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)


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 ( – 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 ( – 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!


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!





Welcome to the Velodrome (Iain)

“This is not a race! Do not treat it as a race. There will be no winners or losers. Are we clear about that?”

I was with a group of about twenty people. We were doing the “Introduction to Track Cycling” course at Glasgow velodrome. The man giving the instruction was the track cycling coach.

“Get on your bikes and do not race! I’m judging you on your ability to ride safely not quickly.”

We were all ready to start. One of the other riders was in full cycling club team kit. Even his socks were branded with the name of his cycling club. He wore sunglasses indoors. He looked like a twat.

“Are we ready to start?” Asked the coach.

A man suddenly appeared next to twattymactwatface. He too wore full cycling kit. He turned to his identical twat and said: “You can win this.”

No – you can’t. Its not a race! Did you not hear what the coach just said?

He started giving Luke Twatwalker a pep talk: “Take it easy on the first lap and then use your power on the second. Don’t be afraid to cut people up.”

No – don’t cut people up! Take it easy on the first lap and then even easier on the second. Demonstrate you can do this safely!

He then added “Fuck them up!” and slapped Encyclopedia Twatania on the back.


The ‘not a race’ started. Everyone set off at a steady pace except Lance Twatstrong. He shot off. I could hear him mutter: “You can do this”

There’s nothing to do! It’s not a race. It’s a bunch of middle aged men living out a Chris Hoy fantasy. We just want to spin about a bit and then go home for tea.

His mate started shouting “YES! You’re at the front. Keep it up!”

Twatasuarous Tex soon caught up with me. We were both about to reach the tiered banking. He pulled out wide to go round me but he was going too fast and couldn’t control his bike. He hit the top of the track. His bike slipped and he came off. I looked up. The bike and him were now sliding down the banking towards me. I did what any man would do in this situation. I closed my eyes and hoped for the best. Track bikes have no brakes and even if they did I couldn’t use them on the banking.  I had no way of avoiding being hit.

His bike went through mine. I fell off. I hit my head of the wooded boards of the banking and scraped the skin off my arm and shoulder.

The coach came running over. He took one look at the two of us and asked “Are you ok?” My head hurt and I had a bit of skin rash from the slide but nothing serious. Twatzilla looked surprisingly chipper all considering. We both said “I think so…”

The coach thought for a second and said “Thank fuck for that. Now imagine how sore it would have been if you’d been racing!”

I’ve never been back to the velodrome since that day.

Kirkintilloch 12.5K (Iain)

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Buchlyvie 10K:

“The race started and almost immediately stopped due to a giant puddle on the course. Runners will run through anything – illness, injury or bad weather but it seems most won’t run through a  puddle. Everyone gingerly tried to tip toe through or around it.”

Yesterday, I did the Kirkintilloch 12.5K and the race started and almost immediately stopped due to a giant puddle on the course. Runners will run through…you can guess the rest.

I wonder if this means there’s a gap in the sports shoe market for running welly boots! I should pitch my idea to the BBC’s Dragons Den. Even Dragons must prefer dry socks on a run.

The race was great fun but very cold. There was ice on the local roads but, thankfully, the course was clear of it. I’d done a long run the previous day so I did the race as a tempo training run rather than a full on sprint . I was happy with my steady pace and time.


The most interesting thing about the race is the town itself. Kirkintilloch used to have the slogan “Canal capital of Scotland” until people painted over the “C”


It now has the slogan “A walkers are welcome town” which will last until someone paints over the first “l” with an “n!”

I think they need to work on getting better slogans.

How to not lose (Iain)

For the last five years I’ve played squash every Friday lunchtime. I play the same man at the same time with the same result – I lose. I occasionally win but it’s very rare. One year, I did not win a single match.

People ask me – why do you play if you always lose?

I play because our matches are very competitive. The result feels like it could go either way even though it only ever goes one way.

Last year I asked myself – how do I stop losing?

I concluded that I needed to stop giving away silly points. If I stop giving him points then surely I’d stop losing.

I didn’t. I kept losing. I lost every week until I realized I had asked myself the wrong question. I shouldn’t have asked – how do I stop losing? I should have asked – how do I start winning?

My mentality was wrong. You can can’t win by trying not to lose. You win by trying to win.

So I came up with a plan to start playing with my head, not my hand. Think about where the shot should go. Play shots that will win the point.

