We trailed though to Helensburgh for their well organised Half Marathon on Sunday. Never been to that neck of the woods before, and it was a pleasant surprise to drive through Dumbarton and emerge onto a quite scenic little coastal road towards Helensburgh, unlike the more industrial south side of the Clyde estuary….On arrival, there was, as expected, quite a large contingent of west coast clubs, possibly due to the race being part of a West of Scotland championship or something similar.
Anyway, according to the Helensburgh Club website, the course was mostly flat and straight, with the odd undulation but nothing to worry about (the site also mentioned something about PBs on it – ‘an ideal course for a PB’ no less). It is a fairly straightforward route, about 6 miles out of the town on the main road up the Gare Loch to the Naval base, a little figure of 8 involving some hills and an underpass, then turn around and back the way we came, up a small road through the houses then back through the town to the finish.
The route was impeccably laid out on several pages of detailed plans of 1997 vintage like this, which I liked. (copyright Helensburgh website)
As usual I pushed off rather too fast, sitting just a tad slower than 10k pace and kept this going for a bit, hanging into a small group up till about 5 miles. My first random thought was that the course was clearly marked by a garmin-wearer, as each of the mile markers were bang-on, but apparently not – a subsequent reading of the course map and notes reveal that it was measured by ‘calibrated bicycle wheel’ and a ‘Jones Counter’…..the course note also went on to say (in relation to course measurement) that ‘the front tyre was fitted with a solid tyre which has the advantage over a pneumatic tyre in that it is impervious to punctures and shows less change with temperature. It’s disadvantage is the rough ride it affords the measurer’. I like this attention to detail.
Random thought aside, Hayley Haining and a Bellahouston man were running neck-in-neck as they passed heading back into Helensburgh (and I think HH won the race outright). I slowly dropped back from the group and I settled into a more sustainable HM pace, but running pretty much alone for the remainder, which is always a bit of a mental slog. Heading back up into the town, I got a few runners in the distance back into sight, these were two or three who had also drifted from the original group I set out with, but they were still a good 100-150m off, with about 3 miles to go. Some basic mental arithmetic whirring round in my head also suggested that I might manage a PB, even if I slowed my current pace down a bit.
It took some time (accompanied by my now old, familiar friend, upper leg/groin pain) but I managed to catch the first runner about 1.5 miles from the end, taking advantage of a good clattering downhill. Boosted mentally, and back down onto the flat and final approach, I managed to catch another 2 runners, including a Carnegie runner a few hundred yards before the finish line, and it was all over, coming in about 1:29:30 so knocking about a minute off the PB.
Theresa had a less good run than expected, she didnt feel too great at various points of the race and during the race post mortem we put this down to a range of possible causes, the main one being too much or poorly timed sugar intake via gels and suchlike. Who knows?