As we approach the end of another year - they seem to go by quicker each year, which I'm sure is a sign of old age - I thought I'd stick down a few thoughts on my 2012 experiences, running or otherwise. Some of you who know me well may be surprised that I have any running experiences to write about at all. But I've looked back on my detailed records and see that I've completed 17 races this year: 2 ultras (Cateran and Devil O' The Highlands), 3 marathons (Blackpool, Strathearn and Loch Ness), 2 half marathons (Alloa and the Antonine Trail), 2 10ks (Round the Houses and Crieff), and 8 other races of various distances and terrains, including one of my favourites, the National Cross Country Championships, which I did for the 19th time. I've run over 1,500 miles (it's 1,552 at the moment with a day still to go). While that is quite a bit lower than my normal 2,000, it isn't too bad when I look at what else I've had on. However it would be fair to say that it wasn't a year of much quality. I moaned all the way up the Devil O' The Highlands, I wasn't much better during the second half of the Cateran, I got fed up at the Blackpool and Loch Ness Marathons and I only ran 2 races where I came home feeling I had run well and had a good day out. So in the spirit of being positive, I'm going to concentrate on these 2 and put the others down to experience.
The first of these, and the winner of the award for 'My favourite race of the year' goes to the Strathearn Marathon. This was a superb new marathon that took place in early June, on a wonderful course from Cultybraggan outside Comrie, through the back roads of Strathearn to Crieff, then back along to Comrie. The course was challenging (in a hilly sort of way) but really scenic and enjoyable; the organisation by Phil T and his team from Strathearn Harriers was superb in every respect. I ran well throughout and was delighted with my finishing time of 3.33, which put me quite high up the field. This race should be on everyone's 'must do' list.
The second race I enjoyed was another new one, the Antonine Trail half marathon, which took place in October. It started beside Croy Railway Station and went along paths, across trails, through muddy fields, through a couple of towns, along the canal, up some very big hills, through more muddy fields and back to where it started at Croy station. It had a bit of everything. I got slightly lost at one point and even if I hadn't the race would still have been closer to 14 miles, but that neither of those things detracted at all from what was a brilliant and enjoyable event.
It was a busy year for me in lots of other ways. At work, we did 2 mergers which took up a lot of my time. I'm very pleased that both are going really well and have added some great people to our firm. I was appointed Chairman of scottishathletics at the end of April, stepping down from the sportscotland board at the same time. Things have gone well there too since I've taken over, and I've hugely enjoyed my involvement so far - there is a great team in place and it's going to be an exciting few years to be involved in the sport. I was appointed to the board of SAMH (the Scottish Association of Mental Health) towards the end of the year; already I have found it really interesting and I'm hoping that I will be able to make a positive contribution to their work over the next few years. And there was the organisation of the West Highland Way Race, which took place in the middle of June. It was disappointing from a personal perspective to see Sandra drop out around the half way point, and the weather was as bad as I have ever known it which didn't make it pleasant for anyone. However the race as a whole went very well, not least Terry Conway's amazing performance where he ran a record time of 15 hours 39 minutes. I saw every finisher come in to Fort William Leisure Centre over a period of 19 or so hours, and it was incredible to witness the emotion of every one of them on achieving their goal, then see them receive their goblet at the prizegiving. If you made it well done; if not then I'm sure you will have learned a lot that will help you finish in future.
I can't write a blog on 2012 without mentioning the Olympics. We were lucky enough to get tickets for the last night of the athletics, and saw Mo Farah's 5k win and the Jamaican world record in the 4 x 100m relay. It is an experience we will never forget, as was the marathon the following day. What an honour to be there and witness it live. The whole Olympic and Paralympic experience was incredible - our television never moved from the BBC for the whle time, and I don't think I've ever watched as much television.
So, what about 2013? I'm determined to get a bit more focused on my running, and try and get my times back down a bit to closer to where I used to be. For that reason I've decided not to do any ultras next year; I'm sure the break from them will do me good. I have a place in the London Marathon on 21 April; I will use the training I've done during December for the Marcothon as a base, and try and train for London in a planned and structured way. I feel I should be capable of getting down to below 3.20, but time will tell if that is too ambitious. We're also planning on doing the Dublin Marathon in October. I'd like to get my 10k time down to closer to 40 minutes, and get back below 1.30 for the half marathon. I have a place in the Great North Run later in the year and am hoping that will be my 100th half marathon; at the moment I've done 93, so need to do fit in another 6 half marathons before September.
May I wish you all the very best for a happy and successful 2013.