Since making the change I’ve won every match.

The more matches I win, the more my opponent has become tetchy and annoyed. He now shouts and yells when his shots go wrong!

What he shouts the most is:


This occurs because he plays tennis and sometimes miss-hits volleys because of the different weight of a squash ball compared to a tennis ball.

Despite repeatedly shouting this during matches his volleying is still costing him points.

I could tell him how to fix the problem but I’m quite enjoying my current winning run and don’t want it to end.

So I’ll wait a few weeks and then tell him he needs to change his mentality. He needs to shout


Try anything once – Mysore yoga (Iain)

A wise man once said: “You should try anything once.”

What a stupid saying! There’s loads of things I shouldn’t try – not even once.

Should I poke a sleeping lion in the stomach? No, I’ve been mauled by my cat for giving him a friendly tummy rub. Imagine what the king of the jungle would do if I poked him in the guts and called him a fattyfatty bum bum.

Should I paint my body blue, stick on a white beard and demand everyone call me Papa Smurf? No – I’d look look like a fat extra from Avatar.

Should I attempt one of the hardest extreme triathlons on the planet? DOH! I entered Norseman.

So, when given the opportunity to do Mysore yoga I asked will it kill me or open me to ridicule? Thankfully, the answers were “no” and “maybe.” I was worried about the maybe…

In a standard yoga class a teacher leads the students through a sequence of moves. In Mysore a student leads themselves through a sequence at their own pace. Everyone in the class follows the same sequence but the pace may be different.

The class started at 0630 but I could join anytime up till 0700. I need as much beauty sleep as I can get. I turned up at 0659. This meant everyone else had already started.

The Mysore sequence is like building IKEA furniture. If you don’t do it in the right order then a bit won’t fit where you want no matter how far you bend it.

Now imagine building a Kvlar wardrobe but only having the picture of a wardrobe as your guide. That’s Mysore.

I knew I needed to start by standing at the top of the mat. I also knew I had to finish by lying flat but I couldn’t remember the steps in between.

I looked around the class. One woman was bent over in a position her chiropractor would call “a broken spine”. Another girl was wrapped so tightly together only a can opener was going to get her unwrapped.

I decided to do neither of those moves. I attempted a bend from the hip. No one laughed so I thought I might be onto something. I do a few more bends to waste a few minutes. The teacher comes over “what are you doing?”

“Warming up?”

She says “Let me give you a guide”.

Great! That’ll help. She hands me some pics of people in positions that would be called pornographic if there was a partner involved. She says “Just do two of these and then three of these.”

I look at the diagram. It might as well be in Hindi as I don’t understand any of it. It turns out it is in Hindi.

I do a few more hip bends. I think I might be the best hip bender in the class. In fact, I think I might be the biggest bender here. Ummm that doesn’t sound right…

She come back over. “What are you doing?”

“Still warming up?” I reply.

“No your supposed to be doing this sequence.” She demonstrates it.

“Ahhh, it’s that sequence. I understand now.” I don’t.

She leaves. I bend my hips some more. I think if there was a hip bending competition in the Olympics I’d win a gold medal.Unless there was a Russian hip bender. He’d probably cheat and I’d get silver. I’d be gutted when I hear the Russian national anthem as we stand on the medal podium. Years later it would be discovered he was cheating! He’d get disqualified. I’d be the belated champion but it wouldn’t be the same. Instead of a podium I’d get my medal through the post. Damn you, Sergei!

She interrupts my daydream, “what are you doing?”

“I’ve warmed up!” I confidently state.

She takes pity on me. “Just lie down. Do you want a blanket to keep warm?”

“No thanks, I don’t like blankets of any size,shape or texture. You you might say I have a blanket ban…”

She doesn’t laugh. It’s probably too early in the morning for chuckles.

I give it five minutes and when she’s busy adjusting/torturing another Mysore student I sneak out.

The wise man was correct to say “do anything once” but he should also have said – don’t do it twice!

The fastest boy in school (Iain)

One of the signs I am getting old was seeing my Secondary School and thinking how much it had changed since I attended it. It was a very minor change – the Council had knocked it down and built a new one!

Previously, a road ran past the front of the school. The road has been replaced by a very large building. This is very annoying as the road was a shortcut from my home to the shops in town.

I did think about cutting through the school to save me a five minute detour but for some reason schools frown upon middle-aged men roaming the playgrounds.

