Ottolenghi – Three little ducks, Strathaven 10k and Scottish XC in a Whippet style

It’s great coming back to that point where I can genuinely say I am really enjoying running again. I’m not at my best but with every week I am getting fitter, training better and I am getting myself back in the mix again with no fear, expectations or reservations. That feels brilliant. It was great to be back pacing at Strathclyde parkrun after a while and 22 minutes a wee bit faster than what I would normally pace, but despite having to adjust the pace due to the gale force winds it was a 2 little ducks kind of day coming in on exactly 22 minutes on my watch and in 22nd place. Two little ducks, quack quack! Boo to the official results for having me 2 seconds quicker, never happens when you want it to :). Good company from Alan Cox and Martyn Morris and an enjoyable stretch of the legs before the next day’s race.

Aye a race.

For various reasons I had never made it to the start of the Strathaven 10k, a race with a reputation for fast times with it being a point to point net downhill course. My entry was in and following on from the previous day in a coincidental but spooky halloweenesque fashion I was given no. 222. Megaduckquackatastic! 3 little demonic ducks, quack quack quack!! Although not fully fit I was no longer injured so no excuse not to go out and run the best I can and you know what? I did and actually enjoyed it. Bussed to the start like some sort of perverted school trip from a warped dimension and dropped off about 5 minutes before race start it wasn’t the most intense of warm ups on a pretty cold day, but the craic was good and the atmosphere buzzing.

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The start was insanely fast with a downhill drop to begin with but unfortunately there was also a very strong headwind to somewhat negate it and although I was through the first few k fast I was also knackered with the effort I had put in against the wind. Still a long way to go and this wasn’t going to be the easy day out others had suggested. Groups were already forming and I worked hard all the way. There is a long drag uphill for a couple of k in about the middle and my lack of training/ concentration/ stamina gave me a kicking here, and is the only bit of the race I feel I could have done better on, but I recovered well and finished well in the vicinity of people I had been thereabouts with earlier in the season when fit so I really had no complaints in finishing in a seasons best of 38.11. Andy McLinden’s Hamilton vest definitely gave me a chasing incentive over the last couple of k and to be only 35 seconds or so behind fellow horseman Ewen, who is running really well, is a boost. Definitely a fast course but only if paced properly which is a challenge in itself, and it could have been faster if there hadn’t been such a brutal headwind. I have no doubt it would have still been sub 39 on a “standard” course. Progress, no regrets and a cracking day out with the MAC squad with the soup and roll at the end worth the entry fee alone. I enjoyed the racing.

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Back to the MAC time trial on the Tuesday for the first time on over the year and ran it with Ello who smashed his PB, big improvements coming from this lad. Being touted as the new Jim White by some and I don’t mean the fud from the telly. Track session on my own and feeling sharper again. Needed a sharpener as I had done something daft and entered my first Cross Country race since the 2015 Monsoon of Falkirk where I had hated every second and threw my XC spikes away vowing never again. This one a different type. The Scottish championships (aye go big…) but only 4k and on the flat of the old Lanark Racecourse. It was going to be whippet central, all the track boys out in force and about 500 in the field. The last time I did XC I was near the back in every race. This was going to be no different but that didn’t bother me. All about getting fitter, sharper. My one and only target was to try and get under the 16 minutes but no biggie if I didn’t. The big guns were out. Scott Dickson had his shades on. John Coyle had even taken his base layer off. It was brilliant catching up with so many people from so many different clubs, (even my own club!) that I didn’t have time to get nervous. I am showing my age, I know, but Ted Rogers would have been proud of my number even if my number pinning skills were still from the Dusty Bin School of squinty pinning. The earlier races flew past on schedule and it was time for us. From 17 year olds to the slightly more mature all lined up.

Focus.

Elbows sharpened.

Fingers on the garmins.

I was enjoying the people watching but needed to get the focus back on.

