A tunnel and a triumph

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


World Masters Athletics

In my imagination I still see myself as a relatively young man but the grim reality is that I’m not.However on the plus side a continued commitment to consistent training allied with good fortune in terms of my ability to stay injury free means that I am a reasonably highly ranked masters athlete in my age group over marathon distance.

Earlier this year my friend Paul Thompson, now resident in New York, dropped me a note saying that he was entering the World Masters in Perth Australia and that I should have a look at it.


On reading entry criteria I saw that I could qualify to run for Great Britain from the simple reason I was a registered masters athlete back in Scotland. I was though concerned about how I could actually perform having no desire to come last or make a complete fool of myself.

Checking prior event results from Lyon France I figured that running to my absolute peak in the half marathon would at best put me in top thirty but if competing in the marathon I could possibly make between ten and twentieth place.

Figuring that for a marathon a place somewhere around top ten for an international meeting  wasn’t going to be a disgrace I stuck my entry in and after a simple verification process my slot was confirmed .

All I now had to do was get my backside to Perth Australia for 6th November 2016.

In the lengthy period since I entered though I had rather foolishly gone overboard in racing. By October this year I had completed four marathons, two ultra marathons, one half marathon, a ten kilometer, multiple 5 k Parkruns and only two weeks prior to Perth a 14 km cross country race in Sydney. All in all this was my biggest year of racing ever and I was certainly feeling it.

The 14 km in Sydney however gave me a reasonable pointer to my form. Coming only three weeks after The Berlin Marathon I was not too sharp but I managed to place second master runner in a time of just about 57 minutes on a windy day on a tricky course.

My friend Andrew who I see on my Sydney visits came third in the7 km race on the day. And don’t we look chuffed.

Sydney 14 k and 7 k trophies

While on reflection I didn’t think I’d be super fast in Perth as a total recovery from all of the prior exertions would be impossible I felt that I would be capable of finishing in a time that wouldn’t disgrace me or more crucially the GB vest.

Friday morning of 4th and I flew down to Perth. From Singapore this is a simple five hour flight with no time zone changes. Arriving mid afternoon on a typical Western Australian clear sunny day I ditched my bags at my hotel and headed off to athlete registration. Given that we were at the tail end of a major two week event it was fairly quiet and I was in and done in ten minutes flat.


This then gave me time to get out for an evening stroll along the Swan River which cuts through central Perth then grab a coffee and enjoy the scenery which would form the backdrop to our race. And very nice it is too as you can see from the photo.


After an early night I was up sharp the next morning for a light run to stretch the legs and ease any pre-race anxiety. A couple of things became apparent while I was running in that it was going to be windy on the course and that I needed a hat to cover my advancing forehead or I would finish with severe sunburn.

The hat seemed the easier of the two to accommodate.

I spent the bulk of the day having a walk round central Perth (and buying that hat) then relaxing back at my hotel as the temperature climbed to a 37 C peak in the afternoon.

I was thinking that actually this may play to my strengths as I train in typical 35 C temperatures in Singapore. However race day forecast was a drop to mid twenties and become even more windy.

Late afternoon I caught up with Paul for a coffee and a chat about respective race strategies. Paul felt he had very realistic chances of winning the half marathon. He had already won Gold in 8 k cross country about ten days prior and had spent a bit of time out in Singapore with Sham, his good lady, visiting family and friends. These races were the focus of his year and he was determined to give his all.


From my perspective based on qualifying time there were multiple Australians, Dutch and Nepalese runners showing times as fast as 2.45 which put my year best of 2.53 to shame so a win wasn’t going to happen for me.

I thought I’d be lucky to hit 2.55 to 2.57 so was discounting an individual medal. My teammates were both around three hours so while that individual medal was out a team medal was a possibility.

Ultimately though I simply wanted to do the best I could on the day.

Race morning I woke far too early but given it takes me many hours to loosen up now this in itself wasn’t a bad thing. Although the start was only a short distance from the hotel after getting my race kit together , which involved far too many pins, I jumped a cab for a short ride over to conserve energy.


For some obscure reason despite already being registered we had to repeat the process. Despite having embedded chips on the back of our numbers we were also required to get a pre-race check and repeat number scan.

The actual re-registration was a bit of a shambles and frankly made no sense and was causing a fair bit of confusion.

By 5.30 am it was total chaos and fairly apparent that we’d be late in starting. In fairness the organizers they quickly took a couple of executive decisions to shorten the process and by about 6.15 am we were all finally lined up and good to go which was only a 15 minute delay.

I caught up briefly with Paul and Sham as Paul was getting set to start his race 30 minutes after ours.

Words of wisdom for Paul

It is handy in an event of this type that everyone is numbered front and rear so you can see your competitors.Scanning the numbers at the start line I got chatting to a team GB runner in my age group and he said he was looking for just over three hours if he ran well.

An Aussie athlete beside us also sporting a M50 tag thought he would be around the 2.55 mark so I had a couple of markers to pace with.

The course itself was to be one I was very familiar with. I’ve been visiting Perth off and on for nearly thirty years and have run many times along and around the Swan River.

The map below shows our route. We would head west from our start at Burswood Casino along the south side of Perth along the river edge, cross the Narrows Bridge at the 6 km point then loop around onto the north side of the bank and head further west past the old Swan Brewery to Nedlands which would be about 10.5km before doing a U-turn and heading back to the start at Burswood and then repeating the process.

Marathon Course

Overall the course would be described as flat (bridge excepted) with outstanding views. I rarely have any inclination to take in the views but I do like “flat”.

My strategy for what it was worth was to go out steady and if in decent shape after coming off the bridge for the final time would try and push hard all the way to the finish. More of that later.

Soon enough off we went with the usual hectic start which was made double tricky by the narrow path and a fair bit of jostling for position. However after about three kilometers things started to settle down.

There was already a fairly stiff headwind so I tried to tuck in behind other athletes where practical and try to conserve energy.

It was difficult though as the Spanish runners were running very erratically and constantly raising and lowering pace and moving position. I simply could not figure their strategy or motivation at all despite it being obvious they were trying to run as a team.

This had the effect of constantly breaking up our pack where we would have been smarter working together.

Just shy of 6 km there was a climb up over the bridge and then about 200 meters later a steep drop down the other side. Not an issue of any concern on this leg but one I felt would have an impact on final return.

Narrow's Bridge over the Swan River with Perth in the Background
Narrows Bridge with Perth CBD behind

Once on the north side the head wind picked up on the more exposed expanse of the Swan River. I was working a bit harder than I wanted and drafting was proving difficult but I just kept my focus. Once we got towards the turn point the race leader – M35/Australia – came past followed by a steady stream of runners. I was trying to count M50 runners and thought I was maybe sitting 5th or 6th which seemed a fairly reasonable position to be placed.

On the return leg we now had the benefit of a good tail wind. On downside the temperature felt much higher and I could sense a few runners were struggling in the heat. As we passed about 13 km the lead pack of the half marathon came roaring towards us. It was a posse of Kenyans but not even 100 meters behind in the chase pack Paul was going like a steam train and I gave him a shout of encouragement.

The journey back to half way was largely straightforward apart from re-crossing the bridge. With a tailwind though once I came off it there was nothing to do but keep things steady and run with the pack. Or as you can see at the back of the pack.


I don’t check my watch in races but as we finally hit the half I couldn’t avoid the sight of the digital clock with showed a time just over 1.26 .While that was OK I felt that I would lose time on back half working into the wind again and realistically thought I was going to be fortunate to run around 2.57.

However as any experienced marathon runner knows there are many variables and you cannot take anything for granted. Back into the wind we went and although it wasn’t too bad for the first 5 km once we crossed the bridge and headed out to Nedlands and the final turn it got brutal.

I felt as if I was going backwards at times and was unfortunately totally isolated. With a still lengthy 4 km stretch to get to the turn and I knew I was in trouble. There was nothing I could do but try and balance effort and speed but unfortunately I knew that I was putting too much effort in for too little speed out and likely to pay a penalty at some point.

After an eternity I got to the turn and looped back. Finally I had a tail wind and I immediately felt my speed improve for same perceived effort. However I definitely had expended more energy than I had anticipated and in an effort to replace some of the calorie deficit I tried to force a gel in.

Old Swan Brewery with CBD

This didn’t work out at all well and simply made me gag so I binned that idea and just pushed on back to the narrows. The bridge on the final time as I anticipated was a killer.The sharp climb upwards took it’s toll but worse was the drop down where we got back into the south side. Here I felt first twinges of cramp.

I could though see the finish in the distance (long distance I hasten to add) and simply kept my mind focused on getting there. Nobody though was passing me and I had a couple of runners in my sight.

Over the next 4 km I kept pace with them but couldn’t close them down. On the plus side though the gap wasn’t getting bigger.

Then at 41 km despite my best efforts disaster struck and I had a massive cramp in my right hamstring. This brought me to a halt and I was feeling pretty frustrated.

Every time I got going again it kept coming back in spasms.

Getting a bit desperate and breaking with my own tradition I looked at my watch and saw that I was losing time rapidly and in danger of going over the three hour barrier.

Faced with a choice of finishing badly outside my target I decided to try a radical alternate approach and run hard into my cramp to see if it cleared and for some reason that worked and the spasms lifted.

I got going at a decent rate and somehow caught (I think) a South African runner and kept forcing myself to the end.

The finish finally came into view and I ultimately crossed the line in 2.59.36. breaking the 3 hour barrier with a little bit of wiggle room.



I hobbled out of the finish area and caught up with Sham and Paul and exchanged race tales. Paul had triumphed in the M50 Half Marathon running just over 1.12 and given his own injury difficulties earlier this year was a truly fantastic effort.

With the half marathon results coming in already we learned that Paul had also picked up a silver in the M50 with team GB. And a cuddly Quokka toy into the bargain.

