Friday, 18 August 2017

                     CLYDE STRIDE RELAY - DEVIL O THE HIGHLANDS - VETS 10K




Being only a few weeks after the West Highland Way Race and me making a balls up of getting the day off work, I passed the handling of the JGS relay team for the Clyde Stride to my brother Chris with me hurrying from work to run the last leg. We weren't expecting to podium this year but would not be far away as long as nobody got lost. Des McKeown took the first leg as he hadn't reccied leg two and didn't want to incur the wrath of the team by getting lost in some Cambuslang field or Blantyre housing estate passing on to Chris who was familiar with the route. Chris had had his usual 10 days pre run training in Ibiza so was not at his 'race weight' should we say but sometimes a slow leg is better than a tour of everywhere but the correct route. Chris passed on to Colin McNair at Strathclyde Park and I am not sure what position we were in at this point but Colin ran a belter of a leg to hand over to me in 5th place at Mauldslie Bridge after my mad dash from work. We were now in 5th place with an East Kilbride and Maryhill Harriers team closest to catch in 4th and 3rd.

Mauldslie handover
I knew I had my work cut out as both teams ahead had a good lead but I caught the 4th place EK within about 2 miles so now one to go for a podium. I wasn't holding out much hope but as I neared Kirkfieldbank a blue top appeared around a bend and I put the boot down and didn't give him any chance of latching on to me as I passed him. The finish for the Stride is in a stunning location and the descent down in to the village is a great view, just a pity you know you have the joy of another mile after you spy the finish line. I think I surprised the lads as I came through the gate and descended the stairs to the finish line to receive my hug from Lee. 3rd place secured and I was burst.

Me with 3 Olympians!!!!

Trophy presented by RD Lee.


Next up was the Devil o The Highlands 42 mile race, the final race in the *unofficial* Triple Crown. Only 6 weeks previously I had vowed to never ever f*c**ng come back here I was set to run on part of the course again, albeit the MOTORWAY SECTION. I had only entered as a friend was meant to come over from the USA and my plan was to run with him but a couple of weeks before the race he messaged to say he was having to withdraw. As I had secured a ballot place and was somewhat fit (although not totally recovered from the WHW) I worked on the principal that I needed to run as it was downright rude not too as many others had been unlucky not to get a slot. So Linda and the wee dude decided to come with me and make good use of the hotel booking whilst I went for a run. I promised Andrew we would stop and talk to the deer at Kingshouse Hotel as he didn't believe me they just wandered about the car park.


Scaring off the deer
Due to an accident in Fort William we were delayed arriving on the Friday night and didn't get dinner till well after 9pm which I was a bit worried about with the early rise and 6am start, but it just meant I just needed less breakfast. Getting out of bed at 3am and forcing food in to your body is not an easy task but I consumed as much as I could and sauntered round for the bus to Tyndrum from the Fort William bus station. Registration done and a toilet visit complete I caught up with training partner Mark Ashby and had a blether about the race and tactics, the outcome of which was he was seriously hurting after the Clyde Stride and I should have stayed at home and put my feet up and recovered further. So the tactics were try and finish and at all costs don't get injured attempting to finish.

Mark wondering where his buff got too!!!! Photo by Monument Photos
I caught up with Robert Turner and Davie Gow on the start line and that was as close as I got to them all day, although Robert unfortunately pulled out at Kinlochleven I think. West Highland Way and Fling winner Rob Sinclair was also there and he just disappeared like he was running a 10k. The race was quite uneventful and mostly run on my own after pulling ahead of Norrie McNeill on the climb up on to Rannoch Moor. For some reason both my calfs started pinging away with cramp warnings on the climb over the Devils Staircase and refused to go away for the remainder of the race, totally bizarre as I was well hydrated although maybe just a sign that the legs are still in recovery mode.

Top of the Staircase : Photo by Fiona Rennie

The new race finish is certainly a bit tougher than the mile along the road but a great setting to finish on the park with the tented village set up. I crossed the line in 6:43:19 a bit slower than expected but a finish and no damage done. Mark came in 7:37:57  and just happy to finish. Surprisingly though at the prizegiving I had won 3rd in the Scottish Athletics Ultra Trail Championships and Mark was 1st Vet50 in the race.

