Jimmy Irvine Bella 10K (Andrew)

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There are two things I know about the Jimmy Irvine Bella 10k race in Bellahouston Park. One, it will rain. It’s held in November so it would probably be more of a surprise if it was ever dry…

Two, I don’t actually know who the heck is Jimmy Irvine? And, despite running a few times, this was the first year I thought: “Let’s find out!“.

I’m glad to report that the Jimmy Irvine 10k is not a race named in memoriam  – in his memory  – as he’s very much alive. He is quite old though. He was born in 1935 and first raced for Bellahouston Harriers in 1952 at the age of 16. He last raced in 2015, a broken hip finally bringing his running days to an end.

But what a career he had. He raced almost every weekend and turned out in the McAndrew Relays, the District relays, the County relays, the Glasgow University road race, the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay, the Nigel Barge New Year race, the County championship and all the other major championships.  And that was almost every year for several decades. Even as a veteran he was running under three hours for a marathon. No wonder they named a race after him!

So, with that knowledge, I was feeling inspired on the start line. Although the course had changed this year, the start had not. It starts on a hill in the centre of Bellahouston Park with a short climb before running round to the ski slope, then Bellahouston sports centre before circling out towards Mosspark Avenue and back before repeating itself for another loop and a half.

But one thing hadn’t changed. The rain. It started raining 20 minutes before the race start and it didn’t stop. Big heavy rain drops designed to get right down the back of your neck and freeze your spine. Ugh!

However, I was prepared, I had a jacket with a hood and ran the race Batman style – hood up, as far over my eyes as possible and only my chin showing to the rain.

The change of course meant a harder route, with some longish climbs up and through the park. In return, there was a couple of nice descents down the back of the hill, but, with the weather, you needed to be careful where to place your feet to avoid puddles and slippery leaves.

One brave man though, appeared to laugh in the face of the weather by stripping off his top halfway through the race. No one followed him. Glasgow in the rain in November is no time to bear any flesh. It’s Marti Pellow weather – wet, wet, wet.

Overall, it’s an enjoyable race, with a good number of runners but not so many that it causes any bottlenecks at corners. And, at the start, there was none other than Jimmy Irvine. At least this time I knew who he was!

For more on Jimmy Irvine: Biography

 

It’s A Stay- (In The Bag) -Cation (Andrew)

I was on holiday last week. Five days in Lisbon during what I would describe as a pleasant summer’s day – 20 degrees, light breeze, some sunshine but just enough cloud to not make it overbearing – but it was also what the Portuguese would describe as the depths of winter, given the number of locals wearing puffer jackets, hats, scarves and woolly gloves.

It just goes to show how subjectively we view the weather. When you live in Scotland – everywhere else is the tropic; when you live in the Med, everywhere else is Scotland.

Before I go on holiday I always make a list of everything I’ll need to bring. If I don’t, I’ll forget something important. Like my passport, which meant I once travelled to Ireland with my bus pass. It got me in, but, when I tried to leave, the border guard said: “A Strathclyde Passenger Transport card is not a proper form of ID”. I said: “It was when you let me in!”. He couldn’t answer that logic so he let me out.

I always include a spot on my list for my running trainers, shorts and a couple of t-shirts. I always think “Won’t it be great to run around foreign cities and explore bits of them that’ll I’ll never see when walking?”

And I always return home with the trainers unworn, the shorts unfolded and the t-shirts still smelling of fabric softener. Good intentions last as far as the white cliffs of Dover.

I think I don’t run when I’m away because I always walk everywhere. It doesn’t matter where I am, if the place I want to see is not actually in a different time zone then I’ll walk to it rather than get a bus or a train. Because it’s a new place, everywhere is new and exciting. Walking is just another way to get bearings and to discover where I am. And, by the time I’ve walked everywhere, my legs are tired and I don’t then fancy running a few more miles.

Bizarrely, it’s the exact opposite of home. Want to walk anywhere? Nah, take the car instead!

