Saturday, 1 May 2021

Something Worth Seeking Out

Before continuing with my "Life Before Lockdown" series of articles, I shall have a brief pause to bring attention to a commendable venture of a friend pursued for a very worthy cause.

I became acquainted with Scott Martin of Kilmarnock Harriers a number of years ago. As far as I recall, we first encountered each other at the 2007 Isle of Arran Half Marathon, a significant race for me being my first ever road race victory. As time went on, as you do in the running world, we would meet at races and have a blether and, when Facebook became a thing, connected on there. We have also socialised on occasion outwith our sport. As well as running, we have a shared interest in following our respective football teams and, from what I have gathered, he, like me, enjoys a beer, at the correct times of course. Back in January 2020, I appreciated the pre-match pints he purchased for my Dad and I at Rugby Park though not so much the 6-0 drubbing his team inflicted on mine in the Scottish Cup tie that followed. I have forgiven him since.

During the first lockdown I became aware that Scott had a little writing project in progress. The result was a book, the cover of which is photographed below.

The publication of Scott's work has had the very positive spin off of raising money for Alzheimer Scotland. This is a cause very close to Scott's heart since his mother has lived with dementia for a number of years. The topic and its effect on the lives of mother and son are addressed throughout the book in a very thought provoking and touching manner.

The remainder of the book can be summed up as memoirs of an extremely varied and successful running career with many an amusing anecdote which I was able to relate to. It was the marathon that brought Scott into the sport and his improvement over the years has to be seen to be believed. It is apparent how much time and effort Scott has put into getting the very best out of himself, all the while looking after his mother and dealing with the other challenges life can throw at us in the background. I have made no secret of my aversion to the marathon so it is saying something that Scott's book put me in the mood to try one again. Only momentarily of course. The insights into his preparations and how he ran the races themselves gave me food for thought as to how I could do things differently whenever I get round to tackling the distance again.

I don't wish to divulge too much of the detail that the book contains because I think that it's best that people read it for themselves. Remember you will be contributing to an excellent cause in making the purchase. Scott can be contacted through Facebook. Alternatively, email me at the email address at the top of this blog with any requests and I will either liaise with Scott or put you in touch with him directly.

Happy reading and, if sufficiently inspired, happy running.

Friday, 23 April 2021

Life Before Lockdown Part 2- Scottish National Cross Country Championships, 23rd February 2019

It's incredible to think back and recall how nervous I was about this race. I felt the nerves since the beginning of the week. The key thing is that you channel them properly. Hopefully I was able to do it on this occasion.

My record at the National since the second of my two 9th place finishes in 2013 had been patchy and read as follows:-

2014- failed to finish. I had struggled for the entire winter since the Dublin Marathon the previous October. My legs buckled on the first major climb at the opposite end of the pond and I dipped under the tape shortly afterwards. In all honesty, my heart wasn't in it from the start.

2015- I didn't run through choice after starting a new job and wanting to target something different that winter.

2016- Again, I didn't run, this time through a combination of an injury (sprained ankle) and illness (chest infection) in the weeks leading up to the race.

2017- 38th place in a complete and utter mudbath. I was so tired, I gave the club night out that evening a miss. I could hardly move.

2018- 24th place. On the face of it, this was a good result. However, losing 6 places in the final few hundred metres and my state of mind made it feel a lot worse.

At this point, I will confess to a guilty pleasure in life. I have had an on-off liking for WWE. My heroes have ranged from Hulk Hogan in my younger days to John Cena more recently. I totally understand that this is scripted entertainment. That said, I have often drawn on some soundbites, especially from John Cena's work, as sources of inspiration. Anyone portraying a character urging people to never give up and to give their best is good enough for me. The night before the race, I called upon a promo video before one of his big matches which referred to things such as going "to the top of the mountain." It did the job. It's a miracle that I slept.

My Dad and I had an inkling that something good was going to happen. I had trained well and the conditions were to my liking, Dry weather and a firm, hilly course. I'm never in the mood for socialising before the bigger races so, having collected my number and timing chip from the club tent, I quickly made myself scarce. I don't even warm up with company. It's just not for me. I'll chat and jog with anyone at all after the event. Not before though.

