, and no real idea of what was happening. There was no way I was going to get any sleep now. Paul came through there at 6.58am, before the gate had opened and with most of the checkpoint team still on the wrong side of the gate. Thankfully Noanie had managed to get in and was able to make a manual note of his time and give him a few gels to keep him going. I finally got a signal, spoke to Adrian and approved Paul's support team having special dispensation to meet him further up Glen Falloch, as they hadn't been able to get in to Beinglas. I don't even know if this message got through to them. Fortunately the gates opened at 7am and the checkpoint team (plus Martin) were able to get in, and record the times of the rest of the runners.

I got up and had a shower, a quick breakfast, and headed round the southern end of Loch Lomond. I stopped in Balloch when I had a decent phone signal, and updated myself with the race progress. By this stage I think Paul had reached Auchteryre in under 8 hours and was showing no signs of slowing. It was already looking like a remarkable performance was on the cards. I arrived at Beinglas and was met by Ross, who told me there had been a bit of a hassle with the owner. Ross had done a good job in sorting things out, but it was clear I would need to have a chat with him and make sure things were ok. I found the owner shortly afterwards, apologised for the hassle, and we agreed that next year we would sit down beforehand and plan things better. I waited to see Sandra come through then left Beinglas feeling that things were under control. It is great to have people like Noanie and Ross who have the presence to take control of a situation when something happens that is not in the plan. All of our marshals are like that - they are experienced people who I can rely on to work things out, and as a race we are very lucky to have their help.

After Beinglas I drove up to Auchtertyre. It was clear that the checkpoint team had everything under control, and there were none of the problems that had occurred last year. I said a quick hello and headed on up the road to Bridge of Orchy. By the time I arrived there the first 3 runners had already passed, so I stayed for about half an hour for a coffee with Tim, Muriel and Jane while the next few runners come through. I was aware that I needed to get to Kinlochleven before the first runner - I was looking after Martin here while he set up the timing system, while Adrian was heading to set up the finish at Fort William - so I headed straight for Glencoe. As I headed up the ski road towards the checkpoint I passed Paul running down the road, having been through the checkpoint already. At that stage I knew a new record was definitely going to happen, unless the wheels fell off which did not look likely; he looked remarkably good for a man who had covered 71 miles in 10 hours 33 minutes. I did a quick calculation in my head - 5 hours from here was more than achievable for a runner of Paul's ability, and if he did that he would come finish in about 15 and a half hours.

I arrived at Kinlochleven and met Julie, who was looking after the checkpoint, and Paul's mum, dad and sister, who were doing his support. We had a chat and I reminded them that while Terry Conway's time last year of 15.39 was the best time on the route since 1991, the actual best time ever recorded was Dave Wallace in 1989 of 15.26. I asked them to make sure Paul knew this - I didn't want him to coast in to Fort William thinking he had the best ever time if he managed to beat last year's 15.39. It was also a chance to put to bed the argument about whether the course before 1991 was harder or easier - if he could beat 15.26 that would be the best time ever, full stop. We watched Paul come in and out of the checkpoint. He looked a bit tired, as you would expect after 81 miles, but didn't look as though he was slowing. Chris Ellis arrived just as Paul was leaving. The look of disbelief on Chris's face was something I remember for a long time, as he had expected to have another hour to set things up before anyone arrived.

Martin and I went for a quick toastie in the Tailrace Inn, and we when we came back we saw Marco come through in 2nd place, also on schedule for an amazing time. I knew I didn't have too much time to get to the finish, given the pace Paul was running, so I left Kinlochleven and headed up to Fort William. Adrian and Alan had already set up the finish - we wanted to make it more of an 'occasion' this year with a defined finishing straight and a banner - and we prepared ourselves for Paul's arrival, with Martin setting up the final timing station. Paul's support crew were pacing around nervously, but they had seen him through Lundavra and knew he was still going well and on schedule. At 4.07pm Paul came in to the car park, crossing the line in a new record of 15 hour 7 minutes and 29 seconds. It was an incredible moment, one I will remember for a long time. His support team were very emotional. Paul looked remarkably fresh. It was a truly remarkable performance by a remarkable athlete.

