The Romance Run

I can’t wait for the 28th of April when I run the London Marathon, I figure it will be one of the best days of my life so my next idea for a training run was to pay homage to the best day of my life so far, my wedding day. I started at Carfin Chapel and ran to the Bothwell Bridge Hotel where we had our reception, I can highly recommend it by the way if anyone else fancies getting married there. Just ask for Stephen and he will see you right! I threw in an extra lap of Strathclyde Park to signify our wedding rings.

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Today’s route, Carfin Chapel to Bothwell Bridge Hotel with a lap and a half of Strathclyde Park thrown in.

Here is the link to the “Relive” footage of my run, I quite like this app. Footage here

So, I headed off to Carfin Chapel. I tried to take a picture outside the chapel but there was a Priest there who didn’t move and I was starting to feel a bit shady hanging around so much. I headed into Carfin Grotto to recreate one of my favourite pictures from the day, the results can be seen below:

Kirsty looking beautiful
Me looking less so

I know the immediate question everyone asks is “How did the person in the bottom picture manage to marry the person in the top picture?” I guess I must have a good personality or something! I set off on quite a bit downhill section and ran past Motherwell’s football stadium. This is the Davie Cooper stand, I mentioned him in another blog I wrote.

Fir Park

From there I kept on down Airbles Road and into Strathclyde Park, here I am just before my first water stop. Because of my eye it is really important I stay properly hydrated so I always take on as much water as I can now.

Action Shot – I wasn’t going too fast though

From here I wanted to do a lap of Strathclyde Park to signify our wedding rings – I never thought I would be doing something so sappy but I had to get my miles up! That was brutally windy in there today. I managed to overtake a couple who were having difficulty riding their bikes into the wind and everyone I passed was wrapped up all warm. At the far end of the loch there were a load of people out with greyhounds, must have been some kind of meeting, I was hoping they didn’t mistake me for a hare and chase after me! Back towards the point I entered the park again I had the wind at my back but there are a few hills here that I didn’t enjoy before I turned back into the gale again and trudged my way through the final 2 kilometres in the park.

From here I ran out the park at Toby Carvery (very nice breakfast) and ran around a fairly busy roundabout before starting the ascent into Bothwell, that is a pretty fancy place (at the top of a deceptively steep hill). I knew I only had a kilometre or so left but it seemed to take forever up this stupid hill the whole way! Soon I turned the corner and I saw the Bothwell Bridge before me.

Almost there

We go to the Bothwell Bridge every year on our anniversary and always have a great meal in the restaurant. The food is pretty fancy, not what I usually would have but it is always amazing – and the waiters in the restaurant are all so polite and well mannered, it’s a real throwback to good old-fashioned perfect service. Just one last task, get my photo taken at the wee arch. I hope they don’t mind but I stepped over the wee chain that was there – hey, it’s for charity! Hopefully I am not banned now.

From the wedding day
From the running day

Just another couple of photos from the front of the hotel and then I got in the car to go home, getting out the car was a lot harder than I am used to.

Phew, thanks for reading all that. 18km is my furthest run so far. I have the Inverness half marathon in 6 weeks so I am kind of focussed on that at the moment but the London Marathon is quickly marching into view – can’t wait!

The Tesco Run, every little helps

Picking up the baton

“That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard”. Those were the exact word of my younger brother when I told him I planned to run between all the local Tescos. This from a man who co-formed The Runbetweeners – a group set up initially with the aim of running between things! When someone who likes running between things to tell me my idea of running between stuff was the worst idea ever, I knew I was onto something. My plan has always been to try and do my longer training runs for the London Marathon as some kind of challenge or novelty run (if anyone has any ideas please let me know!) So I figured the Tesco stores in my part of the world would set an appropriate challenge. The distance would be around 13k – pretty much what I was looking for. Someone suggested carrying the baton around with me so the picture above is of me buying said baton of bread – there will be a few bread puns in this I’m afraid, it’s a bit of a half-baked idea.

Proof of starting time and location
Relaxing before the start at Wishaw

After being pointed in the right direction I was on my way. The first section was a nice downhill from Wishaw into Motherwell. I was going along at a good speed for me and the kilometres were ticking by surprisingly quickly. I ran past a McDonalds and a KFC and also a football pitch outside Wishaw Hospital that had an 11 a side game on it, I felt like stopping to watch it but then I remembered I hate football now (thanks Morton!). Here I had my first picture taken, I am not sure why but I held my baton like the Olympic Torch – I used my loaf there.

The Olympic Loaf

I was actually amazed at how soon I reached Motherwell Tesco. A quick stop to buy a Wispa. I love Wispas, ever since the weird adverts with Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones, I could do with one right now actually.

