Sunday, December 31, 2006

Goodbye to 2006

It's already New Year in Sydney. I was listening to Radio 5 Live this morning on my way back from a club run in the Comrie Hills, and was listening to the live broadcast from Sydney Harbour. We were in Sydney in April this year, which made it all seem very real. The broadcast was from the Museum of Contemporary Art, which we visited; people were being interviewed people in the Circular Quay area, which was only a couple of minutes walk from our hotel; and on top of that I have a few friends who are in Sydney at the moment on holiday. I wouldn't have been at all surprised if I had heard them on the programme.

We've had a brilliant year. In January it was my 40th and we had a couple of parties and 'birthday run' on the WHW to mark it. Then in March it was the Domestic Female's turn to become old. This gave us another excuse to celebrate in some style with friends at Andrew Fairlie's restaurant at Gleneagles. Soon after that we went for a 2 week break to Australia. After 5 days in Sydney, we spent a few days at Uluru (to give it its proper Aboriginal name), then headed north for a cruise up the Great Barrier Reef, before spending a night in Cairns before flying home. It was the holiday of a lifetime. As an added bonus Elle McPherson was on our flight from Cairns to Sydney. She couldn't keep her eyes off me.

In June it was the WHW race, then we headed north for a week in Skye at the end of July. This was the first time we had been in Skye but were sadly disappointed, and came home about 4 days early. There were too many sheep, so we couldn't walk the dogs properly, and too many ticks. It was also a hell of a long drive to get there. At least we've been now, so can't be accused of ignoring our own country, although we won't rush back. We made up for the disappointment by celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary with a night away at Dunkeld.

At the end of September we moved out of the town and into the country in the southern part of Perthshire. It is the Domestic Female's dream house, and I'm quite taken by it as well. Although it rains a lot, and it has been dark almost all the time since we moved in, we wouldn't swap it for anything. I've joined another running club, Strathearn Harriers, and I'm getting used to sticking on my headtorch and green wellies every night and walking the dogs across the moor. The dogs think they have died and gone to heaven. We just love the tranquility. Some nights the sky is so clear that we can see thousands of stars.

So, goodbye 2006. We are almost at 2007 which is just over 4 hours away as I write this note. Who knows what lies ahead? If 2007 is half as exciting a year as 2006 I won't be disappointed, although a sub 21.39 WHW in 2007 wouldn't go amiss, I have to say, along with some decent weather, a top six finish in the SPL for Falkirk and an MBE for me in the next honours list.

Finally I'm going to do the pretentious bit. Assuming there are any, I'd like to wish all the readers of my blog a happy and successful new year. Happy new year to you all.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

2007 targets

I noticed a thread called 'Targets for 2007' on the Troon Tortoises website (, and I thought it would be interesting to set my 2007 running targets as well. Thanks to Bobby for the idea (although I think he might have borrowed it from another website). So here goes:

1. West Highland Way: pb - 21 hours 39 mins; last year - 22 hours 14 mins; 2007 target - anything under 21 hours 39 mins. While I would love to beat 21 hours, I think that is probably a bit too aspirational to be my target. So I'll settle for beating my pb. Having said that anything under 22 hours would be great and under 23 hours would be pretty good as well.

2. National XC championship: 2007 target - to make the top half of the field. Although it may not sound it, this will be quite a hard one to do. From experience if I'm running really well, such as at Linwood in 2003, I'll make the top half relatively comfortably. However it doesn't take much to miss out. Last year at Falkirk I didn't make it, finishing something like 230th out of 400 or so. It's back at Falkirk again in February, and it isn't my favourite course, so I'll being doing well to achieve this.

3. Marathon: pb - 2.56 (in 1998); last year's best - 3.18; 2007 target - under 3 hours 10 mins. Call me a dreamer, but I actually believe that I still have another sub 3 hour marathon in me, although only if I give up all the ultra running and make a sub 3 hour marathon my main goal for the year. Realistically, that isn't going to happen, so I would be delighted with anything under 3.10. The last time I achieved this was at Loch Ness in 2004, when I ran 3.05.

4. Half marathon: pb - 1.17 (1996); last year's best - 1.27; 2007 target - 1.26 or better. Not much to say about this one - 2006 wasn't the best year for my half marathon times, so it would be nice to get back to something a bit more respectable. My best chance is probably at Inverness in March, as the WHW training tends to take over after that.

5. 10k: pb - 36.09 (1996); last year's best - 38.53; 2007 target - sub 38 minutes. A secondary target here is to beat 40 minutes in all races.

6. Overall - to run 2,000 miles in the year.

Well, that's it. As I write this it strikes me that I have a lot of work to do if I am to achieve any of these targets. It's less than 7 weeks until the National XC and at the moment I am not in particularly great shape, and have been struggling a bit with a post Christmas cold. I took the dogs a great walk today up Knock Hill in Crieff. We were out for more than an hour and a half and the dogs had a brilliant time, but it's not really the same as a decent run.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Rain and more rain

It has rained a lot here over the last week, more or less non stop from Sunday through to Thursday. Not just a few showers, but torrential downpours, day after day after day. I found myself getting quite depressed coming down each morning to be greeted by yet another monsoon. I ventured out for a run last Sunday around lunchtime. It was raining when I started, raining when I finished, and just for good measure raining all the time in between as well. I covered about 15 miles in just under 2 hours, and was completely drenched, cold and miserable by the time I got home at 3.15. To add to my woe it was almost dark by the time I finished. Roll on the better weather and longer days, I say.

However that wasn't as bad as Wednesday. I had run from the office in the morning (in the heavy rain, of course). By mid afternoon most of Perthshire was underwater, and the main road to our house had been closed due to flooding. I was out at a dinner at night and was driving home around 10pm, wondering if I would make it or not. If I had had a clean shirt with me I think I would just have headed to the nearest Travel Inn, but the thought of wearing the same clothes 2 days in a row (and not having any dry running stuff) was enough to persuade me to try and get home. All was fine until I reached the back road from Auchterarder, about 5 miles from home. As it was pitch black, I didn't realise I was heading for a huge puddle until I found myself right in the middle of it. Fortunately the car spluttered through but it was not a pleasant experience, made all the more nervewracking because my mobile phone battery had died a few hours earlier. About half a mile further on the same thing happened, then again, and again. Much to my relief I finally made it to the house, not one moment too soon. It has to rank as one of my worst ever driving experiences.

Imagine my surprise to get up on Saturday morning and find it wasn't raining. Pitch black, yes - it was only 5.30am - but not raining. I was meeting a first time West Highland Way runner, John Kynaston, for a run along the Loch Lomond section of the route. All did not go to plan, however, as Loch Lomond had flooded the road at Balmaha, and there was no way to get through, either by car or on foot. So as an alternative John and I met at Drymen and ran from there over Conic Hill to Balmaha and back the same way, then added on another section to Gartness and back. We covered 20 miles in total. I really enjoyed the run and John's company.

There is no doubt that one of the best things about the WHW race is the quality of the people who take part in it - and that includes other competitors, backup crew, and organisers. I've met some fantastic people through the race, a lot of whom I now consider to be close friends. Daft as a brush, most of them, but very good friends nonetheless. I think it is brilliant (or 'amazing', as Zara Phillips would probably say) how I can turn up for a run with someone I have never met before (like John on Saturday), and just know instinctively that we'll get on really well with each other.