Not wanting a repeat of the Armagh debacle and knowing that the course veered right at the top of the first hill, I positioned myself so far to the right that I was clinging to the tape. I managed to keep out of harm's way and tried not to be too concerned about who was ahead of me. I'm very much of the view that it's where you are at the finish that counts. No medals are won in the first 100m but you can certainly lose the race in that time with around 10km still ahead of you.

Much like most of the wrestling I have enjoyed watching over the years, everything went to the script for the first two laps. I was working hard, well up the field and in good form. The atmosphere, particularly in the "tented village" area of the course was electric. You couldn't help but up your game a few notches. I had even fought my way up to 2nd Cambuslang Harrier.

Above: the second lap, focused and determined.

While not sharing it with anyone beforehand, I'd had a notional target of top 20 in my head. To earn team medals, your 6 counters, plus arguably the next few after that, need to be as high up the field as possible. I had taken no prisoners and run aggressively during the first two thirds of the race. I was doing my bit. In hindsight there was going to be an inevitable tailing off. Right at the beginning of the final lap, a Fife athlete unknown to me overtook. Don't panic, keep the head up. Thankfully the deluge of the previous year never happened. Later in the lap, Sean Fontana (Inverclyde) and another runner who I can't now recall also passed me by. From around the climb at the pond until the final corner, I lost no more. I had been in a ding dong battle with Conan McCaughey (Central) before he gradually opened a gap on me. Central were gunning to break our record of consecutive team gold medals. Both clubs were throwing everything at this race.

After negotiating the tented village for the final time, I started to anticipate the finish. Come on, it's a rep from your cross country training. You've done loads of those. A tight right hand turn takes you into the home straight. No way did I want half a dozen people to trample me this year. I didn't do those 200m reps two days before the race for nothing!

In the charge for the line, I was groaning in agony. Craig Ruddy (Inverclyde) came by. Fine, I can live with one person but no more. The finish line came with no more damage done. Safely through the funnel I lay flat on my face. I was totally exhausted and had left it all out there. It took some congratulatory words and a pull up from Dale Colley (Central) to get me to my feet and my Dad's helping hand to transport me to the club tent.

It turned out to be mission accomplished by the narrowest of margins. 20th place, 2nd club counter and a team silver medal. Central proved to be worthy winners of the team gold. No shame in that. Each club had given their best.

Above: Cambuslang's team silver medallists. From left to right- Alasdair Campbell, me, Iain MacCorquodale, Kevan Harvey, Ryan Thomson, Fraser Stewart.

It had been a fantastic result and a brilliant day. The full results can be found here. There was no missing the club get together that night. 

Days like this don't always happen but, when they do, the feeling is unbeatable. This was one of those occasions. They make our sport the pleasure that it is at the best of times.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Life Before Lockdown Part 1- 2018 Into 2019

To say that a lot has happened since I last updated this blog on a regular basis is a huge understatement. Even if the nightmare that life became in March 2020 hadn't occurred, the statement would still apply. I intend to pick things up from where I left off in the article, "Then You Open A Hotel...." (I haven't, things have never got THAT bad), summarise how 2019 panned out over a handful of articles then address the hellish existence that has been Covid 19. 

My Mum says that I have a brain like a sieve. I am therefore grateful to have my training diaries to jog my memory on a lot of the things I shall be writing about in the days to come.

2017 was a pretty good year....until a month before it ended. Unforseen non running events sent my life into a tailspin, wiping out the positivity of the previous 11 months. The aforementioned article will fill in the gap thereafter. How I managed it is a very long story and was down to the huge support of some great people but, as 2018 drew to a close, I had pulled myself together. I was running well again. I even churned out a track session of 12x500m with 100m jog recoveries in freezing fog at Crownpoint on Christmas Eve, my traditional run on Christmas morning and 12 High Point hill reps on Boxing Day. A tough year ended with the huge high of a time of 31:16 at the Ribble Valley 10km Road Race on 30th December, easily my most complete performance of the year. I can still remember my emotions at the finish. A great example of the sheer elation running can bring and how it can make things seem not so serious.

