Why the 9:30am start time for parkrun in Scotland?

I get asked a few questions quite regularly about parkrun in Scotland. One of the main ones is “Why the 9.30am start?“, and it certainly came up in many of the lovely chats I had with people about the course today. It’s also probably the main difference for parkrun in Scotland (and the island of Ireland) compared to the England and Wales.

So, there are two reasons for the 9.30am start time at Glasgow, now Pollok parkrun, which was the first parkrun in Scotland.

Firstly, well, Pollok park is a tree lined park. I was looking to do setup at about 7.30am – cycling from home and putting the signs up (always the reverse of route), before returning to collect my car with the kit (we eventually needed a few traffic cones for our finish area, and they’re heavy).

I went back through my emails to Chris Wright, the first employee of UKTT (now parkrun), who provided critical logistical and moral support in getting us, and many other events, off the ground. I wrote this on 10th October, 2008, as permissions came together and we needed to start planning the detail of the event:

We’re actually considering a later 9.30am start simply because the sun rises 40 minutes later here in the depths of December. Add the heavy tree cover in some parts of Pollok Park, as well as the gorgeous Glasgow weather, we’d been thinking it’d make sense to set a slightly later start time, at least in the winter months. But there’s an argument (for sheer simplicity) to stick to one time all year round.

Chris responded:

Re start time, there is something to be said for a regular start time throughout the year so I’d be tempted to make it 9.30 throughout the year, but it really depends how busy the park gets during summer at about 10.30. I’d say start with it at 9.30 and keep it under review.  If you later decide to say Winter 9:30 GMT, Summer 9:00 BST then that’s always an option.

It was always at the back of my mind how much darker it’d be for any time trial/parkrun that started further north, if another community ever wanted one. I’d not visited anywhere much further north in the winter at that point, but I had a rough idea after a few winters in Glasgow just how dark it can get/feel in the depths of December. I’d also less awareness of what other city parks were like at the time, so figured they’d be at least as dark and foreboding, and fiddly to setup, as Pollok’s North Wood.

Secondly, the proposed event was to take place in the North Wood of Pollok park, which is just behind the Burrell collection, so there was a perfect post-run coffee venue to hand. But it opened at 10am. I was very worried about how – or even if – the community/atmosphere of the events I’d enjoyed (Bushy park time trial (now Bushy parkrun), and Richmond park time trial (now Richmond parkrun)) would develop if we had a 9am start, with most runners finishing about 30 minutes before the cafe opened. They’d simply go home rather than hang about. So, we’d have no easy post-run natter spot, and the event wouldn’t flourish. We’d then struggle for volunteers. It’d be hard work.

So, a 9.30am start would fit perfectly with the venue schedule, and would help foster the community.

It’s just important – certainly after parkrun grew beyond the 10 UK events it had at the end of 2008 – to remind Scots travelling south so that they don’t miss the local parkrun. Tourists who visit Scotland over the summer, or people who catch national publicity, do sometimes arrive for an earlier start. Alas the difference in start times doesn’t get spotted (assuming it’s stated!).

But that’s it really. We stuck with it, and didn’t really ever consider revisiting it. Dark parks in winter, and the need for coffee and cake, that was important to build the community, and it all just fitted. It felt right, and works well with other park venue opening times around Scotland.

Pictures from the inaugural Scottish/Glasgow parkrun

As flickr seems to be about to kill off its free service (at least in a way that is useful to me), I figured it was time to move the pictures I have from the first Glasgow/Scottish parkrun, somewhere else

The full set of pictures are available via this shared album link to Google Photos. A selection of my favourites[1] below.

Pictures were taken by Paul Flood. Alas Paul was the first Scot to discover that taking pictures of fast moving runners, in a tree lined park, was a lot trickier than we expected. It was also very cold.

 

[1] – By favourite, I mean representative of the event[2] and my memories. I cringe a bit at me-in-the-orange-vest
[2] – A couple are from after the first event (The C3 car and Burrell picture). Let’s call it artistic license.