Friday, December 08, 2006

London calling

I was away on business for most of this week - London on Monday and Tuesday night, then on to Newcastle on Wednesday and most of Thursday. In London I was staying in a hotel on the south of the Thames, just across the water from Canary Wharf. Before I arrived I hadn't really appreciated that the hotel was on the south side of the river - I felt the name 'Hilton Docklands' was a bit misleading, to be honest, as that had made me think it would be on the Canary Wharf side - but it did turn out to be a pretty good place to stay. For a start, it meant I was able to get a boat to and from the centre of London each day, rather than stand crushed beside 50,000 grumpy Londoners on the tube or the DLR. Getting a boat to work reminded me of Sydney, albeit about 15 degrees colder, and I found it to be a very satisfactory and relaxing method of travel. During my trip I managed to see the world famous Itsu sushi bar in Piccadilly - I felt a warm glow as I walked past - and another highlight was my superb breakfast both mornings. It may not be the ideal runner's meal, but it is hard to beat a Hilton breakfast of bacon, sausage, 2 fried eggs, a couple of pieces of fried bread, mushrooms, beans, haggis and toast. I'm hungry now just thinking about it. It was absolutely superb.

The other advantage of my hotel's location was that I was able to go out a run on part of the London Marathon course. On Tuesday night I headed from the hotel up to Surrey Quays, then along the marathon route backwards to Greenwich. I even went round the Cutty Sark (which, incidentally, had had its mast removed, something I hope is fixed before the 2007 London Marathon), before turning round at a petrol station and coming back more or less the same way. I ran for about 75 minutes in total and covered about 10 miles. It was certainly better than sitting like a sad and lonely old man in a hotel room (or bar) on my own.

We had a business dinner in Newcastle on Wednesday. A great deal of wine was consumed, and I consider it quite impressive that I managed to get up early the next morning and go for a 4 mile run along the quayside. It probably wasn't the fastest run I've ever done, but I'm pleased to say that the fresh air did me the world of good. When I'm out of town I often use my run as an opportunity to see a bit of the city - this was no different, and I enjoyed seeing the way Newcastle's quayside has developed in the 10 years or so since I was last there.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ian's running awards for 2006

Well, we're now into December and I don't have any more races planned. It therefore seems an appropriate time to present 'Ian's running awards for 2006'.

I told everyone that this would be coming a week or so ago, and I've had a bit of feedback suggesting it should be opened up to my blog's readers for their opinions. So I'd invite anyone reading this to take advantage of the 'Comments' facility and let me know whether you agree or disagree with the nominations and awards. At the end of the day, though, it's my awards so my decisions are final :)

So to the awards themselves. The categories are as follows:

My best performance of the year
My favourite race of the year, split into a few categories - marathon distance and above; half marathon; other;
Biggest running shambles of the year;
And finally - best business development initiative of the year with a running connection (Intrigued? Keep reading...)

1. My best performance of the year

I've done 24 races this year, and I have to say that there are a disappointingly small number of contenders in the 'best performance' category. In fact there are probably only 2 performances that are even worthy of consideration which, to be frank, is depressing. The winner won't be a surprise - it is my 22 hours 14 minutes and 14th place in this year's West Highland Way race. This was my second best time ever for the event, and was the end result of a much more specific WHW training programme than previous years. I would still like to get this time down further - in particular I have an ambition to get to Fort William in time for a hot meal on the Saturday night - but how I am going to achieve this I have still to work out. I'm hoping to work it out in time for the 2007 race.

The only other contender was my best 10k of the year, a 38.53 at Irvine in August. I had to work hard to stay in front of the Troon guys, particularly Bobby, and this result was achieved after a long and difficult day at work. A pretty satisfying performance, and great to catch up with so many people again from the Ayrshire clubs - even better to beat a lot of them.

2. Favourite race of the year - Marathon and above

I did 5 marathons and ultras during the year - the Dumfries Marathon in March, the Highland Fling (Milngavie to Tyndrum) in April, the Fife 50k in May, the West Highland Way race in June, then the Loch Ness marathon in October. The West Highland Way race was my favourite and wins the award. It is more than just a race - it has become a pretty important part of my year. Many others who have been involved in the race, either as runners or support, know exactly what I mean, although it is hard to explain this to those who haven't become part of the 'West Highland Way Family', to use Dario's words. If you're still not sure what I'm talking about, I suggest you watch the race dvd.

Both the Dumfries marathon and Loch Ness marathon are worthy of commendation. I've done all 5 Loch Ness marathons and think it is great- it's a lovely scenic route, the field is just about a perfect size, and it's incredibly well organised. Dumfries was also most enjoyable,or at least the last 11 miles were enjoyable when I had finally been able to get my act together. The Highland Fling was a bit low key this year - only 18 or so entrants - but promises much for the future. I found the Fife 50k bizarre - 14 laps of 2.2 miles round the roads and industrial estates of Glenrothes. Although tough, it had a strangely cathartic effect, and a point worth noting was the commitment shown by the officials and lap counters, which was most impressive. These guys gave up a full day (and in fact most of them give up just about every weekend) to allow us to take part in our chosen sport. They deserve an award. Maybe I'll introduce one next year.

3. Favourite race of the year - half marathon

The only reason this has a category of its own is that I have done so many half marathons this year - 7 in total. The first one was Inverness, for the 12th time in the last 13 years. The Troon lot and many others didn't make it because of heavy snow, but I had the good luck to have travelled the day before and finished in 1.27, which was my best half marathon time of the year. My abiding memory of the race was being passed by my friend Kim at 9 miles, but I dug in, gritted my teeth and passed her again at 10 miles, then held on to beat her by about 15 seconds. It was a good feeling, although short lived - Kim took her revenge at the Glasgow half later in the year where she passed me at 4 miles then beat my by around 4 minutes.

I then did the new Edinburgh Forthside half marathon. It was a complete shambles from an organisational perspective, and I finished in a devastingly poor 1.31. I consoled myself with the excuse that I had done the Dumfries marathon the week before, and the Inverness half the week before that, but with the benefit of hindsight it was the beginning of a series of poor performances. I couldn't beat 1.30 at Loch Leven in May (1.31, my excuse being that I was in the middle of WHW training), then it was another 1.31 at Helensburgh in July (excuse - too soon after the WHW), followed by 1.31 at Glasgow in early September (excuse - not sure - still too soon after the WHW?). Things finally took a turn for the better in October, with a pretty good 1.29 at the fantastic new Aviemore half, then improved again in November with 1.28 at Fort William.

Half marathon of the year, by the proverbial country mile, was Aviemore. It was mostly off road on scenic trails amongst some of the best scenery Scotland has to offer, was well organised, and was just a fantastically enjoyable run. The overwhelming consensus is that this is a gem of an event. I'll need to make sure I get my entry in early next year, because I'm sure it will fill up in no time at all.

