This week’s running – 10th to 23rd of April 2017


Well, hello Edinburgh!

With a lack of time and connectivity in Scotland, I’ve got a bumper two weeks’ worth of updates into this one edition for you good people!

10k – 1 off, 2k on etc

So nice, I’ve done this twice.

Whilst the first outing of this session was a bit harsh on the system, I did notice it beginning to elicit some positive change. The second outing confirmed as much with lower average and peak heart rates for the same paces (157 versus 162; 180 versus 186).

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

9 miles from work

These days, I wouldn’t normally pair hard and long runs back to back with each other, especially during the middle of the week when recovery comes at a premium. Given my travel arrangements, I had no opportunity to get a long run in for the rest of the week, so it was a case of make do, or do without. Whilst I did have just a half day at the office to contend with, this also brought the previous day’s session and this longer run even closer together; I figured I’d tackle the 9 miles at a fairly sedate 8:30 or so pace to avoid tempting fate.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Glasgow runaround


We burnt off the previous night’s deep fried and battered Mars bar…

Ah! Some running tourism!

Dave, Lis and I were in Scotland recently to attend the wedding of our friends, Elsa and Iain. Scotland being Scotland, nowhere is particularly easy to get to unless they’re Glasgow or Edinburgh, so that’s where we began and ended our trip, with a whole load of driving in the middle.

Whilst Lis did less silly things like having a lie-in, Dave and I got better acquainted with Glasgow’s city centre, namely the Glasgow Green. With a planned bit of parkrun tourism the next day, the two of us took this run incredibly easy by keeping it conversational whilst we discussed Dave’s marathon plans and training. We also stopped for the odd photo on what was a very quiet Good Friday morning with few other souls about.

Never having visited Scotland before, let alone Glasgow, I was mightily impressed with the city and took to it quickly. I feel I could have done with an additional day perhaps to get a better feel for it, but I certainly enjoyed what I saw of what is often considered Edinburgh’s poor relation (no offence to any Glaswegian readers!)

I had planned to visit the city’s premier running store, Achilles Heel, to scope out some merchandise I probably didn’t need, but also because it’s where I originally ordered my signature yellow vest from all those years ago! What scuppered it is how spread out Glasgow can be, with a lengthy jaunt not worth the time or effort, especially with Lis and Dave in tow.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Ganavan Sands parkrun


Iain, Dave, me and Eric at Ganavan Sands parkrun

Raise your hands if you’ve ever needed to be somewhere away from home on a Saturday morning and checked to see if there’s a parkrun nearby, or at least within reasonable driving distance? Yep, I thought so – guilty as charged!

It turned out Ganavan Sands parkrun (just on the outskirts of Oban) was a mere 40 or so minutes away from Elsa and Iain’s wedding venue. With the ceremony at 14:00 and Scottish parkrun events kicking off at 09:30 due to lack of light in the winter months (check out some of Ganavan Sands’ photos of runners setting off at dawn), this was plenty of time to get there, run and return to get ready. I rallied several of the runners in the party together and off we went into the wilds of the Scotland’s west coast…

In attendance was Dave, Iain, Eric, Stuart, Ruth and Stuart’s father. Dave and I were positively thrilled by the prospect of an unfamiliar course with unfamiliar faces, whereas Eric was about to pop his parkrun cherry (no parkruns in Hong Kong). Iain just wanted something to do to pass the time before getting hitched.

After driving through all manner of variable weather conditions, we finally arrived at our destination to be warmly welcomed by the run director, Doreen. Exchanging some dialogue earlier in the week, she was expecting us and passed on her knowledge of the event. The course is an out and back configuration, with a few mini switchbacks in the middle to make up the 5k distance. Run entirely on paved but undulating paths, the course is not for the faint of heart because greeting runners from the very beginning is a near 200m uphill stretch, clocking in at around 17%, gradient-wise!

Warmed up and ready, there were plenty of other tourists at the event, including a chap who’d done some 380+ runs. Proving what a small world it is we live in, I even bumped into a Pistonheads forumite I’ve frequently conversed with in the past. Being one of the smallest events I’ve attended, Dave, Stuart and I fancied our chances of placing highly; scouring previous weeks’ results indicated a 1-2-3 finish between us was not unrealistic. Then we saw some swifter looking runners and realigned our outlook to simply sneaking into the top 5…

Starter’s orders and we were off. And I mean like 5k PB pace off, ignoring the sharp climb we were all aware of. That’s what all the amped up adrenaline and unfamiliar surroundings will do you to you!

After a bit of chopping and changing with the 380+ runs guy, I found myself firmly in fourth place. Halfway through the opening climb, I realised the folly of my way and regretted letting the red mist get the better of me so early on. My legs quickly saturated with lactic acid as I began to thrust my arms forwards in a bid to not lose too much momentum.

