#29: Pollok

Why is that whenever I go on holiday, someone invariably mucks around with the settings on my office chair? Now don’t get me wrong here, I have no objection to people sitting on my chair. I’m no germaphobe, and I understand that people may need to chat with my colleagues which might require them needing a chair. I can understand that someone might sit on my chair and think, hmm, this is a little odd. What I don’t get is the next step where they’ve then thought they’ll fix that for me.

Returning to work though wasn’t too bad. The email pile wasn’t too huge thankfully, and I had a relatively slow week in which to get back up to speed. If the main thing you can complain about is an adjustable seat being adjusted, then things can’t be that bad. As sometimes happens for me, things got interesting on Friday morning, and just as I was starting to get into things it was time for the weekend.

Almost every weekend of this year so far, I have travelled around Scotland and seen a lot of runners in a lot of places. I’m always amazed at the people that take part. Those guys who run walk at the back are just as fantastic to me as the greyhounds at the front. For those of our community who take a little longer, I always have in mind that they are working every bit as hard as I am, but over a longer period. They might see the rest of the field flying off into the distance, find themselves getting lapped, yet they don’t give up. They keep plugging away, and they finish the same distance as the rest of us.

At the front of the field, it’s hard not to be impressed by those running times unfathomable to the rest of us. The thing that always takes me aback, though, is the consistency with those runners. Personally, my times vary a lot, and it’s down to which version of me will turn up that day. Running a 5km at anywhere near to full gas is incredibly tough. The thing that separates me from those at the front of the field, is that appetite for brutalising yourself. That ability to put yourself through the wringer again, and again. That, and a pathological fear of losing.

I find that every month or so I have an off week. I wrote about fatigue a little while ago, and the way it sneaks up on you. I’m starting to think of setting something up in my calendar so that every month I have one week where I ease off a bit, allow myself a break before going for it again. This week has been one of those weeks. Every run has felt far tougher than normal. Monday’s planned interval session got commuted to a short tempo run. Wednesday I had all my stuff ready for an interval session at lunchtime, except for my running shoes. Thursday it was then, and cometh the day and knowing I would struggle to motivate myself through the reps, I opted instead for a short hill run on the basis that I couldn’t very well duck out of the hills since I like the view from the top of Calton Hill. It was pretty hot that day, and the word enjoy isn’t one I’d attach to that run. I decided after that to just rest up till parkrun day.

Pollok parkrun was the first parkrun set up in Scotland. Back then a challenge of this sort would have been a great deal easier. Earlier in the week, I noticed that this would be my 80th parkrun, and the 40th different event I’ve done. The maths geek in me loves that symmetry, but it also means that I’m a bit of a fidget. I’ve also noticed that the run at Pollok will mean that I have now *technically* done all of the parkruns in Scotland, until next week when Alness starts. The stars seemed to be aligned in the most beautiful way, the only problem was that the Ollie this week deployed to run it was a tired whiney little f**ker.

Arriving into Shawlands station I had a loose grasp of the route to Pollok country park, but hadn’t really taken into account what a big and varied park it would be. Through the gates and quickly into a pretty squidgy field, I had the vaguest of ideas of which direction I should be heading in, but very little by way of visible clues. I ploughed on regardless*. Past a dog, round some trees and I found myself at the bottom of a carpark. I could see some other runners, but as yet no one in high vis, I had to be fairly close. Checking with the runners I was pointed up the hill and soon found the start line. A quick bit of extra exploring to warm up and I was good to go. A big group of runners was starting to come together under some equally impressive clouds, nearly time to get under way. There are a couple of copies of the route around the start line, which I glance at. I should really have paid a bit more attention to them, but I’ll come onto that in a second.

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Off we go! Down through the car park, gently downhill in the scrum and over a few speed bumps. I’m not sure if this is what was meant by ‘undulating’, but this I can handle. I’ve already made up my mind that today is a ‘tempo’ run rather than a PB day and I’m out to enjoy myself. The carpark ends, we swing left then right as the path narrows before the gentle descent continues along a hedgerow. We go round to the left and the path narrows again and we start the first climb of the day. The gradient is pretty manageable and we’re now into the trees. The path flattens off as we take a gentle right, then left before the path widens and we’re climbing again. Again this is fairly gentle, and now with woods to both sides it’s beautiful how the path is arching up and left ahead of us. As we hit the top of the climb the path is still arching left as we wind our way back down through the trees. Mile #1 down, 7.23.

Down and down we go round a huge helter skelter until the end is punctuated by a nice big muddy puddle. It’s a bit like when we went to the swimming pool at school I guess, with that weird foot bath before you go in the pool. What goes down must go up, and right on cue we have another steady climb. The path narrowed, and the curve in the course kept coming which meant I could only see a small section of the course ahead. I’m personally a big fan of courses like this. I remember this section as feeling like a high up riverside path, with a steep verge to my left, mosses and pockmarks of wildflowers and a wooded drop to my right. The path has evened out, the sun is trying its best to shine through the trees meaning the light keeps changing as the path does. The path swings left and we have a fairly sharp hill to climb; it’s over pretty quickly with a sharp right hander as a flourish as we carry on up the path. We pass marshals informing us we’ve now started lap 2. I spend the next few minutes confused, since I don’t recognise much of the path. Had I have looked at the route properly, I would have known this is because we have not yet covered this section of the course. I am continually looking around for something I recognise, and now starting to wonder about writing this blog because clearly I haven’t been paying attention. As we turn a left-hander we start a gentle climb and the path widens. I see a line across the path advising 500m, which I saw on lap one and finally I know where I am. Mile #2: 7.37.

Up the hill now and we’re cruising down the great big corkscrew homeward bound. I spy a group who I presume are British Military Fitness out on a run also, and though I’m not that competitive, I’m not having someone running faster than me in paraboots. Splash we go through the bottom of the hill and up again round the narrow path. The sun shines through a clearing and we’re now starting to catch up with some of the back markers. I’m today not the only one giving out cheers to these guys with a fellow runner in some amazing pink trainers also helping to rally the troops. Sharp left and that short steep climb is there ready and waiting for us. My fellow cheerleader yells out ‘come on!’ and head down, we blast it out. Up to the top and we cheer as many runners as we can as the path shimmies us forward. At the point where the new lap started, we now fork right to the finish. The path now starts descending, and I start to open out my stride to take good advantage. In my head, we’ve still a way to go since I have it in my head we’re heading back to the carpark. Runners are pouring past me, and I’m wondering how everyone has saved this much energy when we’ve still a few hundred metres to go… only we haven’t and before I know it we’re over the line. I’d complain, but the route map was right there for me to look at. Oh well, it’s not like I can really get upset about losing a few seconds on a run I wasn’t pushing hard on. I do fancy having another crack though.

Scores! 75th place, 22.15

*Pun intended

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2 thoughts on “#29: Pollok

  1. Hi Ollie,
    Thanks for posting about the Scottish parkruns – you’re getting me into tourist mode.
    A tiny point about Pollok – shawlands station is fine if you want a longer run to the event but Pollokshaws west is nearest station to Pollok park.

    Liked by 1 person

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