Saturday, 12 November 2011

Strathclyde parkrun Event 81, pacing!

This would be only my 10th parkrun event that I was turning up to run.  So I want to just start by saying thanks to all the regular runners who have taken the step forward to give volunteering a go!  I ran 4 parkrun’s before deciding to volunteer and for me, I got hooked!  I have volunteered countless times now and I have made a great bunch of new friends.  My running has improved with all the helpful advice and training that I have received from some of the core team and regulars at Strathclyde parkrun.  It’s strange to think that coming to a parkrun event and not running has actually improved my overall running....with all the invaluable support, advice, training tips and encouragement from all the team.  So if you have been thinking about volunteering then please do put your name forward.  Not only are you contributing to the event and ensuring that it’s a success but you are giving someone else the opportunity to run that week.  Thanks to everyone who has volunteered!

The run its self was going to be a challenge for me, not only had I just completed a hard 1 hour circuit session with John Allan (the warm-up guy) but I was to pace.  My PB at parkrun is 21.31 so you may think that wearing the 24 minute pacer vest should be easy for me, it’s not.  Trying to run with a consistent pace, not speeding up and slowing down is hard. 

We had our usual dynamic warm-up led by John Allan before being marched up to the starting line by race director Moira Nicol.  It was ideal conditions for running at Strathclyde Park, the wind from the night before had died down and the sky was clear and blue, temperatures perfect.  The safety brief was given and the wheelchair event started.  After a short wait, the runners were let loose.  I tried to take the first 1K just that little bit slower than my others, hoping that some of the runners around me would be encouraged to stick with me knowing that the pace was somewhat comfortable.  At the 1K mark I was dead on 5 minutes, I was conscious of a couple of runners at my back and was hoping to have them on my tail the whole way round.  I knocked a couple of seconds off the pace and coming up to the 2K mark I was at 9 minutes 40 seconds, almost perfect for a 24 minute parkrun, still with a few runners around me.  I hit the puddle after the 2K mark, running right through the middle of it, great fun!  Running passed Ella Edge who was hoping to get as near to a 24 minute time as possible.  Some quick words of encouragement and I continued with my run.  I had made it to the turn and was back on target for the road back.  By this point I only had a single runner who was right behind me the whole way on the home stretch.  I manage to shout a few words of support before encouraging him to take the lead and go for it on the long stretch back.  At the 4K point I was on 19 minutes 11 seconds, all I had to do was keep the pace and I would be in on time.  I enjoyed the last few hundred metres as all the runners who were beginning to slow down clocked me in the pacer vest and began to push it again, 3 or 4 runners managed to keep up the pace and finish in front of me.  The last 100 metres felt strange, trying to come in as close to 24 minutes as I could this eliminated my usual sprint finish.  Crossing the line at 23 minutes and 59 seconds, I was delighted, an enjoyable, controlled run.  It was nice to get some words of encouragement from Thomas Wilson of Strathaven Striders who noted my steady pace throughout the race.  The experience of pacing made this one of my most enjoyable parkrun’s.
The race wasn’t over for everyone so I headed up to the 100m marker and gave cheering and shouting a go.  It was great to see runners’ faces lighting up and giving it there all for a sprint finish.  Well done everyone!

This week we had a total of 117 runners, 15 first timers and a massive 35 personal bests, a couple of which I hope I helped people achieve!

See you all next week!

Strathaven Striders Run With the Wind 10K

This would be my first 10K in over 4 months, and with a well known PB potential on this course I had high hopes!

My previous 10K PB was set on my last 10K race at the Men's Health race at Bellahouston Park back in June, with a time of 51 minutes 23 seconds.  With my 5K time now down to 21 minutes 31 seconds I knew that the PB was set to fall over the longer distance.  My longer distance races have been consistent and I have even managed to run sub 50 minutes for the first 10K of my last two half-marathon's.  I didn't want to get over confident as I knew the route well and Strathaven is well known for its hills and undulating roads, making it popular amongst runners and cyclists from around Scotland.

I met up with training buddies John and Moira and had a few friendly chats with some familiar faces in the running circuit.  We were all bused out to the start line at Whitelee wind farm, a convoy of around 8 coaches. I felt as though I was sitting up the back of the school bus on my way to a field trip!