But I also don’t run because it’s sunny. And warm. And who wants to run in nice weather? What the point of training in good conditions when you live in Scotland?!?!?

It’s the same in July when we get one week of good weather. When I look at a blue sky I think I’ll pass on going out for a run.

But I always bring my trainers with me. I like knowing I have the choice. Even if that choice hasn’t been used in any recent holiday. However, next time, I tell myself I will go out for a run. I will put on my trainers and I will explore the city on foot!

Unless the weather’s better than Scotland in which case, nah, you’re alright, I’ll just walk… 🙂

Antonine Trail Race 2018 (Andrew)

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Two bumblebees get out of the car. One of them adjusts his wings and his trainers and then starts to run.

Death stands beside an angel and both start to stretch.

This is the Antonine Trail Race. A half marathon up, over, around and back over Croy Hill between Kilsyth and Cumbernauld. Every year it’s held on the last of Sunday in October and the organisers encourage runners to take part in Halloween costume. At the start line you see a lot of photos, high fives and people not realising that they’re about to start swearing when they hit the first hill and realise how hot it is to dress like a bee while trying to run a mile up a trail.

It was a fantastic day for the race. It was cold but with an almost cloudless sky it was just the right temperature for running.

It starts with one mile on a narrow path so try and get near the front if you don’t want to be blocked in. After the first mile, the hill climbing starts with a mile and half of trail runs and climbing to the top of Croy Hill. After that it’s undulating before a mile long descent down to the canal and Kilsyth marsh. A few miles of flat trails are broken up by an environmentally friendly water spot – there was no plastic cups.

The organisers had warned in advance that the only cups would be “sharing cups” – and they warned that there might be more than just water in the cups after twenty sweaty runners had swigged from it. So, they recommended bringing your own bottle. I ran with a trail belt with a couple of small water bottles. I didn’t fancy sharing anything!

After the water stop it’s a steady climb through the forest around Barr Hill. A few sharp inclines near the top make it a challenging run before another long drop down to the base of Croy Hill and another lap up it – this time from the opposite side.

The good news at that point is that you finish with a final mile back on the narrow paths and with a gentle descent (apart from one sharp shock) and a cracking photo opportunity at the finish as you beat a red devil to the line.

And if that wasn’t enough to recommend it – the organisers lay on a bumper food stall at the finish with cakes, biscuits, bananas, more cakes and selection of gels and liquids.

Roll on 2019!

More info: https://antoninetrailrace.com

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The Hill (Andrew)

There’s a hill near my house that’s smaller than I thought. Every few weeks I like to run up it to check if I can run it faster than before.

The hill is in Queen’s Park. You start at Balvicar Street then run up a 9% slope until you get to the flagpole at the top of the park. It started as a two minute run and over the last 18 months I’ve been getting closer to one and a half minutes. Until Saturday, when I found out it was smaller than I thought because…

… Stava doesn’t use the top of the hill as it’s finish line. It stops it’s segment just below the flag pole. I’d been running an extra 20 metres and it wasn’t recorded.

And if a runner runs in the woods and doesn’t record it in Strava, do they make a sound?

For 18 months I’ve been running up the hill and leaving my final burst of speed until AFTER the actual finish line. I’d been running to the top when the finish line was still on the slope.

D’oh!

Which just goes to show how much I use Strava i.e. not a lot! I like the app to see gradient, speed and matching run times. So, if I run the same route again, it’ll remember and show you how you compare.

But as for segments, I only look at two. Queen Park hill run and another hill run in Stornoway to run up to the War Memorial overlooking the town.

And, looking at that one, I have that one wrong too…

I start running after the segment starts! I run from a gate when I should be running 10 metres before that. No wonder my time of three minutes was so slow – I wasn’t even trying for part of the run.

So, while I can see the appeal of Strava segments, turning the world into a series of races and challenges, in practice, there’s a reason for a start line and finishing tape. You need to know when to run and when to stop.

However, just as Chris Froome would do better if he turned up for the Tour De France in France instead of starting in Japan, looking on the bright side, I can now see that I can do the same and smash my best time just by running the right route next time I’m out.

