When you are at a dentist, getting a tooth removed, do you close your eyes or keep them open?
According to my dentist, most people close their eyes, but I prefer to keep my eyes open so I can see what they are doing. I’ve paid enough money for the “experience” so I might as well get my money’s worth!
Which is why the day before the race I was looking up at a dentist as he prodded around my mouth trying to work out which tooth was causing me tooth ache.
After he wrenched the offending tooth out of my mouth I asked whether it was wise to run a race the next day? He went quiet and said “hmmmm…” which I took as ringing endorsement of my decision to run!
Last year, I wrote that due to limited parking I had to park the car one mile from the start. This year they had changed the parking: it was now a 1.5 mile walk.
Which turned the race into a 16 mile run/walk.
One thing they had improved since last year was the toilets. This time thhey had plenty of loos and plenty of loo roll.
There was a lot of rain before the start of the race but it cleared up to leave warm muggy conditions and one very large puddle on the course.
The route was the same as the previous year. The first half has a number of small hills and second half has two longer ones.
I started off well but quickly ran out of energy. I think my body was expanding all its effort on recovering from my tooth trauma. I managed to plod round in the roughly the same time as last year but if at any point there had been a way to quit and go home I’d have taken it!
It’s a well organised race on a scenic course. I’d recommend it to anyone thinking of taking the leap from road to trail racing.
After the race I put the tooth under my pillow. I’m still waiting for the tooth fairy to take it away. It’s as if she might not be real…
I wanted to wear the shirt of shame. Iain’s Norseman run top from last year, the run I didn’t manage to complete myself two year’s earlier. It would remind me to keep going. To complete this.
But first I needed to ask someone the time.
After a quick change in transition, as one volunteer takes your bike and racks it, another volunteer helps you find your bag and help you unpack your run kit and pack it again with your cycle kit.
As soon as I left transition I asked another competitor if they had the time. 1540, they said. Excellent, I thought, I had been aiming to start between 4 and 5pm so this was a bonus to be out so early.
I also felt good. Legs were fine and I didn’t have any of the feeling of trying to adjust from cycling fast to plodding along and wondering why I was no longer moving as fast as I’d been 10 minutes earlier.
My plan was to run to 10k, then walk a bit then run as much as I could until the half way point.
(Also my plan was to work out how many kilometres there were in a marathon as I’d been relying on my watch to tell me and I’d never checked the metric equivalent of 26 miles – for half the race I thought I was running 44 kilometres as I’d miscounted).
My plan didn’t last long though – it lasted until 2km when I saw Iain. He had a Twix. I almost gave in. I almost ate it but I thought – be good, keep going, you don’t need this!
Then 2 km down the road as we started to run down the canal I thought. “I want a Twix!!!!”
On the canal, you run south for around 4 kilometres, then north by around 10 kilometres then back south again by 6 kilometres. A long straight flat course along the banks of the canal and over white, light, dirt trails.
Every kilometre is signposted. Every two kilometres, if not sooner, has a feed station. At this point I switched to a run/walk strategy.
I played the Dariusz Dziekanowski* game. Along the bank are green and white poles and I would run between them and then walk for a minute then run to the next pole again.
(A Polish Celtic player. Geddit?)
I would also stop at every feedstop and have a bite of something and a cup of something. At first, just water, electrolyte drinks and a pretzel, then, as the feed stops got more elaborate, a choice of:
Cups of salt water
Slices of bread with liver pate!!!
This was less of food stop and more a Continental cafe.
To keep us going on the canal, there was a band playing rock covers. Stripped to the waist, the middle aged singer was belting out Highway To Hell…
Who said the Germans don’t like a laugh?!
As the canal section finished, and the second half of the race began, I knew that there was still one thing missing. Luckily, I saw Iain again and he had…
The second half of the course is hillier, I walked more, and you could see my time per kilometre drop by minutes from the start of the run. I didn’t mind. I’d never trained to run a marathon, I trained to run a half marathon and then take however long it might take to complete the rest.
The second half takes you back through Roth and along the main streets. Pubs blared music – more AC/DC – people cheered and the atmosphere is fantastic.
Until you get to 10 kilometres to go and you realise there’s a long, long hill to climb before you return to the finish line.
I didn’t run at all on the hill. Instead, I’d picked up my phone from Iain, along with the Twix, and listened to a Podcast interview with the comedian Lee Mack. Headphones are allowed on the run course at Roth so this was a welcome change after hours with no conversation.
At the end of the hill, there’s a great turning point around a pond, with flags and posters designed by school kids. One of the last posters was of the Scottish flag so I tapped it for good luck and began the final plod back to the finish. This time, going downhill. I could start running again, and I was able to keep a good pace back round to the finish where I met Iain. He said that he could run in with me, which was great, as I didn’t know you could be accompanied.
