A couple of weeks ago I attended a training course in Paisley. It wasn’t a very exciting course but one afternoon my tutor received a phone call.
“Hello….what…who is this?” He said into his phone.
I assumed it a local Garage. He’d told me earlier in the day that he’d put his car in for a MOT.
“OK…great…23,637 pounds and 17 pence?”
OMG! What the WTF had he done to his car that he had to pay that amount of money for an MOT?
His face went bright red and he said
“….is this a windup? Really??? Oh my god. I don’t believe it”
It wasn’t the garage. He’d just won £23,647 and 17 pence on a radio show by answering his phone and telling them the prize figure they’d revealed on the breakfast show.
Unsurprisingly, for the rest of the afternoon, he struggled to concentrate on the course!
I had only been to Paisley once before. It was in the evening in winter. It was dark and I couldn’t see anything. Paisley does not have a great reputation so some might argue not seeing it was a good thing.
I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Paisley. I walked from the train station to the training centre and I was surprised by how nice the buildings in the town centre are. At one point on my walk, I passed a man. He greeted me warmly with “What the fuck are you looking at?” I wanted to say “the neo-classical and Georgian period architecture” but instead i just walked on very quickly and didn’t look back.
When is a 50k race not a 50k race? When it’s the John Muir Trail Ultramarathon. I pressed stop on my GPS watch as I crossed the finish line. It said I’d only done 49.8K!
It says a lot about how hard the race was (for me) that I had absolutely no desire to walk another 200 metres to get the distance to 50k.
My pre-race aim was to run the first 30km, run/walk the next 10km and for the last 10km just do whatever it took to finish under six hours.
0K to 6K
A marathon is 44k. This ultramarathon is 50k. My first goal was to do 6k to get to the point there was only a marathon left to do. My reasoning was that I could then tick off that I’d done the ultra bit.
This section was mostly beach trail. it was a little congested with little room for overtaking which was a good thing. It meant I could settle into a nice steady slow pace.
After a couple of kilometres I regretted my choice of clothing. I had a waterproof jacket and a beanie on but it was too warm for them.
Which made me thankful my next goal was only at the 8k point
5K to 8K
Nic’s sister has just moved to Aberlady (the 8k point) and she promised to come to support us. Nic’s parents and sister would be there too as they’d popped over from Glasgow to offer support and see the new house.
I dropped off my jacket and beanie with them. I immediately felt cooler. I won’t need those items again…
8K to 15K.
A nice section through the fields near Gullane. It was relatively flat and easy running but as we exited Gullane the sky darkened and the rain began.
A lot of people have trouble pronouncing Gullane correctly but its very easy. Just say “that town with the weird name next to Aberlady” Everyone will know where you mean.
15K to 25K
The rain had made me COLD, WET AND MISERABLE. I regretted not having my jacket and beanie.
The rain wasn’t heavy but it was pretty relentless. The route passed nice sections of forest around Archerfield Estate. The estate had a great food stop. I had a chocolate brownie. Delicious!
As we approached North Berwick there was a few tiny hills. Hills that normally I wouldn’t even call a hill. Most people would call them slight bump in the road. I looked at Nic. She looked at me. We both said “Walk the hills!”
It was a relief to get to the half way point. Mainly becasue it had a roof so we could get out of the rain for a few minutes. Nic’s parents were here so I thankfully got my jacket and beanie back.
I had another chocolate brownie and to be healthy I also had a Twix. Its vegetarian so it must be healthy! Correct???
They say you should race on what you train on. I eat Twix’s the rest of the week so I might as well eat them on race day too!
25K to 30K
I felt great after the stop. This lasted about 100m when I got told by a marshal to run on the beach. It was a heavy thick sand which made my legs feel very heavy but at least I had a jacket and beanie.
And then the rain stopped!
After the beach it’s uphill past North Berwick Law. Again it wasn’t that hilly and normally I wouldn’t think twice about running it but we still turned to each other and said “walk the hills!”
30K to 35K
We headed into a nice forest section which looped round a small loch. At this point Nic suddenly got a second wind and started to run much faster than me.
I did what any proud husband would do when seeing how well his wife is doing. I screamed “Woaaah! Slow down. I can’t keep up!”
She slowed down a little but stayed about 100m ahead of me. Taunting me with her pace and ease of running.
At one point I spotted some gravestones in the trees. I thought “That’s a strange place to be buried” but I then noticed the names of the graves – Mr Tiddles III, Dwayne Mousecatcher II and Rex. I hope it was a pet cemetry and not real people.