Lance Drugmonger (Andrew)

Black Panther is a mass murderer!

Bear with me, minor spoilers for the film ahead, but hear me out. I’m a lawyer. I believe in the rule of law: no person or government is above the law. In simple terms, it doesn’t matter who you are, we all have to follow the same laws.

Pretty much everyone (dictators, Donald Trump and psychopaths excepted) agree that this is a GOOD THING.

Now let’s look at the evidence against Black Panther.

  • He’s the King of a civilised country
  • He believes in the rule of law
  • There is a law that someone of royal blood can challenge him for the throne
  • We see at the start of the film that he follows the rules. He accepts the challenge, he strips himself of his super-strength and armour and fights them as equals.
  • We see this again near the end of the film, except, minor spoiler alert, he loses!
  • He then, skipping over some of the details, cheats by taking his powers back, wears his armour again and returns to KICK ASS!
  • But that’s not all he does. He also gathers up an army and kills everyone who stands in his way, ordinary citizens of Wakanda who are just following the rule of law by accepting the legitimate winner of the challenge as their King.
  • He’s a MASS MURDERER!
  • Lock up T’Challa!
  • Kilmonger is innocent!

But he did make the mistake of calling himself ‘Kilmonger’. It’s the curse of nominative determinism. That your name, defines who you are. Call yourself Kilmonger and people think you must be a bad guy. Yet, he only got that name because he worked as a soldier for the US Government. So, he was following the rule of law too. He was a soldier in service to his country. He shouldn’t be called Kilmonger, he should be called Lawmonger, given all the laws he mongers!

Anyways, watching Black Panther got me thinking about performance enhancing drugs because the one big thing that bothered me about the film (among all the other things) was that it accepts Black Panther is a drug cheat. He takes a potion made from a glowing blue power to get super-strength. Kilmonger, it must be said, doesn’t. There’s only one cheat in this film and that’s the supposed good guy.

But is it ever okay to take performance enhancing drugs? Because, while I was watching it, I was thinking that earlier that day I’d taken a couple of paracetamol before going out for a run. I had a sore neck and headache developing and thought the paracetamol would see it off.

Am I as bad a Black Panther? Should I be called Drugmonger?

And that made me look at the film in a whole new light. Maybe, just like cyclists in the early 00s, Black Panther is only taking super-strength cocktails just to keep up with all the other superheroes taking drugs. They’re all at it. Super-serums for Hulk and Captain America. It’s a dirty system and Black Panther could be just as much of a victim as every other systemic drug cheat.

Who’s the real victims here then? The countless people who died at Black Panther’s hand or Black Panther himself?

It makes you think, doesn’t it? Maybe Lance Armstrong was actually the good guy? Maybe, by taking all the drugs, he was fighting to restore his rightful place as the head of the peloton from Eric Tourmonger, the rider who monged (is that the right word?) all the tours.

Whisper, maybe Lance Armstrong is innocent?

(Clearly not).

It did make me think about my own drug taking and whether a couple of painkillers was acceptable or whether, just like Lance and Black Panther, I might, just might, be edging to the dark side.

Just in case, to avoid slaughtering hundreds of my own people, in future I’ll just tough it out. Just call me ManUpMonger! For all the manning up I’ll be mongering!

 

 

 

Alley Alley Alley! Go! Go! Go! (Andrew)

I’m not a thief. I’m not ‘casing the joint’.

I’m not a mugger, though I am hiding in dark alleys.

I’m a runner – but one that’s set myself a challenge to run around Glasgow using as few streets as possible. Instead I’m running along lanes and alleyways, small parks and connecting paths. I’m explo-running*.

*TM Pending (And when I say pending, I mean the trademark office said don’t call us, we’ll call you. Which is encouraging as they wouldn’t want to spend their own money on a call unless they were really keen on the name!)

It started a couple of months back. You get used to running the same streets next to your house. No matter what you do, when you leave the house, unless like a blues guitarist you were born on a cross road, you can only turn left or right. Same road. Same sights.