4. Favourite race of the year - other

A few contenders here: the National Cross country championship at Falkirk in February - not because I had a good run (which I didn't) but simply because it is the 'blue ribband' event of Scottish distance running, and I always feel somewhat honoured to be taking part. Also the Troon 10k was great - nice course, exceptionally well stewarded and organised; but I think the winner was the Crieff 10k. I was just back running after the WHW, and wasn't in great shape (time was 43.51) but this is a fantastic run over trails around Crieff, and then there is a brilliant buffet at the finish. It is just such a friendly race and to cap it all the weather was brilliant. Races like this make you remember why we run.

5. Biggest running shambles of the year

There are 4 contenders. The first was the Central AC cross country championships at Queen Victoria School in Dunblane. This was fairly well organised, but the course required you to cross a burn on 6 separate occasions. On the 6th and last occasion I fell in. When trying to climb back out I hurt my thumb, was passed by the person who I had just overtaken minutes earlier, then lost in a sprint to the line. My thumb got more and more painful as the night went on, and I spent the following day at Stirling Royal Infirmary checking it wasn't broken (which it wasn't - just badly sprained). I've resolved not to do races in future where you have to jump over a burn.

Next contender was the Edinburgh Forthside half marathon. I stood where I was supposed to stand at the start, only to find about 2,000 slower runners had lined up in front of me. I spent the first 3 miles trying to get past them, by which time I had completely lost interest in the run and seriously considered packing it in. A lot of finishers couldn't get across the line because of the crowds, then had to wait for hours to get their t-shirt. To add to the frustration, no-one could get their car out of Ocean Terminal until the race was finished, then it took over an hour to get out of Leith. I don't think I'll be back in a hurry.

Then there were problems with the jogscotland 5k at Inverleith Park. Some neds moved the course tape, which meant I ended up in a bed of flowers within the Botanic Gardens, unsure how to get out. I must have run an extra kilometre by the time I had worked it all out. My official time was 23.53, about 4-5 minutes worse than my normal 5k time. We received a nice email from scottishathletics apologising, and it is difficult to see what they could have done to prevent it, but it was nonetheless very frustrating.

Despite the cock-ups outlined above, I think the winner of this year's award has to go to the Edinburgh marathon relay organisers. How on earth could anyone think it was a good idea to start the relay 10 minutes after the start of the full marathon? The completely obvious and predictable outcome happened - all of the faster 1st leg relay runners spent the first 3 miles trying to run around, through or over the slower full marathon runners. It was demotivating for the marathon runners to be passed in this way, and it was frustrating for the relay runners. I've done the marathon relay for the last 4 years and it's always been a shambles - the buses don't turn up to take people to their changeover point, there are never enough toilets, the bagagge control is poorly organised, and so on. Considering our team paid £110 to enter (yes, you read this correctly - £110), it is just not acceptable. I don't plan to do it again, although I'm not ruling it out completely as there is always the chance that I will be talked in to it by some of my work colleagues.

6. Best business development initiative of the year with a running connection

I wasn't planning to do this award until earlier this week when I received an email from Trevor, my physio. He had read my blog entitled 'Aaaaagh' where I was complaining about sore quads, and had the good sense to send me an email, suggesting I come to see him for a bit of massage. I now have an appointment for Monday. Trevor, I'm hugely impressed by your marketing prowess - I bet there aren't many people who have gained business from reading someone's blog. Trevor's prize is that I'm going to give him a plug. He's been really helpful when I've had injuries or even just muscle stiffness or fatigue. He also has a huge interest in distance running, being a marathon and ultra runner himself. He's based in the centre of Edinburgh, and I'm happy to pass on his details, with my recommendation, to anyone who might be interested.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


It is 2 days after the long run, and my legs are screaming at me. It's especially sore going downstairs. Always seems to be the same after the first long run for a while, particularly if it is a hilly one. I'm sure it was Conic Hill that did it. To go up and over Cronic Hill once is tough, but to do it twice in the same run is just plain stupid.

Mileage so far this week - 0 (zero).

At the moment there is little sign of this improving. We have our office do on Friday, so I'm hoping my legs are better for the dancing :)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Back on the WHW

Yesterday I was persuaded by a Strathearn clubmate, Phil, to go for a run on the WHW. Phil is planning on doing the Round Rotherham 50 mile race in a couple of weeks, and was looking to get a long run in. We started from the point where the WHW crosses the road just outside Drymen, and had a very pleasant jaunt up to the carpark at Rowardennan and back, stopping for a coffee and scone at the Rowardennan hotel.

I had been struggling for the few days before with a heavy cold, but actually felt pretty good for just about all of the 29 miles. I doubt the weather could have been much better for the end of November, although we did have to wade through quite deep water at a couple of points on the route. Legs are sore today, it has to be said, but all in all it was a good day out and an excellent run to get in.

Another highlight of last week was the Celtic v Manchester United game which I was fortunate enough to be at on Tuesday night. What a game and what an atmosphere - I don't think I've ever been at any sports event where the atmosphere has been so good (the West Highland Way Race excepted, of course). In case anyone didn't see it, or isn't interested in football, Celtic won 1-0 and qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League. This was despite the fact that 1) Manchester United's players are a completely different class to those of Celtic, and 2) for the first 30 minutes Celtic hardly touched the ball at all. Still, it's goals that count - Celtic scored one from a fantastic free kick with 7 minutes to go, then Manchester United missed a penalty with only a couple of minutes left.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Coming soon - Ian's review of the year

Over the next few weeks I'm going to publish my highlights of the running year. So watch this space! Will the 14 x 2.2 mile loops round Glenrothes (otherwise known as the Fife 50k) get a mention? What were my best and worst performances of the year? Plenty of contenders in the latter category, unfortunately. What was the worst event from an organisational perspective - again, quite a choice, with most of the contenders being races held in Edinburgh. And the big prize - what will win the award for the 'Ian's Favourite Event'? The WHW race will of course be a short priced favourites to win it for the 6th year out of the last 7 (it missed out in 2002 only because I had dislocated my shoulder a month or so before the race), but other events like the Aviemore half marathon, the Loch Ness marathon and the Dumfries marathon may come into the reckoning.

A decent run, at last

I went out running in Glasgow at lunchtime today. As I was in the office early and was working late (this is added just in case anyone from my work is reading), I headed out for a slightly longer than normal lunchtime run. I ran under the motorway and up to the canal path, past Firhill, out to the lock at Temple, then came back along the cycle path and through Kelvingrove Park, finally doing a few loops around the city centre to take me over the hour. I reckon I must have covered around 8 miles and although the weather was horrible - very wet underfoot and a biting wind - I really enjoyed it.

It's highly unlikely I'm going to reach 2,000 running miles this year. I've managed it for the last 3 or 4 years, but a combination of our Australian holiday in April and then a longer than normal recovery from the WHW in July and August have put paid to my chances this year, unless I do something like 330 miles over the next 5 weeks. Looking at my forthcoming work commitments and social diary, that isn't going to happen by a long way. I'll need to check my records, but I reckon that my lifetime total mileage is around 29,000. If that's right then I would hope to reach the 30,000 mark sometime in the build up to next year's WHW race.

Friday, November 17, 2006


As the title suggests, I've not done anything particularly interesting recently in terms of my running. I managed to get out 5 times last week, but we were away at the weekend (at the rather splendid Skibo Castle, venue for Madonna's wedding) and so didn't get a long run - far too much food and drink to even consider it. My weekly mileage was a staggering 19 - not much danger of overuse injuries, I would hope. This week so far I've run 3 times, which isn't too bad considering how busy I've been at work. I'll try and get out for a couple of runs over the weekend, and if anything more exciting happens I'll let you know.

