Wednesday, 24 November 2010


It is now 10 days since the operation to my left knee and today I removed the dressings and tape to reveal 3 small incisions healing very well. The picture above shows one of the small holes left healing.

The most important part now is that I allow the micro fractures to heal and that is why I have the crutches for 6 weeks.

It is only when you are put in this situation that you realise how restrictive it can be. Just doing small things that you take for granted becomes difficult. I can make a cup of tea then I can't carry it anywhere as both hands are on crutches and the same for any food I make, I have to eat it where I make it.

I have a cup with a lid now which makes it a bit easier rather than relying on help all the time.

Every day last week I carried out the 4 exercises 3 times a day and also iced the knee 3 times. The swelling has reduced considerably and the pain is only when I twist a certain way or accidentally put my left leg down with too much weight on it.

On Monday I went to the Physiotherapy Department at the Royal Infirmary and was given a new set of exercises and did 5 minutes easy peddling on an exercise bike.

No problems at the clinic and I have continued to do the exercises the last few days. I went back to the clinic today and continued with the exercises and the two measurements on my knee showed lots of improvement. I also did 15 minutes on the exercise bike with no adverse effects.

Last Saturday, using the crutches I went for a walk to the end of my street and back which is about 500m in total and my arms and hands were aching and I had to stop a few times.
I have been out each day since, gradually going further and I can now go a reasonable distance without stopping. I am not overweight and quite fit so using the crutches has been fine but if you were heavy and unfit it would be very difficult to go any great distance. Your hands and upper shoulders take all the weight and in the mornings I am aching in the upper body and my fists are sore to clench.

I have to use the crutches 24/7 and I am getting about fine with them now and yesterday I covered about 1 mile. That is the only exercise I do at this stage, but it allows me to get some fresh air.

On Sunday my golfing mates took me up to Tayport as it was the 3rd round of the winter golf tour I organise. I hired a buggy and only used my right foot to drive round watching them hack up the course. There are full reports and pictures on my other blog(link is at top of this site- hackers tour).

I am planning to drive in the next few days as the car is an automatic so I will only have to use my right foot to drive.

Anyway things are progressing along slowly but surely.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Not what was planned


Monday 7.30am I checked into the new Day Surgery unit at Stobhill for keyhole surgery to my left knee. I had a tear in my cartilage that needed to be repaired and at my initial meeting with the Consultant he said it would be a straightforward procedure lasting about 30 minutes. He also said that I would not need crutches and would be walking right away and back jogging in about 3 weeks.

However at 9 am on Monday, as I was waiting to go into theatre, he appeared to discuss the day and informed me that he was concerned about some thinning of the cartilage and he might need to clean up that area. I would still have the same recovery period and walk out of the hospital. Then he proceeded to say that there was a possibility he might have to do some more serious repair work and the recovery would be 6 weeks in full crutches and 3 months recovery.

Well, I was a bit taken aback at this and told myself that wouldn't happen and I was wheeled into theatre just before 12.00pm and the clock in front of me showed exactly noon as I went to sleep. I was wakened leaving the theatre at 1.30 pm a full 1 hour longer than I was booked in for. So I knew right away things had not gone to plan and I was told back in the recovery area that I was not allowed to get up as I needed to see the physiotherapist and get measured for crutches.

The Consultant came to see me later and gave me the news that it was a lot worse than he expected. The initial tear was no problem and was repaired but part of my cartilage was worn and had an indentation (he called it a divot) and was showing bone. He cleaned this area out and drilled small micro holes into the bone and into the marrow allowing cells in the marrow to make new cartilage over the damaged area. It is not as strong as natural cartilage but gives a coating over the previously bare area. He said due to my age he couldn't leave it as it was and this will hopefully strengthen and reshape the area but it will be 3 months recovery. The most important thing is that because of all the holes I now have a weakness there until the formation is complete and I am not allowed to put weight onto my left leg.

This is not what I expected and I left the hospital at 5.00 pm on full crutches. The first night wasn't too bad and I managed about 5 hours sleep but when I went downstairs to make a cup of tea, I realised that I couldn't carry anything as both hands were on the crutches. The reality of 6 weeks not being able to do anything for myself was now starting to sink in.

Yesterday evening I took off all the dressings as instructed and the above photos shows the 3 holes in my knee area and it is very swollen compared to my right one. I didn't sleep as well and this morning it was very tight and stiff but once I got up and moving it wasn't too bad.

I have 4 types of exercises to do and yesterday I could only do 2 of them as the 3rd was too painful, but today I managed to do them. I have been using an ice gel pack on and off today and Alison drove me to the library to get a few books and some fresh air.

I think if the Consultant had told me 2 weeks ago at my meeting with him that there was a possibility of this being the outcome, I would have asked him to postpone surgery until the beginning of January and get the holidays and Christmas out of the way. Still it is done now and I have to get on with it and the main problem for me is the minimum of 6 weeks on crutches and I now have to rely on help for everything at the moment.

I also have to attend physio twice a week starting on Monday and the stitches should be out next week also.

