My first night with a running club

Goodness, what a difference a year makes. Indeed what a difference a few months, or even a few days make. This running thing is now officially ‘serious’! I’ve joined a running club!

A year ago I was just starting out on the running lark. I had a suspicion (once my body stopped screaming from the unaccustomed exercise) that it might be a longer term thing. I got through the Glasgow winter with my own motivation (something I’m quite pleased about, especially given I wasn’t very fit), and then after a few races, entered and completed the Glasgow Half Marathon, raising about £3,300 in the process.

After the half-marathon, however, I knew that the autumn evenings would start drawing in and the weather would worsen (ok, it’s been a crap summer, but the odds are on my side the autumn won’t be any better!). So I’d started giving some thought to joining a running club. I figured my abilities were at the point of needing structure, guidance, and my moral would benefit from being able to spend time with similarly interested people (rather than taking it out on non-running family and friends who’s eyes start to glaze over when I start talking about PB’s, GPS data, and wicking materials).

So this Monday I finally took the plunge and popped along to The Bellahouston Road Runners. They’re quite a high profile group, and the final straw was spending most of my recent 10k race, where I spent much of the race close to a runner wearing the road-runners hard-to-miss purple top.

I *always* find joining groups a little nerve-wracking. Perhaps it’s repressed (or not) childhood memories of first night at cubs, scouts and such, or simply that you have to be a deliberately outgoing to get to know people in large groups, and I’m not normally that forceful a person (at least until I better know the people involved! ;-).

So I grabbed the first person I met in the car park who looked like a runner (the shorts and trainers were a bit of a give-away!) and explained it was my first night. He was immediately welcoming, and pointed me in the right direction, and I was then introduced to the men’s captain, Nick. He gave me a great overview of the setup, as well as summary of the costs (First night is free; £25 first year subs (includes the club running vest) after a few weeks, then £15 yearly thereafter; and £1 contribution per session), and the structure of the week. Monday’s are currently training sessions, and Wednesday’s are the longer runs. There are informal groups on the weekends.

What struck me most was that the club is really much larger than I’d realised. About 200 members, and about 50 attendees on a normal night. This makes it one of the biggest in Scotland. Monday was a bit quieter though given it was the ‘September weekend’ holiday in Glasgow (not that I’d noticed!). After being introduced to everybody as a guest, I was placed in a group based on my 10k time, and we went off for a bit of speed work with a coach. 6x550m intervals around one of Pollokshields many streets. Great stuff, and I didn’t feel I had any trouble keeping with the pace, although it was certainly hard work. I figure see how it goes for a few weeks. We then had a nice slow run around Bellahouston park, and then back to base at the Glasgow Ski Centre for stretching, a nice glass of orange squash/water and time for proper chatting with some of the other runners. Given I live just over a mile away, I figured I was as well to run home, at least until I get myself sorted out with a bike: Which is the plan for the weekend! It’ll also be useful for quickly nipping to the shops 🙂

I’ve subsequently been for more on Wednesday: this time the ‘long run’ night, and even managed to remember a few names as well as taking care to introduce myself to some other new members who were along for their first night too: Strength in newbie numbers! This time a long run around the outside of Pollok Park (a run I’ve wanted to do for a while), and even an interesting ‘Indian chain’ (or somesuch: Essentially the runners form a jogging line, and the person at the back runs to the front of the line and rejoins, and the process repeats) in the last 3.5km that was a fun diversion.

Now that I’ve jumped the biggest hurdle of going for the first time, I need to make sure I stick at it. Like anything, it’ll require determination, certainly after a busy day at work or with the weather closing in. But those are the main reasons I wanted to join, so that shouldn’t be *too* difficult! 🙂

A scary consequence of writing a weblog is that your own site can come up in web searches, and it’s not escaped my notice that one of my other posts about the running club comes up, and gets a fair bit of traffic. So, on the off chance something similar happens with this post: if you’re thinking of popping along to the club, drop me a note or leave a comment, and let me know, and I’ll be happy to keep an eye out, although it’s worth stressing everybody at the club is very welcoming and friendly, and I’ve still only been just twice! But I’ve a good feeling I’ll be going along quite a bit in the coming months 🙂

Inaugural Barrhead 10k

I went along to take part in the inaugural Barrhead 10k on Sunday morning. After my recent good times on the 5k distance, and the half marathon a couple of weeks before, I had started to have vague aspirations of breaking through 50 minutes. However, the weather forecast and reputedly hilly course, as well as my legs feeling somewhat stiff and tired, I’d pretty much given up any hope, but was still hoping to slightly improve my previous PB (00:53:56) set back in June at MHFS 10k.

