Great Scottish Run 2018

One of the self imposed ‘rules’ of my challenge to run 18 half marathons this year was that I had to include at least one race in each part of the British Isles.

Northern Ireland was already covered (obviously), and my travels so far had also taken me to England, Wales and the Republic of Ireland. That just left Scotland.

Thankfully, the Great Scottish Run in Glasgow was ideally scheduled to allow me to complete the set before I finished my challenge back in London where it all started next month.

This was #17 and my fourth in September. I travelled to Glasgow alone, as usual, a couple of days in advance of the race. I like to do this to give me a chance to explore somewhere new rather than just arrive, run and leave again. It also allows me to rest plenty beforehand and soak up the atmosphere. Not that any of that makes one iota of a difference to how I’ll run! I’m not some highly tuned athlete that needs to acclimatise in order to produce an optimum performance. I am what I am, I do what I do.

I’m from Northern Ireland. I’m used to it being cold but, my goodness, Glasgow was something else! I don’t think I ever warmed up from the minute I arrived to the moment I left. That could be purely coincidental, there has been a bug doing the rounds and I haven’t felt well since returning.

When I say I was alone in Glasgow, I wasn’t really. My club runs an annual trip to this race so there were around 14-15 of us in the city, most of whom stayed in the same hotel as me.

But I kept myself to myself largely, through choice. For some reason I felt sad for a lot of my time in Glasgow. Sad and lonely, despite having familiar faces on call if I needed. That thing about feeling alone in packed room very much rang true for me.

Anyway, about the race. It forms part of a weekend of running in Glasgow so on Saturday I walked the very short distance from my hotel to George Square to watch the family/kids races.

I really enjoyed this, and found it both inspirational and emotional in equal measure. Seeing some of the young kids who had overcome severe adversity in their short lives display such determination to cross the finishing line really pulled on the heart strings.

Onto Sunday. Being so close to the start I was able to go out and watch the 10k waves get underway before returning to the hotel to get ready for my own race.

That done, and several trips to the loo later, I was good to go. I made my way to the pens and almost immediately bumped into Michael, one of my running buddies from Diabetes UK and whom I spent a long time with in Swansea back in the summer. It was great to see him again and catch up, he’s faster than me so I knew I wouldn’t see him during the race!

If you know the Great Scottish Run you’ll know it starts with an almighty climb up St. Vincent Street. It looked quite daunting and it wasn’t for the faint hearted but it was good that it came right at the beginning when fresher legs are better equipped to deal with it.

I intended taking it slowly but with the adrenaline flowing it was difficult to do so. Knowing that I’d gone up it too quickly I made the conscious decision to make my second mile a very easy one just to allow my legs time to recover, so I dropped right down into a gentle jog.

Mile three brought me back up to speed but, for some reason, my fourth mile was even slower than the second. I’m not really sure why but this trend continued for a while – fast mile, slow mile – until, just after the halfway point, I settled into a bit of consistency. Not that I was struggling or anything like that, it was just how it went.

I felt I was running ok actually. Going into the race I had taken all pressure off myself as regards pace or time so perhaps being more relaxed was paying dividends.

I wasn’t going to set a personal best or anything like that (the inconsistent start put paid to that) but I was doing alright. I was enjoying myself going through the Glasgow parks and taking in some of the sights of the city.

Perhaps what I liked most about this one was the varied entertainment on route. There were pipers, lots and lots of pipers, as you’d maybe expect. There were also bands, dj’s, circus performers and, would you believe?, belly dancers! It was fantastic.

The local support out on the route was something else I really enjoyed. I can’t remember what they were saying or shouting but I did smile a lot.

Approaching the finish I felt content with my run, not my best time but nowhere near my worst either. An enjoyable run, all told.

I did feel a bit emotional at the end and took myself off to a quiet corner just past the finish line to have a moment. Obviously I was spotted because within moments this woman came rushing over to check if I was ok. I thanked her and reassured her I was fine.

I only felt the emotion because I knew I had only one race left to complete the 18. If I felt like this now I can only dread to think what I’ll feel like after my last one!

Relive my run


#18in18 – two left!

I’m almost there! The end is in sight in my self set challenge to run 18 half marathons in 2018, so no better time than to throw out a quick recap of my progress so far.

