#21: Linwood

In a blog post about #12: Springburn I made comment that I was somewhat navigationally challenged, and though I’d thought about Linwood, I’d eventually ducked out since I’d not had time to really research the route from the train station and it looked to be more complicated than a straight line from A to B. Though in reality it’s not a great deal more complicated, and I should point out that at #5: Livingston I did manage to fail to navigate a straight line route. A few days after that blog post, I had an email from the run director at Linwood saying that he would happily escort me from the train station, and to just let him know when I was heading over. I also had a lovely tweet from one of the lovely people I met at #1 Drumchapel offering similar assistance. As I walked down Queen Street to change trains en route to Linwood, I saw the posters hanging around the town proclaiming ‘people make Glasgow’. I’ve had great runs in Glasgow at parkrun, but it is always the people I meet there that make it special. For Linwood I already had a ready made welcoming committee!

In George Square currently there is a special hanging restaurant.  At least I think that’s what it is.  This is a large table, complete with chairs, which is suspended from a crane. Presumably, the diners are sat down, then hoisted a way up into the air to enjoy a dining experience like no other. My immediate response was to wonder what would happen were I to get up there, and half way through the starter found I needed a pee. How are they getting the next course up there? Delivery by drone? I guess that could work, but then what if it’s soup? I’m also anticipating it being a bit windy up there, I’d want to make sure my bread roll was held down somehow.

I think I’m vaguely quoting Chris Boardman here who said something on the lines of: endurance sports are about trying to maintain the same output with an engine that is shrinking. The most satisfying 5k is when you run each kilometre / mile at the exact same pace. The run will become incrementally more difficult as you progress and as you fatigue, but if you can match that with willpower, then the pay off is huge. I love a PB as next as the next runner, but I’m equally happy with a run where I felt I worked hard, was in control and was consistent throughout.

This week I have been following with awe the progress of an old London clubmate who was riding in the TransAtlantic way bike race (www.transatlanticway.com). For those that haven’t heard of it (which until a few weeks ago included me), this is a 2,500km single stage unsupported bike race. That means that once the clock starts at the starting point, it doesn’t stop until you cross the finish line. I hear that many of the serious riders didn’t sleep for the first 40 hours. I remember once completing a 200km cycle ride which wasn’t all that flat. I think it took me around 12 hours, and after completing it I was told that the nearest train station had had to close, and I needed to ride a few extra miles to the next closest station. It is no exaggeration at all to say that I nearly cried. How someone can ride, and ride, and ride, then sleep in a ditch in a bag, then carry on and on and on for days on end, I genuinely don’t understand. It does make me think though that by comparison, my ‘challenge’ here is probably more like a temporary hobby. The problem with exercise of any sort is that whatever you do, there’s probably someone out there doing something even more bonkers. In cycling terms, whatever you do, someone has probably done it before, on a Brompton.

Arriving into Johnstone, and along the route I had planned I managed to only take one minor wrong turn. Pretty good going I think for me, and arriving to ON-X for 9.20, I was glad that I’d taken the slightly earlier train. I was quickly found by the ED who’d previously contacted me, and we had a good chat. We spoke at length after the run, and I was thoroughly inspired by his journey and stubborn determination. I’ve now met a couple of people who for reasons out of their control have had the wind taken from their sails and have had to start all over again. A lot of us might lie down and give up, but it’s amazing to see people refuse to let it beat them.

Into the start line for the briefing. I’ve read up on the course, and I know that today will be pancake flat, and I’m quietly planning on pushing myself a bit. I get a nice mention in the briefing, the conditions seem pretty good, and I sidle myself up to somewhere near the front.

Off we go, along the wiggly narrow tarmac path and past the football pitches and on the side I start seeing distance markers on the side for 300m, 200m and I start to worry that this will be a constant feature on the route. Thankfully this is the last I saw of them, not since they weren’t on the rest of the course, but rather because after this point I spent a lot of time focusing on running well and for me that means concentrating on a point on the ground about 2 metres in front of me and keeping my mind locked on maintaining effort. Hard left we go and before long the tarmac runs out and we’re onto hard packed trail. The path curves to the right, and we’ve a wide path, lush green to either side and we’re off into the countryside. Before long we see a marshal for a hard left onto a narrow path, the bushes close in on either side and any trace of a city is a distant memory. This section is short, and we turn left as the path widens a little and gives us a few muddy patches to dance through. Throughout this section, I can only ever see 100m in front of me maximum. This is perfect, I glance up, see the next bite size chunk, and eyes back down on the road. Mile #1 done in 6.59 and I’m very happy with that.

We continue along the stretch, seeing a little more, tick it off, focus, the bushes open out and we see a marshal pointing us to a hard left and through some trees (I think) pushing us back toward where we started. As we pass the start, we fork left and go around the back of the football pitches. We’re now well into mile 2, and I can feel my work rate is starting to inch up. I’m still feeling in control, and as we reach the trail section again I am now feeling confident that I can start to reel some people in. Along the wider trail I pick off a guy who has clearly gone off too hard and is now suffering (I know EXACTLY how that feels), then another guy as mile #2 is done in 7.02. I’m really happy with that, and now it’s time to finish the job.

The path ends and we go hard left onto the narrow trail again as I pick off another guy and start allowing my work rate to go up slightly. Round to the left again and the way the course is broken down into chunks for us is a blessing. Each short section comes, and goes. I now have two runners in sight a fair way up the road, and I’m hoping that I can at least get close to them in the last half a mile. My breathing is now doing the ‘fast one fast one fast one slow slow’ as I force myself to keep control. The track opens up again as the pair in front are getting closer. We hit the hard left turn back to start toward the finish and I know I’ll see the finish line in the distance soon. A short section, then a gentle left and there it is. I’m not the only one who’s seen it, and I hear an encouraging shout ahead as one of the pair must be on for a good time and sees his chance. I start pushing the pace on and finish just behind the second of the pair. I’d not thought I would catch them, but no doubt they’ve helped me maintain a solid effort over the last section as I chased them in. Last mile done in 6.57, the quickest of the three and I’m absolutely chuffed.

Scores! 17th place, 21.15

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