Apologies, first of all here is a wee rant before I get to the action. I will put a big RANT ENDED when the rant has ended so you can miss this bit out and carry on if you so desire. There will be pictures. So here is the problem with this blogging thing that I got myself involved in years ago. You start it off when you are just starting out to keep yourself running, to try and avoid falling back into your old ways. You document it warts and all, the bad days, the good days, the mistakes, the races that you make a right pig’s ear of, and people have a go for you aspiring to be something you are not, for being irritating, for inappropriate training for your ability and for being negative. Fair enough, you are entitled to your opinion and if I put myself out there then I leave myself open to criticism. So you consider chucking it but for some reason keep it going despite a complete and utter loss in mojo for both writing and running. You get out the rut, you shake off the injuries and malaise and start training hard and have the year of your running life. 90% of it doesn’t just go right but goes way beyond your expectations. Do you stop the blog then or do you document that? What would you do? I go along with doing the good with the bad, so lately they have been really positive and good ones. This will give me something to look back on fondly when it all crumbles, which it will. And now I am not irritating and negative or aspiring to be something I am not, now I am bragging, boasting, and support turns to digs. You know I am just me, I have documented my downs and my ups and feel I have the right to tell both sides of my wee story. As I have alluded to, this will all thankfully be wrapping up soon anyway and I am looking forward to it, just indulge me that little bit longer then I can disappear, it is at the end of the day all about the running. RANT ENDED.
The focus of this piece though is the Great Scottish Run. Whatever your feelings on the Great Run series as a whole, you can’t dispute that this is a special event in the Glasgow calendar.
The Kingston Bridge, the crowds in Glasgow Green.
Two years running I had missed it through ill health and injury, this year no excuses. I had done both the 10k and the half a couple of times, my first half in 2013 in 1.52, my second in 2014 in 1.32, and despite having missed out the 1.42 and having a half marathon PB of 1.27, I was confident that I could have a right go at doing a 1.22 this year.
Me in 2013, looking happy.
1.22.30 my target, a 5 minute PB, very ambitious but I know I have been running well (for me) and won’t get a better chance. 1.25 has for years been my ultimate aim, but has never been a reality until this year. People think I am at it, but as these runs get longer I get worse, a fast 5k and 10k doesn’t mean I will do the same at half marathon. I don’t race them often for a reason, I’m just not very good at this distance malarkey. It is nice for people to have faith but the repeated comments that I would be easily under 1.20 (a sub 80) were just to me a burden as I never at any point even believed I was capable of that, I have too much respect for that distance, and it would end up that no matter what time I was going to achieve was going to look like a failure or sub par performance, so shut it, all of you :p . Spoiler alert, no I don’t go sub 80, it was never happening so there will be no shock at the end of this blog.
I really couldn’t complain about the prep, a slight cold that stayed in the head, my family were coming along to watch, the weather was looking like it would hold, and all was good. Bumped into Garscube Gav on the way who was going to be doing it dressed as Captain America and this was one of the core things about the day, the atmosphere was amazing, it really was. Despite my scunner with the blog it has enabled me to meet so many people and it was great to see so many friendly faces. The starting pen was so much fun, everyone at ease and raring to go, banter flowing.
Too many folk to mention so won’t mention anyone, except WERR’s Marty Strachan who was so up for it I thought he was going to join the Elites at the front. He was rewarded with a massive well-earned PB. I was in the white zone, the Elites were first off with Chris Thompson trying for his third consecutive victory alongside Toni from Ayr and Kristin from PH who had been rewarded for fine performances this year with Elite numbers. Next off were the faster paced club runners, I watched in awe and a little bit of jealousy as MACs Cammy and his gang leathered up the hill. We were next, facing the hill with trepidation but excitement and it wasn’t long before we were chasing them up the hill. It’s busy but not so bad that I couldn’t move. Friendly faces all around, there’s Neale from Hamilton, Lyndsey from Edinburgh, there’s Elaine and the boys at the side cheering me, loving it. Up the hill, down the other side, I think Bella’s Ant Jannetta is waving to me from the side and wave back but he’s waving at his girlfriend, doh.
The entire field laugh at me.
