Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009 targets

2009 is only an hour away, and as my middle son is in Germany (GMT +1) new year has just arrived. Happy new year to him.

I don't have long to put down my 2009 running target, so here goes:

1. To finish the WHW race;
2. To finish the 'Big 3' WHW races (the Highland Fling, the WHW race, the Devil O' The Highlands);
3. To complete 5 ultras (including a 24 hour race);
4. To run at least 25 races;
5. To run 5 new races;
6. To run a race on a Scottish island I haven't visited before;
7. To beat 40 minutes for a 10k;
8. To beat 1 hour 30 minutes for a half marathon;
9. To finish in the top half of the field in the National XC;
10. To run 2,000 miles.

After my run at Kilbarchan today, where I was more than 2 minutes slower than last year, the 10k, half marathon and national XC targets all look quite challenging. The biggest target of all, however, is to enjoy my running.

Hope you all have a great 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 targets - how did I get on?

As there are only a couple of days left in 2008 I thought it would be interesting (at least for me) to look back on the targets I set this time last year and see if I actually achieved any. I've shown the original targets in italics below, with my comments in normal text. So let's see how it all went:

1. West Highland Way race - to set a new PB, which means beating my 2007 time of 21 hours 11 minutes.
NOT ACHIEVED. In fact I didn't even finish the bloody thing, dropping out at Rowardennan. Definitely one of the year's low points. I've said enough on the subject already and don't plan to say much more, other than to thank everyone for all their kind comments afterwards - even though hearing all the nice things being said was a bit like attending my own funeral. Keith Hughes kept things in perspective when, in his inimitable Aussie style, he reminded me it was only a bl**dy race. He was right, although I'm not sure it felt like that at the time.

2. Marathon - to beat 3 hours 10 minutes. Last year's 2.59 was great, but it was probably a bit of a "one-off" (he says hoping that it wasn't a 'one-off'). I'm not going to put too much pressure on myself by setting a sub 3 hour target, so anything under 3.10 would be a good result.
NOT ACHIEVED. I did 4 marathons, with a slightly disappointing best for the year of 3.19 at Dumfries in March. On the positive side, I did something new by doing back to back marathons in May, at Stornoway (3.39) then the following day at Edinburgh (3.34).

3. Half marathon - to beat 1 hour 26 minutes. That will be tough, but should give me a focus in the early part of the year leading up to Inverness.
ACHIEVED! I did 1.24 at Inverness in March. It was undoubtedly my best running performance of the year. Looking at the rest of the year, I'm not entirely sure where that bit of form came from.

4. 10k - to beat 38 minutes. I didn't achieve this one in 2007, so it needs to be carried forward to 2008.
NOT ACHIEVED. And not even close. I started the year with a 38.57 at the Nigel Barge, but that was as good as it got. Finished it with a couple of 40 mins+ efforts - maybe old age has finally caught up with me?

5. National XC - to finish in the top half - same reason as 4 above.
NOT ACHIEVED. I didn't have a great run at this year's National XC and missed the top half by 10 places or so.

6. To run 2,000 miles. I accept that this target doesn't mean very much, but it helps me get my running shoes on when it's a cold and dark November evening. For that reason, it stays as a target.
ACHIEVED! So far I've done 2,050, with 2 days still to go.

10 other running related things I'd like to do in 2008 but which aren't formal targets:

1. To beat John K in every race we do.
FAILED DISMALLY. After beating John in the first 2 races he moved up a gear or three, and I never got close to him again. He ran an absolutely phenomenal 19.59 in the WHW race, and his burst through the Fort William Leisure Centre door wins the award for the 'Most Dramatic Entrance of 2008'. By the middle of May I was deeply regretting ever mentioning this as a target. I won't make the same mistake again.

2. To beat Kim T in every race we do.
SORT OF ACHIEVED... I think we only raced twice, at the Inverness and Glasgow half marathons. I won at Inverness, and Glasgow doesn't really count as it was the week before the 24 hour race...

3. To finish in the top 20 in the WHW race - haven't been outside it so far, but it's getting harder and harder as the field gets bigger.
NOT ACHIEVED. See comments above.

4. To win the Strathearn Harriers club championship.
NOT ACHIEVED. My faint hopes disappeared completely when I was held up at work and missed the Comrie Fun Run, an absolute 'must do' event because of the way the points system works. Congratulations to Phil T who won by virtue of his performance at the very last event, the Aviemore half marathon.

5. To run at least 5 marathons and ultras.
ACHIEVED! I actually finished 6: the Highland Fling, the Perth 24 hour race, and the Dumfries, Stornoway, Edinburgh and Nice to Cannes Marathons. On reflection, fair to say it was a year of quantity rather than quality.

6. To run at least 25 races in total.
ACHIEVED (but only just). I've done 25 races so far, but hope to add the Kilbarchan Hogmanay Handicap on the 31 December to bring it up to 26.

7. To run at least 5 'new' races, i.e. races I haven't done before.
ACHIEVED. I think this has been my main achievement of the year, and has meant that I can view 2008 as a successful running year. Of the 25 races completed, 12 have been new ones. I had never done a 24 hour race, so that was new; I did marathons for the first time in Stornoway, Edinburgh and Nice to Cannes; and I did the Heaven and Hell, Stonehaven and Coll half marathons, all for the first time.

8. To persuade enough Strathearn Harriers to enter a team for the Round Arran Relay in July (come on guys, great event, we could make a weekend of it - only needs me plus another 5 - can even be a mixed team).
NOT ACHIEVED. Even if we had been able to get a team together, we wouldn't have been able to get a place in the event due to new restrictions on the numbers.

9. To learn how to navigate properly, so I can do some of the fantastic hill races that are on the fixture list.
NOT ACHIEVED yet, although I did find my way up and down Ben Chonzie with the dog, without getting lost.

10. To try a few new malt whiskies (possibly not running related, but I was struggling for a 10th...)
ACHIEVED! And, even better, I got a couple of great bottles for Christmas - an Ardbeg Uigeadail and a Rosebank 12 yo.

So, that was 2008. The positives were definitely getting over 100 miles in the 24 hour race and taking part in so many new events; another major positive was having the opportunity to chair sportscotand for a 4 month period from February to June, which was a fantastic experience. The big negative was of course the WHW, but I plan to put that right in 2009.

Next post - targets for 2009!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2,000 miles

8 miles into today's run, just at the isolated house a few miles before Inversnaid, I reached my 2,000 mile target for the year. I was running with Brian, John, Stan, Sue and Mandy, on the WHW from Sallochy car park to the Inversnaid hotel and back. We covered 20 miles all in and had a great run, with a lot of good chat, finished off with a lovely bowl of soup in the Oak Tree Inn in Balmaha. It was a first class day out. I feel I've earned my glass or two of red wine tonight.

I was also on the WHW on Saturday, running from Milngavie to Drymen and back with a group of 20. John K has written a full report and produced a video for his blog , so I won't say much more other than it was another great day's running. On Sunday I travelled south to Strathaven for the Striders' 5k Christmas handicap race, following a very kind invite from El Presidente, Mrs Mack. The first mile was all uphill and I struggled badly, but I picked up a bit of pace after that and finished reasonably well. I was 3rd overall and had the 2nd fastest time of the day, despite going slightly off route on a couple of occasions. Unfortunately I was driving and had to miss the post race piss up in the Bucks Head - from the looks of the video clip on Dave's blog a great time seems to have been had by all who stayed on. I definitely missed out on quite a session - maybe next time, if I am invited back :)

In case I don't get the chance to post again before the 25th, a very Merry Christmas to all.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A quick round up

I am very aware that I haven't blogged for ages, so thought I would give a quick round up of what had been happening over the last few weeks. Well, it has been cold. Very cold. When we started last week's West Highland Way run from Inverarnan, the temperature was minus 7, and it didn't get much warmer as the day went on. The path to and from Inversnaid was quite icy in places. I took it very cautiously, didn't fall (although had a few near misses), and really enjoyed the day. I've decided that is going to be my only objective for the 2009 WHW race - to enjoy the whole experience: training runs, the build up, the race itself, and the post race celebrations. So far I feel that I'm very much on course.

I've had a busy week with a dinner almost every night, so I thought I did quite well managing to run on 5 of the last 7 days, including a good 13 miler on the roads round here earlier today. Most of these runs were in freezing, dark conditions - there really isn't much light in Scotland at all at this time of year, which can be quite depressing. The Subversive Runner was up in Scotland this week and I was hoping to meet up with him on Tuesday for a beer, but unfortunately he had to call off - probably a good thing for my liver, I suspect, which is liable to take a bit of a hammering as we get nearer Christmas. Allybea and I had the pleasure of attending the Sunday Mail / sportscotland annual awards dinner in Glasgow on Thursday night. It was a great night, with loads of big names attending, and I was delighted to see Chris Hoy win the main award, the 2008 Sports Personality. I was even more pleased that he couldn't collect it because he was training - I was starting to get a bit concerned that all these award dinners could not be doing his training programme any good at all. Sir Alex Ferguson was presented with a lifetime achievement award by Alex Salmond, the First Minister, with his acceptance speech being described as 'inspirational' in today's Sunday Mail. I would have described it as 'ok', but Sir Alex is probably now operating at a level where anything he says is now considered 'inspirational' - I guess you are entitled to that kind of status when you have won the Champions League twice and the Premier League 10 times or whatever.

Talking of inspiration, mine at the moment is trying to reach my target of running 2,000 miles in the year. I have decided that 2,000 miles is a good target to have - it helps motivate me to get out running on these horrible cold nights, when it would be a lot easier not to bother. I think that my run today means I have now run 1,926 miles, so I have 74 more to do.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lucy's 1st Munro (and my 3rd)

It was a lovely day today, so Lucy and I headed out through Comrie to the car park at Invergeldie which is at the start of the easy way up Ben Chonzie (pronounced Hone-zee). We had an absolutely brilliant walk/run to the top, where I took this photo, then an even better run back down. The whole trip took 1 hour 59 minutes and 54 seconds - as you might have guessed it was a bit of a sprint finish over the last 400 metres or so.

