Sunday, March 25, 2007

Tapering down

I'm doing a marathon next week so have been trying to take it a bit easier on the running front. (We call it tapering, for any of you non runners who happen to be reading this blog). Last week I only ran 5 days, rather than the 6 or 7 days I've been doing for the last couple of months. Despite my tapering, I decided to go up to the WHW yesterday to meet John Kynaston and a number of others for a run. John was doing the 42 miles from Tyndrum to Fort William, while Ellen, Graeme, Michelle and Mags were meeting him at Bridge of Orchy and doing the 35 miles to FW from there. Debbie joined up on Rannoch Moor, and Mike joined at Kingshouse. I didn't want to do too much so drove to Kingshouse, ran south across Rannoch Moor for about 9 miles until I met up with the group, then turned round and ran with them back to the car at Kingshouse. It was a fantastic day and I was really quite sorry I wasn't doing the whole thing. I won't say any more about it as John has written an excellent article about the day, along with some brilliant photos, which can be found on his blog:

I'm sitting here typing at 7.20pm and, thanks to the clocks going forward last night, it is actually light outside. Brilliant! Summer is here at last! I love this time of year. I often get up very early on Saturday mornings in April and May to go long training runs, and there is something completely wonderful about being out on the road at 5am, pretty much on your own, in broad daylight.

Finally, commiserations to Tim, who has had to pull out of this year's West Highland Way race because of injury. Hopefully he'll have better luck next year.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Falkirk 1 Celtic 0

We were at the football today to see Falkirk beating Celtic 1-0 in the televised Setanta game. It was superb: absolutely freezing, but completely superb. We scored in 15 minutes and to our great surprise managed to hang on for the remaining 75 minutes to record a famous win. That's us beaten both Celtic and Rangers at home this season: we beat Rangers 1-0 a few months ago, again in the televised Sunday game. As I'm sure most supporters of the 'smaller' (i.e. non old firm) Scottish clubs would agree, there are few better footballing experiences than beating either Celtic or Rangers.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Lairig Mor

I went up to Fort William today for the annual Lairig Mor race - a 14 mile race starting from Mamore Lodge (just above Kinlochleven) to Fort William. The race route follows a trail for about a mile and then joins the West Highland Way all the way to Fort William Leisure Centre. I've always fancied doing this, but for various reasons (most of which I can't remember) I've never actually done it before. The thought of racing this section of the WHW when I hadn't already done 80 miles was very appealing, I have to say.

We set out at 12 noon, and quickly discovered what a wild day it actually was. The first 5 miles or so up the Lairig Mor were right into heavy rain and a strong wind, which made it very hard going. That section is also very rocky. The route was probably as wet as I have ever seen it. I read somewhere that Fort William's shinty team haven't been able to play a home game since January because their An Aird pitch has been constantly flooded, so I guess they have had a bit of rain up there over the last couple of months or so. However once we turned the corner (both literally and metaphorically) it all seemed a lot better and I felt my pace lift accordingly. I finished in a time of 1 hour 49 minutes and 42 seconds, which I was delighted with. I don't know my position yet. John Kennedy, with whom I had car shared to and from the start, finished 3rd in 1.33 - a great performance.

One of the things I found mildly amusing was my split times for various sections, compared with my normal times for these sections in the WHW race. In the WHW I normally expect to cover the last 7 miles from Lundavra in about 1 hour 30 minutes, if I am going well. Today I did that section in 51.53. Quite a difference. I also checked my time for the last 3 and half miles from the stile to the leisure centre after coming out of the forest. In the WHW race this takes me about 40 minutes; today it was 23.11. My challenge is clearly to reproduce today's times on 23rd June.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Inverness Half Marathon


I finished in 1 hour 24 minutes and 45 seconds - my best half marathon time since Inverness in March 2005, when I was a mere 10 seconds faster (and I was under 40 then). I was in 68th place out of 1,150. Earlier this evening I was checking my 2007 targets which I set last December, and to my great delight found this:

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.