My last two 2018 training diary entries were two easy 6 mile runs. I had written the heading "Epilogue" on a new page after this but never ever wrote it. Why dwell on negatives? Instead, I closed the book on 2018 and opened 2019 with a fresh page.

Above: the conclusion of the Ribble Valley Race in December 2018.

Alas, I wasn't as fresh as the aforementioned metaphorical page on rolling up for the Beith Harriers New Year Road Race on 2nd January. I had the winner's trophy, the McLuckie Cup, to return from the previous year and had noticed from the engravings that I was one short of Laurie Spence's record of 5 wins. The race had been changed from its fast 4 lap industrial estate route of 4.5-5 miles to an undulating 10km and, coming only 3 days after Ribble Valley, it was just too much for me. Shettleston's Jamie Burns deservedly defeated me by 11 seconds as I struggled home in 2nd place with 33:09 on the clock. My friend Toni McIntosh also suffered a severe injury during this race and seeing how upset she was about it capped off a fairly flat day.

The festive period tends to be topsy turvy with little routine. That probably explains why I lined up for the Scottish Indoor 3000m Championships at the Emirates only 2 days later. Glutton for punishment. This was an emotional occasion for happier reasons. I found myself comprehensively outclassed in the fastest heat where the first 4 finishers broke 8 minutes. What mattered though was my time of 8:39.04 not only constituted a first personal best for 14 long months (I've run faster over 3000m outdoors but they all count) but also secured me M35 gold, my first ever individual Scottish title. I was bursting with pride after this and humbled by the social media reaction I received, including from Toni so soon after her own misfortune. I still treasure the medal more than many of the others.

That race took place on a Friday night. What about Saturday? You just have to relax and recover with a 16:50 clocking over 5km at Strathclyde Parkrun don't you? I did suggest that there was little routine to the week.

Above: feeling every step but sticking it out. James Donald of Dundee Hawkhill Harriers, since vastly improved, is on my shoulder before eventually beating me.

Things then settled down into my familiar work-running-watching Queen's Park routine. By the time of an old favourite race, the Renfrewshire 5 Mile Road Race in Greenock on 3rd February, I had completed 4 consecutive 60 mile weeks. I would complete one more the next week. As a traditionally lower mileage distance runner, this was a heavy workload for me. 

The week leading up to the race is interesting to read back on. Firstly, on 30th January, a Wednesday, I wrote that my car was in for a repair and I had run 9 miles from my work in Paisley (I don't work there any more, to be explained at a later date) to Busby. My Dad had suggested this. What a great idea. A new regular training run was born. On the following day I had a problem with my car and missed my run. Not to worry, I did my new run again on the Friday in the exact same time as the Wednesday before having a night out and a few pints at a comedy night at East Kilbride Sports Club with some friends. On Saturday I ran 8 miles during a session that I call the Mixed Grill. This is 1 mile easy, 2 miles hard, 1 mile easy, 8x1 minute hard 1 minute easy, then the remainder easy. One continuous run. No stopping at any stage. I do it occasionally as a fitness test. I completed it in 48:54 and wrote that I "had a level of contentment I haven't had for a long time." The contentment can be the only explanation for me finishing 3rd in 25:18 the next day in a blustery Greenock behind Sean Fontana and Dougie Selman but ahead of the likes of clubmate Gavin Smith and Craig Ruddy. I was though clearly fit as well. The race always falls around my Dad's birthday and the Covid situation has temporarily robbed us of a great father-son day out.

All this was leading to my major target of the winter, the Scottish National Cross Country on 23rd February. I did one more preparatory race, the Armagh 5km Road Race on the 14th. This would be my 6th time racing in Armagh since 2010 and, I am sorry to say, the least enjoyable. The race has grown from around 80 runners to over 200. The course is too narrow and simply cannot cope. I found myself boxed in and hampered at the start. For the record, I finished 106th out of 201 finishers in 14:57. My last kilometre of 2:57 was my quickest. That says all you need to know about the congestion. On the plus side, it was a pleasure again to see my good friends Charles and Jenny Bannerman from Inverness and I can't say that I didn't enjoy my post race pints of good Irish beer in the hotel bar (until 2.30am!). Sadly though, I would think twice about going back until athlete safety is given more of a priority by the organisers than it currently is. I voiced these concerns to them at the time.

