One Big Weekend

Four races, two days, one big weekend!

I had planned on doing a pre-weekend blog but it never happened and now this one is over a week delayed! 

I have written a race report for each event below, photos may follow!

Aberdeen

Start time: 10:30am

Distance: 5 km

Course:

Time: 18 minutes 30 seconds

Finish position: 1st / 250

Report:

First stop of the road trip and the first race. 
Mandy and I headed up to Aberdeen on Friday evening. A friend had organised our accommodation and it was brilliant, it was a shame we were only staying for the night. We stayed in the Micasa Apart Hotel, as the name suggests, its apartments but in a private block. The location was ideal, in the middle of Aberdeen, the only down side was no parking outside the building but within a short walk there was an NCP car park which Micasa offer discount for.
We met up with a friend on Friday evening and then made our way back to the apartment to get ready for an early start the next day. The apartment was really nice, if you want to know more, read my TripAdvisor review. 

We checked out on Saturday morning and walked down to the Esplanade where the race started from, right outside the leisure centre. We arrived with plenty of time to spare and so after a quick visit to the loo I headed out for a warm up mile. The view out in to the North Sea was pretty impressive but I was really glad there wasn't a cold northerly wind blowing as this course would suffer from it!

I headed back to the start line and watched the group warm up take place from afar. I'm never a massive fan of joining the group warm up, not because I'm antisocial or anything like that, I just have my routine and don't want to try something different right before a race. The last thing I wanted to do was pull something before I've even ran the first race. 

With 4 minutes to go I made my way to the start line, when I say made my way, I mean I walked straight up to the chip timing mat and made myself at home, tip of my toe literally touching the mats. At this point I did feel slightly awkward. A couple of looks of "Who does he think he is wearing his sunglasses and brightly coloured racing shoes?", maybe I had over dressed for the occasion but in my mind, it was a timed race and I was racing, it did make me smile as well though because I was also looking at everyone else on the line from behind my sunglasses and wondering who the competition was going to be. A number of them were possibles. I didn't know anyone else on the start line and I was out to give myself the best chance I could, which tends to mean, get right at the start for a clear run. 

The race started at 10:30am. 

The horn went and I was off, getting in to a good pace from the off. A couple of people guys came with me and took the lead in a group. My initial thought was "Fair play, you're faster than me" so I just relaxed and kept my pace nice and constant. Shortly after that I felt myself slowly drifting in to the lead and it got a bit quieter behind me. From where I was, I couldn't see anyone either side of me but I knew there was at least one other runner close behind. 
This stayed like this for the first half of the race, about 2 km in we headed down a slight hill to the cone turning point. I picked up the pace slightly to make sure I had a clear run at the cone and then did my cone move and headed back in the opposite direction. 
At this point the guy behind me said "Nice move!" while the marshal had a little laugh to herself.

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From here on I was on a bit of a high, giving the on coming runners high-5s and giving them all claps of encouragement. It was really inspiring to see. Runners of all shapes and sizes, taking on the 5 km on a lovely morning in Aberdeen. 
This is what I love about jogScotland, they are totally inclusive. It doesn't matter about your abilities, everyone is welcome. 

I got back to the top of the hill and realised it had gone a bit quiet behind me, ever the competitive runner, I didn't want to look behind me to see how far ahead I was so just to make sure, I hit the final kilometre marker and tried to pick up the pace one final time. There is always the risk that someone has a really strong kick and you're pipped at the post. I didn't want that to happen. 

I finished in 1st place in 18:30. If I'm honest, I was really disappointed with the finish time but I had another 3 races to go so probably best I didn't go out too hard! 

Average pace for Aberdeen - 5:53/mi

After the race and presentation, Mandy and I walked around Aberdeen a bit, got some lunch and then jumped in the car and headed down to Perth. 

Perth

Start time: 6:30pm

Distance: 5 km

Course:

Time: 18 minutes 33 seconds

Finish position: 2nd / 76

Report:

It had been raining the entire way down the road from Aberdeen but it eased up in time for the race. Getting out of the car I felt OK. I could tell I had raced earlier but didn't feel too bad, that was until I went to do my warm up. A nice easy mile out along the final section of the course and back. Nothing too serious to worry about, a slight incline with about 800 metres to go but apart from that it should be a good run. 