Revisiting the early history of Glasgow parkrun

 

I’ve been doing some work recently to gather my various notes and thoughts together about the start of parkrun in Glasgow and Scotland.

In the pre-social media days, I used to maintain this website as a full on blog. Alas it got to become a bit too onerous, and I took it offline around 2011. Whilst it’s back again in this form, I always knew I’d want to pull some of the old content through again at some point.

I posted them as a series of tweets, which are available as a Twitter moment here:

Picture by Paul Flood, used with permission.

Edinburgh parkrun launch, and a new PB

I took part in the inaugural Edinburgh parkrun on Saturday, an event that was special in very many ways. The weather was absolutely perfect, the course was beautifully flat, it was exceptionally well organised, there was a huge turnout, I got a new 5k PB, and – best of all – it really felt like parkrun had properly arrived in Scotland.

It did require rather an early start to get over (never popular in our household), not least because I wanted to have a chat with the guys who were behind the event. I was also determined to keep my distance from them when things were getting under way, I know all too well how busy it can be being in charge of a parkrun event, and how much more stressful it can feel when it’s the first, and distractions don’t help.

Paul Sinton-Hewitt, the man who started parkrun five years ago, was along, so it was great to have an opportunity to have the first of many catch-up chats with him whilst we waited for the event to get underway. Sadly my warmup wasn’t quite as long as it should have been, but I was keen to join the start crowd for the announcements, and quite touched to get a mention in their acknowledgements.

I was feeling good for a PB, having been pushing myself in training recently, and am feeling increasingly comfortable running with the fastest group in my training set. The last 12-18 months have felt a bit ‘flat’ on PB’s. My 5k hasn’t improved at all, and my 10k has just settled into the low 44’s. Perhaps half-marathon and marathon training have taken a bit of the focus away, but mostly I think I’ve settled into a comfort zone and have been reluctant to push myself a bit harder, so I was feeling it was time to try that little bit harder, on a course that was conducive to a PB.

I set off and settled into what felt like a comfortable pace. It’s an out and back course, so great for being able to mentally break up the sections even without a GPS device giving me splits. There were also km markers at this first event, which was helpful to be able to lock on to targets. I was delighted to get a 3:57 split for the first km, but conscious that was perhaps a bit optimistic to maintain, so eased off slightly for the next km, which I managed in 4:10. A tough session on Wednesday ensured my mind was in the right place: I knew I could maintain this sort of pace for over 5k, all be it with recovery breaks, so it was all mind over body.

The half way point was naturally enough the turn back point, which is an immense boost; Really enables you to focus on the work ahead, and keep the effort up. My 3k split was 4:12, so pace was looking consistent, as I focused on what I find the toughest section of the race – the 3-4km where you’re really beginning to feel things, and need to dig in and battle those demons niggling away. 4km went by at 4:18, so slightly down, but easy now to focus on the end: It was in sight! A few supporters in the last stretch said I didn’t look like I was working too hard, but I knew I was, and somehow managed to find a tiny bit extra to cross the line with a 4:08 split, and a 20:43 overall time, a PB by 16 seconds from over a year ago, and the first PB of any sort for quite a while.

I’ve always felt it’s important not to push so hard that you’re sick at the end: I’m determined to enjoy my running first and foremost, times come after that! This time I pushed it a bit harder than I had done before, and kept my dignity (just!), and even remembered to take a token at the end of the funnel (the shame I’d have felt if I’d forgotten!).

Naturally chuffed to find myself with a spangly new PB, and feel there’s much more to come where that came from. I’ve a real sense of determination to push my times, particularly in the short-medium distance events, over the next six months, and a sub-20 5k and a low-40’s 10k time feels like it’s not all that ridiculous now.

The post-run parkrun chat went on for a long time – we finally headed back towards Glasgow around 2pm, having stayed for coffee and cake whilst the Edinburgh team did their results, and discussing various parkrun plans and ideas. The Edinburgh team did spectacularly well, and blew apart the first-event attendance record, with 204 participants. With Glasgow parkrun having 193 runners, that meant that almost 400 runners were taking part in parkrun events in Scotland on Saturday.

