From when I was the age of about two through to eight our family lived in an area of Glasgow called Thornwood which was located on the top of a drumlin just to the north of the River Clyde in the Partick area.
What is a Drumlin I hear you ask?
For the non-geologists among you here is a handy guide to what a drumlin is and why they are so prevalent around the Clyde valley.
Folks not from Glasgow also get a bit confused about the area called Partick as they tend to associate it with Partick Thistle FC (colloquially referred to as “Partick Thistle Nil”) However they actually left the Partick area around 1908 and now play in an area called Maryhill.
Anyway as I was saying we grew up with vistas down onto the Clydeside which had two construction features that fascinated me.
First was the Meadowside Granary which was an enormous brick edifice that obscured views of the many shipyards on the south of the river. At that time towards the end of the ’60’s into early ’70’s Glasgow still had a number of functioning shipyards and berthing facilities in the upper reaches of the Clyde.
The Meadowside Granary itself was a fully operational import facility which as the name suggested was used to store and distribute grain. It was at one time the largest brick built building in Europe (5 million bricks) and the UK’s most important grain store through WW1.
It was indeed an imposing collection of buildings and absolutely massive. At least to my young eyes.
The main buildings are captured in the image below and looking at the photo our home was in a tenement just out of shot to the top left maybe half a mile from the river itself.
Indeed every Hogmanay we would decant into the street just before midnight and wait for the sound of the ships horns as they welcomed in the New Year.
Unfortunately the granary has been pulled down now and the whole area redeveloped into what property developers named “Glasgow Harbour”. This image really sums it all up. Gone is the vibrancy of the area replaced with fairly generic high rise apartments and The Riverside Museum with a token tall ship parked outside.
My other fascination was The Clyde Tunnel. This had been constructed not long before my birth and was then a fairly novel travel route from the allegedly cosmopolitan West End of the city through to Govan on the rather less salubrious south side. Long before Lego got cool and trendy I used to build Lego Clyde tunnels and run my toy cars through them.
I also have fairly vivid recollections of going through in my parents car trying desperately to hold my breath while we made the short journey. I am not sure I ever managed this which is strange as it’s fairly short at only just under 800 meters and apparently at 30 mph you only have to hold your breath for 57 seconds to do this.
I wonder if The Queen tried this on the day she opened the tunnel in 1963?
The good news is that the Clyde Tunnel unlike the Meadowside Granary is still in use and on a recent trip back to Glasgow the ultra runner extraordinaire Rob Soutar suggested we do a long Sunday run which would include passing through the Clyde Tunnel at some point.
I’d always wanted to go under the Cyde on foot but tales of how scary it was when I was a kid kept me well away. However in recent years it’s all been upgraded and gentrified, primarily to allow access to the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital so I was up for this plan.
Plus I had safety in numbers to protect me.
Sunday morning myself Gerry , Rob and Alex Potter met at my dad’s house and headed off along the Forth and Clyde canal to the west end and tunnel. After about 6 miles of running and a brief pit stop at Morrisons we finally made our way to the tunnel pedestrian access point.
In doing my research for this write up I found out that the pedestrian and cycle tunnel actually sits below the main tunnel roadway and is part of a single tunnel simply sub-divided. This you can see on the following cross section.
The pedestrian access has security controlled gates and despite Rob presenting his sweaty and grim features to the control tower CCTV we were allowed in and I must say I got a pretty uplifting feeling to be finally running under the Clyde.
There was a surprisingly steep drop on the first half of the tunnel but somewhat less of a surprise was that we had a fairly arduous uphill grind heading out towards the Govan exit where I took a quick breather and captured this image.
A couple of minutes later we emerged unscathed, if a little out of breath, into the wilds of Govan (technically a place called Linthouse) and Gerry captured our triumph in all it’s glory.
Behind us above the pink sign is the control building and entry from the south side of the river.
Unfortunately after this we still had about 12 miles to run home which is a different story.
But at least at this point we are all happy boys and from my perspective another quite simple “to do” in my 50th year that I enjoyed .
If you ever get a chance to run, cycle or walk through the Clyde Tunnel then please do it and marvel at the wonders of the men and women who dig tunnels.
Next event up was just this past weekend where I had entered the Chiang Mai Half Marathon. This was a great idea for a weekend away for myself and Janet with a race thrown in for good measure.
Through a bit of blind luck I had booked us a hotel close to the race start which turned out to be a bit special.
The hotel is called “137 Pillars House” and the focal point of the hotel is an old colonial house which among other historical facts was the home to Anna Leonowens who is immortalized in the movie “The King and I”. Highly recommended if you are ever planning a visit.
The day before the race we arrived early afternoon so quickly checked in and dumped our bags.
We then walked over so that I could pick up my number from the event village at Thapae Gate which forms part of the old city wall of Chiang Mai.
