Any interest in starting a Glasgow Time Trial?

As a keen runner, I’ve been fascinated and intrigued by the UK Time Trial phenomenon that started with the Bushy Park Time Trial, and now is starting to grow to other venues. Why is it so good? Well, it’s free and it’s fun, and it can form a great part of any runners weekly training, allowing them to gauge their improvements over time. If you’ve not encountered it before, take a moment to have a look around The UKTT website.

Recently a number of new time trials have started up. Whilst still predominantly based in the south of the UK, there’s one in Leeds and even one in Harare, Zimbabwe.

I’ve therefore got to thinking that it’d be worth investigating what is involved in setting up a Glasgow Time Trial. I know there are a lot of passionate runners in Glasgow. I saw over ten thousand of them in the Glasgow Half Marathon in September, and many of them passed me in Pollok park in the weeks and months before the event. There’s also a hugely successful ‘Jog Scotland’ initiative, which I know is very popular. And that’s all before I mention the many running clubs in Glasgow, including my own.

So with thousands of runners in and around Glasgow, how many of them would be interested in a regular, free, 5k timed event somewhere in the city? I’ve been in touch with the organisers of the UK Time Trials, and it if we can find a course, muster a few initial volunteers to take care of the timekeeping,

Track session

Last night’s running club session was a first for me: A speed training session on a ‘proper’ running track, over at Nethercraigs sports ground. I’d last week been ‘moved up’ into a faster running group, which was a pleasant surprise – at least until the running started 😉

The geek in me is of course quite curious about the construction of the running surface. It feels slightly spongy, and was surprisingly easy to run on. I’ve tried hunting about for some useful detail about the construction of such surfaces, and what they’re composed of, but there’s surprisingly little out there. I’ll keep hunting about and update this when I do find out something more.

The session we took part in was, I gather, Parlov intervals (or is it Parlauf?), which sounds more complicated than it is. In pairs, the first runner runs 300m at pace, then hands over to the second runner, who does the same. In the meantime the first runner jogs back 100m and takes over when the second runner comes around. We did two 15 minute sessions, with a short (4 minute?) break in between. Quite amusing the ‘find a partner’: Flashbacks to school days which was rather amusing, to me at least. I’ve attached the KML (see embedded map below) from one of the sessions below for fun and grins (I was also quite tickled when Dave did similar)

My running partner and I were reasonably well paced – I was coming in with 300 metre times of about 1:06, and he was coming in slightly faster despite having had some stitch on our jog over to the track. Over the course of the two sessions, despite feeling really quite exhausted at the end, my splits were still proving reasonably consistent. My last stint was 1:11. Certainly room for improvement, but I felt quite pleased with the relative consistency. Quite amazing to see the ‘A’ runners lapping lots of people, myself very much included!

Pleased that the slight issue I had with my left shin appears to be much better, not least that I’ve been doing some specific rubs and stretches having spoken to one of the coaches, but also that I took it easy last week and skipped the long run (which, I gather, went right into the centre of town to Glasgow Green, which would have been fun) preferring to take it easy around Pollok Park on Thursday lunch time. New shoes are also on the cards, as I had some similar niggles at the end of my last pair. I’m also sure the special running surface we were on last night helped a lot too.

So it’s all going very well. Settling in nicely, getting to know a good few folk. I *do* need to find a cycle route to the club that doesn’t involve huge hills or busy roads, the first of which meant I felt quite tired last night, before I’d even started!

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Group running

In my first year of running I ran entirely on my own. No running partners, just me and my iPod or Garmin gadget for company. I quite liked the solitude and opportunity to not have to worry about work or making conversation.

Around the middle of the year I started running more and more with other people. At first it was just my friend and colleague Mike, doing a circuit of Green Park and Hyde Park on a lunch break when I was visiting one of my London clients. There were a few races too, which are of course group events, although the conversation is rather muted when you don’t know anybody. It’s rarely been the case, in my experience at least, that you’ll say more than a few words to people next to you.

More recently, I’ve been a member of a running club, which has plenty more opportunities to talk with people, although the ‘*how long have you been running?*’ introductory gambit felt too first-year-at-University to use more than once or twice! It’s certainly quite nice on the dark evenings to have folk around who are happy to talk and share a few words.

There are a few observations I thought it’d be useful/interesting/fun to write about that strike me as unique to group running, as, well, they’ve not happened when I’ve been running on my own.