The doctor said it was maybe time to consider a non impact sport once I am fully recovered. He said it was my call and to continue running if I wanted, then deal with the consequences whenever the areas deteriorate to a state where there will be more work required. He said it could be years away but there was significant damage for someone my age. If I hadn't got the tear then I would have not been any the wiser until it would have been even further damaged. I have ran now for some 35 years and I would be very reluctant to just stop.

I will get back on my feet, complete my recovery and I will continue to run as the enjoyment and health benefits for the rest of my body far outweigh the possibility of a knee replacement. We will see.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

An Unexpected Letter

Before I explain the unexpected letter, I think a brief explanation is necessary.

Mid December 2009

While playing golf, my left foot slipped backwards and my knee twisted underneath me. I knew immediately something was wrong. Intense sharp pain and my knee buckling as I tried to walk never mind run. The pain gradually got less but I tried running every 2-3 weeks and even as late as May I was struggling to go any further than half a mile and the sharp pain and buckling would return.

So a decision was made at end of May, no more messing about with a run here and there it was needing a longer recovery period so complete rest from running.

No running at all in June and July and by mid August I decided to try some walking and jogging. The pain wasn't too bad and I gradually increased the distance and number of runs.
Just prior to starting back in August, I went to my doctor and he wanted me to see an orthopaedic doctor as he wasn't happy with the knee. A number of weeks later an x ray and meeting with the Consultant resulted in him saying he was concerned and he wanted an MRI scan to be booked. I was in two minds whether to bother as I was now running 3-5 miles a few times a week and telling myself it was okay.

At the beginning of October I went off for my MRI scan thinking this is a waste of time and I nearly never went. I had the scan and continued to run up to 5 times a week now and a few runs up to 8 miles. The knee was not 100% but most of the runs were not too bad and afterwards I had no real discomfort, but sometimes playing golf resulted in me limping as it would start to ache. I was out running 5 miles last Wednesday and over the last 3 miles my knee was locking and quite sore. This was the first time since mid August that this had happened.

After the run it was fine and then the post arrived with a letter confirming I was booked in for an operation on the 15th of November. There was also a second letter advising me that I had to attend for a pre-op assessment on 3 November. First reaction was what the **** was the operation for as there was not a word in the letter saying what I was going in for! I had no idea what was wrong and I had yet to receive any results from the MRI.

I phoned the Consultant's secretary and she said I was sent out a letter a few weeks earlier telling me that I have a tear in my cartilage (meniscus) and I would require keyhole surgery to repair it. Well the letter must have got lost and I received another one the next day. I was asked to come in and speak to the Consultant and he would discuss the surgery and recovery period.
I was not expecting the results from the scan to result in me needing surgery and I have swayed back and forth all week about what to do, but I am only 46 years old and after talking to the doctor today I have decided to get it done. He said to continue running if I wanted as long as I was not in pain - which I am not, but sometimes if I turn or twist the wrong way I can end up limping around with my knee throbbing like toothache. The thing is running has not been too bad and my knee has improved so much since January, but that might be it as cartilage doesn't repair itself very easily. So November the 15th at 7.45am key hole surgery to my left knee.

The recovery period is not too bad and I was told today that I can drive in 2-3 days and start jogging in 2-3 weeks. Golf is going to be 2 months due to the strain and twisting motion. So that is not what I planned but that is the way things go and on the other hand I now know what has been causing all the pain for months. Today I attended a pre-op assessment clinic which I passed with flying colours. Pulse was mid 50s, very good blood pressure, good results for an ECG. The Consultant also said that the scan showed no other damage and all other parts of the knee looked good. He said that due to my fitness and muscle bulk around the knee that my recovery would be quick. So I am going to continue with a few runs a week up to the 15th and get on with it.

When I left the hospital today I went to the Marie Curie Hospice to visit my friend who is terminally ill. He was drugged into a sleep with pain relief and it was very sad to watch him lying there looking so ill.

That visit brought home just how insignificant a sore knee is and that sometimes we all get too wrapped up in our own world and lose sight of other things and people about you.

For those who are not too squeamish, below is the procedure to fix a tear in a meniscus.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Raining Leaves

Yesterday morning I headed out by Lennoxtown and returned along the Strathblane walkway. It was the coldest morning of the winter so far and the sharp frost resulted in a steady stream of golden leaves falling from the trees as I ran back to Lenzie.

Running has been going along okay and my general fitness is improving every week. Last week I decided to remove the small knee support I have had on since August and there has been no discomfort or pain since doing so.

Yesterday's run was 8 miles at an average of 7.40 a mile and I felt very comfortable at that pace. Still no plans for next year and I aim just to keep running 5/6 times a week up to Christmas and see how things are then.

I was reading John Kynaston's blog yesterday and he mentioned the Tour De France and a forthcoming movie following the race. I have always been a keen follower of the race since I started watching it on Channel 4. In the early 80's Channel 4 introduced the British public to the Tour and the main reason they started covering the race - Robert Miller.

