Trailfest Summer Solstice 15K (Iain)

I’ve only ran in Mugdock Country Park three times. The first time, I got lost. The second time, it rained. On my last visit, I got lost and it rained.

I have a reputation for attracting rain. I used to be a member of a walking group called Glasgow Young Walkers. Rain occurred so regularly on my walks that I received the nickname – the rainmaker.

I was reminded of this at the registration desk. One of the volunteers recognized me from my time in the club. She asked if I still went on walks.  Unfortunately, whilst I was on the committee of the group, I created a rule stating anyone over 40 was no longer young. So when I turned 40 I had to throw myself out of the club! I doubt my rain making skill is missed, all the walks are now dry and sunny.

As I registered I noticed that I was the only man registering. In fact, from my walk to the car to the desk I didn’t see a single male runner but numerous female runners.

I put it down to registering early and assumed the men were all waiting until the last moment to register.

Before the race started, the organizer gave us all a quick safety talk. I didn’t pay much attention to it until he said “There’s a prize for anyone who gets a selfie with a highland cow”

Unfortunately I did not spot any cows on the way round the course. My collection of selfies with animals will have to limit itself to a horse, a talking monkey, a cartoon cat and cookie eating rooster.

Race directors take note – This was a great idea from trailfest (unless someone had been mauled by a cow outraged at being photographed without first having a chance to put on makeup and brush their hair). I want to see more imagination in awarding prizes at races. Forget awarding the prize to the fastest. Anyone can do that. It just involves running allot. Award prizes to the best costume, the best on course photo, the laziest runner. Anything that make the event more fun!

During the race I was reminded how few men were on the course when at one point a marshal shouted at me “watch out the women are catching you!” I shouted back “I’m just pleased to be keeping up with them!”

 

Afterwards, I checked the results and there was 59 female runners and 39 men. The only other race I can think of that has more female runners than men is the Womans 10k. It is a great tribute to the organisers that the race attracts such a big turnout of women.

 

I have noticed trail races and ultras tend to attract a high number of female racers. I think it is because the events feel less competitive than a normal road race. I’d be interested to know what other people think the reason is.

 

Overall, It’s a great race. Very friendly, well marshalled and organized.

 

I didn’t even get lost the man in front of me got lost and that doesn’t count does it? I was just following him!

 

For more events check out https://trailfestscotland.com/

 

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Stornoway Half Marathon (Iain)

There are many ways someone can start runners at the beginning of a race.

There’s the classic countdown – “3, 2, 1, GO!”

There’s the false start – “3, 2, 1, WOAAAHH!!”

And then there’s the “3, 2, 1… WTF! IS THAT DONALD TRUMP?”

The Donald was here because his mum came from a small village near Stornoway. A generation later he made it to Washington and now he’s in charge of the free world. My mum also left a small village near Stornoway but a generation later I’ve only made it to Glasgow and all I’m in charge of is a cat.  Note to self: must try harder!

It’s a pity it wasn’t the real Donald Trump. I’d like to have heard him address the runners in his own inimitable style.

“This years race is THE greatest running event Stornoway has ever seen. We’re going to make allot of runners happy today. Believe me!

Crooked Hillary was asked to start the race but she was too busy. SAD!

Lets make runners great again…..3,1, start!!! What do you mean I didn’t say 2? I said 2. Anyone who claims I did not say 2 is a liar. Fake news!”

My first attempt at this race was in 2002. I came top of my age group….by being the only person in my age group. Unfortunately, the organizers realized I was the only one taking part, they didn’t award a prize.

I remember 2002 was a very sunny day. It was the hottest I’d ever felt whilst running this race…until this year. It must have been 22/23C at the start of the race. I wouldn’t normally advocate running “taps aff” but I thought about it, until I wondered where would my race number go? Maybe that’s why men pierce their nipples – to hang race numbers from!

I felt good on the way round. It’s a great course. There’s always something to see – nice views out to sea, nice tracks over to the airport and a beautiful second half of the course running through a forrest in the castle grounds. Afterwards I didn’t feel great. I think the sun got to me. I had to have a lie down till I felt better. What is it they say about the midday sun? Only mad dogs and runners go out in it!

I didn’t win my age group but I did finish almost the exact same position as 2002. After 18 years of running I’m just as bad as the day I started 🙂

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My first race (Iain)

The first race I ever entered was the Glasgow Half Marathon in 2001. I recently tried to find my result but all I found was a paragraph in the then Glasgow Herald:

“Congratulations to the 7,625 runners who completed the race. Results will be available in Glasgow libraries from Friday.”