Incidentally the West Highland Way race is full already. That's the earliest ever, and just shows how popular it has become. I've been exchanging emails with a chap who is doing it for the first time, John Kynaston. He has set up a blog to recod his WHW training, which can be found here:

He seems to be doing all the right things - maybe we'll get a run together at some point.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Yesterday's blog

I spent ages last night updating my blog. It was definitely there, but has now disappeared. How odd. I can't remember everything I said but I'll try and recall the highlights:
  • I've had a good week's running - 2 sessions at Central, a great run on Saturday round about the Perthshire countryside, and an excellent half marathon today.
  • One of the guys, David, does huge mileage - 75 mile in easy weeks and 125 miles when he's getting ready for a race. I don't. My average weekly mileage for 2006, up to yesterday, was 36 miles.
  • I've joined Strathearn Harriers and am going to run first claim with them, although I'm still going to be a member of Central.

Think that was just about it, although it took me a lot longer yesterday to say it. Hope this one doesn't disappear as well.

Eddie's half marathon, Fort William

I'm just back from Fort William, where I ran Eddie's half marathon earlier today in 1 hour 28 minutes and 22 seconds. Given some of my half marathons this year, a lot of which have been in the 1.30 to 1.31 range, I'm very pleased. I reached the half way in 43.37 and held it together well through 10 miles (1.06.45), but when we turned into a really strong wind with about a mile and a half to go, it all became a lot harder. At one point I thought I might be able to get below 1.28 but the wind quickly put paid to that, and I was pretty relieved to cross the finish line on the shinty ground. As it is an out and back course I was able to count that I was 35th at the half way point, and think I'll have finished in round about the same position.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Running in the Highlands

I haven't blogged for ages. This is because we moved house at the end of September, and we still aren't up and running with our technology at home. Our firm's internet policy doesn't let me blog from there, so I've decided to visit an internet cafe to fill you in on my latest running adventures.

When I last blogged I was in the depths of despair, having just run a personal worst at the Stirling 10k. Well, I'm glad to say that things have improved since then. I went up to the Loch Ness Marathon a mere 2 days after moving house, went out without a care in the world, and ran a pretty respectable 3.18. I ran 1.39 for the first half, then 1.39 for the second half, and must have passed about 30 people over the last 10 miles. That's me done all 5 Loch Ness marathons and, as before, it was a fantastically well organised event. I wonder how many of us have run all 5? I wouldn't have thought there will be too many.

Yesterday I ran in the first Aviemore Highland Half Marathon. What a brilliant race. The first 8 miles were on tracks and trails up in the Glenmore forest area, including a path round Loch Morlich. The course then headed down (yes, down) the ski road for about 4 and a half miles towards Aviemore, before finishing in the Macdonald Aviemore resort. It was by far the most scenic half marathon I have done and, to cap a brilliant day, I managed to reverse my recent poor run of form by finishing in 1.29.17. This was the first time I have been under the magical hour and a half for some time, a fact which pleased me greatly. We took a chalet in Aviemore for the weekend with our friends George and Jean. George was also delighted with his time of 1.33, and we are waiting for the results to see if he won the over 60 category.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Personal Worst

Today was my 75th 10k road race, and up until today I had the proud record of never having recorded a time over the 40 minute mark. The City of Stirling 10k is organised by my club (Central AC) and is generally viewed as a fast, runner friendly type of course. And as anyone reading my blog from last night will appreciate, I was hoping for a season's best time.

It didn't happen. I finished in 40 minutes and 37 seconds, not only a season's worst but an all time worst (known in running circles as a PW - a personal worst, which is the opposite of a PB - a personal best).

I'm not going to make any excuses. How can I when Hayley Haining ran 32.36, a world class time for a woman? I can hardly say it wasn't a good course, or that the conditions were against me. It was an ideal course and the weather was perfect for running. I am getting a bit bored looking for reasons for my crap perfomances (as I'm sure are the readers of this blog) so I'm not going to go down that route again.

So what's next? It's the Loch Ness Marathon in 2 weeks. Surprisingly I'm looking forward to it. Today just confirmed that my strategy will be to go out nice and easy, not care about the time, and see how I get on. After all it's supposed to be fun, isn't it?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Quick update

I'm sitting here at my computer at 10.30pm on a Saturday night (is there a more exciting person in the whole world, I wonder?) and I can only give a very quick update as I have an early start tomorrow for the City of Stirling 10k. So it is a highlights only version tonight I'm afraid:

On Friday last week I ran from my work in Edinburgh to my house in Falkirk, in a somewhat desperate attempt to get a long run in before the Loch Ness marathon. Although the first hour out of Edinburgh was full of traffic and just generally dull, the run went very well and I felt strong for more or less the whole way. It took me just under 4 hours for the 26.5 miles, and I could have done a lot more. So that was pretty good.

The following Sunday I took part in the Comrie Hills Relay race, running the 4th (and easiest) leg for the Central 'mixed' team. The sun shone, the scenery was brilliant, there was great camaraderie amongst all the teams, and all in all it was a great days running. My time wasn't anything brilliant - about 58 minutes for the 7.1miles - but that didn't really matter.

Then it was on to the Meadows for the last Sri Chinmoy race of the season, a 2 mile blast round the park. I was pleasantly surprised to finish this in 12.02. These races take place throughout the summer, organised to a high standard by Adrian Stott and his team. Although I don't really consider myself to be a 2 mile runner, it's a good hard workout and I feel as though I should have done more of them throughout the summer.

And then Friday night was the annual 'Piss Up in the Brewery', a thank you party held for West Highland Way helpers in the Bridge of Allan Brewery. I'm not sure I help enough with the race to merit an invitation, but as Dario had invited me along I wasn't going to turn it down or ask too many questions about my apparent lack of credentials. I was one of the last to arrive, having been at Ayr races, and then one of the first to leave, having to catch a train at 11pm. Despite that it was still a first class night.

Today we were at the football, watching Falkirk lose 2-0 to Aberdeen. The 3 of us have season tickets for Falkirk (the Domestic Female, son No 3 and me). After a great start to the season (7 points from the 1st 3 ganes, joint top of the league) Falkirk have now reverted to more typical form and have failed to win a point in the last 4 games, scoring only 1 goal in the process. Our earlier optimism is starting to disappear, and we are now anticipating a long, nervous battle against relegation.

I'll be back tomorrow to update on my Stirling 10k performance. It's a fast course so who knows - would it be asking too much for a season's best?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Golf, Robbie and the Glasgow Half Marathon

It's been a busy few days. On Friday we had our annual golf day with a crowd I used to work with at a firm called Arthur Andersen (you may have heard of them: they got into a bit of bother with an American company called Enron and imploded shortly afterwards). As usual it was a brilliant day. This year's venue was Gleneagles, with a meal at night in a hotel in Auchterarder. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly one of the guys, Gerry, managing to win for the first time ever, although he did have a handicap of 54 and was allowed to ignore any shots he had out of a bunker. I won a very fetching golf shirt (black with silver stars, about 8 sizes too big) courtesy of my rather excellent performance in the morning round when I managed to score 2 2s. For those who don't play golf, that's pretty good.

