Monday 26 October 2015

National Cross Country Relays

This was my 9th shot at the National Cross Country Relays in Cumbernauld Park, and 2nd time running for Cambuslang Harriers.

Last year we won M50 team silver, after being overhauled by Shettleston's Andy Little on the final leg.  This year we fielded the exact same team - myself, Paul Thompson and Colin Feechan - with the minor tweak that Paul and I swapped legs, with me going off first.

 Earlier in the week I had been feeling fit and strong and relished the idea of Leg 1, but come the day I wasn't feeling at all well.  Obviously I didn't want to let the team down, so tried to blot out of my mind how dreadful I was feeling.

I had hoped to run around 14:40~ish on Leg 1, but instead it was damage limitation, and just trying not to throw up with a horrible pain in my stomach and overwhelming sense of nausea.

Trying not to throw up on Leg 1
I went out steady for the first 2km,with the original plan of then chasing runners down, but instead was myself hanging on for grim death, and just trying to ensure I didn't drop any places to keep the team in the running.  I did manage to finish 1st M50 in 15:05, which was enough to give the team a chance.  Paul was not firing on all cylinders by his high standards but managed 15:33 to keep us in the lead, and then Colin put in the star performance of the day with 14:57 to bring the team home 33 seconds clear of 2nd-placed Strathearn Harriers.

Podium finish
Quite how I managed to run the 3rd fastest M50 time on the day feeling so ill, I'm not quite sure.

When I got home I went straight to bed in all my clothes, aching and sweating, and spent the night throwing up repeatedly.

Monday 17 August 2015

World Masters Half Marathon

Strava track |

Not all races go perfectly according to plan, and this was no exception.

For various reasons, not all of which I can remember, I didn't do anywhere near enough training beforehand.  I had grand plans of high mileage weeks, and long runs, but only ended up with a few 25 to 30 mile weeks, and one longish run at Dunoon Half Marathon, 2 weeks before Lyon with 1:21:35 in a gale force wind. So I was fairly sure I could run faster than this at Lyon.

Straight after Dunoon, I ran the Tour of Clydeside - 5 race in 5 nights - which made both Achilles exceedingly sore. So I didn't run again for 9 days prior the Lyon Half. Not exactly ideal preparation, but I thought I might get away with it on the day.

The day of the race, Sunday 16th August, started at 4am with a couple of bananas, some biscuits and 800ml of Go Electrolyte. At 6am I was down at Parc de Parilly in cover of darkness. I bumped into Northern Irish twin sisters Lisa and Sian Finlay from Dumfries, and we went for a warm up jog, and to find some toilets.

We then bumped into Colin and Scott. More warm up jogs and toilet visits, and with 10 minutes to go it was suddenly time to get on the startline.

Imagine my dismay when I realised I was stuck at the back of this crowd, with no plausible way of jumping up to the front line.
Log jam at start of half marathon / marathon
The starting area was barriered off, and totally solid with people. There was no possibility of moving up and getting a decent starting position.  Once the gun went off, it seemed to take 20 seconds or so to reach the start line. I was then running into a wall of slower runners, dodging street furniture, and generally jostling for position. Not the best way to start the race, but after a kilometre or so things started to settle down.

I could see Colin Feechan around 50 metres ahead, and it took me until about 4km to finally catch him. After briefly overtaking Colin, I sat right behind him to 8km, before a slight gap opened up, which I didn't work hard enough to close down again. Just before halfway, I was caught and passed by Lisa Finlay, and noticed my first 10km was much slower than expected at nearly 39 minutes.

This didn't bode well for going sub 1:20. In fact some instant maths suggested I'd be struggling to go sub 1:22 at this pace.

I did try to pick things up for the second half, but so many twists and turns, I never got another site of Lisa or Colin, plus all the other runners in the way.  So I had no idea how far ahead they were.

I finished strongly enough, but somehow felt like I never really got properly into the race, what with the duff start, followed by all the jostling on the corners, and then being so far back in the race I got into too much of a comfort zone with slower runners, rather continually pressing and pushing on.

My finish time of 1:21:38 was not a complete disaster, but was 3 seconds slower than at Dunoon 2 weeks previously, where I felt like I'd been taking it deliberately easy. So it was not a great time either. Just something fairly average in the middle.

Despite the slowish time, I did finish as 1st M50 in the British team. And 19th M50 overall.

About 2km to go.
Photo: Alan Ramage

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Via Dinarica

This trip is now fully written up at

Maja Jezerce 2694m - Photo: SummitPost
Starting on Friday 19th June, I'll be attempting to hike from Tjentište in Bosnia & Herzegovina to Valbona in Albania along the highpoints of the Dinaric Alps.  A distance of around 280km (plus a few extras).