Imagine entering a race now in which you only got your result a week later in a library.

For any kids reading this. Libraries are like a Kindle but in brick form.

When we were young Andrew and I would go to the local library in the morning to get a book each. We’d read the book in the afternoon and then return to the library to get another book to read in the evening.

Yes – we were the cool kids in school.

Myself, Andrew and one of his friends had entered the race. Andrew’s friend arrived at the start wearing a backpack that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a Sherpa climbing Everest.

“Are you off to climb a Munro?” I joked.

The Sherpa didn’t laugh.

“No. I brought the backpack to carry my juice.” He pulled out a two litre bottle of orange.

I stared at it and said: “’You do know you get water on the course? You don’t need to bring your own.”

He looked at me like I was an idiot. “Of course I know that. That’s why I brought diluting juice!” He’d brought a two litre bottle of Robinson’s diluting orange juice.

How much juice can a man drink!? He either gets very thirsty or he was planning to open an orange juice stall.

The race started.

Someone from the crowd spotted the Sherpa and shouted, “are you off to climb a Munro?”

He didn’t laugh.

30 seconds later a woman from the crowd shouted, “are you off to climb a Munro?” This was going to be a long day…

My race was uneventful until I got to the nine mile point. I wanted to beat the other two. I looked at them. They weren’t paying attention so I started running as fast as I could. I’d run fast until I got to the finish line.

I ran hard. I saw the 10 mile sign in the distance. Not far to go now. One last push…I ran hard. I looked for the finish line…but there was no finish line. At this point I realised a half marathon is half a marathon and not, as I mistakenly thought, 10 miles.

I felt a bit stupid and the fast run had tired me out. I had to walk. The other two caught up with me.

“Why did you run off?” Asked Andrew.

I told them the truth…sort of.

“I was desperate for the loo….ummm…yes…that’s why.”

They continued running. I walked the last three miles until I got to the finish. I met Andrew and the Sherpa. The Sherpa offered me some juice. I said yes

He opened his bag to get it but pulled out a pair of boxing gloves.

WTF!!! Said the expression on my face. “Why did you run with them?”

“This is my boxing bag. Where else would I keep them?”

I had to admire his logic.

I’ve never seen him again since that day.

Balfron 10K (Andrew)

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I left my legs in Wanlockhead.

On Saturday, it was a beautiful day and we went to Wanlockhead – the highest village in Scotland – for a 40 mile cycle down through the Menock pass and back via Drumlanrig Castle and Elvenfoot before climbing to the top of the radar station.

Before we started, we parked in the centre of the village. A smiling man with an old large rucksack approached.

“Are you here to open the shop?”

We explained we were cycling.

“Oh, my bus leaves in 10 minutes and I need to buy my licence.”

“You need a licence for the bus?”

“No, I need a licence from the land owner as I’m here to find GOLD!”

Which was not what I was expecting to hear at 9am on a Saturday morning when (a) we’re not in California; and (b) it’s not the nineteenth century!

“How do you find gold?”

He opened his rucksack and then showed me a tube that was used to collect gravel from the bottom of riverbeds. He showed me a large plastic tray with grooves where the lighter soil would be washed away but the heavier gold would be caught in the grooves. Then he showed me his pan where he gently washed the last of the gravel leaving behind the millions and millions of pounds of GOLD!

“Do you find much?”

“I usually find a few specks the size of a grain of salt.”

Really?!? I looked round to see his Rolls Royce.

“And how much is that worth?”

“Nothing really, not even a pound, but it’s FUN!”

I didn’t want to hear about fun. I wanted to hear about making millions just washing gravel. But despite, as I found out later, Wanlockhead being known as ‘God’s Treasure House in Scotland’ due to the abundance of minerals found in the area, there’s not a lot of gold in them there hills.

In fact, the licence was £5 (I checked) and if it was possible to make more money panning for gold than selling licences for £5 then you can bet the land owner wouldn’t be selling licences for £5.

Despite the small chance of striking riches, as we cycled round I began to see that all the people I’d previously thought were  fishing were actually panning for gold instead. It seems that gold fever is alive and well and can be found in Wanlockhead.

Gold though was the last thing on my mind on Sunday at the Balfron 10k. Iain’s already described the race (see here). I can only add that it was the first time that I’d taken part and I can confirm that it was hilly and that every down hill seemed to lead to an ever longer uphill.

