Monday, January 29, 2007

National 4k Cross Country Champs

I was absolutely delighted this morning to open the sports section of the Herald (best paper for athletics coverage by a country mile, in my opinion) and read that the National 4k Cross Country Championships had been won yesterday by Alastair Hay and Morag MacLarty. Both run with Central AC, coached by the old maestro himself, Derek Easton. Incidentally I met Derek in Tesco on Stirling on Saturday night - do neither of us have a life, I wonder?

Alastair and Morag have both had more than their fair share of injuries and illnesses over the last couple of years, but they are incredibly talented runners, and these titles are a great reward for their fantastic talents and hard work. I'm sure everyone at Central would also agree that they are 2 of the nicest people you could meet, and a real credit to the club. I'm delighted to see them get this success and wish them many congratulations - hopefully many more titles will follow. We now wait to see whether Alastair's dad, David, can follow this up with a victory in this year's WHW race :)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Walking the dog on the WHW

After a great deal of soul searching I decided to give today's 29 mile run a miss on the grounds of my dodgy cough. It's not like me to be sensible, as anyone who knows me will confirm, but I just felt it wasn't the time to be taking any chances with a virus. Although not feeling 100%, I did feel a lot better than earlier on in the week so headed up to Sallochy car park (about 3 miles south of Rowardennan), with my younger dog Lucy, for a long WHW walk.

I arrived about 12.30, parked the car and started walking north along the WHW in the direction of Rowardennan. Almost right away I met Alan and Mike, who had been out doing the run but had not gone all the way to Inversnaid. I had a quick chat with them then carried on. My cough sounded terrible going up and down the steep hills, but I seemed ok on the flat - it was probably just as well I didn't attempt the run, with the benefit of hindsight. Lucy just swam across the rivers, which looked much more fun than using the broken bridges, and about half a mile outside Rowardennan I met another runner, Roger, who was on his way back. I kept walking until Ptarmigan Lodge, then turned round and came back the same way, going a bit further on past the car and then coming back. I met the 4 other runners just as I got back to the car. By this stage they had covered about 25 miles and, with the exception of David who is not human, they were beginning to look a bit tired.

All in all I walked for 9 miles in just over 2 and a half hours. It's not quite the same as running, but I enjoyed it a lot and was glad I had done it. Lucy had a fantastic time and has been more or less fast asleep since she came home.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

41 today

... but feeling about 10 years older. Wish this virus thing would disappear so I can get out running again. A 29 mile run on Sunday is not looking like a great idea at the moment, but there's still a few days to go so I'm not ruling it out yet. Thanks for all your kind wishes.

Monday, January 22, 2007

My previous 2 blog entries

'Feeling rubbish' and 'Fun in the mud'. I wonder if they are linked?

Feeling rubbish

I am not well. I've been hit by a 'respiratory virus', which means I keep coughing, I feel cold most of the time, my eyes feel very heavy, and I am generally shattered. Needless to say I am not running because a) it would not be a sensible thing to do, and b) the Domestic Female would have a fit.

I'm popping Lemsip cold and flu pills at 4 hourly intervals and I'm trying to drink plenty of hot drinks. I'm not convinced that it is working, however, and an unfortunate side effect is that I am needing to go to the toilet an average of 5 times an hour.

I just like to say hard luck to Andy Murray, who lost earlier on today in the last 16 of the Australian Open (tennis, for those who don't know). I listened to some of it on the radio. At 2 sets to 1 ahead I thought he was going to do it, but it wasn't to be - at least not this time.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fun in the mud

I love cross country. Yesterday afternoon I headed along to Broxburn for the East District League cross country. It was rainy, very muddy and there was a bitterly cold wind - just about perfect cross country conditions. This was the first time I had appeared in my new Strathearn Harriers vest, although due to various late call offs I was the only person there from the club. Message to Strathearn Harriers - come on guys, let's try and get a few more people out to these races - you'll enjoy the experience, at least once it's finished! Just to add to the authenticity of the cross country experience, the post race showers in the school were absolutely freezing. As some of the old traditional harriers would say - 'Cold showers? You don't know you're born - in my day we had to get washed in a burn after a race, then walk home 20 miles, normally in our bare feet...'

I was quite pleased with my run, finishing in 38.34 for the 9.3km course. The course was 3 laps, and my time for each lap was almost the same, which I guess is a sign that I'm running fairly well at the moment. I haven't been able to find the results so far so have no idea where that placed me in the field, but I'm hoping that I might have made the top half.

Nest Sunday a group of us are meeting at 8.30am at Balmaha car park for a run on the WHW. The plan is to go up to Inversnaid and back, which would be a total of about 29 miles. If anyone is reading this and wants to come along please do so - the more the merrier.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Arthur's Seat

When I last blogged I was full of the joys of running, having just run my fastest 10k for some considerable time. It isn't going to last, I could hear you all say, but I was convinced that I would be able to run every day, I would enjoy every run, and I would just keep getting faster and faster until I reached the same performance level as in days gone by.