Beyond the brow of the hill was some opportunity for recovery with flat and downhill sections.

Holding on to fourth place, I made it all the way to the first switchback whilst witnessing the fella in first place with his massive several hundred metre lead. He appeared to be so calm and controlled, almost like he was simply out on a tempo run. Third place continued to creep away from me, settling my mind that fourth place was now firmly mine to lose.

I began to see faces from the wedding party approach the turnaround, giving them all some encouragement. Eric, Dave, Ruth, Stuart’s father and Iain all looked pretty composed. Stuart looked just like me – we’d both gone out too hard, too soon, and were paying the price for it.

Approaching and exiting the second switchback, my knackered legs gave me a turning circle not dissimilar to a cruise liner. It was at this point that I lost fourth place to the 380+ runs guy, who had clearly paced the first half of the run far more sensibly than I had; I gave him some encouragement to keep pressing in the hope that he may tow me along. Stuart was now perhaps just 10 to 15 seconds behind me based on our relative positions rounding the cone.

Making my way to the final switchback, the guy in first place now had several minutes’ advantage on second place and continued to look as fresh as a daisy – we later learned he’d bagged a new course record, so clearly knew what he was doing unlike the rest of us chumps!

Final switchback navigated, I did what I could to stop my pace from haemorrhaging any further and to keep Stuart at bay. He was still some 10 to 15 seconds behind, but I knew he had far more of an edge on me, thanks to his fell running experience and the largely downhill remainder of the course. With just a couple hundred metres remaining, a few glances behind me confirmed the gap between us remained as I opened up my strides to make it to the bottom of the hill as quickly as possible without stumbling and making a fool of myself.

20:35 recorded and fifth place in hand, I proceeded to hunch over and avoid throwing up from all the pooled lactic acid. Stuart came back in shortly afterwards for 20:47, and Dave for 20:51. Both Stuart and I wished we’d adopted Dave’s approach, where he looked far more comfortable than either of us for a finish time not all that different.

Eric was next with 24:05, followed by Ruth for 25:56, Stuart’s father with 33:04 and Iain for 36:07.

Incredibly, 4 of the top 5 finishers were first timers on the Ganavan Sands course. Taking one step back, the top 7 of 10 finishers were also comprised of first timers to the course. Taking an even more holistic view, 41 of the 73 recorded runners were first timers on the course or to parkrun!

I thanked the organisational team before we high-tailed it out of there to get our man Iain married off. I’m not sure I’ll be in a rush to head back to Ganavan Sands, or that I’ll ever find myself in that part of the world again, but one thing’s for certain – the Scottish hospitality was in full flow that morning and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more welcome at a parkrun.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Edinburgh runaround


A run around Holyrood Park to burn off the Scottish breakfasts…

Before leaving home, I’d mapped out what I hoped would be a scenic route from the hotel on Princes Street to take me around the outer perimeter of Holyrood Park. Well, it certainly didn’t disappoint, what with the imposing sight of Arthur’s Seat to keep me company.

The primary objective of this run was to get my bearings of that part of Edinburgh, along with some photo opportunities whilst most slumbered.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Edinburgh runaround II


Worth getting up early to avoid other tourists!

-3°. -3°! What the hell was I thinking packing just t-shirts, vests and shorts for running in Scotland?! I’d already sacked off the idea of running in a vest at Ganavan Sands parkrun in favour of a t-shirt… I actually had to buy a pair of gloves whilst out and about later on this particular day!

My legs were destroyed from the previous day’s 10k and sightseeing, including Edinburgh Zoo and Holyrood Palace. 3 miles, not even 5k, was more than enough!

Setting off even earlier than Easter Monday, I paid a visit to Edinburgh Castle whilst it was quiet – so quiet in fact, there were just two other souls in front of the castle at circa 07:15!

A detour around the Newtown area added to my growing working knowledge of Edinburgh’s streets – look, no map required!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Edinburgh runaround III


The climb felt a lot longer…

Lis and I previously climbed Arthur’s Seat, unwittingly choosing one of the more challenging hiking routes, and only discovered a far gentler climb when descending back down. Observing a few runners making their way up to the peak via this route, which is still a challenge in its own right, I had the idea to make this the highlight of my final run in Edinburgh…

En route, I stopped off at Calton Hill to grab a few photos of the city from above whilst it was still quiet.

Once at the opposite side of Holyrood Park, I began my climb towards Edinburgh’s highest point. Even with the easier to navigate route, I was still blowing at times and opted to cover a slightly less direct path to give me a few short opportunities for recovery – a slight run-walk strategy was certainly necessary at times!


What a view! And all to myself!