I met up with Michael and Bev who were running Perth and we joined in the mass warm up. I was just trying to keep warm as the drizzle was starting to make my legs cold again. Without too much of a wait we were off. 

Before the race had started I had spotted a couple of guys who looked like they were taking this as seriously as I was. They were doing a good pace at warm up and just looked like competition and I wasn't wrong! 

Instantly I was sitting in 4th with the sound of someone just behind me, the legs had decided to show up thankfully and I started to pick the pace up and slid in to 3rd place quickly and the sound of runners behind me had faded. 2nd place was some way off, sitting next to 1st place. They were both running really well and had a good lead. 

The course took us on to the North Inch in Perth. I've never ran here before but I know it well enough to know it's pretty flat. We looped around the Inch and started heading back towards the sports centre. With about 1.5miles to go I finally caught 2nd place. After the race he told me he had gone off too fast with the lead runner and struggled for the final mile. He ran well though and held on to 3rd. 

Getting in to second place gave me a wee boost and I went chasing after the first place, but it wasn't to be. He was quick and my legs had had enough for one day. 

We came around the corner and on to the second where I had ran for my warm up. Not long to go now, just the wee incline and it was another race done and another podium finish. 

Average pace for Perth - 5:47/mi

So even though my overall time was slower, my pace was faster. Just shows you what a difference the length of the course can make! 

After the race the heavens opened and some of the slower runners got soaked! 
Mandy and I waited for Michael and Bev to finish and then we made our way to our cars. Michael and Bev were up early the next day to fly to Ireland for the Rock'n'Roll Half marathon! Well done guys! 

Mandy and I drove back down to Edinburgh for an early night and to get ready for heading to Glasgow first thing. 

Glasgow

Start time: 10:30am

Distance: 5 km

Course:

Time: 17 minutes 40 seconds

Finish position: 1st / 176

Report: 

Bellahouston Park was the location for the Glasgow event. I've never ran here but I had been pre-warned that it was hilly. Mandy and I left in plenty time because the Commonwealth Games was still on and the Cycle Time Trial was taking place the same morning. In actual fact, the roads were really quiet and we got to the park really easily. 
We parked up and bumped in to a fellow Edinburgh AC runner - Cath @katierun - I will be honest, I thought this might become a race between us. I've never raced with Cath before but I do know she is running really well just now so I was a little bit nervous when I spotted her. 

I went out for my warm up, wearing my Compression Advisory sleeves to try and help my legs come to life a bit. I decided to run some of the route to find out where the hill was and I am glad I did. The first 1 km was flat but then from 1 km to 2 km it was uphill. Nothing scary or anything compared with what we tackle on a Sunday morning on our long run but enough to make you know its an incline. The good thing though was once you get past this it's all downhill or flat from here on in, I was going to use this to may advantage if I could. 

Got back to the starting area, waited for the mass warm up to finish and got my place on the start line, toe on the line. Looking around I spotted a couple of club vests, I had Cath on my heels, literally right behind me, to say I was feeling some pressure was an understatement. This was going to be a race! 

3.2.1...Go! We were off, one lap of the cycle track and then in to the park but within 300 metres a young lad was in the lead by some distance. This was going to go one of two ways. One he has gone off way to fast and I'll catch him soon or two, he is super fast and I'm going to be chasing him for the 5 km. Luckily for me, almost as soon as we came out of the track I passed him but by now I could hear someone on my heels. Was it Cath? Was it one of the club vests? I wasn't sure but what I was sure about was I needed to attack the hill at the 1 km marker. 

I'm usually strong on hills and it's the only advantage I might have on this otherwise flat course. I came around the 1 km marker and went for it, attacking the hill and at one point almost passing the lead bike.

I may have forgotten to mention that during each race there was a cyclist who would lead us around the course. 