After the photos were taken and the congratulations offered, we started to prepare for the second runner's arrival. Marco's support crew arrived - comprising a trio of international athletes who between hold many of the Scottish ultra running records - and we knew he wouldn't be far away. Marco finished just after 5pm with a time of 16.03.48 - the 4th fastest time, and a PB by around 2 hours. I was delighted for Marco. I have known him since we worked together in the 1990s. At that time he didn't run at all, and to see the progress he has made has been amazing.

Richie Cunningham came in soon afterwards in another remarkable time of 16.27.30. Richie won the race in 2010 and 2011, but DNF'd last year. It was great to see him return to this level of performance, and he wasn't far away from his best time. Shortly after Richie finished, I decided to head back down to Kinlochleven to spend a few hours there. I knew I was likely to miss the finish of the female race, which was a shame, but against that I was keen to see how Kinlochleven checkpoint operated. I arrived there about 6pm and saw quite a number of runners come through. I had a good catch up with Chris Ellis - it is great for us to have Chris involved, with all of his medical knowledge and experience - and I even managed to find time for a steak pie supper from the local chippie. The internet connection at KLL was much better than FW, so I phoned Adrian and Mags (the race control team, who were in FW) and suggested it would make more sense for them to base themselves in KLL. Sandra's backup team arrived soon afterwards, and at about 8.15pm Sandra arrived at the checkpoint. She was in good spirits, hadn't had any problems with her ankle, and as long as she held things together she was well on course for a sub 24 hour finish. She headed off with Nick as her support runner, and I got ready to head back up towards Fort William.

By that stage the only checkpoint I hadn't visited was Lundavra. I checked in for Sandra at the Premier Inn, then headed up the narrow and winding road to the Lundavra checkpoint. Neal, Caroline and Caroline's parents were there, and it looked like a party was already in progress. They had set up a big tent, and any time a runner appeared over the hill they greeted them with a blast of music (mainly the Rocky theme when I was there, but there were a few other variations). It was absolutely brilliant, and must have given the runners such a boost. I saw a number of very tired runners pass through, all knowing they were on the final leg and had only 7 miles to the finish. Sandra arrived at exactly 10.30pm (21 hours 30 mins); hopefully her sub 24 hour target was in the bag. I watched her head off on the last section, going really well, and headed back to the car to drive back to the Leisure Centre. She arrived there at 12.11 pm in a time of 23 hours 11 minutes, with a huge smile on her face. I was delighted for her, and for her support crew - like everyone else, she had worked incredibly hard for it and was totally elated by her achievement.

There was a rush of finishers in the period up to the 24 hour mark, then it quietened down for a while. I found the quiet sections quite difficult - I hadn't had a problem with tiredness at all, but when it was quiet it became a bit more difficult. It didn't seem to be dark for very long - by 3am it was getting light again, and we were in to the new day. Adrian, Alan, Silke and I took turns at doing the various jobs (recording finishing times, weighing, printing out the splits for the runners, answering various questions, and so on). It was great to see the elation of all the finishers - it is clear how much finishing means to everyone involved, and it is a real privilege to be able to share this moment with the runners and their support teams. The timing system made it really easy for us to know who was still out on the course. I had a shower at 6am and felt a lot better; before we knew it we were waiting for the last few runners, with many of the earlier finishers who had reappeared at the Leisure Centre to support those coming in. The last finisher, Peter Ritchie, came in just after 11am, and we finished packing everything up before heading to the Nevis Centre for the prize giving.

The prize giving was an incredible event. I have never seen so many people attending; there must have been more than 500 people in the room, with about a third unable to get a seat. As mentioned earlier I had scripted the format of the prize giving a few days earlier, as I knew I would be too tired to do it on the day. I was deeply moved by the emotion in the room. Paul received a wonderful and deserved reception when he collected his trophy, as did Gareth when he was announced as the oldest finisher. I was very moved by the reception I was given when Adrian thanked me for the work. People loved it when Paul presented Peter with his goblet as last finisher. The West Highland Way Race family is an amazing group of people, and this is an incredible race.

