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.