At the peak, I had Arthur’s Seat entirely to myself for a few minutes. Lactic acid cleared, the tranquillity and views were worth the effort. Then came the challenge of descending… Wearing only road shoes, I wasn’t confident at all navigating the rocky paths and even considered if it would have been easier to descend backwards temporarily. A sideways shuffle gave me the stability and braking effect I needed until I was back on grass.

If you’re heading to Edinburgh, certainly consider taking your running shoes with you – you won’t regret the extra space they take up in your bag after getting out there.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Great Run Local sandwich


No barcodes to lose, get soggy, or steal at Great Run Local!

Despite a weeklong break in Scotland, I returned to work more tired than ever; meetings and preparations for a trade show meant there was little time or desire to run until the very tail end of the week.

Several weeks ago, Dave, Simon and I had planned to incorporate the Great Run Local event at Birmingham University’s The Vale into a long run. In principle, Great Run Local is just like parkrun, and here’s a list of similarities and differences for those curious:


  • 5k distance
  • Free to register and enter
  • Volunteer organised
  • Timed


  • 2k option offered
  • Times recorded via RF wristband (free; not technically chip timed, since finishers are still manually timed)
  • 10:30am start on Sundays – events appear to be free to choose a time and day of their liking

I’ve seen a lot of heat thrown at Great Run Local online, and whilst some of it is of their own making (their website originally claimed they were “like parkrun, but better” – thankfully, this has been taken down), we need to remember that the local teams are entirely volunteer led. Yes, it may be a doppelganger of parkrun from the Great Run behemoth, but I’m of the belief that anything that gets more people running can only be a good thing – and there were faces at the event that I’d not seen at Cannon Hill parkrun before, despite both events being relatively close to each other in terms of travel time.

Right. Enough soapboxing…

I arranged to meet Dave at The Vale ahead of the 10:30am start. Due to misjudging the distance from Kings Heath to The Vale, I definitely did not give myself enough time to run to the venue. What originally started out as a jog gradually became a progressive run as I realised I was likely to miss the start! I really didn’t need the pre-run anxiety; my heart rate was already amped up by some 5bpm before setting off due to just feeling a bit run down of late, and the -4 condition score from my Garmin confirmed as much despite not having run for 3 days.

Arriving at 10:29, I was at least already warmed up and anticipated a rolling start to keep the momentum going. Thankfully, the organisers were running a few minutes late to give me a short breather beforehand. Talk about cutting it close!

From the line, it was incredibly civilised with none of the crazy sprint antics from parkrun. I found myself in a group of five, letting others set the pace whilst I followed. The first of three climbs split the pack apart, leaving just an older chap and me leading the field. His breathing on the hill was far heavier than mine and it was obvious he was putting in more effort to maintain pace. Unfamiliar with the route, I drafted behind him; he began zig-zagging to shake me off and that’s when I knew he probably had some race experience in him.

Descending the other side, Dave unexpectedly joined us; originally only wanting to jog around the course, he was fed up of running alone to join the fray. Dave and I continued to let the third member of our group pave the way, though reaching the hill for the second time, he fell back by a couple of steps and settled in behind me to run with Dave. I only caught snippets of their conversation, but it seemed the guy knew of me. Was he a blog reader? Or perhaps a Strava follower? Or maybe I’d pissed him off previously in a race and he’d done some sleuthing? Anyway, Dave began spilling the beans and shared that I was completing the 5k event as part of a 14 mile run. Never give away more than you have to!

Opting not to look backwards (sign of weakness), I continued to pull away on the hill to play to my strength. The gap increased to the point where I could no longer hear footsteps or breathing behind me for much of that km.

Third lap and final run of the hill, I continued to press on and maintain my lead. Descending on the other side, I was suddenly able to hear breathing and footsteps again. I reasoned it wasn’t Dave and must’ve been my pursuer.

Entering the final and short lap, he was nipping at my heels and I easily lost a few steps due to my unfamiliarity with the course. In the blink of an eye, he drew level with me and gapped me by a few strides. Whilst I fully expected him to increase the distance between us, I was able to hang on and prevent any more rot from setting in; that being said, the 15 second or so deficit was too much for me to make up. He would have been running on adrenaline in the firm knowledge that 1st place was his to lose from that point.

I finished in 20:36 and second place, whereas the chap in first place clocked 20:22. He revealed that he wanted to get a fast final km in the bag of around 3:30 or so, regardless of our race, which undoubtedly pushed him on for the win. Whereas I didn’t set out to be in contention, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t hold back on the second climb to instead take him on the third run of the hill. Silver ain’t to be sniffed at, mind, and Dave made it on to the podium, also, for bronze.

Impromptu race finished with, I had 5 slow miles to chew through for home… Yay.

Here’s the Strava data for this run, along with the ‘warm up’ and ‘warm down’.