It was either that or my legs were still tired from cycling round Wanlockhead and every kilometre felt like a struggle today.

The race though is very well organised and has a good turnout of runners. And if you’re chasing a fastest 1K time on Strava then I can recommend the first 1K. A downhill so steep it can only be described with one word: “Geronimo!”

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Balfron 10K (Iain)

The Balfron 10k is an ‘out and back’ course. Excuse my mansplaining but I’m going to state the obvious – an ‘out and back’ course means you go out and then come back on the same course.

I assume all runners understand that… except one man.

The first half of the Balfron 10k is an undulating farm road. When I wasn’t running up a hill,  I was running down a hill. The second half of the race is on exactly the same road as the out section (except for a short bit at the end)

I got to the turnaround point and I mentally prepared myself to run up and down the hills again. The man behind hadn’t prepared himself. He turned round and said:

“Who put that hill here?”

How could you forget. You were just on it! Have you got the memory capacity of a goldfish?

He screamed “aaaarghh” and fell into step running just behind me.

We came to another hill. I know because he said

“Why is there another hill here?”

Because we ran it on the way out!

He screamed “aaargh” again. and continued running just behind me.

We came to the last hill. I know because he said “Fuck off hill!” and then screamed “come on!”

At this point he ran past me. I noticed he had headphones on. His music was loud. Why is he talking to himself whilst simultaneously blocking all noise! Is it rude to wear headphones when you are talking to yourself? Does he turn to himself and say “You’re not even listening. You’re too busy listening to music!”

I got round in 45:42.  I was happy with my time as (a) it was was faster than Andrew; (b) it was faster than last year; and (c) I got home in time for lunch.

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Don’t be dull (Iain)

The phrase “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” famously featured in the film The Shining. I thought the phrase was written for the film/book but it was actually first used in a book by James Howel in 1659. Little is known about James other than he worked with a man called Jack who was boring as f**k!

The phrase is equally true when applied to sport. Some people can be so obsessed with their running/biking or yoga that they have no other interests.

I know because I have been that boring bastard.

Back in 2012 I took part in the annual L’etape du Tour bike sportive. A race that allows amateur cyclists to ride a closed road stage of the Tour de France. It was my ultimate bike race. The one I needed to do over any other.

I became obsessed with race to the detriment of any other interest. I trained every weekend, I read everything there was to read about it.

I did the race and then….I became depressed.

I’d done my life cycling goal. Do I do it again? Do I do it faster? What next?

I thought maybe a different race is what I needed so I researched other big races. None of which excited me. I was still depressed.

Then I realized it. I wasn’t depressed. I was bored of myself. I’d become a one dimensional person. I was a biker but nothing else.

If I was bored of myself then Christ knows what anyone else thought of me!

So I vowed from that moment on to always vary my interests. For every sporting hobby, I have to have a non-sporting hobby too.

Since then I’ve tried stand up comedy (badly), acting (badly) and painting (badly)

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My art tutor taught me how to paint fruit and how to paint people so he shouldn’t have been surprised when my graduation piece ended up being a fruit that looks like a person!

Both my girlfriend and Andrew’s had nightmares after seeing what I’ve entitled – Lemon Maradonna. Which makes me slightly proud. At least its not dull.

The Didnae-try-athlon (Iain)

There are many different types of triathlon event. The regular one is the swim/bike/run format but there is also:

The Wanderlust (https://wanderlust.com/gbr/) – A 5K run followed by a 90 minute yoga session and a 30 minute meditation. I’d spend the 30 minutes meditation thinking: “When can I leave?”

The Macnab (http://www.macnabchallenge.co.uk/) – A triathlon for the hunting/shooting set. It’s so posh it should be called ‘Downtonman’. To achieve a Maacnab you have to shoot a deer and a brace of grouse and catch a salmon on the same estate in a 24-hour period. If you’ve done a Macnab then shame on you. You’ve killed Bambi.

The Didnae-try-athlon – Everyone has one of these. An event you entered, you had high hopes for but, on the day, you just did-nae try.

My didnae-try-athlon was the 2008 Rat Race. This was a combination of orienteering, mountain biking, climbing and canoeing.

I did it in a team of three. None of us had ever done an adventure race. We were not well prepared. One friend had a bad back, one had a broken bike and I had a terrible hangover from an after work drinking session.