35K to 40K
This section was slightly downhill through fields. It seemed to be a new path as the track and fencing seemed new. We bumped into our suppoirt team again so I was able to remove my jacket again and get another Twix. You can never have too many Twix’s.
40K to 44K
There’s one hill in this section. Again its minor but definitely a “walk the hills” moment.
My legs were sore and tired. I was happy I’d ran 40k but I now switched to walking a couple of 100m every time I completed a kilometer.
Up till this point I’d high fived Nic every time we had reached a goal. I told her the next goal was 44k: the marathon end point.
At 43K she asked for a high five. I refused! I don’t give out high five at any time. Does Paul Hollywood from The Great British Bakeoff gave out one of his Hollywood handshakes before the bake is complete? NO! He gives them once the job is done. I made her wait until 44k and then we had a congratulatory high five!
44K to 49.8K
The sun was out and it was quite warm on the course. This was a really nice section along a river and then along the shore near a beach.
Nic said her knee was sore so she wasn’t going to run anymore. I was quite happy about that so we enjoyed a nice paced walk to the finish.
Occasionally a runner would pass and would say “Sorry! I’m just a relay runner!” to explain why they looked so fresh when we didn’t.
I finished in just under six hours so I was happy that a) I’d achieved my goal time and b) I’d actually run further than I thought I would.
It’s a great race. The route is varied. I never once felt bored running. The marshals are all friendly and supportive. The foodstops were great and came along at just the right time.
I learnt allot for my attempt at the Devil O’ The Highlands later in the year. Mainly remember to bring a Twix.
It wasn’t a good start. I was in the back of a taxi and having to point out to the driver that he was driving away from where we need to go. “Are you sure Clydebank is not back this way”, I pointed. He took one look at the sign saying “Clydebank” behind us and said: “I don’t know that way”. I asked if he was following his satnav and he added “Never use it – it gets things wrong all the time!”.
Given I had been tracking him on an app as he approached the house and I could see he’d missed the road, done a u-turn, missed the road again, got caught in a one way system and had parked for 5 minutes in a laybay (I assume to try and work out where he was going), he maybe wasn’t one to judge others on directions. Never mind criticise the location prowess of multiple geo-stationary satellites and the software calculations of Google.
“Can you just turn round and I’ll tell you where to go?”
“We’re going the fastest way,” he said.
“You won’t get there any faster,” he claimed.
“But if you insist…”
And 10 minutes later we were in Clydebank for the start of the race and not in Hamilton, which is where we would have gone because ‘that’s the way he knew!’.
On the way over, between giving directions, I could see the weather was turning. Grey clouds were turning black. A few spots of rain became a shower became a powerwash from heaven.
By the time I left the taxi, I was soaked through just spending 30 seconds looking round for Iain.
He wasn’t there.
Hardly, anyone was there.
I phoned him.
“Are you in the car park?”
“No, you’re not. I’m here and I can’t see you.”
Then he asked if I was in the right car park as the race start had moved from the old sports centre to the new one.
Turns out my taxi driver wasn’t the only one with no idea of where he was going…
The Balloch to Clydebank half marathon should be called the Clydebank to Balloch to Clydebank half marathon as you start in Clydebank, the finish line, by jumping on a bus which takes you to the start at Loch Lomond shores in Balloch.
This year it might also have taken you back to the start because, as we drove up, the rain turned to snow, and you could see it start to cover the pavements. When we arrived, the driver was told to wait, in case the race was cancelled.
I thought it would be cancelled. The snow was heavy and I couldn’t imagine either runners racing on it or volunteers standing outside. I didn’t think it was safe. I was wrong. And right.
I was wrong that it would be cancelled. The race went ahead but with the option for people to jump on the bus and return to the start. But I’m not sure it was safe. There’s was a lot of snow and slush on the pavements and runners moved onto the road at points to run through Bowling and Clydebank.
While the roads were quiet, there were cars and buses driving behind them and I heard a few frustrated honks from the drivers.
The race itself was a challenge to remain warm and comfortable as the weather changed from snow to rain to dry spells to rain again.
Knowing that it might rain I’d just worn shorts and not leggings. My theory is that leggings don’t help in the rain. They just get wet, then your legs get cold as leggings cool you down. You’re better off with just your hairy legs – nature’s leggings! – when it rains.
I don’t know if this is true though but for half the race I congratulated myself on my choice as the water dried from my legs during the dry spells, and the other half of the race cursing my choice as everyone else looked like they were running as a happy as runner with toasters strapped to their thighs.