It’ll be the same for every street around you. You’ve seen them a hundred times because you’ll have familiar routes and you’ll trod the same old steps.

I’ve been in Shawlands for 16 years. I know every street from Queens Park to Harry Fairburn in Giffnock. I’ve run up them, I’ve run down them, I’ve run of the left side, I’ve swapped to the right. I could run some routes blindfolded, but I won’t because I’m not an idiot. I’d veer off into traffic! But you know what I mean. I’ve been there, run that.

Until a couple of months ago when I thought, “What’s up that alley?” And I ran behind some houses on Kilmarnock Road and found an alley of garage doors, back gardens and glimpses of people washing up dinner at kitchen windows. Who then called the cops as they saw me gawk in at them looking for all the world like I’d just been caught trying to jump their fence…

It was new, it was different, and it felt like discovery. I was Christopher Columbus finding a new world… of domestic tasks and refuse bags. Which is not a new world they’d show on Star Trek. Spock never transported down to a new planet to face 45 minutes of marigolds and Fairy Liquid, But, still, a new world nonetheless.

After that, I’ve started looking out for every path that twists behind a house, every track that leads to a cluster of garages and every lane well trundled by a thousand bins.

There’s a whole network criss-crossing the city. Unexplored, unventured and ready for the intrepid runner to go exploring!

Unless, and I cannot stress this enough, you’re woman*! I’m not a mugger but that doesn’t mean you should explore dark alleys on your own!

(*This general sexist description includes men scared of shadows and excludes woman who can handle themselves in a fight or routinely carry a recently sharpened knife of at least six inches.)

Get out there and get explore-running!

(Safely!)

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Around The World In 80 Days (Andrew)

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Last year, Mark Beaumont smashed the record to cycle round the world by circumnavigating the globe in 79 days. This year, he released a book. I haven’t given any spoilers as he tells us he succeeded in first few pages. Instead, he said he wanted to write a book to show how it was done, rather than could it be done. What did it take to cycle 16 hours every day for 79 days?

The answer was easy – be a dick.

On nearly every page the clear impression he gave was that he had to be a selfish dick who cared for nothing and nobody but riding his bike from before dawn to after dusk.

Shout at support crew? Scream at the camera man for not getting the right shots? Tear apart the team manager for taking the wrong road?

He did it all. And you have to, kind of, respect him for it.

Not the attitude but his honesty in revealing that’s what he became in order to be someone who could focus on cycling every unrelenting waking moment.

As such it’s refreshing to read a book which shows how far an athlete has to go in order to be the best at something. And the cost it has on their relationships and support in order to do that.

Was it worth it? It’s difficult to tell, without actual spoilers about the end of the race, but I would recommend reading the book and finding out.

Interestingly, we went to a talk by Mark a few weeks ago in Glasgow. He revealed at the start that after his previous adventures – cycling the world, the Americas and Africa – he was always approached after every show by people who wanted to emulate him. But this time, he said, not one person had asked him about racing the world. Which perhaps shows, that while many people will dream of a BIG ADVENTURE, very few people dream of becoming dicks in the process.

Kind of a nice thought, actually. Most folk just want to be nice.

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Challenge Roth (Andrew)

Next year’s race is sorted. “Challenge Roth!” I said. Roth as in cloth, as in moth. “‘I’m doing Challenge Roth!”.

And I’ve started to read blogs and race reports of what it’ll be like and I’ve kept thinking:

“Yay, Roth (as in moth) will be fun! Can’t wait to go to Roth (as in cloth)!”

Except this week when Iain told me it was pronounced Rote. As in wrote. As in goat.

Challenge Goat.

That’s what I’m doing.

Challenge Rote.

And my first lesson as part of looking at what training I’ll need to do for next year is a simple one – get the name of the race right.

The Naked Triathlete (Andrew)

How much breast is too much breast? A couple of years ago that was the question facing Glasgow Sheriff Court when it was asked to decide whether a flyer for a strip club banned by the licensing board was obscene.

