The GO! Festival Ayr 2019. How do I go about it?

I was really pleased to be asked to work alongside Ayr’s GO! Festival to try and encourage those who quite fancy the idea of a run but don’t really know how to go about it. In 2011 I was that person, hadn’t run for over 20 years, was overweight and smoking 20-30 a day and I nearly killed myself doing a first 5k in 43 minutes thinking I could still run the way I used to after being roped into doing a charity 10k by some pals. From that dark day in 2011 to last week where I ran my first 36 minute 10k at the age of 48 and recently won my first Scottish track individual medal I have learned a lot and made a lot of mistakes.

A LOT of mistakes.

So hopefully I can help give a few pointers and persuade you to give it a go. The fact you are reading this suggests to me you have made the first step and the most difficult one, so well done.

It would be wrong of me not to mention what the GO! Festival is for those of you who have no idea what it is, find it here:

Home Page







In summary :

Half Marathon · 10K · 5K · Family Cycling Rides · Air Display · Fun Fair & Fireworks!

You’ll be glad to know I am not flying or inviting you to roll up or anything but I will be running and it’s a pleasure to see that Ayr will be getting closed road races, and give the locals a chance at the iconic Half marathon distance without having to travel to the likes of Glasgow on 7th September. Plenty of time to train for whatever event you fancy. First run at 10k? Want to move up to a half? Both are more than do-able. I’d like to share something with you that I did in conjunction with The Run Bible

So you want to start running? Well you have come to the right place, and taken the first step. Now there are many types of people who want to start running and I have been many of those people. At different times maybe, but you’re not alone. I have been the youngster that showed promise at school. The international runner who thought he didn’t deserve to be there. The mid-life crisis man wondering where time has gone and how he ended up in the shape he is in. The reluctant press ganged charity 10k recruit. The person scared to run in case people saw him. The one too shy to join a club. The cocky one who thought he could turn the clock back over 20 years and be as good as he was at school. Every single one.

I’ll assume you aren’t the promising youngster, but if you are then magic, keep running but enjoy it. Don’t end up like me and be lost to the sport by the age of 20 due to the stresses of pressure, and bored with the same old routine. Mix it up and do different things.

I’m guessing that you are a little bit older then, and fancy giving it a go. Here is what not to do. Oh aye, I’ve got previous. I had absolutely no intention of ever running again. The whole thought of it made me squirm, but peer pressure can make you cave in. I was roped into doing a 10k with some other guys I knew and knew it would be a good way to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Care after I lost both my Dad and Sister to cancer in the space of a year. Then that would be it. Never again. 12 weeks until the 10k and what I am about to tell here is all true.

Over 20 years since my last run when I had thrown my spikes at the Scottish selector at Grangemouth Stadium. I had no running gear. But I wouldn’t need anything fancy. I was an internationalist, it would come back quick. Off I went to Sports Direct and bought a pair of Hi-tec Silver Shadows and some 3/4 length Umbro trousers. Sunday March 20th 2011. I had just turned 40 the week before and off I went to Strathclyde Park. It’s about 5 – 6 k around the loch and I did it plenty as a youngster. So I stick runmeter on my iPhone and I am ready to go. Nothing ambitious, lets go for about 30 mins or so. Quick fag and off I go. Yeah, I was smoking 30 a day at this time. Start off at a decent pace as I always did. When I was young. 250 metres, first half bend done and someone has jumped into my lungs, crawled through them and then put concrete and iron into the inside of my legs. The visions for anyone watching would have been surreal,me in my Silver Shadows sprinting along, stopping, almost collapsing to the ground, walking, then trying to run again, maybe 50 metres and repeat to fade. I gave up and stopped when runmeter told me I had got to 5k. 43 minutes and 2 seconds. I had stopped the clock a few times too, so I was probably nearer 50 minutes. Aye arrogance not the answer for that first run, so don’t, don’t and DON’T do those things. A major lesson, forget how you used to be whether that was good or bad.

So what did I do that worked? There’s a few things I did that got me to that starting line and round that 10k. I got a better pair of trainers and some comfy clothes. I didn’t break the bank but some lycra shorts in my case (again a no no, but I learned). The best thing that I did? I got some company. I can’t understate the importance of company when starting out. That other person is your rock, your conscience, your restraint and someone else who gets what you are doing. I had Jim who was doing the 10k as well and was marginally in a better shape than me, but for weeks we would meet up and build it from scratch. We had a wee loop down at Ravenscraig that was maybe 800m long. We started off jogging to one lamppost, the walking to the next. It was horrendous but we got that wee bit better each time. We were then running one side and walking the other. Then we managed to do a full loop without stopping. Sometimes I wanted to stop, sometimes he did, but we encouraged each other and we did it. He had adapted better and two weeks before the race he wanted to show me a wee route he had made. 78 minutes later I had completed my first 10k, conned by that smug bearded fop. So yeah, company, build it up slowly and you WILL surprise yourself.

addictive hell 10k, start running

The 2011 MHFS 10K, 56 minutes of addictive hell.