I had heard about the mass exit of the buses and the line of runners taking the opporunity to have one last toilet stop, but nothing prepares you for seeing hundreds of male runners all facing the trees, equal numbers of female runners heading out in front of the 'firing line' and deep into the trees for some warm up 'squating'.

I took my position at the start line and we were set on our way.  It was a bit of a squeeze at the start with the narrow road trying to accommodate the 400+ runners who turned up for the event.  After a few minutes of weaving and dodging both John and I managed to find a clear patch and quickly found our tempo.  I ran the first kilometre in around 5 minutes 12 seconds, not a bad start considering the packed start.  I shouted to John that we were on target.  The plan was to run the first 5KM in 25 minutes then the next 5KM in 20 minutes, bring me in around the 45 minute mark.  This would be a huge PB and a time that I never thought I would achieve thinking back to my first ever race, a 10K in October 2009 when I was happy to complete the race in 1 hour.

I think the problem for me started when I could feel myself increasing my pace, trying to claw back the 12 seconds that we had lost in the first kilometre.  We sailed passed David Arthur, a regular at my jogscotland group.  I felt good and was comfortable with the 4.15 per kilometre pace that I found myself running for the next 2K.  It was good to see fellow parkrunner and Motherwell AC member Andrew Scott out on the route taking a few photo's of the event.

photo by Andrew Scott

John was running strong and had soon took a lead with a gap steadily increasing.  I knew that he was no longer sticking to the plan and as we had just had a conversation about his 10K PB I guessed he must have been giving up his pacing duties for a PB attempt.  I let him go on but tried to keep the pace.  The route had been mainly downhill from the start but coming up to the 5KM mark that soon changed and everything was uphill from here.  These were the roads I trained on when I first started running, driving out to a rural starting point, running out for a single mile then running back to the car.  It was great to be back out here and running solo in the race it gave me time to reflect back on how far my running has came in the last couple of years, more so in the last 6 months.

It was a long and endless hill, seeming to go on a lot longer than I remember.  Plenty of undulation within the incline my pace was beginning to fluctuate and on a couple of occasions looking at my Garmin my pace was dropping to 5.15 per kilometre.  Making a hard effort to try and keep the speed up I was soon overtaken by David Arthur who gave away his secret to a successful run, less layers!  I had came out on the cold November morning with my base layer on under my running T-shirt along with my running leggings, gloves and hat.  This was all comfortable about 7KM ago when we were back up at the ice cold heights of the wind farm but 30 minutes into a race, I just wanted to burst out of all these layers!

I had tackled the long hill and knew there was a short incline before heading back down Lethame Road and into Kirkland Park for the finishing straight.  Gillian Scott managed to capture me once again looking a little bit tired to say the least!
photo by Gillian Scott

The final kilometre was all downhill before a slippery stretch on the path leading into Kirkland Park for a cross country finish.  John was already at the sidelines shouting his words of encouragement.  My mother and father in law had also came out the cheer me across the line.  I finished with a time of 46 minutes 57 seconds, smashing my previous PB by around 4 minutes yet still feeling disappointed.  

This is the first time I have ever felt disappointed after a race.  Even though I got a huge PB and really enjoyed the run, I know that if I had approached things a bit differently during the race I may have performed better.  The Striders 10K has been a learning curve for me, its taught me that pace is everything in a race.  It doesn't matter how many hours or miles training you put in, if you don't get your pace right on the day it can all go out the window!  I have took more out of this race than any other, I am realising now just how technical running really is, it can be mentally as well as physically draining.  Trying to hold your body back in those first few kilometres is very hard when you have that spring in your step.  

Thanks to all the Strathaven Striders, volunteers, organisers and sponsors who made this event happen!  See you all next year....

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Southside Six and marathon training begins!

Sunday 30th October, the first year of the epic Southside Six race.  16 miles around the south side of Glasgow taking in 6 parks.  I arrived early as always for registration and to find a good parking spot!  The weather was ideal for a nice long run, although it has been raining in the lead up to the weekend which was going to mean some muddy sections along the route, good fun!