I left the prize giving with a feeling of satisfaction, a job well done. We went for a couple of drinks and something to eat before heading to bed at 5pm for a couple of hours sleep prior to the night out. I was in two minds about whether to go to bed - I had been awake for 57 hours without a sleep and was scared if I slept I wouldn't be able to get back up again in a a few hours for the night out. However I was falling asleep on my feet, so didn't really have any choice. Sure enough when the alarm went off I had no idea at all of where I was, or why my alarm was going off at 7.30pm, and promptly fell asleep again. I was woken 20 minutes later with a call from Susan wondering where we were, so struggled in to the shower in a state of semi consciousness. It took an hour or so to come round, but once I had had my first pint in the Ben Nevis bar (thanks Norma!) I felt a lot better. We had a wonderful night sharing race stories, and headed to bed about 2am. We met a number of friends he next day for breakfast, then headed back to Edinburgh, calling in at my Mum and Dad's house on route.

One day on, I am still buzzing about the weekend. It was brilliant. There are still a few things to do, but I returned the van this morning, dealt with a few bits and pieces, and should be able to put this year's race to bed in the next week or so. I would like to thank everyone who was involved, in any capacity: the runners, the support crews, the marshalls, the sweep teams, the medical teams, the timing people, and all the other helpers who help make this, in my view, the best race in the world. It is a privilege to be the Race Director of the West Highland Way Race. I look forward to seeing you all again next year.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Feeling like a runner again...

After a dismal period of running I am starting to enjoy it and - wait for it - actually feel like a runner again. I've had some brilliant runs over the last few weeks, including a 26 miler on the snow covered Cateran Trail, a 4 Hills of Edinburgh effort with the Wednesday night gang, and the Kilomathon Race. I've been cycling in and out of work, which I've really enjoyed, and been walking up the stairs rather than taking the lift. We're on the 5th floor so it's not as insignficant as it sounds... every little helps and all that..

I'll do a steady run tomorrow with Sandra, then a few easy runs next week before the London Marathon a week on Sunday. I'm not expecting a fantastic time, but to get round it in one piece (ideally with a '3' at the start of my time) would be perfectly acceptable given my disrupted training and unexpected January stay in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. I'm looking on it as a nice weekend away, an experience to be enjoyed, and a long training run which should stand me in good stead for races later in May and June - the Sri Chimnoy 5k (what was I thinking entering this?), the Loch Leven half marathon, the Edinburgh half marathon and then the big one, the Strathearn marathon.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review of 2012

As we approach the end of another year - they seem to go by quicker each year, which I'm sure is a sign of old age - I thought I'd stick down a few thoughts on my 2012 experiences, running or otherwise. Some of you who know me well may be surprised that I have any running experiences to write about at all. But I've looked back on my detailed records and see that I've completed 17 races this year: 2 ultras (Cateran and Devil O' The Highlands), 3 marathons (Blackpool, Strathearn and Loch Ness), 2 half marathons (Alloa and the Antonine Trail), 2 10ks (Round the Houses and Crieff), and 8 other races of various distances and terrains, including one of my favourites, the National Cross Country Championships, which I did for the 19th time. I've run over 1,500 miles (it's 1,552 at the moment with a day still to go). While that is quite a bit lower than my normal 2,000, it isn't too bad when I look at what else I've had on. However it would be fair to say that it wasn't a year of much quality. I moaned all the way up the Devil O' The Highlands, I wasn't much better during the second half of the Cateran, I got fed up at the Blackpool and Loch Ness Marathons and I only ran 2 races where I came home feeling I had run well and had a good day out. So in the spirit of being positive, I'm going to concentrate on these 2 and put the others down to experience.

The first of these, and the winner of the award for 'My favourite race of the year' goes to the Strathearn Marathon. This was a superb new marathon that took place in early June, on a wonderful course from Cultybraggan outside Comrie, through the back roads of Strathearn to Crieff, then back along to Comrie. The course was challenging (in a hilly sort of way) but really scenic and enjoyable; the organisation by Phil T and his team from Strathearn Harriers was superb in every respect. I ran well throughout and was delighted with my finishing time of 3.33, which put me quite high up the field. This race should be on everyone's 'must do' list.