Team GB Silver M50 – Half Marathon

On my part it was a bit of a wait to get results and eventually I found I’d come 5th in my age group and first Brit across the line so although a bit disappointed with my overall run I was fairly happy not to have disgraced myself.

Team wise our hopes of a medal evaporated as my team mates had not had great days out and we ultimately came 5th behind Australia, Spain, Poland and Germany.

While this is my second slowest marathon time this year (Lake District was slower but mountainous so we’ll exclude that one) I felt that given the strong headwinds I had actually ran pretty well and given it my best effort on the day.

Lack of recovery post Berlin and my ongoing back issues had also had an effect so in short while nowhere near my original  plan it was an acceptable result.

In a quirk of fate in the M60 half marathon the winner was also a British runner called Paul Thompson and in fact from Glasgow (Cambuslang) and we had a few common friends to chat about.

Paul Thompson, Paul Thompson, Not Paul Thompson

So all in all not a bad weekend a while I am truthfully a bit disappointed about my timing I did give it my all on the day and frankly that’s about all you can do.

    Name                     Age Team                    Finals
  1 Schmitt, Clemens         M51 Australia           2:47:22.00
  2 Wareham, Raymond         M50 Australia           2:48:22.00
  3 Barnes, Robbie           M53 New Zealand         2:54:28.00
  4 Broin, Emmanuel          M53 France              2:57:04.00
  5 Craig, Michael           M50 Great Britain       2:59:40.00
  6 Grey, Jeffrey            M52 Australia           3:00:14.00
  7 Kowal, Michael           M54 Australia           3:12:32.00
  8 Tomasi, David            M50 Australia           3:15:57.00
  9 Foulkes-Taylor, Geoff    M52 Australia           3:19:32.00
 10 Roy, Alan                M54 Hong Kong, China    3:23:38.00
 11 O'Halloran, Steven       M51 Australia           3:24:29.00
 12 Schmidt-Schoormann, Kars M51 Germany             3:24:51.00
 13 Maj, Tadeusz             M53 Poland              3:25:03.00
 14 Garcia de Paz, Bernardo  M50 Spain               3:26:25.00
 15 Falagán, Pedro Luis      M51 Spain               3:26:31.00
 16 Saavedra, José Antonio   M50 Spain               3:39:03.00
 17 Newsham, William         M51 United State        3:42:47.00
 18 Turner, Kenneth          M52 Australia           3:44:33.00
 19 Rohregger, Robert        M52 Germany             3:45:13.00
 20 Dyer, George             M52 Australia           3:53:09.00
 21 Aitken-Fox, Robert       M51 Australia           3:53:10.00
 22 Parrotte, Michael        M53 Australia           3:53:40.00
 23 Le Quesne, Ian           M52 Australia           3:55:15.00
 24 Muzalevskyi, Oleksandr   M52 Ukraine             3:56:54.00
 25 Hoffmann, Mark           M50 Australia           3:58:37.00
 26 Thomas, Greg             M52 Australia           4:04:32.00
 27 Bremner, Jeffrey         M54 Australia           4:08:59.00
 28 Stubberup, Hans          M53 Denmark             4:25:25.00
 29 Van Poecke, Reindert     M54 Australia           4:26:44.00
 30 Daly, Frank              M51 Australia           4:28:33.00
 31 Roberts, Alan            M52 Great Britai        4:39:17.00
 32 Adams, Terry             M53 Great Britai        5:09:30.00
 33 Stewart, Ken             M51 Australia           5:33:30.00

Berlin Marathon 2016

Berlin has long held a fascination for me as I grew during the Cold War and it was always a city that got plenty of press particularly on account of it being divided by The Wall.

Having run a sub 2.55 marathon in 2015 I was in the fortunate position of being able to secure a guaranteed slot in The Berlin Marathon and as my brother Gerry had similarly dipped below 2.55 he could do so too so late last year we both entered and secured our places.

Although a perfect excuse for another running weekend away when we broke the news of our plans to our respective good ladies they immediately invited themselves along.

We convinced ourselves that wasn’t a problem as long as the golden rules of marathon weekends were respected:

  • Sightseeing shall be kept to a minimum.
  • There shall not be much walking at all.
  • This is not a shopping trip.

While the ladies readily accepted these restrictions they still wanted to come along as did Andrew. Plus it was a holiday weekend in Scotland so all worked out nicely.

Janet had been in the UK the week before settling Holly back into University and catching up with her family so had a nice easy flight across from Glasgow with Gerry,Linda and Andrew on the Thursday morning.

I unfortunately had to do the long haul from Singapore.

Straight off the flights after checking into our hotels  we elected to collect our numbers from the expo which unfortunately resulted in us blowing all three rules out of the water pretty much straight away.

Luckily though Berlin is fairly compact with lots of historical sights close to each other.Indeed Checkpoint Charlie was on the way to the expo a short walk from our hotel.


Expos are expos for all the big marathons and honestly in this day and age nothing more than a drag to make you buy shit you don’t need. In saying that this one was actually quite good and didn’t have that over-bearing corporate feel that you get in say London. I even bought some shit I didn’t need and posed for the obligatory pre-race shot.


Gerry for his part kept up his tradition of finding free samples of the local beer although this one had a strange twist. See if you can translate the German into English to figure out what?


While there we found out there was a children’s mini-marathon on the Saturday so after a bit of gentle persuasion Andrew agreed to sign up. It then took Linda about an hour to get that sorted on account of her German language skills being rusty.


Despite my best efforts the next two days included a lot of sightseeing. I would say though that it was all worthwhile.

On Friday and Saturday I had a couple of short early morning runs with Gerry and then myself and Janet really did much more walking about than I really should have.

However with such iconic sights such as The Berlin Wall, Holocaust Museum, Brandenburg Gate and Hitlers Bunker then there are some things you simply have to do.


Saturday morning Gerry, Linda and Andrew headed for the zoo and at lunchtime we all met up to cheer Andrew on in his race.He really ran fantastically well I think coming in 5th overall and earning his first international race medal.


He also in theory earned the right to his first post race beer but barely had the strength to pick a beer up.


Race morning after breakfast I met Gerry downstairs and after he dumped his bags in our room we simply walked over to the marathon start at The Tiergarten – the main central park in Berlin – which was about 1 km from our hotel on what was a cool but bright autumnal morning.

We negotiated the security to get into the runners area and then after the obligatory toilet stop we dropped our bags before heading to our holding pen behind the elite and super fast runners at the start line. If you look carefully at the photo below you might be able to see us.


It was all very relaxed waiting and as our group was 2.50-3.00 hour runners we knew that everyone around us would in theory be running at roughly the same pace from the off.

Going into Berlin I’d torn my back muscles and Gerry has some Achilles issues (caused strangely by his dodgy shoulder) so we had both ditched the original sub 2.50 target and both were simply thinking of getting round. Times would be of secondary consideration.

I was a bit apprehensive about my back given I’d just come off a long haul flight and was definitely feeling a bit sore but I was fairly confident I would finish if I didn’t push myself to my limit and ran a contained race.

From the start Berlin just felt a bit “different” as it became fairly obvious that everyone around us knew their pace and we didn’t have sprinters , minor celebrities , glory hunters or novice runners dodging about.

I don’t normally check my watch but I wanted to try and control my pace so I had a quick glance at 1 km which showed the first one in 4.14 which both felt easy and something that wouldn’t cause me too much strain as a sustained run.

That though was to be my last time check till we reached 40 km.

Progressively we got into our race pace and everything felt good for me with by about 3 km my back had loosened off. Gerry said he was feeling fine too with only a couple of twinges early that cleared off.

The course itself is flat, the roads wide and lacking the pot holes and street furniture which are hazards in London and New York Marathons. Roughly 4 km in and we passed Kelvin who we’d had the stag weekend in Windermere with respendant in his Union Jack racing vest , shoes and Mohican hair-do doing his bit for post Brexit Britain.


We continued onwards at our steady pace in what at this point was still a fairly congested field although it was starting to thin out and Janet caught this photo of us together at about 7 km although we singularly failed to spot her in the cheering crowds.


We kept together till halfway where Gerry pulled a bit ahead of me and gradually built up a small lead. I elected to keep at my existing pace for the time being.

I am not sure what happened after this but I do now know from my splits that I did speed up a bit from 24 km through to about 35 km.


We had asked the girls to wait for us at just after 40 km outside the hotel at Gendarmenmarket with bottles of Coke to fuel us over the last mile so that point in the race became my sole focus.

At 40 km the race passed under a timing gate and it showed a rather surprising time of around 2.48 so I knew at that point that I was tracking to a sub 3 hour provided I didn’t have any disasters.

However what was a bigger surprise was that as we rounded the corner I could see the girls and Andrew at the roadside (I declined the Coke as you can see) but heard Gerry shouting out for his bottle.

I have no idea how or where I got in front of him but I did and there he was right beside me again.


With hindsight I maybe should have grabbed a bottle as it worked wonders on the wee fella. He guzzled it down, sparked into life and caught me up asking if I was “Ready for a push?”.


“Push?”. I was quite happy with my pace and not convinced that upping the ante would make any difference except possibly inducing cramp so declined and while once again Gerry raised his speed I just rolled along at my own constant pace.

I could always see him just a bit in front as we headed onward to the finish.

We then rounded a final ninety degree corner on Unter Den Linden and there in front of us a short way off was Brandenburg Gate. We passed under this iconic point but unfortunately the finish line is about another 400 rather cruel meters beyond.

However as it’s straight, flat and surrounded by cheering crowds all I had to do was put one leg in front of the other and not cramp up. I managed this successfully and finished crossing the line in 2.57.40 roughly 20 seconds behind Gerry.

