Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Power of 10 rankings

At the moment I'm still clinging on by my fingertips to a top 100 place in the 2007 Scottish male marathon rankings. I'm currently 99th, although I suspect I'll lose my place when the list is updated for Monday's Dublin marathon. I'm also likely to fall even further after New York this weekend.

Still, it was nice when it lasted. Just have to run a bit faster next year :)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Junk miles

Junk miles (noun) - training runs which add very little long term benefit to one's training programme, other than adding miles in the training diary.

I got up early this morning, having had the benefit of the extra hour due to the clocks changing, and went along to the Strathearn Harriers session at 8.15am in Crieff. There were 10 of us altogether, a record turnout, and we had a very pleasant off road run at a a nice and easy pace. This was just what I needed as I haven't been feeling great for the last few days. Towards the end of the run the conversation turned to the subject of 'junk miles' (see definition above). It got me thinking. As we approach the end of the year I suppose I could be accused of running some 'junk miles', particularly as I try and chase a target such as 2,000 miles for the year. (Incidentally after today I'm sitting at 1,739 miles, with just over 2 months to go). On the other hand an easy session is not necessarily 'junk' and can be worthwhile, particularly when you are feeling tired and your body needs a chance to recover. In these situations I often find it is better to go for a 4 or 5 mile jog with the dog than to do nothing at all - at least it keeps my legs turning over, and I often feel better for having been out. So, having thought about it in detail, I don't think I am generally guilty of running 'junk miles', although I do have some very easy recovery sessions when I feel I need them.

Glad I've got that off my chest. What else has been happening?

I was at the Rangers v Barcelona Champions League match on Tuesday night. Rangers defended well and deserved their point, although I don't think they will win the Champions League. Barcelona looked different class.

After work on Friday I ran round Arthur's Seat, just before it became dark. The views across Edinburgh were superb. It is one of my favourite runs.

This afternoon was the Strathearn Harriers golf day at St Fillans Golf Club. Our team was last in the 'Texas Scramble' competition, but despite that it was a great day out on a very scenic course.

Finally, winter has now arrived here in Scotland. For the next few months it will be dark more often than it is light, it will be a lot colder, and it generally be unpleasant when out running. Hard as it may seem, fellow runners, try not to despair. Remember that all the hard work put in during the winter will produce better performances next spring and summer.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Don't forget to turn your clock back an hour on Saturday night. If you forget you'll arrive far too early on Sunday, and wonder why you are first there. One year, in March, I missed the Alloa half marathon because I forgot to put my clock forward. I went out to the car thinking it was half past eight, and that I had plenty of time to get to Alloa for an 11 o'clock start. I had driven about 50 yards when the man on the radio said it was half past nine. I couldn't have got there in time so just turned round, came home, and went out for a run myself. Not one of my better days.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

End of season blues

At the moment I don't have any major races planned for the next few months. I'll do some of the cross countries, and I've entered the Strathaven 10k in November, but there's nothing like a marathon or a West Highland Way on the horizon. That isn't good. I tend to run a lot better when I know I'm training for something specific - if I am not then I find it a lot more difficult to stay motivated and train as hard.

I suppose my body probably needs a bit of a rest after quite a long and hard year. So far this year I've done 2 ultras, 2 marathons and 4 half marathons. Once we reach Christmas I'll start thinking more seriously about next year's WHW (and I'll also write my review of the year and announce the winners of my running awards, so keep an eye out for that) but at the moment I feel as though I am just treading water.

Yesterday was the first East League cross country meeting at Broxburn. There were 9 of us in total from Strathearn Harriers, which was a great turn-out. I think I finished about half way up (or down) the field, around 10 seconds behind Phil M. He built up quite a lead on the first leg, and even though I closed quite a lot on the second leg (reducing the gap from about 30 seconds to 12 seconds) I just couldn't catch him. Still, I'm 3 years older, and our winter club championship is based on age adjusted times, so I'm confident I might end up just in front of him on an 'age adjusted' basis. Having said that I'm not sure I'll be ahead of some of our 'older' members (or perhaps 'less youthful' is a more tactful description), such as Gordon - we'll just need to wait and see when the results and age adjusted times are published.