The second race I enjoyed was another new one, the Antonine Trail half marathon, which took place in October. It started beside Croy Railway Station and went along paths, across trails, through muddy fields, through a couple of towns, along the canal, up some very big hills, through more muddy fields and back to where it started at Croy station. It had a bit of everything. I got slightly lost at one point and even if I hadn't the race would still have been closer to 14 miles, but that neither of those things detracted at all from what was a brilliant and enjoyable event.

It was a busy year for me in lots of other ways. At work, we did 2 mergers which took up a lot of my time. I'm very pleased that both are going really well and have added some great people to our firm. I was appointed Chairman of scottishathletics at the end of April, stepping down from the sportscotland board at the same time. Things have gone well there too since I've taken over, and I've hugely enjoyed my involvement so far - there is a great team in place and it's going to be an exciting few years to be involved in the sport. I was appointed to the board of SAMH (the Scottish Association of Mental Health) towards the end of the year; already I have found it really interesting and I'm hoping that I will be able to make a positive contribution to their work over the next few years. And there was the organisation of the West Highland Way Race, which took place in the middle of June. It was disappointing from a personal perspective to see Sandra drop out around the half way point, and the weather was as bad as I have ever known it which didn't make it pleasant for anyone. However the race as a whole went very well, not least Terry Conway's amazing performance where he ran a record time of 15 hours 39 minutes. I saw every finisher come in to Fort William Leisure Centre over a period of 19 or so hours, and it was incredible to witness the emotion of every one of them on achieving their goal, then see them receive their goblet at the prizegiving. If you made it well done; if not then I'm sure you will have learned a lot that will help you finish in future.

I can't write a blog on 2012 without mentioning the Olympics. We were lucky enough to get tickets for the last night of the athletics, and saw Mo Farah's 5k win and the Jamaican world record in the 4 x 100m relay. It is an experience we will never forget, as was the marathon the following day. What an honour to be there and witness it live. The whole Olympic and Paralympic experience was incredible - our television never moved from the BBC for the whle time, and I don't think I've ever watched as much television.

So, what about 2013? I'm determined to get a bit more focused on my running, and try and get my times back down a bit to closer to where I used to be. For that reason I've decided not to do any ultras next year; I'm sure the break from them will do me good. I have a place in the London Marathon on 21 April; I will use the training I've done during December for the Marcothon as a base, and try and train for London in a planned and structured way. I feel I should be capable of getting down to below 3.20, but time will tell if that is too ambitious. We're also planning on doing the Dublin Marathon in October. I'd like to get my 10k time down to closer to 40 minutes, and get back below 1.30 for the half marathon. I have a place in the Great North Run later in the year and am hoping that will be my 100th half marathon; at the moment I've done 93, so need to do fit in another 6 half marathons before September.

May I wish you all the very best for a happy and successful 2013.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Going back to the start

I dropped out the Glen Ogle 33 yesterday after 4 miles. An embarrassing performance. A little more than 24 hours on, I'm feeling it was a pretty defining moment in my running career. I stopped because I seriously couldn't be bothered - one of the most classic cases of CBA you are likely to see. I can't remember feeling quite like that before. So what now? For the last few years I've been busier and busier at work, at my voluntary work (Scottish Athletics chairman, West Highland Way Race Director) and at home, and I don't think I can do the running at anything like the same level as I used to. I really enjoy doing all the work and non work things but my running is suffering. It's very frustrating. Maybe I need to accept I'm now an 'administrator', rather than 'runner'. Doesn't sit entirely comfortably, though. I've decided to step away from running ultras for a while (at least for a year) and see if I can get back to some decent times at 5k, 10k, half marathon and maybe even marathon. And then if I get a bit more time (i.e. if I win the lottery and can retire) I'm sure I'll feel a lot more motivated and might be able to come back to the ultras. Let's see how it goes. One thing is for sure; at the moment it isn't happening on the running front.