Two days after Armagh, my Dad and I headed to Callendar Park, Falkirk where I did 7x3 minutes with 2 minute static recoveries as a pre-race recce. During the 21 minutes of efforts I covered 4 miles. Two days before the National I did a track session of 10x200m with 200m slow jog recoveries. One rep took 31 seconds, 2 were completed in 33 seconds and the remainder in 32 seconds. I wrote the following:-

"Short, sharp session to finish National preparation.

Feeling nervous, really hoping it can all come together.

Big race feeling. Time to leave it all out there and to reclaim some scalps."

My next article will describe how it all panned out.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Sources of Inspiration

Over the years, I have taken a lot of enjoyment and pleasure out of reading. I think that books are wonderful things. Whether it's fact or fiction, you can learn so much from them. Nowadays, technology provides us with so many forms of entertainment. I have never however been a big fan of the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime etc. You will rarely, if ever, find me having a "boxset binge." It's just not my thing. Give me a cup of tea (or even better, a pot) and a good book though and you will make me a happy person. I'm also not talking about electronic devices that store books. I mean physically having a book in your hand. 

Back in the good old days, up to early 2020, when we were allowed to partake in things called holidays, I would take two or three books away with me. There is no better way to pass the time at a poolside or in a coffee shop. The last time I managed to get away anywhere was a couple of nights in a country hotel in December 2019 when competing in the Ribble Valley 10km Road Race. On that occasion, I even sat by the fire in the bar with a couple of books (a biography of the late American comedian and actor Richard Pryor and, to provide some balance, that year's Broons annual) and a few pints after my dinner. I should add that I had already run the race earlier in the day! More on that in an another article in the not too distant future.

Where am I going with this? Well I'm not oblivious to the fact that this blog has not been updated often for some time. It's fair to say that we have all not had our troubles to seek over the last wee while! I've lacked the inspiration to write anything. In all honesty, a lot of the time, I just haven't felt like it. That was until the day I wrote this article when I received another book for my collection. A friend from Kilmarnock Harriers, Scott Martin, has commendably written one in support of Alzheimer Scotland. It looks like it will be a good read- I wait with baited breath to see if I'm in it. If he can perform such a selfless gesture, surely I can write a few words on this blog again every so often? Of course I can, and that's what I now intend to do. Thank you for the fresh inspiration Scott and I hope that your efforts raise plenty money for your chosen cause.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Lockdown Experiences

Driving to and from work. Doing a day's work in the office. Getting the train to work while relaxing with a book, picking up a cup of tea from Greggs on the way in and running home. Training with my club. Racing. Venturing to a Parkrun and socialising afterwards. Going to the football with my Dad. Going for a pint with my brother. Going out for a meal with my family. Having the occasional Sunday run "away day" down the Ayrshire coast. What have all of these activities got in common? They have all been off limits to me since 23rd March 2020.

Above: the football with my Dad in happier times.

None of us need any introduction to the perils of Covid 19 and the destruction it has caused to our daily lives. Offices, shops, pubs, restaurants, cafes, sports facilities, hairdressers/barber shops and schools all closed. Friends and family separated from each other. Thousands of people losing their jobs and even their lives. It has been nothing short of a catastrophe. Lockdown has had an effect on me too in many ways. I thought that sharing my experiences might help others.

From the outset, I would say that I know that I am far more fortunate than many. My heart goes out to everyone who has suffered in any way during this. The first impact on me was the cancellation of a holiday. On 14th March, I was scheduled to fly out to Portugal's Algarve region for 6 days to enjoy some warm weather training for the third consecutive year. While Covid 19 had not spread throughout the UK and there were no travel restrictions at that time, Portugal was in a state of alert. Concerned about bringing the virus home with me (especially with my Mum having just recovered from a life threatening illness) and having to "self isolate," I cancelled the trip and decided to have a week off at home instead. I got more than I bargained for.