I got to the 2 km marker and it had gone quiet behind me, not wanting to assume anything I then made sure I picked up the pace going back down the other side of the hill. As I said about Aberdeen, you never know what strength others have. I can take on hills but they might be faster on the downhill section. 

At 2.5 miles in I got a nice boost from seeing my sister-in-law, she lives in Glasgow but I wasn't sure if she was going to head down or not. I got a wee cheer from her which was nice. The lead cyclist by this point had put a bit of a sprint on himself and had put a bit of space between the me and his rear wheel, I then spotted him stop next to a marshal, lean over and give her a kiss! Alright for some I thought! It did make me laugh though and as I passed the marshal she said "It's the only chance we've had, we've got kids", this also made me smile and I pushed on after the rear wheel of the bike. 

I passed the 4km marker and had a chance to look behind me, not something I tend to do very often but I then realised how much of a lead I had. I did ease of slightly for the final kilometre as I wanted to save something for Edinburgh in the evening. Looking back, I should have kept pushing because I was seconds outside my personal best! 

I finished in 17:40 and my PB is 17:36!

Average pace for Glasgow: 5:49min/mi

The guy who came second finished in 19:03 and Cath was 4th overall and 1st Lady. Unfortunately they organisers didn't award any prizes for 1st, 2nd or 3rd Lady home. Something I would hope might change in the future. 

After the race it was time to jump in the car and head back to Edinburgh. The traffic was fine and we got back in good time. Enjoyed some lunch and then had a 2 hour snooze! I was shattered and still had one race to go, but at least it was just down the road. 

Edinburgh

Start time: 6:30am

Distance: 5 km

Course:

Time: 17 minutes 59 seconds

Finish position: 2nd / 267

Report: 

The rain had stopped and the sun had made an appearance just in time for the warm up. Mandy and I arrived with plenty time to spare. Mandy was also running this race, she had tried to get out of racing by offering to take photos of my final race but I insisted that she ran. 
I went out for a warm up but my legs were really tired by now and the warm up was cut short. You may think this sounds like a crazy idea, but there was method in my madness. The tired heavy legs were starting to put doubts in my mind, doubts as to whether I could even complete let alone get a final podium place. I had done a bit of light jogging and that was going to be enough. 

I stood next to the mass warm up area again, waiting for everyone to finish. By now the event organisers knew who I was and event director came over and had a quick chat with me. He was really kind and wished me luck. I explained I would just wait and see how it went as I was feeling tired but that once I got going I'm sure it would be fine. I actually admitted to him that it would be nice to be able to get on to the podium one last time but if possible, without having to work too hard for it. This might sound big headed but I was really tired and my racing mojo was at a low point, I really just wanted a jog around Cramond and then a sleep!

During the warm up I had noticed there was a bit of a head wind on the way back. This is the usual wind direction for Cramond and the course wasn't all that different from the usual Saturday morning parkrun route. The only major difference was that at the furthest away point, there was a cone to run around.

I did smile when I found out about the cone. Aberdeen had a cone and it worked to my advantage, could the last race of the weekend also give me an advantage by having a cone? We would see.

With a couple of minutes to spare I slid on to the start line for the final time, again with my toe on the line. The start line photo was taken and then the final countdown...

10....9....8....7....6....5....4...3..2.1.Go!

I pushed off hard from the line but was instantly eating the dust of 10 other runners! Oh! I thought to myself. I had noticed a couple of club vests on the start line and a couple of people doing their own warm up drills but I hadn't expected an instant drop to 11th! 

A couple of thoughts went through my mind at this point. 1. "Well it was good while it lasted Owain, you've ran well but these guys are fresh legged and you can't beat them". 2. "Maybe I could get a bit further up the rankings but realistically, to claw back to a podium is going to be a mammoth task on fresh legs let alone tired legs and there is the head wind on the way back". At this point we had covered maybe 800 metres and there was a pretty big gap between the two lead guys and a pack 8 and then another gap forming between me and that group, just then I heard an old uni mate who happened to be down at Cramond give me a shout of support, this was when thought 3 came in to my mind. 3. "This is a race, run your own race, give it your all and lets see what happens but what ever you do, don't panic just yet, there is still a fair distance to go".

