I know, I know – the blog silence has been deafening. Sort of. However, I have been quietly getting on with 40 for 40 in the background…and it would appear I’m on the home straight! With the December 31 deadline looming, we’re 35 events down so I thought I’d bring you up to speed with what I’ve been up to.
When I wrote my last blog, it was late summer and I had hit the halfway mark after taking part in events that had ranged from a track 800m to a marathon, with a dash of triathlon thrown in for good measure, too. Here’s how the second half has been going…
Event 21: Pier to Pub swim (August 22). A fantastic 2.6km open water swim on Loch Lomond for charity, organised by the owners of the excellent Inchmurrin Island Hotel, which also happens to be the finish line! With waves bouncing us around and seemingly coming at the swimmers from all directions, the going was far from smooth but open water swimming is without doubt one of the best ways to experience the landscape and a fine way to spend a midweek August evening.
Event 22: The Great Scottish Swim 2-miler (August 26). This one does what it says on the tin. The Great Scottish Swim, also on Loch Lomond, offers up a wide range of distances to tackle and I chose the 2-mile option. My shoulders didn’t thank me for it but the weather played ball, conditions were pretty good and it’s an event which I always enjoy taking part in.
Event 23: The Great Scottish Swim Aquathlon (August 26). No sooner had I taken my wetsuit off from the 2-miler than I got back into it again, this time for an 800m swim which then went straight into a 5km run around the shores of Loch Lomond. The beer tasted good that evening!
Event 24: Great Run Local Gibside (September 7). Being down in Newcastle with work for the Great North Run, I was able to squeeze in a couple of really good events into my visit to the North East. The first was on the outskirts of the city in the beautiful surroundings of Gibside National Trust, which is the venue for a testing 5k which takes in a healthy balance of trails and hills. The pizza oven in the open air courtyard post-race was put to very good use…
Event 25: The Simplyhealth Great North 5km (September 9). The atmosphere surrounding Newcastle and Gateshead on Great North Run weekend is something very much worth sampling and this blast along the Tyne was a fine way to do just that.
Event 26: The Salomon Mamores Vertical KM (September 15). One of the most challenging, but most memorable, events of the year. As the name suggests, this time trial involved going up, and up and up and up. Starting in the highland village of Kinlochleven, the finish line was the top of Na Gruagaichean – a climb of 1030m over the course of a 5km route which was as spellbindingly stunning to look at as it was difficult to complete. I wrote about it in depth as part of the day job with Athletics Weekly and you can read that blog here
Event 27: The Neil McCover Memorial Half Marathon (October 8). My next event took me from the mountains back to the tarmac, with a half marathon which takes place in Kirkintilloch, not far from Glasgow. The fair but challenging route, combined with my questionable fitness levels, made for a testing Sunday morning but this excellent race was certainly worth getting out of bed for!
Event 28: Oxford parkrun (October 21). An old friend’s wedding threw up the chance not only for a reunion with lots of old friends but also a spot of parkrun tourism into the bargain. Sunnymeade Park was the pre-wedding running venue and a few of the wedding party were to be found strutting their running stuff ahead of switching technical t-shirts for glad rags.
Event 29: 3k on the Green (October 27). This monthly event on Glasgow Green had been on my to do list as soon as I’d thought about attempting 40 for 40. Speed is not necessarily my strong point and this out and back run, which costs a mere £2 and takes place on the last Friday of every month, is never easy. It always provides a lesson in pacing and you are always, always, always left feeling like you could have gone quicker.
Event 30: Victoria parkrun (October 28). The day after the 3k, I headed straight back to Glasgow to see how I could cope with two hard, fast (ish) efforts in two days. I used to live right very close to Victoria Park, in the Scotstoun area of the city, and it had seemed rude that I’d never done this run before. It was lovely to go back and retrace some old footsteps, and also bump into some familiar faces taking part, though my footsteps were perhaps not quite as quick as I’d hoped!
Event 31: Trossachs Night Trail Series (November 1). A soggy, chilly night to start November with. A lung-busting five-mile route near to Aberfoyle in the heart of the Trossachs along narrow, undulating forest paths as well as a long, long hill which did nothing but burst legs and lungs, and all done by torchlight. Headtorchlight. Brilliant, brilliant fun.
Event 32: Jimmy Irvine 10k (November 12). Bellahouston Park, Glasgow – the scene for a tricky, twisting strength-sapping, yet still enjoyable 10k race that confirmed some tiredness levels and the need for some focussed fitness work.
Event 33: Princes parkrun (November 25). Late in November, work took me to Liverpool and the trials for the European Cross Country Championships. Before I went to spend the day watching how this running lark is done properly, however, there was time to squeeze in the parkrun at Princes Park. I was extremely grateful to the two volunteers who stepped out of the crowd and gave up their run to make sure the event went ahead, giving me the chance to log another event and one of my quicker 5km efforts this year.
Event 34: Greenock parkrun (December 2). With a 5km time trial sprung on the group I train with just a few days previously, and it having gone pretty well, I was beginning to get a taste for the distance, so I thought I’d give it one more go. The Greenock parkrun course is on a cracker of an esplanade which gives views right down the Firth of Clyde. The only downside can be the wind but on this occasion it was reasonably kind and it felt like there might be life in these old(ish) legs yet.
Event 35: A run to the rugby (December 3). I’ll be honest, it’s been hard trying to fit events in for various reasons so, inspired by an excellent book called Go! By Tobias Mews I decided to create a challenge of my own. My boys, Callum and Sam, play a lot of rugby and they had a fixture in a place called Fintry, which is 17 miles from our front door and presents a journey through some beautiful Stirlingshire countryside.
My task was simple – I thought I’d see if I could beat my wife Fran and the boys, who were going to the tournament by car, on foot. With that in mind, I tried to calculate how much of a head start I might need for a ‘fair fight’ before setting off.
I hadn’t run this far since marathon training earlier in the year but the all was going well and smug thoughts began to enter my head. With a mile to the Fintry finish line, however, my bragging rights went out the window when a familiar car flashed by, tooted its horn, and my boys gave me a big wave.
So that brings us fully up to date. Five events to go – one of which, the Marcothon, is already underway. The Marcothon is the brainchild of my friends Debbie and Marco and involves running at least 5k or 25 minutes (whichever comes first) every day in December. I wouldn’t normally advocate running so many days in a row, but Christmas would not be Christmas without it.
Thank you very much indeed for reading this far and, if you have a couple of quid to spare, then below is the reason why I’m doing all of this nonsense…
- I have challenged myself to complete 40 events – involving running, swimming and triathlon – in the calendar year of 2017, the year I turn 40. I am raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support. You can find my JustGiving page here. Thank you to everyone who has donated so far. It really is very much appreciated.