Glasgow City Council’s licensing board presumably didn’t mean to criticise the flyer for strip club, showing a dancer wearing a pair of yellow pants and just an arm covering her breasts, as depicting the woman as “unsuitably clothed” because that could only mean she was wearing too much. What else would would be suitable clothes for a stripper except a birthday suit?  But that comment by the board meant a trip to the sheriff court to work out how much – or how little – was too little clothes for a flyer for a strip club.

This led to an interesting discussion as Sheriff Taylor said: “Only a very small part of the side of her breast is depicted in the photograph. There is certainly more breast exposed in certain daily tabloid newspapers.”

And, he added: “If one looks at adverts for perfumes and the like in magazines normally read by women, one sees more breasts exposed than in the flyer.”

In short, he said: “I can see nothing wrong in the degree of breast exposed”

And he was really looking.

I remember this debate when I was thinking about how we take stripping in public as natural. Go to any transition and you’ll see a bunch of athletes pulling off wetsuits, bearing their chests and, generally, mooning friends and family watching on from the side.

It’s like Stringfellows but with less fake tan and gold jewellery (and that was just Peter Stringfellow).

I swear one time I was in transition a man tried to stick a tenner in my pants!

Yet, we accept this as normal. Even though it’s not. And it’s Scotland and we look like we’re starring a XXX version of Avatar as the blue people strip in the open air.

But then again. Maybe it is normal. Maybe the strange thing is to feel self-conscious about it all. Why not strip in the open air? Why not let it swing free and stand there bold and proud with nothing to protect you but a well positioned bike stem? We shouldn’t be ashamed! We should be free! There’s nothing wrong with letting it all hang out!

And hopefully, the Sheriff Court will agree with me after the police arrest me…

Runner, Heal Thyself (Andrew)

When I started running at university I would run on a treadmill for 20 – 30 minutes on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Over a year it became part of my weekly routine as I was studying for my final exams. Then, one day, my knee hurt.

“That’s nothing,” I thought. “A wee run will fix that!”

I’d pop up to the university gym and, after five minutes, the pain would start to fade, and, after 20 minutes, it would be gone.

“See,” I thought, “it was just a wee niggle!”

And by the time I’d have my shower, my leg would fall off.

Not literally. I’d topple. But it might as well have as I couldn’t use it for the rest of the day. It wouldn’t bend. I couldn’t put weight on it. I would hop from gym to library to home until…

I’d wake up in the morning, my knee would hurt and I’d think:

“Really, it’s nothing, a wee run will fix this!”

And I was a cripple for a month until I realised that a ‘wee run’ will only fix this if your problem is an escaped lion and you need to get away fast. If your problem is a damaged ligament then don’t run on it!

You need to follow the RIC (Rest, Ice and Compression) program not the RIC (Run, Ignore, Crawl To Bed) program.

Yet, 20 years later I’ve learnt nothing. Last week I pulled a muscle in my abdomen. Not sure how, think it was twisting to lift something while sitting in my chair at work, however, when I noticed it was sore I thought immediately:

“It’s nothing, a wee swim will fix this!”

And I went swimming. An exercise that requires you to continuously twist and turn.

Because there’s nothing like putting out a fire like pouring more oil on it and shouting “Burn, baby, burn!”

It was stupid.

And on Tuesday I ended up in the minor injuries clinic complaining that I couldn’t turn my body to the right or pick up any weight with my right hand.

Which was also stupid because, despite being a clinic for minor injuries, the doctor listened to my story and immediately said: “We don’t do abdomens.”

Which made me think: “What do you do? Left ankles only. Just the right elbow? How can you distinguish between different parts of the body? You’re a doctor, your meant to do everything.”

He sent me to my GP who’s sole advice was “If it hurts when you twist to the right then don’t twist to the right!”

Genius.

But she was right because she was just telling me what I already knew – if you’re injured, then don’t do twice as much as you did before in the hope that more means less. Rest. Ice. Compression. And don’t go for a run.