A field of, I’d guess, about 200 runners lined up in the rain. I was a bit puzzled by the 30 minute gap in the schedule between the number collection/registration, and when the race actually started, but I’d used the time to do a good warmup (in so much as you can warm up when you’re soaked!), so when the starting gun went I was quickly able to move past the slower runners who’d unfortunately placed themselves too far forward, and found a group of similarly paced runners.

The first 5k of this course were very tough. Practically all uphill, and some surprisingly steep inclines in places. On public roads as well. I certainly had to stop and walk for a few seconds more than once, which confirmed in my mind I’d been mad to think I might break through 50 minutes! Glancing at my Garmin as the km markers passed, my pace was down at one point 05:56 (rather than the sub 05 I was aiming for). Gloom began to set in of not even edging my PB forward at all!

However, after the 5km mark, things started to improve (but sadly not the weather), and the course turned downhill and back towards the town. No time to look at views, just focusing on getting through this with dignity intact. My pace started to pick up. I’m usually very cautious downhill, but started to get some sub-04:30 times. My speed levelled off a bit in town, but safely sub 05:00, as roads needed to be navigated, and marshals weren’t always particularly obvious. However, I was starting to feel quite ragged by this point: The initial half of the race had really taken it out of me.

Approaching the finish line, I knew a PB was back on the cards, but I’d given up all hope of beating 50 minutes. I was tired enough that I actually had to walk a little within sight of the line 🙁 – So much for consistent pacing! Crossing the line my watch showed I’d missed out on my 50min target time by 10 seconds. If only I hadn’t stopped, I cussed to myself! However, all was not lost. Official times have finally come through, and my time was 00:49:52! – I’d not stopped my watch too promptly, and guess I hadn’t started it very promptly either! Either way, an official time that is safely a new PB (by 4 minutes!), and by the skin of my teeth I’d broken into sub-50 time! And on a hilly course, in the rain. Now I just need to find a (dry!) 10k on the flat to see what I can achieve!

Gratefully made use of the bowling clubs facilities to get changed into dry clothes, and watched the awards ceremony and munch on some sandwiches. Vaguely recognised the chap handing out the awards, but only later did I discover it was none other than Alex McLeish, the Scotland Football Manager, fresh back from the country’s second victory over France. Apparently a local lad, so quite a coup for the organisers to have got him along. Some way off the prizes, but I’m hugely pleased to have broken my PB by such a margin, on what I’d say is the hardest race I’ve run so far.

All in all the event was great fun, and I’m sure the event will grow in the coming years. It’s certainly a tough challenge! Huge thanks (and hugs) to Frances for coming along to lend welcome moral support before, and afterwards.

My first Bushy Park Time Trial

I imagine many runners who take part in races, or read any of the regular running magazines, will have heard about the growing phenomenon that is the Bushy Park Time Trial. A small, regular and most interestingly of all, free, 5km timed trial. Since it’s inaugural race in October 2004 (with only 13 participants) it’s grown, such that last Saturday when I turned up, 439 other runners were taking part. They’ve also expanded with three other events, and there’s talk of a time trial starting up in Leeds soon. More details at the UK Time Trials website.

My friends David and Sharon Rowe are regular participants (Their most recent write-up here). David is currently 2nd in this years points competition, and Sharon is currently knocking chunks off her Personal Best times almost every week. So it was inevitable really that as I’m currently in London, and was attending a wedding reception on Saturday evening, that I try and make the effort to go and see for myself what all the fuss was about. So I was up bright and early, and rattling on a train out to Teddington arriving in enough time to get a good warmup run in for the 158th Bushy Park Time Trial.

The race itself was great fun, and it’s a great course – delightfully flat too, so in the end I was just four seconds off my own 5km Personal Best (I finished 188th out of 439, so completed it in 23:45, against my PB of 23:41 at The Bella 5k), which I don’t think was too shabby on an unfamiliar course with a lot of congestion at the start – especially at the first corner (well, tree!). My first 1km was somewhat slower than my other splits, so think there’s definite potential to knock a my time down further before too long. I’m running the inaugural Barrhead 10k race next Sunday, and am even wondering if a sub-50min 10km might even just be within my reach.

Afterwards it was off to Cafe Nero for a coffee and chat with Dave and Sharon and some of the regulars, before heading back into London Waterloo. I figured it would be fun to run back to our hotel near Tower Bridge, so ran the 4.5km along the South Bank. Despite the wonderful city vista, it proved tough going given it’s concrete and paving slabs most of the way, and quite slow because it was full of tourists and Londoners enjoying the nice weather, as well as having a clunky and uncomfortable backpack on! It enabled me to get a bit more mileage in this week: I often struggle to get as much running done as I’d like when I’m London given I’ve a lot of work (and the inevitable socialising) I have to squeeze in, as well as limited space for all the extra gear I need.

