#2: Tollcross (Alternative route)

This week, Gruber (our car) was off for his annual spa retreat. While he’s off getting a well deserved scratch behind the rear view mirrors, I’ve been triangulating the parkrun map with the train timetable and the met office. I found out to my surprise that both Ayr and Eglinton on the west coast were doable on the train. Both would require a fairly early start, but not quite as early as Aberdeen. I got a bit obsessed during the week with both of these. The courses are both around 2 miles from the train station, so would require me to do a bit of preparation in terms of route planning. For me, this means looking at the route on street view, and remembering key visual points. I found long ago that I navigate very visually, and find maps confusing. This was beautifully illustrated once, when I attempted to do a run on Hampstead Heath I had done several times before with a running club. All the times I had previously run it had been during the summer. Now alone, it was autumn. Everything looked different, and I got lost.

As the week went on, I developed a bit of a sniffle. It didn’t really ever come to much thankfully, but kept me away from training and left me feeling a bit tired. Typical runner, getting the excuses in early… Friday night came round with me still not having made up my mind. I’d had a brilliant time in Glasgow last week, why not head back there? How about Tollcross? It’s really near a train station… quick check, I can get a train at 7.38 and not need to change… and the met office says near freezing with sunshine. Sign me up!

Leaving the house in as many layers as I could feasibly run in, I wandered off to the bus stop. Hoping the bus would not take too long I looked around to notice a chap stood talking to his mates wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Reminded of the day previous where my work colleagues had found it amusing that I was sat in the office wearing three layers, I started to wonder if it was me that was weird.

On collecting my tickets at the station, I noticed that the machine had only printed one ticket plus a receipt. Said ticket had the ominous words of ‘anytime day single’ printed on it, and a quick check of my phone told me that was exactly what I had bought. I chastised myself with several words meaning ‘numpty’, none of which managed to make a return ticket appear. I gave it another couple of tries just in case.

On the train, I was almost too distracted to read my book (currently, The Kraken Wakes, by John Wyndham) with the views of snow dawning out of the windows. As I got close to my destination, I decide to strip down to shorts ready for the jog to the start. This feat of bravery probably had more to do with having sat on top of a radiator for the whole journey. Even with a pair of shorts under my tights, it still feels entirely wrong taking my trousers off in public. Thankfully there’s no one around, but I still find myself furtively checking round behind me.

The train arrived beautifully on time, and after a 5 minute jog I was at the park. I came in at the top of the park, ran up a small grassy ridge in front of me and knew immediately I had made the perfect choice. In front of me I had an incredible view of the city bathed in the golden glow of the newly risen sun, complete with near full moon in view. Behind me, I had the dazzling sun pouring over the houses. The jog from the station was less than half a mile, so I decided to have a look around the park to warm up.

Whilst breaking me down last week, Captain Pilates had seemed incensed by runners choosing to run on flat solid ground. Maybe once you’ve had a go with instability it makes stable surfaces seem boring? Either way, his advice to run on uneven ground definitely stuck in my head. As I gradually made my way round the park’s perimeter, I stayed on the snowy frozen grass. It’s moments like this that I remember why I bother running in the first place. I noticed cones being put out on the grass as well, so maybe some of the route would be on the grass too? This seemed a sensible precaution given how many parkruns were cancelled this weekend due to icy conditions.

At the briefing we were told that today we would be running the alternative course. This would be pretty much all on grass, 4 loops and basically just follow the person in front and you’ll be fine. Lining up at the start line I’ve been chatting with a few locals, and we’re both exaggerating how slow we’ll be running today. I’m told that the alternative course is a bit easier than the usual course, which makes me wonder if I now need to re-run this one to say I’ve done it properly.

Off we go, a little soft under foot and round the corner we go. We’re heading along a nice little straight, and I’m not thinking about pacing at all. The crowd quickly thins into a sort of  lycra clad conga, and we’re gently climbing. We’re round a tree, and now off the grass and onto a path. Sticking with Captain Pilates’ advice, I’m staying on the grass as long as I can. Round another corner and we’ve got a downhill to play with. It’s a gentle ish gradient, and I’m able to take full advantage. In running, what goes down must invariably come back up and we’re treated to a short sharp hill to go round a tree and back on ourselves. I can’t help but wonder if they couldn’t have put the turn somewhere else, but it’s undoubtedly good fun going back down the hill.

The course is essentially in the shape of a staple, and we’re now retracing our steps from the start line to finish the lap and start lap two. I’d not considered that the hill I just enjoyed running down might be less fun in reverse. Up the other side of it, and I now have a go on the tarmac path I’d avoided earlier. The sensation was entirely odd, if you’ve ever walked for a while on a stoney beach, then noticed the sensation as you go back to normal ground it was a little like that.

My watch was hidden under my sleeve for the whole race, with my thumbs firmly through the thumb holes in my jersey my fingers were still stinging for the first two laps. I heard my watch beep the miles in, but I didn’t care what the times were. I knew I was working fairly hard, and I felt at least with a reasonable consistency, but today I’d by now decided was just going to be about enjoying it. As I went round, I found I knew only a few things for certain: The sun in my eyes meant I was nearing the end of another lap and that the ground getting softer meant I was nearer the finish line.

As the finish line approached, I was warding off what felt like the same stitch I had at Drumchapel. Concerned that this could wreck any hope I had of continuing to enjoy the run, I eased back slightly. Either this did the trick, or I’m distracted by piling it down the hill for the last time arms wide yelling ‘weeeeee!’ I had a couple of wheezes after finishing the final climb, and it’s all downhill to the finish line. I catch up with the guy I was talking with at the start line, and we’re soon off to the post run cafe for a well earned cup of tea.

I order scrambled eggs on toast and a massive cup of tea. I’m told that they haven’t any bread for toast yet since the bread man hasn’t been, but they can do me a scrambled egg roll. It only dawns on me after I’ve said this sounds great, that the roll will therefore definitely be a day old.This it turns out is the least of the problems. If I were a betting man, I’d put good money that what I got was a boiled egg, mashed up then microwaved. I make do by putting two sachets of brown sauce on it. The tea was good though. The cakes looked good as well.

I sit down with my new pal and am welcomed into his family as if I’m an uncle they’ve not seen for a few years. We chat about other parkruns, and I find that it’s not just me that checks to see if there is a parkrun when I’m going on holiday. The slogan for the Glasgow Commonwealth games was ‘People Make Glasgow’, and on both of the parkruns I’ve done in this fine city, I’ve been overwhelmed by how warm and welcoming people are.

Scores on the door: 19th place, 23.09





3 thoughts on “#2: Tollcross (Alternative route)

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