Arrival at Motherwell

This is my local Tesco and I can recommend it to people. It doesn’t feel like a big multi-national chain store and the people that work in there are a pretty friendly bunch. There is also a Greggs and a Dominos in the same shopping area – what a world!

Me and my Wispa
Proof of time and place

So, I munched on my Wispa and carried along my merry way. I had debated which route to run from Motherwell to Carfin. One route was downhill a bit followed by about 1km pretty steeply uphill whereas the other route was a more gradual incline around Ravenscraig where the steelworks used to be. I chose the Ravenscraig route but I think that was a mistake.

Past the College

I am no expert in this area but it looks like they have spent a lot of time and money doing it up. There are loads of new developments like the College above. It’s hard to imagine that on these roads I was running used to be a big massive steelworks giving employment to thousands of people and now it was a big green open space. Ravenscraig sports centre is also there, there is a section of running track in there and it is where they have the counts for the elections where I managed to sneak onto the camera on a few occasions as can be seen below.

Me at  the referendum count (the guy in the background)
Keep on running

I kept on running, and running. This bit seemed to drag on, I was not enjoying the very gradual incline and my time started to slow right down. Eventually I made it to the roundabout though and I knew I was almost at Carfin Tesco. I got there and the bread was starting to get a bit crumbly and broken but, by a slice of luck, I had kept it in its plastic packaging so it was holding up well. A stop in for a bottle of Lucozade and I was on my way.

Geez, the camera adds 10 pounds right enough…
Getting there

So, onwards to the part of my run I was most unfamiliar with – Carfin to Bellshill. This part of the run took me through places like New Stevenson, Mossend and Holytown. passing the Lithuanian Social Club amongst other things.

By this time I was in a lot of pain with my loaf of bread (one for the French teachers that read this) but I kept pushing on. A nice downhill section past the mosque which I enjoyed as you can see below, was followed by the final stretch into Bellshill, birthplace of Tom McKean, alas I did not see him though.

Lovely downhill

I had no real idea where I was going now so I just headed for the centre and eventually saw the Tesco ahead of me, a quick runaround and I was there, I wanted to get right to the door to finish it properly.

Almost there

What a relief when I finished. Another bottle of Lucozade to prove I had been there and I was done.

Baton delivered

Sadly I had no-one to pass the baton onto so I just stuck it in the bin, it didn’t look or feel too appetising after having ran with it. I think if I had tried to take it home for Kirsty I would have been toast.

My faithful companion

Underneath are my route and my stats for times etc. I reckon I still have a lot of improvement I can make and I look forward to hopefully seeing improvement over the next month or so.

Good start soon gave way to a more steady pace

So, there we have it.  Remember, you can donate to the RNIB at the following link

Sharing this would also be a big help to me – thanks a lot.

New year runnings

Right, I am totally full up with cake and crisps and juice and all sorts of things I shouldn’t have been eating! Lugging this extra weight around with me for the next couple of weeks will be annoying but it needs to be done I suppose!

My first run over the new year period was on the 29th December at Strathclyde parkrun into the teeth of the strongest wind I had felt (since the last time I ran the parkrun!). I can’t say I enjoyed this run too much and my time wasn’t the fastest. One thing I have noticed is that for someone who claims not to care about times too much I have become a bit of a slave to the pace I am going at on my Garmin. I seem to check this a little too often and if I am running what I perceive to be too quickly I will slow down and if I am going to slowly I will beat myself up a little. I think I may make a big effort not to look at my watch at all the next time and just run how I am feeling. Another weird thing on Strava was that it looks like the entire run was done downhill slightly. Strathclyde Park is reasonably flat and Strava usually give me a couple of sections being downhill by a metre which is balanced out with a couple of sections being ever so slightly uphill. As you can see below, this whole thing was downhill which makes little sense, but not to worry.

Unusual downhill elevation

Then on Hogmanay I decided to go out for a 90 minute run. I should have did this on the Sunday but I thought it would be a nice way to end the year. I racked my brains trying to think of a nice flat area to run on nearby but I couldn’t really think of one so I took myself into Glasgow. As a Geography geek I knew that rivers in their lower course flow through quite flat land so I figured running beside the Clyde would be a nice wee run for me. I parked at the Transport Museum and paid for my parking (3 hours, £4.80) – I could have just went for the 2 hours but I was worried I may need to stop and rest a little too long.

