The events keep coming just now; the weekend just gone I took part in Glasgow’s Southside Six race.  This sold out in barely 30 minutes – it really is getting increasingly difficult to even sign up for great events like this!

So what is the Southside Six?  The race takes in six parks south of the Clyde.  Starting at Queen’s Park, you head roughly clockwise through King’s Park, Linn Park, Rouken Glen Park, Pollok Country and Bellahouston Parks respectively before coming back into Queen’s Park to finish.

The Route

I was lucky enough to get a lift through from Edinburgh with a fellow runner and Ross County fan, and we arrived safely at Queen’s Park just after 10am.  After picking up the race number there wasn’t much to do but make a last loo stop, and keep warm.  Then off to the flagpole at the top of the park for a (very brief!) race brief that effectively went “It’s on open roads – try not to get run over”, and we were off!

The start is terrific – you lose 25m in no time and there remainder of the first 2km is flat.  This meant I got a little carried away.  I went bounding by the one person I knew there, exchanging pleasantries as I did so, and off into the sunset.

Actually, it was a really nice day, and there really was some sun, as you can even see in the picture below.  This was King’s Park, the first of the day.  It’s pretty much uphill all the way through it, but considering I’d ran Snowdonia the weekend before, I guess I shouldn’t be complaining.  But I’d ran it the week before!

kings-park

To encourage you to follow the route, you get stickers for your number as you pass through each of the six parks, with a different colour for each.  Unfortunately I’ve no idea which colour was for which, but I think it was a silver/grey for Bellahouston because I remember collecting and thinking “it’s not sticky enough!”; the rest is a mystery.  But I digress, I’m not there yet – I did, however, experience that for the first time as I left King’s Park.

The steady incline continued as we make our way to Linn Park, which also marks the 5km point in the race.  By now, I’ll confess to realising I was probably in for a long day as my legs decided they weren’t quite as fresh as I could’ve hoped.  My scheduling really needs some work.  Still, on I went.

The next few miles were undulating, all through to Rouken Glen.  At this point my chauffeur (!) for the morning coasted up alongside me, and we spent the trip through the park chatting about what had passed, how nice the weather was (we’re British, after all) and what was to come (he’d run it last year), attracting a few comments from spectators saying we were far too cheery!  I’m glad I looked it, because I didn’t feel it!  In terms of my placement, I was going very slowly backwards.  Just had to dig in.

It was mostly downhill in the few miles towards Pollok Park, so that helped both my mood and my pace; unsurprising that the two are inextricably linked.  The two busiest road crossings are in this section, the second of which just before entering Pollok Park taking a little bit of time to cross.  I have to say, the traffic all the way round was really kind to us fleshy runners, and there were a few of the latter who didn’t entirely deserve that kindness!  I only heard one horn beeped at a lunatic behind me, and it was probably deserved.

Having ran around Pollok a few times before, and having legs feeling a little unlike themselves at this point (9-12 miles in), I was concerned that the lumpiness might have me suffering some more.  Luckily, the route takes a trail path around the hilly bits and takes you onto Lochinch Road, which you follow out of the park.  Phew!  Bullet dodged.  By now, there was little movement in the field – apart from one person who turned into the woods for some relief – as the runners found their pace and, presumably in some cases, saved a bit of energy for the closing stages.

We entered Bellahouston immediately out of Pollok, and this time, the course does send you up the hill, and via some steps for good measure!  There are quite a few sets of stairs coming into/out of the earlier parks, but this climb, while not steep by any means, is a kick when you didn’t need it, coming as it does 13 miles into a 16 mile race.  Puffed out the cheeks, drove up them to be greeted by a welcome water stop and my dodgy sticker.  Phew!  Then downhill and the last few miles back to Queen’s Park.

By this point I could see The Chauffeur in the distance, and even more interestingly for me, a club mate!  He’d come into view a mile earlier, but my pace was holding good and he was starting to come back to me.  I hope he won’t mind me saying it was nice to pass him!  I’d started making up a few places by now.  I may not have had the pace earlier I’dve liked, but having kept it together somewhat, my marathon stamina kicked in to rescue the day.

Into the park, and getting quite close to The Chauffeur now.  I might get him yet.  I round a corner to face the last 100-150 yards, but I can’t see the finish yet, because there’s a steep set of steps in front of me!  I’d read about them, and now I’d come face to face with them:

The Chauffeur in yellow, as I start the climb
The Chauffeur in yellow, as I start the climb

This didn’t seem too bad as I ascended the steps, but by the time I got to the top to see a slope up towards the finish, I was done.  I got my legs to push for that last little bit but I knew I wasn’t catching my mate, who’d found another gear for long enough to put him out of my reach.  I crossed the line with an official time of 1:54:44, just 4 seconds back and in 39th place (of 304 finishers).

Got to the Top!
Got to the Top!
And to the Finish!
And to the Finish!

I caught up with both of the guys I knew after the race within yards of the finish (my club mate was just a couple of minutes back), and back at Race HQ where there was a delicious selection of cake and other such wonders awaiting.  Soup was had, the race was dissected, and inevitably future races were discussed!  We might have been suffering for our efforts, but we keep wanting more…

Said club mate even kindly gave me a lift back into Glasgow afterwards – excellent stuff!

So, thoughts on the day overall?  Fantastic marshalling all round.  Everyone was really encouraging and enthusiastic, which in turn just makes the whole thing that bit more enjoyable.  Importantly, too, everyone was just where they needed to be.  I don’t know Glasgow at all so I was worried about getting lost, but unlike the Seven Hills of Edinburgh where you choose your own route between checkpoints, this has a set course to follow.

It is a challenging event, but one well worth giving a go if you’re after an adventure following a few big road half/marathons.  It’s largely tarmac with a few trail elements, and the road crossings and steps thrown in gives it a vague feeling of being an obstacle race!  It’s great value considering all the co-ordination that goes into putting the event on, the feed afterward, and even the tech t-shirt and goodie bag with quickly eaten chocolate and haribo.  No question the organisers know what a runner wants!

Next up, I’m back in Glasgow for the Bellahouston 10k this coming Sunday.  Hopefully I’ll be a bit quicker with my report on that one…