Photo by Stuart McFarlane




Not much I could add all the great comments online, the organisation for this event is superb. John, Noanie and team put on a wonderful event, many thanks to everyone from start to finish who help out at this race.

It is only a 10km race and it is the Vets, how difficult could it be!!! Well it hurt, it hurt a lot but it was at least a return to short and sharp. Michael was staying with me for a few days and persuaded myself and Kate that we would enjoy a wee run in Pollock Park.


Not much I can say but it was 3 loops with a couple of climbs each time and it hurt. 38mins 20secs of pain but it was a return to road racing and my first 10k in 3 years so it is a start. Michael was about a minute behind but he had won 1st old guy at the Haddington Half the day before so can be excused an easy run. Kate cruised around and cursed us both at the end for persuading her to run but we both think she really really enjoyed it.

Loch Ness Marathon training now, back to solid ground for a while.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

WEST HIGHLAND WAY RACE 2017

After 7 months of training the WHW weekend had arrived, 96 miles with 15000ft of elevation to negotiate to collect goblet number three. Race prep had been structured well and my race crew of Mark and Duncan from the last two attempts were alongside me again to assist me along the way. We had also been given a big boys toy car for the weekend for the lads to have fun with courtesy of Evans Halshaw.



Having struggled a little in the last few months with a sore left foot and an on and off hip niggle I knew my ultimate goal of an 18 hour finish was going to be a big ask but I wrote the plan for that with other contingencies if I was off the pace. On Thursday I had a tight right hamstring but I just put it down to resting with only a few miles ran in the week leading up to the start but come 1am on Saturday morning standing on the start line I was still massaging and stretching it to get it loosened. I said to Mark it would probably ease of after a few miles but it turned out it was 41 miles at Beinglas till it eased off and then I suspect the damage for compensating had been done and now the plan had been ripped up and just finishing was the new target.

At Auchtertyre Farm I was 1.5kg under my starting weight and realised I hadn't been drinking enough so had a mullerrice and a bottle of water here and asked the lads to meet me again at Tyndrum for another snack and juice.

Photo by Chuck Gordon at Tyndrum
The blue skies at Tyndrum were to be the last I would observe for the rest of the race as the weather decided to take a turn for the worse. As I approached the last climb on Rannoch Moor a topless *male* relay runner came past me asking how far to Glencoe and I replied it was about 2 miles from where we were, 1 mile to the top of the climb and 1 mile downhill. I thought to myself he must have been feeling the heat and in all fairness it was actually great running weather but just as I got to the top of the climb a rather ominous breeze hit me and then I got drenched with hailstones and rain. This had an amazing effect on me as the cold took an instant hold and I felt my body start to slow right down. By the time I got to the checkpoint I was shivering and honestly didn't know where I was.

It is at this point a good crew are worth their weight in gold and Mark and Duncan got me straight in the motor, gear changed and thoroughly heated up. Mark even disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a half litre of milky hot coffee which went down a treat. As I set off again the first thoughts of a DNF set in. The lads stopped at Kingshouse to double check I was fine but I was shivering so they made me sit in the motor again till this wore off. Although I lost about 40 minutes here it was the best thing to do and after exiting Kingshouse I had a great shift over the Devils Staircase and down in to Kinlochleven and the final checkpoint. Final weigh in and I was good to go, although had to change pack here as it was now mandatory full waterproof kit.

The climb up on to Lairig Moor was as quick as I have ever done but the joy of that was to be short lived as once up there it was absolutely howling. Head first into a the wind and driving rain there was nothing for it head down and move. There was hardly a part for the next 6 miles where you were not going through water so much so my toes began to feel freezing. At this point when every bit of me was soaked and even my sealskin waterproof gloves were squelching my mind began to wander and a funny thought came to me which I just couldn't stop thinking about * *what good will that foil blanket do me now** I just laughed out loud, f**k the blanket the only thing saving me now will be speed as I cannot afford to get any colder. I just legged it as fast as possible to get to Lundavra, meet the crew and change gear. I didn't pause my watch here as I was just letting it go from start to finish but I am going to try and calculate my final split without the stop in the vehicle again as I did cover the final section quickly when actually moving.

Lundavra to the finish was rather uneventful, although I was pleased they have altered the descent to the small wooden bridge in the forest section as I have slipped down that a few times. My last 3 miles were the fastest of the day so still had something left in the old legs. Finish time at the Leisure Centre was 21hrs 10minutes, slower than expected but a finish nonetheless.

