I kept this one under the radar as far as my blog was concerned, but the truth is I was REALLY excited to go and race 10k in Glasgow this weekend. I’ve always really enjoyed taking part in races in Glasgow and have fond memories of the 2012 Great Scottish Run half marathon (which I finished beaming from ear-to-ear and desperate to take part again), the Great Women’s 10k (which last year afforded a shock PB of 50:15) and the festive high jinks of the Santa Dash. I knew that this year I had my first chance since 2012 to return to the GSR and it’s been in the back of my mind all year to sign up – the only reason I waited was my new policy of not getting carried away and entering loads of races only to get injured and miss out. When I decided to join Steve at the Scottish Half Marathon in Edinburgh in September, I thought that might be it for big autumn races as I didn’t think I’d fancy another half marathon just two weeks later – then I remembered the 10k.
My mind was made up when it was announced that the great Haile Gebrselassie was set to bid farewell to competitive running at the GSR 10k and that 10 lucky runners would have the chance to have a meet and greet with the legend before lining up next to him at the start. Sadly Gebrselassie later had to pull out due to his sister being seriously ill (I had been hopeful of a chance to run with him) but I was still excited about the race and my excitement levels only increased with the news that the official starter for the race would be my running hero/inspiration Paula Radcliffe. She might not have been running, but the chance to see Paula far outweighed (for me) the chance to see Haile!
I had no idea what sort of shape I was in for 10k, but was sure I could beat my Perth 10k time of 52:36 as I had run with a cold that day. I wasn’t convinced I was in PB shape for the distance (anything under 50:15), but was still curious to know how close I could come so opted to volunteer at parkrun the day before so I would be racing on fresh legs. Even the weather forecast was promising, with cool, dry conditions and not too much sun after some warm days recently. It was all going to come down to my performance on the day. I wasn’t putting myself under pressure, but still wanted to finish knowing I had done my absolute best and with a clear idea of where my fitness is right now.
Organising my kit the night before, I opted for my favourite running skirt (by Under Armour), my pink argyle calf sleeves (these attract a lot of attention and are by Bondi Band), my Macmillan running T-shirt, Nike arm warmers to keep the chill off at the start and my Adidas Glide Boosts (my favourite 10k shoes).
We were both in the white (front) wave and were due to start running at 9:45am so left Perth just after 8am for the drive to Glasgow. We’ve pretty much got it worked out now so that we know exactly where to park, exactly what toilet options we have in order to avoid long portaloo queues and exactly what we need in our post-race bag so that by the time we reach the start area at George Square we can just squeeze ourselves into our start pen and set off. Just after dropping our bag off at the baggage bus I was really pleased to bump into two former pupils who were also running the race – it might even have been their first. We had a quick chat then went our separate ways for the start pens where the mass warm up was underway (I passed since I can’t bear mass warm ups where there’s approximately one square centimetre of room to work!). We had to wait outside our pen, but once the elite wave set off we were able to move inside and find some room.
While we were waiting, I was delighted to hear that for the first time ever there were more females signed up to races over this weekend than males. Absolutely brilliant news and a trend I’d love to see continue.
As our wave got underway, I kept an eye out for Paula Radcliffe and spotted her cheering runners on by the start. I remember being struck by how amazing she looked and feeling really pleased to have run close by her, then I was crossing the start line and heading towards the St Vincent Street hill which accounts for much of the first mile. I felt that I ran strongly up the hill and was pleased when I heard my name shouted by someone we know who was going to be running the half marathon later in the morning.
For me, all the best bits of the half marathon route feature in the 10k: hitting some streets I ordinarily run on dressed as Santa (it crossed my mind that it seemed a little odd to be in “normal” running gear), running over the Kingston Bridge (technically motorway so normally out of bounds for pedestrians) and crossing the Clyde on the “Squinty Bridge” before finishing on Glasgow Green.