On Saturday it was off to Hampden Park for the Robbie Williams concert. It's probably fair to say that I wasn't a huge Robbie fan beforehand, but it was a fantastic show and I am his biggest fan now. That man certainly knows how to "entertain you". We had a very nice meal beforehand, then drank champagne in our chauffeur driven car on the way to Hampden. All in all a great night, although we didn't get home until 1am, as the car couldn't get past all the girls wearing pink cowboy hats and angel wings. What is all that about? They looked so good that I nearly bought a set myself. It would have gone well with my new suit.

It probably wasn't the best preparation for Sunday's half marathon in Glasgow. I was up at 6am, just a few hours after I got to bed, headed into Glasgow for about 8.30am, then finished the race in a very average 1.30. Conditions were wet and drizzly, which was just about perfect, so I can't use that as an excuse. Although I found the last 5 miles hard, I generally enjoyed the race. It was my 16th Great Scottish Run, out of the 25 that have taken place so far, and hopefully I'll be back for my 17th next year.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Irvine 10k

I've been feeling a bit better - I've been doing my stretching every night and my hamstrings haven't been as sore. On Monday night I went out for a run and on route met my friend Kim. We ran together for about 3 miles and just got faster and faster. Neither of us wanted to admit we were feeling the pace hard (at least I didn't - Kim probably felt fine) so we just pushed on and on and on. It felt good and was a great confidence boost, so I decided to test myself out in a real 10k race at Irvine.

Lining up at the start, I realised that the field was made up of pretty much the same people that had taken part in the Irvine 10k 10 or so years ago. It was like stepping back in time. Where are all the newcomers? I set off at a good pace and just tried to keep it going for as long as I could. At the turning point just before the half way(about 4.5k) I noticed that a friend and ex clubmate from Troon Tortoises, Bobby, wasn't far behind, and I spent the next 5k expecting him to come past. To my great surprise it didn't happen and I crossed the line in 38.53, 25 seconds in front of him. It's nowhere near my best time but it is a lot better than some of my more recent performances, so I was quite pleased. It was great to run with so many people from the Ayrshire clubs - I have definitely missed that in the 3 years since we moved away from Troon.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Great Trail Run (10k), Falkirk

Today I ran in the Great Trail 10k Run in and around Callendar Park, Falkirk. It was brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The course was a mixture of cross country, trails, tarmac, with a few steep hills thrown in for good measure. I set off at a very cautious pace, well aware of the fact I had run a 16 mile training run on the roads yesterday. After 1km or so I felt pretty good, so started picking it up a bit and passed quite a few people. It was a great advantage knowing the course so well - this is one of my regular training runs, and it is only about a mile or so from our house. I was through the half way point in about 21.30, which I was pleased with, then did the second half a bit faster to finish in just over 42 minutes. It's been some time since I've enjoyed a run so much. I'm even thinking of entering the Loch Lomond version which takes place on 9 September, but I'll need to check out my diary first. I have to say that the organisation of the 'Great Run' events is always first class, and today's race was no exception - well done to John Caine and his team at Nova International.

As I mentioned I did a 16 mile run yesterday. I went out at 8.30am with a friend who is training for the Moray Marathon in a couple of weeks, and he had done about 7 miles on his own before meeting up with me. I struggled a bit over the last 4 miles - my hamstrings were very tight again - but I was generally pleased to get a decent long run in on the road, averaging below 8 minute mile pace.

Friday, August 11, 2006

On this day 15 years ago (11 August 1991)..

..I ran my first sub 3 hour marathon at Inverclyde. I finished in 2.59.00. Forgive me for the unusually sentimental nature of today's blog, but on this anniversary I'm going to tell the sub 3 hour story in all its glorious detail.

After running a couple of Glasgow marathons in 1984 and 1985, I had given up running (and every other form of exercise) and allowed myself to turn into a VFP - a very fat person. In 1990 we moved to Troon from Houston (the one in in Renfrewshire, Scotland rather than the one in Texas, USA). I was playing 5-a-side football a few days after our move and about 20 minutes into the game I became stranded in the middle of the pitch. I was unable to breath, let alone run. This was quite a shock to me and I resolved there and then to sort myself out and get fit. I went out a run the very next night. Although it was excruciatingly painful I didn't give up, ran a lot more throughout the summer, lost 3 stone in 2 months, then joined Troon Tortoises in October. I trained hard through the winter and improved from a 1.28 half marathon in October (Falkirk) to 1.23 in March (Alloa). In April I felt ready for a full marathon and entered Lochaber. Unfortunately I made all the usual beginner's mistakes: I went off too fast at the start; I didn't eat enough beforehand, and I didn't take on adequate fluids throughout the race. I arrived at the finish beside Fort William railway station in the back of a police car, having been found staggering all over the road at the 19 mile point and then being sick on the pavement. I was distraught at my failure.

Despite this setback I was determined to finish a marathon, and went to Dundee 3 weeks later. I set off really easily. I didn't even wear a watch, to make sure I wouldn't push too hard. I finished in 3.17 and felt ok. A few weeks later I adopted the same tactics on a very hot day at Loch Rannoch, and finished in 3.18. These were not particularly impressive times, but they gave me the confidence that I could finish a marathon in relative comfort.

The Inverclyde Marathon was on 11 August. I had been running well in events like the Irvine Beach Run, and was ready to go for a sub 3 hour time. From what I remember it was a good day for marathon running, not too hot and not too windy, and I ran very steadily at 6.45 pace. The last few miles back from Gourock were hard, particularly the last mile down Greenock Esplanade, but it was one of the best feelings of my life when I crossed the line with the clock at 2.59.00.

After the race I remember thinking that I had cracked it, and there would be a lot more sub 3 hour marathons to follow. The reality was that, despite numerous attempts, I couldn't manage it again until 1996 at Crossmichael, when I ran 2.56.56. I only ever managed it 4 times in total, the other 2 being at Nottingham in 1997 when I ran 2.57 and Inverclyde again in 1998 when I ran my PB of 2.56.19. Not surprisingly these 4 runs are amongst my most treasured running memories. It is such a fantastic feeling to cross the line of a marathon in under 3 hours. I do sometimes wonder why I wasn't able to do it more often, however - 4 sub 3 hour marathons out of 41 in total is not a very impressive percentage, particularly at a time when my half marathon times were normally around 1.20 to 1.23. But perhaps, as usual, I'm being too hard on myself, and I should just appreciate the fact that I achieved it at all.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Helensburgh half marathon

I'm just back from the Helensburgh half marathon. I finished in 1 hour 31 minutes (and 20 seconds, just for the record). It is the 3rd half marathon in a row where I have failed to beat 1 hour 30, so I am now resigned to the fact that I am a 'has been'. It doesn't seem that long since I had a disappointing run at Glen Clova and 'only' managed 1.26 (November 2003, according to my records), or where I did the Mull half marathon in 1.28 a week after a really good 43 mile time at the Devil O' The Highlands footrace (just a year ago, August 2005). It is a bit longer since I was throwing out sub 1.20 half marathons like confetti at a wedding (ok, I only managed it on 3 occasions, during 1996 and 1997, but I exaggerate to make the point. I am now running almost a full minute a mile slower.)

