Running the London marathon in 2009?

I decided last year that running a marathon wasn’t going to feature in my running plans for 2008. I’d been aware of just how much training was required for a half marathon, so doing a full marathon along with running my own business, and having a life and time with Frances just wasn’t practical. Oh, yes, and given London was the marathon I wanted to do, that we were getting married the day before sort of put pay to any small notions I still had.

As my fellow running club members built up to London 2008, my appreciation of the time and effort required increased further. It’s a lot more than “just twice the distance” of the (easier) half marathon, and really tests mind and body to the limit. 20 mile training runs take a long time, and that means a large part of rare free time is eaten up for a good few weeks, and if the weather is inclement, it’s hardly a lot of fun getting out to get the miles done. The support of a running club geared up for the race would seem essential.

However, part of me still wanted to give it a go at some point. I get the impression it’s something every runner needs to have a go at at *some* point. Even just once. I’d also thought it’d be good to see about beating my charity total from Glasgow 2007. So I resolved a month or two back that I’d enter the ballot for London in 2009 when it opened.

Earlier this week I heard the application process had opened, just a week after the 2008 marathon finished. So to cut a long story short, and with a year and a day to go, I entered the ballot for London 2009 yesterday lunchtime.

If I don’t get through (which is likely given the huge volume of applicants for the limited number of places), I may look at a charity place, although the fund-raising required for such is a bit of a concern. Failing that, my running club usually gets a few places allocate as it sees fit (by ‘lucky dip’ last year after the Christmas 5k charity run). There’s always a big turnout at London from the club – it’s one of the clubs biggest races given the high number of ‘good for age’ runners – quite something for a club 400 miles away. But I’ve got my fingers crossed I’ll be lining up on Blackheath in a years time.

Ideas for a running challenge?

The joys of writing a weblog. A marketing company associated with Salomon have been in touch with me as a result of my weblog and are I’m surprised to discover, inviting me to test out a pair of their new XT Wings trail shoes. I’m also getting a free N82 phone (I suspect on loan, but it’ll take quite something to beat my iPhone), which has a GPS tracking facility (useful as my Garmin packed in and is off to the Garmin health clinic). It all appeals to my geek sentiments, although I’m not enamoured by the prospect of running with a phone, I’m not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Anyway – the reason for this post – I need to come up with an ‘interesting sports challenge’. They’ve suggested things like ‘run a marathon in less than 3 hours’, ‘climb 2 mountains in the same day’, ‘get from East to West London in 45 minutes’. I get a widget, blog about my experiences on http://mobileblogs.salomonrunning.com, and they get free publicity and so on. Works for me, and them.

Anyway, my nice little problem is the best challenge I can come up with is to break my 10K PB below 45 mins (it’s 45:01 right now, at the Jack Crawford 10k). And it’s not really *that* exciting (or new – it’d be rude to let that stand as my PB for too long!), and I’m quite hopeful of doing it. So beyond the “not getting mugged for your new phone and shoes”, or “not getting noticed by club coaches for wearing non-muddy shoes for 2 weeks in a row”, wondered if anybody had any ideas?

Save Pollok Park: Suggestions for Glasgow council

The council, in it’s dismissal of the Save Pollok Park campaign – like to suggest its opposition to Go Ape in Pollok Park is a negative, single-issue campaign, devoid of constructive suggestions for how the council could meet it’s goals and targets to improve the use of the park.

So to counter that, I thought it’d be worth putting up *my own* suggestions to Glasgow council. These are just the results of a mornings thinking (aided, I should add, by a wonderful 14km run this beautiful spring morning through Maxwell, Queens, Bellahouston and Pollok Parks).

Cycle hire

We have a hut in Bellahouston park where you can borrow some putters for the pitch and put facility there. With Pollok park, why not introduce similar for bikes, so that better use can be made of the parks mountain bike circuit? It seems woefully under-used: I don’t recall seeing even one biker on it this year, that I recall. Bikes are obviously a bit more valuable than a putter, so a returnable deposit would probably be necessary, although free-bike schemes do operate in some cities.