The route will link up the massifs of Maglić / Bioč, Durmitor, SinjajevinaBjelasica, Komovi, and finally the Prokletije or "Accursed" Mountains on the border with Albania.

Hopefully I'll manage to climb all the main peaks along the way, the highest being Maja Jezerce 2694m, which is the highest peak in the entire Dinaric Alps.

If I have time, I'll also attempt an out and back from Plav to Đeravica 2656m the highest peak in Kosovo, and Zla Kolata 2534m, the highest peak in Montenegro.

After reaching Valbona, I hope to catch the amazing-looking Komani Lake Ferry to reach Tirana for the flight back home.

Route from Tjentiste to Valbona
More detailed route map:

Link to route map in new window

Sunday 8 February 2015

Scottish Masters Cross Country


This was my 8th attempt at the Scottish National Masters Cross County.

My first was back in March 2004 when I finished 30th V40, and 48th overall, on a heavy muddy course at Cupar before I even had any cross country spikes.  Things improved a good bit for my next attempt where I placed 5th V40 at Bathgate in 2007.  For the next 4 events at Irvine (x2), Kirkcaldy and Kilmarnock I was always 5th or 7th in my age category.  And then in 2014 was the horror show at Hawick, in the worst conditions anyone had raced, where I was happy just to finish and get off the course. My position was way down as 11th V50.  So apart from 3 times getting 5th age category in the past, I'd never really been close to a medal.

For 2015, I felt much better prepared than the previous few events, and determined to run more positively from the start. I'd run most of this course before as the West Districts in 2013, and knew there was plenty of good running, but it was important to get out fast at the start, since there are a few pinch points.

I found myself well up, without trying too hard, and reeling folk in early on.  It was tempting to keep on overtaking on the first small lap, and also tempting to hold back a fraction, but I ignored any voice hinting at sitting back and forged on, and getting higher up the field than I'd expected.

I sometimes find that running hard and aggressively produces its own positive feedback loop, where having committed the effort, you need to hang on to reap the reward.  Going into the last lap, I still felt reasonably good and strong, and ready for any final battles.  I was swapping places with Greig Glendinning, and was aware of more vests right on my shoulder.  I attacked the final hill to try to slingshot a gap at the top, but runnng off Eddie Stewart drew level alongside.  For an instant I could imagine him passing, but then responded and surged away, and made the last 800 metres count to hold position, and to finish as 1st V50 in 13th place overall, with no older athletes in front.

Sunday 18 January 2015

Scottish National Open 1500m


After running the Yuletide Meet 800m, the Miler Meet 3,000m, and training last Monday, this was my 4th trip to the Emirates Arena in a month.

It was also my 2nd attempt at running a 1500m race.  My first was 2 years ago when I ran 4:44 with a cold, so I was fairly sure I could beat that time.

My target time was 4:30, i.e. 3min/km pace, since I'd run faster than this at the 800m. My plan was therefore to go through 500 metres in 1:30, then press on in the middle 600m, and finish fast in the final 400m. In hindsight, I should have started running faster sooner.

I had hoped to be place in the same heat as John Thomson, so I could use him as a pacemaker. But John was in the heat before mine. When I saw that John failed to get under 4:30, this psyched me out slightly that I shouldn't be aiming for 4:30, since I know that John is faster than me.

Anyhow. It was slightly amusing trying to collect my race number and get into the call room, where the officials thought I must somebody's father, and I was told "only athletes beyond this point"!

I watched the Kelly Holmes video from Athens 2004 for ideas & inspiration (unfortunately very poor quality on YouTube), and tried to follow suit by lolloping along at the back from the start, and then gradually winding it up.

There were 9 other runners in my heat who all shot off from the gun way faster than me. I tried to stick to my task of getting to 500 metres in 1:30 before starting to chase them down. Things became a blur quite early on, and it was not that easy to read the clock at the finish line, to gauge exactly where you were, but time was running out so I made a big move, and passed all 9 runners ahead of me over 2 laps, such that when I hit 600 metres to go I was in the lead.  For a moment I felt pretty good, but then started getting challenged by Harry Nimmo of Giffnock with 400m to go. I held off a couple of attempts for him to get by, but then buckled with about 300m to go.  I could feel more footsteps on my heels, so really had to get up on my toes to finish off the final 200m lap without losing any more places.

I was pleased enough to get a PB of 4:39.30, but feel that I could get closer to 4:30 if I understood better how to survive that combination of pace and distance.

Photo: Bobby Gavin