Street furniture – Running along roads at night has it’s own unique problems. Street furniture – posts, signs, bus shelters, advertising boards and the oh-so infamous bollards. Running into them at speed is not likely to be a huge amount of fun. But it’s one thing to trip over them when you’re running on your own. That’s likely to be your own fault. The trouble is when you’re in a group, and you’re not at the front, you don’t get to see what’s coming up. So it became *rapidly* obvious to me that when folk were waving their hands over something, or shouting something back (‘Trolley!’ being my favourite so far), there’s an obstacle up ahead. Bollards in particular pop up a lot, so the initially strange process of every runner signing with their hands the location of a bollard soon became second nature, to the extent I’ve found myself doing it on my own runs…

Car and van man – I generally avoid running on the busy roads. Given the running club has little choice to use some of the roads to get to certain places, it came as something of a surprise to me to find that cars and vans would frequently beep their horns at the running group. I’d thought it was just ‘one of those things’ – busy junctions mainly – but it soon became clear it was a bit more focused at *us* than that. Maybe just a fellow runner tooting their support? That just seemed silly. Of course it was something even more focused: the girls in the group, of which my running group has a large number. I’m a mid-30’s bloke with few redeeming features, who generally runs in the morning, or on my own around a quiet local park, so not really going to be on the receiving end of such things.

Kids – Ahhh the delightful future of our species. So innocent. Yes, the kids seem to like shouting silly comments at us as we run by. Perhaps because they’ve (not so quickly) worked out that we’re – by definition – running away, and therefore not likely to do much. Last night kids started to kick a football at us. In the dark. Not fun, but nobody seemed inclined to do much and just let them get bored with their antics. I started to console myself thinking they’d probably die young from too many chips and a sedentary lifestyle… But then they were outside. With a football. Damn.

Pedestrians – I’ll confess I’ve occasionally fumed at running groups as they steam past. There’s a feeling of being overrun and hassled when more than a few people barrel past you. I always try to make a point of thanking people when I realise they may be inconvenienced by what’s going on, unless they’re managing to take up an entire pavement and show no awareness of polite coughs or requests.

Scanning the comments so far you might get the impression that it’s dangerous and unenjoyable. Quite to the contrary, I enjoy it immensely. Here then are the *positives* I’ve gleaned so far:

Feeling of speed – When you’re running in a large group, it feels (to me) a lot faster. Perhaps it’s that it’s more street based than I’m used to, so it feels faster as you run past landmarks. Of course, roundabouts and traffic lights put a swift stop to these feelings, but a nice straight road with nobody else around is great fun to run along.

Company and Conversation – Not to be understated, simply having company and somebody to talk to as you run along is perhaps the main motivation to my joining a running club. I could see there would be days when I’d take a look at the weather and think better of going out for a run. I’m sure there still will be, but on balance it’ll be more appealing knowing I won’t be running on my own.

New Routes – It’s fair to say running in large cities on your own can severely limit the routes you can, or want, to take. Running with a group opens up possibilities that wouldn’t otherwise be open to a single runner.

Games – I hadn’t really taken in that running could actually involve ‘games’ of sorts. So far this has amounted to the ‘indian trail’ idea with the rear most runner sprinting to the front of the group, and repeating. It makes a long run through an otherwise dull section of road a lot more fun.

Going Ape in Pollok Park?

On a walk around Pollok Park a few weeks back, Frances and I stopped at a seat in a section of the park behind the Burrell Collection. As we were talking, I overheard a couple of people behind us talking, and glanced around to see they were referring to what seemed like planning proposals. Talk of ‘buildings’, but couldn’t really gather too much without starting to look obvious. I made a mental note to see what it was about, and then proceeded to forget all about it.

Recently (not that long after our walk to be honest) we were on a break in the Trossach’s, and visited The David Marshall Lodge Visitor Centre, and I saw that a “Go Ape” rope and tree site had been setup there (Grr. Their website has one of those squiffy perspective maps that shrinks this part of the country). I had a poke around the facility there and had great some flashbacks to some of the orienteering and building exercises I took part in when I was in the Scouts. Including going down a long rope/zip slide.

What’s the connection? Well I’ve just discovered (via G41’s excellent site) that there is a proposal to build such a facility in Pollok Park, and that Glasgow council are asking for public feedback on the proposal.

I need to give it a bit more thought before I send back my comments. On the one had I think it’d be great in a predominantly inner city area to get folk out and about doing interesting things. It’d also create some employment opportunities, and increase awareness about the park – which I think is frequently forgotten by many Glaswegians.

But on the other hand, I can’t help but feel it could rather ruin the tranquility of that part of Pollok Park – which is largely woodland and paths that are a real pleasure to walk through. It would be somewhat ruined by having children wizzing about overhead (The ‘Go Ape’ experience is not exactly quiet). Speaking selfishly too (as somebody who makes heavy use of the paths in that particular area), I’m also rather worried it may reduce the number of running options that are open to me and the many other runners that use the park through the year.

The deadline for feedback is next Monday (15th October). Given the word only just seems to be creeping out (and I’ve seen no obvious posters of this at all in or around the park), I’m not impressed the council are giving park users, or local residents, a proper opportunity to state their views. I wonder what one of our local councillors, who I gather sits on the planning committee, has to say on the matter?

Update – See for the local residents response, including details of the public meeting on 22nd January, 2008

See Also:

* For Facebook users, I’ve also created a discussion on the Glasgow Network. Goodness, using Facebook for something constructive? Who’d have thunk it.
* The Herald were on the case on 1st October.