I think it fair to say we were both pretty happy with the outcome given our respective fragility beforehand. Our times weren’t as fast as we have run already this year but still perfectly acceptable.

After a collecting our medals, bags and returning our race chip timers we had the relatively easy task of hobbling back to Gendarmenmarket where our support team were enjoying the warm sunny weather and still cheering the runners on.


Post race Gerry and family had to get packed and head off for a flight back to Glasgow while Janet and myself had another day of Berlin before we flew back to Singapore. Needless to say I walked a lot more. But I needed to do that.

We had a fantastic weekend and I now have to say that Berlin wins for me in terms of big city marathons. Provided you stay fairly central there is much less complexity in collecting race numbers and getting to the start line.

Along with this a far better organised seeding , starting and finishing process makes the experience fairly painless (apart from the actual race itself) .

I’ll certainly be back in Berlin.

As a city to visit it really was quite special. I definitely walked far too much in advance of the race by there was simply too much to see and do not too.

Janet even enjoyed the whole weekend. Which is a big bonus given she had sworn off marathon trips years ago. In fact she enjoyed it so much she’s coming to Dubai in January. I’ll drink to that.



The Taming of the Shrew



As cliches go “school years are the best years of your life” may not be strictly true as , for many, it involves being force fed a diet of classical literature including but not exclusively Shakespeare.

In common with most schools my Alma Mater, Turnbull High School,  had , as a constituent part of it’s English curriculum, plenty of compulsory texts including Shakespeare thrown in to “challenge” us.

Oor Wullie

I guess though that we were fortunate in that we had an English teacher – Tony McNamara- who along with being a certifiable headcase had a passion for his subject that was quite simply infectious.

Mr.McNamara (no way we’d call him Tony) was obviously of Irish stock , loved not only Shakespeare but Irish playwright and Nationalist Sean O’Casey plus he had a worrying devotion to Glasgow Celtic.

Each of these passions he shared liberally with his classes.

He could be a tyrant too and forgetting homework or flunking an assignment usually brought out the worst in him. AS did a Celtic defeat.

After corporal punishment was abolished (which he was a dab hand at) six of the belt was replaced by ritual humiliation.

This usually involved having to lie prostrate in front of his rather large Glasgow Rangers Ibrox Stadium poster begging for his forgiveness.

All while being mercilessly mocked and ridiculed by the rest of the class.

The Big House – Replacement for Corporal Punishment

Setting aside Mr.McNamara’s character traits there is one thing that he did and that was to stimulate our imaginations for what can be a rather tedious subject.

Spouting a sonnet or soliloquy in Tudor English really could be hard going and I don’t think I was alone in wondering what all the fuss was about or why we even had to study this stuff.

Glasgow though has a fantastic selection of theaters none more famous than The Citizens and in October 1981 ( I know this because I checked the theater archives) Mr.McNamara played a trump card and got us a field trip to “The Citz” to see Hamlet.

It was as I vividly recall a fantastic night and simply brought Shakespeare to life and given how indelibly it’s etched on my memory it must have been something special.

Or maybe it was sneaking into the bar for a pint of Tenents at the interval? Both maybe.

Citizens Theatre – Gorbals Glasgow 1973

Occasionally in the intervening years I’ve seen other Shakespeare plays live but since the rebuild of The Globe Theater in London in 1997 I’ve always had a desire to go there and experience a play as it was originally intended.

Luck was on my side and while checking schedules I noticed that during our planned  summer trip to the UK there was a season of The Taming of the Shrew.

I couldn’t pass this opportunity up and got everything booked. Then sought permission to go.

A week or so after my birthday myself and Janet flew to London  and after a quick hotel stop we had a wander over to St.Paul’s Cathedral. I even went up to the top of the dome despite my extreme unease with heights. This wasn’t on my 50 list but I’ll throw it in anyway.


After a couple of hours at St.Paul’s we simply strolled back across The Millennium Bridge and along The Thames to our hotel for a bit of a break before we then headed back to The Globe.


The Globe sits I am reliably told on a site on or about 250 meters from the original one which closed in 1642. From the outside it certainly looks like how I’d imagine a 17th Century theatre to look. Or maybe not as it had a wine bar and WiFi too.

The Globe

The dimensions and layout are all open to debate but it’s widely assumed to be a close approximation to the original based on existing plans and historical records and research. Evidence suggests that it was a three-story, open-air amphitheater approximately 100 feet in diameter that could house up to 3,000 spectators.

At the base of the stage, there was an area called the pit where, for a penny, people (the “groundlings”) would stand to watch the performance. Vertically around the yard were three levels of seats, which were more expensive than standing room.

A rectangular stage thrust out into the middle of the open-air yard.

And this is what it looks like.


We had managed to get box seats off to the right of the stage and although not the best view as you can see from the panoramic shot above above the intimacy of the place and the atmosphere created (despite the groundlings getting a bit wet early on) was fantastic.

After a pre-play refreshment we simply settled in and enjoyed the night. I even lashed out an extra couple of quid for cushions.


I’ll not bore you with a scholarly review of The Taming of The Shrew. Lets say it’s a bit controversial in these modern times but in a strange synchronicity the adaption was set against the backdrop of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland and performed by a Dublin based theater group.

An event I’m sure that Tony McNamara would have held in the highest regard.


Clydestride Ultra 2016

In 2006 a group of my friends from Singapore and beyond ran the length of the West Highland Way with me on what was my 40th birthday year so I had hoped to try and to do something equally memorable for my 50th.

Having looked at a number of possibilities including cycling across the USA, running across the breadth of England , cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats or even London to Istanbul it became fairly obvious that a lethal combination of logistics, holidays , travel and most crucially age was hampering each of these in turn.

However through good luck rather than planning my favourite ultra – Clyde Stride – got scheduled for 16th July 2016, the eve of my 50th birthday, and a cunning plan was hatched.


Selling the concept of running Clyde Stride to my friends wasn’t particularly hard. It’s a super friendly race, supremely organised and directed by Lee Maclean, jam-packed with friendly volunteers, isn’t overly long at 40 miles and covers a course that is very scenic but equally runable.

Plus when they visited in 2006 the weather was positively Mediterranean so why not just visit for some sunshine?

However the single most important consideration is that the race starts slap bang in the middle of the area where I was born and brought up. This was a sign from above that this was the event I was looking for.

General invites were issued early in 2016 and to my amazement the responses were swift and positive. Some folks wanted to do the relay race , some who had done ultras already were up for a new event and a few foolhardy folks who had ran marathons believed my observation that running 40 miles was a fairly easy progression and decided to ultra debut at Clydestride.

Others just wanted to come along and support us while basking in the warmth of a Scottish summer.

I then spent the next few months sorting entries and logistics and encouraging folks on their training and so it came to pass that by the start of July we had a muster of a team from our club – MR25 Singapore – and five willing souls doing the full race all ably supported by partners and families.

In the run up to the event of the five running the full distance only two, myself and Mika were injury free and Mark,Francois and Graham were all injured to varying degrees. I met Mark the Saturday before we left Singapore and his hobbling about had me really worried but he assured me he was willing to give the race his best shot.

We did though hit a major snag in that our leg one runner – JJ – got seriously injured in England while on holiday days before the race.Luckily my brother Chris, an honorary member of MR25, agreed to step in. Only snag was that he would be in Ibiza and only back in Scotland five hours before race start. Plan B was put in place.

I had asked everyone to try and fly in no later than the Thursday before the race and, as I was having a few concerns over navigation, a short route recce of Leg 2 was planned. However with people coming from France, USA, Singapore, Japan,Hong Kong and England it all got a bit messy and by the recce night only Mika (Japan) was free.

Through the Clyde Stride chat page we set up the run and myself, Mika, my brother Gerry, Davie Mooney and Alan Cox all met at Cambuslang and had a very pleasant evening running through to Strathclyde Park while marking off the course.

Leg 2 pre-race recce. With sub-titles for Mika

Mika I hoped had grasped not only the nuances of the course but the nuances of the Weegie dialect and as a reward for her run and linguistic skills we treated her to some Glasgow recovery drinks post run.


Through Thursday evening and Friday morning everyone finally got into town and I shuttled backwards and forwards to Glasgow Airport. Friday was set aside mainly for being tourists but with a bit of time for race preparation. This involved force feeding everyone on a full Scottish Breakfast.


We convened at night for a further bit of food and chat with race tips being handed out while also catching up with those more sensible folks having nothing to do with the running at all.


And so to race morning. My dad had kindly been volunteered to be mini-bus driver and chief navigator for the team (and to bring everyone back post race). Chris had managed to get back from Ibiza in time too and we picked the squad up at the flats I’d rented in Glasgow West End.

Thankfully the morning was dry if a little cool for our tastes. With the exception of Chris in this photo most of us tend to train in temperatures of around +35C and 100% humidity so conditions were certainly a bit different.

2016-07-16 08.05.43

Then it was mini-bus and cars in convoy to Partick Train Station. The registration area behind Morrisons was already bustling and we all set about getting numbers and making ourselves ready. I caught up with folks I knew from the UK and searched out industrial strength caffeine and a toilet.

Our guys were also super chuffed to see a familiar face in Neil Anderson another former MR25 runner who had moved back to Linlithgow and had entered. All in all there didn’t seem too many nerves and everyone was super positive.

My main worry was losing someone but I just had to hope it all worked out.Plus we had sorted Mika out on Thursday so there was nothing to worry about on that front. My own plan was simple and two fold.

First stage is to finish. That’s a given. Sometimes this plan doesn’t work out in ultras.


I did though have a second plan to run a sub 5.30 race as I felt I was in decent shape and had no fears of getting lost like I did last year.

Soon enough we were all lined up at the start line and after a few inspirational words from local hero and all round top ultra boy James Stewart we were set on our merry way. Oh and Lee did mention something about not going off too fast.