Above: a previous trip to the Algarve in 2009, once the training had been done of course.

You could sense things were happening. My time off was cut short at 3 days to prepare for homeworking. Lockdown started on 23rd March. My old room at my parents' house became my new office. It certainly had its perks. A much shorter, traffic free commute (less than 2 minutes), no need for formal dress, no face to face client meetings. It also gave me the chance to tune into the Ken Bruce show on Radio 2 every morning. I have been a fan of Ken for at least 16 years since seeing him as a guest in Dictionary Corner on Countdown. I used to listen to the late Terry Wogan on the radio and soon realised that Ken was on after him. When I was in Sweden for 6 months in 2004 my Dad used to send me recordings of his show on cassettes. Ken has proven to be a tonic during homeworking. Great music and chat and a wee quiz called Popmaster every day at 10.30am. I strongly recommend it.

Over time however, things started to fray at the edges. Realising that we were in this for the long haul, my morale, motivation and mental health slipped. I received a pay cut and reduction to a 4 day week. There is only so much you can achieve outside the office and the frustration at the length of time even routine tasks took grew. I found myself making occasional twilight visits to the office (with no-one else there) to complete some tasks. It wasn't uncommon for me to be there at 8pm or later.

Eventually, at the beginning of June, I agreed to go on furlough for 3 weeks. To be taken out of the firing line for a while was welcome but it's not really a holiday when leisure options are so limited. The first couple of weeks were fine but by the third week I was thoroughly fed up and, yes, a little depressed. Relief came when I was told that I could not only return to work on 1st July (still on a 4 day week) but also be in the office if I wished provided that I kept my workspace sanitised. At the time of writing, I have been back for 3 days. The sense of normality it has brought is a godsend.

More generally, the whole situation has been a massive test of my mental health. I have addressed this topic elsewhere on this blog. I'm quite a private person but the loss of the opportunity to socialise with others when I feel like it has been a massive loss. I'm still training on Saturday mornings but wouldn't it be nice to get to a Parkrun one week? I love a good brunch after training but occasionally enjoying it in a cafe with others would be lovely. Saturday afternoons in the house listening to Off The Ball and Sportsound on Radio Scotland have become the norm. While not the worst way to pass an afternoon, it's no substitute for being at a race or going to see my team. A drink at home or at my parents' is good once in a while but it's nice to break it up with an evening at one of my locals in East Kilbride once in a while. A "virtual" race just does not have the same buzz or social aspect as the real thing. I guess what I'm trying to say is that lockdown has been horrible. I stay alone and have had a few periods of depression and loneliness. This has caused the very real worry of slipping back to the state I was in back in 2018. Friends, clubmates and work colleagues, you name it, I miss you all more than I can put into words.

Above: the Allan Scally Road Relay on 29th February and the Cambuslang Harriers 10km Road Race the following day, the last two occasions I did a real life race to date. Photos courtesy of Kenny Phillips.

As I write this, the virus seems to be getting suppressed, at least in Scotland, and restrictions are being eased. I'm mentally drained from hearing phrases like "social distancing" and "new normal." With regard to the latter, in no way do I wish the way that we are currently living to become normal. I don't want to resemble a bank robber when I go to the shops or get on a bus or train. When I meet someone I want to greet them with a hug or handshake. I have no desire to watch sport played out without spectators. I wish to see people physically in person, not on a screen. I certainly would be grateful to see more tolerance and respect in society than there was previously. Otherwise, Covid 19, please give us our lives back.

I have grown to love a beautiful song by The Adventures called Broken Land. I became aware of it when Ken Bruce played it one day. It contains a line which beautifully sums up my feelings about this year's events- "where I stand, I see a broken land." I hope and pray every day that it is fixed sometime soon.

Friday, 1 November 2019

Then You Open A Hotel....

"Depression is a very bad thing. It's like a virus. If you don't stamp on it, it spreads throughout the mind, and then one day you wake up in the morning and can't face life anymore!"