That one was for you DAD.

WHW RACE - Strava details




That is 3 starts and 3 finishes so think I will let it rest at that for a while and try and get some speed back in my legs.

Many thanks to to Mark and Duncan for sterling support throughout, without them I would have been out at Glencoe. To James Stewart and Rob Soutar, cheers guys your support has been immense.

To Ian/Sean/Adrian/John and the cast of hundreds of marshalls on the WHW crew thank your for putting on another great race.

To my long suffering wife and son thanks for putting up with my falling asleep at 6pm on a Sunday evening after getting up at 4:30am on my Sunday days off to get my long training runs in, you will be rewarded with a holiday which may or may not involve a race!!!!


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

WHW TAPER TIME

So six months of all out training and the taper has begun towards next weekends 2017 'A' Race, the West Highland Way Race. It has been a quick 6 months and I cannot say I have enjoyed it all, in fact it just shows how precious life is and how we should all get out there and live for the moment as life is such a cruel thing at time.

In my last blog I reported how a great friend and long time running mentor had died suddenly and how I was wearing my old club vest in his memory for the rest of the year. Well it turned out I was going to get hit with another shock when on the 27th March my dad died suddenly. To say this was a shock would be an understatement as there had been no indication of any problems and he was actually active till the end, so much so that it was on a group ride with friends out on his road bike he had a heart attack which took him instantly. He was half way up the Crow Road climbing the Campsie Fells at the time and the only positive thought I could put on it at the time was at least he was doing something he enjoyed and he suffered no pain.




It is times like that when friends rally round and the support we all received was tremendous and I would like to say a big thanks everyone who contacted me with kind wishes and thoughts. On the Sunday after my dads death we had arranged a group run and Alex Potter mentioned a song that had touched him in similar circumstances and when I got home he had sent it to me on itunes so I thought I would share it with you all as if I am crying you all may as well join in.





Training continued on and my appetite for running slowly filtered back and with the support of Michael, Rob, Alex , Mark and James I now think I am as fit as I should be for the race so hopefully I can do myself justice with a great WHW race and I suppose I don't need to say it but 'this one is for you dad'.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

WEST HIGHLAND WAY RACE TRAINING UPDATE

Time is now closing in on the West Highland Way Race start with 13 weeks to go till the big day. December and January were great training months with great weather apart from the odd wet day. My first block of training through Christmas and New Year led me nicely up to the Dubai Marathon on Friday 20th January.

Being a loving family guy I had managed to squeeze the marathon in on the way to Phuket for my summer 2016 holiday, I know it was late but better late than never. So a few days relaxing at the Atlantis Palm hotel with a few easy runs to acclimatize and catch up with family. One thing I had to compromise on when booking was Linda said her and Andrew didn't care how far away from the marathon start the hotel was that was where they were staying so I had to get up a little earlier than I had really wanted to get to the start at 6.30am.



You could not get a more relaxed or easy marathon to get to the start line and I kid you not the taxi dropped me 200 metres from the start line, in fact it was a longer walk to the toilets. Michael had messaged me that he was approaching from the other side of the start line and quickly we had met up and headed for the starting pens. Unlike Berlin it was apparent we were in for a bit of a messy start as a few not so svelte runners pushed their way as near the start tape as they could. Not to worry I wasn't chasing the world record today but this did cause a problem for a certain elite runner who I had to vault over a few seconds after the start.

The race itself was rather uneventful although a bit warmer than last year at the start and really hot on the return section once the sun broke through the early morning haze. It was remarkable the amount of elite runners walking back to the finish having totally blown up enroute, gives you a good feeling to know you have paced it sensibly when you see the mess of some of them. Janet had kindly offered to hand us our drinks bottles as her and Michaels hotel was at the 13/22 mile point in the race and I was certainly in need of my tailwind on the return stretch.



We both had good runs with Michael slowing slightly more than me in the final 2 miles fighting cramp, I crossed the line in 2:57:31 and Michael 2:57:44. At the finish we were approached by a gentleman complimenting us on our running vests which he had spied, turns out he is the boss of Frontrunner, the company I use for all my t-shirts hats and buffs. With the time only now being 9:35 am I reckoned I could still make breakfast at the hotel and with the taxi rank being exactly where I had been dropped earlier I was back in the hotel 20 minutes later and Linda and Andrew were at a table waiting for me. I managed to have a recovery scoff and then conked out on a sunlounger.




