It had been three years since my last Half Marathon, and in all honesty I wasn’t feeling terribly prepared for a grand return to long distances. I suspect I could count on two hands the number of runs over 14km I’ve done since the start of the pandemic. However, undeterred by this realisation I had set myself the slightly ambitious goal of cutting ten minutes off my previous personal best, and running the distance in 90 minutes.

Training, it should be said, had not been thorough, and I’d only put one run longer than 15km in in the last month, thanks to too much travel and too much hill-walking. However, I’d had a couple of good and fast runs in the last month or so, including the 5 mile Outrun in Kelvingrove Park where I’d shaved a substantial amount of time off a previous best, and a 10km training run a couple of weeks before where I somewhat inexplicably set a 10km PB one Saturday morning.

I had a well thought-out pacing strategy for the run, written on a tiny piece of paper, which I’d tried to learn last night, a couple of gels and some midget gems in my pockets, and I was ready to go. I arrived in George Square with ample time, dropped my bag, and made my way to the white wave assembly area quite early. I’d forgotten just how crowded it would get in the ten minutes before the starting gun, and was able to briefly enjoy the atmosphere without needing to watch out for people standing on my feet!

The race started at 1050, lead by Callum Hawkins (who I imagine led the whole way around, finishing a bit before me, in 1 hour and 3 minutes), and headed up the hill of St Vincent Street. Just at the crest of the hill there was a rock choir. The atmosphere, in true Glasgow, and especially in Great Scottish Run, fashion, was excellent. The weather, in slightly less true Glasgow fashion, was also excellent.

In previous years this stretch into Finnieston has been one of my favourites of the race; you always get good crowds out along the road here, and 2022 proved to be no exception. From here the route took us down past the Skypark and onto the slip road for the Kingston Bridge. There is nothing else quite like it in the Scottish racing calendar that I know of; running across a motorway bridge which rises high above the River Clyde. This was probably the only point on the while run where the wind was making itself felt too. About half way across the bridge I had caught up with the 90 minute pacer, and by the time I was off the bridge and onto Scotland Street I’d overtaken him.

From here the route tends to be a bit quieter; it runs through a less residential area for a while as it passes through the industrial areas around Shields Road, but eventually emerges into the leafy suburbs of Pollok, where residents again tend to line the streets. I was running well along here, but failed to really take on any of the water I’d been given at the water station, and ended up carrying the bottle until I got to the park where I could dispose of it safely. When the race entered the park its character changed. It runs on the paths through the park, which undulate more than the road outside, and are narrower with fewer places for spectators, for the most part. An impressive exception to this was at the Burrell Collection, which in years gone by was a water station (I think). Here both sides of the road were lined with spectators.

The race wound through Pollok Park for around 2 miles, and then emerges close to the motorway once again, crossing above it before then heading across towards Bellahouston Park. In a change to previous billing the route went past the entrance to the park, and along a spur, before doubling back to the park entrance. I was starting to flag a little by this point, but I was still keeping good pace; it was becoming clear that I’d probably headed out a bit too fast, but things were still under control. As I passed the park entrance the first time I heard my name being called out, but didn’t manage to make out who it was; when I’d doubled-back on myself I realised it was the first Westie I’d seen out today; Chris.

I made my way through the park. In previous years I’ve always disliked the section of the run through Bellahouston Park, and this year was no different. It just seems to involve a lot of snaking-around paths. However, the support here was good, and then as I passed the leisure centre I saw my second Westie of the day, Helen. I did my best to take a gel at this point, realising that I should probably have been taking-on nutrition before now, but with 7km to go it felt like a case of better late than never.

From here it’s plain sailing back to the Green, along the long straight boulevard of Paisley Road West, where again people were out cheering, and up past Festival Park to the Squinty Bridge. This was a slight change with the last couple of times I’d done the route, and presumably the source of the doubling-back situation; previously the race had gone along Atlantic Quay, but this year it went straight across the bridge. I spotted Finn from Ruchill just as I came off the bridge.

I was then on the Broomielaw, and really starting to flag. In my previous GSR I’d had to stop to catch my breath here, and been overtaken by a colleague, which put a bit of a dampener on the overall achievement. Things weren’t that bad this time, though I was in a fairly large amount of pain in my left foot (I persuaded myself I’d pulled a tendon; it turned out to be a blister [I’m not at all prone to blisters]), but I could tell the tank was almost empty. Passing under the Kingston Bridge I was vaguely aware that I was feeling a bit faint, and would spend the rest of the run keeping my head up and looking forwards.

I was running on fumes as the race crossed the George V Bridge (another change compared to 2019), and while I’d have rather liked a great sprint finish from Glasgow Bridge and onto the Green, it wasn’t happening; my legs were content to keep their current pace and no more. As I passed the High Court and headed as fast as my legs were prepared to carry me I spotted yet another Westie, John Quinn, and then did what I could to put my head down and empty the already empty tank.

I crossed the finish. In 1 hour, 29 minutes, and 11 seconds. Shaving 11 minutes off my previous PB. It turns out that consistently attending hill rep sessions really does pay dividends. What they don’t do is teach you why it’s a bad idea to cycle to the start line, when there’s no guarantee that your legs will be prepared to move in anything other than a running gait for the rest of the day.

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