Huge congratulations to the Edinburgh team for staging a great event on Saturday, the first of many. And as the awareness of parkrun continues to grow in Scotland, we’ll surely see more events starting wherever there are determined individuals who fancy stepping up to make it happen. Sterling, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness are surely only a matter of time. Perhaps even a second event in Glasgow before too long (largely we just need an event director who wants to drive it forward). With coverage such as this piece in the Sunday Herald featuring parkrun rather prominently, awareness is growing all the time 🙂

parkrun is growing in Scotland

It’s been almost two years since I started making noises about starting a “Glasgow Time Trial” (parkrun, as they’re now known). And what a journey it’s been. A lot of time and effort by myself and others, but that work is offset many times over by the immensely rewarding experience being involved with parkrun almost every weekend since then has been.

parkrun’s principles of a fun, sociable, inclusive, free, weekly timed run are a wonderful, and it’s so good the idea just spreads – an ideal example of a meme.

When I ran the 3rd Richmond parkrun nearly two years ago (you can read my race report here), I was so struck by the light weight and relaxed system (Bushy parkrun is so big, it’s not quite as obvious it’s as simple). Compared to a lot of races, it just feels so relaxed. A handful of volunteers are needed to make the event happen. And then, the best bit, was how welcome I was made to feel by the other runners, and at the post-run coffee. I was so enthused, I got to thinking about an event in Glasgow, and so started the year-long journey that culminated in Glasgow staging the first Scottish parkrun. Together with Iain,the support of my wife Frances, the parkrun HQ team, all the other race directors I spoke too, we soon had the groundwork in place to start the ball rolling in Scotland.

The growth of Glasgow parkrun has been spectacular. From our first event with 44 runners, we’re now regularly topping 200 participants, and our attendance record is a whopping 250 runners. Over 2,000 individual runners have now taken part so far, and we have well over 3,000 people registered with it as their home run. Regular participants have made new friends, and involvement spreads

So when I heard that some runners who’d come over from Edinburgh to take part were looking to start a parkrun there, I was absolutely delighted. parkrun is such a flexible, fun and sociable way to get involved in running, I had hoped it was only a matter of time before we’d see another event in Scotland, but I’d not rated the chances of one starting within a year of Glasgow! I knew there was a lot of work behind the scenes to get the paperwork in place, and councils can be slow organisations to work with. Of course it transpired that Gary, one of the Event Directors, worked for Edinburgh council… But it’s the enthusiasm of the whole team that’s been the big driver.

The event’s starting with a bang tomorrow, and I’m excited to be going over to take part (it’ll be my 6th event, but just the 8th time I’ve run at a parkrun event!). Seeing the idea growing in my adoptive neck of the woods makes me burst with pride, and gives me just a tiny glimpse of what parkrun’s founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, must be feeling as he sees new parkrun events starting around the country/world, and the success of attendance of 3,000 runners every week taking part across the country.

For me though, whilst running is very much at the core of what parkrun is about, by far the best thing is the community and support it engenders. It’s really about the journey, and who you meet along the way, than the destination itself. Runners at the front of the pack are always great to see, but I get so much more from seeing participants from across the speed spectrum returning, growing and improving each time, learning from their experience, and pushing their own targets. It’s that determination to improve and to challenge, to have fun, to be supportive to others, and together to build something special that really unites parkrunners, and makes the event such a wonderful idea and privilege to be associated with.

The Edinburgh team have put in a lot of effort to get to this point. On the eve of the event’s launch I can’t help but be genuinely excited for them and the journey they have ahead. They’ll see and experience highs, and lows, along the way, but the sense of pride they’ll feel, as they watch runners tackle their challenges, will serve as it’s own reward. The participants, tomorrow and every week, will soon get a sense of that, and how parkrun is a wonderful addition to the local community.

