Tuesday, 29 October 2013


Dunbar sent three of their finest (and me) to Cumbernauld on Saturday to fly the flag at the National Cross Country Relays. And, for the second year running, I was first leg. My least favourite position in a relay race (my “favourite” position in a relay race is actually loafing about, at home, on my sofa, and ignoring the fact that the event is on at all).

First leg is too much like a bog standard race for my liking. A mass start where, within a few seconds of the gun going off, you get that sinking feeling as you watch a barrow load of “proper” runners storming away from you.

Still. There is nothing left to do but get the head down and get on with it – fifteen minutes, or so, of eyeballs-out, lung bustin’ fun. !!!!”. Anyway, even further down the pack the battle between 69th and 70th place is often just as exciting as that between 1st and 2nd.

My approach to racing never really lends itself to report writing after the event. I don’t always catch sight of my surroundings, I seldom find time (or breath) to “chat” while I’m running and even my friendly little “inner monologue” stops it’s whimsical musings to concentrate on screaming at me “keep breathing…… your heart isn’t going to pack in yet….run faster you worthless f***er".

None of the above is hugely problematic when writing a report of the cross country at Cumbernauld however, as it’s possibly one of the blandest, least inspiring routes known to man. Find a large grassy field with a bit of a hill in it…snake a 2.5 mile piece of red and white tape through the field – that’s pretty much it.

Surprised myself by finishing about a minute quicker than last year though (though last years was a good bit water logged and muddier).

Handed over the metaphorical baton to Andy S running his first event of this type before he then passed it down the line to Grant and Andy A. All in all it wasn’t a bad performance from a team of vets of various types.


Borders XC starts this weekend. But I’m still not certain if I’ll run. It’s quite a hilly and challenging course and my sore toe still isn’t happy when taken out of the comfy, supportive confines of his road shoes.

Friday, 25 October 2013


A slightly reduced session, for me, at last night’s interval training.
While everyone else was tankin’ around doing 800m six times I settled for half a dozen 400m. I always find it’s the Thursday interval session after a big race that the real pain kicks in and I decided just to half the session last night and hopefully half the pain.
My toe hasn’t been entirely comfortable since the marathon, but I’ve kept all my running limited to nice flat road surfaces.

Last night I wanted to try out my trail shoes again and I wanted to run on something lumpy and uneven …. So what could be better than the grass track at Hallhill? Dunbar should count itself lucky. There aren’t many running clubs with a track that can be used for both interval and cross country training! If only someone would come up with some sort of large machine for “rolling” all the bumps and lumps out of a grass area L

Anyway. The trail shoes were not too bad, but I’m not entirely happy with the quick release pull tight lace efforts. Think I’ll take those off and put on a pair of traditional laces instead.

Got the National Relays tomorrow and do not feel up for it all. Still not 100% after the race.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Saturday saw four of us (Ian, Richard, Anne and me) get onto the Dunbar Team Bus (Anne’s Punto) and head off for the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon. Jamie, the fifth member of the team, was making his own way there.

Weather conditions were decidedly poor, but the spirits were high and Ian had brought along a CD of the Olympic opening ceremony music to “inspire us”.

Pre marathon conversations are always pretty strange, “guarded” affairs – everybody has a time they want to get, but most people play their cards pretty close to their chest – just in case. I honestly didn’t know what to make of my chances. My last marathon had been about 19 months ago. The longest period I’ve had between marathons. However, I was going to try and improve on that time and, at the very least, wanted a sub 3.

My mind was firmly fixed on my big toe after injuring it at Livingston. A quick, completely informal consultation with Doctor Neil the Thursday before had suggested what I think I already knew – I might be harbouring a bit of a fracture. It’s not sore all the time – but if I move it or bend it certain ways then …yes it is! I’d done a couple of six milers during the week… but there’s a big difference between that and a full marathon (obviously).

Anyway. We dropped Ian off at his mum and dad’s and popped in for coffee then headed off again to drop Richard off at his sister’s.