Ben Chonzie is our nearest Munro. I found this description of it on 'Munromagic' (

Ben Chonzie is a solitary Munro at the head of Glen Turret, but is normally ascended from Glen Lednock to the SW as there are tracks leading high on its slopes. Ben Chonzie is a heather clad hill with moderate inclines leading to gentle grass slopes on the crests of the summit ridge. The biggest problem with Ben Chonzie would be finding the summit but for the line of iron fence posts on the crest of the "L" shaped summit ridge which lead you there. There are crags E of the summit.. Ben Chonzie is famous for its many mountain hares.

Well, we found the summit ok by following the iron fence posts, and we saw quite a few of the mountain hares which looked more like small sheep than rabbits. The views at the top were absolutely brilliant, particularly looking back down Loch Turret to Crieff. I'm sure there would be a great run from the car park at Loch Turret, along the east side of the Loch, up the steep slope to the top of Ben Chonzie, down the route described above to Invergeldie, down through the trails to Comrie, then over the hills and back to the starting point at Loch Turret car park. Maybe we could get a WHW training run over that route some time?

The picture below shows me at the top of my 3rd Munro. 3 in 42 years - at this rate I think I am unlikely to complete all 284, at least any time soon. I have previously done Ben Lomond (when I was still at school) and Beinn Ghlas.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Nice to Cannes

Last weekend allybea, Phil T, Liz T and I were in the south of France for the first ever Nice to Cannes marathon, staying with my brother in Antibes. What a contrast to the depressing weather here: the daytime temperature was a very pleasant 20 degrees or so, warm enough to walk around in shorts and a t-shirt, but not too hot for running. I could certainly get used to that.

The marathon was a great event, well organised and passing through some beautiful parts of the Cote D'Azur, although I'm sorry to report that I didn't have a very good run. My back had been bothering me a bit in the week prior to the race and after about 7 km it started to hurt quite a lot. I decided to go into 'just finish' mode, and spent the next 35 km shuffling along and feeling generally uncomfortable. The section up to the half way point was a real drag, with loads of runners passing me, but things improved a bit after that and I managed to keep going at more or less the same pace until the finish in Cannes. My time was 3.36 - definitely not one of my better marathons - but at least I managed to scrape into the top 2,000 of the 8,300 finishers. Phil T finished in 3.21, having found the last 10 km a real struggle.

Despite my poor run it was a first class weekend. We spent most of Saturday in Nice, which is a fantastic place, then spent a bit of time in Cannes after the race, enjoying a few leisurely hours in a pavement cafe having a beer and some lunch - a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon. It was also great to spend a bit of time with my brother.

Since arriving back I haven't done much running at all, due to a combination of a heavy cold, a busy week at work, a sore back and a general lack of motivation. Running wise I've had quite a busy year: I've completed 2 ultras (the 24 hour race and the Highland Fling, as well as my unsuccessful WHW attempt), 4 marathons and 6 half marathons, so I suppose my body is ready for a bit of a break. There is not much coming up in the way of races, although the WHW training runs are due to start at the end of November, so this seems like as good a time as any to take it a bit easier.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


There must be a new edition of myRace out soon. I wonder if I will be in it this time?

Monday, November 03, 2008


Last week I was saddened to hear of the untimely death of one of my Strathearn Harriers clubmates, Simon Wake. Simon was one of the club's finest hill runners, regularly competing in various events on the hills and making the occasional appearance on the roads. He was a member of our winning team in the Comrie Hills relay last year, and this year competed in various races such as the Inverness half marathon, the Three Peaks Race and the Highland Cross. Simon was always at the centre of club activities - he was a regular at the club training runs, and served as social secretary until recently - and I will always remember how welcome he made me feel when I first joined the club, as he did with all new members. During the summer we were shocked to hear that he had been diagnosed with cancer, and completely devastated to hear of his death last Thursday. My thoughts are with his wife, Shelagh, and the children, at this very difficult time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

OMM: on my high horse (again)

I was out at a dinner last night (the Commonwealth Games Scotland Awards Dinner - Chris Hoy won the main award) and the first I heard about the OMM problems was when I received a text from John K about 10.30pm. When I got home I checked out the BBC website and Sky News, both of whom were covering the story in some detail. I know Brian M was running and there were probably a few others taking part that I know, so it was a great relief today to find out that everyone was alright.

However that is not the main purpose of this post. It is to express my disbelief at some of the comments that appeared on the BBC website forum last night, from people who have probably never set foot anywhere near the countryside. For example: "I hope all these runners apologise to the emergency services". What is that person talking about? Doesn't he or she know that a lot of these runners ARE members of the emergency services, and if they weren't used to being out in treacherous conditions they wouldn't be much use when it came to some of the more difficult search work? I know a few people who do some of the more extreme mountain challenges (such as Brian, Marco and Pete) and these are amongst the most experienced guys on the hills you could find anywhere. If I was to be stuck out there in conditions like yesterday I would certainly feel happier knowing they were looking after my safety. It is no coincidence that there were no serious casualties - the people taking part yesterday were experienced and would not be allowed in to the event if they were not properly equpped and able to cope with the worst of the elements.

And while I am on my high horse, what about these comments:
Organisers of a Lake District fell run abandoned in treacherous weather had been warned about the risks, police say.
I don't know if any of you have had experience of organising a road race. If you have organised one in Scotland, you will know that a condition of getting a permit from the governing body is that you have to notify the police about the event. When you have done so, you receive a standard letter back from the police saying that they do not encourage anyone to hold any event on public roads, and if you do decide to go ahead then it is at your own risk and you may be held liable if anything goes wrong. Honestly, it's true. Just ask any race organiser if you don't believe me. Some encouragement to organise an event which will improve the health of those in the local community, is capable of boosting local tourism, and has been proved to play a role in reducing the level of crime, is it not? I know people who have cancelled races after receiving the police letter, which I think is really sad. However, as the police warn every event organiser about the risks, I am not sure there is really anything different about the warning given in this case - although the media seem to think it is a big deal.

Anyway, back to more mundane things. I went up to the WHW on Friday night and ran from Balmaha to Rowardennan and back. It was dark all the way back and I was completely on my own - I should probably have been "warned about the risks" in case I tripped over some stones or trees, fell into Loch Lomond, met some mad psychopath in the dark on the route, or met some other disaster. Thankfully nothing untoward happened, I really enjoyed the run, and finished off with a coffee and muffin in front of the roaring fire in the Oak Tree Inn. Had I not been driving I would have sampled one of their 39 malt whiskies which were sitting on a shelf at the back of a bar - maybe another time. I think we should organise some more 'Friday night runs' - it is good fun doing these in the dark, and would be even better with some company. Those not driving could finish off with a malt.

Then today I went to Kilmacolm, a small village in Renfrewshire near where I was brought up, and did the 10k. I finished in 40.26 which I thought was ok, given the strong wind and my run on Friday night. It was well organised and a nice route, mostly on quiet roads and the cycle path, which I am sure reduced the risks - except for the cyclists and people walking their dogs..

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Today I ran in one of Scotland's best races, the Aviemore half marathon. The route goes through some of the most scenic trails in Scotland - round the Badaguish Outdoor Centre estate, up to Glenmore, round Loch Morlich, then down the new cycle track to Aviemore before finishing at the Macdonald Hotel in the centre of the town. It is one of my favourite races and I made sure I had plenty of time to enjoy the stunning scenery, finishing in 1 hour 31 minutes and 32 seconds - 4 minutes or so slower than last year. Phil was about 4 minutes ahead of me in a season's best of 1.27.50.

It was my first race since the Perth 24 hour ultra and I ran as hard as I could, but didn't feel I had any speed in my legs at all. Not to worry; it was an excellent day out. It even stayed dry for all of the time we were running, and the strong wind was behind us for most of the route. If you are looking for a half marathon in October next year, I would strongly recommend this one.

Now it is time to start training properly, and to get my half marathon time back down to the low 1.20s :)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Maybe I haven't fully recovered yet

It's Saturday night and I've nothing better to do than sit in front of a computer and update my blog. I know that is sad, but in my defence I'm hoping to get an early night as I'm going on an 18 km walk tomorrow as part of the Crieff 'Drovers Tryst' festival, from Ardeonaig on Loch Tay to Invergeldie, north of Comrie. I've never been on an organised walk before so it will be something new. I just hope it is dry. Unfortunately dogs are not allowed, so Lucy will have to stay at home - that will not go down well at all when I head off without her.

Today I did my longest run since the 24 hour race - a 13 mile loop mostly on road with Phil. We headed from my house down to Blackford, along the A9 for half a mile or so, through the golf courses at Gleneagles, and back home by the back roads. Although we managed to complete it at about 7 and a half minute mile pace, there were a lot of times it felt like a bit of a struggle, especially the last few miles back up the hill into a strong wind. I'm sure the bottle of wine and two large whiskies last night didn't help, although as is so often the case it felt like a good idea at the time. I felt so tired afterwards that I fell asleep watching the first half of the England game. I suspect I wasn't the only one.

Both Phil and I are doing the Aviemore half marathon next Sunday, so it was good to get a decent run in. Aviemore is a superb half marathon - mostly off-road, through some of the best scenery Scotland has to offer. I don't expect to run a particularly fast time but am really looking forward to getting out there and just enjoying it.

Good luck to Neal and Caroline at the Chicago marathon tomorrow.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


I spent most of the day wishing I had been at the Loch Ness marathon - it's the first one I've missed - and it wasn't made any easier watching most of the UK doing the Great North Run on television this morning. My 'sensible' head tells me that you can't do everything, and that it would have been daft to do a marathon just 3 weeks after the 24 hour race. On the other hand, my instinct tells me that I was an idiot for not entering, and I should just have gone for it - even doing the 10k would have been better than not being there at all. Anyway, by the afternoon I was so frustrated that I jumped in the car with a surprised but delighted dog and headed to Tyndrum. It was sunny, I had the roof down in the car (even though it was freezing), and had an excellent run with Lucy (the dog) down the West Highland Way track to the bridge after St Fillans, then back the same way. It was only 7 miles but it helped blow away some of the frustrations of the day, if only temporarily.

