I did over 3,400 miles of swimming, biking and running. Which was enough distance to take me to Washington DC. Which makes me the second Lewis boy to get there. Donald Trump beat me to it. His mum is from the Isle Of Lewis just like my mum.
I like to imagine what Donald Trump’s life would have been like if his mum had stayed in Lewis. I think he would be selling Trump black puddings. The puiddingest puddings in the world.
I also like to imagine what my life would be like if my mum had gone to America. Maybe I’d now be Mr President. I’m sure I’d have done a better job at it!
Happy New Year Everyone. I hope 2021 brings you all health and happiness.
I don’t remember why I entered the Edinburgh Marathon 2003. I was running regularly, four to five times a week, and, having just started a new job as a trainee lawyer, I would use my lunchtime to get out the office and run four miles. Ha, I would think, you can’t chain this free spirit to a desk!
There were only a handful of people who were known as runners. One man invited me to run a 10k with him and on the way there he explained how he would unstitch his trainers, cut the fabric and stitch them back together to get a lighter more comfortable shoe. When I asked him how fast he expected to run the race he explained in minute detail the exact second he was aiming for and the likelihood of hitting it depending on the prevailing wind and humidity. He was a real runner. And by real runner I mean a twat.
Another office runner had run the London Marathon the year before. How did you do that? I said. “One foot at a time,” he said, “how else do you do it?”. I liked his attitude and I think it was him who inspired me to enter the Edinburgh Marathon because how hard could it be when it was just one foot at a time. If I’d only asked the other man, I would have known exactly how hard it would be – roughly 138,799 feet harder.
To prepare for the race, I tried to follow a marathon training programme with regular long runs and increasing distances each week. That programme lasted about one week as I’ve never been good at consistent long runs. Instead I would try and run my regular four-mile lunch run faster on the basis that if I could run part of the race faster then, when I slowed down, my average would still be okay.
I managed one 20 mile run before the marathon – and I was feeling confident. Not only was I not drinking I’d also given up sweets. No chocolates, no cakes, no donuts, no sugar. It was horrible and I’ve never done it again – you need a treat when you eat.
I can’t remember who was meant to run with me. In my mind, Iain was always running it, but I also know that he never intended to finish it and was planning to quit at the half way point. But what I didn’t know was that he had been drinking the night before – though I should have guessed when he had a bacon roll and a packet of yum yums for breakfast. You need a treat when you drink too…
I was excited to run. I was ready. But I also knew that like Iain I would be running on fumes. Though his were at the start and mine would come when I hit ‘The Wall’.
There’d been a lot of talk about The Wall before the race. I’d checked with the London Marathon runner and he explained how at some point I would feel like I couldn’t run any further and no matter how much I tried I wouldn’t be able to push on. It was like hitting a wall as you would just come to a stop.
For me that happened at mile 16, which just goes to show the difference training can make. His wall was at mile 20 because he’d trained more. Mine was at mile 16 because I thought if I could run a half marathon in 1 hour 40 minutes then I should just double my time and I’d be home in time to have a mid-morning kilo box of Quality Street.
Instead, at mile 16, I felt all energy leave my legs. I switched to a walk/run strategy of walking 10 miles after I’d already ran 16 miles. In the last mile I tried to run when I saw a man in a diving costume ahead. After checking he was running by spotting his race number – you can’t be too careful in Edinburgh on a Sunday morning when stags are stumbling home – I tried to beat him with the thought that I couldn’t lose to a deep-sea diver. Not knowing at this point that he’d started seven days ahead of me I was gutted to lose the final sprint on the Meadowbank athletic track to what I thought was a man who managed to run faster than me in wellies and a snorkel.
My original aim was four hours with the thought that I should probably beat 3 hours 30 minutes as that would still be slower than two half marathons. In the end, I walked across the line in 4 hours 11 minutes. Just behind the diver and just ahead of two rhinos.
And within 30 seconds I’d ended my ‘no treats’ fast by eating an entire chocolate muffins in two bites.
“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom I can tell you I don’t have money, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career…” of cancelling races. Although it is usually me who cancels rather than the race cancelling on me.
I did not mind cancelling because the races were not my early season goal. My goal was the John Muir Ultra Marathon. I trained hard all winter to do the race. I trained in the cold and rain, I trained when it was dark, I trained early in the morning and late at night. All to be ready for the race.
BUT the race has been cancelled.
Am I gutted? No I’m not.
I race to train.
A race give me motivation to do all the things I have just mentioned. To get up early, to go out when it raining, and to not sit and veg in front of the telly.
So when your race gets cancelled dont be gutted. Be thankful for the health and fitness you got whilst training for it. There will be other races in the future.