It all started back in March in London …

1. The Big Half
I couldn’t really have got off to a better start than this, kicking off within sight of Tower Bridge and finishing right beside the Cutty Sark. Iconic.

Big city, big race, big crowds – perfect for me. During the race I set a personal best over every single distance ie: 5k, 5 miles, 10k, 10 miles and Half … I loved this so much I signed up again for 2019 as soon as entries were opened.

2. Larne Half Marathon
The first of the local races in my challenge, and another rip-roaring success. A race that treated us to stunning views along the world famous Antrim Coast on a gloriously sunny day.

Although a little bit slower than the Big Half I was still really pleased with my performance, only being denied a PB by a great big hill halfway through.

3. Reading Half Marathon (Virtual)
A little bit different this time, a virtual run based on the Reading Half Marathon. The actual race was cancelled because of the weather back in March so the organiser, in conjunction with the Virtual Runner website, allowed runners to earn the same medal in their own time and a route of their choosing.

I decided to do it around my hometown of Ballymena. I also used this ‘race’ to experiment with Jeffing (the run/walk method) and hated every minute of it. My legs hurt, it rained, I got soaked. Next please.

4. Not The London Marathon
Held on London Marathon day, this event was organised by the East Antrim Marathon Series over a 10k course with a number of different distances available. I did two laps to bring me up to Half Marathon distance.

I didn’t really enjoy this one either. The route was tough in places, there was a small number of entries, my head wasn’t in it etc. etc. … from the highs of London and Larne these last two runs brought me crashing back down to earth.

5. Lee Valley VeloPark Half Marathon
Back to London at the end of May for a RunThrough event outside the 2012 Olympics Velodrome. The route was 13 laps of a circuit designed for cyclists, which made it very undulating and whilst it wasn’t particularly steep it did get quite trying towards the end.

I almost pulled out at around eight miles. I felt quite ill due to the heat of the day, but after a quick refresh I battled through to finish. If I didn’t already know it, this challenge was going to be tough in places!

6. Lacock Half Marathon
The first of three races in two weeks. This one was in the picturesque Wiltshire village of Lacock, three laps of a 4.4 mile course. A lovely route which took us out into the countryside before returning into the village to great support from locals and tourists alike.

Another really hot day, and the third loop was a real struggle but, on reflection, a great event and a great day out. Things were beginning to look up again!

7. Lisburn Half Marathon
I ran the Lisburn 10k last year and was awful in it, so I wasn’t really looking forward to this one especially since it was double the distance.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I only went and set a PB! The fact that it was a cooler evening undoubtedly helped, but I also got my race tactics spot on. My head was in the right place, I didn’t panic after starting almost at the back and simply and methodically picked off those in front of me one by one.

8. Swansea Half Marathon
It’s not hard to see why this has been voted the UK’s favourite half marathon. An outstanding event featuring a wonderfully scenic Swansea Bay hugging route with a big turnout of both runners and supportive locals.

If it wasn’t for the fact that it was another ridiculously hot day I have no doubt I’d have set another PB. This is one I’ll return to do another day.

9. Bath Two Tunnels
Perhaps the most unique race to date, around five miles or so were run through disused railway tunnels outside Bath. Dark and atmospheric, I really enjoyed them.

The heat has been a bit of a recurring theme lately, but nothing has been as hot as this one. The tunnels themselves were lovely and cooling, but outside the temperature peaked at 29° which simply did not agree with me. It was like running in a sauna, and I did consider dropping out at one point again.

10. Dark Hedges Half Marathon
Into double figures! The most local race to me. If you’re a Game Of Thrones fan you’ll recognise the area this one is named after but, if you’re not, it’s just another rural race over an undulating course.

I ran this with Bronagh, one of my training partners, it was her first half and I got a real kick out of helping her round. Despite the hills I felt fresh at the end.

11. EAMS Carrickfergus Castle to Loughshore Half
A low key race organised by the East Antrim Marathon Series (EAMS) people, and the first of two in four days. I had a horrendous experience the last time I participated in one of their events (see #4 on my list) but this was altogether different.

Basically an out and back from Carrickfergus Castle to the outskirts of Belfast all along the coast, I ran this more or less on my own and found that a real help because I was able to focus on my own pace rather than panic at everyone around me leaving me behind during the early stages.

12. Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Dublin
I’d been looking forward to this for quite some time but what started out as a dream ended up as nightmare.