A big well done to everyone who finished one of today's races. A particularly special well done to Thomas for his 2.48 marathon PB at Cologne - that is quality running.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New marathon world record

Haile Gebrselassie ran 2.03.59 earlier today in Berlin. Incredible. More details on his run here:

Incidentally, isn't the technology available today quite amazing? A few years ago you had to wait until your friends got home before you could find out how they got on in a big city marathon. Today I've been able to look up the internet and find out that Robert Russell from Central AC ran 2.27 at Berlin in what was his first marathon - he was hoping for around 2.15 so will probably be a bit disappointed with that. Another of my ex club mates from Central, Phil Williams, was also at Berlin, and ran a very good 2.50. I have a friend Des McKeown who is in Toronto for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. At the moment he race is still going on, but he is through the half marathon point in 1.38.36, so looking on course to be around his PB of 3.17.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Running clubs

Thomas's wife Silke posted recently on her blog that Thomas had joined a local running club, Greenock Glenpark Harriers. I think that is a great move for Thomas. I've spoken to a lot of people who run on their own and who are apprehensive about joining a club, normally saying things like "Oh no, I just run for fun, these people in clubs are much too serious, I'm not good enough to be in a club" and so on. From my experience nothing could be further from the truth. I have been a member of a number of different clubs over the years and have always found they are made up of great people with a shared love of running. Joining a club adds hugely to the whole running experience - you have people to train with, you can go to races together, there is normally a good social scene, and it adds a bit of friendly competition. Every club I have been in has had a wide variety of runners - some fast and some not so fast - but that doesn't matter at all: everyone is made to feel welcome regardless of where they are in the pack. So if you are reading this and are not currently a member of a club - go and join one soon!

My first club was Troon Tortoises, which I joined in 1990. At the time I joined there were still a fair number of youngsters who came along regularly, but they started drifting away and within a few years it was more or less an adult road and cross country endurance running club. Troon Tortoises has a history of producing some top quality athletes - Brian Whittle and Vikki McPherson both started their running careers at the Tortoises before going on to represent GB at the Olympics; others like Hazel Melville and Marsela Robertson represented Scotland at the Commonwealth Games. However the vast majority of runners at Troon were non elite plodders like me, but that didn't stop us having some brilliant training runs and races over the years. It was (and is) a great club and I was really sorry to have to leave when we moved away from Troon in 2003. I still try and get back in May each year for the club's 10k race - one of the best 10k races in Scotland and one which manages to attract more than 1,000 runners to the west coast on a Wednesday night. I still see a lot of the Troon guys fairly regularly, particularly George who has done my WHW backup every year and recently helped me out at the 24 hour race. Quite a few of its members have been involved in events like the WHW race, the Devil O, the Highland Fling and the River Ayr Way, to such an extent that the club proudly claims to be 'Ayrshire's premier ultra running club"!

When we were living in Troon we had a holiday place in Arran, so I joined Arran Runners for a couple of years as a 2nd claim member. That is another good wee club that organises a few high quality races, including the Goat Fell hill race (which I have never done - steep hills scare me), the Isle of Arran Half Marathon (which I have done a number of times) and the Arran 10k (ditto).

In 2003 we moved to Falkirk. I tried out the local club, Falkirk Victoria Harriers, but there were not many endurance runners there the night I went along. So instead I joined Stirling based Central AC. (I also joined Carnethy for a year as a 2nd claim member, but didn't get much chance to go along, and didn't renew my membership the following year). Central AC is one of Scotland's top clubs -it has some real quality athletes, both seniors and juniors, and also has a large number of runners like me who would never call themselves 'elite' but just enjoy getting out running on the roads, hills, trails or countryside. There are a lot of fantastic, high quality people who are involved with Central - runners, coaches, officials, and committee members - and like my ex clubmates at Troon, I still see a lot of the Central guys fairly regularly at various events.

We moved further north to Perthshire in 2006. Although I could have stayed with Central - Stirling is only 25 minutes down the road - I thought it made more sense to join the local club, Strathearn Harriers. Strathearn is a much smaller club than Central and is made up of adult runners only. I would describe it as a friendly, non elite club - although in case anyone is insulted by that, I should quickly point out that there are some very good hill runners within the membership, and should also mention that the club's first team won the Comrie Hills relay in 2006 and 2007 and finished a close second this year. The number of members has grown from less than 20 a few years ago to more than 50 now, and it has been especially pleasing to see that a lot of this growth has been due to women who only started running relatively recently. Like all of my previous clubs it is made up of some great (if slightly eccentric) people. In addition to the Comrie Hills relay that I mentioned earlier, the club also organises the hugely popular Crieff 10k in July each year for which my wife allybea is currently the race director.

I suppose I am a bit of a 'running club tart' - if you have been counting you may have noticed that I have been a member of 5 different clubs since I started running way back in 1990. Over the years I have probably come into contact with the vast majority of Scottish clubs, either through taking part in their races, or because I've met people who are members of those clubs at various events, or through my scottishathletics and sportscotland involvement. I wouldn't hear a bad word said about any of them. The CEO of scottishathletics, Geoff Wightman, is currently on a programme to visit every athletics club in Scotland. It would be interesting to know his thoughts on the various clubs, but I would be surprised if he did not echo what I have said here - Scottish clubs come in all shapes and sizes - some elite, some not so elite; some large, some small - but they are all made up of great people who have a genuine love of the sport. If you are reading this and are still not a member of a club, I hope I have managed to persuade you to join one; if you are still not sure give me a shout and I will try and put you in touch with someone from your local club. Come on, you know it makes sense. What are you waiting for? :)

Friday, September 26, 2008

It's not so easy

I found this on the web:

Les Hill is an ultra running legend and a past winner of the WHW race. It was interesting reading this to find out that he had similar problems to the ones I experienced at Perth - bad blisters. Les, if you happen to read this, it is so reassuring to know that the same issues affect elite runner like you as the ones that affected me.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Slaying the dragon

I have been sore this week. I haven't done any running at all - I don't think I would have been able to because of my badly blistered feet - but it has given me a chance to reflect a little on my summer's ultra running. My main emotion at the moment is probably one of relief: relief at having completed a difficult and new challenge, and relief at proving myself capable of pushing myself through the tough spells without giving up. I wondered if I had lost the ability to do that. I'm sure it will not be a great surprise when I admit that this year's WHW race failure has left a number of scars, despite my attempts over the last few months to forget about it, to get over it, and to take on board the many words of consolation. Given the insignficance of running in the general scheme of things I do feel quite guilty about admitting to these feelings, but the truth is that I have felt like a complete failure since 21 June and last weekend has helped me put it behind me.

So, what next? I might try and get out for a gentle run around the middle of the week, but am not in any desperate rush. I'll just see how things go.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Perth 24 hour race

I'm sitting here not really knowing how to write this report on Saturday's race. I don't want to go down the route of "and the first lap took me 14 minutes, then the second lap took me 14 and a half minutes, and then I started the third lap..." as that would be really dull, even for me. So I think I'll just try and jot down the main things I remember.

First the stats. I covered a total of 106.74 miles in the 24 hours, finishing in 10th position out of 22. I went though the 100 mile mark in 21 hours 52 minutes. Stephen Mason won the race, covering an incredible 148 miles or so, and Pauline Walker set a new Scottish record of (I think) 130 miles. Absolutely incredible performances from them both.

We didn't arrive at the venue in Perth until about 9.20am, and I was the last to register. Although I hadn't wanted to hang about too long, and there wasn't any real need to do a warm up, I felt I had cut it a bit tight for the 10am start. I was quite unsettled and a bit grumpy with Alison, who was supporting me. I didn't even have time to go to the toilet just before the race started. We started bang on 10am and thankfully I felt a lot more relaxed once I had got going.

Each lap was 2.381 km (1.48 miles), all on tarmac and almost completely flat. We ran in a clockwise direction around the North Inch. I started very easily and was right at the back of the field, which suited me well - there were a lot of people running who had much more experience of these events than I had, and I didn't want to get dragged round too quickly. My times for the first few laps were fine - although I was near the back I felt I was going about the right speed, and this was confirmed by my early lap times. After a few laps George arrived to help out with the back-up. Derek Easton, Central's chief endurance coach, also turned up to watch for a while and I chatted to him at various points.

At 12 noon the 100k race started. This comprised 42 laps of the same route, and it was really interesting to see things unfold in that race. I stuck on my headphones and listened to the football as I was running, which helped the time pass. I was pleased with how the run was going - slow and steady, slow and steady - I was feeling good and very focused on the task in front of me. Just before 4.45pm my spirits were lifted even higher by Falkirk's last minute goal against Hearts - 3 points at last for the Bairns!

Phil T turned up round about 7pm, just as I was about to change out of my shorts and into my tracksters. That was probably my lowest point of the day. I couldn't get my tracksters on without cramping, but knew I needed to put on some warmer clothes as we headed into the night so had to get on with it. The pain was intense as cramp shot through all parts of my body, and a few choice words were uttered in everyone's direction. Thankfully I didn't have any problems at all with cramp after that, which I think was a reflection of the fact I ate well throughout the race.

John and Katrina turned up about 8pm to help with the backup, and Alison went home a short while later. Then Stan arrived about 10pm. Katrina went away to have a sleep at Neal and Caroline's, who had turned up to watch, leaving George, John and Stan to cover the night shift.