Saturday morning’s just aren’t the same any more

Almost two years ago now, I took part in the third Richmond Park Time Trial (now Richmond parkrun). It’s funny to think that in taking part in that, my second time trial, the seeds of what would become Glasgow parkrun were sown. I was catching up with my friends David and Sharon Rowe, and taking in a free running event that had become a big part of their lives. I was incredibly struck by how simple the format was. A few folk taking their turn to help out, everybody else getting a great sociable run in. Go for coffee and cake afterwards.

‘When were they going to come to Glasgow?’, I asked the organisers. ‘Whenever you want, if you’re offering to start it’ was (essentially) the reply.

At that point came one of those moments when a decision is required. Not quite of the order of choosing a university (I still remember the moment I chose my University, at the foot of my parents stairs, deciding that a work-placement year was important, and therefore Oxford Poly (now Oxford Brookes) would be my choice. Thus perhaps the single biggest life changing and affecting moment in my life to date, and with such profound consequences. Boy did I get that one right). But certainly ‘up there’ with notable decisions. Did I take time out to work on persuading the council and runners in Glasgow that this was a good thing. Chase the paperwork through. Put something in to creating what – I hoped – would be a success. But faced with the blank expressions when talking to people even the famous Bushy Park Time Trial (now Bushy parkrun), knew there was perhaps a bit more of an uphill task ahead of me.

What followed did take a bit longer than I’d hoped. After an initial surge of interest from Glasgow council, things went quiet. Wrong avenues, wrong dates, wrong people. Oh, and getting married was something of a focus for the first few months of 2008. Getting put in touch with Iain from Sweatshop was just what was needed to get things going. Turned out that Iain had been making noises and enquiries himself, and together we developed the momentum to get things moving forward.

Glasgow council required a fair bit of paperwork, and think it’s fair to say there were probably a bit sceptical views on what we were proposing. But once over the initial hump, and through a couple of meetings, don’t think we could have asked for better support. With the paperwork sorted out, it was just a case of setting a date, and getting on with it. Oh, and choosing a specific course and getting the word out. Would have been horrible to have turned up and found nobody else there.

We needn’t have bothered. The course pretty much selected itself given some of the constraints we needed to work to, and when we had a launch date set interest picked up. Our trial run went well, and the first event – despite my forgetting the tokens to dish out to runners – went really well. We’d chosen to start in early December, so it was certainly cold, and with Christmas shopping a priority for many too, our numbers were low. But all the better for getting used to the format and system. Heck, I even managed to run myself on 27th December, and have done two other times since.

Forward fast a few months and Saturday mornings really have changed, not just from those first few small Glasgow parkrun events, but from a year ago when ‘lie in’ was something that happened. Followed perhaps by a stroll around the farmers market, and maybe some Saturday Kitchen. Goodness knows I’ve not seen a live broadcast of that programme in a while, but I certainly miss the lovely eggs and interesting produce from the farmers market.

The big worry I had with the prospect was, in bringing parkrun to Glasgow, that the system would come, but would the atmosphere? I’d been struck by the friendliness at both Bushy and Richmond. Bringing a system wouldn’t necessarily bring that though. But I needn’t have worried. The registration queue, the free and weekly nature of the event, and the post-run coffee and cake, brings a special atmosphere with it because folk are more relaxed, and if they mess up can either come back next week, or console themselves with cake. Contrast with a local race, where runners are so much more serious. I suspect it’s a combination of having paid (sometimes quite substantial amounts) to enter the event; It’s probably an annual event, so no room for messing, and most importantly, there are reputations at stake, so there’s a little less banter and chatting.

Well done David. Ironman.

Just a public note to congratulate my good friend David Rowe. Whilst most of us took it easy today, David, er, didn’t. He completed the Swiss Ironman. It’s an immense achievement, the culmination of many months of training and effort. The London marathon – probably the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life – was just a training run for David!