Eagle eyed readers will recognise these words from the critically acclaimed BBC sitcom, Fawlty Towers. They were expressed by the hapless hotel manager Basil Fawlty towards an equally unfortunate individual, Manuel the Spanish waiter. Eavesdropping on the exchange, Basil's "little nest of vipers" Sybil delivered the punchline, "then you open a hotel."

While stated in a comical context, reading these words in isolation makes you realise that they convey a very serious message. Depression is indeed a very bad thing. Just ask me.

After a period of fairly regular activity, updates to this blog have dried up completely in recent times. There is a major reason for this and it has taken me until now to find sufficient courage to share my story.

I may as well just come out with it. In a nutshell, throughout 2018, I suffered with depression and anxiety. It just happened. A number of things contributed. Family matters, my lifelong friend moved away after living on the same street as me all of our lives, a couple of other friendly neighbours placed their properties up for sale, I was struggling badly at work. Everything just accumulated to the extent that, by January, I found myself in a deep, black hole. I also had next to nothing going on from a social point of view.

I've always been a worrier by nature and endured some low moods. I get stressed about all sorts of things. However, this was seriously bad. Try to imagine, if you can, the feeling of getting up for work on a cold, dark Monday morning in the winter. I felt like that every day of the week. If I was not in employment I may not have got out of bed in the morning. It's a miracle that I managed to hold down my job. I never sought medical help but was on the cusp of it. My local health centre has an online facility where you can describe your symptoms and submit them for a GP to consider. It's designed to free up appointment space so you can receive a prescription without needing a face to face meeting. However, the most serious cases still get seen in person. There is no doubt that I would have fallen into this category. I completed the form more than once but every time I came to the final submission page I bottled out of it.

I continued to run though my training regime and form dipped badly. I missed the odd run and session. It's a negative cycle. When you feel terrible, you don't want to train. When you don't train, you lose fitness, your race performances slump and your bad moods worsen. I went through this cycle a number of times. My 2018 training diary makes for grim reading in places.
Above: a 5km road race in Portugal in March 2018 during the height of my troubles. The pain on my face isn't solely due to the race.

I started to develop problems in other areas of my life. My diet suffered. My usually careful dietary habits gave way to comfort eating- fizzy drinks instead of healthy ones, having sweets or chocolate bars with my lunch at work. I have always strictly enjoyed a drink socially and at the right times but, during this period, alcohol had a detrimental effect, simply making me more depressed.

Things came to a head in May 2018. During a work night out in Paisley early that month, I simply drank too much. I missed the last train, somehow managed to get a taxi home, not even remembering what time I got in. I had a horrible hangover the next day and could only manage a 3 mile jog. I was self destructing.

The following week, at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, I finally made my situation known publicly. I just couldn't take any more. I ran the Monklands Half Marathon. The race also took place on the second anniversary of losing my Gran so I was in a heightened state of emotion. Barring a disaster, I had the race won by 10 miles and spent the last 3 planning in my head what to say. The outpouring of support received was overwhelming and had an instant effect. My problems still existed but, for the first time, I felt that there were people out there who cared about me. The two tonne weight on my shoulders eased a little.

That said, things got worse before they got better. At the end of May, I travelled to Watford for a 5000m at the British Milers Club meeting. I was in the A race, something the old me would have relished. Not this version of myself. I was like Superman laced with Kryptonite. 6 laps into the race, well off the pace, struggling and feeling drastic, I stepped to the right and off the track. I felt lonely and humiliated. This was rock bottom for me, as bad as it got. My Dad just wanted to see me home the next day.

While progress has never been a straight line, that weekend signalled a turning point. The Monday (the race was on a Saturday) was a Bank Holiday. I got back to basics and spent the day down the Ayrshire coast with my parents, enjoying a 15 mile run in glorious sunshine.

Above: with my parents in Saltcoats after my 15 miler, May 2019, 2 days after Watford.