Very definitely a race of two halves, I ran a calculated, composed race for the first 10k then it was like someone pulled the plug on me. I hadn’t been feeling well, but thought I’d beaten the bugs … then they returned with a vengeance. I really struggled over the second half and was grateful to just finish!

13. 401 Festival of Running Virtual Half
The second virtual half in my challenge. Sort of. I started the day running a local 10k (Storming The Castle) but then carried on to bring it up to 13.1 miles as part of Ben Smith’s 401 Foundation Festival of Running that was taking place the same weekend in Portishead near Bristol.

Mentally and physically this was tough. After having already run a race it took a lot of willpower to keep going … and the little lull between finishing the race, getting medals, leaving stuff back in the car etc. and then carrying on for another 6 miles or so meant my legs had cooled down only for them to have start running again.

14. Waterside Half Marathon
Is this the race when the wheels really started to come off for me? My schedule began to take it’s toll on me, both in my legs and my head. I started off well enough then hit the Foyle Bridge and wanted to give up. I almost did.

15. Chippenham Half Marathon
Yep. The wheels have definitely come off. I wanted this one to be special, I really wanted to do well. I didn’t. I didn’t want to do this anymore. What was I thinking taking something like this on? Rarely have I felt this despondent after a race. I’m rubbish.

16. Belfast Half Marathon
I’m back! Hell yes, I’m back! My best run for quite a while, almost a PB but I can’t hold what’s not in my hand … although I very nearly did at one point!!! The demons of the same race a year ago were well and truly exorcised.

So that leaves just two left. A mixture of the good, bad and downright ugly but I never expected it to be easy.

I’m not going to lie. I am getting tired of this. It has taken a lot out of me, perhaps as much in my head as my body.

I am working hard, I’m running at least four days a week and it is starting to get frustrating that my speed hasn’t increased to any great degree. Yes, I’ve set two half marathon personal bests over the course of the challenge but, I don’t know, maybe I was expecting myself to be ‘better’ by now.

But, I’m almost there, I’ll miss it when it’s over and I’m already starting to think what I can do next year!

The last two have been confirmed as follows:-

17. Great Scottish Run (Glasgow) – 30th September 2018
18. Royal Parks Half (London) – 14th October 2018

A pretty hectic finish, but I’m back to feeling so much stronger and fitter now than I did when I started despite some pretty major recent frustrations.

Part of the reason I’m doing this is to raise a little something for Diabetes UK. I’m Type 2, and have received great encouragement and advice from #TeamDUK over the years.

If you’ve enjoyed my journey so far and would like to support me in running towards a world where diabetes can do no harm then I would be so appreciative if you could make a small donation via my JustGiving page.


Active Recovery!

After yesterday’s run, my best half marathon for a while, I felt every one of my 47 years and a few more for good measure.

I woke feeling old, unfit and creaky. My legs were heavy and even walking was more akin to a waddle.

But I’ve become a great advocate in recent months of a day after recovery run, no matter how much my body protested.

It was handy that this was a Monday, that meant club and that extra motivation to get out and run.

I hadn’t planned on running up for a change, deciding a walk would be enough to loosen me up.

However, Iverene messaged to say she was considering parking at mine and running up herself so that was the decision made for me, it would be much easier running with someone anyway.

Iverene was feeling it after yesterday too, so we both decided it would be prudent just to go for a gentle run.

Ummmm. Yeah. About that. It usually takes me around 11 minutes or slightly over. Tonight it took almost exactly ten!

I’m can’t speak for Iverene but I know my legs felt good straightaway. Any lingering part of Belfast that was in them left as soon as I started running.

Arriving at club, it was the 30 minute group again. It was an experienced group tonight, with a few from Belfast all using it as a recovery, and those that weren’t were old hands at this running lark anyway.

That meant it promised to be a speedy session as far as the 30s went, and so it proved.

Granted, it wasn’t as fast as the run up but it was still fairly nifty and at a quicker pace than yesterday.

This was good. It was quite comfortable at the same time, never at any point did I feel under pressure even though I was trying to take it as easy as I could.

Session over, it was time to run back home.

Aided, admittedly, by the fact it was ever so slightly downhill we actually took this quicker than the run up, making it back in around 9:35 or thereabouts!

So much for taking it easy, this was just what my legs needed!

Relive my run