#23: Ayr

For such a short word, it’s impressive that the word ‘Ayr’ is often pronounced in such a way that it has 3 syllables. I shouldn’t be surprised of course, this is after all from the country that brought you Milngavie. It’s not like I can complain mind, I originally come from Worcestershire.

Many things in hindsight are so blindingly obvious that you kick yourself for being so daft in the first place. After last week’s hijinks of a holiday, a race and parkrun double header, a trapped nerve and a dose of the cold combo was exactly what I should have been expecting. I wasn’t, but it happened anyway. Having spent all week being that guy upstairs with the slightly alarming cough (which is saying something for Leith) I must confess I started to regret buying train tickets for A-yu-rrr so early. During the week I dared myself to go out for a few miles in a sort of ‘kill or cure’ pact. Arriving home though fairly exhausted from a 30 minute walk, this got pushed back… and back… till Friday night came round and I resigned myself to defeat. I was still going to parkrun though, I’d just have to actually take it slow and risk enjoying myself instead.

Into Waverley slightly behind schedule, but in reality still with plenty of time, I got my ticket and hotfooted it over to the platform. Train stood on the platform, I just got onboard and got myself comfortable. It didn’t occur to me at the time that I’d read that the train I’d be getting at 6.27 was the Cross-Country service, and I was sat on a Scotrail train. I spend a lot of my Saturdays on Scotrail trains, so all seemed normal. Then at 6.21, with no announcement at all the train doors shut, a whistle blew and we started moving. Panic descended over me as I stood up and tried to peer out of the window at the board I should have looked at a few minutes ago. Where on earth was I going?

Helensburgh!? No idea where that is. Looking around the train, are we at least heading toward Haymarket, since if I’m stopping there then I can at least get a different train from there to Glasgow and all might not be lost. During the many weeks I’ve been doing this, I have managed to get lost in between the train station and parkrun a few times, however this is a new low. Haymarket pulls into view and we stop! I’m saved from my own idiocy! A few minutes of checking alternatives and as I look up I see a Cross-Country train roar through the station. I can’t prove this, but I think I saw it winking at me. Thankfully though I’ve found that if I get a shimmy on from Queen Street to Central, I can catch an earlier connection which will get me back on track. That way, I can arrive at almost the exact same time I’d been meaning to, and no one need ever know about this.

As the (correct) train gets to the west coast, the view out of the window starts getting seriously distracting and I’m having trouble concentrating on my book (currently ‘A Science Fiction Omnibus’ collated by Brian Aldiss which is really very good).  It’s the first blue sky I’ve seen in days and I now know for sure that I’ve made the right choice.

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During my time as a dedicated parkrun tourist, I’ve met a few other people who are also working their way around Scotland. One in particular I’ve started stalking on a social media platform is making good progress, and is based in Ayr. I gave him a heads up a few weeks ago and I’m reliably informed he’ll be there. Brilliant.

The setting for the run today is approximately 1.5 miles from the station. It’s helpfully in a straight line, with only one point early on where I could possibly mess it up. I somehow manage not to do this, and also to jog the whole way without stopping for a coughing fit. Arriving at the park I hear my name shouted across the carpark, and I’m in safe hands. We’re a bit early for the start which gives us a good opportunity for a catch up as we spot other runners arriving, including a few other tourists.

Off we go, along the green field bushes to our right, glorious blue skies above. We’re quickly through a gap in the bushes and into the trees, trail under foot. Sharp left bend and the trail continues down a couple of short drops before we’re directed around a left hander and off toward a pond. A very small lift up to the pond before we hug the tight path that goes round the water. As the pond runs out, we follow the path as it turns dramatically right and round the water. At this point, we’re bathed in sunlight and I want to stop and just soak up the warmth for a while like the ducks are. We continue round the pond before another tight right hander throws me wide on the path and I plough straight through the muddy section of the trail. The corner is too sharp for me to avoid the mud, but it’s short lived as we head back up the way we came. The double drop from earlier is a bit more challenging in reverse, but I shorten my stride and it’s over before I know it. A bit further and we pass a marshal, sharp right turn and back toward where we started, only this time we’re staying hidden in the trees. I’ve been following a small group since the start, but today I’m not chasing and they’ve gotten slightly ahead of me. For the last few hundred metres, I’ve had no one in front of me, and I’m quite enjoying losing myself in the trees. This is almost literal as I reach a fork in the path and at the last minute see the cones / arrow and go down the correct, but unlikely looking path which takes me over tree roots before opening out to a larger trail. Mile #1 done, 7.51.

The trail ahead shimmies through the trees giving us a bit of the path ahead, but never revealing too much. I’m quite happy to plod this one out rather than kill myself and make a relapse on the cold a certainty. I thank the marshal as I pass who will eventually divert us off to the finish line before a right hander diverts us through the trees and to the next set of marshals. I’m warned that the next section is a bit muddy, and for the first little bit of this loop I’m a little disappointed before one short stretch where I find myself dodging from one side of the path to the other in order to keep my trainers sort of clean. There is more mud on this section than much of the rest of the course, but it’s easily avoidable for the most part. In front of me I see the course going forward, but a line of cones blocking the way. With no other runners in sight I cross everything that all will be revealed when I get a bit closer. It waits until the last second ’til a route going right and along the cones is revealed, and we’re turning hard right, out of the bush and then back on ourselves up the trail. Mile #2 done in 7.56

Back past the starting point, and we get to have another go around the first loop. Hard left, thank the marshal and down the log flume double drop and onto the pond. Turning the hairpin bend at the end of the pond, it’s still glorious on this section. I see a duck flapping his wings scurrying over the surface of the pond and figure he’s got the better deal today. Before I know it we’re scampering up the hills and back round the hard right turn toward the club house. I know this time we’re going for tree roots not the big obvious path, and we’ve not long to go. I start seeing runners coming back toward me and since I’m taking things easier today I can give them all a cheer. Before I know I’m directed through the trees back into the open park and there’s the finish line. That’ll do for today, I look behind me and see no one else coming which for reasons unknown now I take as a cue to walk over the finishing line backwards. Looking back on this, I’m embarrassed to know me.

Despite this being a fairly flat course, I would expect the twisty turny nature of the run to add on around a minute to my time. The surface was pretty solid and the trail really runnable, and I loved the variety here. There’s a lot to be said for taking a run slow every now and then. It’s great getting a PB, but as anyone who has seen a picture of themselves getting that PB will know – PB’s are tough. One of the runners I spoke to afterwards talked of how he had meant to take it easy, but got dragged along with the bunch, and under normal circumstances, I definitely do that.

Speed isn’t everything though, and I’m pretty sure there is an inverse relationship between the speed of a course, and how enjoyable it is. The ultimate extreme would be a 400m track. You would almost certainly run your fastest time there, but how much would you enjoy it? At the other end of the spectrum though, you have the positively unhinged course at #1 Drumchapel. Anyone running under 19 minutes on that course should get in touch with Nick Fury, but you’ll have a massive grin on your face for at least some of it.

Scores! 10th place, 24.13.

 

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