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.