Waverley, Science Centre and BBC

After 1km I stopped in the SECC to use the bathroom facilities. The Carnival was on. I used to love the Scout trip up the Carnival and was always excited at all the watches I would win in the grabber machines. The watches all broke within a couple of days but I still felt I had beaten the system! This area of Glasgow is really nice now. There was a time in the 70s and 80s when shipbuilding started to decline and this area became derelict and run down but the Garden Festival of the late 80s and subsequent regeneration have seen this area become a bustling hive of industry and commerce. This link here has plenty of information about all the different schemes.

This was a harder run than I thought it would be. You can see by my splits that the going wasn’t as fast as I usually go but, again, I need to blame the wind, and the hills that I didn’t expect!! I knew that running upriver would involve a slight incline so it was probably more psychological than anything else. As you can see from the map below, my route took me through some interesting areas of Glasgow. I passed through an area to the south of the CBD, then down into Glasgow Green. I only really see this area when running the final 500 metres or so of the Glasgow 10k or when at a busy event like a Stone Roses concert or the World Pipe Band Championship so it was strange to see it so empty. I did not know there were rowing clubs boat sheds in there. My run continued past Glasgow Green into an area with lots of vandalism. I saw a man not pick up after his dog after it had attended to its business and wanted to say something but I didn’t have the bottle to be doing that.

Science Centre to Dalmarnock – and back

As I continued along the River Clyde Walkway or whatever it’s called I noticed a load of rubber rings on poles, that must be pretty expensive to maintain. I also noticed a pretty horrendous smell. When I got home I checked the map and there appears to be a sewerage works around here somewhere. I turned back and passed the man with the dog again. I passed a load of other runners – only some gave a nod of recognition, maybe around half. I saw what looked like a marina type thing, or a place where people kept their boats out the water in winter and I saw a sign under the Kingston Bridge telling me it opened in 1970, I thought it was before that.

Slower going than usual but faster than if I was sitting on the couch

Not sure I enjoyed that too much. My friend Craig from Ireland who runs really fast told me that soon a 10 mile run will feel easy, I look forward to that day because this run was hard!

Now to New Year’s Day. Some parkruns are held on this day and neighbouring runs will stagger their starting times to allow people to do 2 parkruns. I had set my sites on the Strathclyde one at 9 and then Greenock at 11 but ended up just doing Strathclyde. I had wondered how busy this would be with it being so early on January the 1st but a quick check of the results showed a turnout of 392 – brilliant – and 14 volunteers too! I really enjoy seeing so many people out getting healthy and being sociable. The more the merrier! I first realised it was going to be packed when I saw how many cars were parking on the roads leading into the park. The road along to the car parks was closed so people had to park elsewhere and walk/jog – added an extra 2.6 km onto my day’s exercise but that was fine.

Thou shalt not pass

This was maybe my favourite parkrun since I broke my PB. The atmosphere was great as it was so busy and it was great seeing so many different running vests and run tee-shirts from around the country and around the world. I have recently joined a group on Facebook about parkrun and there are some right geeky statistics about attendances on it – and I mean geeky as a compliment here – which showed that loads of parkruns got record attendances on January 1st – amazing. I think about 150,000 people were involved all in.

Beautiful morning

Add to all this the classic “High Pressure in Winter” weather conditions and it was all set for a lovely start to the year.

Sunrise in Lanarkshire

I felt I ran quite well within myself here. I was cautious because of the previous day’s exertions so started off nice and slowly but, as the distance ticked by, I began to feel more and more comfortable. My splits below show I ran each kilometre faster than the one before, I think that is called negative splits, or positive splits. Whatever it is, I am happy with it!

After the run
Negative (or positive) splits

So, here we are. The start of a new year, one which I hope I can get right into running properly. I have the London Marathon in April to look forward to and I have entered the ballot for the Great North Run. I also have my eye on a few half marathons including Inverness in March which I have already entered.

Thanks for reading this. Please share it if you find it interesting or if you find it rubbish and want to laugh at it!

19 targets for 2019

That last blog I wrote was more successful than I thought it would be, second only to my sporting background in Dunoon one which can be found here

Anyway, with me not really being a fan of New Year’s Eve and having run 10 miles today (more of that later in the week), I thought I would sit in and set myself 19 targets for the upcoming year.  So, here they are:

