Sunday, 17 July 2011

Clyde Stride 40 mile Ultramarathon 2011

Not the best start to my day....
I was halfway to Gilmour Street railway station when the heavens opened and got soaked to the skin. When I asked for my ticket to Glasgow I was told the trains were all off and the next rail replacement bus wasn't for 50 minutes. I couldn't afford to wait that long as I knew these buses meander around all the intermediate stations. So i ended up running to the high street and managed to get a bus along to Cessnock to get the underground to Partick. So I was a bit stressed by the time I got here!!
So, the Clyde Stride, 40 miles from Partick Train station to New Lanark following the'Clyde Walkway Route' is this years 6th race of the SUMS. My initial target time was 7.5 hours and was quite confident of doing this. I met a few familiar faces at the start, chatting briefly to Mark Caldwell, Karin McKendrick (who was there supporting her Husband Bill) and Ray McCurdy. I met a few others at the start for the first time today, David Hall, Lee McLean,Victoria O'Reilly and Ali Beattie (thanks for the hug!). There was a good turn out here today with all the regular 'big guns' in attendance. Defending winner Grant Jeans, Lucy Colquhoun (2nd overall last year and who was first lady again this year), Debbie Martin-Consani (who was second lady this year), Sharon Law and Richie Cunningham (who won the WHW again this year), so with this in mind it looked like it would be a great competitive race at the front.
Lee McLean (race director) gave us a quick race brief and walked us round to the start line. The weather had been reported to be stormy today, so like me a lot of runners were carrying their wet weather gear. As it turned out we didn't need it as it was blisteringly hot the whole damn day!!
We were off....and Grant Jeans was out of sight within a minute!! I had started mid pack and was soon into my pace. Within 15 minutes I had taken off my arm warmers and then my Gillet, it was getting very warm, with the sun in our faces for most of the day. The first section was all on tarmac and i covered it fairly easy in 1 hour 28minutes, which was within my target time. By the time I had reached this checkpoint the field was pretty strung out. Got my drop bag, had something to eat, said a quick hi to Karin McK who was attending to Bill and then continued on. For the first section I had managed to run just behind Bill as the pace suited me, but after leaving from here he had pulled away and eventually finished nearly an hour in front of me. Well done. The second section was more to my liking underfoot. It was mainly off road and involved crossing muddy fields with grass up to your shoulders.
The path was easy to follow from all those gone before. I passed a couple of runners on this section. I arrived at the Strathclyde Park Checkpoint in just going on 3 and a half hours, which was still within my projected target of 7.5 hours, but i was feeling a bit jaded from the heat, so I slowed my pace and adjusted my target to 8 hours. I didn't enjoy the next section as I found running in this heat uncomfortable and had to watch my fluid intake in case I ran out well before my next drop bag. I could feel a blister developing in my right foot so slowed again to conserve energy and take a bit more care of my foot. In was on this section I met Jonathan MacKintosh. We walked together for around 2.5 miles to the next checkpoint and chatted about running and races we had done. I discovered one of the things we have in common is that we will both be 40 for next years Fling, so we get an extra hour to run it!! It was great to talk to Jonathan and it passed the time very quickly. We reached the last checkpoint together. By now i had blisters on both feet and it was getting uncomfortable and as much as i wanted to look at them i knew that if i took off my shoes i probably wouldnt have put them back on. So the best thing to do was man up and get on with it. Jonathan left here a few minutes before me.
On leaving here my time was now at 6 hours with 12 miles left. Normally I knew I would cover this distance well under 2 hours but with my feet feeling like I was running on a cheese grater I knew that wasn't going to happen. But rather than walk I managed to get myself into a fast powerwalk / slow jog and put my head down and began covering the miles. Within about 20 minutes I had caught up with and passed Jonathan and another runner. I knew if I had stopped I would have had difficulty in starting to run again, so kept going. This was mainly off road on this section which was kinder on the soles of my feet and I managed to sustain my slow jog pace. The route had been well marked, but it was on this section that I thought I had made a wrong turning at one junction as by now the dirction arrows on the ground had been wiped away from all the foot traffic. One path ran along the river and one, with a Clyde walk way sign, didn't. I took the chance and followed the signposted path. I soon began to question that decision when I saw in the distance a runner on the other path, but kept on mine as it ran parallel to the other and if it came to it I could climb the fence and cut over the field. Luckily about a kilometre further on the paths met. Phew!!
The last few miles were tough from the pain my feet gave me. My legs were fine and the brain was willing. There were a few tough climbs on this section which didn't make it easier. At the top of one really brutal climb I suddnly caught a glimpse of New Lanark through the trees which gave a much need boost. I then caught sight of a couple of runners in front as I decended the road into New Lanark. The sting in the tail with this route is that when you drop down to the Mill and you think its all over, its not!! You have one more climb back up above the site and loop round behind the finish before you rejoin the riverside path to then approach the finish. Down the steps, through the archway, over the grass....the end!!
I found this tough today from the heat and blisters on both feet. Finishing in 8 hours 28 minutes, which is a wee bit disapointing but it's a finish which is always a bonus. A hand shake and a hug from David Hall and Lee McLean (the hug was from Lee i hasten to add) at the finish and a cup of tea. As a finisher today we got a medal and a great technical t-shirt.
Lee had done a fantastic job of organising and running the day and greeting each runner as they finished which was very much appreciated. So was the beer!! So a big, no make that HUGE, well done and thanks to her and her team of marshalls and volunteers for making it an awesome day. I headed to the Mill hotel for a shower, which were were suposed to pay for but I think when the staff saw me limping in they took pity on me and didn't charge me. Bonus. After when I went to get the shuttle bus to the train station I discovered the last one for the night had gone and would have to walk the mile and a half into Lanark. If you know New Lanark then you will know of the monumental hill you have to climb, which after running 40 miles was chuffin brutal!! I collapsed into a seat in the station waiting room and then who of all people shows up? Ray McCurdy. On the train journey to Glasgow I don't think I got more than a dozen words in. Man, Ray can talk!!! But I could listen to Ray for hours talking about his 'millions' of runs.
So an awesome but brutal day. At the start of the year I had set a target of 1200 points from 4 qualifying races of the Sums which I've now managed to get. Hopefully if I can get a couple of good runs at  the Speyside and Raw ultras I can add a wee bit to that. I'm looking forward to watching and following the Devil o the Highlands in three weeks and hopefully running the Helensburgh Half Marathon the day after. So a big well done to all those who ran the Clyde Stride, see at the next race.


  1. looking the t-shirt photo, it looks like the winner with the long white locks trailing behind him!

    nice read, and happy running to you.

  2. Great report and great to meet in person at last! Like the new look blog (been playing around with mine too!) but can you make the text bigger?

    Ali x