After a relaxing week in Phuket with a few recovery runs thrown in it was back home with the next race up the Kirkintilloch 12.5km, an annual test of how good the winter training has gone. As this was a long run day I tied this in with a 10km warm up over to the start and a 10km warm down after the race. Training must be going ok as I was 20 seconds faster than last year and felt comfortable all the way even in rather blustery conditions. This all lead on nicely to 4 weeks of mile building for the Loch Katrine Marathon on Sunday 19th March.

The build up to Loch Katrine had been good but an ongoing niggle in my shoulder seemed to move downwards to my glute and hamstring but I have been managing it with stretching and rolling. Training partner Rob had also been beset with injury and was on the comeback from broken ribs so we had had a good few weekend runs looking forward to this race. Raceday itself and the weather was not looking too promising but by the time we got to LK it looked like we were going to have pleasant conditions, a little wind but nothing to seriously hamper the run.

I don't know what was going on
I will not go in to too much detail but this is a race which soon finds out if you are below par or not and after about 5 miles with my right leg constantly pinging away I sussed I couldn't maintain the pace required to stick with Rob and the other lad he was chasing and had to ease off and let them surge ahead in the hope I would reel them in later. Sadly this wasn't the case and I gradually lost time on them on the return leg after the turn at Stronachlachar. Rob went on to win in 2:58 and I came in 4th in 3:07 a full 13 minutes down on my winning time 2 years ago. Now is the time to get the leg seen to with bigger targets ahead, so physio this week to get it sorted.

Many thanks and lots of praise again to Audrey McIntosh and the full support crew at this running festival, such a great event from the 10k, half and full marathon. If you haven't done any of the races before stick it in your diary for next year, you will not be disappointed : LOCH KATRINE MARATHON

Sadly on the Thursday before the race I attended the funeral of great friend and running club colleague Kenny McVey who had died suddenly after a short illness. This had come as a great shock to all of us at Victoria Park City of Glasgow and I had spoken to him a couple of days before his death regarding upcoming races. Kenny was the first person I had contact with when I joined the club and I will always remember with fondness his tales when out running on our Sunday morning runs from the Allander Sports Centre. One thing he always wanted was the club to retain the original hooped vest the club had before the Victoria Park AC merger with City of Glasgow a few years back so in memory of him I decided I will be wearing my hooped jersey for the rest of the season and Sunday was the first outing.


Me and Kenny

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

THE BELATED BERLIN AND LOCH RANNOCH MARATHON BLOG AND MORE!!!!!

You know you have lapsed a bit in the blogging stakes when you come to do a review of the year and the last report was 5 months ago so I will try and be brief and catch up in as few paragraphs as possible. I like to do report on races I have done to give as much information to others who are thinking about entering the same races a little insight on what to expect.

After the John Lucas 50 Mile next up was the Berlin Marathon where I was again meeting Michael for another jolly around a city. We had both targeted this as a possible sub 2:50 and for me this was the years 'A' race having taken a step away from the ultras for the year. Unfortunately we had both been having back problems and it was apparent as the race fastly approached that it was just going to be a set off and see how it goes day. My problems got so bad I finally gave in and sought help from Matt Williamson, a fellow ultra runner and highly recommended physio. The diagnosis was actually not too bad but the fix was not going to happen in time for Berlin, in fact the fix is still ongoing but gradually I am feeling like a runner again and many thanks to Matt for getting to the root of a 3 year problem.

So the brief report of Berlin is it is a marvellous race in a beautifully friendly city with top notch organisation. From arriving at the airport to negotiating the train system it was a great weekend, and we even managed to get Andrew entered in the kids race on the Saturday which he loved.



Andrew in his Barcelona running gear catching the German tri lad finishing 4th
Myself and Michael had a couple of early morning runs before race day taking the opportunity to send a few selfies and the rest of the days were spent sightseeing, eating and drinking.



Linda and Andrew had a great time chasing German pokeman whilst touring Checkpoint Charlie and then onto Berlin Zoo whilst I discovered a love for alcohol free lager.