Finally congratulations to Kim who finished today's Amsterdam Marathon in a time of 3 hours 9 minutes. This was only her second marathon, with her previous one being at Loch Ness in 2002 where she finished in 4.01. From looking at the results I think she finished as 28th lady. Given the quality of the field - the first lady was a Kenyan who ran 2.28 - that's an excellent performance.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Were Saturday's cross country times any good?

When running a race over a different surface (i.e. off-road), I sometimes find it quite difficult to work out whether my time was good or not. Take Saturday's cross country, for example. My official time was 15.37 for the 4k route. The fastest time of the day was Robert Russell of Central, who finished in 12.13, and Ali Hay of Central was next with 12.18. The other Strathearn guys ran 14.31 (Digby), 15.08 (Simon) and 14.18 (Colin).

As the course was a distance of 4k, is it reasonable to multiply these times by 2.5 to get a 10k equivalent road time? Looking at the evidence, I think it is. Robert's 'converted' 10k time works out at 30.32, and Ali's works out at 30.45. Robert recently won the Stirling 10k in a time of 30.47 - it's close enough to his time on Saturday to suggest my method works quite well.

That means my '10k equivalent' time on Saturday was 39.02 - probably about right given the way I ran, and the fact it was only 6 days after a marathon. On that basis I can conclude it was a reasonable performance: not fantastic, but ok. As for the other guys, Digby's time works out at a '10k equivalent' of 36.17, Simon's at 37.50, and Colin's at 35.45.

There is another cross country this Saturday, with the first East League meeting taking place at Broxburn. I ran there last year: I'm pleased to say it was a traditional cross country course with mud, steep hills, and a biting cold wind. It looks like there will be a good turnout from Strathearn Harriers. I'm looking forward to it already :)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A double header (and apologies to allybea)

I have an apology to make to my good lady wife allybea. Last week I wrote a detailed report about our Loch Ness marathon weekend and mentioned everyone who was there, plus a few people who were not - but I failed to mention allybea. That did not go down well at all. I've been in the doghouse all week. All I can say is that I'm sorry. For the record I can confirm that allybea was there and, as is so often the case, she was my very best supporter. So thanks allybea.

Talking of allybea, she was so inspired by the marathon last week that she has decided to take the plunge again herself, and has entered the 2008 London marathon! More information on how she came to this monumentous decision is provided on her blog, as well as a great report of her previous marathon in New York:
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that her entry is accepted. I might even enter it myself, if I can get another entry form before Friday's deadline.

I've had a busy weekend. Yesterday I ran for Strathearn in the East District Cross Country Relay championships at Dunfermline. Each leg was 4,000m over an undulating parkland course, a distance which I find incredibly difficult because of my complete lack of speed. Despite my involvement we did pretty well, finishing in 20th position overall in just under an hour. Not too surprisingly I was the slowest of the 4 with a time of 15.37. Digby did 14.31, Simon did 15.08, and Colin was the fastest with 14.18. Well done guys. Central had an amazing day, winning all 4 relays (men, women, young males and young females), and picking up a few seconds and thirds as well. It just shows what an incredible depth of talent they have within the club.

Today I headed off early for the Aviemore half marathon. I wouldn't normally do a half marathon just one week after a full marathon, but Aviemore is a pretty special event and I didn't think I could miss it. The event website gives an excellent description of the course:
A spectacular, scenic half marathon course on road and excellent forest
tracks starting in the shadow of the Cairngorm Mountains, around
breathtaking Loch Morlich, through stunning Glenmore Forest Park
and Rothiemurchus Estate, crossing the River Spey and finishing
in the new Aviemore Centre.

Sounds great, doesn't it? I can guarantee you it is every bit as good as it sounds. This is, in my humble opinion, the best half marathon in Scotland, and I'd be surprised if there were many better anywhere in the world. It's that good.