I decided to have a foot and leg massage at the race expo where we met an engaging gent from Manchester who was traveling around the world running marathons for charity while recovering from being dumped by his 37 year old girl friend (yes he did show me photos).
He was though a genuine bloke and I knew his life story in short time and was doing the full marathon dressed as a British bulldog. He seemed to think this was a good idea.
We also bumped into Ian Goudie who I know from Scottish running scene and he is passing the winter months in Thailand making the trip up from Bangkok to run the half.
Then Janet and myself walked miles around Chiang Mai taking in the many (I mean many) Temples on the way. As you can see this was the most fun. Ever.
On race day itself I had a 5 am flag off time so was up bright and breezy by 3.30 am and made my way to the holding area at the start line.
Again I found Ian, this time resplendent in his “Scottish Veterans” vest. We chatted a bit and I then warmed up before we jogged to the front of the holding area.
I don’t have a 2016 photo but this should give you an idea of the set up.
Right on 5 am off we went with our route consisting of a three quarter lap of the old city around it’s moat, a dog leg out past the airport then a final stretch back into the old city to circle the square.
As is normal it was all a bit hectic for the off and the first kilometer or so but then things settled down. Through to 5 km I passed folks already struggling and only a solitary runner passed me. From 6 km to 13 km the run was to be largely a gentle uphill and at the 10 km point I caught the back marker of the marathon – British bulldog man from Manchester – I gave him a shout of encouragement and headed on.
Onwards to our half marathon planned turn point at 13 km I was passing more and more marathon back marker runners until as I reached 12 km the half marathon leaders came past me heading back towards the finish with their escort bikes and time-keeping truck in front. I counted 9 runners as I passed and tried to pick out if any were in the “old man” category but it was too difficult to ascertain.
Reaching the turn at 13 km I was handed a wrist band (to prove I was there I guess) and as I headed back I could see a runner in front – possibly 500 meters ahead. Then we ran into the outbound half marathon participants which for now wasn’t a major issue given how wide the road was until reaching 18 km where the highway narrowed considerably and the outbound field thickened up.
It got a bit hazardous.
The next kilometer wasn’t great fun at all but I finally got off that portion and headed towards the finish, all the while closing in on the runner in front. I finally caught him just on 19 km but here we now ran headlong into the outbound 10 km runners which was ten deep across the whole road.
This was not good and I decided to be a bit sneaky and tuck in behind the other runner figuring he could clear a path if we crashed into anyone.
Mind you it was me doing all the shouting to try and warn folks we were coming towards them as he seemed to be running out of steam and breathing seemed to be his main limit.
Finally at 20 km we got channeled off this road into the final kilometer or so and could pick the pace back up with no obstacles to dodge. I tried to encourage the guy beside me but he seemed pretty much done.
I got to the last corner and rounded to the finish straight hearing a cheery shout from Janet who had got up extra early to come and support me at the finish. She captured my Bolt like finish too.
Crossing the finish line I checked my actual time – 1.24.17 – and was handed a badge with “1st” on it.
This meant I had won the over 50 race. Nice one.
Not my fastest half this year. But it didn’t need to be and I had run pretty much the whole way isolated from any competition. Factoring in the start time, uphill portion and heat this was a good solid run.
I had to get my official verification that I hadn’t cheated (I had my wrist band from the turn point as you may recall) and present myself to the winners control area.
Unfortunately without my passport they couldn’t verify my prize but luckily the prize giving ceremony was two hours away so we headed back to the hotel by tuk-tuk where I freshened up before we returned to the presentation area and I finally got confirmation that I was a legitimate winner.
The prize giving seemed a bit chaotic but I guess my lack of Thai language skills let me down making it difficult to follow, but as you can see I made it to the stage and was presented with a nice trophy and a cash prize of 5000 Baht.
Well actually I got a large board that told me I had won the money.
The actual securing of that money was looking very tricky given the chaos and apparent form filling so we headed off without collecting it assuming that at some point it would reach me in the post or by bank transfer since they had all of my details.
However a couple of hours later we were passing the marathon area in search of coffee just as the officials were packing up to head home and on Janet’s instruction I inquired about my prize money.
After a bit of head scratching by a number of officials and a few calls I was presented with cold hard cash. Brilliant.
That’s my spending money for Phuket in January sorted.
We also saw across the square a slumped bulldog and made our way over to see how the man from Manchester had fared. He had not had a good day. Dressed as a bulldog in multiple layers of clothing in 32 C heat wasn’t his brightest idea and he’d taken eight hours to finish.
But finish he had and despite being a bit of a mess and refusing our help to get him to his hotel he was already thinking towards his next race in Nepal.
I didn’t though see Ian again and found out through his blog he didn’t have a great day out but still had a PB for a Thai half marathon.
So there you go. Two quite different experiences each of which I’d highly recommend although of the two a quick run through a Scottish tunnel is clearly the easiest. And if I am honest was just as much fun as a sweaty half marathon on the equator.
Race day video from Chiang Mai