Sunday 7th June and all roads led to Balloch on the shores of Loch Lomond for the fourth and final 10k in the Polaroid Series. Although the route has changed over the years, what has remained constant is the 1k climb through the local park to a height of 62m. The difference these days is that it’s preceded by a less grueling 1k ascent from the shores of the popular Loch.
For whatever reason, I didn’t have much appetite for the race but after warming up with a couple of clubmates, I joined in with approximately 700 other runners for the 10am Start. I started next to Shettleston’s Charlene McCallum, who, as well as being a photography model, is one of the most improved runners that I know. Over the last eight years, her hard training has provided results, to such an extent that she’s now disappointed not to have bettered her PB of 41:24 achieved at Cambuslang on 1st March and matched at Clydebank last week. She congratulated me on my progress too before the gun fired and we set off, away from the Loch.
My plan this week was to run a bit more conservative at the beginning and to have a stronger second half than at Clydebank. Despite this, I just didn’t feel right as we made our way up into Balloch and across the River Leven. I thought about pulling out but I soon ditched this negative thinking as we turned left into the park and concentrated, instead, on the task at hand. Climbing up the hill! Charlene had already opened up a large gap on me but It wasn’t too long until I caught up with Louise Couper and we ran together to the crest of the hill. I could also see Mary Senior in front of us, apparently making light of the hill as she raced away.
We turned right and started our descent, I was confident of having a good third kilometre and I did but it wasn’t as good as Louise’s and I couldn’t keep up with her on the steep downhill section. Another right turn had taken us into Mollanbowie Road and another into Drymen Road. After that we turned left into Carrochan Road and over the roundabout to the 4k point. Fellow Bellahouston Harrier, Derek Shand overtook me at this point and although I had lost sight of Charlene, Louise and Mary, I was still feeling positive and knew that I was having a good run.
We continued along the A813, veered right, and it became Main Street we ran past Jameston Primary School and reached the halfway point. We then crossed another roundabout and continued along to Bridge Street, where a sharp right, at the 6k point, took us back over the River Leven. where an, even sharper, right turn took us down onto the river bank. There were a lot of supporters congregated along the bridge and I could hear my name being shouted. I might not always show it but this support really helps me when I’m racing.
The sun was shining as we joined the river walkway and I grabbed a bottle of water at the drinks station. A quick wet of the tongue and then an exhilarating shower ensued. I was feeling refreshed now and managed to hold off strong challenges from a couple of runners, including Garscube’s Aileen Wilson. The next two and a half kilometres, along the riverside, should have been pretty easy and uneventful, if the weather hadn’t taken a turn for the worse! The skies opened up and the heavy rain was accompanied by a strong head wind. The path was laden with large puddles and the pack of runners, ahead of me, had reverted to a single file.
With 1500m to go, we left the riverside and started the ascent of Balloch Road, or, more precisely, it’s undulating pavements. I worked hard and it wasn’t long until I caught up with Charlene and she asked me to help her tackle the final kilometre. We crossed yet another roundabout and made our way along Old Luss Road.
I could now see Mary Senior in the distance but she then disappeared, as the route turned right. A piper was playing and I knew that the finish line was close. I turned onto the final strait and could hear my name being called by supporters in the distance. I gave it my all over those last two hundred metres, or so, catching a handful of runners and finally Mary before crossing the Finish in 153rd position, with a time of 42:40.
Although I was disappointed with my time, I knew that the course had been difficult. I had also finished 43 places up on Clydebank and 50 up on Helensburgh. I had beaten my course PB by 66 seconds and placed fourth M55. So, on reflection, my time was not as bad as I had initially thought. In fact, it was enough to take my RunBritain handicap down to 8.0, the lowest it’s ever been. Not too bad a way to end my 57th year.
Repeating our recent race at Helensburgh, Mary had much to smile about, her chip time had been two seconds faster than mine, she had placed third female V40 and she had led her female V40 team to third place in the overall series. Louise had placed second V40 in the race, with a time of 41:41, 61 seconds slower than Clydebank and Dumbarton. Derek Shand had finished with a time of 41:48 (43 seconds slower than Clydebank). Charlene had placed 160th with 42:46 and Aileen two places behind in 42:55.
In a good race and series for Bellahouston Harriers, Jack Arnold had been first Bella over the line, in 8th place, with a time of 33:56. Steven Prentice second, in 13th place and 3rd Vet. Bella men won the third team place but the best result goes to Paul Clawson who managed to cut his best time by 15 seconds to get a PB of 35:44.
Bella women were no less successful, with Erica Christie’s Season’s Best of 43:19 earning her Silver in the V50 Cat and helping her lead Kristina Greig and Emily Jackson to Silver in the women’s team event.
Shettleston’s Eritrean Tewoldeberhan Mengisteab won the race and the series, with a time of 31:01, three seconds ahead of Cambuslang’s Robert Gilroy. Paul Sorrie placed third in 31:42 and his clubmate Michael Deason ensured that the team prize went to the east end of Glasgow by placing fourth in 32:27.
Irvine AC’s David Millar, once again, won the V40 category, with a chip time of 32:55; Cambuslang’s Chris Upson the V50 cat, with 35:49 and Greenock Glenpark’s Robert Wilson was first V60, with 39:09.
Central AC’s Lyndsay Morrison made it a clean sweep for the series, by winning with a time of 36:07 (31st overall), ahead of Shona McManus with a time of 38:17 and Shettleston’s Carole Setchell (38:41).
Dumbarton’s Melissa Wylie won the V40 race, with a time of 39:08; Pamela McCrossan the V50 cat in 41:48 and Beth McLafferty the V60 event with her time of 47:44.
Post Race and Thanks
Again it was great to see so many friends and running buddies and, after my initial doubts, I ended up having a great time. That’s the series over for this year but it promises to be even better in 2016, when it celebrates its 30th anniversary. Until then adieu to the series and thanks to all involved in any of the four races.
Pics by Iain Burke and Maggie Reid