  • Give more to charity – yeah, I am going to commit myself to doing this.  Trying to raise money for charity myself has given me an insight into how difficult it actually is.  So, every month I am going to donate the equivalent to my slowest parkrun of the previous month.  So, that will motivate me to go as fast as I can!  If my slowest time is 14 minutes 31 seconds then it’s £14.31 – easy.
  • Raise as much as possible for RNIB – this is a really important one for me.  I have always wanted to run the London Marathon and the RNIB have given me the opportunity to do this.  Loads of people apply for these charity places and they put their faith in me to raise them a bit of cash so I will be trying my best to do this!  Any fundraising ideas let me know!  The old JustGiving page is open here  but I am open to other ways as well.
  • Spread the word of RNIB – Linked to the point above, as well as raising money I would like to raise awareness of the work of the RNIB.  My work are giving me the opportunity to speak about this and I am going to try and spread the word in other ways as well, such as this YouTube clip here:
  • Get to under 14 stone – this will hopefully happen as a result of my training!  Nothing tastes as good as slim feels and all that!  Must get that Christmas weight shifted.
  • Stand on the rocks at The Gantocks lighthouse – I have had this as a target before but didn’t get round to it.  It’s been all painted now so I am not so sure about writing my name on it anymore…
  • Run 42 km a week – I reserve the right to edit or amend this target if it is proving too difficult!  42 km is the length of a marathon so it’s as suitable a number as any other I suppose.
  • Use time at the start of the day more productively – instead of lying in bed looking at my phone for an hour at the start of every day I am going to try and use that period of time more wisely.  Mornings are great once you get up and do something.  I used to love the mornings in Dunoon after finishing nightshift, we had the town to ourselves until the first ferry came in, the putting green at the Queen’s Hall was all ours!
  • Defend the staff golf championship – this was my finest day of the year.  I played the best golf I have ever played and won my first gold trophy ever, the best I had ever done before was 2nd in the Bart Meechan Trophy (beaten by Jim Ferguson in the final).
Champion golfer of the year
  • Complete the London Marathon in time to make my flight home – I had to mention this here.  I have a target in mind for a time but I think the first marathon is all about making it round!  Having said that, my flight home is at 2130 from London Heathrow so my target should just be making that.
  • Gain my 50 parkrun tee-shirt – I bang on about parkrun a lot, this year I want to get my 50 parkrun tee-shirt, I am on about 25 just now so I’m halfway there.  It’s pretty cool that you get a free tee-shirt when you make it to that landmark.
  • Volunteer 6 times at parkrun – I think the suggestion is that you should volunteer for every 10 parkruns you do.  So, I will set myself a target for 6 volunteering sessions this year.
  • 3 litres of water a day – this is fairly easy when I am at work but the challenge will be at the weekends and in holidays, I am going to go for it though!
  • Takeaway once a month – sorry to the fast food outlets of Motherwell but I am going to limit myself to one takeaway a month – cancel that holiday in July Mr Singh.
  • Try and do one kind thing a day – not sure how this will work out but one good deed a day shouldn’t be too much to ask.  Please pull me up for this one and make sure I am doing it!
  • Keep a tidy classroom and car – as mentioned in my previous blog, I learned that decluttering and being tidy make me feel a lot better.
  • Do more work in the house – this is a suggestion from Kirsty!  I need to help out more with the housework and be better at it as well!  Also, learning some DIY skills would be good.
  • Climb Ben Nevis again – this has been a target before but this year I really want to do it.  Kirsty is enjoying her hill walking and I quite like it on a nice day, plenty of them at Ben Nevis…
  • Spend less time with my phone in my hand – another self-explanatory one.  It’s quite frightening when you see how long you are looking at your phone for, need to break that habit.
  • Crowd surf at a heavy metal gig – I was at an Iron Maiden concert and thought the crowd surfing looked great fun.  Part of me really wants to try this although I will freely admit that this is one that I am unlikely to do – maybe that should make me try for it even more!

There we go then, hope everyone has a great new year and a happy, calm and stress free 2019.

18 things I learned in 2018

I saw someone else do a blog like this so thought that I would try it as well. This time of year often leads to self- reflection and introspection and for that reason I’m not a big fan of new year. In many ways I could consider 2018 a pretty rubbish year for me but, with a step back and a bit of perspective, I need to count my blessings again and realise that things have been ok and anything that has gone wrong can be turned into a positive. So, with that said, here are 18 things I learned in 2018.