I also discovered parkrun. Oh really, if you haven’t heard of this you have to. Loads of free timed runs on a Saturday morning of 5k for runners and walkers of any level. Register once and thats it. There is bound to be one near you with runners from 15 minutes to over an hour. Really look at it. I did my first in just under 27 minutes. What a boost it was, and the camaraderie is amazing. I’ve ran them from Strathclyde Park to Paris to Blackpool to Ayr’s own Rozelle Park (the only one I have finished first across the line in) If you ignore everything else I write about please don’t let this one go by you 🙂

first ever parkrun, start running paris parkrun second place, start runningparkrun pacing, start running

parkrun, from my first in 27 minutes at Strathclyde Park, to a second place in Paris, to pacing others, every one as magical as the other.

So my biggies – make the commitment, if you go ahead and enter now, even if you aren’t ready now you WILL get yourself ready. You have time. If you want to wait until you are ready you’ll never do it. Force yourself. Persuade someone to do it with you and lean on each other. And build it up slowly, you do have the time.

That’s stage 1, to many of you it’s not relevant, you can run already. So now what do you do? Don’t make my second mistake and think that because you run you can eat what you want. Added into my stopping smoking and then having a back injury I put a further 3 stone on. Oops. Be careful. I had the bug again. I had succumbed,and stopped smoking, so what do I do? I didn’t want to relapse and I wanted to keep going so I found a group. I heard about Jogscotland and it probably changed my life. Strong words but totally true.  Although, like many of you will be, I was excruciatingly shy, I went along. 10 week blocks of building up your running, check it out here . Different levels, from couch to 5k, up to advanced. I was here a couple of years and moved up the groups as I also started to combat my weight gains. By now I had my trainers of choice after getting my running gait analysed to see what shoes would suit me. Worth doing runpeeps, believe me. Why jogscotland? It gave me the confidence to run longer. It gave me people to build up with, people running at similar levels. It made me less self conscious about myself. It transformed me and I was then ready for the next stage, joining a club.

So you’re the type of person now that’s fit, can do 10ks etc comfortably but want more. Check out your local clubs. Most clubs will let you try them out for a few sessions with no committing to join. Use that, find the club that’s right for you, and the people that you feel comfortable running with.

a good running group, start running

Half man, half horse, find the group that works for you.

I was worried about being left behind and not being good enough. Yep, bet you’ve said that to yourselves plenty as an excuse not to go along. I was surprised when I went along how varied the runners were. The speedster racers aye, but also the ones trying to improve and others who just enjoy running and want to continue doing it. I joined Motherwell AC with a 22 min 5k best, a 46 minute 10k best and a half marathon of 1.52. Five years on, and at a not young age of 48 I’ve got them down to 17  mins, 36 mins and 1 hour 27 as well as having done a couple of marathons and a 60 minute 10 miler.

breat cancer care pic VLM, start running

racing a local 10k race, start running

Now racing 10Ks and completing a marathon.

And for me it’s the club structure. Running itself is great but I was introduced to things I had forgotten about and things I didn’t know existed. Hills (oh you need them), intervals, tempos, track work, fartlek, etc etc. It mixes it up and helps you build other parts. This year I have raced distances from 800m on the track up to a marathon. You know I will never win a prize for anything now, and I actually experienced my first last place this year (a 46 year old out of his depth in a short track race) but the changing it up and trying new things keeps my love for the sport. You know I could go on here for pages but I am stopping you from running by having you read more. Get those trainers, get out there and let your mind drift. Hit the parks, hit the trails, hit the roads, and run, talk, dream, think through your problems, switch off, whatever you want, to me it’s still the best therapy in life I can find.

At any level you will find the people who want to knock you down. Don’t let them stop you. People do and will shout things while you run. It becomes water off your back. I get it when I run. I get abuse for writing blogs. People will always want to demean you but don’t let them. Do it for you. Advance yourself the way you want to, not the way the internet warriors think is how you should be. You will get to know your own body and know how you can push it, but others sitting on their couch or on their iPad will never know you the way you will. The best advice here is to learn the difference between being brave and being stupid. But you will have to learn that yourself and you WILL make mistakes 🙂 Don’t stress it. It may annoy or irritate others, but you are doing it for you and never forget that.

Award winning blogger Mark Gallacher, start running
The Most Irritating Runner in Scotland


So you think you want to run? Prepare to change your life for the better. Make that commitment and Jist Dae it!

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