There’s always someone cooler than you – Going sub 17 at parkrun

It genuinely surprises me that people still on occasion take 5 minutes out and read these ramblings. Oh I know it’s probably well past its sell by date, but it’s been a big part of me along with my running for more than a few years now so I can’t let it just stop just like that, but bear with me, it’ll wrap up soon, and the ending will hopefully make more sense than that aforementioned last episode of “Lost”. Big thanks to everyone who conversed with me after my last blog touched a few nerves, both positively and negatively.  Of course it was going to annoy, but I am a grumpy old man, I am as the title says still irritating, and as I said elsewhere the written word although powerful is always open to interpretation. Certainly I have put it all behind me and my messenger inbox has never been so busy. Thank you for the messages of support, for the messages above and beyond that (you know who you are and I really appreciate it), and to those of you, who will remain anonymous, who just wanted to vent about their problems with their respective clubs. This is a personal blog, not Marko’s war on MAC or on anyone else for that matter but my final word on the subject and directed at the people who sent me messages is to try and strike up that dialogue with your clubs, and clubs try and strike that dialogue up with the members. I am not saying have a rant like me, but don’t let things fester. How many times have I heard that no person is bigger than the club? The flipside to this in my opinion is that no club should be bigger than the members. Converse, talk and there will be peace for all runkind.


Anyway back to the running and since I have been reminded that it is a personal blog and not about the club it’s back to me me me, back to the making my legs move as fast as I could, avoiding poodles and bikes and figuring out where I left that barcode. Aye it was parkrun time, a sneaky one, a secret one, one that was indeed purely for me. It has always been in the back of my mind what the great Lanarkshire philosopher John Quinn had said to me when I got a 5k PB back in May of 17.00. I am paraphrasing but essentially get the sub 17 while you still can because as you get towards and past 50 the legs won’t behave as well. I was aware at that time that that PB came in a real “baws oot” race, where the first k is downhill, and that it is a net downhill course. It would be a real big deal to try and get near that. Recently though I have got near it. Strathclyde in 17.13, 17.08 on the track. I’ve been banging in the track sessions at 5k pace to maybe have one more go, and last week’s 10k told me I would never get a better opportunity form wise. Strathclyde parkrun was off, so next best was Victoria Park. I ran 17.27 earlier in the year there.  It’s a good course but 3 laps and can get congested the last lap. Also the GPS goes haywire at the Fossil Byker Grove bit so you can’t go by Ks on the watch but I reviewed my previous runs, I worked out approx. splits for course sections, and decided to give it a real go. 30 seconds is a lot to take off so nothing taken for granted on this one, but I was right in the mood as at my age this could easily be the last chance.

Cue dramatic music and flashing lights and a voice over by Brain Blessed. Stick on new Balega socks that look like they are from Tron.


Conditions were kind, a wind but nothing major, some sun but not yet at full strength. Bella RR were having their club champs race so some good runners there to hopefully pull me along. Tried to photobomb their team pic but got a slap in the chops from their ruthless enforcer Kev Queenan and told to get back on my own.


Kevin Queenan, angry, Saturday.

And we were off. Rapid bunch away faster than I could go. I settle in and within half a lap I am basically in no mans land but despite the cuckoo GPS I am feeling like I am running steadily hard. My target points are hit and as we get to the congested last lap I know that I need to be around 14.05 to 14.10 at the bottom of Fossil Byker Grove to stand a chance. Weaving and zig zagging like a ziggedzaggedy weaver through the crowds and hit the bottom of the Grove blinded by my progress like PJ (or was it Duncan) at the paintballing as I hit my target in 14.06.

It is on.

I am finding it difficult to get past the crowds but the dander is up, I am running as hard as my knackered legs will allow, and they are burning, still weaving like Franz Klammer on the giant slalom, but with no mask or poles.  Turn off the main path, 200 to go, it’s just about on but I know I am about done in, last corner, it’s going to be tight. Counting down in my head I try to muster a sprint and launch at the line.

I stop the watch.

I look at it.

It’s 16.58.

I get my token, tired fist pump. Say well done to the guys in front and hit the ground hard. It’s a while before I can get up. The legs are gone. I have given it all and I am more than a wee bit delighted. Wait for the official time and it is 16.57…. yyyaaaassssssssssss. 5th place amongst some right good runners.



Put that cake away, there will be no celebrating here you little baldy fraudster.

I have to get the disclaimers in here as people weren’t slow in doing it for me. Victoria Park comes in short on GPS. It’s not a race. I am wearing Nike Vaporfly 4% trainers. Aye go ahead and burst my short lived wee bubble. Despite all that I am still 30 seconds faster on the same course and in the same shoes that I was back in May which is bloody good progress. I am on the sub 17 team for that particular parkrun, in 294 runs only another 155 people have managed that. I am the 8th fastest ever to run there in my age group. For me it’s big big improvement and yes, I admit it, I am chuffed with myself. Am I trying to qualify for the Olympics? Claim a new Scottish record? Gain sponsorship or a lucrative move to Hamilton Harriers? Naw. I’m just a wee baldy ex chain smoker, a kick in the arse off 50, who gave himself a wee aim and hit it. My first parkrun started 26, this one started 16. Yes, I am chuffed with myself and the progress I made for hitting a marker I thought was impossible for me. Sometimes we have aims that we think we can hit, sometimes there are ones that seem so unrealistic, pie in the sky.

So naysayers, I do not care. Even if you don’t accept that someone like me could run a time like that unless I had magic shoes or took shortcuts or pick short courses then that’s all fine.

On Saturday I had the single finest run that I have had since I took those first steps in my Hitec silver shadows in 2011 and it quite simply felt amazing.

I really felt I had achieved something. Believe me, magic shoes or short courses don’t stop you hurting when the lactic kicks and the legs wobble, they don’t go out in the pouring rain and howling wind on a Tuesday or Thursday and do reps of 20 x 200ms for you. Even my wee head, usually my enemy is talking to me….  You did that Marko, you worked your arse off and you went through your pain barrier and you hit your target… and for that all too short period I felt like an achiever, like I’d done something.

So what else can I say? Basically there is nothing wrong with aiming high. You might not get there for a while, and you fall a few times when you try, and you might never get there,  but don’t let others tell you that you can’t and won’t do it. It’s only a parkrun but to me? A bloody big deal. There’s always people out there who won’t get what it means to you, who will tell you it’s not up to much, who won’t acknowledge it but don’t let that bother you. There’s always someone cooler than you, but be content in yourself that you did something you set out to do, and that really is pretty bloody cool. Take it away Mr Ben Folds.




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