We were fortunate that conditions were just about perfect for running, and the views across the loch to the Cairngorms were indeed spectacular. My time was also a pleasant surprise. Despite last week's marathon and yesterday's cross country, I finished high up the field in 1 hour 27 minutes and 31 seconds, almost 2 minutes faster than last year. I think the scenery must have inspired me.

Finally, it's going to be a late night tonight, as Channel 5 are showing their highlights programme of last week's Loch Ness marathon from 12.10am to 1.05am. I just hope it is worth staying up to watch it.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Another great weekend at Loch Ness (and what a breakfast!)

Last night I promised to provide a bit more detail about my run yesterday at the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon. So, in roughly date and time order, here are some of the highlights.

We left home about half 3 on Saturday afternoon and, like most of the popluation of the world, were very surprised that England had beaten Australia in the rugby before we reached Crieff. Picked up Liz and Shelagh, and headed north. Stopped for soup at the House of Bruar (highly recommended), and arrived at registration at the Sports Centre around 6.30. Met up with Phil, Liz, Duncan and Keri, collected number and chip, said hello to Adrian at his Run and Become stall, then headed off to Pizza Express beside Inverness Station. I had a nightmare trying to get parked, but on our 3rd time round the city centre we managed to find a car park. We had a pleasant meal in Pizza Express, the only complaint being that there were too many mushrooms in the mushroom pasta, then headed north to our B&Bs at Muir of Ord. Headed to bed about 11pm. The first time marathons (Liz and Shelagh) were definitely more nervous than the anyone else.

The next morning we got up shortly before 7 am for our pre race breakfast. The textbooks say that, prior to a marathon, you should eat a high carbohydrate breakfast of porridge followed by wholemeal toast with honey. They are wrong. What you should have is this: 2 slices of bacon, a sausage, 2 poached eggs, a tomato, and some haggis, accompanied by a couple of slices of toast and some coffee. It was superb. I have learned my lesson. In future, before a marathon, I will try and make sure I have a full Scottish breakfast.

We were a bit tight for time, and made the bus with only seconds to spare, having met up with John K and John McL. It took about an hour for the bus to get from the Sports Centre in Inverness to the race start just past Whitebridge, then I had 45 minutes or so to go to the toilet, stretch, go to the toilet again, put on some vaseline, go to the toilet again, put my bag in the baggage lorry, go the toilet for a last time, and then head up the road to the start. I didn't bother with the mass warm up. A pipe band came right through the middle of the waiting runners playing some inspiring Scottish music (always a nice touch, I think), and then at 10am exactly we were ready to go.

I set off at a good pace, and noticed I was through 2 miles in a fast 13.11. The first few miles are downhill, and I knew if I was to have any chance at all of beating 3 hours I needed to make a good start. I was pleased that my breakfast seemed to have settled well, and in general I felt good. I was through 5 miles in 33.16 - still a bit fast - and kept going well until about 8 miles. Just before 9 miles I saw Phil M, who had cycled in from Inverness to support his wife Liz. Phil, apologies for my grumpiness, but I was going through a bit of a bad patch - it was nothing personal, honestly. If it is any consolation I was even more grumpy when I saw Gus and Jean a couple of miles further on, and positively rude when I saw Simon about 14 miles. Anyway, I went through 10 miles in 1.07.16, but was starting to find it hard going and slowed a bit before the half way, which I reached in 1.29.10. It wasn't getting any easier, and by the time I reached 15 miles in 1.42.36 I knew I wasn't going to beat 3 hours. A Channel 5 motor bike and camera appeared in front of me. I thought that was great - I do like being on the TV - but then realised it was only because I was running beside the 2nd lady. Much to my annoyance she shot away from me at a great pace, right in front of the camera, but if you see this happening on TV please make a note this: I overtook her again at the big hill outside Dores at 17 miles and never saw her again. So there. Just a pity the cameras didn't capture that. The hill caused me to slow a bit, although not too much, and I went through 20 miles in 2.19.38. I don't think anyone passed me all the way up, which pleased me no end. After that it got even more difficult - I suppose the last 6 miles of a marathon always are - and I was pleased when I finally reached the houses just coming in to Inverness. A couple more painful miles and I was into the city centre, over the bridge, heading up towards the stadium, and through 25 miles in 2.56.50. I worked hard over the last mile and just managed to get over the line under 3.06, recording an actual time of 3.05.54. Of the 44 road marathons I have done it was my 11th fastest. It is also worth noting it was my 60th race of marathon distance or longer.