Description: Start at the hotel and run along Chestnut walk (in the direction away from the main road) to the start of the John Muir Way. Turn right and follow the John Muir Way until you reach the road to Campsie Circle.
The start of the trail is at the start of Campsie Circle. The trail starts to the right of the first house, next to a small car park.
Stick to the edge of the trees on the right hand side. Don’t take the path that crosses the river. That is the wrong way 🙂 The path can be muddy at first but it soon becomes a normal track.
You will soon reach Lennox Castle. It was a mental and a maternity hospital although not both at the same time. Lulu was born here but she doesn’t like to shout about it.
You can actually get to the top of the castle but I couldn’t possible encourage such wanton violation of health and safety rules. So I won’t mention there is gap in the fence. I definitely will not mention that you should make your way round the back to the entrance to the tower.
The path goes round the back of the castle. Ignore the first turn you see to the right. Follow it until you come to a junction that goes up or down. If you head down the path you will see Celtic’s training ground. Keep heading up until it flattens out at a T junction.
Head right. Follow the path until you come to the next junction. Head left. The road to the right is a dead end.
The path is straight for a 1km and then veers to the left. There is a small track on the right hand side. Take this and follow it until you see the trig point. To get to the trig point ignore the gate. Walk on 20m and there’s a bt of fence you can jump over. The ground here is much drieer than the boggy area around the gate.
After an obligatory photo at the top. Return back to the start of the small track.
Head in a straight line until you come to Lennox car park and a concrete road. Follow the road until you are halfway down the hill. You’ll see a sign that says Lennoxtown. Follow this track and it will take you all the way back to the hotel.
This is a great 10K route…if you like running up a hill! It’s close to glasgow and you can combine it with a number of other routes nearby to make it even longer and hillier.
It shows I managed to cover just over 3000 miles of swimming, biking and running which is enough to take me to Monrovia in Liberia.
I googled Monrovia to see what it is like. According to a map of the town there is an area inside it called Chocolate City. Which sounds delightful. I imagine its a wonderful place to live. Everyone loves chocolate.
I then Googled how Chocolate City got its name. It is not as delightful as I thought. Chocolate City was a place where people went and defecated. Families riding in cars along the highway would smell the stench of human excrement but instead of telling kids what it was they would instead say it was chocolate. Hence the chocolate area became known as Chocolate City.
I looked at my info-graphics from previous years. It revealed I did less distance this year than last (4,500 miles) That is about 1500 miles less. I like to think it was higher quality. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
The Christmas number one is the most coveted chart position every year. Everyone wants to know who will be number one on Christmas Day. This year, in America, the Christmas number one battle saw Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You finally reach the summit 25 years after it was first released. (It had previously stalled at number two).
But, over on this side of the Atlantic, the UK celebrated as another person reached the summit in first place many years after first trying to get there.
Yes, forget about the pop charts, and check out the Strava charts as I finally, finally, finally conquered the War Memorial segment on Strava to become the fastest person in the world to climb Stornoway’s highest spot. You can read about my challenge here.
It almost didn’t happen. First, when Iain checked the Top 10 it turned out that another competitor had secretly conquered the top spot just three weeks before. No longer was Florent Schaal my nemesis – read about our imagined rivalry here – nor was Iain – read about his cheating ways here – instead a new man, Michael, had sneaked in under the radar and stolen the top spot. I needed to not only run faster than Florent, but also Iain and now, Michael.
I was planning to attempt a run on Boxing Day but, when we went out yesterday morning, Iain wanted to give it a go. I wasn’t up for it. I felt tired and was only wanting an easy run around the Castle Grounds. But, after he said to give it a go, I thought it would be good practice for the ‘real’ attempt later in the week.
There was no wind, so I thought this run would be slower. How was I meant to run fast if I didn’t have a helping push? So, I tried running fast, but not necessarily as fast as I could. This was just a practice anyway.
I didn’t even check the time when I got home. I thought there was no point as it would only show how much faster I would need to go.
There are three starts to a race. The first start is when you start running. For most of us this will be a few metres before the start line as we don’t start at the start as we don’t want to mix it with the top club runners looking to win races. The second start is when you start your watch so you can keep track of how far you’ve run and how long you’ve been running. This second start will be as close as possible to the third start – the point we cross the start mat and hear the beep of timing chips.
Three starts. Three times we control exactly when we start a race as we decide when to start running, when to press start, when to cross the mat, yet still I like to hear the sound of a starting gun, klaxon or just a loud whistle. There is something ‘official’ about having a starting signal that Garmins and beeps cannot replicate. Even better, the start should be marked with an official starter, and in most years, for the Jimmy Irvine 10K it’s been Jimmy Irvine himself. You can read about it here (including more about Jimmy Irvine). This year, he wasn’t here in person, but he was here in portrait as the finisher’s t-shirt had a picture of him and his wife on the start line at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow.
