Snap Happy Times in Helensburgh

I signed up this year for the Polaroid Series of 10k Road Races for the eighth time, having first ran the, four race, series in 2001 and lastly in 2011.  Before leaving home, I checked my Helensburgh course PB and was a bit surprised to see that it was as fast as 43:00. After last week’s Troon performance, I was hoping to get another course PB but that would mean running my second sub 43min 10k in succession, something that I’ve never done before.

I picked up a couple of club mates and headed down the Firth of Clyde to Helensburgh, the seaside town established in 1776, which was once the home of a quarter of Britain’s millionaires and Conservative Prime Minister Bonar Law.  Oh how times have changed!

We were welcomed on arrival by local club runner, Madeline Robinson, on marshal and car park duties, at the Race HQ, Hermitage Academy.

It was clear as soon as we arrived that the field would be a lot stronger than that at Troon with Derek Hawkins, Tewoldebeberhen Mengistgab and Michael Deason already there, as well as Lyndsay Morrisson, Jenny Bannerman and Carole Setchell.

I chatted with loads of friends, including a number that had also been at Troon, collectied my sun glasses (for registering for the series) and did my warm up with Louise Couper. Since Louise’s twin sister Claire emigrated to Canada, the Stirling based runner has really came into form and ran the testing Kinross 10k two weeks ago in an impressive time of 41:25.

We lined up with the other 737 runners, including a strong contingent from Bellahouston Harriers.  I removed a chip from inside my shoe and double tied my laces as we listened to the pre race announcements. Louise warned me of the speed bumps and we set off, in the sunshine, at 7:30pm.

Not only was our first kilometre hampered by numerous speed bumps but also a crowded field, four sharp turns, a hill and bollards along the wooded section of Drumfork Road. Not surprisingly my time was down from Troon’s 4:03 to 4:14 but this didn’t phase me, if I could maintain that pace for the rest of the race, I would be doing very well indeed.  I was also still just behind Louise, which also gave me a degree of confidence that I was doing well.

The next kilometre was slightly down hill and took me 4:06.  Drumfork Road became Redgauntlet Road and then East King Street and my third kilometre took 4:13.

I was still just behind Louise as we turned right and uphill along Sinclair Street. I was surprised to overtake her here and to find myself running just behind Garscube’s Paddy Gibbons.  We turned left along West Montrose Street and Mary Senior appeared on my shoulder.  We played leap frog as we raced along.  The road became Rhu Road Higher, which took us down to the Gare Loch and just beyond the half way point.

It would be great if I could hang on to Mary for as long as possible but my main target was that sub 43min time.

The 6th k was along the waterfront and included the drinks station. It wasn’t particulary hot but the sun had been beating down on us, so I grabbed a bottle of water, unfortunately it wasn’t open, I pulled off the cap, took a small drink and poured some water over my head as we ran along Kidston Drive. I was still slogging it out with Mary and we both seized any opportunity to take the lead but Paddy’s gap on us started to increase. At the 6k point, a left turn took us away from the coast and along Cairndhu Avenue, at the end of which, we turned right onto West King Street, where we were met by an, unexpected, head wind.

Mary and I slog it out

Mary and I slog it out

We could see almost three kilometres ahead of us, it was going to be a long, hard, drag back into the wind.  I was pleased to have kept pace with Mary as far as the 8k point and even more surprised still to be challenging her at 9k.   She was receiving support from her non running club mates, as was someone called “Andrew” close behind us. I was telling myself that there was only 13 minutes of hard work to do and then nine and then less than five.

At the end of the long road, We turned right into Talisman Crescent and then left towards the school. “500 metres to go” someone shouted, two more minutes of arduous work to go and then I noticed Andrew Hardman passing me, on my left hand side.  He and Mary were heading for the Finish ahead of me but I wasn’t for giving up without a fight and I somehow managed to dig deeper still and find an extra gear, enough to outsprint both of them as we turned left and down the final strait.

I crossed the line and looked at my Garmin to see that I had achieved my target of a sub 43min 10k, not only that but I had smashed my Troon time as well, taking 21 seconds off of it to finish with a time of 42:32!

I was shattered as was Mary, we had worked each other hard and she had been the real winner, as she started well behind me and crossed the line with a chip time of 42:22. Good enough for her to place third WV40 and win a prize. For my part, I was delighted with my race and my time.

Happy Chappies with Derek Shand (and Alan Bow)

Happy Chappies with Derek Shand (and Alan Bow)

I exchanged post race chat with numerous friends, including club mate Derek Shand, who had earned a huge PB to finish one second behind me, and Lyndsay Morrisson, Jenny Bannerman and Carole Setchell who had placed 1,2 and 3 in the Women’s Race. Although it hadn’t been all plain sailing, as Lyndsay fell, before the race had even started, and Jenny had ran into a bollard!

Top Three Women

Top Three Women

In the Men’s race there was no surprise with Derek Hawkins taking Gold, ahead of Tewoldebeberhen Mengistgab and Paul Sorrie.

The Leading Group

The Leading Group

Many Bellahouston Harriers had done well, not least of all Laura Ritchie who drove a bulldozer through the 50min barrier, with a time of 48:46. Whilst further up the field, Stevie Prentice had placed second MV40, to Irvine’s David Millar, and joined Jack Heathwood and Jack Arnold in collecting Bronze in the Team Race.

Lachie and Goudie

Lachie and Goudie

As if I wasn’t happy enough with my performance I capped it all off by meeting Scottish Running Legend Lachie Stewart, who won Gold at the 1970 Commonwealth Games and was presenting the race prizes.  All in all a great night.

Many thanks to Helensburgh AAC for putting on such a well organised event.

Pics by Iain Burke

Full Results here


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