Other performances were as follows: John McL ran a PB of 3.06; Phil finished in 3.13, John K did 3.15, Bobby M did 3.19, Duncan did 3.26, Tim did 3.41, Ellen did 3.47, Liz (in her first marathon) did 4.24, and Shelagh (also in her first marathon) did 4.29. Keri did the 10k in just under an hour. It was a perfect day for running, but it is definitely one of the tougher marathon courses. So well done to everyone. I'm looking forward to next year already.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Loch Ness Marathon - quick update

Just a very quick update to say that I finished the Loch Ness Marathon earlier today in 3 hours 5 minutes and 53 seconds. I was through the half way in 1.29, but couldn't keep that pace up over the tougher second half. I'll report more fully later in the week, including details of a fantastic pre-race breakfast. Right now I'm away to see the rugby. Come on Scotland!

Friday, October 05, 2007

2.04.26: that's a pretty fast marathon time..

Last Sunday, Haile Gebrselassie broke the world record for the marathon, running a time of 2 hours 4 minutes and 26 seconds in Berlin. Yes, I'll say that time again to make sure it sinks in: 2 hours, 4 minutes, and 26 seconds. I'm a bit surprised it hasn't had more publicity. It's an absolutely incredible time. To put it in a bit of context, it equates to 29.30 pace for the 10k, and Gebrselassie has run 4.2 of these back to back. I've just checked the 'Power of 10' rankings for Scottish performances this year, and so far only 1 Scot has run a 10k faster than 29.30 - Robert Russell, who ran 29.16 at Manchester. The next best time is 30.34.

It was the 24th time the great man has set a world record, and I was fortunate enough to see one of them. In 2003 I was doing some work for UK Athletics in Birmingham, and I was invited along to the Norwich Union Indoor Grand Prix meeting that night at the National Indoor Arena. Gebrselassie set a new 2 mile world indoor record of 8 minutes 4.69 seconds. I felt priviliged to have seen it. If I remember correctly there was also a women's pole vault world record that night from Svetlana Feofanova of 4.77m. It was quite an occasion.

(PS Just in case anyone is wondering, I checked both these records on the internet just before typing this. Did you really think I remembered them? How sad do you think I am?)

I think I'll settle for something a bit slower on Sunday.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Countdown to Loch Ness

Well, it's only a few days to go to the Loch Ness marathon on Sunday. Regular readers of my blog will know that this is my favourite marathon. I've done it every year since it started in 2002. The organisation is great, the course is really scenic (although quite hilly in places), the temperature should be ideal for running, and the field is a sensible size of around 2,000 which means there are always people around, although not too many to get in your way. As an added bonus a lot of my running friends are doing it - about 12 or so from the West Highland Way race, 6 from Strathearn Harriers, quite a few from Troon, and various others I know, so all in all it should be a good weekend. As for a time prediction - who knows? My build up to the race has been quite good, but I've never previously managed 2 sub 3 hour marathons in the one year. I've no idea if I'm in shape to do that or not, but I'll certainly give it my best shot.

We should be back in time to see the Scotland v Argentina game in the quarter final of the rugby world cup. I don't fancy Scotland's chances at all, but it would be great to be proved wrong. What price on a 'Super Sunday' double of a sub 3 hour marathon for me and a Scotland victory in the rugby? If that comes off I might even be tempted to open the bottle of champagne that has been chilling in the fridge for the last couple of months :)