I ran really well through the night. I had managed to get into a nice steady pace, and was covering most laps in under 20 minutes, then having a quick stop and something light to eat as I came round to the checkpoint. Every 3rd or 4th lap I would eat something a bit more substantial, depending on how I felt. I went through the 100k point (42 laps) in 12 hours 15 minutes, and knew I was in a good position to achieve my target of 100 miles or more. The radio continued to inspire me, firstly Proms in the Park from Glasgow Green, then the 'Through the Night' programmes from Radio Tay. All of the helpers were hugely supportive as well, giving me and all of the runners a great reception as I finished each lap, and always being very positive and encouraging.

As I got to about 60 laps, the soles of my feet were beginning to get really sore. I was still able to run and walk, but it was getting more difficult because of the pain. I thought about trying to put some blister pads on them, but decided it would be more bother than it was worth and just kept going. By 6 am it was starting to get light, and I was edging closer to my 100 miles. At 7.52am I passed the 100 mile point. By this stage I could not run at all, but just kept walking at as good a pace as I could manage, which had slowed to around 3 to 3.5 mph (or just over 2 laps an hour). I picked up the pace a bit as we moved into the last hour, and just after I finished my 72nd lap the hooter blew to signal the end of the race. I had done it. 106.74 miles.

Today my feet are really sore and I am struggling to walk, but am completely delighted by my performance. My support crew were incredible. Alison, George, John and Stan - thank you for giving up a whole weekend to help me out - I could not have achieved it without you. Thank you to everyone else who turned up to support and offer encouragement - Katrina, Neal, Caroline, Derek, Phil, and Murdo. And to all the organisers who put in so much effort and were so positive and encouraging every time - it is greatly appreciated.

I now plan to take a bit of time off running and let my feet recover.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

24 hour nerves

On Saturday at 10 am the Perth 24 hour race will begin. That is now less than 3 days away and I have to admit that I'm feeling a bit nervous. I don't know what to expect at all. 24 hours is a long time to run round a 2.381 km loop. I don't really have a plan, other than to go out and run as I feel. There are about 22 people taking part in the 24 hour race and 18 in the 100 km. A lot of them are WHW family members, so at least I'll know a few of my fellow runners.

I plan to listen to my radio when I'm running as that should help pass the time. Other than that I'll just see how it goes.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Glasgow half marathon

That was a strange one today. I set out determined not to do myself any damage for next weekend's 24 hour extravaganza at Perth, and even mentioned to someone at the start that if I finished faster than 1.35 I would be concerned. For the first 4 miles or so it was great. I was running about 7.10 pace (through 3 miles in 21.32) and felt really comfortable, albeit the sweat was pouring off me. Maybe that was due to 2 heavy golf days (aka drinking sessions) in the last 3 days? As I headed up Paisley Road West my hamstrings were a bit tight, and I didn't feel I was running as fluently as I had been before. By the time I reached Pollok Park my hamstrings and legs in general were giving me quite a bit of bother. It was an odd sensation - my legs didn't feel as though they belonged to me, although I wasn't really losing any distance on those round about. By 9 miles or so my legs were completely numb, and I had a very strange feeling of my shorts rubbing against my legs, even though they weren't. Weird. It seemed to loosen off around the 10 mile point and I ran at a reasonable pace for the last few miles, finally finishing in 1.35.13. My 3 mile splits had been fairly even: 21.32, 21.32, 22.19 and 21.55, then 7.56 for the last mile and a bit.

I have to admit that, disappointingly, running at that slower pace was not quite as easy as I had hoped. I had a very deep massage on Wednesay night, then played 2 and a half rounds of golf on Thursday and Friday, so maybe that had some effect. I also went out for a 7 mile run across the hills yesterday, so that might have had an impact too. Excuses, excuses, I know - Michael Johnston would no doubt say I just had a bad run. I'm sure I'll be fine for next weekend - won't I? Reassuring comments are more than welcome :)

I met loads of people I know - far too many to mention - indeed it took me 45 minutes to walk from Queen Street Station to Glasgow Green because I met so many people. A special mention to Thomas and Silke, who both ran PBs of 1.21 and 1.55 respectively; George also ran a stormer, finishing a couple of minutes in front of me; John K had a bit of a problem with his foot but still did a very satisfactory 1.27, and Kim in her first race as an elite woman took advantage of the pre and post race pampering to clock a very good 1.25. Finally well done to Robert Russell, who knocked a minute off his PB and finished 2nd UK man in a superb 1.05.20. He's looking in great shape for Berlin at the end of the month.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I got to hold an Olympic gold medal!!!!

I was lucky enough to be at the Scottish olympic medal winners' press conference earlier today and met Chris Hoy and Ross Edgar, our 2 medal winning cyclists. I even got to hold one of Chris Hoy's gold medals and Ross Edgar's silver medal! These guys are fantastic - the best performers in the world in their sport, but still so modest, approachable and completely down to earth. They are a huge inspiration to me, and I am sure to everyone else with an interest in sport. Many congratulations to them - they fully deserve the tremendous reception they have had from the Scottish and British public.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A good weekend but a rubbish run

At the weekend I went to Coll for the half marathon. For those not familiar with the geography of the Scottish islands, Coll is part of the Inner Hebrides, and is about a 3 hour boat journey from Oban. Unfortunately only one boat a day goes there and on a Saturday it leaves Oban at 7am, which meant I had to leave the house at 4.20am. I picked Phil T up on route and we arrived in Oban with plenty of time to spare. At the terminal we met Peter Duggan, his aunt and his cousin, all of whom had family connections with Coll. We ended up spending a lot of time with them over the weekend and very much enjoyed their company.

As Coll has a population of 180 and only one hotel with 6 rooms, we had little choice but to camp in a field behind the church. And it was windy. Very windy. I hadn't felt wind like that since I was on Lewis in May for the Stornoway marathon. It must be an island thing. At least it was dry when we were putting up the tents, although that was to change later.

The half marathon started at 3pm and followed a circular route round the island's only real road. I felt good for the first 6 miles or so and was tucked in just behind Phil, wondering when I was going to make my move. At 7 miles the road disappeared and we ran across a sandy path for a couple of miles, before joining another road back to the village. It was at that point the wheels fell off in terms of my run. Within the space of a few minutes I had to stop to go to the toilet in the sand dunes (never a good experience), the rain had started, and my legs had begun to feel like lead. The rain got heavier and heavier, and was right into my face for the last 4 miles. I just got slower and slower, eventually finishing in my 2nd worst half marathon time ever of 1.35. (The worst was in 1990, just after I had started running, and was also 1.35, so Saturday was very close to a Personal Worst). Phil was stronger and passed a few people to finish in an excellent 3rd place, in just over 1.30.

It was a half mile walk in the pouring rain back to the hotel for a shower, and by the time I got there I was absolutely frozen. The rain continued to get heavier and the wind just got worse and worse. It was a relief to see our tents still standing, although 2 girls beside us were not so fortunate: their tent blew away and they ended up sleeping in the church. At night we got another soaking heading up to the village hall for the ceilidh, then soaked yet again on our way back to the tent. All in all it was pretty miserable.

Eventually the rain stopped and the wind died down allowing me to get some sleep, albeit not of the highest quality. Sunday was a lot better weatherwise and we enjoyed a very pleasant breakfast in the local cafe and a walk along the shore, before heading back on the 2.20pm boat. I finally made it home by about 7.30pm.

On reflection it was a long way to go for a half marathon, particularly as I didn't run well. It was really interesting to see Coll, a place I had not visited before, but we were just unlucky with the weather - definitely not ideal for wild camping, and we would have been much better off staying in the hotel or a B&B. I would certainly go back to Coll again at some point, although perhaps I will leave it for a few years, and I would make sure that I spent more time beforehand checking the forecast :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Amazing stats

I'm a boring accountant and therefore I like my stats. Normally I try and keep them to myself for fear of sending my readers to sleep, but I thought it was worth sharing these ones from Saturday's run, courtesy of my GPS:

Miles - 53.4
Calories - 7,110

Wow. That seems like a lot of calories. From looking at the scales before and after Saturday's run, it seems to equate to a weight loss of around half a stone, which I'm pleased to say hasn't reappeared yet. And as an added bonus my trousers now feel a lot more comfortable around the waist, which could save me the hassle and cost of buying a new suit. Isn't ultra running wonderful? I'm surprised more people don't do it :)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sorting out some unfinished business

A few weeks ago you may remember I attempted to run home from my office in Edinburgh to my house, on a Friday night after work. I made it to my car at Dunblane - 44 miles all in - but didn't do the last 9 miles or so for a few reasons: my knee was a bit sore, I was cold, I was bored, it was 2.30am, the car was parked at Dunblane, and so on. No-one made any comments about not finishing the full run except my 10 year old son, who said "Dad, why did you not do it all?" That has been echoing round my head for a few weeks, so I decided I needed to "do it all", and set a target of running the full distance from my house to my office. Yesterday was the day to do it.

I left the house at 7.20 am. For the first time in my life I ran with a radio, which was absolutely brilliant and certainly helped pass the long hours listening to the Olympics. I ran down into Braco, along the back road to Dunblane, through Cornton and Stirling, along the back road to Larbert, through Falkirk, along the canal path past Linlithgow and Winchburgh, onto the road past the Glenmorangie factory at Broxburn, over the M9 footbridge, past Edinburgh airport, past RBS's HQ, and then right along the A8 to the centre of Edinburgh. I stopped a few times to get something to eat, and completed the full 53.4 miles in 10 hours 47 minutes, including my breaks. Apart from 2 quite bad spells of cramp the run went very well, although there isn't really anything interesting to report about it. I just did it. I found out that I could walk at a reasonable pace when I had cramp and not lose too much time, a lesson that I'll need to remember in the future.

Another reason for doing the long run yesterday was as a trial to see whether the 24 hour race on 13th/14th September is on. I'm coming to the conclusion that the answer is yes. I'm sure it will hurt, probably a lot more than the WHW race, but I think I can do it. My body feels surprisingly good today, which is very encouraging, and suggests I am getting back into reasonable shape. All being well, I'll enter this week.