The Ironman competition is truly something else. A 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and then a marathon. To even complete that it is a huge achievement, but David finished with some amazing times. 1:08:25 for the swim, 5:36:01 for the bike, and a 3:47:27 marathon time, a total time of 10:37:39, finishing in position 537 out of 2,200 participants. Indeed, he came 11th out of the 85 other UK participants in his age group.

David’s wife Sharon deserves huge congratulations too, for supporting David and, I think, probably doing most of the worrying too 🙂

Well done David. Incredible achievement.

2009 Wells 10k

I’m currently down in Somerset doing a spot of house sitting, and keeping an eye on my Gran, whilst my parents are away on holiday. Naturally, as my previous post suggests, I’ve been keeping up the running and a local 10k – the Wells 10k Fun Run – organised by local running club Wells City Harriers seemed like an absolute must.

I have a bit of history with the Wells ‘Fun Run’. It was, believe it or not, the very first race I ever took part in. Back in 1984 (or so), when it was a 5.5 mile run around the outskirts of Wells. I think I got around in about 55 minutes, which felt quite respectable for a 11 or 12 year old. I see the Wells City Harriers have a few old results up from around then. Fingers crossed they might scan in the results for the races I took part in. Would love to know. Slightly sad too that I didn’t keep it up in any way. I suppose mostly that was due to my own lack of interest, but also that nobody seemed to suggest that recreational sport was good. It was competition level, or nothing. And I certainly wasn’t going to be representing anything.

No matter. It’s a different setup altogether now. There are 1k for youngsters, then a 3 mile and 10k distance options for adults. The 3 mile and 10k distance are essentially one and two laps respectively, of the east side of Wells. For the first time, the 10k was full to capacity too.

I watched the shorter races set off (I’d arrived very early due to Frances needing the car to ferry a few people around back in Priddy), with the 10k due to start at 11am. Somebody had quite impressively parked a car right by the start line (despite the market place being closed to cars), but the organisers were unable to trace them. The area was deserted otherwise, so some quite stunningly bad parking.

I’d not decided on tactics, but the very warm weather (and not a cloud in the sky), and rumours of a tough hill at the end of the lap, made me think pushing for a fast time, close to my 10k PB, was probably a waste of effort, even before considering I’ve done very little speed training in the last couple of months. But that didn’t stop me trying. We set off and took care to dodge the streams that perpetually run down Wells High Street (accurately described as ‘real ankle breakers’ in the safety briefing).

The course is a good one – the main section of the course is along a cycle path from Wells to Dulcote. But it was tough going. The sun just beat down, and there were plenty of stretches without any shade at all, and felt like a gradual incline. My first few splits were good, but some seconds behind what I needed to push my PB.

Welcome relief in Dulcote from some enterprising youngsters armed with a decent array of water pistols. Second time around I encouraged them to give me their best shot, and got a very welcome soaking. But then that second time, I knew what lay ahead!

That’d be the hill coming out of Dulcote back in to Wells, and it’s a real toughy. At roughly 3.5k and 8.5k the hill doesn’t seem too bad, but gradually builds up. It’s quite an ascent, and given the way I felt the 2nd time around, perhaps gives me some self-justification for not having done any hill running so far! But I was chuffed to bits to keep plodding away, and not need to stop or drop my pace any further than I already had. My effort felt consistent.

The most picturesque part of the course is the end the lap, which takes you past Bishops’ palace, with it’s beautiful moat, and a good amount of support from the earlier runners. Definitely a good point. Second time around the finish was a lot further around than I’d expected. Somebody barrelled past me in the finishing straight, something I’ve only managed to do once or twice.

The clock suggested at time of 46:13 – I’d not started my watch properly. I finished with a time of 46:20 (79th out of 360 overall). I’m quite pleased to be honest, still almost 2 minutes off my PB, but with a hill like that not once but twice on the course, and in warm and sunny conditions. I’m also acutely aware I need to get more speed work done, and train more at race pace, so that I get more used to pushing myself hard for longer periods of time.