That road has a special place in my sporting heart and history. It was where I became the fastest boy in school history. How I felt when I saw it was gone is how Andy Murray would feel if Wimbledon was knocked down and replaced by a Tesco Metro. He’d probably need a sit down – although that might be due to his dodgy hip.

It happened during my 5th year of secondary school. During PE lessons the class would take part in a 100m race. The  course was setup on the road outside the school.

The PE teacher picked one of the other boys to go out with a measuring wheel to mark the start and the end of the course. Once it was setup the class lined up at the start.

I don’t think I warmed up before the race. This was the 1990’s. Warming up hadn’t been invented yet.

We didn’t have blocks so it was a standing start. The gym teacher blew his whistle. I started running with all the forward momentum of a conservative MP stepping forward in support of Theresa May i.e. I dithered a bit and then when I noticed everyone else was doing it I stepped forward too.

I covered the first 50M swiftly and was soon near the front running alongside a boy wearing Joe Bloggs jeans. He’d forgotten his shorts but he didn’t care as he knew the Jeans made him the coolest guy in our year. I knew he’d slow down towards the end as he wouldn’t want to get the jeans sweaty.

In the last 10m I was Eric Carmen! No not the kid from South Park but the man who wrote and sang All By Myself. {NOTE: I thought the reference would be less obscure but as I’ve gone to the trouble of googling who sang All By Myself then I’m going to keep it in!]

And then I was over the line. I couldn’t believe it. I’d won. The teacher couldn’t believe it. My time was unbelievable!

I was so fast my name should really be UsIain Bolt Todd.

What neither I nor the teacher knew at the time was the boy who’d been sent out to mark the course didn’t know how to use a meter roller so he’d just taken a guess at how far 100m was. He’d actually created a course of 81m.

This was discovered when another PE teacher heard about the time and realised that a runner as slow as myself could not possibly have run the time claimed.

I was the fastest boy in the history of the school….for about ten minutes and then it was annulled.

King of the Crow 2018! (Iain)

My goal for 2018 is to be the fastest cyclist over the Crow Road. It’s a fairly long climb heading north, out of Lennoxtown. It’s a favourite route of central Scotland cyclists.

It was also a training route for Scottish professional cyclist Philippa York (previously known as Robert Millar) She would ride a dozen reps of it as preparation for the Tour de France.

I could spend months training hard to achieve my goal or I could cheat! As I don’t have any asthma spray and I don’t have Chris Froome’s mobile number to ask to borrow his, I used my wits.

The easiest way to be the fastest cyclist in 2018 is to be the first cyclist in 2018.

Yesterday, I got up early and made sure I was on the route as the sun came up. It was a beautiful morning, made even more beautiful when I got back to the house and checked Strava.

I’m King of the Crow 2018…as long as I don’t check the leader-board again till 2019.


Norseman – The journey begins… (Iain)

The Chinese philosopher Confucius wrote “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

The approximate distance from my house near Glasgow to Eidfjord (the Norwegian town where Norseman starts) is 1000 miles.

And I don’t step anywhere until I’ve booked a flight, arranged a hire car and reserved accommodation with AirBnB. So, forget what Confucius said, the phrase should be: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single… mouse click.

Click  1 – Arrange a support crew. 

It’s compulsory to have a support crew. Previously I did this by myself for Andrew. That worked fine but, if I’d had to run the final leg, then the logistics would have been tricky. This time I’ll have two support crew. It’ll make it a more enjoyable day for all of us.

Click 2 – Arrange a flight

There’s two flights from Scotland to Norway. One goes from Edinburgh to Oslo, the other from Aberdeen to Bergen. Bergen is the closer to Eidfjord but Aberdeen is much further from my house. The time I’d save driving in Norway would be lost driving in Scotland. I therefore booked a flight to Oslo.

Click 3 – Arrange accommodation

Eidfjord is very small with limited accommodation but I managed to arrange an Airbnb for a small village nearby – Ovre Eidfjord. I booked a chalet in Rjukan for the finish. I’ve stayed there before. They sell great pizza on site which I’m looking forward to having after the race.

Click 4 – Train for the race

I asked Google “How do I train for Norseman?”

Google replied: “Stop sitting on your ass at the computer!! You won’t get anywhere until you step outside!”

Maybe Confucious had a point after all…