I now had a second wind (or fourteenth wind after hours of swimming, cycling and running) and was able to jog to the finish line.
The stadium was noisy, chaotic and, while I kept thinking I needed to make sure I had a decent finishing photo I also now had my time and saw that I could finish below 14 hours if I could finish within the next few minutes.
Across the line, a medal and then a quick trip to the finisher’s tent to get changed and back out to meet everyone else. On my way out I checked my final time and found out, without my watch, I’d got my times completely wrong, I hadn’t been running to finish within 14 hours, instead it was 12 hours 53 minutes.
I didn’t mind losing my watch for that! Well, almost!
With a heatwave of 40 degree plus across central Europe I think I may need to revise the following list to include a portable fan, a bucket of ice cubes and lifetime of living in the Sahara desert.
As it may be too late for a pasty Scotsman to suddenly develop a tolerance for hot weather (which, as any Scotsman knows, is any time it’s not raining), I’ve prepared the following list of Roth essentials and will now spend the next week trying to work out the one item I need but have forgotten to include – because there’s always one thing I forget!
For the last year, a man and a woman park their cars at the end of my street and have a canoodle underneath a railway bridge.
They usually meet on a Wednesday and a Saturday. He arrives first. She then parks in front of him and pops into his passenger seat. She’s usually wearing gym gear as if she’s either just been to the gym – or, perhaps not going at all and using it as an alibi. They then proceed and….
… read a magazine, mostly, these weeks. It’s very dull. Occasionally, they share a bag of crisps.
The rendezvous has been going on for so long now – over a year – that they’ve moved into the “I just want to meet and complete a crossword with you” phase of their relationship.
It’s very strange. Although we don’t live on a through road, so it is quiet, we do have work going on and they’re parked right next to Scottish Gas’s compound and portable toilet.
It’s not discrete. Though they think it is.
“Ah”, they think, “no one will spot us if we meet every week at the same time, in the same spot in the same way!” (Except the people who live on the street and walk their dog at the same time they meet – people like me, who, after two weeks, thought “that’s the same cars!”).
I wonder now if they’ve reached the point now where it would be just too awkward to leave their spouses.
“What do you do under the bridge?” They would demand.
And they’d have to admit that it’s mostly reading Take A Break with an occasional cheesy Wotsit.
Either way, it doesn’t appear to be one thing or another. It no longer looks like a torrid secret affair and, yet, it’s definitely not two friend’s catching up.
For some reason, this couple came to mind after running the RunMhor Half Marathon. Or MhorRun as I like to call it, just to to say Moron.
It starts in Balquhidder besides Mhor 84 Motel before running on B roads and cycle tracks loop to Strathyre and back before heading out for a shorter, steeper loop onto hill trails.
It’s both a road race and a trail run. Neither one thing or another.
The first loop is mildly undulating but largely flat. The second features a very sharp climb through switchbacks up a hill before a gentle descent to the finish.
Throughout there’s plenty of water stops and jelly babies to hand. And at the end, if you can handle it, there’s even a free pint.
I took the pint just for a photo but then switched back to water – as a pint after a half marathon would be the equivalent of a Christmas party in one plastic glass.
It’s enjoyable race, with some great scenery, very little to no traffic, and a feeling that you’re running not one race, but two. Eights miles on the road then a trail run 10k to finish. But is it a road race or is it a trail run? I don’t know.
When people talk about favourite bridges they might pick the Forth Rail Bridge or the Golden Gate Bridge but neither is my favourite. I like Jeff Bridges. He’s the only one of the three that has won an Oscar!
Glasgow has 21 non Oscar winning bridges.
A couple of weekend ago I decided run to across as many of the bridges as possible. I invited some members of my triathlon club along. The rules for the run was very simple – every time we get to a bridge, cross the bridge. Let me repeat that – get to a bridge, cross the bridge.
We got to the first bridge. People ran past it. I shouted at them to come back. “Get to a bridge. Cross the bridge!” I repeated. “oh – I understand now.” they said. We got to the second bridge. They ran past it again. Its a really simple rule – “GET TO THE F’ING BRIDGE, CROSS THE F’ING BRIDGE!” Sometimes I despair.
We started at Dalmarnock and ran East to West. We could have done it the other way but East to West meant starting at a McDonald’s restaurant next to a scrap year before finishing at two Glasgow landmarks – the Armadillo and the Science Tower. West to East would have meant starting at the landmarks but finishing with a big mac and a Mcflurry. I choose the scenic rather unhealthy option.
It was a fun route. You can find the GPX for it here
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.