Right from the off the speed merchants took off contrary to the words of wisdom. Davie Mooney too decided that he was going for it big time.

I had my sensible hat on and trotted along with Mark Ashby (a friend from Southport and Glasgow who knows his shit and my occasional training partner) and Graham Merfield (my Singapore friend now living in Atlanta USA who knows his shit and my occasional training partner).

2016-07-16 08.59.26

We got into our groove and just chatted as we ran along the side of the Clyde towards Glasgow Green before we finally caught rocket man Davie around mile four where he conceded he “might have gone off a bit fast”.

We were going faster than we planned too but things felt comfortable so we just meandered on laying bets as to when the sprinters would come apart and more pertinently when we’d disintegrate too.

Checkpoint 1 finally came up after about 16 km and I did my usual routine of not bothering to stop (which in hindsight was probably my first mistake) while the other two guys took some refreshments as you can see clearly in this photo. My dad told me I was five minutes behind my brother at this stage which given the rate of knots he’d shot off at the start wasn’t a major surprise.”Only five?” I think was my question.


Then it was onto Leg 2 where I got lost last year. No such fears this year having done the recce run the Thursday beforehand and having watched Davie faithfully mark the route I was confident that I’d not get lost. And I didn’t. Those markings were exceptionally good.

Before I knew it I had navigated the fields of jaggy nettles,grass as high as a triffid , followed the Clyde along to the Bothwell Castle climb and the through the jakey railway bridge before heading from Blantyre downhill to Strathclyde Park via Raith Interchange.

All fine and dandy and at this point I was simply cruising along. This ultra thing would be a lark if it was only about 30km long.

I hit the checkpoint at the park itself in a little over two and a half hours and at this point felt that my target time was well within grasp. So what did I do? I had a chocolate milk to fortify myself (mistake number two) before starting the second half of the race. Gerry it seemed now had a ten minute lead on me so he was continuing to motor along assuming I was going pretty steady. Which in hindsight I was. As he was too.

Chocolate Milk. Not my best idea.

I do usually enjoy leg 3 of Clydestride. After the pretty boring first couple of miles through Strathclyde Park you hit the Baron’s Haugh Nature Reserve which is rather pretty. Just before I got to the start of the reserve I heard a shout and it was Rob Soutar who had dropped out just after the end of Strathclyde Park.

I guessed he had back problems as he’d been suffering a bit in the weeks beforehand.

Then it’s fairly flat riverside trails through the reserve as you head south towards the legendary Coo Field.

The Coo Field proved to be a coo free zone which was a bonus this year as they do scare me a bit. A big bit. I don’t mind admitting that and I think the coos sense it too. But anyway they weren’t there and I could meander along dodging the cowpats and enjoying the countryside.

After clearing the coo field and reaching the metal gate there is a steep climb at Highmainshead Wood before it levels off and you cross the main Garrion Bridge to Overtown road before the wooded stretch leading into Maudslie Bridge and CP3.

I passed another broken rocket man here walking towards the checkpoint and carried onwards. I was though starting to feel decidedly shonky myself for some reason and the urge to throw up was coming on in waves.

Approaching checkpoint three I was feeling pretty nauseous and deteriorating at a rapid rate of knots.By the time I stopped all I wanted to do was throw up. But these things take their own sweet time. Someone told me Gerry wasn’t too far ahead but I now knew my main objectives were two fold. Be sick then finish. Hopefully in reverse of that order.


I grabbed water and a couple of snacks along with Lucozade and walked a while trying to get the food and drink down. After a couple of minutes all my hard work getting nutrition in came to an end and I puked everywhere. It looked pretty much mainly like the chocolate milk too.

From then on it was a combination of running and throwing up for mile after mile. As you can see from my splits the last 8 km took me well over an hour and my target time just slipped away. There was nothing I could do as waves of sickness got me every couple of miles.

At Crossford when I reached the road crossing Sarah Self told me that I was “only” six minutes behind Gerry but I knew by then that survival was the name of the game and that holding on to finish would be a result for me. I think when I told her I didn’t care she didn’t believe me but honestly all I cared about was getting to the end.

By Kirkfieldbank I was in deep trouble after the miles of systematic barfing and staggered into the 7-11 at the far end of the village and used my emergency fiver for water and Coke.

Finally I managed to keep something down and although I wasn’t jumping for joy I knew I had a chance to finish if I held some liquids in my body for a while.

As I exited the shop my brother Chris came running along at full gallop as he was leg four of the MR25 relay team. He suggested we run together but I couldn’t keep going at his pace and as we hit the steep hill leading towards Lanark he disappeared.

In hindsight he should have stuck with me as he totally disappeared the wrong way and ended up somewhere in Lanark itself. And he says I’m a numpty for getting lost. Numpty.

Then Mark Ashby who I’d not seen since CP1 caught me. Again a kind offer to go in to the finish together but I simply couldn’t. My focus was simply getting to the finish line.

After the long steep climb we hit the path at “Jookers Johnnie” and Mark trotted off but for me things went really shit shaped.

If you’ve ran leg 4 you’ll know that at this point you go down what seems like a few hundred steps to The River Clyde. Then you have to go back up again in a rather cruel twist.

The downwards steps though induced cramps in me like I have never known. I think my testicles and eyeballs actually cramped at one point.

After an eternity of squealing, cramps and every massage technique in the book was exhausted I got to the bottom and started the climb back up. This was marginally easier than down and somehow I kept cramp at bay. At long last I emerged onto the road that drops into New Lanark and knew that apart from the last sadistic dog-leg and final few steps I was nearly there. Only a mile. How hard can a mile be?

I hobbled downhill and passed through New Lanark and back up the trail. It was murder to say the least. Just before the final downhill to the river Gavin Harvie caught me and I got another offer of a jog in together. Jog? Aye right , crack on Charlie Brown.

Somehow I kept going and then just when I was despairing of ever finishing I could hear the cheers of the finish line and then suddenly I was on an uphill stretch and finally came through the stone arch and hobbled gingerly down the last set of steps to the finish.


No glory here just relief and a cracking big hug from Lee.


Strava feed of my run is shown below. See if you can spot where I was sick.



With my race over I could swap tales with the folks already in while enjoying multiple cups of tea and tablet to try and pull myself together. Gerry opted for a few beers as per normal and I caught up with the rest of my family and our various guests.

There was then a big surprise for us at prize giving when Lee announced that the team relay trophy was going to be named “The Craig Cup” as a thank you for the help we’ve given over the years to the race. We were really touched by this. Doubly so as it’s not a “Memorial” cup. Yet.


Our MR25 runners started to finish in different states of disrepair but I can proudly say that all completed and the three guys pushed their boundaries beyond limits I guess they never knew they had given the injuries they were carrying.

Mika in her usual super positive way ran with a big cheesy smile and despite all our best efforts to prevent it from happening got lost on Leg 2. But that really didn’t matter. If you can read her race review. It is truly brilliant.


Unfortunately though before everyone finished I had to head back to Glasgow in advance to organise my birthday party that night. Which is a different story.


Final results though for our squad:

Gerry Craig – 5:12:48 (3rd Male)


Michael Craig – 05:50:35 (15th)


Graham Merfield – Atlanta USA – 06:29:46 (35th)


Mark Dyson – Singapore – 08:01:01 (73rd)


Francois Rameau – Paris, France – 08:02:09 (76th)


Mika Kume – Tokyo , Japan – 08:14:22 (82nd)

TEAM MR25 SINGAPORE – 05:47:07 – 5th. 

Chris Flanagan – Hong Kong. Gavin Harvie in front
Kenneth Ng – Wisconsin USA
Chris Craig – Ibiza
Pauline Mulroy – Singapore. With The Boss.

So without getting too introspective I have to be honest and say that I was a bit disappointed with my time but have only myself to blame. I still need to figure a race nutrition strategy that doesn’t wreck my system. If I do I know I can lop many minutes off my times.

I was so chuffed though for everyone that came over to finish and have such a great day out. That I think is mainly due to the winning combination of a cracking route, a truly special race director, marvelous volunteers and my dad the bus driver who made it all happen and all the competitors who embrace the spirit of the day.

Thanks all and see you again next year.



The Isle of Skye

One my fifty things to do on my list is a trip to Skye in Scotland.For those interested in geography Skye is he largest and most northerly major island in the Inner Hebrides. It has a land area of about twice that of Singapore but whereas our little Island has about 6 million folks crammed on it Skye is home to a little over 10,000 souls. And a lot of sheep.

Skye location map
Skye location map

Being in Scotland in July I had a chance to do this. Initially I thought we’d visit for one night but the drive to Skye from Central Scotland is, I found out thanks to the power of Google Maps, at least five and a half hours.

With so much to see and do common sense dictated that at least two nights were going to be required.

So on July 19th after a hectic birthday weekend we headed off early on the day that summer finally arrived in Scotland. It was a truly spectacular morning which I just knew would make the drive somewhat special.

From Glasgow the conventional route to the Western Isles takes you initially up the west side of Loch Lomond. This is a familiar journey having been the route of not only my 40th birthday run but also various training runs and race crew support days along the West Highland Way.

Our first planned stop was to be on Rannoch Moor at The Kingshouse Inn. Rannoch Moor is,as some of you may not know, the legendary home of the Disney character Scrooge McDuck. It is. Go check it out.

However more crucially my brother Gerry had said that on his runs through there the deer just wandered through and were rather tame. And you know what? I thought he would have been hallucinating on his ultra races but he was absolutely correct.

Buachaille Etive Mòr. Deer but no Scrooge McDuck

A short drive later we passed into Glencoe and I have to say that this is just one of the most special places that you are ever likely to lay your eyes on and on a day like this doubly so. We pulled over at a lay-by and Janet had a chat with a piper persuading him to pose for a photo (or crossing his palm with silver) before he headed off to serenade a bus full of French tourists.