The race itself went fine and due to some great German efficiency the starting pens had the correct people in the allocated expected finish times and at no time from the start did you feel as if you were being held back by slower runners. Those who run London for example will understand what I mean here and it does make for an more even paced relaxed start. The course itself is almost flat and we ran together till just after half way when I pulled ahead of Michael. Now at no point did I see him pass me nor does he have any recollection of passing me from then but at 40km where we had planned to see Linda , Janet and Andrew where they would have juice for us if required Janet took a photo and remarkably we were almost next to each other without knowing it.

He's beside you!!!

I grabbed a bottle of coke from Linda here and downed it and glanced to my right with Michael asking 'where did you come from?'


I asked if he was feeling good and fancied pushing it and as usual was told to go do one so off I plodded with little under 2km to go. Similar to London when Big Ben fails to get much bigger as you approach it the Brandenburg Gate seemed a long way off as you approach it but once under it a couple of hundred metre with throngs of cheering support you cruise down to the finish line. I finished in 2:57:23 and Michael 2:57:40 , both satisfied considering how our training had been going.

Slightly burst we headed for post race nutrition and hydration.


The general consensus is Berlin is a great marathon and a smashing city for a family break too, only downside would be the race entry fee which I believe is now about £120.

So next up was the Loch Rannoch Marathon which I had only entered as I was driving Catherine, and Holly up for the full marathon and Collette for the half marathon and thought why not enter the full bhuna it has been weeks since I raced. The weather was a bit blowy but not unexpected for Perthshire in October.



The girls were all sporting their new team vests for the race, so easily seen enroute. The half marathon runners are meant to be bussed out to halfway before the full marathon starts but the buses were late arriving so the marathon started on time with the half runners still in Kinloch Rannoch. My legs felt fine till about 12 miles when I just started feeling sluggish and Berlin kicked in. Just before halfway 2 big coaches were blocking the road and we had to divert onto the verge to pass them as the disembarking half runners made their way to the start. This meant the return leg along the other side of the loch was going to be lonely as I had been expecting to be chasing down half marathon runners but as they hadn't started obviously no company to be had and the water stops unmanned. It got a bit blowy and wet on the return and I certainly felt myself slow down but held it together enough to finish in 3:00:06. All the ladies had great runs and were delighted with their finishing times and Holly completed her charity fundraising marathon.

Bus problems aside this would also make my list of recommended marathons.

That brought the marathon count for the year to six, quite a bit for a rest year but they have all been fun and times have all been consistent although no PBs broke.


Final race of the year is the Glen Ogle 33 , my 6th year of running it and remaining an ever present. I always find the new start tough on this with a lack of energy going uphill for the first 4 miles but normally get a second wind coming down. The weather gods were kind this year although a bit cold for my liking but nothing to worry about.

Sharing a few miles with Euan Craig




 Mostly the run went fine sharing a few downhill miles with Euan Craig (no relation) till he ran away from me and it was great to see all the cheery marshalls and share a hug or two. I felt a bit lethargic on the return up the cycle path and just eased off to a comfortable pace and kept it all together to finish without doing any damage. 10 minutes slower than previously but no complaints as it has been a great year of steady running.

Plans for 2017

With all that done and dusted my hope now was securing a place for the West Highland Way Race 2017 and luckily it was confirmed in the 1st week of December I had been successful. Having completed the race twice previously I have a good idea of the training involved as can be seen from the tab at the top for my previous training schedules but I am really taking this next attempt seriously and will embark on some more structured training than before. I have already started this and am on about week 7 of it with the first 'B' race of the year 2 weeks away at the Dubai Marathon on the 20th January. The second 'B' race will be the Highland Fling in April all structured towards the 'A' race for the year in June, Milngavie to Fort William 95 miles of fun. There are a few other races in between the main races but I will be treating them all as training and will build them in to the plan.

Sadly I have declined my London Marathon pacing slot for this year as it is the week before the Fling and my new found sensible head ruled the pacing out but hopefully I will return next year although if something does go awry I do have a good for age slot which can be deferred right up till race day.

So that is us all caught up and I will not leave it as long from on in, monthly updates will be appearing with hopefully the Dubai report at the end of January.

Hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year and look forward to catching up throughout the year.