Rename Pollokshaws West railway station

Pollokshaws west station really needs to be renamed “Pollok Park”, because it’s, well, extraordinarily convenient for the park – but you wouldn’t know it from the name! The free shuttle bus service operates there. Perhaps then visitors to the city, staying in the city centre, would be more inclined to come and visit if they could look at a train map and immediately know where to go?

It’d make sense on another level too. Even *locals* (myself included) get confused at times as to which station is which. A recent new member at my running club, a long-term Glasgow resident, understandably got mixed up between:

* Pollokshaws West (for Pollok Park)
* Pollokshaws East (on the Cathcart Circle, and at least a 10 minute walk from the Park)
* Pollokshields West (also on the Cathcart circle, and a full 20 minute walk from the Park!!). This is the most confusing name of all. Pollokshields vs Pollokshaws? Throw in, perhaps, a strong Glasgow accent from the person selling you a ticket, and it’s easy to imagine most people getting confused, and winding up in the wrong place.

So we’d actually solve two problems: Understandable confusion, and making it clear Pollok Park is easy to reach, without using a car. On which note…

Traffic

It’s a bit of a bind that cars dominate the central part of Pollok park, and I’m not entirely sure why it’s necessary that the two car parks need to be joined up. It’d be really rather nice if they could look to pedestrianise (at least during peak times/weekends) the section of road that runs from just by the Burrell, through to the back of Pollok house.

Cars also frequently drive at speed, and often (I feel) without due consideration to other road users. Getting rid of them would make the main paths through Pollok entirely traffic free, and more conducive to walks, running, cyclists and more.

If they also reviewed the traffic lights at park exits (they’re not green for long enough at weekends), they might also prevent accidents as cars race to exit, also ruining the benefits of what was supposed to be a relaxing stroll in the park, for many visitors.

Improving existing spaces and facilities

This sounds fun, doesn’t it? But the fields to the east of the park, at the exit on to Haggs/Shawmoss Road, are very poorly drained, and frequently flooded. So they really need to improve the drainage to enable better use of the field to be made. If there have been efforts to improve drainage into the stream, it’s not really worked.

It’s such a great green space, it seems woefully under used, largely just as an overflow car park, and by occasional golfers. Such an open space could be useful for fairs, fetes, parties, camps, and perhaps even markets.

Similarly, the clay courts by this same exit have not – in all my years visiting and living in Glasgow – *ever* been used. Other than, it seems, to provide a short-cut for cars/vans judging by the damage to the grass verge. Quite simply, they should either be turned to some other purpose, or they should be approaching local schools and clubs to find out why they’re not playing fields of choice.

More events

There seem to be a few ‘big’ events at Pollok park, and elsewhere, but it’d be good to see more events making use of the parks in a structured, but perhaps smaller way. I’m working on my own suggestion (which I’m hoping to be saying more about later this month, after I’m married), to bring the successful UK Time trial events, to Glasgow.

How about also working in partnership with local groups and organisations that already make use of the parks (my running club, and Jog Scotland, for instance), to enhance it in ways they suggest. I’m sure there are other groups (football clubs, cycling clubs) that’d help.

Anything else?

These thoughts are just my own, from a bit of thinking as I ran, and as I avoid some boring accounts work I should really be getting on with. I’m sure that the people of Glasgow, and the Save Pollok Park campaign, have even more suggestions. It’s important that the council realises that the energy and passion demonstrated by *thousands* of people here in Glasgow for Pollok Park, and many of our other similarly threatened green spaces, is not seen as hostile, but enthused and passionate about our parks, with ideas and suggestions: If only the council would reach out and *listen*, rather than running flawed consultation exercises that merely give them the result they want.

So when the council finally sees the error of it’s ways, hopefully they’ll start listening to the park users, and then discover – if they do it properly – that we’re not a bunch of nimby’s (as they’ve accused), but an engaged, passionate, and *constructive* group of people who would actually like to see better use being made of our parks, without selling it off, and charging people unrealistic amounts for the privilege, in some dressed up attempt to “improve” the park.