Lone Piper in Glencoe
Lone Piper in Glencoe

We then continued north and westwards stopping briefly at Glen Nevis for a coffee and a chat with some of the locals . This all took place under the shadow of Ben Nevis itself which unfortunately had a bit of cloud cover in our photo. Ben Nevis is on my “to do” list and while it would have been a cunning plan to go up time was against us so that will have to wait.

Friendly sheep with Ben Nevis looming large
Friendly sheep with Ben Nevis looming large

Then after a short scenic drive along the southern section of The Great Glen we headed westwards at Glengarry towards Skye. We were immediately greeted by the majestic, and on this day, pancake flat and calm Loch Garry.

Onwards we drove through Glen Shiel before passing along Loch Duich and finally rounding a bend in the road to be greeted by the rather splendid sight of Eilean Donan Castle.

Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle

Being smart as Carl Pilkington tourist types we drove past this avoiding the masses and pulled in at what turned out to be a most exceptional cafe called “All the Goodness” and simply enjoyed the free views along with fine tea, coffee and Scottish snacks that melt your teeth.

2016-07-19 15.17.55


Fuelled by caffeine and sugar we headed off again and within a short period we passed The Kyles of Lochalsh and there in front of us was the Skye Bridge. I have to be honest I thought this was a toll bridge but to my surprise it was not (I did read up about this later and it was a rather sore point locally). Result.

Once on Skye we had a fairly lengthy drive to our B&B which was at Milovaig near Glendale on the far west of the island. However the drive itself was just stunning and we got crystal clear views of The Cuillin Mountains on the way while passing through some impressive landscapes.

The Cuillin Mountains
The Cuillin Mountains

Eventually we got to our B&B – Sgarbh Lodge – and after checking in with the host Mairi were treated to this view from our bedroom on the upper floor with bay windows looking out over Loch Pooltiel.


2016-07-19 18.40.53
Sgarbh Lodge looking out over Loch Pooltiel

While I went for a customary run around the area to loosen up after the long drive Janet and Fiona went for a walk to the local harbour and enjoyed the evening sun while dodging the free range sheep. They had hoped to see seals but it was too early and after I got back we headed out for an evening bite to eat before getting our heads down.

Fiona out walking at Milovaig with Lewis and Harris in the distance

During the night though there was an epic thunderstorm which reminded us of the ones we get in Singapore it was so intense.When we woke in the morning while it was still warm the weather had turned a bit misty and there was a hint of light rain. Summer was over but we knew this was a certainty so it wasn’t a problem. There was the added bonus though that the waterfalls in the harbour had sprung into life overnight.

Pooltiel Harbour waterfalls
Pooltiel Harbour waterfalls

Mairi then gave us a few ideas of things to try and see on a tour of Skye and we set of to do a circuit of the north of the island as she had suggested.

First stop was Flora MacDonald Monument at Kilmuir. Flora MacDonald is seen as a Jacobite heroine and famously helped smuggle Bonnie Prince Charlie to the mainland to escape the English Government troops in 1746.

Flora MacDonald
Flora MacDonald

I have to confess that the weather here was a bit blowy and rough so we made the visit a bit shorter than it probably should be and also only had a quick look at The Museum of Island life. We left Flora’s rather impressive monument to the gathering buses loaded with tourists all wondering where summer had gone.

Museum of Island Life
Museum of Island Life

We were then driving south when Janet got all excited seeing a building that she was sure she had seen on “Grand Designs”. Flora MacDonald to Grand Designs is a bizarre juxtaposition but we turned back and stopped at another cafe with stunning views called “Single Track Art”.


2016-07-20 09.56.50

Janet got chatting to the ladies running the place and it turns out she was correct that the building work had been featured on “Grand Designs” although the lady in charge was a bit embarrassed by being on TV and said she never actually watched the program she featured in. And no we did not ask for autographs.

If you want to have a good look at what was built then here is the link. It’ll save you a long trip but if you do make the journey it is worth the effort.

After this I had hoped we could have a short drive to the Quiraing and onwards to see The Old Man of Storr and ideally get a hike up for the views but the weather had become too misty and although the scenery was still pretty special we simply couldn’t see any of the peaks. These things though you simply expect as being normal in Scotland in summer. I was really disappointed about The Old Man of Storr as its been used extensively in movie shoots most recently in Prometheus starring amongst others Charlize Theron and Idris Elba.


This is what I missed seeing.

Old Man of Storr
Old Man of Storr

Late afternoon we got to Portree which is the largest town on Skye and although the harbour area is quite pretty it’s actually not that attractive a place overall and more of a stopping point for boats and coachloads of tourists. Still it looks not too bad in this photo. Maybe we were being spoiled elsewhere.

Portree Harbour

Then we drove back across to the west coast and to the town of Dunvegan. We had hoped to visit the castle but lucked out and could only find a Vegan Castle. Holly would have been really chuffed with that.

Vegan Castle
Vegan Castle

For an evening treat Janet had managed to book us a table at “The Three Chimneys” which is rather impressively one of two Michelin starred restaurants on Skye and a very difficult place to get a booking at particularly in summer.

2016-07-20 18.33.38
The Three Chimneys


I’ll not bore you with a review of the food but lets just say if you can go to Skye then make a booking and eat here. You will not regret it at all. Even Fiona thought it very good. Or maybe that was just the white chocolate dish she had for desert.

2016-07-20 20.12.09

By the time we left stuffed to the gunnels the weather was clearing and as it was only 10pm and still daylight we thought we would take a trip up to Neist Point for a stroll and see if it was as spectacular as the guide books said. It is.

2016-07-20 21.04.59
Sunset on cliff face at Neist Point

The photos we took do not capture the scale of the cliff drops or the beauty of Waterstein Head with the sun setting over Lewis and Harris.

2016-07-20 21.04.27
Waterstein Head with Lewis in the distance across The Minch

The following morning after being fortified with another full Scottish Breakfast made with local free-range eggs, black pudding and haggis we set off on the long journey home. We left Skye with some quite amazing memories and I am so happy we made the trip. For sure we’ll be back as we barely saw a fraction of what we could and we really want to get up some of those peaks that we couldn’t see.


Hills and Podiums

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a “Podium” the dictionary definition that applies to sport is neatly stated as :
podium (noun)
  1. (of a competitor in a sporting event) finish first, second, or third, so as to appear on a podium to receive an award.

    Earlier this year our friends Gavin and Kirsty announced their wedding this summer but more crucially (sorry Kirsty) there was to be a stag weekend with a bit of a difference beforehand. Being a keen marathon and ultra runner Gavin sought to combine his stag plans with a marathon. That’s a bit different from the usual jolly boys outing to Prague. But not necessarily in a good way.

    His race of choice was to be The Windermere Brathay Marathon on 22nd May.

Through good luck rather than planning I was due in the UK from 9th May for a couple of weeks so happily entered this race and then thought that I’d look for other events in preceding weeks.

Given the time of year there are many events to choose from and one stood out for me. The Monklands Half Marathon on 15th May so I quickly stuck and entry into that too as I knew that my brother Gerry and sister Kate would be doing this.

This particular race holds a bit of affection for me as it was my first ever half marathon which I ran in I think maybe in 1992 in the early stages of my running “career”.

My memory of this , admittedly dimmed through time, was that it was hilly and Gerry readily confirmed that point. He said that it was a short loop of about three miles and a double long loop of five miles each roughly running around the perimeter of Drumpellier Country Park.

There was an steep uphill we’d encounter at miles 3, 8 and 13 but I also knew there was a big climb at mile 5 and 10 too so in short being a guy who likes it flat I wasn’t expecting to bang out a PB on this one. The link below shows the route.

Race Route2012

Sunday 15th I headed over to Gerry’s early on a bright and sunny morning and picked him up then went to the registration and number pick up. Along with Gerry our sister Kate was running as was her Springburn Harrier pal Collette. The two of them have been training well so I think we  expected good results from the two ladies.

Gerry and myself both felt we were in reasonable shape with a month having passed since London Marathon giving us some recovery but that we’d not be super fast.

Following a quick number pick up and multiple toilet breaks the start was called and we all lined up as you can see below. All fairly low key with nobody apparently stressing or pushing to the front. We all knew who’d win anyway (which as if by magic Robert Gilroy managed for the 12th year on the bounce).

Start of The Monklands Half Marathon

After the off the first mile was steeply uphill and in truth I was feeling it already. Not a great way to get into any race but as ever an up is followed by a down and I began to recover then and find my pace. This would be a recurring theme though.

At three miles I passed Gerry for some reason that I cannot fathom but again a hard climb caused me to slip back. I then drifted off the back of Gerry and settled into my own rhythm.

Getting ahead of myself at mile 3

After that first long climb I had two runners between myself and Gerry who was maybe 400 meters ahead but I was feeling not too bad and over the next five miles reeled in and passed those guys and as we got to final mile I think I had reduced the gap on him to about 200 meters.

I knew though that prospects of catching the wee fella were slim with a final hill to come with Gerry being a fairly resilient finisher. In short he’d rather kill himself than be caught near the end.

Clearing the brow of the last hill we then did a short dog leg through some houses before hitting the downhill into the finish. I am sure Gerry by this time was beginning to sense my presence. As I entered the final straight though Gerry was just ahead of me going through the finish.

Finally I crossed the line shortly behind him stopping my watch as I did. As is normal for me this was my first time check and it was a pleasant surprise to see that I’d run a time of 1.21.56. Not too shabby.

Gerry it turns out had managed 1.21.36 and as an added bonus Gerry was 2nd Male Vet 40 and I was 3rd so we managed a podium.

Two happy boys as captured below.