Friday, 19 August 2016

JOHN LUCAS MEMORIAL ROUND STRATHAVEN 50 MILE ULTRA

Normal logic and common sense would all point to the fact that running a 50 mile race only 3 weeks after finishing a 40 miler is not the wisest of moves but as my preferred surface is tarmac and this race is logistically *just up the road* it was a no brainer and had to be done. The JLRS50 always has a relatively small amount of entries but the addition of the relay race has boosted numbers on the route and created a lot more interest in the event.

The target for the day was just to finish as 50 miles on tar is tough going so any finish is a bonus, the next target is to finish with a good placing and as the main opposition was Grant Jeans (course record holder) Rob Soutar (2 times previous winner) and James Stewart ( not too shabby a runner) it was obvious it was going to need  a shift and a half to displace any of them from in front of me. I was on taxi duty and picked up Rob and James and we arrived in plenty of time in Strathaven to ready ourselves for the exertions ahead.

The 3 Amigos before the race
 Race start at 8am and in the first mile it was obvious Grant was on a mission to win as he shot off up the hill at a speed you would only expect in a 10km race so the next 10 miles we 3 trundled along discussing the pros and cons of that particular tactic and quite frankly could only find cons but each to their own as they say. If he was having a good day we wouldn't see him again and on the other hand if it went pear shaped when would it happen. My bet was on 32 miles so more on that later.

At the first checkpoint after 10 miles I grabbed my drink bottle and carried on but could feel a niggle in my right hip and groin and as Rob caught up with me after his 3rd pee stop I think he had spied this from behind and asked if  everything was ok to which I confessed no it wasn't. Well this must have been all that was required for 2 mates to ditch another as the 2 amigos gradually picked the pace up and starting pulling further ahead of me. From this point at 13 miles the pain gradually increased and this is where the mental strength of ultra running comes in as you start discussing with yourself at which point do you decide to call it a day and what is an injury or just something you can *run off* . with a mere 37 miles of running left I decided to ease the pace and nurse it till checkpoint 2 at 19 miles and reassess. As I crossed the road and approached where the checkpoint normally is there was a distinct lack of bodies so I carried on through wondering if they had set up further up the road but a mile or two on and no sign of anyone I resigned myself to no juice till the next checkpoint at 26 miles and as the pain was not increasing I may as well carry till the next checkpoint at least.


 At this point in the race at high Langridge our 3 intrepid adventurers ahead all decided to go off piste and rewrite the route, luckily for them the road they took hooked back exactly where the correct route would go to the checkpoint in Stonehouse so they didn't get lost somewhere in deepest darkest South Lanarkshire and not much difference in distance.

Correct route, do not go straight ahead!
In need of a drink I looked forward to my drop bag bottles at Stonehouse but it wasn't to be as I was informed we were covering the route too fast and the vehicle hadn't arrived with the goods yet but were enroute and the kind gent would drive out and bring them asap if I just carried on running. About a mile and a half later the support car pulled along side me and the package handed over. I downed the bottle of coke quicker than a pint of lager and carried my tailwind bottle which I gradually got through in the next couple of miles. This leg is about 14 miles and just seems to go on and on as you head for Auldhouse at 40 miles and would you believe it at 32 miles just after Glassford the support car coming the other way stopped and kindly handed me a bottle of coke and Grants voice from the back seat saying Rob and James were a mile or two so up the road. Now I was in 3rd place chasing down the two machines and any thoughts of pulling out had to be put aside as the final checkpoint loomed closer.

Checkpoint 4 (40 miles) at Auldhouse arrived soon enough and my final drop bag had made it so coke downed and tailwind drink in hand I gave myself a talking to and persuaded myself that no amount of pain in my hip could prevent a finish and it was *only* 10 miles till the end. I had no idea how far I was behind and really wasn't bothered , I would have been more disappointed with a DNF than a sore leg. After the climb up to Whitelees Wind Farm the race is generally an undulating 10km downhill to the finish and I picked the pace up thankfully as the relay runners started to appear steadily passing on their way to the end. A 51 minute 10km to finish on tired legs cannot be all bad and I finished in 6hr 54 mins with Rob 2nd in *6hr 29min and James 1st in *6hr 19mins.

* James and Robs route (hee hee)



Drop bag issues aside this year this is a wonderful race to take part in and I would encourage anyone to come and give it a go, and if you are not up for the full bhuna enter a relay team and join in the fun. Many thanks to the Lucas organising team and stewards for another unforgetable race.

