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!

www.justgiving.com/fundraising/stuartmtaylor

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

www.justgiving.com/fundraising/stuartmtaylor

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

Volunteering

That was some wind this morning, the kind of wind that is going to seriously annoy you on 2 of the 4 straight bits at Strathclyde parkrun, fortunately I wasn’t running today, I was helping out at it – result! I mentioned in my previous blog about parkrun that I was going to make a serious effort to volunteer at one soon, I seem to have picked the right day for it certainly, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

The view from my marshal point, not bad!

I arrived at around 0845, a little nervous as I always am when I need to meet new people but I had no need to be as everyone was friendly and welcoming. My first task was to be handed a tent pole to assist with putting up a wee tent in the prevailing hurricane – as someone with their Chief Scout Award this should have been easy meat – but it was no nijer tent like we used in Scouts so I probably was more of a hindrance at this point. Soon enough the rest of the volunteers arrived and we were issued with our high-vis jacket and lanyard with emergency information etc. on it, turns out being a marshal has some more responsibility than making sure people go the right way! I was assured I was in for a pleasant morning and was assigned to marshal point number 2 (the one I secretly wanted anyway!). I walked round the kilometre and a half to 2 kilometres to my point with the man who was going to be at marshal point 3 – he had 2.5k to walk. We had a good chat abut parkrun and running and I enjoyed learning about his running past and how well his children and grandchildren do at running (one of his sons seems to be a runner of quite some repute with some really impressive times). One note of encouragement for me was that he told me he didn’t put on a pair of running shoes until the age of 49 – it’s never too late to get started. We eventually got to my point and my fellow volunteer wandered off into the sunlight / cloud / rain / wind to his point further on. Here I was, now all I had to do was wait for the runners.

Continue to enjoy yourself in a safe and orderly manner – thankyou!

The wait was quite pleasant and it wasn’t long until I saw the runners streaming up the South West side of Strathclyde Loch. I could already see one guy had opened up a big lead (but it’s not a race!) – he was fair flying into that wind. All I had to do at my marshal point was make sure people went the right way along a fork in the path and offer some encouragement, I was a bit hesitant at first, not quite sure what to say but I soon got the hang of it. The reactions I got from all the runners made the morning really worthwhile. A few high 5s, load of people saying thanks to me, a few comments about the wind and a big smile from most had me smiling all morning as well.

A nice rainbow summed up the morning

Another great thing about being a marshal is getting to see the runners that are usually way ahead of me, the speed they go at it something I will hope to approach one day. Gradually more and more people came past and I recognised some of the people that are usually around the same speed as me, all looking far more comfortable than I feel when running! More and more people passed by with a friendly wave, a thumbs up, a “thanks marshal” or a smile. Being able to offer some encouragement to the runners on their way back past me for the second time was really rewarding, that was a tough stretch into a fearsome wind and every single one of them had all of my respect for getting out there on such a rotten morning and getting it done. When I said “great run” to them, I actually did mean it. I think I said well done, great effort to people just out a walk or a run who weren’t doing parkrun but even they smiled and said thanks.

I did not have to utilise the lifebelt – phew

While standing at the marshal point a couple of people stopped and asked me what was going on. I actually felt really proud to be able to tell them about parkrun and how it was happening all over the UK and how it was free and open to all abilities, I think I bored one guy with how much I was banging on about it as he wandered off mid-sentence! Soon enough the tail walker came by and I could pick up my little signs and make my way back round to the start/finish area.

On arrival back at the start we were thanked for our work and off home I went – via the bakers, I think I deserved a wee treat after being out in that cold! Overall, I loved this morning. Volunteering at parkrun is amazing, the appreciation shown by all the runners makes it such a rewarding and worthwhile experience and I would urge everyone to give it a go, I will certainly be doing it again – if they let me…

Marshal point 2 is the best marshal point.

Just to add that just as I was about to hit “publish” on this, I got a text from parkrun saying:

Stuart, thanks for volunteering today at Strathclyde parkrun. Your efforts are greatly appreciated by us and all the runners” – that was nice.

This is part of my London Marathon training blog, I’m running it for the RNIB, if you would like to sponsor me a quid or something you can text SMTR76 £1 to 70070. Or you can visit my justgiving page here or you could simply share this blog, that helps me massively too. Thanks a lot.

What’s happened and what’s happening?

Hello, I’m just going to post a small update on where I am with things, typing this on my mobile so it will be a short one probably.

Random picture of a run I did.

First of all, my fundraising is going really well, a massive thanks to everyone who has supported me. Every single donation I get is really important to me and gives me a boost. I’m currently at almost £1,000 as can be seen below.

Justgiving page

My Panini draw raised £188. It should have went for £138 but I got a coupe of extra donations for it. It turned into more work than I thought getting rid of all the stickers but I got there eventually!

I also managed to book flights and hotel for the weekend in London in April, this has near enough bankrupted me coming in the same month as car service, MOT and insurance, I should do something about the service and insurance next year and move it to another time of year I guesd. We are flying down with British Airways into London City Airport Friday evening, I even splashed out extra money on emergency exit row seats in both directions! Booked a hotel in Croydon too for 2 nights. With work on the Monday morning I can’t hang about after the run, straight to Heathrow and a flight home, does anyone know where I would be able to have a shower by the way?

Another cool thing that has been happening is that loads of people are asking me about this and showing me loads of encouragement. I was at a growth mindset training session at work today and we were talking about goals and how to achieve them, this is certainly a goal that will take a bit of achieving. The messages and conversations are all great though, keep them coming!