Male V40 second and third place

We then walked over to the 12 mile point to catch Kate coming in and give her a bit of encouragement. She passed soon enough and seemed to be tracking for a good time with Collette not far behind.

After they had passed we quickly doubled back to the finish area and minutes later both finished in quick succession with Kate securing 1.56.50 and Collette 1.57.19.

They were both chuffed to bits with their runs particularly coming in well below the two hour mark.

Kate and Collette happy at sub two hours

The following Saturday lunchtime I picked up Gerry and Duncan for our drive down to Gavin’s Stag. The main party had departed on Friday but with work commitments Gerry couldn’t go till Saturday.

On the ride down we listened to The Scottish Cup Final but unfortunately lost the signal somewhere around Lockerbie. When it came back though there was much happiness as Gerry was getting a stream of texts telling him he’d got the score right and his mammoth pre-match bet had paid out.

Well it would have if he’d put more than two pounds on a 3-2 win for Hibs.

Our hotel was in Ambleside close to the race start and finish point but the guys had elected for a more rustic experience staying at the YHA at Coniston so after a quick bag drop we drove over there.

By the time we got there they were firmly camped in ringside seats a local pub watching the FA Cup Final but enthusing mightily about the Scottish Final and the post match riot. I think Lee described it as “handbags” and not a patch on Wembley ’77 or the Old Firm riot of 1980. You could sense the anguish.

FA Cup Final. Riot free

After the football was finished it was agreed that the best nutrition for a marathon would be a curry washed down with beer and we all piled into Coniston’s premier and only curry house – Sara’s.

Excitement before the curry while Lee is away buying the beer

It was a great philosophical night with many topical subject covered including the EU Referendum, Glasgow descriptive vocabulary and how to train better but I knew we’d have to call it quits when the debate turned from drug cheats (no names but we KNOW who they are) to the FACT that Parkrun isn’t free.

At least in Gerry’s mind it’s not.

Just saying

Race day we were up bright and early. Probably too early as breakfast wasn’t till eight. It was a massive spread but we were both suffering from curry bottom and Gerry seemed to be slightly off colour on account of one pakora too many so we did not do it any justice.

Still we forced in some porridge and toast and industrial strength coffee to clear the tubes.

13260101_10205490303491216_1315893018567266601_n (1)
What hangover?

Duncan came by and after dumping his bag with us we all walked over to the race start. My guts were not in great shape and I was forced into multiple pit stops. We then hooked up with everyone else with myself, Gerry, Gavin,Lee, Kelvin and Cris doing the full marathon and Dave running the half.

John , Ken and Duncan were in supporting roles mainly due to each carrying a sick note for injuries.Real or imagined.

Cris had driven down from Glasgow that morning and having raced the route before gave us the benefit of his experience and the unfortunate (although we suspected this) news that the course was both very hilly and challenging. It think the technical term was “F*&%ing brutal”.

The course as Cris vividly described it was hilly mostly till we hit 20 miles and at this point – Ice Cream Hill – it was fairly flat to the finish. So that was my strategy sorted. Get to 20 miles and hang on. The overall route is shown below which is an extended loop of Lake Windermere.

Windy course
Race course

Cris though was in it to win it! I like a man with ambition. To help him along we all gave his perceived competition (a young guy in a yellow vest) loads of Evil Eye treatment. That worked out well.

Myself and Gerry fell into the “We’ll give it our best shot” camp which was ambitious enough for us and the rest just thought “Bugger it we are stopping for beer somewhere”.

Lee instead of a target time schedule written on his wrist had the bus schedules from Bowness back to Ambleside just in case. And an emergency 20 quid note tucked away.

The marathon runners all got marched down to the start line by a drum ensemble which was technically meant to get you all fired up but all I could think about was how it sounded like my dodgy stomach. Felt like it too.

After the off it became apparent straight away that this wasn’t going to be a conventional day out and indeed the first three miles were simply uphill. Followed by more uphill.

race start
Marathon start

We had a small pack by about one mile in as you can see from the photo below but this largely thinned out as the hill progressed for a further two unrelenting upwards miles. As a side note I think every runner in this photo except the two Craig boys crashed and burned on the course somewhere.

I can see a hill from here

By what appeared to be the top of our first hill I knew if I even attempted to keep my pace going I’d be in trouble and I eased back a bit letting Gerry open up a decent sized gap.I’m polite like that.

Gav Lee Kelvin
Gavin, Lee and Kelvin post start

Finally though we dropped downhill at last and had a bit of fairly flat (or rather undulating) running which included a stretch right through the center of the very pretty village of Hawkshead.

Hawkshead Village. Proudly in the EU.England and Britain.

From there through to six miles it was up and down but then we hit an absolute monster climb. I thought I was hallucinating as I could hear Pipers and the clear sound of “Scotland the Brave” but as I neared the peak of the hill there were indeed two Pipers banging out a tune. I have no idea why they were there or indeed how they go there as it was technically the middle of nowhere. In England.

Heading uphill together

Onwards we pressed and over the next five or so miles I gradually caught Gerry up. There was a minor setback when I swallowed a massive fly that decided to lodge itself firmly in my throat but other than that I was moving OK.

We hit halfway around Newby Bridge and then started the long slog north along Windermere to the finish. Through the next seven miles if I wasn’t going up I was going down. My back and my hammies were screaming at me but I had it in my mind that after Ice Cream Hill I’d be fine. I tried my best to take in some of the views which on rare occasion when I did look up from my feet were rather splendid. Not my feet , the views.

Twenty miles in we again went over a hill but I couldn’t figure why it was named Ice Cream Hill. Never mind. However it didn’t get flat thereafter as promised which was a bit of a worry. In fact it got hillier and I slowed up to get a “magic” gel down and try and stave off any potential cramp.

This let Gerry extend his gap on me further and by the time I got going again he was a good half a kilometer ahead. His little grey head was a mere dot in the distance.

At 22 miles came a really nasty climb. I was truly toiling and couldn’t believe that as I got to the top I passed a queue of tourists waiting for ice-cream. So this was the legendary hill. Probably I should have stopped for a Mr. Whippy but if I did there would be no going on.

Ice Cream Hill. Does what is says on the tin

Thereafter I hoped that as Cris said it would be fairly flat so I kept my focus on trying to prevent a blow out and hopefully reel in some runners. Over the next three miles I passed two more runners and entering the final mile on the outskirts of Ambleside was definitely closer to Gerry but as he took a turn to cross the final bridge I lost sight of him and assumed the next time I’d see him would be at the finish line.

Hill at finish
John and Duncan awaiting runners at top of the final climb “Col De Brathay”.

As I finally made the entrance to Brathay Hall and the final , rather cruel , climb that you can see above I got a surprise to see Gerry was only about 150 meters ahead. I wasn’t though going to catch him but I couldn’t quite figure out how I had closed the gap.

Final sprint to the finish

Then it was a final stretch avoiding a stray ambulance and into the finish chute and across the line while stopping my watch and checking my time. Again my first and only check.

Gerry was standing having just finished and I asked what had happened and it turns out the last bridge had finally done him in and he’d thrown up as he crossed it losing a bit of time. But feeling a lot better for it.

Our respective times though were actually quite good. Gerry with 3.02.59 and myself 3.03.15.

We had the added bonus of coming in as 1st and 2nd V45 category. Second podium in a week.


Victorious old men

We both reckoned that given the course profile that we had run a pretty strong race and indeed running on a flat course we’d reckoned we’d knock a big lump off our times which bodes well for our planned sub 2.50 in Berlin later this year.

My Strava upload shows just how hilly the course was.

Strava feed of marathon course

In the finish area we caught up with Cris enjoying a well earned pint having come in second place overall in a stunning time of 2.39.51 .

Then we had a chat with Dave who had run the half in 2.10.20 (a course he did not enjoy as you can see).

Dave on the final climb

Along with the non-runners John, Ken and Duncan we then awaited the arrival of the three amigos who finally turned up in a not too shabby time of 3.34 having indeed stopped for beer and having an overall laugh on the run. Lee also managed to avoid catching a bus.

13268045_1265690513458217_3715653148060089887_o (1)
I’m a stag

Unfortunately myself,Gerry and Duncan had to quickly make an exit and head back up north again leaving behind the rest of the guys to continue with the weekend in the manner in which they had become accustomed.

A big thanks to Gavin for the invite and Kelvin for the overall organisation. A top weekend away even if a bit short. Great bunch of lads and it’s pity I won’t make the actual wedding.

So that capped out a two week period of racing where I ticked off a couple of things on my to do list namely getting a podium (twice). Mind you I hadn’t expected to do this till I actually crossed the fifty threshold so hopefully I have a couple more in me. Might even get a win.

My winnings from Windermere

London Marathon 2016

The London Marathon is for me the finest event of its kind with no other mass participation marathon that I’ve done coming near it in terms of course profile, organisation, location and support. I know this is only my view but it is shared by many others.

By my rough calculations I’ve completed around forty marathons including Singapore (nine times) , Gold Coast (twice) , Boston , New York, Chicago, Copenhagen, Perth Australia, Glasgow and many others so I think I do have grounds for my opinion.

This year saw me entering London for the eleventh time which as you can see from my results as below have been on the whole fairly consistent over the years.

2005 2.54.42
2006 2.51.35
2007 Did Not Enter
2008 2.52.28
2009 2.53.35
2010 2.52.51
2011 2.54.51
2012 2.57.06
2013 2.58.48
2014 3.01.05
2015 2.56.02

You’ll notice in 2014 that my time slipped out and it was at that point I decided that if I wanted to at the very least maintain performance and get back below the three hour barrier then I needed to look at a few factors.On back of this I modified my diet to lose weight without losing overall power and also adapt my training plan to increase my training pace on my longer runs so in theory quickening my racing speed.