You can’t call the race scenic. There’s a few nice spots, mostly at the start as we run along the canal from Balloch, but most of the race is through housing or industrial estates. It does though have the advantage of feeling like you’re running downhill as there’s very few climbs, or even gentle inclines, and there’s a few long stretches when you run downhill.
But at least the finish line is scenic. If you like skips and bins. 🙂
Last year, about a week after the Glentress Half Marathon, the Beast from the East arrived and covered Scotland in snow. There were some signs of the Beast when we ran Glentress: some small snow banks at the side of trails, in the shadows of sheltered hollows and in the patches of ice where the snow had melted and the run off and frozen over across the paths.
This year, Glentress was completely different. It was 15 degrees and my first mistake was to wear a running jacket (though it’s obligatory to carry one). I was boiling. Yet, despite that, I kept mine own even when others had discarded there’s – and their t-shirt. Around mile seven a topless man ran passed. ‘Taps aff’ in February, that’s how warm it was. But, since he was still carrying a rucksack I can only imagine it was ‘nips aff’ too as no t-shirt meant no protection from rubbing and chafing across your chest. Ouch!
He wasn’t the only one wanting people to focus on their chest. A number of runners wore t-shirts with ‘Vegan Runner’ written across it. To change an old joke, how do you know if a runner is a vegan? Just wait and they’ll show you on their chest!
For my next race, I’m going to get a t-shirt which says ‘Sausage Runner’ but, to change the same joke again. How you know if a runner loves a sausage? Just wait and look at their stomach!
I tried to be a vegetarian once. It lasted four years. Until, one day, someone told me that pepperoni was a meat and not a pepper and I realised that I’d been a vegetarian for maybe one or two weeks at a time at most. D’oh!
The Glentress Trail half marathon also doesn’t love up to it’s billing. Just as I wasn’t a vegetarian, so the Glentress Trail is not a half marathon despite it being called a half marathon. It’s just over 12.5 miles long. But, if you include vertical distance then it makes up the numbers easily because this is a long, long climb.
The first 100 metres are downhill (which is a horrible kick up on the return to the finish line) then it’s a constant climb for nearly nine miles before an undulating descent for 2 miles and a sheer arm twirling-just-let-go and run final mile.
The race is varied. With sections on the wide fire roads, others on trails sneaking through the forest, bars of light slanting from the low lying early Spring sun like lunar finish lines across the path, to mossy moorland with fantastic views across the tweed valley.
It’s a cracking race, though you do need to prepare to run nine miles uphill – and for all weather conditions, even, some times, if you’re lucky, sunshine and a warm breeze.
I studied maths at University. I didn’t want to, but I had no choice – it was a compulsory part of my computing degree.
I remember one exam where I completed all the questions and included all my working out. I was confident I had done well. The paper was marked and returned to me. On the front page it said “0/30 – this shows no knowledge of math’s whatsoever!”
The man who measures the Glentress Trail half marathon must be as good at maths as I am because, although it’s called a half marathon, it’s not half. Its half-ish and comes in short at 12.5 miles. Thankfully it quality over quantity because it is a beautiful route.
I’m not the only person who thinks it’s beautiful. As I got to the top of a hill a man behind me (who had a very loud voice) said/shouted:
“THIS IS BEAUTIFUL!”
Yes, it is. Thanks for pointing it out. Then 10 seconds later…
“WHAT A VIEW”
Thanks again. I definitely would not have noticed unless you
had said something. Then ten seconds later…
It still is. it hasn’t changed since 10 seconds ago! Then 10 seconds later…
Please be quiet! Then 10 seconds later…
Did someone buy him a thesaurus for Christmas!
Then 10 seconds later….SILENCE. Thankfully, he must have run out of words. His thesaurus must be the abridged version. I took in the view and enjoyed the peace and quiet until he boomed ”THIS IS BEAUTIFUL!” Then 10 seconds later….”WHAT A VIEW!” He must have been stuck on a loop.
At this point I slowed down and let him run on ahead as I couldn’t bear listening to him holler for the whole race about how beautiful the course was.
I wonder how his wife puts up with it: she must serve him diner and then he’ll start going “THIS IS DELICOUS….TASTY….MMMM MMMM MMMM…SCRUMMY…DELICIOUS…”
I do have a couple of complaints about the race. A lack of toilets despite the marked increase in the number of competitors since last year. There has been no increase in the number of toilets. There are two at the car park and two near the start. I saw a queue of 15 people still waiting to use the loo just five minutes before the race was due to start.