What has caused this remarkable deterioration? There are a few possible reasons:

1. After reaching 40 in January this year my body has fallen apart;
2. All the ultra running (and the specific ultra running training) has meant that I'm in good shape to run 95 miles up the West Highland Way, but not in great shape to run at a faster pace;
3. I'm not training hard enough;
4. I'm still not fully recovered from the WHW.

I don't think 1 or 4 are valid reasons. In terms of 1, my body should not have fallen apart exactly 40 years after I was born - if it has then that is a remarkable co-incidence. In terms of 4, it has been 6 weeks since the WHW so I should have recovered by now. Also, WHW tiredness can't be used an excuse for my 1.31 in Edinburgh at the end of March, or for my 1.31 at Loch Leven at the end of May. So we're left with 2 and 3. Both of these have some merit. A few years ago Dario, the WHW race organiser, expressed some surprise at my half marathon times, believing them to be too quick for a real ultra runner. "Wait a few years", I remember him saying, "and the ultra running will have slowed you down dramatically". It looks like his prediction has come true. I am currently finding it difficult to run quickly on the roads for any more than a few miles as my hamstrings get really sore. This happened again today. It is a bit of a vicious circle. When I run hard on the roads or on the track, my hamstrings get sore. This means I do not tend to run hard, but instead go for gentle long runs on trails, up hills and anywhere else where I don't have to run too hard. While this is enjoyable, it means I am not training as hard as I should be, so my times get worse.

Perhaps I should be more positive, however. At my medical last year, the doctor told me that long slow running (such as the WHW training runs) was the ideal way for someone of my age to train, particularly someone who holds a relatively stressful job. His view was that this will allow me to keep running for the rest of my life, whereas bashing out track repetitions will inevitably lead to longer term injury problems. Maybe I just need to accept it. I'm no longer able to set personal bests on the road. My focus is now on events like the WHW, which regular readers of this blog will realise is a special event to me. I've completed 6 already and my times have been good - generally in the top 20 each year, a best time of 21 hours 39, and currently 59th on the all time list.

Mind you, I still hate being beaten by runners I used to beat comfortably..:(

Friday, July 28, 2006


Last night I went to the running club for the first time in absolutely ages. After a half hour warm up, I decided I was better suited for the 'run' group than the 'track session' group (who would probably do hundreds of 200m reps with recoveries of about a tenth of a second, all at just under Olympic qualifying standard pace) and headed off with around 20 others towards the top of Dumyat. It was a great decision. We climbed sharply out of Stirling University towards the viewpoint, then through some woods to the fields near Dumyat. We didn't go to the top of the hill but instead followed some grassy tracks, past a resevoir, before heading back down the steep road into the back of Stirling University. The weather was lovely, although thankfully a bit cooler than it had been earlier in the day. It was just about a perfect run - a steady pace, quite tough, really good company and the most fabulous views. Anyone who says 'I don't know why you run cos it's dead boring' (and believe it or not there are some people who do say that, even in a fit and healthy place like Central Scotland) should have come with us and witnessed it for themselves. They would have been hooked for life.

I've noticed there is a marathon in Cumbria towards the end of September, which isn't too far away from here and suits my schedule. It's called the Langdale Marathon and by all accounts (or at least the accounts of people who have posted on the Runner's World website) it is incredibly hilly and tough. There is a half marathon as well. One posting said that you can expect to take 20 to 25 minutes longer than your normal time for the half marathon, so the full marathon would be double this - between 40 and 50 minutes longer than normal. Unfortunately my 'normal' time seems to have got a lot slower in the last year or so (nust be old age), so I'm probably looking at around 4 hours. It sounds my kind of race, and just the target I need to get me going again. I'll think about it a bit more over the weekend, and then decide if I'm going to go for it.

Incidentally one of my dogs, Lucy, has picked up 3 sheep ticks during our short break in Skye, so we're going to the vet with her tonight. I'm sure she'll be fine - Isla, our older dog, has had them before - but as they are horrible disease-ridden things (sheep ticks that is, not dogs), it's probably better to get them taken out.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The gradual steps to recovery

I have never been very good at recovering after a race. I tend to wait for a few days, then decide I feel fine, and start racing again. This works ok at first, but a few months later I am left feeling absolutely shattered, dragging my body round events like the Loch Ness Marathon. Last year I had hoped to finish off my racing year by doing the Snowdonia Marathon on the last Sunday of October, then the Dublin marathon the following day. I couldn't do it. My body more or less packed in around the start of October, and I needed to spend the best part of October taking things easy. That was a great disappointment, especially as I had entered both races well in advance.

This year I have decided to do it differently. I promised I would give myself a full 2 week break after the race. Very surprisingly, I kept to my plan. I had also planned to have 2 easy weeks after that, and I have stuck to that plan as well. I ran 15 miles 2 weeks ago, then 21 miles last week. The problem is I feel as though I have put on about 3 stone and have lost every bit of fitness I ever had. This is patent nonsense, of course, but I (like most runners) am not used to these 'easy' training weeks and don't feel very comfortable with them.

I have run 2 more races since the WHW: the jogscotland 5k in Edinburgh, then the Crieff 10k the following Sunday. The 5k was eventful. After 2k I and most of the leading runners (surprisingly I was a leading running that night - it wasn't a very high quality field) followed the marked course. Unfortunately some youngsters had moved the tape, and we ended up in amongst some rare plants in the middle of the Botanic Gardens. Before I knew it I was back at the 2k marker, followed the marked course, and again ended up amongst the same plants. The third time round the organisers had noticed the problem and fixed the tape but all in all it took me about 8 and a half minutes to cover the 3rd kilometre. I finished in 23.53, far and away a personal worst for 5k, but I'm sure I must have run an extra kilometre through the flowers.

The following Sunday I went to Crieff for the 10k. One of the main reason I decided to go was that this will soon be my local race, as we are moving near to there at the end of September. It was a stifling hot day. The race is mostly on trails - the first 3 kms or so goes up a steep hill, then the next 3 km comes back down to the river, the the course follows a river path to the Morrisons School playing fields. Although I was too hot, and my legs were sore, and 2 people overtook me in the last few hundred metres, and my time was just a bit under 44 minutes, I have to say that I absolutely loved this race. It is such a pleasure running on nice paths, rather than being on the road. There is a fantastic buffet at the end, and everyone is so friendly. Well done to all at Strathearn Harriers. I hope to join you after September for some of your Sunday runs.

So, what next? I think I need another goal. At the moment I'm struggling to get in to any serious training. This is partly due to the heat, as I find it really difficult to train in hot conditions, but it is also due to the lack of a target. I thought about the 24 hour track race in London at the beginning of October, but have something else on that weekend so need to give it a miss. Maybe another year.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Two weeks off

I have not been good at blogging over the last 2 weeks, I have to admit. Despite the fact I have not run a step since the race (you may remember that this was my plan), I have not used all this extra time to any good effect at all. It's probably because I have been too busy attending art exhibitions, working long hours and generally socialising in trendy city bars.