I also can’t help but wonder if the Time Trial format/idea will make it’s way up to Glasgow before too long: There’s certainly a lot to be said for more ‘free’ races using their clever timekeeping mechanisms, marvellous volunteers, and an informal atmosphere. I know there’s a big Glasgow running community, as a result of Jog Scotland and the many existing running clubs, and there are certainly plenty of super locations in which it could take place. On the strength of the fun I had at BPTT, I’d certainly be amongst the first to sign up 🙂

2007 Glasgow Half Marathon – Completed!

First and foremost: Thank you all so much for all your support!

glasgowhalfmarathon99.jpgI’m pleased to report that I successfully completed the Glasgow Half Marathon, and have so far raised £1,504.20. My company had pledged to match up to the target of £1,500, so the total raised for The Prostate Cancer Charity comes to £3,004.20, and money is still coming in!

I really mean it when I say I could not have done it without the huge support I’ve received from your sponsorship, your messages, and your words of encouragement. It really made a big difference along the way.

Frances’s family turned out bright and early on the day to lend a lot of welcome support to me, and all the other runners along the route, and even captured some mug shots of me along the way. You can see them here

Conditions were pretty perfect for running. Nice and overcast, no rain, and a slight cooling breeze. Highlights included the run across the Kingston Bridge (the M8 motorway bridge through Glasgow), which is familiar to everybody up here and gives great views over Glasgow. Having a few lanes set aside for us was great fun. Plenty of pipers along the route encouraged us along, as did various shops as well as lots of fancy dress, the beautiful sites of Glasgow’s south-side, including my local training parks, and nice wide traffic-free roads.

In the end I managed the course with an official time of 1hr 52 mins 38 seconds (3 seconds faster than my own watch!), so exceeded the two hour challenge I’d set myself (So some of you who challenged me to do that in exchange for a bit more sponsorship now get to dig that little bit deeper :-). That puts me in position 2,541, which is safely in the first half (39th percentile) of all finishers, another goal I’d been secretly hoping to achieve!

The donation page is open for a while longer, so if you were holding on to find out if I actually completed the run before sponsoring me, now is your chance!

http://www.justgiving.com/richardleyton

glasgowhalfmarathon56.jpgThere’s a supplement (PDF link) in Glasgow’s Evening Times, and the full race breakdown is here (PDF again) at the runglasgow website.

A pictorial follows tomorrow at http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/run

Once again, huge thanks to everybody who lent their support to me. Every little bit helped, and all for such a good cause!

The 2007 Glasgow Half Marathon

Last year I wandered down to the end of our street to watch runners in the 2006 half marathon, hoping to see my friend Keith. Unfortunately, I didn’t credit Keith with being the runner he is, he’d gone by long before I dragged myself out to see him. However, I stayed by the side of the road for an hour and cheered on the runners who followed. Inspired by the determination and effort put in by the many runners, a week or so later I pulled on some trainers and went for a short ‘jog a bit, walk a bit’ run, and I haven’t looked back since.

So the 2007 Half Marathon (The ‘Great Scottish Run’ is a coincidental (or not!?) by-line; Confusingly it’s nothing to do with the other ‘Great’ runs such as the Great Northern Run) was a target I aimed for. Perhaps wistfully at first, but as my pace, stamina and – most surprisingly of all – immense enjoyment of running continued to build, actually doing the run went from dream to reality. So in entering the race, I felt something had come full circle, and it was inevitable that I’d enjoy the day.

I didn’t sleep very well. I rarely do when something is looming, whether flight or event. But a bowl of porridge at 7.30am soon got me going. We were out of the house in plenty of time to get a train from the nearby station of Crossmyloof at 09:12 (which has to be one of the best railway station names in Glasgow). The first train of the day from our normal station was at 9.30, which was leaving it a bit close for my paranoid travel time-scales. Got talking to some of the other runners who were doing the half marathon, which was enjoyable. A shared experience ahead does wonders for breaching the normal reserve we hold about talking to strangers. Quote of the day goes to the people sat just next to us: “*I’ve been off the beer for eight weeks. Been drinking plenty of Gin though.”. To which, from a few seats in front of us, was heard a comment between another group, “*Not drinking alcohol? I don’t think I’ve been taking this seriously enough!*”

In the centre of town and, after a last visit at the queue-free toilets at Glasgow Central, to George Square. Frances was with me, and was planning to watch the start, jump on the underground to Cessnock, then back over to the Gorbals to watch me there, before coming to the finish line. No structured warm-up, so after saying cheerio to Frances, did a short warm up before joining my muster. There I got talking to a senior runner who’d clearly done a few runs before. We both had Garmin Forerunner 305’s, and we both had anecdotes about the Championchip timer widgets we wear to get accurate times.