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We were off and even though I had started mid pack the start was rapid. Out the traps like frisky greyhounds with a fetish for stuffed bunnies. I settled into my rhythm as the runners continued to stream past me already worried I was out too fast, but concentrating on my own run at this point and through the first k in 3.39. I was working hard, really hard but the pace didn’t seem too bad for me. Positivity. Progress. Maintained it through the second as we looped back to the start in a k of 3.38, watching the leaders miles ahead.

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I cannot grasp the speed that these whippets go at and was in awe watching them. Now I don’t know if it was this watching, and the resultant lack of concentration combined with a lack of stamina both physically and mentally but my third k dropped to 3.50 here which was really disappointing. Yeah the sub 16 was still looking good but it had to be finger oot time.

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The pleasing thing was I was in the mix with people I had been racing earlier in the year. Iain Nicholl of Cambuslang, a runner I really respect, was in my sights but too far ahead. I wasn’t far behind Ayr’s Alisdair Meldrum who I had had a few close runs with this season. Paul Friend from Musselburgh who had slaughtered me over 5k on the track was just ahead. More Cambuslang runners in Paul Thompson and Dave Thom weren’t that far ahead. Bella’s Graeme “GG” Gemmell had promised to thrash me as revenge for the Scottish Masters steeplechase and was right on my tail, thanks to his support squad for accidentally letting me know 🙂 . I’m doing fine, don’t chuck it. And I worked my arse off over the last k.

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Don’t have a sprint in me yet and a few runners went haring past over the last 50, but the last k back in 3.38 again, and an extra 14 seconds as the Garmin measuring 80 metres over. This was relevant, really relevant, as I had gone through the 4k point in 14.46 which was way faster than I had hoped, but my finishing time on the watch through 4.08k was…. 15.00.3…. my official time rounded up to 15.01.

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Nooooo!!

One wee kick, one wee push at the end and a sub 15 was there, never mind the sub 16. But I was delighted. The “Runner high” was back. I was buzzing about seeing how everyone done. Continued my photo bombing of late by joining the Airdrie squad though somehow looked like an extra from a Carry on film. Ooh Matron.

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As for the run? Really pleased with how I had done. I was in the bottom half of the field as expected in 264th, 24th in my age group, but I didn’t care. I was back out there racing. There’s a video of the race here

I wasn’t a million miles off where I would have expected to be fully fit and on the day I had done the best I could. Some solid winter’s training and losing that last half stone to get back to racing weight and I’m there again. There were no afters from it, and I am fortunate enough for now, touch wood, to be running as injury free as I can. I am enjoying it again and that is after all what it is all about. Average runner, average writer but love them both and I will keep on at them both because every time we get out there we really are lucky.

One wee thing before you get the song for this blog, and the song is a cracker. This is a one of. It’s awards season. To be honest I got totally sick of the whole “vote for me” crassness that fills many blogs these days, and was annoyed for getting myself caught up in it all last year in particular from all the brand ambassador and PR company puppets and didn’t want involved in the whole shenanigans this year, but it was pointed out to me that if someone has the decency to nominate me then I should accept that and whilst not jump on the conveyor belt of crassness and overkill at least have the decency to accept it. Aye that is fair enough. I have no idea who nominated me for Men’s Running magazine “influencer of the year” or why, or how I got voted into the shortlist but I did. Vote here if it tickles your fancy but while grateful I find it amusing. https://mensrunninguk.co.uk/awards/influencer-of-the-year/ I am also on the long list for the Running Awards “blog of the year” having reached the short list last year and received the silver award the year before. Again if you enjoy the blog have a vote here or look at some of rest and vote for your favourite. https://therunningawards.com/vote/205/233#vote None of this will in any way change my life so if you want to vote then magic, if you don’t then magic. I don’t need the validation, the smugness or the faux modesty of today’s award seekers, I just like to write and run and let that tell the story 🙂 I ain’t going to bang on about it, but will maybe put a further post up just before voting closes. And maybe I won’t 🙂

Thanks to Neil Richardson, Kenny Phillips, Ewen Cameron, Big Bad Brian Beattie from Airdrie, me, Bobby Gavin, some guy from Strathaven, some guy from Airdrie and anyone else I might have forgotten for the pics.

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