I was quite surprised when I completed the first mile in 8:07, despite the uphill slog, however this slowed to 8:26 in mile two as there were some gradual inclines and a couple of pinch points as we headed for the Kingston Bridge and I was conscious that I was running a little slower as there wasn’t the same room to pass people. I enjoyed this section of the course, though, so didn’t let it bother me. Once off the bridge, we were into wide streets and my times ticked by quite consistently from there on: 7:53, 7:56, 7:59, 7:59.
I had realised that a PB might actually be on the cards so was working quite hard, but still really enjoying the on-course support with a piper at every kilometre marker as well as some other entertainment such as a local nightclub who had set up around the 4km mark to play upbeat music, and a drumming group further on in the race. There were also plenty of charity cheer squads and it was great to run past 3 Macmillan cheer points to get some encouragement and support.
Around the 9k mark was the Wall of Support, a massive bank of TV screens with personalised messages of support for runners, triggered by their race number as they neared the screen. I knew there would be no message with my name on it as I hadn’t shared the details with anyone and had missed the deadline to leave myself a message, but there were plenty of messages going up for all the runners and it was lovely to see. At this point I knew my chances of a PB were really tight so I was trying to focus all my energies on getting to the finish and seeing all the messages helped.
Suddenly, a sign saying 400m to go, a bend, 200m to go. My watch ticked over into 50 minutes and I couldn’t quite see the finish gantry. I was giving it my all and my body was starting to protest at the effort, but then I saw it. The announcer was calling out names of runners approaching the line and I heard my name called out, giving me a final boost to sprint for the line – I was running so hard I even forgot to smile for the official photographers so those photos will no doubt be particularly “special”.
As I stopped my watch, I glanced down to see that it read 50:14. Could I actually have a PB? It was a close call, however I had signed up for a free text message with my time and sure enough, it was confirmed as 50:14. A PB by just one second, but a PB nonetheless! I was momentarily disappointed that I hadn’t managed a sub-50, but knew I couldn’t have done any more and was thrilled to be back to what I considered the peak form I had after my marathon training cycle last year (after which I promptly got injured!). It was interesting to note that it was mile 2 which really prevented the PB, not a later mile, so consistent 8 minute miles for the whole thing will get me there – a target for 2016!
I made my way through the finish chute collecting a bottle of water and my goody bag: medal, cotton t-shirt (there was the opportunity to buy a tech t-shirt at sign-up), sports drink, food, space blanket and assorted leaflets.
Steve was waiting for me and together we went over to catch up with our friends from Macmillan, where we had a cup of tea and something to eat before getting some photos.
Leaving the Macmillan tent to collect our bag, we discovered there were also a number of official photo ops for us to enjoy.
A race backdrop:
An official time clock (like when the elites set a world record – a great way to mark a PB!):
And a big screen recreation of the Wall of Support. We didn’t do this one as there was a massive queue, but I’ve later discovered that by putting my race number in on the website, I can get an image of “my” wall:
But far and away the most exciting photo op was this one:
And of course, I was straight in the queue. There was no way I was going to miss the chance to meet Paula Radcliffe! I was more excited about this than my new PB, and couldn’t understand the people who would approach the queue, ask what it was for then shrug and look disinterested when they were told. Why would they not want to meet a world record holder and inspiring runner? I was like a little fan girl and hoping I wouldn’t embarrass myself!
When my turn came, Paula asked me how I had got on in the race and, in my excitement, I merrily told her about my new PB (I’m sure that was the highlight of her day 😉 ) and she graciously congratulated me before signing my race number and posing for a photo.
After this, we decided to head off as I was yapping away like I’d had several coffees, floating along on the high of a good run and meeting a legend. An absolutely fantastic experience!
So once more Glasgow did not disappoint, in fact on this occasion it presented me with one of my greatest race highlights ever! If you’re considering entering one of the GSR races next year, then I highly recommend it. Both the start and finish are really well organised with plenty of signage to help you to be in the right place at the right time, there are loads of announcements, the course is great, the support vocal and there’s a decent medal and goody bag. Even without the chance to meet a running legend it’s a brilliant day out. Maybe I’ll see you there next year!