Robert Miller was born and raised in Glasgow and went on to become one of the world's greatest mountain climbers winning the King of the Mountains jersey in the Tour and finishing fourth overall. I mentioned to John that the book "Where is Robert Miller " is a must read for any sports fan.

It is a great insight into Miller's early years and his determination to get out of Glasgow and over to Europe to compete with the best. He was a loner who didn't mix with people and had no time for the press or officials. It's a great read and one all aspiring athletes should read as it lays out bare the level of commitment required to get to the pinnacle of any sport.

Surprisingly he agreed to do a documentary for Granada and they followed him for a year on and off as he prepared for the Tour. It was called Back in the High Life Again and the music to the programme was by Steve Winwood singing his song of the same title.

Robert Miller is one of the greatest sportsmen ever to come out of Scotland and reach the very top of his chosen sport. The clips below are of some of the documentary and Winwood singing the song.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Run Forrest Run

Watched Forrest Gump the other night and as well as being a great movie it has a fantastic soundtrack. Winner of 6 Oscars and numerous other awards it follows Forrest through some iconic American history with classic music. Track below is Jackson Browne and Running on Empty which is used when Forrest decides to go running from coast to coast.

One of his memorable quotes is '' life is like a box of chocolates you never know what your gonna get'' - how true.

My own running is plodding along and knee isn't too bad. I am now in my seventh week and running 2 days on 1 off. Longest run has been 8 miles at 8 min miles and yesterday was the first run I have done running between 7-7.30 min miles for 5 miles and felt comfortable.

I am also trying to reduce my weight and have now lost nearly a stone in 7 weeks. This has been achieved by just reducing the amount I eat especially bread and cutting out snacks, biscuits and crisps. That and the running has made the weight loss quite easy.

I will never get back to under 11 stone but somewhere between 11.5 and 12 would be great. This will also help my knee and other joints.

Plan to increase running to 3 on 1 off by mid October if everything is okay.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A busy Summer but not running

It's been a summer of frustration with regards running and an injury spell that has been ongoing since before Christmas when I slipped and twisted my knee. I made the same mistake all runners do and kept trying to run it off. Some injuries you can do that but I should have known sooner to stop and from March onwards I resigned myself to a long period on the side lines.

During the summer months every so often a walk and a jog was enough to tell me it was not right yet. Three weeks ago I started walking and jogging and have been running every second day and today I managed four miles in just under 32 mins.

So we shall see how things progress over the next few months and I have no plans at this moment in time. The Fling and Speyside Way never happened this year and the way things have been running wise I am very reluctant to plan for next year. I will see how things are at the end of the year.

We were in the States in April when the volcano erupted and caused all flights to be cancelled. This caused us to be delayed for 7 days and we were on the first flight out of New York when they resumed flying, arriving back in Scotland less than 24 hours before the start of the Fling. It might have been a nervous time if I had been fully fit and ready to run the race.

Away from running, it has been a very busy summer. I am Captain at Lenzie Golf Club this year and that itself has been just about a full time job. With Craig playing more golf than ever all over the country I remained here with him as Alison and Laura went over to Florida for the summer months. Laura went off to her summer camp as she did last year and spent 2 weeks snorkeling, boating and learning about the dolphins and turtles at Clearwater Marine Aquarium which is a rescue, rehabilitate and release centre.

Craig and I joined them for a few weeks then Craig flew home himself for the first time and even managed to get a free upgrade to BusinessFirst Class over the Atlantic. This is the boy who got lost walking to our local library just 1 mile away but managed to travel by himself from Tampa to New York and then over to Glasgow no problem.

This year he won the Lenzie Junior Club Championship for the 3rd time and he also won the Cawder Club Championship. He is a member there too. Every weekend and also a lot of mid weeks all summer is taken up with going to golf competitions and with me tied up at the golf club as Captain it has meant a lot of juggling things about.

I was not able to watch him win at Cawder as I had to attend an annual challenge match against the New Club in St Andrews, but my friend Gordon was there and he videoed it and sent me text updates all day as it was 36 holes. I played my worst round of golf in years that day as my mind was not on my game but following Craig's match via text messages.

So, hopefully the knee is going to hold up and allow me to get some runs in. I think if I hadn't been so busy with other things I would have been more fed up about the situation.

Above are some photos from our summer. Laura finished primary school with a win at her last sports day and started Lenzie Academy a few weeks ago. While on holiday, we went to our first baseball game and enjoyed the experience. We all had a great time with friends and the evening included beer, hot dogs and ice cream and Laura getting eaten by the team mascot. As we live right on the beach, most nights we a treated to amazing sunsets. The group is ourselves with Bill and Fay Crawford along with Tod and Sharon Roop's 13 grandchildren! Bill and Fay left Kilmarnock for the USA nearly 50 years ago and are our neighbours and friends on Sand Key. Bill and Fay take great care of us when we are over and we arrive to our fridge full of Fay's wonderful home baking. We always leave with Fay's oatie crunchie cookies for the journey home. They do enjoy it when we smuggle over some haggis for them and Cadbury's chocolate and Mars Bars!! Sharon and Tod are friends of Bill and Fay's who we meet up with when we are over. Their 2 daughters and sons-in-law with their 13 children were down visiting them this summer and we all met up once again.