Friday, 22 July 2016

TAKING IT EASY

It has been a few weeks since the last blog and time seems to be just speeding away this year. My plan for the year is a fast marathon in Berlin to see if I can go under 2:50 and that has been the target for many months and the reason for entering so few races this year. Well that was the plan but a look at what I have entered for the next few months and what I have completed already I may have slipped up a bit but if I am fit I will be fine.

Sunday 15th May

After London the next marathon up was Brathay Windermere but the small matter of the Monklands Half the week before to get the legs back up to race pace. Monklands is great local half organised by North Lanarkshire Council Leisure Dept and is superbly organised on a testing two and a half lap loop around the perimeter of Drumpellier Park in Coatbridge. I was accompanied by my brother Michael and little sister Kate for this one and knew Michael was in good shape for this with the Berlin target also on his radar. Race weather was perfect and we were treated to a beautiful day for running. A bit of cat and mouse for the first few miles till positions evened out and it was left to Michael to try and make up the 30 second gap I had opened with a mile to go, but he knew when I glimpsed him going round the last turn out of the park he wasn't going to catch me and we finished in 10th and 11th place is in 1:21:36 and 1:21:56 respectively with Kate having a comfortable finish in 1:56:50.

Kate, me, Michael
Sunday 22nd May

Next up was Windermere and a little extra race with no target time as it was actually a stag weekend with a fun run added for a laugh. Gavin Harvie had arranged the weekend for a jolly before his nuptials in July and as runners were travelling from around the country this just seemed to be the central point. Several of the guys had travelled down on the Friday but due to work stuff myself and Michael travelled down on Saturday afternoon accompanied by Duncan Thomson.

Athletes!!!!


Needless to say much beer was consumed and pre marathon curry consumed so I was feeling rather fragile on the start line on Sunday morning in the grounds of Brathay Hall at the head of Lake Windermere. With delicate head and guts we set off and it was apparent this was going to be a toughie early on although it didn't seem to affect Cris Walsh as he shot off like a greyhound out of a trap, maybe forgoing the stag do and travelling down on race morning was a sensible idea.

1st mile


race route


As marathon routes go this one is beautiful with some outstanding scenery and definitely a professionally organised event. I set off with Michael with the intention of running together as long as possible but I gradually pulled away from him as he felt a few of the climbs but as we reached halfway point he pulled alongside me and we had a mile or 2 together before more climbing began on the way to Ice Cream Hill at 21 miles, where if you fancied a stop for refueling after yet another hill ice cream could be had. Gavin, Lee and Kelvin took another course of action and stopped earlier at a pub for a pint. I realised a sub 3 hour run was slipping away but kept up an even pace but with a mile to after going over a short humpback footbridge the volcano of beer and curry still rattling around in my guts decided it was time to make an appearance and much to the spectators delight I deposited the contents of my belly on the roadside. This gave Michael a lift as he rounded the corner to see me only a short distance up the road but with only 500 mtrs to go not enough distance for him to catch me on the final climb.

the final climb pre race and still fun

The finishing line was a welcome sight with a 3:02:59 for me and 3:03:15 for Michael and amazingly 1st and second vet 45s, so even though I was rough we both got a prize.



The rest of the stag party trundled over the finishing line in various states of disrepair with us heading straight back home and Gav, Lee and Kelvin staying to celebrate some more.

Sunday 12th June

Next up was the Strathearn Marathon, yet another hilly one and only a few weeks recovery which also include a 33 mile recce run on the Clyde Stride route so no big expectations for this but hoping still to get in around about the 3 hour mark. I was nominated driver for the day collecting Julie McFall and Robert Soutar and arriving in plenty of time at Cultybraggan Camp on the outskirts of Comrie. The weather for the race was a bit wet and blowy but ideal running conditions. Robert was wanting a sub 3 hour time to apply for Good For Age in London next year and I had planned to run with him but it became apparent as we started the 7 mile slog uphill my legs had not recovered from Windermere so had no option but to watch him disappear off in front on his way to a superb 2:53:43 finish.

Me and Mark trying to get Rob to join Vicky Park

Boab on a mission

Top of the hill

Julie suitably unimpressed

                                                                                                                                                            Julie was not expecting too much from her marathon for the year due to a couple if niggling injuries but she too had a great strong run finishing in 4:05:39. My run turned in to a great training run for the Stride and I rattled out even splits finishing strongly in 3:01:09, although over the 3 mark it was unscathed. Another marvellous race which gets even better when you finish with an outstanding food spread laid on by the Strathearn Harriers and local community.


