- an unexpected performance boost.
“I was gatlin yesterday!”
“I was gatlin yesterday!”
The Nigel Barge 10k was traditionally the first race of the year in Glasgow. It was held on the first Saturday of January and attracted hundreds of runners to a hilly and challenging course around the West End.
It was set up in 1943 to commemorate Nigel Barge, an officer killed at Dunkirk. Nigel was a keen runner and a member of Maryhill Harriers running club. After his death, his father set up the race in his memory. It has been held continuously for over 70 years and is now one of Scotland’s oldest road races.
You can find out more about its history here: Scottish Road Running History
Today, the course has moved from its original route to Garscube sports grounds, about four miles further west. Unfortunately, the race may have moved but the hills have remained. It’s a two lap course with two steep hills, tackled twice.
I was looking forward to running. I’ve never raced as early as January before and I thought it would be good practice to see how I’d perform after a couple of weeks of training. I thought 47 – 50 minutes would be a good time and give me something to build on for the months ahead. It would also be a good test of running in bad weather, or at least I thought it would…
Unusually, Sunday turned out to be almost Spring-like. The temperature was in double figures and the sun even threatened to peak out three months early. I ditched running gloves and an extra top and went with a base layer, t-shirt and leggings. It was too much and I found myself wishing I’d just worn a t-shirt after the first kilometres.
I also felt I started too fast. The course is downhill for the first 500m and, with everyone jostling for position, I couldn’t help running faster. Iain also starts faster than me and I tried to keep up even though it felt like I was running faster than I should. Normally, he would start to pull away, but this time I kept pace.
After 500m there was a short 100m section across playing grass before re-joining the main path. However, after raining most of the week, the grass was just a boggy swamp. Runners lept from foot to foot like Cossack dancers to avoid touching the ground. A few slide. One even found a sink hole that went down to his knee. It was funny until I remembered I was running in (no longer) bright white new trainers.
The first hill came a minute later. A long steady slog near Garscube vet school. The second hill a short sharp climb to Maryhill Road. Neither were pleasant but they both had longish descents after them where I tried to open my stride and run faster. On the second lap, on the descent after the first hill, I started to lose Iain. On the second descent, I grew the gap to 100m.
After that, my only thought is: “Don’t let him catch me, gotta keep ahead of him.” I looked back once, with 200m to go, and saw he was still 100m behind. I knew I was safe but still tried to finish with a burst, my thoughts now turning to Norseman: “Only another 20 miles to go (and a mountain)”.
I finished in 45 min 58 seconds, pleased with my time and with beating Iain after he’d “won” our last few 10k races.
One race done. One race won. A good start to the year.
“He felt a surge of ranxiety about tomorrow’s Nigel Barge 10k”
“His ranxiety increased throughout the week until he admitted defeat and watched four episodes of Making A Murderer in a row.”
I’ve retired from playing football two times. The first time I was 25, just returned from six months in London, and without a regular game of fives to join I chose to ‘retire’. Though I wasn’t so much retired as abandoned. I didn’t mind though, I just wanted to run and I concentrated on half-marathons (and eating cake) instead.
The second time I retired was when I was 34 and I’d snapped my ankle. I’d started playing again after a new game had started through work on an indoor pitch near my flat. After 18 months, I mistimed a tackle, snapped an ankle ligament and ended up in the Victoria Infirmary x-ray department. “12 weeks to heal” they said. 12 weeks later I walked out onto the pitch, ran scared from any tackles, then played on a further three months to show I’d overcome it. Then, I retired. This time, definitely, officially, over. Football is a stupid game, and people get hurt. People like me.
This time I retired until 18 months ago. A new job. A weekly game. A good chance to get to know the people I worked with. I’ve been playing regularly since then in a freezing cold shed in Falkirk and tonight I’ll swap a running session for a game of football. I know it’s not in the training program and I’ve got more chance of injuring myself but, despite retiring, I still like to play, just slower and with even less skill than when I was 25. Then home for some cake. I’ve never retired from cake.
“I am a half-lete”
I’m wonky. Officially.
After four weeks of pain from my lower back I went to see a physio today. Her description was short and to the point: “You’re wonky”, she said.
Of course, in my mind, I’m not wonky. I’m dying. It’s spine tumours. Its cancer. Its everything but the very reasonable explanation that I tweaked it training for Iron Man UK and I pulled it while out cycling round the Campsies in October.
I was cycling with Iain, my brother, when he got a puncture at the wrong side of the Trossachs. The Trossach are the hills that you can see to the north of Glasgow. The first wave you can see in the mountains that stretch broken like the sea all the way north towards the Highlands and home. The wrong side is the other side. Behind the crest of the wave and back down to a long road that flows along a gully from Killearn to Stirling. It’s a road filled with bumps, holes, and, most crucially, for this story, no mobile reception.
We’re about five miles from when my brother gets a puncture. We stop at a parking space and, while he tries to fix it, I read a poster tied to a pole. It asks if anyone has seen two cats who were “Out for a walk in the woods”. And I can’t help thinking: who takes cats out for a walk? Cats don’t walk. Cat’s don’t hike. Cats like to play hide and seek so, whatever you do, don’t take them for a walk in the woods.
While Iain manages to fix his bike we cycle on and he immediately gets another puncture. He only had spare tube with him. I have another but as he has deep section rims my tube won’t fit his wheel. He has no choice, he needs to walk because, and here’s the crucial bit of the story, this road, as it’s the wrong side of the Trossachs, has no mobile reception. He walks for three miles to Fintry, the nearest town, while I pedal slowly beside him trying to keep walking pace but upright at the same time. After an hour of balancing on pedals my back is sore but I don’t think anything of it, just ordinary tightness from being on the bike. A week later and its still sore. A month later and I admit that I’ve got a problem. I’ve not run except for one game of football a week, I’ve not been swimming and I’ve definitely not returned to the bike. I’m wonky.
I make an appointment and the physio confirms it. She prods my back and stomach, mentions tightness and things not moving as they should. She pulls my arms and shoulders. Puts pressure on my legs as I curl and uncurl on a massage table then she tells me to come back in two weeks for another session. It already feels better but she tells me to come back in two weeks for another session to check the muscles have become more flexible.