Anyway thats all for now hopefully I can post more often about running matters in the coming months.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Once A Runner

From previous posts I have made, you may see that I read a lot and having recently just had a birthday, my books-to-read pile has got quite large again, thanks to Alison who always finds books from around the world to keep me entertained. 

I have never kept a written record of all my books on running but they are all kept in a couple of large bookcases plus boxes in the loft and are from the late 60's up to recent times. I must have a few hundred books on running from all round the world and I really should start to make some kind of record of what they all are.  All the family are avid readers and both Craig and Laura spend hours in bookshops and libraries and even at a young age they both have 100's of books in their rooms.  Christmas, birthday and holiday money is spent on books and while we are in the States, weekly visits to Barnes and Noble and Borders are a must. 

One I have been looking forward to reading is the sequel to Once a Runner by John L Parker.  The novel, Once a Runner, is reckoned to be the best ever written about running.

I first heard about it maybe 15 years ago and whenever I tried to get a copy, it was out-of print. Alison managed to get me a copy through a book collector and she even got it signed by the author.  It was first printed in 1978 and was in its 9th edition in 2002.  To get an idea of just how highly it is rated, look  it up on Amazon and read the reviews ( I have copied the back page to let you see some of the comments from the major magazines).  At the bottom, you will see the ISBN number and if you ever want to try and order a copy this will make it easier.

I must admit that the first time I read it, I was left wondering what all the fuss was about and why it was so highly thought of.  However, at Christmas I decided to have another read at it and I must admit it is a superbly written novel and if you manage to get a copy you will not be disappointed.  It has taken 29 years to release a sequel and  last night I started reading Again to Carthage.  It has a lot to live up to.  

Other books I received for my birthday were Bikila- Ethiopia's Barefoot Olympian and Dick Beardsley's autobiography Staying the Course: A Runner's Toughest Race.  Dick Beardsley was the joint winner of the first ever London Marathon who went on to run one of the greatest marathon races in history - ''The Duel in the Sun'' (another book I have in my collection) against Alberto Salazar in the 1982 Boston Marathon.  He lost by 2 seconds in a time of 2 hrs 08 53 and became a household name in the world of marathon running.  Beardsley had a near fatal accident a few years later and never recovered his running form. From that point on he became a drug addict and had years of problems before getting his life back on track.  This is his story about being one of the best long distance runners of the early 80's, his ascent to the depths of despair with injuries and drugs and, finally, his recovery.

My collection of running books span 4 decades and covers dozens of athletes like Jim Alder - Marathon and Chips, David Bedford (200 miles per week), Derek Clayton (another 200 miles per week man), Gordon Pirie - The Imposssible Hero, Bill Adocks - The Road To Athens and the bible of distance running - The Long Hard Road  by the incomparable Ron Hill. 

I have always said if any young man wants to become serious about distance running, then Ron Hill's book is a must read. It is all there, including the training, mistakes and details of his successes covered in 2 books ( it was too big to be printed as one). I must have read both books a dozen times and they are starting to show their age now (26 years old).  Even now the training and times he was running 40 years ago is rarely matched by today's top British distance runners.  Maybe they should have a read and see just how much training and racing he was doing while working full time.  Ron Hill won the European Marathon Championship in Athens (1969) and was the first Briton to win the Boston Marathon (1970). His peak came when he won the Commonwealth Games marathon at Edinburgh in 1970 with a time of 2hrs.09 mins, setting a world best. He only managed to finish 6th in the 1972 Olympics just out sprinting Scotland's Don McGregor on the track and was bitterly disappointed, in fact devastated.  World records for 20 miles  in 1 hr 36 , 10 miles, 15 miles and 25 km have all made him one of the greatest distance runners this country has ever had.  I still follow his monthly blog which you can find with a link from his clothing web site and he is still running every day. He has not missed a day's running since 1964.  I had the privilege of meeting this great athlete at a question and answer night at Cambuslang Harriers some 15 years ago.  During his talk, Ron Hill mentioned that he had only competed twice in Scotland (Ben Nevis hill race and the Commonwealth Games).  After his talk, I approached him and reminded him that he had actually ran 3 times in Scotland - he also ran a one mile track race at the Fort William highland games.  I won't tell you what I got called when I repeated this when I got home!  A huge regret is that I did not take my copies of his 2 books with me to get them signed.

Anyway, enough rambling for tonight.  Off to bed for a read of Return to Carthage!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Open day success

Below is a copy of the email I sent out to everyone who helped on Sunday and made it such a success.

Well,what can I say. What a day for all members of Lenzie Golf Club. Today every prediction,hope and arm scribbling estimate was blown to pieces. Today was a huge day for the Club and  I don't think anyone would have predicted such a success, but it shows what can be done by all working together. It was great to see everyone working and pulling in the same direction and selling the Club to all who came today-fantastic and a great buzz in the club was evident throughout.