10k’s are a distance I struggle with. There’s something just awkward about it for me. I find, like most runners, that you can just ‘hang on’ in a nice short 5k. It’s over before you know it. A half marathon it’s about a consistent pace for longer, so it’s about finding a level your body can sustain. But 10k’s fall somewhere in between, and I’m struggling. I suspect – as with so much about running – a lot of it is mental, but think if I’m to push my 10k time down, I’ve a bit more work ahead of me over the coming months.

But anyway, the 10k was a great event. Very well organised, and I’m chuffed to bits to have a mug, rather than a medal, to mark the occasion – it’ll remind me of my day every morning for a good while longer 🙂

The 2009 London Marathon

It’s been almost a fortnight since I ran in the 2009 London Marathon, and it’s long overdue my writing up a few thoughts and notes. I had a great experience, and hit my main target of a sub-4 hour time. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get close to my secondary target of a 3:45 time, for various reasons.

I was able to get a decent nights sleep. An early night compensated for waking up at various points in the night, paranoid that I’d overslept and missed the last train to Blackheath. Nerves weren’t too prevalent, but it was a bit harder to eat my porridge than usual. A short walk to Charing Cross railway station, and managed to get a seat on a train out to Blackheath.

Certainly a top-tip for future years. The train was busy at Charing Cross, and I felt for people trying to get on trains at Waterloo East and London Bridge. Not a stress I would have wanted, but it seems most people got on eventually.

After a chat with a few fellow passengers, we made our way to the Blue start area. I wasn’t able to hook up with my running club – it’s hard to find people when there are 15,000 other people milling about in similar attire. Main task was to put on some suncream, as it was a lot brighter than the weather forecast had suggested. Sunburn was going to be a serious risk!

It was then time to join the toilet queue. And a heck of a queue it was too. Unfortunately, as I subsequently made my way to the start area to find my ‘pen’, I noticed there were two other men’s urinal areas (which hadn’t been on the maps to my recollection) with tiny queues. Quite why the organisers didn’t see fit to mention this, I don’t know. The start pens are supposed to mean faster runners don’t have to overtake slower runners, and my number was inspected closely. However I’ve heard subsequently that a lot of other pens weren’t being checked very thoroughly, so we had pen 9 runners up in higher pens. Further, we were constantly being moved further forward all the time, ie. in to other pens. Really quite bizarre.

After the start, it took me 5 minutes to cross the start line, and the first mile or so was slow going. 09:57 by my Garmin for mile 1, then 9:00 for mile 2. Much MUCH slower than my target pace of around 8:30 miles. All very stop-start, and overtaking charity chain gangs, walkers and similar drained some of my good will. It’s still very hard to be too annoyed at people doing great things for charity: It’s an immense achievement to even get to the start line. But really, I just wish they’d gone in the right start pen (and been kept there), or given more realistic time estimates for their marathon time.

After that things got back on course, and one of the highlights just after the 3 mile marker was where the ‘blue’ and ‘red’ starts merged. Lots of jovial booing at each other was great fun. Through Woolwich, then into Greenwich along non-descript roads, but plenty of great support. The Cutty Sark was a bit of a non-event given it’s currently deeply under wraps, but it’s still a significant part of the course. Then the few miles up through Southwark and towards Tower Bridge. Support was at times massive, and at other points absolutely deserted. Very strange, and a lot more twisty than I’d expected. Managed to see a colleague from one of my clients enjoying the sun. Not sure sitting on grass near to a hedge was quite the best plan!

Crossing Tower Bridge was quite special. It’s such an iconic part of the course, and so very close to the half-way mark it’s hard not to feel the significance of the moment. I was feeling quite good at this point, and my splits were still roughly on course, but still more variable than I’d hoped. Certainly it was starting to be apparent I wasn’t going to make up any of the time I’d lost at the start, and knew only too well that things get properly tough after the 20 mile mark. I still managed a few 8:37 paces, and even – at mile 19 an 8:35 – much of that as I’d locked on to points where I knew supporters would be. The fetchpoint was a great spot, with wonderful red and yellow balloons and loads of supporters. Great to see them on the way out to Canary Wharf, and on the way back. Just the boost I needed.