The start was ‘pulsed’, so there was at least a 5 minute delay before we, in the green muster, crossed the start. Lots of beeping leaves me in some hope my chip was detected this time. Then up through town to the highlight of the course for many (including myself) over the Kingston Bridge. Two lanes of the motorway were closed off enabling us to run over the bridge and enjoy great views of Glasgow. Unfortunately it was rather crammed in various spots which meant this part of my race was a bit slower than I’d hoped.

Coming off the bridge, we then navigated through Shields Road and Scotland Street (past Mackintosh’s Scotland Street School which we’d visited just yesterday, then on to the nice and wide Paisley Road West, where I saw Frances! She’d managed to start talking to some other “running widows” who were dashing about on the underground to get to various vantage points. Onwards to Bellahouston Park. Along the way I’d found I was keeping pace with a chap in a cow costume. Suffice to say there were plenty of jokes about “getting a moove on”, but the kids loved the outfit and it buoyed the spirits immeasurably.

Bellahouston Park and Frances’s two brothers, sister-in-law and nephew were there to cheer me on. Then through my usual stomping ground of Pollok Park, and out onto Haggs road where a bottle of water being thrust at me by Frances’ aunt Alice was the first I saw of her uncle and two aunts who’d made a heck of a trip out to see me there. Not long after Frances’ parents were down from their local church. Running past the end of our street (where I’d stood last year) was a fun moment, but the nice wide streets of the South Side were very welcome enabling much easier overtaking.

The local Sikh community are a regular fixture in running events, in their distinctive yellow tops and turbans announcing they’re ‘proud to be a Scottish Sikh’. Supporters from the local Sikh community were also handing out water and spraying runners who ran close enough to them with a hose. Marvellous stuff, and a lot is rightly said about what a great example they’re setting.

After there it was practically downhill all the way, and my times reflected that. I’d been averaging around 05:15/km in the first half of the race (I neglected to switch my garmin over to mile pace 🙁 ), but the last 9km came right down to around 05:03/km. Having found a faster pace, and less congestion, it was much easier running. I wasn’t paying as much attention to the supporters by the last few miles, so sadly missed Frances. The last mile was tough going, not helped by the local brewery firing up some awful smelling concoction that wafted across Glasgow Green.

I finally crossed the line with a self-recorded time of 01:52:41 – Over seven minutes faster than the two-hour estimate I’d given myself when entering, and over two minutes faster than my most recent pace guess of 01:55. The great news was my heart rate average around 92% of it’s maximum, which means I have a little bit more upside there. Plus I felt absolutely fine most of the way around, so really felt like I paced myself well and got more than enough training in. Perhaps, if anything, I didn’t push hard enough (or do enough speed training), but congestion and not wanting to trip up (or worse still, anybody else up!) didn’t really help there.

A few negatives from the event were the late arrival of the race packs. Only got mine on Monday. Still in time but I know it upset a number of folk who didn’t get there’s until Wednesday or Thursday. Not overly impressed by the goody-bag either, but worst of all there was a distinct lack of mile markers until about the 7 mile mark. Whilst my Garmin helped, it was set to kilometres, so I was trying to remember how many km per mile a few times. But perhaps I simply didn’t notice them. They were white flags after all, and hardly stood out. But that’s perhaps putting a bit of a downer on it. On the whole it was all fine, and really didn’t distract that much from what was otherwise a decent enough event, especially for a race with somewhere between 15 and 20 thousand people running.

So after hooking up with Frances at the end, we got back to Shawlands and went for a coffee. Frances was very much deserving a hot chocolate and toasted scone for all her hard work, and photo taking. Finally back home, and have rung around Frances’ family who turned out to support me to thank them, and gone over my stats from my Garmin. Now eagerly waiting for the official time to come out, as well as the Evening Times’s supplements with the full results and photo supplement over the next couple of days.

I’m certainly hugely pleased with my race time. It could have been a little better perhaps – I certainly felt I could have run faster in the first half of the race – but it was congested and slow – so given where I placed myself (about 2/3rds of the way back in the Green pulse) didn’t do too badly all said. My first ever half-marathon training run was over 02:12, so a ten minute improvement over the course of my training feels like a huge achievement. I’ve also got a great target now, to beat 01:50! Certainly something for next year!

As to the more immediate future, I’m eyeing up a 10k in Barrhead in a couple of weeks. I’m also absolutely convinced this whole running lark is here to stay. It started off as just a way of getting fit. I certainly didn’t expect to find it such a rewarding and enjoyable past time. I certainly plan to join a running club in the near future – The autumn and winter is looming and whilst last year rapid improvement was it’s own incentive, I wasn’t running for more than 30 minutes at a time. Now I need to get more mileage done a running club makes a lot of sense especially for the dark and drizzly evenings that I know are likely.

Will I run again next year? Definitely.