Kingston Bridge coming and this is where it all really starts. Already groups of runners starting to form. I’m trying to latch onto some of the PH boys, Johnny and Wright who I know will be low 1.20s if not faster. I’m feeling OK as we come off the bridge and start the next gradual wee climb. The pace is almost bang on 1.20 pace but I make the decision to stick with it for a few miles knowing I would come off the pace at the parks. Get a wee buffer now on my 1.22.30 quest. You can see the field stretched out ahead, can see Cambuslang’s Iain Nicholl and Airdrie’s John Brogan a good bit ahead, both looking for and looking good for the sub 1.20. For a few miles pre parks that’s how it is. I stick with the PH lads, Philip from Kirky who I’d ran a good bit of Cumbernauld 10k with was there, a good group and good concentration all round. Then Pollok Park came. Full of ups and downs, the ups are long and winding and groups were falling apart now. Johnny and Wright getting a wee gap on me. Philip falling behind me. I was catching John and getting closer to Iain, a tough shift. This is where I knew sub 1.20 wasn’t being entertained. Engage 100% in the 1.22.30 plan, this was going to be a toughie. My worst part was coming out of Pollok and going to Bellahouston Park, got alongside Iain and decided I had better take a gel as everyone else was, my fuelling strategy had sort of gone to pot in the excitement. Schoolboy error but we learn in every run. Bellahouston park I really found tough, but I wasn’t the only one, no crowds, exposed to the elements, a daft wee climb and for the first time I could see Cammy in the distance. Being exposed at this time I was going to have to try and bridge a gap or end up running alone for a while. Out of the park and the wind was felt for the first time but I just tried to maintain whatever pace I could, but I kept missing water stations as focussed ahead, daft, had managed only one sip in Pollok Park. Out of Bella and there were a few obvious casualties that had gone out too fast and were suffering, I was passing a few folk although was hardly motoring myself. There’s the soul destroying section round Festival Park before Squinty Bridge that seemed to go forever and I was starting to feel it. There was a shower of relief here though to cool us down, which was a godsend as it was warm and I was burning up a bit, rumours that all Greenock runners took a diversion here to avoid a shower are unconfirmed.
I was starting to doubt I could go under 1.22.30. Probably 2 ½ miles to go and was for the first time worrying if I could maintain any sort of pace. I was sure I still had a buffer as I tried my best to move on but couldn’t be sure.
Over the Squinty Bridge, 2 miles to go, and Cammy’s group within touching distance, he was with Toni, and not far ahead was the PH group and another few familiar vests stretched out on front including Kirky’s Andrew Kirk who had flown away from me at Cumbernauld.
OK plan time. I can’t take Cammy on a sprint and I think he might be struggling so I would go up on his shoulder and try and not quite kick off, but stretch out and try and take it home, try catch the PH boys again and that way I’d be sure to get my target unless I blew up.
Just over a mile to go.
I move up.
Ready to go.
And the calves start to cramp…..
You couldn’t make it up.
Cammy is struggling and isn’t going to hit his sub 80 target. I am now struggling, not to keep going but there is no way I can stretch out, no way I can up the pace. Damage limitation now. Need that fighting spirit, 1.22 is in my grasp. Cammy tells me to stick in, he will get me home sub 80. I politely tell him I have f@cking cramp and the two of us are a sight, Toni and the pack effortlessly moving away as myself and Cammy proceed and get to 400 to go like the MAC version of the Walking Dead. I know, I am being unfair, but neither of us are finishing as we expected. I seem to recall running through smoke at some point here, why anyone thought this was a good idea in the last mile or so of a half marathon I have no idea.
Absolutely ecstatic with that.
Aye I didn’t get the sub 80 people were predicting but I never really set out my stall for it. On the day, aye, I made a few mistakes re water etc. but was it that much of a difference? I am not convinced it was. I gave all I had, left out all out there, showed some right fighting spirit that wouldn’t have been there in previous years and smashed what I thought I was capable of, and this isn’t bragging but I am really proud of that one. Slower than some people think I should have run faster but a message that I got from a top guy and team mate afterwards really struck a chord,
“Not for me to judge, but I’d say that was your best performance of the season. To maintain that pace for that long, when you don’t usually race those distances much was a truly sensational performance”.
He hit the nail in the head for me. I hate those distances and it’s not my strength and to me that was a massive one. He got it!! My pacing was actually pretty decent. Maybe lost 5 seconds a mile the last couple of miles but that’s not shameful.
Can I take my Strava half marathon time? 🙂
The post-race atmosphere amazing again, catching up with lots of fellow runners, some delighted, some disappointed, but that’s the nature of the game. Mutual respect knowing we get to go again. Big shout out to Bella RR’s James Shirlaw who has been aiming all year for a sub 1.30, delighted to see him come home in 1.28. Well earned from the Nike shoe addict who has been a good support this year. A massive thank you to my wife Elaine who has tolerated my daft hobby, put up with my timetable of running, sweaty clothes etc. etc. and really has had my back, and when I crumbled on the deck with cramp afterwards she looked after me still, getting the shoes and socks off, massaging my feet. A true angel and thank you. My boys seemed happy enough too, and Jon had used my money to buy a team baldy mascot 🙂
So the end of the season and every aim hit. Couldn’t be happier, has been a couple of blips, but it’s been beyond any expectations I could have had. That is all for another blog so hopefully see you there, and on the Cross Country courses, a wee run out in the West District relays then I’ll assess my future from there. Thanks for reading :). The song another blast from the past, Spirit by the Waterboys, there was a lot of it around Glasgow Green. This and all the other tunes are on the Spotify playlist. Thanks to Campbell Blair, Lynn Connor, Kenny Phillips, marathon photos, Jon Gallacher, Elaine Gallacher, Lorna Valentine amongst others for the fantastic pictures, giving me great memories of a special day.