Secondly, don’t have the registeration for the 10K and the half marathon inside a busy café. It always causes a big queue of people who are confused about whether they are queuing for a race or to buy a scone.
The race itself is excellent. The weather was a very unseasonable 15C. It was so hot that I spotted one man running the course “taps aff.” Its not often you see a half naked man on a mountain in Scotland in February. Even rarer to see a man “taps aff” who’s not carrying a can of beer!
I was happy with my race. I was quicker than last year and felt good and fit all the way round.
Most folk know the story of why a marathon is 26.2 miles. In 1908, the organisers of the London Olympics had planned a 26 mile race but, at the last minute, Queen Alexandra asked them to move the start to the gardens of Windsor Castle so the royals could see the race begin and the end to right in front of the royal box so they could see the winner cross the line. That added an extra point two to the race.
Not that 26 miles was the right distance to begin with. The marathon was first run in the 1896 Olympic Games in Greece in honour of the myth of Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens to deliver the good news of an improbable Greek victory over the Persian army.
Pheidippides ran the entire 25 miles from Marathon to Athens. After he announced ‘Victory!’ to the awaiting Greeks, he collapsed from exhaustion and died. Probably because he forgot to wear any clothes. Or trainers.
So, the 1896 race became the Marathon in honour of the town and the distance was set at 25 miles to replicate his achievement. Before it then became 26 miles – presumably because no one died the next time they ran it and they wanted to keep making it longer until someone did. Sadists! Thank the lord for Queen Alexandra putting a stop to it all!
(This explanation may not be true but, as I can’t find any other reason, it’s as good as any!)
Last week we ran the Kirkintilloch 12k, which isn’t a 10k and presumably has an equally inspiring story of why they’ve added an extra point two to the race. Except… I can’t find one. So, I’m just going to make it up.
The Kirkintilloch 12k used to be 10k after Shug McGlinty ran between Cumbernauld and Kirkintilloch to celebrate Clyde FC finally winning a match against East Stirling. Just like Pheidippides he was stark naked and, just like him again, he died when he reached the end because, well, Scotland in February. I don’t go out without at least a scarf, gloves, woolly jumper, bobble hat and a three bar heater.
The original route was 10k but, when they ran the race for the first time, Queen Elizabeth lived in a semi detached beside the finish line and she wanted to see the winner while she prepared toast for Prince Philip in the morning.
Hence, the Kirkintilloch 10k became the Kirkintilloch 12k and we have a unique race on the Scottish running scene.
Or, if you don’t believe that story, here’s another one: just try running it. The Kirkintilloch 12k has 12 hills in 12 kilometres, which is clearly 11 too many. However, it is well named, with its extra point two, because it does make you feel like you’ve run a marathon as, just like Pheidippides, you’ll want to keel over at the end! 🙂
When you run, do you stare at other runner’s bums?
It’s quite hard not to stare at arses, unless you have a perfect upright running style. I run slightly stooped forward in a way which naturally brings my gaze to tush level.
I thought about this when I saw a photo of myself from the race.
I don’t know who the man in the white t-shirt is but I ran with him for about 15 minutes. I hadn’t seen his face until now. He was slightly quicker than me so I spent all that time just a couple of meters behind him in a perfect eye to posterior running form.
I was with him for a quarter of the race but, if I was asked to pick him out of a police line up, then I’d have to ask him to turn around. It’s only his bahookie that I’d recognize. I suspect my butt to face ratio in a race is at least nine butts for every one face I see.
Kirkintiloch is the perfect place to discuss derriere’s because the town is known as the Canal capital of Scotland. Why does that make it a bun friendly town? Because people paint over the C in canal…
Kirkintilloch 12.5k is an “undulating” course – 12 hills in 12 KM. I prefer to call it a course with 12 downhills in 12 KM’s. That sounds less fearsome. Similarly, Mount Everest sounds better when described as a long walk down.
It was a the fourth time I’ve raced it and this year I got a course PB. I was ill on Friday so I’m not sure if the PB is due to fitness or the amount of drugs I consumed on the Saturday to get better.
I suspect it was the weather that really helped. Every other year has seen ice on the course. This year there was none. I could finally run the downhills without the fear of slipping and falling over.
The FoxTrail winter series is a running series based in and near Dunbar in East Lothian. The six race series ranges in distance from 5K to half marathon distance.
I love East Lothian for the sandy beaches, the beautiful weather (it’s always sunny when I visit) and the nachos. Yes – I said nachos. The Old Course pub in Gullane http://www.oldclubhouse.com/ does the best nachos in Scotland and believe me I’ve eaten a lot of nachos in Scotland…which may explain my deteriorating athletic performances in recent years.
