#1 Drumchapel

Having spent most of the week thinking I’d be doing Perth this weekend, I had a change of heart that started around Thursday. I had a pretty rough time at training on Wednesday, the culmination of having taken time out for back related shenanigans and the annual Christmas snackathon. Following that, an induction with a local Pilates studio on Thursday took the approach of break ’em down, then build them back up. The build ’em back up element starts next week, so by Friday I was feeling a bit sorry for myself.

I’m really excited about doing Perth later in the year, but it’s a fairly flat course, one loop and I think fairly quick. I started to feel I’d like to save it for later down the line when I’ve got a good time in me.

I then started thinking about how I would get to all of the parkruns I would be doing. Sure I have a car, but something about chalking up a lot of car miles to attend something like parkrun just didn’t sit right with me. I guess I’m a bit of a tree hugging hippy deep down. Though driving would undoubtedly make things more convenient for me – not to mention cheaper – I resolved that if I could get a train, I would do so. That then set me searching for parkruns that I could get to by train. First of all I would need a nearby train station, and I would need a service from Edinburgh to said station that got there for say 9am.

Of the ones I found, Drumchapel started to sound like a good one. I could see that last week they had 25 runners, so it could be a small friendly one – TICK. It was in a wood, with a couple of hills. OK. Then I checked the weather… it might be misty! A small band of merry misfits in a spooky woods. How could I, or any right thinking person, ignore that?

There’s nothing quite like an alarm going off at the weekend an hour earlier than your work alarm to make you re-examine your choices. After some inward cajoling, I managed to feel my way to the bathroom and start shuffling toward the day. Throwing coffee and chocolate spread on toast down my neck hoping that I’d not see it again, I thanked yesterday me for putting my clothes and bag out ready. After some mild faffing I bid wifey goodbye, and got to the bus stop with seconds to spare. So far, so haphazard.

Into the station with plenty time to pick up my tickets, the advantages of getting the train now started to become apparent. Firstly that I would never be far away from a loo, handy. Secondly, I would over the day have 3 hours to read instead of concentrate on motorways. I today finished ‘Stories of Your Life and Others’ by Ted Chiang, which I very much recommend.

Changing at Partick, I was now only ten minutes from my destination. The sun was probably up by now, but aside from the street lights no longer being on there were few clear signs of it. Onward to Bearsden and out of the station. Walking along the route I had made sure to look at on street view yesterday it dawned on me I would need to do some running quite soon. As I walked, one, two, three runners came past me. I must be getting near! I should probably get a shimmy on! Hat stowed in my bag, keys secured to stop them jangling I jogged about 1km to the start line. I’d already in that short jog probably climbed more than in the runs I’d done in the past month, and the signs were all around that this was not an anomaly.

Chatting with some locals at the start line, I learned that the ‘slightly hilly’ course I had in mind might look a little different in reality. I was informed of three hills all of which were quite steep. Oh and those three hills were on each lap, of which we’d be doing three laps. Mild panic should have set in, but instead something akin to cross country bravado took over… it’ll be FIIIIINE…

Seconds out, and off we go. Up a mild incline, ok this isn’t too – oh Christ now we’re going down a mini golf version of alpine switch backs at what must be 20%. I can see green on the tarmac, so I’m concerned the edges are slippy, and I hold back as much as I can. Sharp right hander at the bottom and we’re onto trail, I can already see the first of the hills coming at me. They look fairly short, but we’re going to gain a fair few metres in that time. Over the top and I’m already feeling shell shocked, another sharp bend and we’re slaloming down another steep descent, now through the trees. Would grabbing a tree and performing a bat-turn aid me? No time to think and we’re round another sharp bend where we then see a longer set of climbs, both of which look pretty steep. Before I know it, we’re up at the top and we’ve got a long undulating section to enjoy before a sharp bend back into the mini golf section to start lap two. My watch says 7.56 for the first mile, and honestly I think I’d feel disappointed if my brain were able to form sentences.

Lap two and I’m digging in. I’m managing to overtake a couple of people which is helping keep my head up. My breathing has turned into a woeful self-pity-filled wailing noise which I’m glad there aren’t many people around to hear. The hills are now pummelling me, and not just on the ascents… the descents are incredibly demanding and the trusted advice of ‘arms out, run like a ten year old’ is looking more like a rag doll in a washing machine. Not to worry, lap two is now done and another mile at 7.56 is proving to me how tough this course is.

Lap three and I now know what I’ve got left to do. I’m having to put in a shift here and no mistake, but I’m happy that I’ve got round the bends and up all of the hills again and I’ve now finally gotten past the lady in the 50 t-shirt in front of me I’ve been secretly hoping I’d reel in. Then things went a bit wrong. Just after the last big climb, the slight stitch I’d been trying to ward off on my right side turned into a ball of molten lead. The pain was ridiculous, and I was now struggling to breathe fully. I had the last straight section opening up in front of me, but could do little but jog it in. As the lady I’d recently passed came back in front of me followed by a couple of guys I clutched my chest hoping it would at least subside a little bit. I guess at least it waited for the last lap… last mile at 8.15.

Over the line and I get chatting with a few of the regulars. I’m given a brownie, and one of the marshals correctly spots that my accent is from the West Midlands. I didn’t think I sounded that Black Country, but I instinctively react by talking as if I’m on the phone to my parents. I had resolved also that a rule of the challenge would be that if there is a post run coffee, then I am going to it. Speaking to the regulars, I’m quickly offered a lift, and we’re off to a local church hall, the like of which I’ve not seen since I last did an Audax cycle ride. The menu is simple, cheap and features everything I’ve ever dreamed of. Namely hot filled rolls, tea and cake. I’m charged about two quid, though frankly at this point I would have handed over my wallet in exchange for a fried egg roll. The runners at this parkrun are lovely, and I’ve now been offered another lift back to the train station. I find myself comfortable and in a bit of a chat when he leaves sadly, so I decline the offer and stay a bit longer.

Walking back to the station later, I pass a few cabs parked up with their drivers taking time out. My shorts are clearly a hit in Drumchapel, as I’m asked if I’m off to the Bahamas… but it’s lovely out here no? I hear planes flying overhead that sound low, but I can’t see anything through the gloom, till suddenly one appears from the clouds like the space ship in the film Independence Day.

Back into Edinburgh, it’s now around 2pm, and I’m reminded that the Great Edinburgh cross country is on in Holyrood park. Looking at FB, I see a number of my club mates are there. As it turns out, there is also a place I can get a cup of tea. What a brilliant day this has turned out to be.

Scores! 5km, 24:17. Drumchapel, lovely course, but not for the faint hearted!

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