Saturday, 5 June 2021
Saturday, 15 May 2021
My result at the National represented how much of the following few months in 2019 panned out. The day after the race, I had tired legs and had also sprained my ankle in the latter stages which meant that I only managed a 5 mile jog. Not that it mattered because I had scheduled a rest week. I recorded having "a real feeling of satisfaction at having done myself justice at the National. I felt like the old me." I completed a 20 mile week with an outing at Ayr Parkrun, a place that you'll discover, in future articles, that I've become more and more familiar with. Toni had recovered from her calf injury and I popped down for a catch up at what was her first Parkrun post injury.
As indicated, I didn't have a lot to complain about for a while. Various highlights included:-
1. A 5 night warm weather training trip in the Algarve in March then coming back on time for my oldest friend's wedding (photo below). That was a 66 mile week, my highest since I last attempted the marathon in 2013. I did a few double sessions and one of my training diary entries for an evening run in Portugal reads "I didn't want the evening run to end. What running is all about. Flowing like a dream."
3. In April, running my first outdoor personal best for 18 months at Bellahouston Harriers Monthly 2 Mile Road Race (9:55). Admittedly, I hadn't competed in a 2 mile race since 2005 but they all count. There was also soup on offer afterwards but it had been a long day and I made a mental note for next time. All for just £2. On turning up, I enquired if non-members of Bellahouston Harriers were allowed to run. The response was "as long as you have £2." I love races like that.
3. Also in April, proving a point, to myself anyway, by running the club's fastest long leg at the English 12 Stage Road Relay. We achieved 15th place, our highest ever position in the race.
4. Getting to within 4 seconds of my 10,000m track personal best with 30:49 at the Scottish 10,000m (6th place). I had won medals in previous years but with slower times. There was no doubt that I was running well.
5. In May, being promoted to Associate Solicitor, with a salary increase, by my then employer and marking it with an all expenses paid dinner and refreshments in Glasgow.
6. In June, running a course best at the Kilmarnock Harriers organised Roon the Toon 10k to finish 3rd behind Calum Mackenzie and Richard Mair. Attending the post race hospitality at the Park Hotel with friends, Toni McIntosh, Scott Martin, Connell Drummond and various others afterwards rounded off a great day in fabulous company.
It wasn't all plain sailing but the hiccups were minor in comparison to my troubles of 2018. Running so fast at the Scottish 10,000m was a delight. Spraining both calves on the rock hard Crownpoint track surface and being in agony for a week wasn't so much.
Little did I know that my happy equilibrium was about to be threatened in a way that I hadn't thought possible.
Saturday, 1 May 2021
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.
Friday, 23 April 2021
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.
Saturday, 17 April 2021
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.
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
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
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.
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.