So I've achieved one of my targets for the year. It was hard work, particularly the last couple of miles which were into a strong wind, but I managed to hang on. I was very pleased to finish just in front of Julia Henderson from Helensurgh, who I don't think I've ever beaten before. I passed her at 5 miles, she passed me at 11 and a half, then I passed her again at 12 and a half and managed to hang on. Not that I'm competitive or anything. I was also delighted to beat my friend Kim, who ran a PB of 1.26.23. I suspect my days of finishing in front of Kim are numbered, so I'm going to enjoy it when I can.

I'm away to have a glass of wine.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


I was in Birmingham for a meeting on Thursday, and found myself with a spare hour before needing to go for my flight. What better way to pass the time than going to see Crufts at the NEC, which is right beside Birmingham International Airport?

At £14 a ticket it probably wasn't the best value event I've ever been to, but it was fascinating to see it live. I wandered around, looked at a lot of dogs, and watched a few of the demonstrations. Not surprisingly I spent more time at the Labrador stall than anywhere else. One of the labradors on display was the double of my younger dog, Lucy.

I like going to major UK events, partly to see what they are really like and partly to say that I have been. A couple of years ago I was in London during the Wimbledon fortnight, and went along to it after my conference had finished for the day. I arrived about 5 o'clock, queued for an hour, then watched about 3 hours of tennis. I have to say that it was an absolutely fantastic event, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone. I even sat on 'Henman Hill', eating strawberries and drinking Pimms, so I could say I had the proper Wimbledon experience.

We have some brilliant sporting occasions in this country. The London Marathon is right up there with the best of them, and it is one of the very few top sporting events where you actually get the chance to take part rather than just watch. I've done 7 London marathons, and although it isn't my favourite race from a purely running perspective I wouldn't argue with the fact that it is a fantastic occasion. I've also been at a few Open golf championships - at Troon, Turnberry and St Andrews - and on each occasion it was a great day out, even though I didn't get the chance to play. I was lucky enough to spend 2 days at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. Completely brilliant - I'll never forget it. I saw Paula Radcliffe win the 5,ooom, Lee McConnell win a silver in the 400m (and come agonisingly close to winning gold), and Jamie Quarry win a decathlon bronze. I've even been to a European Cup final, many years ago in 1976 when Bayern Munich beat St Etienne in Glasgow.

If I ever win the lottery (which may be difficult, as I don't play), then I'm going to spend a year going round the world attending all of the top sports events. Can you imagine it? Melbourne for the horse racing, the Monaco Grand Prix, the Champions League final, the US Open (both golf and tennis), Wimbledon, the Olympics, the New York marathon - I'm sure I've missed some, but it would be a pretty good year. I'd even go to Fort William for the Camanachd Cup final, and to the Falkirk Stadium to see Falkirk win the SPL. It is my dream year, after all.

All of which suggests that the Olympics in London in 2012 are going to be fantastic, hopefully followed by the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. From an athletics perspective I think we have a number of promising UK athletes coming through who will be real prospects in London, despite the general gloom in the media. The results at last weekend's European Indoor Championships were very encouraging. I would highlight Nicola Sanders (400m) who looks world class already. She is just in her early 20s so will hopefully get even better in the next few years. UKA's performance director, Dave Collins, has taken a lot of stick, but it was never going to be an easy job and I think we are starting to see signs of improvement, particularly in the attitude of our athletes. Let's hope it continues.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

One week until Inverness

Next Sunday I am heading north for the Inverness half marathon. It's an event that I enjoy a lot, and I have only missed one year since I took part for the first time in 1994. Last year, on a bit of a whim, we decided to travel up the day before and stay overnight. This proved to be a complete masterstoke as the A9 was closed for most of the day because of snow, and many people (including the Troon minibus) didn't get there.

I've tended to run quite well at Inverness over the years. I've had a couple of 1.19s, back in the mid 1990s, and I have never been any worse than 1.27. I've been training hard over the last few weeks - 173 miles in the last 3 weeks - so it will be interesting to see how I get on this year. Whatever happens I'm sure it will be a good day out, with one of the highlights likely to be the homebaking at the Macbeth experience on the way down the road.