We then checked into our B&B and had a short stroll round York then went out for a very sedate two mile run (to loosen off really).

Saturday night was taken up with a visit to an Italian restaurant for some carbo loading – then early to bed.

So. What of race day? Well. It was an early start. Up at the crack of dawn for a breakfast of croissant’s and cereal before the short walk from our B&B to York Railway Station to get the shuttle bus that would take us to the start at York Uni’.

Using the university campus as a start and end for the marathon was a fantastic choice. It’s spread over quite a large area and the building that was being used for the baggage storage area was massive – there’s not many marathons you do where there is ample indoor space for waiting and meeting.

We met up with Ian and Richard and, once we had dropped of bags and made our trips to the loo, headed off to the start area.

Luckily, we met up with Jamie at the start.

I was in start zone 1 with Ian and Richard and Anne and Jamie were just behind us in Zone 2.

A few words from some bloke off Emmerdale, a few words from Cricketing-Umpire-Legend Dickie Bird…and we were off.

Straight out of the uni’ campus and before you know it you are going through one of the “Bars” in the city walls (gates) and you are into York proper – a quick run along one of the main streets, a quick run past the Minster ….and you’re back out of York and into the suburbs, before heading into small country lanes.

For the first part of the race, I just tried to settle into a pace I was happy with and didn’t even think about the toe.

The support along the route was great. Everyone seemed to be very enthusiastic about the whole thing (maybe they don’t get much in the line of entertainment in Yorkshire). The organisers had printed runners forenames on their numbers so I appeared to get equal numbers of shouts of “go on Stuart” and “well done Dunbar”.

Sad to say though I did find myself subject to a bit of racism as we went through one small village. Obviously someone recognised the name “Dunbar” and I was accosted with a shout of “Go on there Jock”!!

Got to half way and felt good… dreams of a PB were starting to linger in my mind.

But – me being me, I’d overcooked it in the first half and by about 22 miles I was starting to slow. It turned into a bit of a battle just to try to minimise the losses. It was at about 22 that I remembered I had a couple of Percy Pig sweets with me and had one of them – that seemed to help a bit.  By 23/24 my toe was beginning to hurt…but I honestly couldn’t say if that was pain from the injury OR the fact that my foot was starting to swell slightly (as you expect doing a mara’) and I’d tied my laces a bit tighter that I would normally do.

It didn’t help that at 25.5 miles there was a particularly nasty “sting in the tail” and we were brought into the campus up a horrible steep little climb (though the last 400m was a nice downhill).

Really pleased to get 2:56:30 (chip time). Later on I was surprised and delighted to find out I was 39th overall and 4th V45-55 (been more delighted to have been 3rd mind).

This was one of the best organised marathons I have ever done. I can't recommend it highly enough. The route and the scenery were great. Just the right amount of water stations etc (every 3 miles – I didn’t use them all), great crowds, friendly marshals. The route is very slightly undulating - even if the wee hill at 25.5 was cruel. God, even the weather was beautiful for the race. Saturday had been grim and Monday was grim – but the day of the race? Against everything the weatherman warned us about it was beautiful! The sun shone for most of it and it was mild(ish).

The only disappointment for me? Well. I’d wanted the bloke from the Plusnet adverts to start the race! But apparently, I was told, he is touring in Saudi Arabia at the moment. Ah well. Still got a picture of me next to a cardboard cut-out.

Ian, Anne and Jamie all had good runs. The stand out marathon though came from  Richard who proved to have proper “tough of the track” potential by not only surviving severe cramp but falling into a ditch – and still finishing! He came back into the baggage area covered in mud and looking more like he'd done a cross country than a marathon.

No complaints at all about the race – but one tiny observation and, sadly another instance of [institutional] racism....
The results. Only English running clubs are listed – so while we all appear on the results our club isn’t listed. No big deal, but I don’t know if this will affect our Power of Ten entries.

Anyway. Once we all regrouped we got back onto the shuttle bus to get back into town, before heading off at a hobble for a few drinks and a bit of a chat about our race (even those without tickets!).

