After a good bit of time away, I’ve more events to share!  I’m unusually prompt with this  one, being as it took place only yesterday…might even try and make a habit of it.

As has come to be habit, if I’m going somewhere, I like to try and get a parkrun out of it.  Now, yes, I could’ve stuck around in Edinburgh, come home, had a nice cup of tea and dawdled out to Falkirk in time for the 14:50 race start; but that’s decidedly not entering into the spirit of things!

So instead I made for the local parkrun, which takes place in Callendar park itself.  This would be my second time here, so I knew it was a mix of paths and trail up through the woods, with a nasty hill just after 3k for good measure.  A challenging course, for sure.  I was due to have some good company with a mate (Andy) travelling through to join me, but I wasn’t prepared for a fellow BCRC member’s appearance!:

Credit: Scott Walker, the man himself

It was the first time I’d seen Scott since the run for Steve’s 20th marathon of 2016 in December in Portsmouth, so a cracking start to the morning.  Andy also arrived bang on 9.30 – without his barcode, tut tut – and so after a late start, we got on with it.

Not much to say about the parkrun; it’s a nice course with a looped second mile, the third mile being the first in reverse.  It was windy, it was wet, but the trails were in good condition.  I got round in just under 22 minutes, with a mind on what was to come.

After a quick catch up with Scott – running his first in Falkirk – Andy and I headed off in search of breakfast in an unfamiliar town.  After a bit of aimless wandering (and a small assist from google maps), we found our way to Coffee on Wooer Street.  It’s a bit hidden away, and it isn’t an obvious chain-type place.  Tick.  Very nice place it was, too.

I still had loads of time after that, so headed to see Patriots Day at the cinema.  The film’s based on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings; I feel it’s a little soon for this to be made, but that being said, it’s pretty emotional at times.  I don’t know if being a runner made me more susceptible to being drawn in, but all I’ll say is it’s just as well this one’s on the bucket list anyway.  Some very powerful stuff.

Anyway, enough of the preamble.  We’re here to deal with the cross-country, so let’s get on with it.

Setting the scene

There were two big changes from last year: the distance was down to 10k from 12, and the underfoot conditions were significantly worse!  The two women standing in the puddle to the left of the man in the middle of my photo are using the puddle (loch?) to wash the mud off.  That gives you an idea.  This was going to be a slog.

Callum Hawkins – British Olympian, Scottish Half Marathon record-holder, and an XC National winner – was in the field, but I wasn’t going to have to concern myself with him.  As we headed off, all 600+ of us, you had to keep your wits about you just to stay upright, all the while trying not to tread on anyone nor be trod on.

It’s a short, sharp up to start, and on the way back down, the scale of the mud made itself known…ankle deep, from tape to one side to tape at the other, and either squelch-tastic or of smoothie consistency.  It’s a real shame our club vests are white, because they sure as hell weren’t going to be by the end of this!


The course was three laps of the park, with four hills of note:

  • from the start line, the lower section of the ‘S’, not bad underfoot
  • the southbound line on the bottom right; thick, thick mud, and steep!
  • the bit through the ‘Callendar Park’ mark…this was in good condition
  • the northbound bit before the finish…very thick mud, very short but also steep

I started to list the places on the map where the mud was worst, but it’s actually easier to do it the other way round:

  • the top of the ‘S’ and the first southbound bit was fine
  • the eastbound straight under ‘The Castle’ was okay

Yeah, that about does it.

Anyway, we got off to a slow start as expected in a bit group.  That second hill was pretty scary first time round as everyone tried to find the most grip for the climb, and some people are going faster than others.  I didn’t notice any fallers of complaining, so hats off one and all!  Each section had it’s own little quirks and this first exploratory lap (I hadn’t recced the course, I’m not a lunatic) was a little bit of a feet-finding exercise.  It felt tough.  Our coach, Dave, gave a shout out and later saw Jilly & Fiona.  Was great to see familiar faces on the side lines, because I didn’t see a single club mate to pass or be passed for the whole race!

The second lap I approached with a nice sense of dread.  Dread of the sea of mud before the first steep hill, then the hill itself, then the small river that’d taken hold, etc etc.  Someone in the crowd shouted encouragement at me because I was smiling – that was only because I was resigned to my fate!

As we started our final lap, the tannoy announcer proclaimed Calum Hawkins had come back into the main section of the park and was nearing the finish.  Before I was at the top of the ‘S’, he was finished.  “Fucksake”, announced a guy next to me.  “At least we weren’t lapped!”, I remarked.  How we laughed.

I did try to stretch things out a bit during the latter half of the last lap.  I don’t think I managed particularly well, but I gave as decent a blast as I could up the last two hills, and fired myself down the home straight at what felt like it must’ve been bullet speed.  OF course, some people were going even faster than that against all odds, but I’m only human.

Lap Distance Time Pace GAP Elev HR
  1 1.0 km 4:43 4:43 /km 4:24 /km 12 m 170 bpm
  2 1.0 km 4:35 4:35 /km 4:35 /km -6 m 182 bpm
  3 1.0 km 4:24 4:24 /km 4:22 /km 0 m 186 bpm
  4 1.0 km 4:40 4:40 /km 4:44 /km -6 m 184 bpm
  5 1.0 km 4:59 4:59 /km 4:45 /km 6 m 185 bpm
  6 1.0 km 4:42 4:42 /km 4:55 /km -14 m 182 bpm
  7 1.0 km 4:59 4:59 /km 4:52 /km 4 m 183 bpm
  8 1.0 km 5:06 5:06 /km 4:39 /km 19 m 182 bpm
  9 1.0 km 4:48 4:48 /km 4:59 /km -17 m 182 bpm
 10 1.0 km 4:41 4:41 /km 4:34 /km 3 m 183 bpm
 11 0.0 km 7s 3:07 /km 5:26 /km -2 m 189 bpm

I got round in 47:51.  To put it into some kind of context, I ran 39 minutes in November over the same distance – it was really hard going out there!  But you know what, I loved it.

Credit: Dean Carr

It seems mental to say that, what with the mud and the mess and the mayhem, but it was cracking day out with club mates and friends alike.  It might also have something to do with the fact that’s the cross-country season over for another year!