Without going into the fine detail of all that I did I saw an improved performance later in 2014 into 2015.This was reflected in last years London Marathon where I ran the 2.56 shown after which in Gold Coast Australia in July I ran faster again at 2.53.

In preparation for this years London event I had already completed one ultra run of 115km in Sydney Australia and then the Dubai Marathon in a time of 2.54.59 so felt that I was in reasonable shape.

For me the London experience has become a welcome spring ritual and this year myself and my two brothers Chris and Gerry were entered as was my eldest daughter Holly. Unfortunately for both Chris and Holly they had to withdraw very close to race day. Chris with an injury and Holly stymied by Edinburgh University sticking an exam in on the day immediately after London. Chris still traveled to London but Holly had to get some studies in so missed out.

After a few days in Scotland myself and Janet headed to London on the Friday and after a quick bag drop at our hotel headed off to pick up my number and Gerry’s at the race expo at Excel in London Docklands. Although I find the whole ritual of collecting numbers a colossal pain and in the day and age wholly unnecessary I do concede I actually quite like the London one as it genuinely has some interesting kit for sale and a host of bargains along with a bit of an atmosphere that makes you feel you are in a proper grown up event.


Gerry had once again elected to be a pacer and as I’m a decent guy I picked up his number and pacer flag too from Runners World.

Saturday itself was for me a fairly typical taper day of a light trot around Hyde Park followed by a good solid breakfast. Sticking with tradition once again I went for the full English. Whether this is good race preparation would be open to debate but frankly I’ve tried every variation and I find no significant deviation on performance so this is what I go for.


Post breakfast I had a few hours of easy walking around and then simply headed back the the hotel and waited for Gerry to arrive early evening. Once he got into town we then had a debate on our race meal. Conventional wisdom of marathon runners is carbohydrates and lots of them. I’ve found in recent years that over loading on carbs does , at least for me , make me feel too bloated going into the race and there is the simple fact that if you over eat you just don’t sleep well either.

Gerry has for years insisted that pasta in an abundance is totally needless and he normally just goes for a simple steak and chips. Amply washed down with a few beers.So after some thought that’s what we did. And mighty fine it was too although the steaks were so big we could barely eat the chips. As I don’t drink alcohol I filled up on bubbly water.


The weather which had been stunning in the early part of the week had gone down hill and when I woke up on race morning although it was forecast to be dry the actual temperature was only to be in a 3-6°C range which I confess isn’t really my degree of warmth for racing. For a guy who lives on the equator this is brutal and my only option was to layer up. Gerry did too so it could actually have been a bit nippy.


With the race starting at 10am we only left our hotel and 7.30am and strangely we think we missed the early rush because in contrast to prior years when we’ve left at 7.00am the trains were quiet. In fact we even got seats from London Bridge to Blackheath. Arriving at Blackheath it’s 10 minute walk up to the start line. In the entry for London you are designated a colour for your start and told what train to get over. What they don’t tell you is that it doesn’t matter a jot what train you catch as they all pretty much go to equal distances from the start. Gerry on arrival needed a pee but the toilets were crowded so needs must although I think he was lucky not to get lifted by Plod.


Although we were both on the red start we had differing pens. As I was “Good for age” I am lucky to be right at the front with the added bonus of a dedicated changing and refreshment area while Gerry had to get his number on and go to pen 4 where those planning 3.30 would be placed. We therefore said our goodbyes wishing each other luck although with me praying I wouldn’t see him again till the hotel and him asking if we’d meet around Canary Wharf ? Hope not.


I had a short walk to our changing area and as normal as soon as I got there bumped into a few of the guys I’ve trained or raced with over the years – Clive Alley who had been in Singapore for a few years but was now running for Clapham Chasers , “Mad” Al McLachlan of Bellahouston Harriers , George “Georgie” Taylor the flying dentist and Mark Ashby of Victoria Park City of Glasgow who’d ran Glasgow to Edinburgh only a couple of weeks back and was in technical terms totally knackered. And that was before we started. He was only running because he hasn’t missed London in about twenty six years and didn’t want to drop out.


I think it fair to say we all had different expectations from the day but it is always nice just to hook up year after year and see the same (slightly older) faces. I got changed and quickly dumped my kit into the trucks which then take everything to the finish line and about 25 minutes before the start we got access to our pen and made our expectant way forward.

It was a bit cold but in the crowd you are sheltered OK so there isn’t much to do other than check the GPS, have a crafty pee and await the gun. We were all about three rows back from the very front surrounded by what is generally a very experienced group of marathon runners.

This year we had a countdown which I later found out was from the British Astronaut Tim Peake who was running a virtual London Marathon in space.

Ten sharp we were off and as normal and although fairly controlled off the red start it is a bit frantic for the first few miles till everyone finds their place.

The London course drops point to point and indeed the bulk of that drop occurs for the red start runners over the first five kilometers. In the early stages all I focus on is getting into a good rhythm and making sure all of my “systems” are functioning properly.

Unfortunately I noticed after the first three kilometers that I had two issues. First one was my back was a bit tight (affecting my hamstrings) and that more worryingly I was starting to need a No.2. Experience tells me that these things can pass so I simply kept my pace going hoping all would correct itself.

I don’t clock watch at all but by ten kilometers as we passed around Cutty Sark I had a feeling I was running either too fast or faster than I should as the bulk of the numbers bedside me were Championship numbers. These are the very fast club runners and they get a front and back tag. I know if I’m looking at tags on backs then I am in a place I maybe shouldn’t be. Cutty Sark itself is a point in the race where pace tends to pick up as you go around a narrow stretch in full view of TV cameras and a massive and incredibly vocal support.


Although my back and hamstrings had eased off my toilet issues wouldn’t pass at all and by sixteen kilometers I knew I’d have to make a stop sooner rather than later. It’s incredibly frustrating but I had no wish to do a Paula Radcliffe and the stomach issues were only going to slow or totally embarrass me. Somewhere around Rotherhithe I entered into a race portaloo at a fair pace. I think technically my arse was a blur.

Luckily as I’m close enough to the front of the masses there was no need to queue but I still lost time. Without going into too much by way of graphic detail it’s essential that you get the tank empty fast but your nether regions must be totally clean before restarting or you can do serious damage to your gusset on the remainder of the run.

All in all I lost just a touch under two minutes but felt like a new (and slightly lighter) man and the severe gurgles and cramps were gone.

The next landmark of note is Tower Bridge which comes just before half way and again I know from experience that the massive crowds here can spur you on. This though is a bit too early to be spurred on from my perspective with such a long way still to go so I purposefully kept it steady but was being constantly passed by what I felt were over exuberant runners who may have regretted this not too far down the line.


Exiting Tower Bridge into north London you take a hard right turn running through an absolute wall of noise at what I think is the busiest vantage point on the course for spectators. On the other side of the road passing twenty miles we could see some of the elite ladies heading back to the finish as they had started that race 30 minutes in front of ours.

After Tower Bridge you do a long dog leg out through the Isle of Dogs before turning back to Canary Wharf and on and past Tower Bridge again covering about seven miles. This part of London I never enjoy and usually by Canary Wharf I am struggling. This year I felt more in control so assumed I was either going too slow or was in more reasonable shape. I could have checked my watch to get an idea of how I was running but did not want to do this. Also I’d normally take a gel at this point but I thought that my stomach would reject it quite badly and wasn’t that convinced I actually needed anything.

Canary Wharf therefore passed this year without the usual wobble.

Soon enough we reached twenty miles and started the long ten kilometer run back to the finish. This is where the outbound runners have just passed half way and it’s quite a sight seeing this solid mass heading out past you.

Miles twenty to twenty two for me are simply about keeping “my shit together”. To be honest it all gets a bit vague here every year and this year was no different. It simply passes.

Then around twenty two and a half miles you pass The Tower of London on your left and know it’s a “mere” five kilometer slog to the end.

Virgin London Marathon 2012...LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: Runners Cross Tower Bridge during the Virgin London Marathon 2012 on April 22, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)

Strangely around this point I found that the crowd noise , which is absolutely phenomenal, was disorientating me a fair bit and I felt dizzy and light headed. It was too late now to take a gel as it wouldn’t kick in till after I finished so I simply pushed on and with about a mile and a half to go as we came along The Embankment towards The Houses of Parliament I felt fine again. When I say fine I actually mean less crappy and a bit more in touch with Planet Earth.

In the final few miles you can see Big Ben in the distance and you know after you reach there it’s less than a mile to go and while I wanted to push on I had to balance the twinges of cramp against the desire to go faster. It’s probably best to keep looking at your feet here as Big Ben never really seems to get closer.

Roughly a mile out George Taylor passed me and much as I’d have liked to go with him it wasn’t going to happen. For his part he looked very comfortable for a man of his advanced age running I think his fifth marathon in about a month.

Finally we reached Big Ben and did a sharp right into Birdcage Walk. At this stage you have a strange variety of potential finishers around you each with their own personal battle going on.

Some folks are inexplicably hammering past you, some are cramping up badly and in a few cases flat out on the floor. I saw one poor guy desperately trying to pick himself up with less than four hundred meters to go. But I wasn’t stopping to give him any sympathy. Terrible I know but you need to  keep your own pace and focus or it could still go badly wrong.

Finally at the end of Birdcage Walk it’s another right turn at Buckingham Palace and a final charge (or stagger) to the end.

FullSizeRender mm

Janet who had been out all morning following the race at various points managed by sheer luck to catch me in the smashing photo above and as I looked up, blissfully unaware she saw me, I finally caught sight of the finish clock in the distance showing just over 2.54 . Two hundred meters later and I crossed the line in a very respectable time of 2.55.37.

Not a bad effort at all as it was faster than the previous year which is always a positive and included my lost toilet time.