Later on, on Sunday me and Anne met up with Ian for a curry.

Yesterday dawned wet and gloomy and it saw us (i.e. me and Anne) out for a gentle 3.5 mile recovery run around town before breakfast. Really enjoyed going through the streets and along by the river before it gets busy.
A visit to see Anne's mam and brother

No trip to York would be complete without a trip to Rebound Records (obviously) and a few choice discs were bought.


Sunday, 20 October 2013


Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon. 2:56:30.
Happy enough.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


Well. My toe is definitely still sore. Not “agony”, but sore.

It’s not too bad when walking…… I can feel it a wee bit when running….but it is very sore if I curl the toes in (the foot equivalent of making a fist, if you get my drift).

But as I don’t curl my toes in when running I’m hopeful that I’ll be OK on Sunday.

Might pack a couple of extra painkillers in the shorts pocket before the race (as well as a couple of Percy Pigs).

It seems to help if I lace my shoes pretty firmly (and I am guilty of normally keeping my shoes a bit too loose).

Certainly the runs I’ve done so far, this week, haven’t been too bad. As I say, it does hurt if I have to stop suddenly …. So the numpty cycling on the pavement this morning, who just about ran into me, didn’t exactly get a cheery “good morning”. If you are younger than, say, nine and have a little bike with stabilizers and glittery streamers coming from the handlebars you can just about get away with cycling on the pavement. Anyone else? Grow up.

Monday, 14 October 2013


Sunday dawned dull, grey, damp, windy and gloomy. It was, in other words, cross country weather.
I had agreed a week or so back to put my name down as part of a Dunbar team who were going to compete in the East District Relays at Livingston.
Anne was going along as photojournalist for the day and we picked Ian up at his work, just after 12 to head along to Livingston.
Livingston is, to my jaundiced mind, about as far west as a person can travel before crossing that sort of cultural boundary between civilisation and the outskirts of the Third World.
We got to Livingston to find Grant and Nick already there and waiting with the numbers. We procrastinated as long as we could, before finally giving into the inevitable and headed off to the park, numbers on, ready for a bit of a recce and a warm up.
The course was quite “nice”. Mostly paths to be honest and had more of a “trail run” feel to it than cross country. Undulating without being overly hilly.
Grant, Nick and me did the entire route as part of our warm up. Ian, who wasn’t running until the last leg, decided to hold back his warm up for a wee bit (no point in warming up too early if you have to hang about for ages).
The route was very well marked and at a few points someone had even gone to the trouble of painting white all the tree roots that were sticking up out of the path. They looked like ribs sticking out of a decomposing body in some freshly disturbed shallow grave.

Anyway. What of the race? Well. I was second leg, after Grant. The handover appeared to go well and I was soon passing a couple of guys who had started just before me.
Then at about 1.25 miles it all went tits-up. I fell. I don’t know how or why I fell, but fall I most certainly did. Luckily I was back on my feet and running again in a matter of seconds. But I was aware of quite a pain in my right foot. The big toe of my right foot to be exact. Still with the adrenalin pumping I just kept the head down and got on with the job in hand.
Finished my leg having managed to “claw back” five places for the team and, happily, both Nick and Ian managed the same.

The toe was sore most of last night and quite sore this morning. Strangely though, by tightening my shoe as much as I can I managed a wee run this morning at stupid o’clock without too much discomfort. The only time I felt any pain was when I had to stop quickly when I came up to a road crossing.
Fingers crossed – if I take it easy between now and Sunday I should be OK for the marathon.

Friday, 11 October 2013


This tapering malarkey isn’t really working for me. My weekly mileage, though down slightly, isn’t hugely different from the last couple of weeks, and the pace hasn’t seemed to drop that much either.
The “carbo loading” however, appears to be going well (in fact – I started that six months ago)
Still. I did have a bit of an “easy” night last night. As I’d been a wee run already on Thursday I offered to stand with the watch at last night’s interval session.