Thanks to the support of my family, some very good friends and one or two other people who, through the whole experience, have become close friends and confidantes, the remainder of 2018, though with a few troughs along the way, constituted a general upward curve. Through all the turmoil, I had somehow managed to purchase my first flat. Having got the keys in March however, I seriously underestimated the vagaries of homeownership and wasn't in a position to move in until mid August. In July I enjoyed a dream holiday in Scandinavia I will never forget. It is a worthy subject of another blog post. It looks like this blog is going to be resurrected again! Most significantly, my running took a turn for the better. In late July, I clocked 15:06 (fastest time of the year up to that point) for a 5000m in Glasgow before putting Watford to bed at a BMC meeting in Stretford in August, bring my time down to 14:55. The state of my mental health is closely linked to my running so you can imagine how I was feeling now.

Above: BMC 5000m in Stretford, August 2018, clocking 14:55.

The recovery continued for the remainder of the year, with considerable help from good people as stated, and by Christmas I was as close to my old self as I had been all year. I still had my bad days but they were considerably fewer and never as awful. I had also got my training together, even resuming my regular attendance at my club's Monday track sessions in November. A strong showing at the undulating Ribble Valley 10km Road Race in Clitheroe (31:16, fastest 10km of the year), between Christmas and New Year was a real signal to myself that my training was getting there and I was back. 2019 has been a year of positivity which deserves to be the subject of a separate post (see, the blog is definitely resurrected). One thing I would mention is winning my first ever Scottish individual title in January, a Scottish M35 3000m gold indoors. I was one emotional and proud runner that night.

I could say more but I think I've probably said as much as I need to in order to give everyone an insight. We all have mental health. It can happen to anyone. From the outside, I had a career, a loving family, decent social life, some talent at my sport, other interests. Yet, it happened to me. I am so pleased that the stigma has been removed and more people are finding the courage to open up. The work of organisations such as the Scottish Association for Mental Health and Back Onside is to be commended. I have definitely become a better and stronger person for what I have been through. A lot of lessons have also been learned. I am very strict now about being kind to myself- maintaining regular working hours, treating myself (you can't beat a good cup of tea), making time for things I enjoy (I've found that I love Parkrun catch ups with folk over a post run tea or coffee). The little things matter. I also have coping mechanisms for when things feel tough. To everyone who helped me in any shape or form and continues to do so, you have my heartfelt thanks.

It has been a worthwhile experience writing this article and I only hope someone reading it can take some strength and inspiration from it. Remember you are never alone. No-one with any shred of decency will judge you negatively. Speak to people, seek the help you need. I just needed family and friends to talk to but I found them. Above all, stick at it and never give up. Perseverance creates a strength to withstand anything life throws your way. The only time to really worry is if you find yourself opening a hotel....

Monday, 13 November 2017

Great Scottish Run 10km Road Race, 1st October 2017 (Including Preparation)

Due to work commitments, I decided to write off September in terms of races. I was far from idle however. After the Scottish 5000m, I had an easy 6 mile recovery run on the Monday then took a rest for the remainder of the week to let my lingering aches and pains clear up, particularly in my calves. Two high calibre races in a week had taken their toll. I'm getting old! I don't recover the same in my mid 30s as I did in my late 20s.

Thereafter I worked towards the Great Scottish Run 10km, a race where I had finished 4th in 31:11 in 2016. What follows is my training leading up to the race with some comments.

Week Commencing Sunday 3rd September
Sunday: 9 miles easy (57:19) in East Kilbride.
Monday: 9 miles easy (59:24) in Paisley.
Tuesday: Reps, 1 mile, 2 miles, 1 mile with 90 secs recoveries, 8 miles including warm up and warm down, rep times- 5:13, 10:35, 5:12.
Wednesday: 10 miles easy (1:06:00) in Paisley
Thursday: 5 x hill reps (800m approx per rep) with jog back recoveries, 5 miles in 30:28, 9 miles including warm up and warm down.
Friday: Rest.
Saturday: Longer run, 15 miles (1:38:25).
Mileage: 60