Just a few of other things I wanted to comment on. Last week Allybea and I backed up Dario in the Devil O'The Highlands Footrace, a 43 mile race from Tyndrum to Fort William on the WHW. He finished in 10 hours 45 minutes, which was well ahead of his expectations. Well done Dario. Jez Bragg won the race in a phenominal time of 5 hours 22 minutes - that's 3 hours 15 minute marathon pace. Incredible. And finally well done to the British team at the Olympics, who at the time of writing doing are up to 3rd place in the medal table with 11 golds. It would be great to see athletics add to that tally.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A long injury free run at last. Woo hoo!

I returned to the North Inch at Perth today to the scene of the 24 hour race on 13 September. I wanted to see if I could have a run of at least 2 hours, at 24 hour race pace, and finish because I wanted to rather than my knee was forcing me to. And guess what? It happened just as I had hoped! Allybea came up with my and gave me water after every lap (2.38 km/1.48 m). I covered 4 laps in the first hour, 4 in the second, then an extra 2 in the next half hour for good measure. 10 laps/approx 15 miles in 2 and a half hours. And, even better, no problems with my knee.

So the 24 hour race is still possible. If I can get 2 decent weeks training and have no adverse effects, then I'll do it. Even though I felt I was going really slowly today, I was still averaging 6 miles an hour, a lot faster than the pace I would expect to average over a full day. That is encouraging - it means I would be able to build in a reasonable stop every couple of hours, and still be covering a fair amount of distance.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


Last night I was reading the WHW forum and saw a post from Gaynor Prior, who ran in this year's WHW race, saying that one of her backup team Rob was running from Lands End to John O'Groats (LEJOG) and that he was now into Scotland. I followed the links to his run and found that he had just reached Dunblane. Dunblane is only 10 miles away from where I live, and when I looked at his route plan I saw that today's run would come right past the front of out house! I didn't know when he would leave Dunblane, but figured if I drove left the house at 9 and drove south towards Dunblane I would have a good chance of seeing him. I could then find out if he fancied any company, drive back to the house, and if he wanted company run with him for a bit as he headed north.

Well, almost as soon as I had driven out of the drive I saw a cyclist with a high visibility vest, a runner, and then another cyclist coming along the road. I guessed it was probably Rob, and this was confirmed when I rolled down my window and shouted 'Are you Rob?' I think he was a bit surprised anyone knew him, but was happy for me to join him for a while. He had left Dunblane at 7.30 and was looking really strong. I turned the car round and headed home, quickly threw on my running stuff, jumped in the car and drove a mile or so towards Crieff until I passed the group again. I then dumped my car in a lay-by and joined him on the run.

What an absolutely incredible experience it was. Rob was a first class guy, great company, and I just asked questions about the run for more or less the whole way into Crieff. This was his 13th day, and he hoped to reach John O'Groats in 18 days. He looked great - the pace for the 6 miles I ran with him was between 8 and a half and 9 minute miles, which was quite incredible considering he has been doing around 50 miles a day for the last 12 days. His support was superbly well organised. Every 10 minutes or so Sue, one of the 2 support people on bikes, would cycle a few yards in front, stop, and hand Rob something to eat or a drink. She would then drop back to her position at the rear. About 2 minutes later she would cycle in front again and collect the plastic drink container. Rob didn't need to ask - it just all happened automatically. It was hugely impressive teamwork. The ultra running world in the UK is a small one, so I wasn't surprised to find out that I had seen Rob before, both at the WHW and at this year's Dumfries Marathon, when he finished 2nd in a PB of 2.53 despite being at a wedding the day before and fully partaking in the celebrations. (Sometimes I wonder if we all take our training too seriously - maybe we are better just doing what we fancy, and not bothering about our eating drinking and so on? Just a thought....)

I ran with Rob into the centre of Crieff - 6 miles for me, which was probably enough given the problems I've been having with my knee - and wished him all the best for the rest of his run. He was heading to Pitlochry today, then on to Aviemore tomorrow. I'll be watching with great interest to see how he gets on, but have absolutely no doubts that he'll make it - his physical strength, willpower and organisation are quite incredible. Rob, good luck - I'll be thinking about you.

Details of Rob's progress can be followed here:

Friday, July 25, 2008

An update on various things

Well, I'm finally back on line. We haven't had any internet access for the last week as our neighbours were getting trees felled and one of the contactors cut through our phone line. So if you have been looking in anxiously looking for an update, please accept my apologies - although if you were that concerned you could always have called me on my mobile or sent a text :)

To move on to the serious stuff, I'd like to thank everyone who commented on my last posting about the 24 hour race. There was some really useful advice, and I appreciated everyone's comments. Getting to the point right away, I've decided not to do it. Not because I'm worried about failing, or my lack of motivation, but quite simply because I don't think I'm in good enough shape at the moment to do a run of this length and difficulty. I had 3 easy weeks running before the WHW, and in the 4 weeks since then I haven't done a great deal at all. That's 7 weeks of poor training - not the ideal preparation for a 24 hour race. I realised when I went out last Sunday for a 12 mile run that I wasn't ready for it - the last few miles were a real struggle, especially going up the hill at the end. My struggle was also due to a problem I'm having with my left knee - I can run for quite a few miles and then it gets sore, particularly going up or down hill. From scanning the internet it sounds like classic ITB symptoms, so I suspect a visit to Trevor (my physio) is on the card for early next week. If anyone has any positive stories about ITB or knee injuries in general then please let me know. If they are negative then I'd appreciate if you would keep them to yourself. The last thing I need right now is more doom and gloom.

I've been on holiday the last 2 weeks and it has turned into a bit of a golfing break. I was at Birkdale last Thursday and Saturday for the Open, then golfed with John K at Troon on Monday and with Allybea (her first time) at Muthill on Wednesday. We also managed a couple of visits to driving ranges. I only play between 6 and 10 games of golf a year, but played a lot more when I was in my teens and at one stage had a handicap of 8. I don't think I could ever get back down to that level, but am pretty sure I could get down to 12 or so if I played more regularly. That might have to be my backup plan if my knee doesn't get any better.

I don't really know whether to run over the weekend or not. My knee feels ok at the moment, but it may be better to give it a proper rest, particularly as there are no big races coming up for the next few weeks. I'll just wait and see how I feel.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Should I do the 24 hour race at Perth?

The 24 hour race at Perth has now been officially launched. Full details can be found here . It takes place on Saturday 13th / Sunday 14th September, round a 2.38km cycle track on the North Inch in Perth.

I don't know whether to do it or not. On the positive side:
1. I've always fancied doing a 24 hour race, but the WHW race has been my big event of the last few years so I haven't been able to fit one in. As I didn't finish this year's WHW race - how it still hurts to write that - this would be a good year to do a 24 hour race.
2. Logistically it couldn't be easier. Perth is only half an hour up the road and a number of people have already offered to help out with backup.
3. It would give me a target to aim for and help me get running again. Since the WHW I've been struggling to get motivated - having this event should help me get my running shoes on and get back out the door.

On the negative side:
1. As I said above, I'm still struggling with my motivation for running. I am concerned that I wouldn't be able to raise myself to the level needed to train for something like this, so soon after the WHW disappointment.
2. My body may benefit more from having a relatively easy few months running, then coming back stronger next year.
3. To push myself through the undoubted pain of a 24 hour race is going to take a lot of mental strength. Am I ready to do that?

All comments and advice are welcome - as long as you don't get upset if I don't listen or take any of the advice :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A run home from work

On Friday night I decided to try and run home from work, or at least run as far as I could manage. I work in the centre of Edinburgh and live in south Perthshire, which I reckoned would be around 50 miles. My planned route was to head straight out the A8 past the airport, across the footbridge over the motorway, down towards Broxburn, up the back road to Winchburgh, onto the canal path past Winchburgh, Linlithgow and Polmont, then off the canal and down the road to Falkirk, into Larbert, up the back road to Stirling service station, through Stirling city centre, through Cornton, through Bridge of Allan, through Dunblane, then up the back road to Braco past Kinbuck. I had a number of 'escape points' - I could get a train at Linlithgow, Polmont, Falkirk or Larbert if I didn't feel like doing any more, and my car was parked in Dunblane.

The first few hours went quite well. I covered about 6 miles an hour for the first 16 miles, then stopped for 20 minutes for a bowl of soup and coffee in a nice bistro just on the canal before Linlithgow. Despite the fact that a) it was Friday night b) I was smelly and sweaty and c) it was almost full of people having supper, they made me very welcome. I reached the centre of Falkirk (26 miles) in a bit under 5 hours. A lot of drunk people were coming out of the pubs and I received some encouraging comments from a few young ladies - thanks girls, I think I have nice legs as well - then I reached Stirling service station a couple of hours later. On arriving there I was really disappointed that they didn't have any soup and left there on a bit of a low, still feeling hungry. The centre of Stirling had even more drunk people than Falkirk, although once again no-one gave me any bother. Even the police didn't take the slightest bit of interest in me, although I suspect there had a few more issues to deal with on a Friday night and it was quite reassuring to know they were around.

After 8 hours running I reached Bridge of Allan station. I was starting to feel a bit cold and hungry, it was around 2 am in the morning, and my car was parked at Dunblane, only half an hour up the road. I had done enough. I arrived at the car in Dunblane at 2.30 am and called it a day. I had been running for 8 hours 31 minutes and had covered 44 miles. Apart from a bit of a niggle behind my left knee my legs were not too bad, and I'm sure could have seen me through the 10 miles back to the house. Mentally, however, I had had enough. To run for that length of time on that type of route is hard going.

Before Friday's run I had planned to do the 24 hour race at Perth on 13 September, but I am not sure now whether I will do it or not. I had forgotten how difficult it is to run for that length of time on the roads, and going round and round a 2.1 km loop on tarmac for a full 24 hours will be mentally challenging, to say the least. As I approached Dunblane on Friday night (or more accurately Saturday morning) the thought going through my head was 'why exactly am I doing this?' I still haven't really been able to answer that question.