  • Get regular eye checkups. Kirsty had been getting onto me for a couple of years about getting to the optician to get my eyes checked. Part of me always thought my vision was alright so there was no need for me to go. Another part of me was too scared to go in case they looked in the back of my eyes and found something wrong with me, pretty stupid, I know. Had I gone for a checkup earlier they may have noticed something was going wrong with my eye and I could have done something to stop it going wrong, then I wouldn’t be left with quite badly impaired vision in my right eye and the need for an eyeball injection every month. So yeah, get your eyes checked, you are entitled to a free one every 2 years if you are over 40 or in some other cases, check here for more information on this in the UK.
  • Don’t be scared of the doctor. Gee I was scared of the doctor. I’ve always suffered with a bit of health anxiety so when my eye problems kicked off and the consultant at the hospital told me to make an emergency doctor appointment that had me scared! I distinctly remember sitting terrified in the waiting room with Kirsty and then not even being able to speak properly to the doctor. I needn’t have worried though as he was great, reassuring, calm and kind. My only issue was a sky high blood pressure, in part explained by how worried I was feeling but easily enough fixed. I’m now in and out of the doctor more often for prescriptions etc and it holds a lot less fear for me now, doctors are there to help us and make us better, not to give us a hard time and shout at us, again, this is obvious for most people, not for me though!
  • Do not get your hopes up when it comes to Greenock Morton. I learn this every year but need to keep re-learning it every year as well. Summer was quite an exciting time to be a Morton fan. We had signed a few good players and got a semi-competent manager in Ray McKinnon. I even badgered Kirsty to get me a season ticket and stuck a bet on us to win the league. Fast forward to the end of August and our manager had left us for Falkirk. Fast forward to December and we have had thrashings off Ayr, Ross County and Alloa and the season ticket is feeling more and more like a punishment.
  • Drinking water is important! I was never a big water drinker until this year. It’s really good for you though and helps you to lose weight, something to do with the flush effect or something. In my new place of work there is a water cooler right outside my room, and a toilet as well, so I’ve no excuse for not drinking the water. Barrs’ decision to mess with the recipe of Irn Bru has also helped wean me off soft drinks and onto water, something I will definitely make an effort to continue with next year.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff. I think this could be my most important lesson of the year. As I’ve alluded to in other blogs such as this one here , I was/am a massive worrier. Anxiety levels are always high and I know this can have a negative effect on my blood pressure etc. so I’m needing to make a big effort to try and rationalise my worries and look at them in context. Here I am, living in a developed country, with access to clean water, a roof over my head, plentiful food, a job and a healthcare system free at the point of delivery. Comparing the problems I was worrying about to others that people around the world have and that people around me are dealing with makes me realise that things aren’t so bad for me and worrying about things won’t change them at all.
  • I’m still not much of a hugger. When did hugging people become so popular? Hi, how are you? Here’s a hug. See you later, bye, here’s another one. Congratulations, commiserations, have a hug. Ha, I like the sentiment behind it and I appreciate it but don’t be offended if I offer an elbow or handshake back 😀 although watching that it’s hard to argue against hugs being a force for good!
  • Ask for help when you need it. This is something that I’m always saying to my pupils in work but it’s a piece of advice that, as adults, we don’t often follow ourselves. Whether it be problems at work, problems at home or problems our health, there is always someone who can help. Don’t worry about admitting to mistakes or vulnerabilities, learn from them and use them to help you grow and improve. Particularly men! We hate admitting weakness and vulnerability but we need to do it, help is only one phone call, text or conversation away.
  • It’s important to help each other and look after each other. There were a good few people that reached out and helped me this year and it made such a difference to me and, to kinda pay it back, I’m trying my best to offer assistance to anyone I think maybe struggling or whatever. It’s a pretty rewarding feeling, you should try it. Imagine how good a world we would live in if we kept checking up on each other and looked out for each other. This reads like the People’s Friend or a Hallmark card or something, but that’s ok, it’s true enough!  So, if anyone ever wants to go for a run or needs a hand with something or just have someone to moan at, then give me a try!
  • Do things, don’t plan to do them. I will need to take my own advice here because I’m an awful procrastinator but getting things done is the only way to be. This year I entered the London Marathon, in previous years I had only thought about it. I could launch into a “life is short, do things while you can” bit here but it’s been said a million times before by people wiser than me!  I prefer the whole “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today, that way if you like it, you can do it again” way of looking at this.
  • Being grateful can totally change your mindset. There I was back in May feeling awfully sorry for myself and my lack of right eye vision when I decided to instead be grateful that I could see well out my left eye and lots of people would love to be in my situation, that transformed the way I felt about myself and is something I’m going to try and keep doing in 2019.
  • Cyprus is awesome. I knew this in 2017 but had it reconfirmed in 2018 in July.
  • Don’t take things for granted. Yeah, things like your eyesight and health, look after them.
  • Wash the bottom of the dishes too! Thought i better put this in to show Kirsty that I’m trying to learn! Also, related to this, check the washing is properly dry before I put it away and when I am asked to clean the toilet, that doesn’t just mean the toilet itself but also the bath, shower, sink, floor, mirror and little units in there as well.
  • I work with a lot of amazing people. I was lucky enough this year to work with a whole lot of new people and they have all been great. I could name a few people who have been brilliant for me this year but I’m scared of missing someone out but rest assured I’m thankful for all the help and support and laughs I get at my work, what a difference it makes.  Linked to this, I also have a lot of great friends who are full of kind words and encouragement and support.
  • You will get through this. Every person reading this has been through challenging times in their lives and they are still here, proving that whatever you are facing, you will get through it.
  • Breathe. When I was obsessing over my blood pressure and measuring it 8 or 9 times a day I noticed that a couple of deep breaths would take my blood pressure down by quite a lot.  It’s such an easy form of relaxation that I am annoyed I haven’t incorporated it into my daily life until now!  I need to watch though as too many deep breaths can make me feel light headed when I stand up!
  • Laughter is a great medicine.  I have had the good fortune to attend a number of comedy gigs this year.  Jason Manford in the few weeks after my eye went wrong.  Jason Manford is one of life’s good guys and had some really poignant words about mental health at the end of his really funny set.  We also went to see Jon Richardson and I went to see Rob Brydon with my brother.  Rob Brydon was the big surprise here, what a funny and engaging person, he was near enough the perfect gig.
  • People are good.  Yeah, most people are good, accept this and trust people and you will rarely be let down. If they do let you down that says more about their character than your’s.