We are now in the 3rd week of January and of course it didn't last. Somewhat inevitably the end of my holiday marked the start of my slump, and I only achieved a miserable total of 30 miles running last week. That wasn't helped by the lack of a long run at the weekend, but in my defence it was the Strathearn Harriers annual dinner on Saturday night, so I wasn't exactly in the best shape to take on a 20 mile hard run on Sunday morning. Famous Grouse have just been announced as the new sponsor of our club's 10k (note the plug for the sponsor), and the dinner was held at the Famous Grouse experience in Crieff, so it seemed only right to partake in a few drams of their product - it would have been rude not to, after all.

I made do with a pleasant run around the hills near Comrie on Sunday afternoon with the president of Strathearn Harriers. As we set out it was hard to say which one of us felt worse, but the constant battle against the rain and wind cleared both our heads, and I felt almost normal again when we returned to the car an hour and a half later. I was soaked through to my underwear, but at least the cobwebs had been well and truly blown away.

At this stage I guess you might be wondering why this blog is called 'Arthur's Seat' when it hasn't been mentioned at all so far. I have to admit that, in my haste to tell you all about my wet underwear, I had almost forgotten myself. That is until I remembered my fantastic run at lunchtime today. It was a clear, cold and crisp day - the kind of day you expect in January rather than the constant rain that has been inflicted on us - and I headed out of the office, through the Meadows, past the Royal Commonwealth pool, and followed the road anticlockwise round Arthur's Seat. The initial view across the city to the Pentland Hills was great, but as I climbed higher it just got better and better - all the way down the coast to North Berwick, then across the Forth to Fife, then up the river to the bridges, and then across the whole of Edinburgh with the castle in the foreground and Corstorphine Hill beyond. It was truly magnificent. I would recommend this run for anyone visiting Edinburgh, particularly if it is a nice day.

Holyrood Park (which is right beside Arthur's Seat, for those who don't know Edinburgh) is hosting the World Cross Country Championships in March 2008. I'm sure it will be a great venue and occasion, just like the European Cross Country Championships which were also held there in December 2003. I helped out in 2003 and for my troubles was given a uniform: this included a waterproof jacket (one of the ones with a waterproof outer layer and a fleece inside), a sweatshirt, a pair of trousers, a t-shirt, and a pair of walking boots. I still wear the jacket and boots for walking the dogs, and the trousers for playing golf. By 2008 all are likely to need replaced, so it looks like I'll have no option but to volunteer again. How else will I get some new, top quality kit?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Hello to 2007

Like most years, I've started 2007 in a wave of enthusiasm for running and generally getting myself into decent shape. I've run every day so far, totting up 57 miles for the week, including a 20 mile run on the WHW on the 2nd of January. I drove up to Tyndrum reasonably early in the morning and was delighted to find it was a bright, clear and sunny day, with snow covering the hills. The views were absolutely amazing. I ran up the track for 10 miles to Forest Lodge, then came back the same way, pushing pretty hard for most of the run. It was great. Somewhat surprisingly there were hardly any people out walking or running, although I did meet one fellow WHWer, Mike Thomson, just after I had turned at Forest Lodge. An excellent day was capped by the usual high quality post run bowl of soup in the Green Welly. If anyone hasn't been there it is well worth a visit. I would however advise you to try and get in to the restauarant before the old people from the various bus tours, or you may have a bit of a wait. In fact here is my tip for the day. If you arrive at the Green Welly and see a bus pull up, I would recommend that you run into the restaurant as quickly as possible. I am normally a strong advocate of good manners but I would have to say that, in this situation, it would be downright foolish to stop and hold the door open for anyone, particularly anyone over the age of 60 - treat it in the same way as you would treat the last 100m of a race where your closest and most hated rival is just a few metres in front of you. From my experience you are likely to beat all of the bus tour people to the front of the queue, even if they have a bit of start and you have a 20 mile run in your legs, although this may require a bit of pushing and shoving at certain points. The extra effort is definitely worthwhile, in my opinion, and will mean you have a chance of getting your lunch at lunchtime rather than dinner time.

But I digress. The day after my WHW run I was still on holiday and made it along to Strathearn Harriers' Wednesday evening session for the first time. We had a good fast run around Crieff, with everyone working pretty hard. I was really pleased by how good I felt, particularly after the long run the day before, and decided that I was probably ready to take on the Nigel Barge 10k on Saturday.

And thank goodness I did! I ran 38.40, my best 10k time since May 2005. (The results have me down for a time of 38.27, but that's not right, and I'm not going to claim an extra 13 seconds credit when I'm not entitled to it). It was a 2 lap course around Garscube Estate in Glasgow and I ran very consistently, covering both the first and second 5k in around 19.20. It was hugely satisfying to be in front of a number of people who have been beating me for the last 6 months or so, and has shown once again that running is quite a simple sport - the harder you train, and the more you put in, then the more you are likely to get out in terms of better results.