So that was it, plan 3 was put in place. 

Run my own race but give it my all so that no matter where I finish, I know I've done my best. 

About 3/4 mile in there was still a gap between me and the 8 others but I felt that I was starting to catch them. Just past the mile and I was with the group and now it was decision time again. I'm obviously running faster than them because I've caught them but do I just tuck in for a while, recover and see if I can out run them in the final kilometre or do I keep on going past them and just hope they haven't been working as a group and saving energy. 

My watch had beeped at the mile and I knew my pace was 5:45/mi - I always run in miles, even if I'm racing in kilometres! - and that was with the wind on my back but I felt OK. I decided there and then I was going to keep on running and see if I could get a comfortable 3rd place. 

I pulled past the group and there he was, the one, the one person on my left hand side pulling away with me, the one person who may have been sitting comfortable in the group hoping to ride out the distance and push hard in the final kilometre for a podium since first and second place had put a good gap between themselves and this group. 

Oh well, I guess we will race for 3rd place together then. The race was now on and I was loving it! 

Both of us pulled away from the group and he sat in behind me. I could hear him on my heels and in the past this may have unnerved me but the past 3 races had given me confidence in my own running. He could sit there all day if he wanted but I wasn't planning on slowing at any point and there was still the cone to get around. 

There is was, but wait, where is the cone? Oh, it's a person we need to run around - this could be interesting, I thought to myself. I've never done my maneuver around a person. Hold on folks, I'm going in.....

I picked up the pace again ready to spin around 'the cone' and there it was, the look that I am sure if cones had faces, would be the look I get every time, "Why is that runner speeding up and why is he coming so close?!". I spun around her, I think our elbows actually touched and mid spin I spotted the guy who was behind me, going wide around the mark and giving me those crucial few metres I wanted. 

I pushed off hard and slowly heard less foot steps behind me and I was opening up the gap between me and the guy behind. 

At this point another thought went through my head - "I'm in 3rd place, that's a podium spot, am I happy with that?" part of me thought, yes, the other part thought, lets chase down second place!

Best foot forward, heading in to the the head wind I was focused on chasing down second and it took me until the final kilometre to catch him. I pulled past and just went for it, I think this is where the track training sessions have helped me. 1 kilometre or 2 1/2 times around the track. I know the pain is only temporary! 

The rain was starting to come down now and it was quiet nice and cooling, one final push for the finish, a cheer from my mate from uni to give me a boost and then it was done, another 2nd and the 4th race completed. 

Average pace for Edinburgh - 5:45/mi

So although my time was slower my pace was faster and it was still sub 18 so I was over the moon with that. 

I was quickly taken away for the prize giving and then it was my turn to be the support team. The rain was now bouncing off the path and Mandy was still out running the course. It's funny how in a crowd of 267 runners, I can still spot Mandy by her running style. I think everyone has their own unique style. 

She ran a really good time of 31:13 and finished 138th. Soaked to the skin though but we did manage to get a quick photo of us both on the podium. 

Final thoughts

The whole weekend was really good fun, a lot of driving but the events were really well organised. A number of people were complaining that they were expensive considering you can run a parkrun any Saturday of the year. Fair comment however, parkrun doesn't pay staff, everyone is a volunteer at your local event, you don't get medals, chip timing, goodie bags or water for ever finisher. The staff also don't need to travel the length and breadth of Scotland to put together 4 events over a weekend. 

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy parkrun events and I think they are great but if you don't want to pay for a 5km race, don't, but I don't understand why people hit social media complaining that they are expensive - races aren't cheap to organise and it's not just about the day, there is a lot of build up for every race behind the scenes. 

The team who were involved with each event were really friendly and I thought they did a great job over the entire weekend. 

Would I recommend the jogScotland One Big Weekend events to anyone else, yes I would. 

Interested in finding your local jogScotland running group? Check out http://www.jogscotland.org.uk/

Owain Williams

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