Right, that’s the 18 but I have a few more bonus things that I learned.

  • De-clutter.  I always feel better after chucking out a load of things I no longer need.
  • A kind word can transform someone’s day, as can a nasty one.  This has been a big lesson to me this year.  I can totally over-react to negative things people say to me but, then again, maybe others could be hurt by things I say to them, even though I may mean no malice so I am going to try my best to choose my words really carefully this next year.  Also, when someone says something nice and positive, no matter how small, it makes me feel a million dollars! So, again, I will be making the effort to be as positive as I can with people this next year.
  • East, West, home is best.  This year the good people of Dunoon have helped me out as always.  In the summer it’s a great time for a visit when it’s sunny.  In the winter in a big storm it’s a great place to visit as well.  The people from Dunoon are great as well and loads of old friends have offered me loads of help with my marathon training and fundraising. The very fact that I had stones from the West Bay on the tables at my wedding to mark where people should be sitting shows the loyalty I have to my hometown.
  • Turn negatives into positives.  Hopefully people can see from this blog that a theme of my whole year has been turning negatives into positives.  Had it not been for my dodgy eye I probably wouldn’t be running the London Marathon and I would probably still be struggling at times without letting people help me out.  But that event back in April has radically altered the way I look at things.  Right now I feel fitter than I have since my teenage years and I am able to wear shirts without an “X” in their size again (well, maybe not just now after the Christmas excesses).

Anyway, that’s it,  I will maybe write another one of these tomorrow with 19 targets for 2019.  In the meantime, remember you can sponsor me for the RNIB doing the London Marathon at this link here.

Christmas Runnings in and around Dunoon

Has anyone else put on half a stone over Christmas? Just me then? I reckon if I hadn’t gone a few runs over the festive period that would be closer to the full stone.

Yo ho ho etc

The Christmas Holidays got off to a good start with a parkrun on the 22nd. I had looked out an elf hat to wear but it had a bell on it which would have only been slightly annoying with every step I ran! A quick Asda stop on the way down to Strathclyde Park and I had bought the above hat / beard combination. The beard is lost already though.

Could not run with that beard on

My time was ok, I’m still not getting beneath the 25 minute mark that I’ve only managed once but I’m happy enough to be running around the 26 / 27 minute mark pretty comfortably.

My splits show that I still have a bit left in the tank going into the final kilometre so maybe it’s time to try running that first kilometre a little faster although it is pretty crowded at the start so I will need to move further forward nearer the start line, a move I’m not happy making!

Sunday I was meant to do a 75 minute easy run but I sacked that off until Monday, Christmas Eve, a day I had loads of other jobs to do, as you can see below.

My jobs

I got them all done by 6pm though, I surprised myself with that. The Christmas Eve run was rather convoluted. I started in Hamilton which was choc-a-bloc packed with last minute Christmas shoppers. I ran from Hamilton over into Strathclyde Park, did the parkrun route then came back over and ran around a playing field type area for a while before finishing at a statue of Scottish football legend Davie Cooper. He scored the penalty in 1985 that put Scotland into a playoff for the 1986 World Cup. I’ve never been so nervous watching a penalty and had to lock myself in the toilet. Jock Stein also sadly died that night.

Davie Cooper Statue

This is quite a nice area of Hamilton, the mausoleum is here and this is where the Commonwealth Games baton ended up one sunny evening in 2014.

One thing that slowed me down was the bridge into Strathclyde Park, it was awfully icy and I had to walk over it.

