#6: Greenock

After last week, I had started to resign myself to the fact that the weather might not always aid me in making a decision for the weekend ahead. Still, I kept looking at weather reports across the country for the weekend ahead. This week, I saw a wealth of difference opening up, and it seemed the further I went west, the better a chance I had of keeping dry. A look at the report for Greenock on Thursday suggested sunshine, albeit with some quite worryingly low numbers next to the little sunshine symbol. By Friday evening, this little bunch now had the company of a cloud, but this was still the best option I could see available.

I’m not too bad with mornings really. I wouldn’t say I love getting up at 5.30, it’s probably how someone who can do it feels about opening a beer bottle with their teeth. It’s not that comfortable, there’s the worry that it might damage you, but ultimately if you need to do it you can with minimal difficulty. It’s probably not so big a hit at parties mind.

5.30 duly came bounding out of the dark, and probably as a result of a manic week at work I came round about 10 minutes before my alarm went off. One of the worst things about getting up this early, is that the heating has not yet come on. I’ve not yet resorted to sleeping in my running kit, but certainly I’ve gotten faster at putting running gear on. Having had a recent trip which also involved a walk across Glasgow in the early hours, I decided that I was taking absolutely no chances and put on pretty much everything I could think of.

Bidding wifey goodbye, I put on still more clothes and started to resemble a marshmallow with sports logos. Out of the house, to see a bus arriving…a quick dash, fumble with the bus app and I’m on and off to the station. I find myself into Waverley a bit early, and with ticket in hand I agonise over taking an earlier slower train which means I don’t have to traverse Glasgow, or getting a coffee. I obviously side with coffee.

As the sun starts to come up, the signs of the predicted bad weather for Edinburgh are there all around. I instead bury myself in a new book I’ve started called ‘Children of Time’ by Adrian Tchaikovsky. So far I’m quite enjoying it, it’s probably not high art or anything, but if you love a bit of sci-fi as well, it might be up your street too. At Glasgow I see a teenager who is wearing a t-shirt and a light summer jacket. For reference, I am at this point wearing a long sleeve top, parkrun 50 t-shirt, merino high necked jumper, gilet, hoodie and a waterproof jacket. I figure either I will soon finally acclimatise to the cold, or I will be one of those people who wear massive roll neck jumpers in clubs.

Regular readers will realise that I am in no danger of taking up orienteering anytime soon. After last week’s debacle at Livingston where I managed to mess up a route to the course which was essentially a straight line, I redoubled my research efforts for Greenock. I was going to have to go straight, then turn right… I was going to have to concentrate.

Arriving into Greenock, I removed a few outer layers ready to jog to the start line. Stepping out of the station, it was clear that the weather forecasters had been somewhat over-optimistic with their predictions of sunny spells. As I scampered down Campbell St to the start line, I started to see those sunny spells on the other side of the water making the snow covered mountains shine like distant beacons. I followed the road right to the waters edge to gawp at the view, which happily lead me straight to the public loos.

With the start now looming over us, I start to strip down ready to go. I chat to a wiry looking chap who’s going down to shorts and t-shirt whilst telling me that he hates the cold. I’m going to be running in longs with a long sleeve top under my t-shirt. I’ve taken off my hat and gloves though, as some sort of token effort, the latter taking me a good minute to decide on.

Off we go up the esplanade. With the first signs that my back in on the mend and a reasonably good solo training run on Thursday I was hoping today that with a flat course I could put down a good marker. Charging up the course, the instruction in the race briefing to stay out of the cycle lane is being roundly ignored. We’re past the first marshal where we’ll turn later, and I’m already trying to keep my breathing under control by telling myself to relax. It’s never worked before, but maybe today is the day? The course bends round and that view is just gleaming unshakeably in the distance. I see a slight incline coming our way, I don’t remember that being part of the course description, but in a very short time that will be the least of my worries. I thank the marshal who’s sat at the turn with a cup of tea as my watch bleeps mile #1 done in 6.39. Oh no.

It’s funny how I never notice a tailwind until I turn round. Suddenly every part of my face is streaming. The view in this direction is markedly different from the one behind me, with mist shrouding the hills in the distance, and no chink in the clouds for any light to get through. With the wind now battering us, to maintain anything like the pace I started with, I’ve had to start pushing harder. I try to give some encouragement to the runners coming up the way, and manage an incoherent gurgle of bubbles. Best I probably keep quiet for now. I’m now alternating between looking up the road for the fast boys coming back at me so I know we’re near turning, and keeping my eyes shut. Finally we’re at the turn and heading back toward the postcard again, ahhh… lovely! I’m doing my best now to recover a little bit; half a mile into the wind has softened me up, how does a whole mile of it sound? Up to the turning point, and the marshal has now got himself a croissant. Mile #2 is done in 6.58.

As we turn, I’m certain the wind has stepped it up a notch. In high winds, no one can hear you wheeze. I’m clinging on for dear life to the guy in front of me as we grind out the final mile. I’m counting off the markers I’ve noticed on the rest of the course, past the giant buoy on the right, then the marshal at the half way turn, each one coming slower than the last. I’m fixated finally on the cranes near the start line, and I’m now not sure if I’m still going forward. I’m being buffeted by the wind and it probably looks more like line dancing at this stage. The cranes are getting closer, inch by inch. I think the end is sight, but instead we’ve got one final gentle bend to get round and there’s the finish line now in the distance. I don’t think of myself as competitive, certainly not with other people. With races timed runs though I tend to feel an accumulated responsibility to not let the effort I’ve already put in go to waste. We’ve probably only a few hundred metres left to cover, but it feels much further. The final mile finally succumbs in 7.13, and I manage to up my pace a bit over the last little bit to the line. How was it? I’m asked. I have no answer, but it appears that the expression on my face amply conveys everything.

I’m offered a lift off to the post run breakfast place, and stepping into the car I really appreciate how nice and quiet it is out of the wind. I’m quickly adopted into the Greenock parkrun family. I have a brilliant breakfast, and we chat about other parkruns, races coming up and the time that the Disney cruise ship holed up on the esplanade at Greenock inspiring a Disney themed parkrun. I’m told that I should come back in the summer, and I think I might just take them up on it.

Scores! 20th place; 21:32




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