The first part of the race involved a bike ride to an office block. We had to abseil down the side of the office. This sounded good but, in reality, it was a short bike ride then a long wait in a queue for the 60 seconds it took to abseil down.

We then biked to the next point where we had to climb down a rock face. This again sounded good but, in reality, it was another short bike ride and another long wait for a very short climb.

I asked the organizer of the event what would happen if we skipped the task.

He said “Your team gets a 15 minute penalty.”

“Is that the same for all tasks?”

“Yes,” he confirmed.

The next task was four miles away. A 15 minute penalty was much less than the time it would take to get there and do the task. If we missed out all the remaining tasks it would only be a penalty of a couple of hours. That would have been much less time than it would take to do them all.

I conferred with my team. Should we just go straight to the finish and win this? Even with penalties we’d be hours ahead of anyone else.  They thought this was a great idea so we went straight there… via the pub.

After a delicious burger/pint and dessert we made it to finish.

I’d like to say the organizers were pleased to greet ‘the winners’. They weren’t. They didn’t think what we were doing was sportsmanlike. I’d argue that it wasn’t our fault their rules allowed this to happen! We were disqualified.

After the organizers had finished being annoyed with us, a camera crew came over. “Are you the winners of the race? We’re here from Brazilian TV” To this day I have no idea why Brazilian TV was at an event in Edinburgh.

I owned up and said “Sorry, no. You’ll have to wait a while for them. They won’t be here for a few more hours”.

The Brazilian TV presenter looked unhappy and said “We need to leave now. Can we just interview you anyway?”

I like to think millions of Brazillians saw my interviw where I said: “It was good race. I’m pleased with our victory especially as we didnae try”.

And they all turned to each other and went “what the f%&K word is didnae?”

Tokyo Marathon 2008 (Iain)

Last weekend saw the 11th running of the Tokyo Marathon. It’s one of the “big six” world marathons.

  • Tokyo Marathon
  • Boston Marathon
  • London Marathon
  • Berlin Marathon.
  • Chicago Marathon
  • New York City Marathon

Its also one of the worlds most boring races!

In fairness – I find all marathons boring but surprisingly, for a man who hates long runs, I have done quite a few of them.

The first one, I didn’t actually enter. Andrew had trained for months to do the 2003 Edinburgh Marathon. This was when the marathon ran through Edinburgh rather than its modern incarnation which heads away from the city to Musselburgh. It should really be called the run away from Edinburgh marathon.

He was supposed to run it with his friend but his friend got the flu before the race. Andrew asked if I’d do it instead. I had done no training. I did some last minute cramming to get fit but blew it all by drinking until 3am the night before the race!

6465684683_63aab8016d_oThis picture does not do justice to how hungover I was feeling. On a drinks consumed scale I was somewhere between George Best and Oliver Reed.

If you look closely you will see a mobile phone in my right hand. I’d promised to phone my mum to let her know how it was going. I bet Mo Farah doesn’t do that.

I lasted until the 14 mile point then gave in. I took my number off and jumped on a bus to the finish.

My next race was the Berlin Marathon. This time I didn’t get drunk. I didn’t even make it to Berlin.

I suffer from a fear-of-flying-itis. I got a really bad dose of it and didn’t make it onto the plane.

My next attempt was a marathon in Fort William. It was 13 miles out then 13 mile back. I did the 13 miles out and then jumped in a car for the way back!

Did I mention I don’t like long runs.

Which is why you might ask how I ended up in Tokyo doing a marathon that going by previous records I’d be unlikely to finish. I was actually out visiting an ex-flatmate who worked there. We both thought it would be a good idea to time it with the marathon. It was only the second time the race had been run.

I can’t remember if I did much training for it which I think means I didn’t do much.

The race itself was very boring. Tokyo is a great city but its very modern. The route was up and down straight roads passed identical office/housing blocks. 26 identical miles is pretty dull.

The only thing that livened up the race was trying to work out what to eat and drink at the feed stops. Everything was in Japanese. I’d pick something that looked tasty only to discover it tasted disgusting!

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The day after the race I went snow boarding. My friend had recommended it as Japan has great snow and slopes. Which was lost on me as I’d never ski’d or boarded before.

On my first morning I went to the children’s slope to practice. I stood on the board. Slid down the hill and promptly fell over. Whilst falling I managed to accidentally punch myself in the chest, cracking a rib.

So my abiding memory of japan is a boring run and an incredibly painful 4 days of snow boarding.