Before signing off I would just like to pass on my congratulations to my wife allybea, who organised a hugely successful Crieff 10k on Sunday. She would be the first to say that it was a great team effort, with everyone from the club playing their part, but she had the overall responsibility for the whole thing and deserve fantastic credit putting on such a good event. There have been a lot of nice comments about the race on various forums and blogs, so it is good to know that the runners appreciate the effort that was put in. Her full race report can be found here:

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Stonehaven half marathon

I'm not long back from Stonehaven where I took part in today's half marathon. Stonehaven is a seaside town a bit south of Aberdeen, but to get there you have to drive up the A90. So what, I hear you ask? Well, never in my life have I seen so many speed cameras as we passed today on the A90 from Dundee onwards. There must have been one every couple of miles. And to make things worse, occasionally the road speed changes from 70mph to 50mph, in a blatant attempt to catch you out and raise more money for the exchequer. Now I don't have much sympathy for people who speed on our roads, but I get totally hacked off with speed cameras being used like this. If the objective really is to reduce people's speed, why not set up average speed cameras, which a a lot fairer and a lot more successful in reducing speed? Probably because they don't generate the same level of revenue.

Before you think that my angry tone suggests I was caught out by one or more of these cameras, I should quickly point out that I was not driving today. My main role in the car was to act as Chief Speed Camera Spotter, and to shout THERE'S ONE in enough time for Phil T to make sure he was safely within the speed limit - which of course he always was.

Anyway, time to get off my soap box and talk about the race. It was hard, but not as hard as the Heaven and Hell half marathon which I did in April. Today I finished in 1 hour 29 minutes and 39 seconds, and think I just made it into the top 30. Phil T was delighted to finish in 1.31.14, a couple of places behind. In many ways I was jealous of his run. After I slogged up the hills for the first 4 miles or so, I knew I would be round about the hour and a half, so worked really hard the whole way round to try and beat the 90 minute target. That meant the 2nd half of the course was a really painful struggle, particularly over the last few miles when my legs were reluctant to move as quickly as my brain wanted them to move, and I had to dig really deep to keep it going. The only time I felt confident of making it when I came into the park and saw the finish banner a 100 yards or so in front of me. Phil T on the other hand set off at a relatively gentle pace, had no great worries about his time (he has had a knee injury and is just getting back to form), and felt so good at 7 miles that he speeded up for the second half, passing a lot of runners on route. He crossed the line saying what a great run it was, while I was lay on the grass coughing, spluttering and trying not to be sick.

After a drink of water, a shower and then a coffee, I was able to reflect on the fact that this was a really good, well organised half marathon. Sure, it was hard, but very enjoyable nevertheless. I would certainly recommend it, and will hopefully be back some time in the future.

Late addition: I've just updated my race records and noticed that today was my 80th half marathon. All but 8 of them have been below 1.30. So it probably was worthwhile pushing myself hard for that second half of the course :)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

More than a one trick pony

Many readers of this blog will think I do nothing except run. It may therefore be a bit of a surprise to read that I played a round of golf on Wednesday night, and actually played well. It was my first game of golf since 2nd January, so when I turned up at Auchterarder Golf Club (a club I am hoping to join) I had little expectation of producing a good performance. It was however a lovely night, warm and still, so if nothing else I was looking forward to getting out and having a good catch up with my friend Keith.

There is probably nothing more boring in the world than reading a blow by blow account of someone's round of golf. "I hit a good drive down the right of the first, then I hit a 5 iron just short of the green, then I pitched on to the green, then I left my putt a yard short, yawn, yawn..." I am the first to admit that type of report doesn't make good reading, so I'll spare you any of the boring detail (except for mentioning my 7 iron tee shot at the par 3 12th, which I almost holed...) Suffice to say that I played out of my skin. I hardly hit a bad shot all night, beat Keith 7&6 (if you don't understand golf that means I was 7 holes ahead with 6 to play), and I played the 2nd 9 holes in 38 (which is only 5 over par, not bad for someone who hasn't played since 2nd January). I loved it. There are some great feelings in sport - one is obviously finishing a WHW race (although I have to think back a bit to remember that feeling), another is setting a personal best time at any distance (ditto), but hitting a great drive right down the middle of the fairway ranks right up there. And I did it time after time after time. Superb.

I also did some running this week. On Wednesday night I went to the picturesque village of Bridge of Earn, just outside Perth, for the 5 mile 'Brig Bash' race. I ran quite well and was pleased to finish 30-somethingth in a time of 31 minutes 47 seconds. It is quite a long time since I have run at that fast a pace, and I had forgotten that amazing feeling where you think that you can't run another step, that you are right at the edge of your running capabilities, and that there is no way you will be able to keep that pace going for the remaining 2 miles. Then you pass someone, realise everyone is feeling exactly the same, and by some miracle you actually manage to speed up. Although it is incredibly painful at the time, going through that type of experience is probably one of the reasons why I enjoy running so much - it is a brilliant feeling to push yourself beyond the point you thought you could cope with.

I'm racing again tomorrow, at the Stonehaven half marathon. It's a new race for me and I'm looking forward to it, possibly because it is advertised as one of Scotland's toughest half marathons. I like tough half marathons, so it should suit me fine. Phil T from the club is running as well so that should keep both of us on our toes. I'll report back in due course.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

One week on

I have been quite overwhelmed by the number of comments, emails, phone calls and other messages I have received since dropping out of the WHW race. Thank you to everyone for your support - it has greatly helped me get over the disappointment, and to put things in a bit of perspective. I enjoyed catching up with the gang at the barbeque yesterday and despite the showers I thought it was a great day, even if the WHW race did tend to dominate the discussion somewhat!

I haven't done much running this week, although I did turn up at the 2 mile race at the Meadows on Wednesday night. 2 miles is not my distance at the best of times, but I thought it was a good chance to blow the cobwebs away so slogged my way round to finish in 12.37. It was a struggle - 2 mile races always are - but, unlike last weekend, at least I managed to finish. The only other run I did was a steady 4 miler today, but I'm hoping to feel a bit more motivated next week and run more often. Depending on how things go I might even go up to Stonehaven with a few people from the club for the half marathon next Sunday.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I'm gutted. Yesterday I dropped out of the West Highland Way race after 27 miles, at Rowardennan. I hadn't been feeling good from the start - during the 1st section my stomach had been sore, and I had to stop for the toilet in the bushes, then I felt incredibly tired all the way from Drymen to Balmaha. I kept trying to tell myself that this was normal, that this was how it always felt, but deep down I knew something wasn't right at all. I came into Balmaha and was in a right state - with the benefit of hindsight this was where I should have sat down, taken a few minutes to pull myself together, and told myself to forget about times, targets and so on. Instead I rushed to the toilet (again), grabbed a soup and a coffee from the backup team, and headed out in a worse state than I had come in - in less time in total than I stopped last year. I didn't feel any better heading up towards Rowardennan, and by the time I was a few miles short of there I was really stuggling, and having to walk most of the path. I kept telling myself that there were always bad patches, that it would get better, that I just needed to get some food in me, but in my heart of hearts I knew it was not looking good. Alex Simpson passed and tried his best to get me going, but it was no use. By the time I reached the road at Rowardennan I knew I was done. I reached the car a few minutes later and sat down, hoping for a miraculous recovery. Unfortunately it didn't happen, and after 10 minutes or so I accepted it was just not going to be my day. I walked back to the checkpoint and handed in my tag. Race over. I was absolutely gutted.

I wanted to watch the rest of the race, as did allybea and George, so we dropped Sandy off at Milngavie and drove up to Auchtertyre Farm. After that we headed to Bridge of Orchy for a while, then Kingshouse, and finally to Fort William for the finish. I found it fascinating to see how everyone was doing - I've never seen the leaders before, so it was really interesting to see how they looked at the various stages. Jens Lukas was first finished just after 6pm, in a time of 17.06. We also saw Phil M finish in 7th position in an absolutely incredible time of 19.14, and John K sprint to the line in 11th position to dip under the 20 hour mark in 19.59 - brilliant performances from them both.

The prize giving today was quite difficult. I was delighted to see so many friends receive their goblets, but it was hard knowing my name was not going to be on the list and on more than a few occasions I felt close to tears. I spoke to Dave and Thomas, who had both dropped out at Kingshouse, and I think we shared the same feelings - delighted for those who had done it, but so disappointed that we were not amongst them. I felt the same driving down the road, and on a few occasions I had to wipe the tears away from eyes so I could see where I was going. Already I've had many supportive comments and messages - people have told me that I did the right thing, that they are pleased I took the sensible option, and that I would have done myself more long term harm had I carried on, and so on. I appreciate the comments, and they are all reassuring words, but to be honest it doesn't mask the pain or the disappointment: this was my main running target for the year, and I have failed to complete it. It will take me a while to get over that.

Friday, June 20, 2008

It's nearly time

Just a very quick note to wish everyone good luck for the West Highland Way race. As I write this the start is less than 8 hours away, and I'm sure everyone running and supporting is feeling nervous, excited, apprehensive, terrified, or a combination of all of these. At this stage I'm just looking forward to getting going and giving it my best shot.

My final message to everyone would be this: it is a personal challenge, and the most important thing is to finish within the time limit. It will hurt, you will feel exhausted at stages, and there will be points where you will wonder why you are doing it, but it is a wonderful event and we are all privileged to be able to take part. Good luck, and I look forward to sharing another fantastic race experience with so many great friends.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

5 sleeps to go

Well, only 5 sleeps to go to the BIG one - the 2008 WHW race. I've done this race a few times now, and you would think I would be a lot more relaxed and able to take it all in my stride. Sadly, I'm not. I still get ridiculously nervous, worry every time I walk along the road in case I injure my foot, and panic in case ill people come near me and pass on their germs. Last Friday I got on the train home from work and sat in an empty seat. When I looked up, I noticed the guy opposite had a bit of a red nose, and shortly afterwards he sneezed. That was just too much for me, so I got up and moved through to the next carriage, finding a seat with no-one nearby.