The race has taken a number of different routes around Bellahouston Park however, this year, it stayed the same as last, which I originally thought was great as it features two laps and three visits to the same downhill section. As the race starts on a hill you run downhill for most of the first kilometre. You then repeat it again at the end of the first lap and again at the end of the second. Two laps, three downhill sections.
However, when I say I “originally thought it was great”, I have now changed my mind. Last week, Iain and I ran around Edinburgh, taking in a number of hills including Blackford and Arthur’s Seats. After checking Strava, I notice something curious. The highest heart rate was recorded at the bottom of hills, and not the top. With the peak rate being recorded at the bottom of Arthur’s Seat after running down from the summit.
I’d always thought that running uphill was harder. It certainly feels like it. But, the scientific evidence – and what is more scientific than a record on Strava! – shows that running downhill was much, much harder.
So, when I originally thought I was going to write about how the Jimmy Irvine 10K is a nice route as it’s more downhill, than up. I’m now here to warn you that the Jimmy Irivine 10K is a hard race because it’s mostly downhill! Avoid, do something easier like the Ben Nevis Hill Race or the Mt Everest Marathon. Anything except run downhill!
Saying that, I might just be annoyed because I missed out on breaking 45 minutes by 8 seconds. It was still the fastest I’ve run a 10k in a few years but, still, even with three starts, I couldn’t find one that would take my time below 45 minutes…
I blame Iain. He ran off to fast and I decided not to keep up as I wanted to warm up a bit first. Then, to make matters worse, he ran the rest of the race too fast as well! What a cheat! I bet he even ran the downhill sections. I didn’t. I walked them* – you can’t be too careful you know!
So, while there was three starts, there was only one way to finish: second place to Iain again.
*This might be a lie to avoid saying I couldn’t catch up with him even when I was trying to sprint.
I spent the week before the race full of the cold. Not the normal cold but life threatening man flu.
My fellow men will sympathise at just how potent this horrific affliction can be. Its only known cure is watching TV, drinking beer and replying “no. I’m ill” to any enquiries about whether any housework is going to be done.
I decided I wasn’t going to do the race as it always rains when I take part. Last years event was so biblically wet I spotted Noah leading animals two by two to his boat. I didn’t fancy running whilst being at deaths door.
But for the first time in my five attempts at the race there was no rain. It was actually a very pleasant sunny morning.
I decided to run. I was still ill and I definitely wasn’t fit enough for household chores. In fact, I think it might be a few weeks before I can even think about hoovering or helping out around the house. A run though is fine to do.
The course is two laps of Bellahouston Park. It’s not a very scenic park but it’s pleasant enough. It’s mostly flat but there is one hill that is tackled twice.
I decided I was going to run as fast I could. As soon as the race started I legged it away from Andrew. Later Andrew complained I went off too fast. No – he went off too slow!
The race was pretty dull. I spotted Andrews wife a couple of times so I gave her a wave. Which turned out to be more times than Andrew spotted her. He managed to run past her without seeing her.
I kept a good pace up for the whole race and I was happy with a sub 45 time. I didn’t expect to be as fast as that. Maybe man flu isn’t as bad as I thought….
Which reminds of a posh man I met at University who claimed
he was working class despite growing up in a castle. He claimed it was true
because his nanny was working class!
There is a phrase “An Englishman’s home is his castle.” In that man’s case it was literally true but in most cases it implies a homeowner (whether a castle or hovel) should have the right to defend their home from invaders. Not in an amusing Home Alone style way in which a criminal is hit in the face with an Iron by a small child but in a mad farmer way where a criminal is blasted by a shot gun.
This meant I was slightly afraid of Trail running in
In Scotland I can go anywhere (just about) as the public has
a right of access over land and inland water as long as they behave
In England no such right exists. The freedom to roam is only
as long as the public follow public rights of way.
I saw how protective people are of their “castle” whilst walking
along a public path. At one point, the path seemed to lead into the garden of a
house. I wasn’t sure about the path so I looked at a map and discovered that the
route through the garden wasn’t a public path but a private path. The public
path involved skirting round the garden.
I skirted around the garden. When I got round to the other side I noticed someone else had not checked the route and was now walking across the garden. It did not take long for a man to appear from the house. The man wore red trousers. Which matched the colour of his angry face. He shouted “WHY ARE YOU IN MY GARDEN?”
I don’t think the correct answer was “to admire your roses?”
For the rest of my trip I was very careful to check where I walked and ran.
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…