The miles through Canary Wharf weren’t too bad. Bar the bits around mile 20, near Billingsgate market, much more support than I think I’d expected. But the course was a lot narrower than I’d expected it to be. Spectators encroaching on to the road was one thing, but even marshalled areas seemed to mean the course was a bit narrower than I’d hoped. Overtaking (which I was doing a fair bit of) just got fiddly and, sadly, time-consuming. I was caught up by fellow club runner Michael around here, but soon lost him behind me as I had a couple of good miles at mile 19 and 20 at 8:35 and 8:21 respectively.

Hitting 20 miles was psychologically significant. Only 6.2 miles left, and almost all of it in a straight line right through London. Easy to focus on, and tick off the miles. I only once had a difficult moment around mile 23. I was starting to feel tired. Not the “wall” by any stretch – I’d been taking gels and energy drinks. I just needed to gather up my thoughts, so I resolved to use the very brief break to gather myself up set off to the end. 20 seconds or so later (and a very stiff few strides), and I was on my way again. Still much slower at this point, closer to 9 minute miling, but doing a fair bit of overtaking (At this point so many other runners seemed to be walking), and the runners were starting to thin out a bit more, so felt a lot easier to make progress.

My determination carried me along the Embankment, and started to really feel the building sense of accomplishment. Large numbers of supporters shouting just moves you in quite a way! I knew there were some club supporters around here, and I’d not hear the end of it if I took another walking break! I stuck to my resolve and on I went. Somehow I picked out my club’s Ladies captain Carla in the crowd screaming something encouraging at me. Marvellous, and a further boost. My average pace indicator on my watch suggested a sub-4 hour was very much achievable, and that kept me going.

Hitting Birdcage walk – the last mile – was something else. The end is almost in sight, and whilst I’d perhaps distanced myself more than I’d expected from the crowds and the support along the way, I was lapping it up now. The last few hundred metres were much easier than I’d thought – the finish line is a motivator like no other – but the crowd and distinct sense of achievement as you round the corner in front of Buckingham palace to see the finish line in front of you just pulls you along like nothing else.

Crossing the line and the emotion really washes over. I’d made sub-4 hours (3:56:35), but the time didn’t really matter. I’d seen it so many times on the television, to cross the famous finish having completed the worlds biggest marathon was really quite a moment. The finish area just passed in a blur. Up on the ramp to get the chip cut off. Collect medal. Pose for photograph. Collect goody bag. Collect bags (how’d they know it was me!?). Then I just found the “L” section in the reunion area and waited for Frances. No way I was leaving my iPhone in my bag, so no mobile telephony assistance in reunions!

I’d missed out on my other goal of getting a 3:45 time, and I’ll put that down to a poor start position, the weather, but also perhaps being a bit optimistic. A marathon really is a distance that tests you like no other running event. All said I enjoyed the experience, and the distance, and I will almost certainly do another marathon. But I know I won’t be rushing back to enter London – I think I’d prefer to try a smaller event (with less congestion), and see how I do there. I’ll also be a lot more aware of the amount of time required to train. The race itself is almost the easy bit. The hard bit is finding time to train for three hours on a weekend, when there are so many other demands on my time. Having a life. Glasgow parkrun. My business. My friends. Just having time off.

In short, I thoroughly enjoyed London from start to finish. Sure, I’ve a few gripes, but they’re relatively minor in the grand scheme. I know I could run faster, and I intend to prove that someday. London’s not an easy place to get a PB, and it’s so much more than a 26.2 mile run. I know a lot of people had problems on the day, so I feel very pleased that things came together for me on the day and I achieved my primary goal, and had a big smile on my face when I crossed the line less than 4 hours after starting, and to think three years I’d have laughed at the prospect of such an achievement.

Definitely recommended. Just looking at the medal (it’s just by my desk) brings back so many memories.