I had my first piece of fan mail recently. It came from one of my colleagues at work. I don't want to identify her, but she has a short name and a vowel ratio of 50% (it's a private joke, which I may explain in some future posting. We actually have someone in our office with a vowel ratio of 80%, which is hard to believe - see if you know anyone who can beat that). Anyway, to return to my fanmail, I was told that my blog was wonderful. The sender had obviously had too much to drink or had been out in the sun for too long, but nevertheless a compliment is a compliment, and it was greatly appreciated. I did however forget to thank her formally, much to her disappointment, so I hope she reads this and accepts my sincere apologies for that oversight.

George, who is my long term running partner and WHW backup person, is 60 today. It is very hard to believe he is 60. He is an extremely fit guy who runs faster than about 99.9% of the population. He is still running half marathons in the low 1.30s, and 10ks around 40 minutes. We were at his party earlier on this evening (more socialising) and thoroughly enjoyed it. One of George's claims to fame is that his pram is in the People's Palace in Glasgow, or at least it used to be. I haven't been there for some considerable time so the exhibits may have changed, but I would be disappointed if it is no longer on display.

I'm going to start running again this weekend, probably with an easy 5 miles or so on Sunday. Then it's the jogscotland 5k race on Wednesday night in Inverleith Park, Edinburgh. My body should be fresh for it, but my 2 weeks of inactivity may have a negative effect, and I can probably expect to be beaten by people in fancy dress, the ultimate humiliation for a club runner. One of the members of our club was passed by Rupert the Bear a few years ago in the London Marathon, around the 21 mile point. She might have got away with it, but for the fact that it was captured in glorious detail by the BBC and shown as part of their highlights programme that night. I am sorry to admit that I, and others in the club, found it hilarious. The individual concerned has never lived it down, and is no longer an active member of the club. You will therefore appreciate my relief at the fact the BBC are not, to my knowledge, planning to cover the jogscotland 5k.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pain fades, but achievement lasts for ever

It's Wednesday night, and my legs are starting to feel a bit better again. I was at various stages of pain at different points throughout the race, but the worst was coming down the steep hill into Kinlochleven, which was about 76 miles in to the race. That was agony, and my quads suffered with every step.

I, like everyone else, put my body through a hell of a lot. I struggled to eat anything without feeling sick, so ate little more than rice pudding and jelly babies, supplemented by Lucozade Sport gels. I ate 8 rice puddings in total, I believe. If I never see another one it won't be too long.

And then there were the hallucinations in the last section. I can only assume these happened because I was so tired. It was fascinating, wondering who or what I would see next. I saw my friend Brent, who I was convinced was sitting on a rock at the side of the route. I saw numerous dogs, all friendly. I saw various other animals. It certainly helped pass the time.

But time is a great healer. By next week, I can almost guarantee, I will have forgotten all the pain and will only remember the positive aspects of the race. I will have convinced myself that I enjoyed it. I will have started to think about next year, and be wondering how I can reduce my time. I will be questioning why I didn't run down the hill to Kinlochleven a bit faster, completely ignoring the fact that my legs felt as though they were unable to move another step. I'll even be thinking about running an autumn marathon.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Race

Well, it's over for another year. I finished the West Highland Way Race (95 miles from Milngavie to Fort William) in 22 hours and 14 minutes. I was 14th from 103 starters and about 70 finishers.

In case anyone is wondering, 95 miles is a hell of a long way. I had some really bad patches, particularly around the half way point near Crianlarich and towards the end coming down the hill into Kinlochleven. I had some fantastic hallucinations over the the last 15 miles, which was a new experience for me.

I'll provide more information soon, but need to go to bed.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Just a few more hours

The Race starts in less than 5 hours. I think I feel good. I slept until late morning today, then just took it very easy for the rest of the day. I went back to my bed at half past 6 for an hour or so but didn't sleep - just lay and rested.

I plan to leave here about 10.30 and drive to Milngavie station. George and John, my backup team for the first half, are leaving Troon around the same time. Alison will take over from John tomorrow morning, at the top of Loch Lomond.

Good luck to all the runners.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Closing Distance

I've just watched Closing Distance, the film of the 2005 West Highland Way Race, which has finally been released. I thought it was very good indeed but then I'm probably biased, as I am in it. It was fascinating to watch everyone else. Hard to believe but one of the runners actually eats a roll and sausage at Rowardennan! I don't think I'll be trying that this year - I'll stick to chicken and rice soup, rice pudding, nutrigrain bars, jelly babies, flat coke and lucozade sport, along with litres and litres of water. Hopefully that will see me through.

The forecast for Saturday is a bit mixed, with a high of 15 degrees. At least we shouldn't have the same problems as last year, when it was really hot and humid all day.

The Race will start in 25 and a half hours. I am going to my bed soon, and plan to stay there for as long as possible tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I'm back!

Regular readers of my blog (hark me! regular readers indeed..) will have noticed the lack of a blog yesterday. Did I not have anything interesting to say, I hear you ask. Have I stopped running? Am I all right?

Unfortunately my lack of blog was simply a result of not having enough time. A busy day at work meant that I didn't get home until reasonably late. I then had to eat (pretty important a few days before a 95 mile race), and had to take the dogs for a walk. I was too busy to watch any of the football, and even had to put in my apologies for the athletic club committee meeting. It is not good missing committee meetings, as there is always the risk that the remainder of the committee will decide to do something which I do not agree with. As (according to my wife, The Domestic Female) I am a control freak, this is not a satisfactory outcome, but one which was unavoidable yesterday. Fortunately I managed to fit in a gentle 5 mile run at lunchtime, and I await the minutes of the committee meeting with great interest. I suppose any stupid decisions can always be reversed at a future meeting.

But I digress. I am an accountant and, like many accountants, I like figures. I keep a detailed record of every race I have ever run. You may or may not be interested to know that Saturday's WHW Race will be my 399th race of all time. So far I have done 13 ultras, 41 marathons, 69 half marathons, 73 10ks, and 202 races of varying other distances. My best marathon time is 2 hours 56 minutes (Inverclyde, 1998), my best half marathon time is 1 hour 17 minutes (Ayr, September 1996) and my best 10k time is 36.09 (Irvine, August 1996). Those who are members of Central AC will think I have made these times up, as I have never come close to running as quickly as this since joining the club around 3 years ago.

I also have to admit, sad as it sounds, that I have kept a record of every run I have done since I started running in 1990: training runs, races, the lot. This means I am able to declare that I have now run more than 28,000 miles. As I have been doing about 2,000 miles annually for the last few years, I would hope to reach the 30,000 figure around this time next year.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


I'm starting to feel a bit nervous about The Race. In particular, I'm concerned that I've tapered down too much - in the week just finished I ran a grand total of 15 miles (3 days of 5 miles each). That seems really low, but on the positive side it has all been planned. I was a bit sore after the Edinburgh marathon relay last Sunday, so decided to run only every second day. I did what I set out to do, and ran on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

I think I'll do an easy run on Monday and an easy run on Tuesday. My physiotherapist, Trevor, is seeing me on Wednesday night, just to loosen off my legs. After that I should be just about ready, although might do a gentle jog for a couple of miles on Thursday, depending on how I feel.