Training is going ok but I’m in a bit of a paradox, I’m running well but that makes me think I deserve a burger or something so I’m not shifting weight like I want to. I reckon dropping a stone and a half would make my life so much easier, must focus on getting that right!

Finally, I’m volunteering at parkrun on 8th December, as promised in my parkrun blog. I’m also running in 2 Santa races over 5k. One in Cumbernauld and one in Glasgow so they should be fun.

Coming up, I’m trying to organise a quiz night in Glasgow in February or March and I’m trying to get a few well known runners to interview to try and attract done more traffic to the blog, I guess it’s a case of keep chipping away! If anyone wants to write anything give us a shout because I can see me drying up soon! I’m also going to try getting to a track in Glasgow over Christmas to compete against my 10 year old self in a Thistle Award challenge. I will find out the points values for a man in his early 40s and see if I can score more than this wee guy here:

Aside from that there’s just the countdown to Christmas, Kirsty is getting me a pair of Nike Pegasus which I’m scarily excited about and I will return the favour with my annual donation to Jo Malone, the amount of money I’ve given her over the years she can’t refuse me a wee donation for a raffle prize surely? If anyone has any hints or contacts that maybe able to get me something then please let me know. My good friend Cory has already secured me something really decent and a few other people have said they will help me out too.

For once, I’m not going to link my justgiving page or text number, I just wanted to give a wee update towards the end of the month.

Thanks for reading and for your support,

Stuart

Parkruns are Gallus

Parkruns are amazing, they are great, they are fun and you never regret running them (although you will regret not running them). I would probably say they are the biggest and potentially most important thing to improve health in the UK since the smoking in public places ban. I am incorporating parkruns into my training for the 2019 London Marathon which I am running for the RNIB (text SMTR76 £1 to 70070 if you want to sponsor me a quid). This blog is about today’s parkrun at Strathclyde Park, a great parkrun, where else would you get views like this on a Saturday morning while keeping (or getting) fit?

I am not too sure of the history of parkrun, I know it began in London at Bushy parkrun and Leeds University played a big part in its growing popularity and now it is in many locations around the world. You could find out more at their UK site.

Parkrun is a free timed 5k race which happens all over the UK in various park at 9am (0930 in Scotland – we get a longer lie up here). They set you all off on your run and start a timer. As you cross the finish line you get a token which is then scanned with your own personal barcode and hey presto – later on that morning you get a text message telling you your time. Today’s parkrun seem to have been heavily supported by the CO-Op.

It was another crisp morning, not cold enough for frost and ice but cold enough! Classic anticyclone in winter weather (one for the geography geeks).

Here is where we got our goody boxes at the end, more of that later
Well branded by the CO-OP
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I liked these inspirational messages

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Always a welcome site at the end

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Dogs always welcome

Watch out, it will break your arm apparently!

Soon we got to the start of the event. I always like this bit. First of all everyone has to stand on the grass! We don’t have priority in the park and everyone has equal access etc. This is a decent moment because they wish people Happy Birthday, congratulate people on milestone parkruns and ask for volunteers. Parkrun couldn’t operate without the amazing volunteers and I really should make the effort to volunteer myself but I am always scared I will mess it up! I have volunteered at junior parkruns a few times but not at Strathclyde Park, that will change next month, I promise.

So, we set off. It is important to remember that parkrun is not a race, it is a run, you are running against yourself and your previous times or you are running for the fun of it. I realised this on my 2nd parkrun. I struggled round and was stuck for ages behind 2 younger children. In the last 200 metres I “sprinted” past them, feeling all smug and a little guilty, but mainly smug that I was defeating them. When they tore past me 100 metres later I came to the convenient realisation that it is not a race!

You very often see the same people at these runs. One of my favourites is the man with the pram who always effortlessly runs past me despite pushing his child in a pram. I also was running behind a lady in a New York City Marathon jacket, again making it look effortless whilst I struggled on! I couldn’t get past her at all! But she summed up parkrun for me by asking people who looked like they may be struggling if they were ok – all runners seem to be really nice.

The massed start

As we continued through the run I realised I wasn’t going to crack 25 minutes today. I came pretty close. My final time according to my Garmin watch was 25 minutes 11 seconds, my second best time I think.

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My splits show I could have probably pushed kilometres 2-4 a little more, but I am always scared of burning out, I need to trust the training! After the race was finished we got our little boxes from the CO-OP, it contained a healthy recipe book, a tin of chick peas, some tinned tomatoes (I love them) and a bottle of extra virgin olive oil.

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So, there finished another parkrun. I can’t quite get over to you how much I enjoy these. They tick every box for what a good ethical organisation should be. They combat lots of problems we are facing at the moment. They benefit you physically, mentally and socially and if I were a doctor I would be prescribing them left right and centre.

Just as i was about to publish this my result came in. You get it sent as a text and you can also see it on the parkrun website along with your progress if you want. 295 runners today, brilliant!

Thanks to parkrun UK, the amazing volunteers (especially the wee girl with the cowbell at the turning point) and the CO-OP for today, that was great – again.

If you have managed to read this far and want to find out more about the work of the RNIB who I am running the London Marathon for you can check them out here and if you want to sponsor me you can do so here or text SMTR76 £1 to 70070. You can also donate 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10 pounds that way too.

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My reward for finishing today