The River Clyde, I would be running past the same river in a couple of days where it is 2 miles wide

You can see from my split times below the two times that I crossed the bridge slowly, kilometre 2 and kilometre 9.

Onto Christmas Day, a drive to Dunoon for dinner with the family but first of all a stop at Cappielow!

Then onto a parkrun. This was the first time I had been to Greenock parkrun and what a friendly bunch they were. Someone was dressed as a zebra loads of people wished me a Happy Christmas as they overtook me! I was a bit too out of breath to say it back clearly so if anyone is reading this that thought me a miserable git then I’m sorry. There were a load of serious runners here and, because of the layout of the course, they run past you a few times.

Greenock parkrun start

The speed these people are the front go at is amazing, I can only imagine what kind of speeds Olympic athletes must go at, it’s not until you start trying to run yourself that you fully appreciate the fitness and athleticism of these runners.

Again, looking at these splits, I could push myself more at the start. An encouraging thing from this run was my pulse being lower than it has previously been whilst running, a sign of improving fitness maybe?

Then onto the ferry to Dunoon. It was a foggy day and here is a poor photo of a ferry emerging from the fog.

McInroy’s Point

Another great family Christmas Dinner in Dunoon. My Auntie Irene’s Turkey Broth was spot on as always and my cousin Moira did a great job with the turkey.

Table always looks great

Because I had that morning run I figured I could have 3 puddings!

I got home well and truly stuffed and had an early night.

Next morning I woke up around 5 and decided to go a run around Dunoon, right around the outskirts of Dunoon. Halfway up Kilbride Road I thought about sacking it off but I decided to just keep going, I’m glad I did.

The route involved starting at my Dad’s house on the dangerous Dunoon / Kirn border and running along the West Bay, past the swing park before turning right up Kilbride Road (which is surprisingly steep). I ran along there, past Neil Walker’s house send along over the bridge that I used to think trolls lived under.

From there I ran past where Highland Mary was born. My wife calls her Dirty Mary but that’s another story.

Along Alexander Street next and down McArthur Street, I missed out Cowal Place and Valrose because I couldn’t face that hill! Along King Street, down Jessie Place and then around to join Argyll Street at the Police Station. I ran out past the hospital and then onto Bencorrum Brae where I had to walk. You can see by my split times exactly where Bencorrum Brae was in the run, kilometre 6!

Next I ran along Ardenslate Road stopping for a wee seat on the bench at the school in memory of my Mum. It was nice stopping here, I would like to say i reflected upon life and how lucky I was to be able to do this at this poignant spot, but i was knackered and trying to catch my breath!

Next, left along Hunter Street, past the school hostel, round that weird curvy, scary bit with the trees, onto James Street past the haunted house (called Bonnie Blink I think) before turning left onto George Street and passing my old house. Then down onto Cammersrianach Brae where I got a view of the deserted ferry terminal that would be mobbed in a few hours.

Then back along to my Dad’s house where I went back to my bed, I was shattered!

So, here we are, lying on the couch on the 28th December, half a stone heavier, watching the darts and getting ready to start again with another parkrun tomorrow – bring it on.

As always, people can donate if they want to donate to the RNIB for me running the London Marathon at

Thanks a lot for reading this, hope everyone has a great new year.

Katharine Merry

Today, I have a nice little interview with Katharine Merry, thanks so much to her for getting back to me and responding so quickly to me. She played a big role in what many believe to be one of the biggest races of the last 30 years, winning a bronze in that race. Nowadays Katharine is found on Fighting Talk, my favourite podcast as mentioned in one of my previous blogs. She is a really funny contributor and would make it onto my ideal Fighting Talk line up along with Dougie Anderson, Henning Wehn and Justin Moorehouse.

I’m not sure if I have mentioned it before, but I was at the Olympics in Sydney, Kirsty certainly gets fed up with me talking about it and my brother doesn’t believe that I was in a crowd of around 1.5 million in Sydney Harbour the night of the closing ceremony for the fireworks. I could have went to the closing ceremony – and kind of wish I did so I could have seen Kylie Minogue’s version of “Dancing Queen”

Yeah, that would have been great rather than being squashed against a shop window in the CBD of Sydney!