I would like to say a huge thank you to all who helped today,from the smartly dressed Juniors greeting the visitors all the way through to Barry and his staff in the kitchen you all gave 100%-well done,you all did the Club proud.

I would like to thank Bob and Roy for their help,as since November they have helped me plan today and thanks also to Billy McCartney who helped me get the idea started. I especially would like to thank Jim who has helped me from start to finish and to pull it all together-many thanks and your support was much appreciated.

The figures for today are as follows:

Gents 69
Ladies 9
Juniors 23
Youths 2
Social 6

Total 109


We must now work hard to keep these members this year and that is very important. New members night is on the 26th of March and we will start looking at ways to help integrate them into the Club and encourage them to become involved. We need to remember that if every new member spends £50 in the club that is another £5000 that we did not have at the start of the season.

On another note our visitors summer special is going great and we will now put up banners in place of the open day ones.

Once again a big thank you to all.


Friday, 19 February 2010

A beautiful day on the Way

Yesterday I ran and walked from Balmaha to Rowardennan and back. Running with me was my friend Hamish and we had set out with the intention of just walking the route, but we decided to run every so often. The weather was perfect with not a ripple on the water and it made for some nice photos. The walk/run went fine apart from a bit of discomfort in the knee that has been a problem since December.  I was fine today with just some general stiffness.
Hamish did great as he has never ran or walked on that sort of terrain and certainly never for over 3 hours but he seemed to really enjoy it.  Nevertheless he was glad to sit down in the car at the end.

It was good to be out on the Way on a calm day. Sometimes we tend to forget that Scotland is such a beautiful place and only a short drive from the city centre.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The race that Eats its Young

A few weeks ago I was reading a chapter of the book Running Through the Wall and came across a race that in 23 years only 8 people had completed and the course record is over 55 hours for 100 miles! The race is called The Barkley Marathon.
After reading about this race I decided to look at just what it is that makes it the world's toughest 100 miler.
Course designer Gary Cantrell was inspired upon hearing about Martin Luther jnr's assassin, James Earl Ray, escaping from prison and only getting 8 miles in 55 hours of running in the woods. He said to himself "I could do at least 100 miles".  Thus the Barkley Marathon was born.
It is held in the Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee sometime in April with unpredictable weather and if you have seen The Blair Witch Project, then that is what it looks like but with hills - lots of them.  The thought of wandering about in the dark out there is enough to make you say "f..k that".

To give you an idea of the standard of athletes running in this event, I am going to set out the achievements of two men who have completed the race and their mind blowing performances outside of  The Barkley.

Brian Robinson, the current record holder at 55 hours in 2008, set a record for completing the 3 major n-s US trails in a single calendar year.  The Appalachian, The Continental Divide and The Pacific Coast, a total of 7400 miles in 300 days - 25 miles every day!

Andrew Thomson in 2009 finished with a time of 57 hours and he holds the record for the fastest single attempt on the Appalachian Trail, completing all 2160 miles in 47 days - 46 miles every single day !!!

The reason I wanted to list the achievements of these runners is for you to see that some of the best ultra runners in the world just make it inside the 60 hour limit when doing the Barkley.

Entry is a secret and you need to email the director with an essay saying " Why I should be allowed to run the Barkley".  If selected, you then get an entry and the fee is $1.60.  Yes, $1.60 and an old car license plate from your home state.  You are only told the actual race day once you get accepted and start time is 1 hour after a conch shell is blown at the camp.  Maps are only given out the day before so you can't train on the route.

Here is the real killer - it's 5 laps with 2 unmanned stations with only water and you have to find 9 books and take a page from each as proof that you have completed each lap.  The thought of going back out into the wilderness having just completed 1,2 or 3 laps is just too much for most runners and hence the high drop out rate.  In 2009, 35 started and only 11 runners finished 2 laps then only 3 finished the 3rd lap but only Andrew Thomson started the 4th lap to do the last 40 miles on his lonesome. 

The course route has names such as Zip Line, Chimney Top, The Bulger, Rat Jaw, Testicle Spectacle, Squire Knob, Leonards Butt Slide and Little Hell which alone has a climb of 1500 feet in 0.6 of a mile at a 50% grade.  The total climb for the race is 53,000 feet and the same decsent, making it more than any other 100 mile race in the world. 

In 2001 David Horton and Blake Wood became the first Americans to complete the Barkley and it is their run that is described in Running Through the Wall. They started at 9.00am on the Saturday and finished at 7.30pm on the Monday night and UltraRunning Magazine chose their performance as one of the most notable of the year.

It's not just the severe course that stops runners finishing.   It's the mental torture thinking about another lap of hell, the cold, the dark and the lack of sleep causing them to become lost and failing to find the 9 books.

This is one race I would certainly be giving a wide berth as The  Blair Witch Project scared me shitless!