I’ve never been on a board since or done a marathon!

 

 

 

 

Glentress Trail 21K (Andrew)

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“Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance” is referred to by the British Army as the ‘seven P’s’.

Let me add another P. Prior Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

You might say ‘prior’ is implied by ‘proper’ but, after the Glentress Trail Half Marathon, I want to emphasise how important it is to plan things in advance.

Not that I’m very good at that. I change route and distance mid-run depending on how I feel and whether I ran down a particular street before or “Oh, what’s that over there?”. Which makes runs more interesting but it doesn’t help me prepare for races where running a route is part of the whole challenge.

Perhaps I should take up orienteering but, the only time I met an orienteer, he patiently (and in depth) explained why and how he adjusted the stitching of his shoes to craft a pair of trainers that were better suited to run on an incline. No sport should require a detailed knowledge of cross stitching. Orienteering is just fast rambling with embroidery.

I thought I’d prepared for Glentress. I’d checked the weather – a perfect dry, if cold, day after a week of dry cold days guaranteeing a mud free run – and I’d checked the pre-race information for recommended kit and brought it all with me in case there was an inspection.

I even checked Iain’s Strava profile for the race from November. And, from that, I worked out that it would be six miles of climbing and six miles of descending. The profile almost looked like a pyramid.

So, mile 1, with ankles stiff and complaining as they failed to warm up while running up hill, I started to count the miles in my head as my Garmin beeped them off.

Mile 1 done. Okay, only five miles of climbing to go.

Mile 2. Some flats. Free speed. Only four miles to go.

By mile 10, when I was thinking, “What another false summit?!?”, Iain finally admitted something he’d suspected from mile 2. It was a different route!

Instead of six miles up and six miles down it was over 10 miles up (with some flats) and then a legs flailing, almost falling two mile descent back to the start.

Of course, if I was a soldier, the seven P’s would have told me to read the website course and not rely on Iain’s previous route. If I’d checked the website I’d have spotted it was a different course.

That’s why I add the eighth P. There’ no point figuring out where you went wrong halfway up a hill on mile 10 –  checking is essential!

The race itself is tough – did I mention the 10 miles of climbing? – but an excellent and varied route through the mountain bike trails of Glentress. There’s also a 10k and a marathon option (twice round) if you fancy a different challenge.

Kirkintilloch 12.5K 2018 (Andrew)

There are two types of runners. There are runners who park beside the start line and then there’s runners who park on Mars – to give themselves a bit more of a challenge by running 55 million kilometres as ‘warm up’.

I’m a runner who parks beside the start line. If I had a choice, I’d park on the start line. Warming up is just wasted energy after all. Why run before you need to run?!?

Now, some people – coaches, athletes and professionals – will tell you that warming up is an essential part of the whole running experience. If you don’t warm up then your muscles are cold and stiff and more likely to break. But those people – those experts – have clearly never had warm up in Scotland in January when it’s cold and wet and miserable and the thought of spending 30 seconds stretching each hamstring is as enticing as sharing a hot tub with Donald Trump.

Scotland is not a country for warming up. It’s a country for running as fast as you can out your front door until you run as fast as you can back in your front door and straight into a hot shower.

Which is what I wanted to do after Kirkintilloch 12.5K.

The Kirkintilloch 12.5 is a hilly circuit around the edge of Kirkintilloch on mostly old farm roads. It’s also one of the most exposed races with the top of every hill giving the freezing cold winds a good 50 mile standing start to breeze right through you.

It also doesn’t help that there’s very few car parking spaces near the start so, before the race, there was also a battle between the runners who like to park next to the start line to actually park next to the start line. Most failed.

We saw quite a few running a mile along the road from the centre of Kirkintilloch to the edge of the town, where the race started.

Luckily, we found a spot on a side street not far from the start as otherwise who knows what might have happened if we’d had to run before we ran. (We’d have probably run round faster as we were warmed up but that’s beside the point!)

The race itself featured a cold wind, some ice on the side of the road and a Penguin biscuit at the finish line. It also had a few sharp wee hills and a couple of longer drags. The good thing though is that the hill you race up at the start is also the hill you race down at the end. At which point we could see people cooling down.

Don’t get me started on cooling down. It’s Scotland. In Scotland, if you cool down any further you’ll turn into Frosty the Snowman.

Instead, don’t warm up, never cool, just park near the finish line, you know it makes sense.