I met up with John and Moira accompanied by Andrew Jeske for support and to take a few photographs!  Andrew won jogscotland's jog leader of the year award at their annual conference the night before so was good to be able to say my congratulations to him!  Well done Andrew, well deserved!

After we all collected our race numbers and finished fighting with the safety pins we stopped for a quick photo by Gillian Scott of

photo by Gillian Scott 

We headed up to the start at the flagpole in Queen's Park for a pre-race briefing before our walk down to the start line.  The race director finished his brief by saying 'hopefully see you all back here in a couple of hours' was a thought! 

It was a good turnout for the first year of this race with about 220 runners taking part.  It was 11am and the race began.  We went out a bit quick but soon found our pace in the first few miles.  It was a hilly start heading up to Kings Park.  The open road's added an element to the race that I wasn't used to.  The busy roads of Glasgow proved to be a bit harder to cross than those of my quiet home town of Stonehouse.  We made it to Kings Park in one piece and got our first sticker on our race number along with some water and wine gums!  We had some cheers and support from Ian Gouldie who was pursuing on his bike.

The next park we hit was Lynn Park after a short 3km stretch, again collecting our stickers and sweeties!  I was then beginning to focus on the wine gums rather than the race!

Next stop was Rouken Glen Park, the highest point of the race.  We headed out to Nethervale Avenue and up to Clarkston Toll.  I was looking forward to getting into Rouken Glen as it is my favourite of the six parks. Running along Davieland Road we entered the park.  Running past the waterfall in the park, which was in full flow, I was really enjoying the run at this point.  We left Rouken Glen park with a spring in our step.

Reaching Pollok Park next this is were the fun begins!  Entering at the Pollokshaws Bowling Club we found ourself on a slippery, muddy and narrow trail path.  A few of the runners up ahead had slowed down to a walk while I tried to keep some sort of pace.  Moira re-enforced at this point that I would make a terrible cross country runner, worrying more about the mud on my shoes than my pace.  I didn't really recognise any of this area of Pollok Park, we left the park passing a rugby club.  I was glad that Pollok Park was out of the way as I often relate it to hills hills hills but it was a fairly flat section of the run.

Next stop was Bellahouston park and familiar ground as I had ran the roads leading into it and around it for the MHFS 10K earlier this year.  Someone with a sense of humour included the steep climbing stairs up to the monument as part of the route, very difficult after the 11-12 miles we had covered at this point.

The mood lifted soon after leaving Bellahouston park and we began to talk about the short distance left.  'It's only a parkrun (5k) to go'.  As we headed back to Queen's park the crowds began to grow and the cheering kept us going.  We entered the park and ran up a scenic path lined with autumn tree's.  These scenes were overcast with what seemed to be an never ending stretch of stairs.  It felt as though I was running forever up those stairs!  But once I reached the top a few encouraging words from some finishers of the race told me that I ran strong all the way up them.  This gave me the boost I needed as I felt as though I had left my legs at the bottom of the stairs and I crawled up them.  Gillian Scott was perched at the top taking photo's, she always seems to find the perfect spot after the hardest section of races!  I posed for a quick snap before heading to the finish line.

Once at the top of the stairs and on the home stretch I took in the strong line of spectators and finishers cheering us on.  I looked back for Moira and John who were just behind.  I shouted some cheers of encouragement and Moira soon joined me to cross the finish line.  John was a wee bit further behind helping a fellow runner by giving some encouragement as she was struggling after the stairs.  We crossed the finish line in 2 hours 26 minutes 33 seconds.

Heading back to the registration area there was a great spread on with soup, rolls, cakes, baking and banana's!  This really was the icing on the cake! A great race, excellent company and support.  The race has to be one of the best road races of the year and all for £5.  We hadn't even got back to the car and John was already talking about beating his time in next years Southside Six!  

There was just one last thing, a bit of home-baking back at the car before heading home.  The chocolate brownie's hit the spot!

I would highly recommend this race to fellow runners.  Its a great distance if you are looking to take a step up from the half-marathon.  The route is perfect and the parks really break up the run.  I think its going to be even more popular next year so keep an eye open for for registration!