Another concern I have is that it looks like I'm going to have a really busy week, both at work and during the evening. I have a running club committee meeting on Monday night, then a 10k planning meeting on Tuesday night. I don't want to get to Thursday night and find I'm absolutely shattered. Unfortunately there is a good chance of that. I need to make sure I have everything for the race packed and ready by Thursday night, because I want to spend Friday doing as little as possible.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


This morning I decided to take the dogs for a walk at Beecraigs Country Park, just outside Linlithgow. It took me longer to get there than I expected, because a lot of the roads in Linlithgow were closed as a result of the Linlithgow and Linlithgow Bridge Children's Gala Day. I should point out that I had never heard of the Linlithgow and Linlithgow Bridge Children's Gala Day, but looked it up on the internet when I got home and it seems to be a very famous and historical event. A lot of people had decorated their houses, and there was a real carnival atmosphere about the place. It seemed like the whole town was going along to watch it.

Eventually I made it to Beecraigs, and it was well worth the wait. It's a brilliant park. I've been a few times before, either to walk or to run, and I'll certainly be going back. At first we headed out towards Cockleroy, which is a 278m hill that overlooks Linlithgow, but didn't go up to the top as dogs were not allowed off their leads on the last section. After that we followed the 'red trail'. This took us through some forests, past a loch where a lot of peole were fishing, past a barbeque area, past a children's playground, past an area for field archery, past another area for target archery and finally past a caravan and camping site. The visitor centre even had a bowl of water for thirsty dogs. I was hugely impressed. We walked for about an hour and a half, covering around 5 miles, and the dogs loved it. So did I.

I came home and went out a 5 mile run, covering a loop through Callendar Park, along the Union Canal and then home. I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as my walk, but it had to be done.

I wonder where I'll be this time next Saturday? I'll have been running for 16 hours, so should be around Kingshouse. And I wonder how the walkers are getting on today in the Caledonian Challenge? They have a reasonable day - warm but not too hot, and quite overcast. Probably just about ideal conditions.

Friday, June 16, 2006

One week to go

It's Friday evening and, as is often the case on a Friday evening, I'm sitting here enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a long hard week. I won't be drinking wine this time next Friday. It will only be 5 hours until the start of The Race. If past experience is anything to go by, I'll be pacing about nervously, wondering if I had enough sleep, whether I have eaten enough food, and whether I have packed the right kit.

Why do we put ourselves through it? It's a difficult thing to explain to people who don't run. In a funny sort of way I actually enjoy the feeling of panic that sets in a few hours before a race like the WHW. I would miss it hugely if I wasn't taking part. I also believe, without getting too analytical about it, that it helps you cope with the ups and downs we all face in our every day lives.

Last night I was sick. I suspect it was because of something I ate. At 8pm I felt fine. From 9pm till about 11pm I spent most of the time over a toilet. The pain in my stomach started to go away about midnight. This morning I felt ok again, if a little washed out. My only thought? Thank goodness it happened this week, not next week.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


I work in the centre of Edinburgh, and try to run at lunchtime whenever I get the chance. Even though I'm from the west of Scotland, I'm still able to admit that Edinburgh is a pretty good city. It has a famous castle (a bit overrated, in my opinion), some good museums and galleries, a lot of nice restaurants, and some lovely scenery. From a running point of view there are some really enjoyable runs - around the Meadows (a big grassy park area very close to the city centre), along the canal, or round Arthur's Seat (a extinct volcano near the Scottish parliament).

I was out running today at lunchtime. For about 9 months of the year running in Edinburgh at lunchtime is one of life's great pleasures, regardless of the weather. Unfortunately that all changes when the tourists arrive, and today it looks as though the tourist invasion has begun.

Now, let me put on record my appreciation of the importance of tourism. It brings millions of pounds into the Scottish economy, and I'm proud of the fact that the Scots are amongst the most hospitable people anywhere in the world. What I don't like is tourists who get in my way when I'm running. And unfortunately the majority of tourists do.

It gets even worse during the 3 weeks of the Edinburgh festival in August. For these 3 weeks it is impossible to book a hotel room within 30 miles of Edinburgh itself. The city is full of tourists. Absolutely heaving. It is impossible to get a decent run. The city centre becomes a 'no go' area for runners or indeed for anyone who wishes to walk at something in excess of a mile every three hours. To make matters worse, if you are fortunate enough to avoid the tourists, you will certainly not get past the fire-eaters, unicyclists and other street entertainers.

Having said all that my run today was pretty good. 5 steady miles, sweated buckets in the heat, but pretty good all the same.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Rest day

No running today. It's a rest day. I plan to run only every second day from now until The Race.

I don't really like days I am not running. It's much better going out every day. That way, you expect your legs to feel tired all the time so aren't surprised. If you don't run and your legs are still sore then you start to panic.

Talking of panic, I was on the WHW website earlier on. There, things are getting increasingly fraught. The chat has turned to stinky goats, which are often seen on the route, normally after Inversnaid. I don't really mind them and am not even convinced they are stinky at all, at least not as stinky as the cows you meet after Derrydarroch. I strongly suspect the stinkiest things on the WHW are the runners, closely followed by walkers who have decided to camp.

Did I mention my film, or should I say my first film? You'll hear more about it over the next week, I hope. It's a documentary of the 2005 race and is due to be released early next week, only 52 weeks after the event actually took place. I look many years younger in the film than I do now. I have clearly had a very hard year.

I see the Edinburgh marathon relay results are now on the website. We put in a team in from work called the Veterans, having been challenged by some of the younger members of the firm. Our average age of our 5 person team was 37.8 and theirs was a mere 25.8, but we still beat them by 7 minutes and 56 seconds. I'm not impressed by their fitness, and have challenged them to sort it out for next year. They were a few seconds under 3 hours 30, a time I would be disappointed with had I run the full marathon on my own. Don't they teach PE in schools nowadays?

I'm about to watch Germany v Poland in the World Cup. The commentators are driving me mad, particularly the BBC team. I thought England did ok against Paraguay - it was the first game, it was hot, Paraguay hardly had a shot at goal, and England won. However according to the 'expert analysts' it was a disaster of the highest order, Sven's tactics were all wrong, and the world cup dream is now over. Come on guys, get a sense of perspective! I'm not particularly bothered whether England win this competition or not (unlike the domestic female, who hopes they get absolutely horsed), but I don't think a 1-0 victory over Paraguay is the worst start ever to a world cup campaign.

At last! I feel good again!

I'm a runner. I run marathons and ultra races, which are longer than marathons. So far I've run 41 marathons and 13 ultras. Each year I run the West Highland Way race, which is 95 miles from Milngavie (just north of Glasgow in central Scotland) to Fort William in the Scottish highlands, all off-road. I've done it 5 times so far. This year's race is coming up soon, on 24th June.

Had an easy lunchtime run today and, after what felt like months of feeling tired, sluggish and generally crap, actually enjoyed it! Maybe this tapering nonsense is beginning to work. Only 11 days to go till The Big One. Some of the others are beginning to panic. The WHW website is full of comments about poos, nappies and stiff legs. It's good to see it isn't just me - we're all suffering together, particularly our families and workmates who have to put up with some serious mood swings as we head towards The Day. I sympathise with Paula Radcliffe. She must have felt 10 times worse before Athens, and on top of that she had the press all over her. Then when she had one of the few poor runs of her career, she was slaughtered. Poor girl. I'd like to see some of the more critical journalists run a marathon in 2 hours 15 minutes.