Another memorable moment of the Olympics was the women’s 400 metres hurdles. Cathy Freeman was the great Australian hope of the Games, she lit the Olympic Flame and was being held as a symbol of reconciliation and hope for the future as a proud indigenous Australian athlete, beloved by all sections of the Australian public. Indeed, in the run up to the race one of Freeman’s main competitors pulled out, Perec of France was injured I think but a lot of people thought she couldn’t take the pressure of what was shaping up to be THE main event of the Olympic Games. Here is the race:

Lane 3 is what we are looking at here! Katharine Merry ran a great race to finish 3rd and win an Olympic medal in one of the most famous and highly anticipated races ever, what an achievement to have on your running CV. A bit of local interest here, Katharine Merry ran her 60 metres personal best in Glasgow – I would assume at the Kelvin Hall, a track I graced with little success when Gladiators referee John Anderson heavily criticised my long jump technique as aa 10 year old boy! One other thing I have found is that Katharine has appeared on Ninja Warrior UK, I wish I had known that before I sent her the questions over, a valiant attempt here:

So, to the interview, it was so nice of such a successful, busy and decorated athlete to take the time to answer my questions for this blog, in aid of the RNIB, she has joined Liz McColgan on my list of “Good Guys” for sure!

1 – ST – How did you get into running when you were younger?

KM – “Aged 10 my father was still a competing athlete in veteran athletics as it was then. He was an English Schools TJ medallist but he was still sprinting. That coincided with my neighbour Mr Price, who was a PE teacher, at a school saying I looked quick so I should try running! So I did and joined Rugby AC.”

2 – What role does running currently play in your life?

“Actively running plays no role in my life at the moment. I retired 13 years ago in 2005 and did no running or any exercise for 12 years. Last year in May I was asked to be a Duracell Bunny Pacer for the GNR… I agreed and started running again. I built up my training in May from 1 mile to running the half marathon in September. I loved it…. but I haven’t run or done any exercise since! I will get back into it soon but at the moment working on sport is the closest I get to any activity!

3 – What was your most memorable race?

“Obviously the Olympic 400m final in Sydney 2000 was the biggest race and changed my life. It was my first full year of 400m running and I won an individual Olympic medal and ran under 50 seconds. To be involved in one of the most iconic Olympic races ever is great with 112,000 people in the stadium.
But memorable races also include when I won gold at the European Junior Championships in 1993. Memorable and special to me as I made my first appearance for GB & NI aged 13! Therefore I did 2 World Junior Championships and a total of 3 European Junior Championships … it took me until that 200m final in 1993 to win a gold after several silver and bronzes!

4 – Most iconic running memory as a fan?

“Witnessing Usain Bolt race in 2008 at Beijing Olympics. As I work in broadcasting now I am at the meetings working and therefore have a trackside seat, commentators or infield host seat to some great stuff! Including Bolt’s 1st world records in 2008. Amazing ..
When younger the LA 1984 Olympics my confirmation I wanted to do athletics. I was just into the sport and was transfixed by these Games and seeing Brits Coe, Thompson and in particular Kathy Cook win a bronze over 400m 😁”

5 – Who is your 2nd favourite Scottish athlete of all time? I will just assume your number 1 is Tom McKean, i loved that guy!

“Big Tom McKean fan! Only in January saw Tom as he’s a policeman at Glasgow Airport! He looks exactly the same and was great to see him… *a picture below!! outside of Tom I’m a fan of what Yvonne Murray achieved and in recent times Mrs Doyle and Miss Muir!”

6 – Top training tip or advice you would give a slightly overweight man who may be going through a midlife crisis by entering the London Marathon!

“Listen to your body.. don’t stress if you miss or have to adapt your training due to any issue… illness, injury or work etc! Get the miles in the tank but don’t stress or worry about adapting if you have too.
Enjoy and be rest assured you will get around!

7 – Do you have any embarrassing running moments or funny running stories?

“Not apart from the time I wore some new Nike running knickers at a big TV Grand Prix meeting and them going straight up my backside when the gun went…. and having to run the race with them in the wrong place! … apart from that no! *always test your gear before you race!”

8 – Do you ever take part in parkruns and if so how important do you think they are to the recent resurgence in British athletics both at an elite and casual level?

“As above.. I don’t run! But.. they are and have been fab at getting all levels of runners consistently active. Great to see.”

So, there we go. Really interesting stuff. I didn’t know Katharine had done the Great North Run half marathon so she clearly has an insight into distance running. Also the advice given about my training I will need to be careful heed to. The last few times I have tried a lot of road running I ended up getting shin splints so paying heed to what my body is telling me will be of paramount importance, the fact I am about 2 stone lighter now should help me avoid the shin splints (touch wood).

Massive thanks again to Katharine, if she is ever on a panel show or radio quiz give it a listen, if you don’t listen to Fighting Talk, give it a listen, a genuinely funny programme, made all the funnier when Katharine is a guest.

As always I will whack a bit in here about how to donate to the RNIB for me doing the London Marathon, you can access my JustGiving page here

Or text SMTR£2 to 70070 to donate £2 (other amounts available)