I'm working until Wednesday, then taking Thursday and Friday off on holiday. My plan is to have a gentle 5 run tomorrow (Monday) and a very easy 4 mile run on Wednesday. I'll try and get my race haircut tomorrow - probably a No.3 all over - as I like my hair to be really short for this race: it could be worth a few minutes off my time. On both Thursday and Friday I'll try and have a long lie, doing very little except pack my kit for the race and think through my race strategy. From 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon I expect to be pacing around like a bear at the zoo, driving the family nuts with my nervous chatter and inane drivel. And then it will be time to go.

I am fascinated to see how all of the group I have trained with get on. Many are first timers and have no idea of what lies ahead. Others have done it before and should have a better idea. There were some fantastic performances in the Highland Fling - can these be replicated in the full race? Not long till we find out...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

They are all going mad

I am getting more and more worried about the mental state of some of my fellow WHW'ers. Have a quick skim through some of the WHW blogs and you will come across a completely obscure WHW diagram (Thomas), a most bizarre interpretation of Big Brother in which people go out running (Neal), and a recording of a story called 'Braggity Rabbit & Slo Mo Turtle' (John). When you combine that with Dave's ongoing pirate saga, Brian's desire to blog in pirate language, and Murdo's wife's very odd dreams, it is clearly becoming more and more of a madhouse with each passing day. Just as you thought it couldn't get worse, listen to this: Debbie and Marco have bought a caravan, and are planning on bringing it to my house for the WHW post race barbeque. This race can certainly do funny things to people.

I, of course, am remaining as sane and normal as ever. No emotional rollercoaster for me - I'm just getting on with things in my usual calm and collected way. It's only a race, after all.....

Friday, June 06, 2008


I've been tagged by allybea, which means I need to answer the questions that have been set. I'll try my best.

1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago?
I was just about to attempt my first WHW race. With the benefit of hindsight I was hopelessly underprepared, had no idea about what lay ahead, and on the day I dropped out at Tyndrum. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I actually carried a spare pair of shoes in my backpack all the way from Rowardennan to Beinglas Farm. Today's first timers don't know how lucky they are having access to such high quality advice from the likes of me :) However every cloud has a silver lining: the failed attempt was a great learning experience for my successful attempts in later years, and as a bonus I ran some fast race times later that year, no doubt a result of all the training I did for the WHW race (for example Irvine 10k in 36.23; a club 5k in 17.41; the Glasgow half marathon in 1.20; and the Inverclyde marathon in 2.56.)

2. What is your best and worst run/race experience?
Best - I have great memories of many races. Every WHW finish is great, particularly last year when I ran a PB; all 5 of my sub 3 hour marathons were fantastic experiences, but Zurich last year was particularly good as I didn't think I would ever run a sub 3 marathon again; I was on a high for days after my 1.17 half marathon at Ayr in 1996; and I was chuffed to bits to beat the hour (59.07) at the Round Cumbrae race in 1996, probably because I had gone to Millport for my summer holidays for about 10 years as a boy.
Worst - I try and put the bad runs out of my mind, so I'm struggling to think of too many. One sticks in my mind, however, from the beginning of May in 2002. Allybea was away, and I took the boys to my parents' house in Kilbarchan and went out for a quick 4 mile run. About half way round I tripped, landed hard on the pavement, and dislocated and fractured my right shoulder. It was excrutiatingly painful and I spent the night in hospital in Paisley. Even worse, I damaged a nerve in my right hand, and couldn't write for 3 months. Not a great running experience.

3. Why do you run?
I love being able to compete against others and against myself. I love feeling fit. I love the cameraderie amongst runners - particularly the WHW runners, many of whom have become my closest friends. I love doing things other people consider unachievable at best and insane at worst. I love being able to eat and drink whatever I want. I love the feeling of release I get from running, whether it is through towns or through some of the world's best scenery.

4. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?
This is a hard one. There was a saying in the original scottishathletics business plan which I found quite inspiring - "the only limits are self imposed". In terms of general sports advice, I'll never forget the time when, 18 years of age, I was standing with a friend in the clubhouse at Old Ranfurly Golf Club, watching the pouring rain outside, and considering whether to go out or whether to give up and head back home. One of the older members came up and asked us if we were going to play. When we told him we weren't sure, he came back with the unforgettable line "Well boys, just remember that a faint heart never fucked a pig". He had a point. We played.

Worst advice - in 2000, I had a pain in my foot for a long time after the WHW race. My physio was convinced it was a stress fracture. I knew it wasn't - it only hurt some of the time, and I was convinced that a stress fracture would hurt all of the time (obviously having a much better knowledge of sports injuries than senior members of the medical profession). After a few months of no progress at all I was sent for an MRI scan - I'm not wanting to make any political comment here, but there are times where private medical insurance can be of great benefit - and guess what the MRI scan showed? No stress fracture. The (now ex) physio was embarrassed, but once he realised it wasn't a fracture he was able to treat it properly, and I was running again a few weeks later.

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.
Here's a selection:
Despite looking in my late 20s, I'm actually 42. Last week at Sainsburys the checkout boy asked me if I was over 18 (honestly!)
In first year at secondary school I played Oliver in the school production. For the next 3 years peope used to shout Aw-lee-ver whenever they saw me in the playground, which was hugely annoying. 30 years later, I still remember the words to all the songs.
In my teens golf and football were my main sports. I managed to get my golf handicap down to 8 at one stage, although now I struggle to play to 18. In football I played in a school team that won the U16 Scottish Cup.
I worked for two summers as an auxiliary nurse in the Western Infirmary, Glasgow.
I love karaoke and think I am great. Not everyone agrees.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Still around

After making a great song and dance about people not updating their blogs, I've now left mine lying for over a week without a hint of some new and exciting story. I haven't even responded to allybea's tag. I can only apologise, and offer the somewhat pathetic excuse that I have been 'too busy', along with the fact that I've been struggling to think of any decent advice that anyone has ever given me, or think of something about me that would surprise people - or at least something that I can write about on a public forum. No doubt I'll come up with something soon, in which case I will respond properly. So keep watching.

I have entered my WHW taper phase, but it didn't stop me doing a 20 mile Tour of Strathearn run in the scorching heat (22 degrees) on Saturday, or running in the Auchterarder 10k tonight. I like the Auchterarder 10k - it is not an officially permitted race, which means very few people know about it, which in turn means I have a much better chance than normal of winning a prize. And win a prize I did - I was 3rd vet (6th overall) in a time of 39 minutes and 21 seconds, for which I received a fairly hideous medal. That doesn't matter: I've never been one for prizes, medals and so on - experiences and memories are much more important in my book, and after all how will I ever forget the experience just after the half way point where I thought my bottom was going to explode into the surrounding countryside, or that feeling of how I was about to be sick after crossing the finishing line? Fortunately neither of these things actually happened, although it was a close run thing, I can assure you, particularly the exploding bottom scenario. As you might have guessed it was a tough course - downhill for the first half, which lulls you in to a false sense of security, then uphill for the second half - so I was quite pleased with my run, although I would have been even more pleased if I hadn't been overtaken by a clubmate in the last 100 metres.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the fact that we had an incredible turnout of 17 runners from my club, Strathearn Harriers. I didn't know most of them, which shows how out of touch I am at the moment, but it was definitely a record turnout for a club championship counter. Well done to everyone for making the effort. A few years ago the club had only 17 members in total, so it shows how well things are progressing.

And yes, allybea, I got another t-shirt :)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Reflections on the weekend

I've had a few glasses of wine tonight and a barbeque to celebrate the bank holiday, even though I was back at work. It seems like a good time to post a few reflective thoughts on the weekend.

1. Despite a lot of advice to the contrary (Coach George, allybea, John K etc etc), I'm glad I did the 2 marathons. I don't think it is any harder than the 2 day WHW training run, and it is good training to get the body used to running tired.
2. Stornoway was a really hard marathon. Running up a hill and into a strong wind non stop for 15 mile is hard going. No wonder I felt tired at the end.
3. I liked Stornoway. I should really try and do more of the Scottish island races - they all seem to be really friendly and well organised. And they appreciate people making the effort to turn up.
4. I also enjoyed the long ferry crossing. The journey took 2 hours 45 minutes, the same time it takes to get to Islay. It was particularly good meeting the Trotters on the way over and having a couple of beers.
5. With the price of petrol I might have been better going in the bus, rather than taking the car. Having said that I always enjoy the drive up north, and having the car is a lot more convenient.
6. I might also have been better staying at a B&B rather than a hostel. Then I might have had a decent night's sleep.
7. That's me up to 64 marathons and ultras (47 marathons and 17 ultras). At this rate I might get in to the 100 marathon club by the time I'm 50. A lot of the runners at Stornoway were members of the 100 marathon club, and I felt a bit envious.
8. Well done to Caroline (mrs pacepusher) on her PB at Edinburgh. She smashed her previous PB, and came in under 4 hours for the first time. Brilliant performance. WHW race next year?
9. I'm a bit surprised to be saying this, but the Edinburgh marathon was really good. I even enjoyed running in a reasonable sized crowd. Maybe I had just been lonely running on my own for so long the previous day.
10. I got a couple of new t-shirts! The Stornoway one was a proper technical running shirt - none of this cotton nonsense. I might even throw out a couple of my old ones :)
11. It's now less than 4 weeks until the WHW race. In the last 2 weeks I've done 86 miles and 66 miles. So this week I should do 46 miles, then 26 miles the next week. That would be a very structured taper.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Stornoway and Edinburgh

Well, it's done. 2 marathons in 2 days, which is a first for me. So what was it like?