You’d think that simply standing there shouting times and words of grumpy encouragement to others would be a doddle – but it was bliddy freezing cold last night. By the time the runners were finishing their last lap I could hardly make out the times on the watch as it was shaking so much in my icy, wind-chilled hand. Have to see if the club funds would stretch to a nice eiderdown coat. Or one of those fleecy blankets with sleeves – the kind that fatties slouch about in when they are loafing about on their sofas and filling their fat gapping maws from a vast bowl of nachos resting on their fat gut while watching “Strictly” (as I believe it is known) on a Saturday night.

I hate “Strictly” with a white hot passion. I do not, have not and will not knowingly watch it. I would rather be forced to sit in a stuffy, unventilated room watching blow flies hatch from the wounds in a freshly slaughtered Labrador puppy’s head than watch that offensive bilge. I say “knowingly” watch it, however, as the BBC seems to be hell bent on pumping this televisual effluent into every program it produces. You turn on the radio – they blither on about it. You turn on the “news” – they blither on about it. You open a paper – they’re blithering on about it. Every individual involved in the production of this crap should have a petrol soaked tyre put around their neck.

I shall endeavour to take it a bit easier next week. Quite looking forward to a relatively “easy” weekend to be honest. A steady 12 miler tomorrow and then one leg of the East District relays on Sunday should fit the bill. Other than that, the weekend is reserved for getting acquainted with some recent jazz acquisitions. I shall not be watching strictly.

Monday, 7 October 2013


Saturday was the club’s annual “Doon Hill” race. As per usual I’d been drafted in to help out with Registration and Results.
Registration is quite an important task as it’s the race organisations equivalent of “front of house staff”. It’s the first person runners have contact with and your always keen to set a good impression by having someone cheery, friendly and keen to help.

Unfortunately we don’t have anyone like that at Dunbar … so I have to do it L

"Naw, naw...pre-entry only pal."
I’m usually set up in one of the smaller rooms in Hallhill. But this year, for reasons that are beyond my ken, they put me in a squash court. A large, sterile, cold, blank, featureless, three sided concrete box with a fourth perspex wall separating me from the rest of humanity. I felt a bit like Hannibal Lecter…
Still. Once the runners started to turn up it wasn’t too bad – in fact the space perhaps worked better than the usual arrangement… Which no doubt means that if we WERE to ask the Hallhill [mis]management  team for the same next time they would no doubt find a reason why we couldn’t get it and send me off to a small changing room or something.

The race went well and some pretty good times were posted. For those who want more details of the actual race please see the reports on Pete Buchannan’s blog and the club website (eyes right for the appropriate links).

Managed a wee 8 miler myself when we got home.

Yesterday was my last “proper” LSD before the mara. I had intended to do 24, but ended up doing just 22 (couldn’t be bothered tagging on an extra 2 I’m afraid).

East District XC Relays this weekend coming. That should stop me from doing any daft last minute LSD at the weekend. After that, it’s just the start of the dreaded taper.

Thursday, 3 October 2013


Why is it, that in the run up to a mara’ I always feel less prepared than the last time?

You would think that as the number of marathons completed starts to add up that your confidence and readiness improves…. With me, at least, the opposite seems to be the case. I just don’t feel that I’ve done the volume of long un’s prior to this one.
Saturday we see me pretty busy helping out at a race - so Sunday is my last chance for a real bit of heavy duty LSD before York.

My paranoia also affects my health. Especially “Autumn” marathons… I appear to be working in the centre of a plague pit at the moment. Everyone seems to have a cold/sniffle/flu or whatever. I always end up going a bit “later day Howard Hughes” in the build-up to the race. Terrified of infection.

The new manifestation of the “madness” this time round is that I am continually “cleansing” my hands with that alcohol gel stuff. I once read that Paula Radcliffe used to wipe the handles of shopping trolleys with that stuff, before she used them, to try and keep clear of infection before a race – maybe she too has been to Lidl in the Kirkgate. Though, to be honest when you see the clientele in there flu and cold viruses are the least of your worries.