A Captain's Posting

Last night I became Captain of Lenzie Golf Club and I have to say what a huge honour and privilege it is.  I have a busy year ahead of me fullfilling my duties and representing the club as Captain and it is one that I am looking forward to.  It is hard financial times for all golf clubs at this moment in Scotland with falling and ageing membership which will make for a challenging year. One of the first things I am doing is to have a Open Day on the 21st of February between 12 -5pm. We are advertising in the press and on the radio as well as locally. The deal on the day is join for £1.00 (one day only ) and pay the annual subscriptions as normal. We have also introduced some great summer visitor packages and all are detailed in our web site
Thats the golf diversion over and normal running ramblings will resume.
Reading about a incredible 100 mile race at this moment and will post more about it in a few days. It's not for the faint-hearted. Course record 55 hours, only 8 finishers in over 20 years and the ladies record is not a time but 66 miles -the maximum distance that has been covered in the race !!!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Making plans for the summer

For the first time since before Christmas I have managed a few runs with the knee holding up, but sitting here reading various blogs about getting in 30+ mile runs,  I realise that no matter what I do now there is simply not enough time left for me to do anywhere near the training I was wanting to do for this year's Fling.

Since the 25th of January, I have walked, jogged and ran 68 miles.  Last Thursday I completed my first run without walking -4 miles and same on Friday and with 6 miles today in just under 50 mins and it was good to be running. The knee is not 100% but it is now possible to run and not be limping about in pain afterwards.

My original plan was to run the Fling as my first ultra but at the beginning of December when things were going along okay I entered a 50 km trail run in Florida called the Crooms Trail Run.  It is on the 3rd of April and I was planning to use it as my last long training run prior to the Fling when I am over there for the Easter holidays.

So at this moment I have decided to take it one day at a time with my training and I am not going to try and cram in runs and miles.  I will make up my mind mid-April with regards the Fling.  The run in Florida is still an option but that will also be left to the last minute and is dependent on what distance I am covering in  one go prior to going over to States.

Last week I sent off an entry form for the Speyside Run in August, so if things don't work out I have got some other options later in the summer.  I am also thinking about the Lairig Ghru in June.  The Ayr run in September is also an option and again I will see how other things pan out leading up to that one.

One of the things that has been in the back of my mind since I decided to do the Fling has been the distance for my first ultra - 53 miles.  Maybe the Lairig and Speyside at 28 miles and 35 miles are a more realistic target, especially starting from where I am now (longest run has been 16 miles way back on the 12th of December).  Time will tell.

So the tentative spring/summer plan is:
Crooms Trail 3 April 50 km
Fling 24 April 53 miles ???!!!
Lairig Ghru 27th June       28 miles
Speyside       28th Aug        35 miles
Ayr               18th Sep        44 miles  ???

It looks a lot but there are a few question marks and 2 out of the 5 is possibly a more realistic target.  

Monday, 25 January 2010

Ultra legends from the 80s

Nothing much to report on the running front as the  knee is still goosed and unless things improve this year's Fling might be getting flung, but I will see how things go in the next few weeks.  While I was digging in the loft for my LA Marathon video, I found a pile of old home videos with races from the early 90s - mainly Springburn Harriers' races but also Edinburgh- Glasgow Relay races and quite a few National Cross Country Championships.   There is also a relay from Bishopbriggs to the top of Ben Lomond.   I know a few of the harriers want some copies, so I will try and get them transfered onto disc.

A few weeks ago I was reading the latest issue of PB and enjoyed the article on the top 10 Scottish ultra moments by Adrian Stott.  I have to agree with Adrian that, without doubt, Don Ritchie is the greatest ultra runner this country has produced and his 100km record in 1978 is regarded as one of the greatest distance runs of all time - 6 hours 10 min 20 sec (av pace 5.59 per mile). 

I was lucky to see him perform in the 80s and in 1983 watched Donald run at Coatbridge when he broke the 200km world best in terrible conditions - gale force winds and horizontal rain battered him all day and night.  I left the track late at night as he raced around the track with only a tee shirt and shorts to protect him from the elements, while the rest of the field were all wrapped up in full wet suits.  As I lay in bed that night and listened to the rain battering the window, I thought nobody would continue, but as I entered the stadium early the next morning there was Donald still lapping in the same attire!  A truly incredible performance which got zero coverage from any newspapers in Scotland but without doubt he is one of the top ultra legends of the 20th century.

During the 80s another ultra legend appeared - South African Bruce Fordyce.  In 1978 when we lived in South Africa I ran my first ultra, well 14 miles of it as I was my dad's seconder during the Comrades Marathon and I ran the last 14 miles to help him get to the finish in Durban.  The Comrades at that time had about 3000 runners and each runner, if they wanted, could have helpers following them with drinks etc but as the fields grew this was withdrawn due to huge traffic jams.  We had relatives living near the start and my uncle offered to take me on his moped with buckets over each handlebar and rucksacks full of drinks and food to allow us to get about easier.  As the field set off, we jumped onto the bike and shot off in the dark down quiet back streets that my uncle knew and that is one of my memories of that fantastic day, holding onto my uncle as we bombed along in the darkness out to catch the runners as they appeared down the hill at Polly Shorts as the sun started to rise.  The atmosphere during the race some 32 years ago with 3 000 runners was great and now with over 15 000 it must be incredible.