I’d promised Nic I’d try to be vegetarian this year. I’d managed all of January but, as soon as I got to the clubhouse, I forgot all about it and I ordered chicken nachos. it was only once I’d finished eating them that I realized what I’d done! It was very tasty though….
Andrew was supposed to be doing the race but he pulled out on Friday night. He said he’d been looking at the course and noticed their was a river crossing. The temperature was due to be 1C. He claimed that “a river crossing at that temperature is dangerous. I’m not doing it!”
I’ll let you judge the river crossing for yourself (see the video below) before you make a judgement on what a big scaredy cat Andrew is. I’ve seen jellyfish with more backbone than Andrew!
The start of the race was near a field of animals that looked like this
Which led to two runners having an argument on the starting line:
Runner 1 – It was a llama Runner 2 – It was an alpaca! Runner 1 – No! It was a llama!! Runner 2 – Look mate! If there’s one thing I know, it’s alpacas. It’s a fucking alpaca! Runner 1 – Fuck off! It’s a llama. You’re talking out your arse. Runner 2 – Stick the llama up your arse!!
It was an alpaca. I know this because I googled it after the race. I now know more about llamas and alpaca’s than I ever wanted to know. Did you know llamas are vegetarians ? Although I bet they’d make an exception if they saw how good my chicken nachos were.
The race itself was a good mix of trail, farmland and beach. The weather was cold which meant there was no mud and the tracks were all easily runnable. I felt good at the end of the race and I was happy I hadn’t lost much fitness after my long Indian vacation.
On the way home I reflected on the day. One question kept coming to me – I wonder if llama nachos would be tasty?
I sometimes go to the cinema by myself because Nic thinks my film choices sound awful. For example she said no to Bumblebee – a film about a Volkswagen beetle that becomes a robot. How could that possibly sound awful???
When I go, I often get asked by the cashier – “do you want another ticket for after this one?”
NO! I might be in the cinema by myself but don’t rub it in by assuming I couldn’t possibly have friends or plans for after.
Worryingly I’ve asked other people who go the cinema by themselves whether this has every happened to them. They said no it has never happened to them. I’m not sure what this says about me….
My love of film goes back many years. At school I was part of a group that ran a weekly cinema for younger kids, I’ve read every book going on film theory and I’ve even made my own film!
The film was for a project called the 48 Film festival. I had to put together a film in 48 hrs based on a premise, name, plot and genre given to me at the start of the first hour. I had to create a film about a cleaner caller Norman which features a ring in a documentary format. It was screened at the Glasgow Film Theatre.
You can see it here:
I think the lead actor has allot of talent! 😉
Considering other teams had multiple people, professional actors/makeup/directors etc then I’m quite proud of what we achieved with little to no talent.
Due to my love of film I was excited to run in Mumbai – the home of Bollywood movies. I thought I’d have to go on a tour to see a film but when I arrived at my hotel there was a film being shot straight outside it.
I asked at the hotel desk what was happening and they explained that the rest of the city has Victorian-Gothic architecture but where I was staying is an old purpose-built district called Ballard Estate. Its predominant architectural style is English Edwardian.
This style makes it perfect for Bollywood films as directors can film in the streets and pretend the film character are in London/Paris/New York. It really does feel like those places.
The estate was great for running. Big boulevards that were virtually car free. Excellent pavements and it was very easy to navigate. I it was great to finish my Indian running jaunts with an easy run
Ease of Running score – 10/10
Sights: 8/10 (Great architecture and nice tree lined streets)
My surname is Todd. Which meant I was very excited when I saw this shop.
I thought he would have food specifically aimed at people called Todd but the shopkeeper didn’t have any biscuits or sweets. I don’t think he’s full aware of his target markets needs.
What he actually sells is a Palm wine. An alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree. It is known by various names in different parts of the world. In Kerela its called a Toddy.
The shop keeper got very excited when I told him I was called Todd. He got very, very excited. So excited that I started to wonder whether his shop sold palm wine or whether it actually sold Todd’s and he was excited by how much he could sell me for!
I left his shop very quickly and headed on my way to where I was staying – Kochin.
Kiochin by Indian standards is a relatively quiet laid-back city. It very easy to run in as the roads are quiet and the pavements are good. It is hot (35C) so the best time to run is before breakfast when the Sun is rising.
I enjoyed the run as Kochin has an annual art festival which lets artists paint murals on walls in the town. This meant the run was very similar to a Glasgow style mural run.