I had never been to the Outer Hebrides, so part of the reason for wanting to do the Stornoway marathon was the chance to visit one of Scotland's remote islands. I left the house just before 12 noon on Friday and arrived at Ullapool around 4pm, in plenty of time for the 5.15pm ferry. I was not at all surprised to meet quite a few people I knew on the boat, and passed the 3 hour ferry crossing very pleasantly having a couple of beers with some of the Hunters Bog Trotters, who happened to be staying in the same hostel. Aftet arriving I registered for the race, checked in to the hostel, met Ellen and Murdo for a (non alcoholic) drink, and headed back to the hostel, which was full of excited runners, including a couple of members of the 100 marathon club. Its been quite a few years since I've stayed in a hostel and the dorm of 7 was quite noisy, but at £15 a night (including breakfast) I can't really complain. After a few hours sleep I was up just after 5am, had some breakfast, then caught the bus at 7am to head to the marathon start at Callanish Stones.

Callinash Stones was an incredible place. The stones are reputed to have been there since 3,500 BC - that's a long time by any stretch of the imagination. It was also "blowing a hoolay", as the locals would say. I was glad that we didn't have to hang about for too long, and the race started on time at exactly 8.30am.

The course was one of the most difficult marathon routes I have run. We ran north for 7 miles along an undulating road, then turned onto a minor road which headed east across the moor. I am not exaggerating when I say that the road climbed for the next 15 miles across barren moorland, with the entire section being into a really strong headwind. It was a real struggle, and I was very relieved by the time I reached the outskirts of Stornoway at mile 22, even though we still had 4 miles to run through the castle grounds. I had managed to keep my pace below 9 minute miles across the moor, and managed to pick things up on the more sheltered castle grounds. I passed a few of the half marathon backmarkers and finished strongly, managing to dip under 3.40 in an official time of 3.39.52, in 15th place from 89 finishers.

The post race buffet was fantastic, and after a few sandwiches and cakes I dragged my weary body to the pier for the 1.45pm ferry. I arrived in Ullapool just in time to hear the end of the Scottish Cup final (how disappointing Queen of the South didn't manage to get an equaliser), and with the roads being quiet I was back home by 8.30pm. The thought of doing it all again the next day was not appealing at all - my legs were stiff and I felt really tired -but it is amazing how quickly the body can recover. I went to bed around 11pm and slept like a log.

When the alarm went off at 5.30am this morning, I wondered why on earth I had decided to do 2 marathons in 2 days. It seemed a totally idiotic idea. I felt shattered and my legs were a bit stiff, although not as bad as I had feared. Another 5 hours in my bed would have gone down a treat. However within 15 minutes I felt a lot better: my legs had loosened, I enjoyed my pre-race meal of beans on toast, and left the house for Edinburgh at 6.30am. I parked and the office and walked the mile or so to the start at the far end of Princes Street. There was a big race feel to the event, and by the time we were lining up for the start I was actually looking forward to it, but determined to run at a sensible pace.

And I did. I set off at just below 8 minute mile pace, and felt good. We hit the wind on the promenade at Portobello. It was strong and into our faces, but nowhere near as bad as yesterday's wind on Lewis, and I just worked away at a steady pace. I was through the half way in about 1.46.30 and was still feeling good: by the time I turned at the far end of the course (around 18 and a half miles) I was still feeling good and beginning to think I could better yesterday's time, which would be a great result. After running into a gale force wind for the best part of a day and a half, it was lovely to have the wind behind for the final 8 miles or so, and I managed to pick things up and pass quite a few people, including Duncan from the club (who incidentally was wearing the largest rucksack I've ever seen anyone wearing in a marathon. I'm not really sure why. Maybe he thought the course was too easy and wanted to make it as hard as possible).

I felt remarkably comfortable over the last few miles, which were still at 8 minute mile pace, and crossed the finish line at Musselbrough racecourse in a time of 3 hours 34 minutes and 44 seconds. I was more than 5 minutes faster than the day before, and felt a lot better. To be fair was a much easier course, and running in a bigger field did make a difference.

I've been a critic in the past of the Edinburgh marathon, but I have to give credit where credit is due. It was a really good course and very well organised. The facilities at the start and finish were good - there were even plenty toilets at the start, which has been a criticism in the past. The baggage trucks worked very well. The finish at Musselbrough racecourse was great, with spectators able to see it all from the stand, and the route was varied enough to be interesting throughout: through the city, along the prom, through towns, along a rural road, and through a big estate. I'll would definitely recommend it and will hopefully be back.

All in all a great weekend, but with less than 4 weeks to go it is now time to start thinking about tapering for the WHW race. In the meantime I plan to have a bit of a rest.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Another big weekend of running coming up

This weekend I'm going to attempt something I've never tried before - back to back marathons. The plan is to drive up to Ullapool on Friday to catch the 5.15pm Stornoway boat, stay overnight at the bunkhouse, then run the Stornoway Marathon on Saturday morning. I should be able to get a boat back in the afternoon, giving me just enough time to drive home, grab some sleep, then head through to Edinburgh on Sunday morning for the marathon there.

Needless to say I'm not expecting brilliant times, but I'm just using it as another good training weekend in preparation for the WHW and a chance to visit the Outer Hebrides, where I have never been before. Hopefully the weather will be cool and overcast on both days. Light drizzle would do perfectly.

John K is running the Kirkcudbright (almost) half marathon on Saturday. As you can guess from my sarcastic use of the bracketed word 'almost', various questions have been raised in the past about the length of the Kirkcudbright course. I ran it one year in 1.20, although I found it hard to believe I had been running that quickly. To add to the doubts, the number of people who came in with PBs was truly astonishing - almost every person who crossed the line looked at their watch and commented on the fact they had run a PB. To be fair that was quite a few years ago, in the days when the course was rumoured to be measured with a car mileometer, so hopefully it will be properly measured now.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Two days on the Way

This was a BIG weekend in the training for the WHW race on 21 June. A 2 day outing: Balmaha to Bridge of Orchy on Friday (41 miles), followed by Bridge of Orchy to Fort William on Saturday (35 miles). In this age of technology, I'm expecting to read numerous blog tales, look at various photos and even watch the 'training run film', but I thought I would jot down my various thoughts while they are still fresh in my mind. Which means I'm doing my 2nd blog posting in 2 days - surely some kind of record?

Anyway, to the run. We were a bit late leaving - no surprise there - and didn't arrive at Balmaha until about 10.15am. From the sounds of it John K, Neal and Richard had been there for hours and hours, and had been in to the Oak Tree Inn to have a pre-run cuppa and generally pass the time. Richard had started running before 10, expecting to be a bit slower, and we finally started about 10.30. The conditions were 'pleasant' - sunny but not too hot, at least at first, although as the day went on it became warmer and warmer. Allybea had very kindly offered to provide a mobile snack van, and met us at Rowardennan after just less than an hour and a half with a welcome cup of coffee.

About 2 miles before Inversnaid, disaster for Neal. He went over on his ankle, and the loud expletive showed that it had hurt him a lot. When we had a look at Inversnaid it had swollen up quite a bit. It didn't look too good, but he seemed to be able to keep going at a reasonable pace: in fact after Crianlarich he shot off up the hill, not to be seen again until Bridge of Orchy. Unfortunately his ankle had swollen up like a balloon that evening, and was even worse the following morning, so he wasn't able to run at all on Saturday. We're keeping our fingers crossed that he'll recover in time for the race.

By Beinglas Farm the day had turned into a scorcher, and I was dripping in sweat as I made my way up and over the hills towards Crianlarich and Tyndrum. John and I were both beginning to moan about the heat, and saying that we could do with it being much cooler. By the time we left Tyndrum the rain was teaming down, and for about 15 minutes we were feeling a bit cold. What a change - you can never predict the weather in the Scotland, and it was yet another reminder to make sure you carry waterproofs on a run like this, even though the weather might look perfect. It doesn't take long to cool down, and if you body is depleted you can get chilled very easily. Despite the rain John and I arrived together at Bridge of Orchy with smiles on our faces, 8 hours 24 minutes after setting off, completely soaking but delighted to have had such a good day's running. We enjoyed a meal and a couple of beers (the service was very slow, so we didn't eat until 9.30pm), before heading off to bed. This year we were in the hotel rather than the bunkhouse - allybea did not enjoy the previous year's bunkhouse experience - although to be honest neither of us was convinced it was worth the extra cost.

I am a big fan of cooked Scottish breakfasts, and I was determined to get my money's worth on Saturday morning - despite of the fact I was going to be running in a little more than an hour's time. It may have been a high risk strategy, but I'm pleased to report that the bacon, sausage, eggs, mushrooms, black pudding, potato scone, beans and toast went down a treat and didn't re-appear at any time throughout the day. At about 9.15am we set off from Bridge of Orchy in absolutely perfect running conditions - still, dull and overcast -having been joined for the day by Tim, Morgan, Iain and John.

We all arrived at Kingshouse together, the only incident of note to report being a hilarious fall by John K when he was walking backwards and filming with his camera. Thankfully he was fine. The other 4 picked up the pace heading towards Kinlochleven, leaving John and me to bring up the rear. We were still behind leaving Kinlochleven, but by the time we had reached allybea's snack van at Lundavra we had managed to catch up with and pass all of the others. I didn't hang about long at Lundavra - I just wanted to get it finished - and, having watched John K pull away into the distance as though he was just out for a 5 mile training run, worked away well over the last stretch and down to the leisure centre in Fort William. I was delighted to see I has covered the full run in under 7 hours - 6 hours 56 minutes to be exact, and had been particularly pleased with the fact I had done the last bit from Kinlochleven in 2 hours 43 minutes. I'd certainly take that on race day.

I look forward to reading everyone else's tales of the weekend. Thanks to everyone for their company, and a special big thanks to allybea for her support. It definitely makes it a lot easier to run when you have such high quality backup - even though I admit that I may, on the odd occasion, not be very good at fully expressing my appreciation :)