There were a few things that caused the race to become so popular and one was the tv coverage that started in the 80s when the whole race was covered from start to finish.  The other main reason was Bruce Fordyce - the king of the Comrades.  Bruce was the master tactician and thrilled the crowds and tv viewers with his surge in the second half of the race and flew past everyone as they dropped like flies.  I have videos of Fordyce racing in the Comrades from 82-86 and his run of 1986 is one of the ultra runs of the century. He set a new course record for the  down race ( it alternates each year) of 5 hrs 24.07 that was to last 21 years!  It was finally broken in 2007 by Russian Leonid Shvetsov, a man who had finished 13th in the Athens Olympic Marathon and we need to remember Fordyce set the record when athletics was still an amateur  sport.

Fordyce won the Comrades 9 times, including 8 in a row, but he was not a one race man and he also won the London to Brighton 3 times, beating the likes of Don Ritchie and Ian Thomson (2 hrs 9 min marathon runner).  Fordyce did the double 3 times by winning both in the same year. He set a world best for 50 miles during the 1983 London to Brighton passing the 50 mile marker in 4 hrs 50.21 and then the next year went to Chicago and ran an American all-comers record of  4 hrs 50.51 which gave him the two fastest times in the world.  A time of 6 hrs 25 min gave him the world best for 100km on the road in 1989 but it was his runs in the Comrades that made him, in my opinion, the greatest ultra runner of the last 30 years.

The video below shows the closest race in the history of the Comrades and the man who collapses just before the line is Tommy Malone from Shettleston who was a club mate of my father when they were boys running for Shettleston Harriers in the 50s.  Tommy emigrated to South Africa in the 60s and in the year previous to this dramatic finish, he won the Comrades at his first attempt and was attempting to retain it when he collapsed 80 yards from the line and lost by 1 second!  Later, when we went to live in South Africa, Tommy was still running and we used to meet up regularly at road races.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

A good read-"From last to first".

Yesterday I went for a walk and did some easy jogs every 10 min as I have been struggling with my left knee since Christmas Day. This is the first time in over 30 years running I have ever been injured with a sore knee and it didn't even happen while running. It gradually has improved and after yesterday there doesn't seem any soreness in the knee, so easy walking and jogging for a few more days yet. 

Last night I finished reading Charlie Spedding's autobiography "From Last to First" and it was a very enjoyable read, with the chapter on his bronze medal at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 giving us an insight into his involvement in, in my opinion, the greatest Olympic  marathon of all time.  In 1984, the field assembled contained all of the world's best including Salazaar, De Castella, Seko, Lopes, Inkangaa, the So twins, Dixon and many others. Spedding was certainly not one of the favourites, but on that day Charlie ran the race of his life and with a strong belief that he was going to perform well, he reached the pinnacle of his career.  I remember screaming at the tv as he hit the front with 5 miles to go and was just about sprinting as the big guns hung  on and then one by one dropped off  leaving just 3 in the race for medals.  Brendan Foster was doing his usual commentary  for the BBC but he couldn't contain himself as Charlie is his clubmate and longtime friend and was screaming "Charlie's sprinting, go Charlie, sprint, sprint"- they still had 5 miles to go!  Sitting on his shoulder was Lopes, who Spedding mentions in his book and he writes that at this point it was as if Lopes wasn't even breathing.   The 3 left included Ireland's John Tracey, one of my boyhood running heroes, running in his first marathon. That day Lopes was awesome and strolled away to win gold in a Olympic record and Tracey outsprinted Spedding on the track to take silver in his marathon debut with Charlie collecting bronze.  But that scene where Charlie went for it to destroy the remaining runners and guarantee himself a medal sticks with me to this day. I have the full marathon on tape and intend to sit down this weekend at some point and watch those last 5 miles again now that I have read his book. It's hard to believe it was 26 years ago but it still remains my favourite Games with some of Britain's all time greats competing - Coe, Ovett, Cram and Thomson, .  It was the first one to become a commercial success and from that day on there are countries desperate to hold the Olympics when bidding is started every 4 years.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Snow? what snow ?

                                                              Sunset on Christmas Day
                                                        Laura finishing 2nd in the 1 mile
                                                            After the 5 km road race
                                                             Down on beach after race  
                                               Memorial Bridge where the race goes over
                                                                     Christmas Day
Tuesday 5th January
Happy New Year to everyone and  good luck in 2010 with all your schedules, ambitions and races.  No posts for a few weeks as we have been over at our beach home in Florida at Sand Key on the  the Gulf Coast. We left on the 18th of December and it was -4 as we boarded the plane and today we returned to -6 and six inches of solid ice and snow on our roads and pavements.  As I looked at Sky News during our holiday, I kept saying "it will be all gone by the time we return no problem". How wrong was I?  While I was over in the States they had their worst storm for over 10 years in Washington and the Eastern Seaboard up to Maine with snow falls of up to 26 inches.  In New York with over 12 inches of snow, they had the city roads and pavements mostly clear within 12 hrs with no snow in sight.  The city pays $12 for volunteers to help clear the streets and with huge blowers and snow melting equipment they leave streets and pavements clear and safe for people to walk on.  