Week Commencing Sunday 10th September
Sunday: 8  miles approx easy (52:00) at Strathclyde Park- ran with a stopwatch, 8 miles minimum covered.
Monday: 9 miles easy (58:04) in Paisley.
Tuesday: Reps, 1 mile, 2 miles, 1 mile with 90 secs recoveries, 8 miles including warm up and warm down, rep times- 5:23, 10:51, 5:16- wet night and feeling off colour.
Wednesday: 8.5 miles easy (55:00 approx) in Paisley- ran with a stopwatch, feeling tired.
Thursday: Rest- working until 7pm to get up to date.
Friday: Rest- enforced. Day off work for my birthday. Intended to do a hill session but felt weak from a vomiting bug the night before.
Saturday: 10.6 miles easy (1:08:56)- feeling better, shortened run to ease back in.
Mileage: 44

Week Commencing Sunday 17th September
Sunday: 12 miles easy (1:19:42)- bowel trouble after 9 miles, nursed myself through the remainder.
Monday: Reps, 5 x 1 mile with 1 min-1:10 recoveries, 10 miles including warm up and warm down, rep times- 5:29, 5:24, 5:23, no time for 4th rep (watch didn't start), 5:25- poor session, feeling run down and bowel trouble during warm down. Felt need to regroup.
Tuesday: Rest.
Wednesday: 12 miles easy (1:16:55) in Paisley- pouring rain but a much better run.
Thursday: 5 x hill reps (800m approx per rep) with jog back recoveries, 5 miles in 30:30, 10 miles including warm up and warm down.
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Longer run, 16 miles (1:42:30)- felt very strong.
Mileage: 60

Week Commencing Sunday 24th September
Sunday: 8 miles easy (52:16) in Fort William- early morning run, away for the weekend.
Monday: Reps, 2 miles easy, 10 x 1 min with 1 min jog recoveries, remainder of the run easy, 8 miles in 47:35.
Tuesday: 8 miles easy (52:06) in East Kilbride.
Wednesday: Track, 5 sets of 400m, 200m with 200m jogs between reps, 5000m in 18:26, 6.1 miles including warm up and warm down, 400m rep times- 71, 73, 72, 71, 73, 200m rep times- all 35-36.
Thursday: 15 mins easy then 3 sets of 3 x 30 secs strides with 5 mins easy between sets and 30 secs easy between reps, 6 miles in 37:06 (in Paisley).
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 4 miles very easy (36:09) in Motherwell.
Mileage: 40

Sunday 1st October
Race- Great Scottish Run 10km, 1st in 31:37, first race since 27th August.

One key difference in my training in 2017 has been increased mileage. At the time of writing, 45 weeks into the year, I've manged 60 miles or more in 17 of those weeks with a high of 63 so far. I aim to have clocked 20 such weeks by the end of the year. For a lot of runners, 60 miles per week is not a huge amount but, for someone who was used to 40-50 then 50-55, it is. I have noticed a great benefit, particularly feeling stronger in the later stages of races, even when it's not been going as well as I want. The Scottish 5000m at Grangemouth is a case in point.

The planned preparation for Glasgow had been 3 weeks of 60 plus then taper off. I managed 2 out of the 3 60 milers, the only exception being a vomiting bug seeing me miss a session then shorten a run to give a total of 44. As for the race, I was delighted with how it went. Yes, my time was slower than 12 months previously but conditions were far less favourable. Running in a group until 3km, I made a burst for glory uphill onto the Kingston Bridge and pretty much held on from there. I couldn't relax because my gap in the end to runner up Alasdair McLeod (Shettleston) was only 18 seconds with my clubmate Douglas Roberts (sadly disqualified due to an admin mix up) another 11 seconds adrift. People can often assume that because you're clear in a race it's easy. Rest assured it isn't. I always run on the assumption there's someone on my shoulder. I would also add that you've not won until you've crossed the finish line, no matter how big your lead. Celebrate after you're safely over the finish line.

The day wasn't only about me as my buddy from Inverness, Jenny Bannerman, took runner up spot in the ladies race in 35:50. In addition, my brother Robert, running the race for the second time, clocked a personal best of 51:28, a 6 minute improvement in a year.