As it was such a cold day I elected not to loiter around and quickly collected my bag from the famously efficient , exuberant and helpful volunteers before heading to the exit point on Pall Mall where Janet had agreed to catch me. After donning my thermal jacket I posed for this cheery shot. This is before I had to walk up the stairs.


Our hotel was a short hobble away and after sauntering back and having a quick shower and change all we had to do was wait for Gerry to get back from his pacing duties and do the same.

Then we had the other tradition of heading off to Henry’s on Piccadilly for refreshments and catch up with our other brother Chris. Here we all are later in the afternoon. Clive was also there with his girlfriend Sharon who’d both completed the race and if you look carefully you can see his head over the gap between Gerry and Chris’ shoulder. The whole place was totally mobbed with celebrating runners and their families giving it a real party atmosphere with some tired and emotional guy from Edinburgh I’d never met before nearly in tears congratulating us on our times.


Post race critical analysis on my part focused as always on things that I could have done better. I had the luxury of my splits to review which show that I probably started a bit too fast and finished a bit too slow and also obviously lost time in the toilet.

With hindsight I should have managed a 2.52 to 2.53 but won’t get too bothered by that. This result though gives me a bit of confidence that with continued solid training, weight control and a favorable run with no stomach issues then I won’t be far away from 2.50 in Berlin later this year.

I certainly hope so as it’ll be my post fifty debut.


For those of you thinking of London then the ballot opens today 1st May and closes at the end of the week. It isn’t easy to get in on the ballot although there are slots for faster runners , UK Clubs , overseas entries and many charities.

The reasons I rank London over the other big city marathons I’ve done are that it quite simply gets everything right. It’s very cheap to enter , weather is favorable (could be warmer for me) , London is relatively accessible from Asia, the course is both interesting and fast and crucially there is no faffing around pre-race which you get in abundance in other races such as New York, Boston or Chicago.

I am fairly sure you could pitch up at London ten minutes before the start and politely squeeze into your designated pen. In fact my brother Chris saw a guy on his own wandering up to the start about 9.40am and was sure he started on time.

You should if you can in any way do this race.

Go on enter the ballot now.

Last train to London

In March 1977 my father took me to see Celtic play Partick Thistle in what remains one of my earliest memories of attending a live football match. I cannot recall much about the the game other than it being  a slightly foggy and cold night with Alfie Conn of Celtic being the outstanding player on the pitch.

However thanks to the power of the web I now know that Celtic won 2 – 1 and that this was Alfie’s first goal in his home debut at Celtic after his move from Spurs. However what is most notable about Alfie is that he was (and is) one of the few players to turn out for both Celtic and Rangers.

Although his sideburns didn’t make the transition across the great divide.

GW240H346images (1)

In one of those moments that you can recall forever at half time as I tucked into my pie and bovril the stadium announcer played a track called “Living Thing” by a band called ELO. I thought it was simply a brilliant tune and was immediately hooked on their music.

Any time I now hear the introduction to that track with it’s violins it takes me straight back to my seat in the main stand at Parkhead on that misty night, sitting in the old orange seats , munching a pie and wondering if Alfie Conn was possibly the greatest footballer ever? He was. Till he joined Hearts.

From that day forward I was a massive ELO fan and like many kids at that time waited anxiously to buy their next single or album release. Over the next few years they brought out a steady stream of tracks which were massive hits and I also bought their back catalog when pocket money allowed.

Unfortunately though the band never toured and finally broke up around 1986 and to my regret I never had the chance to see them live. I think this might have been caused by Olivia Newton John and the Xanadu soundtrack.

Over the years I have kept an eye on Jeff Lynne’s musical journey such as his production work for The Beatles, The Concert for George, The Traveling Wilburys and special releases but there was never any tour or even a hint of one.

Then in 2014 Jeff Lynne a one off gig in Hyde Park with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and then subsequently said he enjoyed it so much he’d do a full tour. It took a while but in the later part of 2015  tour dates were announced and within a nano-second of opening I was online and managed to bag four tickets for their concert at The 02 in London.

By sheer blind luck the actual concert would be on the Friday (22nd April) before the London Marathon.In all honesty I don’t think I could have planned anything better if I’d been left totally to my own devices.

Now being the owner of four precious tickets with one for myself and another to Janet (suddenly an ELO fan) I hit on the idea of offering two of them up as a prize for those who sponsored Holly for her London Marathon attempt.

To enhance the prize I also approached The Four Seasons Hotel in London and they kindly also donated a stay in their beautiful hotel on Park Lane which I bundled up with the concert tickets as the overall prize.


Through this initiative and others Holly has to date managed to raise a total of almost £ 4,000 in the run up to the event but sadly due to  late schedule of her exams she had to withdraw from the marathon itself.

She was bitterly disappointed , although her mum was much relieved, but I am pleased to say Holly will honor the sponsorship given by doing an Autumn marathon back in the UK.

In March we drew the winner and the lucky recipient was Brian Buchan who is long standing  colleague based out here in Singapore. Unfortunately due to an upcoming family event he couldn’t attend so after a quick re-draw Val and Andy Hume ran out worthy recipients and able substitutes.

Myself and Janet then met up with Val and Andy in London just before the concert and after a quick dinner together at Canary Wharf headed off to the O2 along with around 20,000 other souls on what was the second night of four that ELO would play there.


From the opening second this was a concert that justified an almost thirty year wait. The band as you’d expect from Jeff Lynne were flawless and allied with a tremendous light show, strong vocals and a rapt audience you had the making of a perfect night.

There is no point in running through the highlights but as you can see from the set-list it was hit after hit. All flawlessly performed to an audience quite simply having a fantastic night.



In addition to the songs a special highlight for the four of us was the guy in front who did an “Air Guitar” tribute during the entire concert while throwing in some moves that I think he’d picked up from Pans People.

As I say after thirty years you do get a bit excited but my dodgy shoulder stopped me joining in. Plus I was tapering prior to the marathon.

Now I’m desperately hoping that I can see them again in Asia but so far there are no dates announced so I’ll just have to satisfy myself in ticking off another event in my 50th year.

Jack Crawford 10K

Last week saw me back in Scotland for a week or so and as is normal when this happens I try and see if any races are on that fit with my schedule that I can have a crack at. As luck would have it there was a 10k race in Bishopbriggs (my home town) on Saturday 5th March and I therefore stuck in a late entry.

The event was The Jack Crawford 10k and is organised by Springburn Harriers which is the club my sister Kate and a few of her friends are members of which is based out of Bishopbriggs itself.

Springburn Harriers Club was formed in 1893 and the diamond-shaped emblem used by the club as a logo was an adaptation of the trademark of the Springburn locomotive works.

I hasten to add that Kate isn’t in this old photo of Springburn runners taken from their club website.



For those of you reading this who are devotees of trains the Springburn works were known as the Rollox Locomotive Works or St Rollox Carriage and Wagon Works which were built in 1856 in an area in the north-east of Glasgow.

Jack Crawford himself was a member of the Springburn club for 65 years joining in 1922 and remained a member until his death in 1987. The Jack Crawford trophy was originally competed for as a closed club handicap event, the first race having taken place in St Andrews on Saturday, 14th April 1985.

On the Friday night prior to the race I had caught up with my daughter Holly in Edinburgh for dinner and as she had a free weekend she decided to come through to Glasgow with me and give the race a go as part of her marathon build up.

So on Saturday we picked up our numbers and as you can see from the photo both of us were pretty happy to be racing.


On what was a bright, if somewhat cool, early spring mid-day we lined up with about 200 other runners and with due ceremony, or lack of, were set off on our merry way.

This shot is taken just after the start and it’s fair to conclude by this point that my chances of winning overall were pretty much zero.


The course meanders mainly uphill through some local housing estates for 2km before heading down onto the Forth and Clyde Canal at Cadder Bridge where it heads out east towards Kirkintilloch  before doing a U-turn at around 5.5km and then simply heading straight back along the canal westbound to finish at Bishopbriggs Sports Centre adjacent to the start line.

As I know this route well I decided to adopt the race strategy of starting too fast , fading badly in the middle , slowing up and then get my act together as near the end as possible to look good crossing the line.

Well that is what I usually do for a 10k.

Strangely on this day by the time I got to 4k I felt totally in control despite the fast start and reckoned I had actually gone too easy at the start. I was in a pack of runners and the bulk of them were obviously working hard. Well they seemed to be feeling the effort more than me anyway going by the amount of panting, drooling and sweating going on.

Therefore after the U-turn I started to pick up the pace and somewhat optimistically try and see if I could reel in a few folk , shake off the pack I was with and try and get a decent time. I did manage to pass two or three runners and by 8k I still felt comfortably in control and pushed on with only the first lady close to me at this stage.

As the course is flat and straight once I had a rhythm I could sustain I just kept going trying to balance my effort with not blowing apart by getting too ambitious.

I was also driven by the nagging doubt that someone would try and pass me so threw in a few surges here and there to make sure anyone passing me had to work for their place.

However as luck, good fortune or more likely my steady (with surges) pace dictated nobody caught me and as you’ll see from the next photo as I approached the finishing line I had a decent gap over the following runners.


As normal I never looked at my watch during the race so I got a very pleasant surprise when I reached the end in a time of 36.58 which is actually one of my best 10km performances in years.

Course profile, timing and map all laid out for you to see in the next photo.


I came 14th overall and although I’m not yet 50 I had a look to see how far I was off the 50+ age group winner for future planning. He finished only a few seconds and one place in front of me which I hope  bodes well for my post July 17th races.

Holly for her part ran a good solid time of 56.18 which showed a marked improvement from her Kirkintilloch 12.5k result in February. She is certainly getting fitter as she builds towards London Marathon and on Sunday actually ran over 23km for her training.

Here are the full results on the race :


Photo Credits : Kenny Phillips on the race shots with thanks.