Arriving home today, I was shocked to see the appalling conditions the local councils have left the roads and pavements in when they are always preaching about health and safety in all walks of life.  To see elderly people holding onto walls and lamp posts or staying in as they are scared to venture out in this skating rink, is a national disgrace. To be running out of salt after 2 weeks of snow and ice is unbelievable.  If it was 2 months, I could see how the problem would arise.

That's me got that off my chest but for the last 16 days we didn't have to worry about snow, though it did get cold a few days as we had some cold fronts sweeping down from up north (cold was 58-62). Christmas Day was 71 degrees and nice beach weather.

This year we ran a 5 km race in Clearwater on our first morning after arriving.  Last December all 4 of us ran the annual Clearwater Say No To Drugs Holiday Classic and we all enjoyed the race and atmosphere and were looking forward to this year's event.  Unfortunately, it was the worst organized registration for a race I have ever taken part in and for the first time ever, I missed the start of a race. We had pre-entered in early November and all we had to do on the day was pick up our numbers, chips, long sleeved shirts and goodie bags and make our way to the start at 8 am. Arriving at 7 .10 am the lines were huge and after 1 hour we still hadn't got anything and there were still hundreds behind us in the queue ( 1,700 ran the race, 800 more than last year) when they announced the start was being delayed till after 8.15 am. As we were putting on our chips and getting ready to go to start some 300-400 yards away the bloody horn went off and the race started, even though there were hundreds still waiting for their numbers. Alison ran off to get to the start but I was in two minds whether to bother as I was desperate for the toilet after standing in the queue for over an hour, so I walked over to the start and joined in nearly 3 mins after the horn had sounded. It is a nice scenic run over the Memorial Bridge into Clearwater Beach and back to the park where we had started.  They were also holding a 1 mile race for kids and Laura finished 2nd in the race overall.  I ran through the field till I caught Alison and we ran the rest of the way together. Times were slow as it was very hard to get past the mass of bodies, but Alison's chip time put her 4th in her age group while mine was some 8 mins slower than last year where I was 3rd in 45-49 age group. After the race there was a free pancake breakfast with fruit, muffins and drinks.  The problem was that they were not ready for such large numbers and didn't have enough officials at registration and they ran out of  goody bags, shirts and food at breakfast.

Apart from the mess at check in, we still had a good morning and Laura was presented with her ribbon for second and we all enjoyed the breakfast afterwards.  Craig held the gear this year as he said" he is too big to run the mile and too unfit to run the 5 km this year".

Craig and I played 7 rounds of golf this holiday and Craig was easily the Christmas Champion winning 6-1 in games. I ran 6 times the first week out there all in shorts and tee-shirts but my running the second week was just about non-existent, as I slipped at golf and twisted my knee which became painful when I tried to run on it, so it was another blank week as I decided to rest it. Now that we are back hopefully I can get some runs in if I can find some black tarmacadam to run on!

Yesterday just before we left Sand Key I spoke to a friend who lives about 30 mins away inland but was working nearby, he had to scrape ice off his car windscreen in the morning as the temperature had dropped to freezing in some parts inland. So if you only have been in Florida during the summer you would not believe how cold it can occasionally be.

On a finishing note, we started  our holiday with a race and finished with a race but yesterday's race was not as scenic or as enjoyable.  Our flight from Tampa was 2 hours late getting into New York and we had 15 mins to get the only flight to Glasgow that there is each evening at 7.50pm. It was Sod's law that the Tampa flight landed at a gate at the opposite end of Newark airport so we were as far away as possible from the Glasgow departure gate and it left us with a good half mile plus to run to the gate. I ran ahead and Laura kept up as we ran down to the gate, arriving just as they were about to close the gate and they had already changed the gate overhead to read 'Los Angeles' which was the next flight out of that gate.  If we had not ran and managed to board at the last minute, we would have been stuck in New York until we could get onto a flight with 4 available seats to somewhere in the UK. Once on the plane Craig was limping and groaning he had twisted his ankle  sprinting and Alison spent the first half hour with a sick bag in front of her feeling ill with all the stress and that was before we had to slip and slide home from Glasgow Airport. 

At the airport, my father-in-law lost his car in the multi-storey  and we were wandering about for 20 mins in minus 6 degrees looking for a bloody Mondeo on either level 1,2 or 3! 

Once on the M8 his visibility was zero due to his screenwash being frozen and it was getting to the stage where we were going to have to stop on the hard shoulder and wipe it clean when Alison said she had the remains of a bottle of water from Tampa airport and came up with the idea of me leaning out the front passenger window and squirting the water onto the windscreen.  We did this from Glasgow to Lenzie with the water running out as we came into Lenzie.  Glad to be back?