For the past few days, all anyone seems to be talking about is the Commonwealth Games. Whether you loved or loathed the opening ceremony last week, chances are there’s a sport or event to interest you.
Originally know as the British Empire Games, the first event took place in Hamilton, Canada in 1930. At that time 11 countries took part, with a total of 400 athletes competing in 6 sports and 59 events. Often referred to as the “Friendly Games”, the Games have taken place every 4 years since (except 1942 and 1946 because of WW2) and have been known as the Commonwealth Games since 1978. This year’s event in Glasgow is the 20th Games and 71 countries are competing in 17 sports and 261 events over 17 days. A far cry from 1930, the number of athletes now taking part is around 4950! If you’re interested in reading more about the history and growth of The Games, then this website is really useful.
With Glasgow just an hour away, it would be silly to miss out on the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere and catch some events. Most events are taking place in ticketed venues and we didn’t enter the ticket ballot as attending these events would be too tricky around Steve’s work schedule, but yesterday saw one of the free-to-view events take to the city streets: the marathon. As keen marathoners ourselves, there was no way we were going to miss this one!
And so, we found ourselves leaving at 7am in order to get through to Glasgow in time since the men’s event was beginning at 9am. 7am departure to WATCH rather than run a race? That was a new experience!
The first thing we noticed was that everyone had clearly taken on board the advice to travel by public transport rather than car as the roads were really quiet and we got parked easily. It may have been busier later in the morning, but we were rather surprised to be in Glasgow at the back of 8 so took the chance to grab a coffee before staking out a spot around George Square to watch the race.
The marathon route started and finished at Glasgow Green and comprised 2 laps of the course which took in the city centre and riverside as well as both Pollock and Bellahouston parks, places I have run in during the Great Scottish Run, Santa Run and Great Women’s 10k which made it even more appealing.
We walked thorough George Square, which was looking fantastic, ready to find a good viewing spot as the runners approached the square. We bumped into some people we knew and had a chat, then filled the time with some photos and social media updates!
Our spot was just over a mile into the route so we didn’t have long to wait after the race began before the men headed our way. There were plenty of people out to support the runners and it was great to be so close to such top athletes, yet at the same time a little strange to see so few competitors (less than 30 athletes) when we’re so used to seeing huge city marathons filled with everyone from the elite athlete to the charity fundraiser.
Eventually we could hear the ripples of applause and cheers work their way towards us then caught our first glimpse of the vehicle carrying the timing clock and various media personnel which preceded the runners.
At this stage the pack was being led by England’s Steve Way whose story has really captured imaginations lately. Just a few years ago he was an overweight smoker but now he has completely turned his life around and is representing his country in the Commonwealth Games. An amazing turnaround which just goes to prove that it’s never too late to take up a sport or even change your life!
With around half an hour to wait until the women’s race passed by, we set off to meet Jaynie aka TartanJogger and her husband. We have been chatting loads for about a year now, but this was the first time we had ever met. It was great to catch up and the four of us enjoyed watching the women’s race together before going our separate ways between the 2 laps.
Steve and I decided to go to the official Games store in George Square to check out the merchandise before watching the runners coming around for the second lap, by which time there had been some breaks in the pack, especially in the women’s field.
After watching the athletes come around for the second lap, we made our way to Glasgow Green. The men’s race was over by the time we arrived, but after getting through the security check and grabbing some water, we were able to watch the finish of the women’s race on the big screen while having some lunch. Jess Trengove ran a super race to claim the bronze medal for Australia, but the most drama came from Beata Naigambo who had fallen earlier in the race. Clearly struggling in the final straight, she veered across the course then stumbled into barriers at the side of the course before finally staggering to the finish and collapsing with the crowds willing her on to finish. It was wonderful to see the support she received and a sobering reminder that the marathon is a tough event and even the elites can encounter problems.
With the race over, we soaked up the atmosphere at Glasgow Green, known as the “Live Zone” during the Games. There are lots of activities, food stands, merchandise and, of course, the big screen. We spent some time watching people racing Bolt, a long platform with a huge screen and recording of Usain Bolt running 30m. It was mainly kids trying it when we were there, but it looked like good fun. We also took some photos with a topiary of Cyde, the mascot for the 2014 Games.
Finally, we headed back to George Square to get some photos with The Big G. We had tried to do this in the morning, but since the sun was behind the G, the photos were too shadowed so we had to wait until later on for some decent pictures:
Overall, a great but exhausting day. We may not have been in a ticketed venue, but the atmosphere in Glasgow was buzzing and it was brilliant to see the marathon. I’m now really looking forward to returning later in the week for some more sporting action!
Have you been keeping up with the Games on tv?
Are you lucky enough to have tickets for one of the venues?