Saturday 16th July

A highlight of the year is the Clyde Stride Ultramarathon, 40 miles from Partick to New Lanark along the River Clyde and this year a lot of friends were coming in from all over the world to help celebrate Michaels 50th birthday on the 17th by taking part in the race and also a team entered from MR25 Michaels club in Singapore. Myself and Robert had shown Kevin ODonoghue the route a few weeks previously on a 33 mile recce run so I knew who the competition for placing would at least be coming from with those two racing.

Taking it all too seriously

Kenneth, Michael, me, Graham


Race morning and it was a wonderful atmosphere with visitors from afar and lots of other running and marshalling friends all congregating at registration and then the start line. My own race strategy for the race was carry nothing apart from salt tablets and a solitary gel in case of emergency and pick up a bottle of tailwind/water mix at each checkpoint. 

Straight from the start the race was fast as Grant Jeans, Rob and Kevin shot off at a pace of  around about 6 minute miles which was just not in my plan so I watched them gradually pull away hoping my own pace(which for miles 1-9 averaged 6:45 per mile) would keep me in contention later on. There were 2 other runners ahead of me one of whom I passed just after the long grass in section two which left 3 known to me and 1 other wearing a GREY t-shirt. As we exited Strathclyde Park Stephen Schofield had mine and Robs bottles instead of us getting them at checkpoint 2 and as I got there Rob had stopped and decided to pull out of the race so that left Kevin, Grant and the GREY lad in front now. On entering the cowfield (Barrons Haugh) I glimpsed Grant and steadily reeled him in for the next 3 mile passing him with about 3 miles to go to the checkpoint 3. Now 2 in front, Kevin and a GREY t-shirted runner.

approaching checkpoint 3

After checkpoint 3 my belly decided it was time to empty and I threw up all the juice and two salt tablets I had downed at the checkpoint but luckily I had the foresight to have left two bottles there and was carrying the extra one so took it easy for a mile or so and had another two tablets and slowly rehydrated. This is a tough section on tired legs I was really starting to slow down and had no idea if anyone was within touching distance till just before the new bridge at the pumping station where Davie who informed me I was catching the leaders. Davie offered me a gel but I declined as I wanted juice but he didn't have any but I knew the shop in Kirkfieldbank was only a mile away so not a problem I would get some there. As I approached the gate on the small climb to the road in to Kirkfieldbank  I caught sight of a runner but he was wearing a bright green t-shirt so presumed he was a relay runner and never gave it much thought even almost catching him as I went in to the shop and bought a bottle coke.

The shop stop took about 2 minutes going by my watch splits and I carried on hoping no-one had passed while I was in there. After safely negotiating the down then up section I exited onto the downhill road towards the finishing loop and again saw the GREEN t-shirted runner about 250 metres down the road. Carrying on around the final loop and through the hole in the wall I crossed the line to a hug from Lee to be told I wad 3rd place, about 1 minute behind 2nd and 6 minutes behind the winner Kevin. The lad in the GREEN t-shirt was 2nd place, so close to him but unaware I hadn't chased him!!!! Didn't get the chance to ask him but somewhere he must have changed tops.

Top 3 : 1 117 Kevin O'Donoghue 05:06:42 1ST MALE 2 66 Matthew Hunter 05:11:10 2ND MALE 3 83 Gerry Craig 05:12:48 3RD MALE

Results Here : CLYDE STRIDE RESULTS PAGE

GARMIN STATS FOR 2016 RACE

The rest of the visitors all had a great day running the race and I am sure a few will be back to take the challenge again in the coming years.

MR25 visiting team members and family

Me with my 2 brothers and dad
Race director Lee McLean puts in an amazing shift behind the scenes to offer us such a great race and both Michael and myself through our companies chip in a little and help wherever possible but even we were amazed when the prizegiving began and Lee announced there was now a trophy being awarded for the winning relay team which she has named the 'Craig Cup' , it is only now I am glad she hasn't had to call it the 'Craig Memorial Cup' .  I am sure the competition will now intensify for that particular race going by online comments!!!!!!