To end a year of running-related travel, one last early morning alarm was called for.

A Christmas party on the Friday night didn’t stop me getting up for a 6:35 train through to Glasgow.  Yes, coffee at the station and bananas in the bag…a breakfast of champions.

Here’s a look at what I was facing:

Route description
It’s essentially a 1.5x ‘out and back’ course with a couple of short loops on either end.

Course profile
Mostly flat, though there’s an undulating section you repeat as you come in and out of loop in the north of the course twice.

Underfoot
Mostly light trail with a short tarmac section.  There are quite a few exposed tree roots, so you need to keep your wits about you!

Shoes
Road shoes will be fine, but bring an old pair if it’s wet…

Difficulty
2/6.  The undulations aren’t too bad and the only other concern is it’s quite a narrow route in places, and those tree routes.  Could be quick if it’s dry.

It’s a lot more green that it looks here. The cafe is right in the middle

The weather was predicted to be pretty dodgy, with a heap of snow forecast. Some fell in Glasgow on arrival, but that short walk to Central was the only sign of it during the trip.

In Ayr, all was calm and dry.

It’s a little under two miles from the train station to the Rozelle Estate, where the run takes place. An easy enough walk and entirely uneventful. I came in next to the small pond with a couple of ‘CAUTION RUNNERS’ signs, which at least let me know I was in the right place.

It was a small field, 69 in all. That’s the lower end of the average by the looks of things for the run, and a good number given that it’s narrow for stretches, making overtaking tricky and the out-and-back sections potentially hazardous.

After a few weeks off, this was an ‘easy’ run for me. We set off just on 9.30, heading along the path towards the woods in the north side of the estate, turning left and onto the trail for the first time, a marshal-and-dog pointing the way.

The path’s at its widest here, enough for 3 or 4 folk to run side by side. The first dip follows, picking up speed downhill and taking it easy coming back up towards the second marshal, pointing us left again to go round the loop of the ponds. It’s narrow now, passing being very difficult without getting overly friendly with your fellow runner! It’s a nice spot, and would be even more so on a brighter day.

A sharp right to come slightly uphill to close the loop, past a few wood carvings (I assume) to commemorate the Great War. One below, plenty more along the trail to discover on your own!

Credit: Billy McCrorie

Then it’s back the way we came, past 1km in a leisurely 4:21, past the two marshals and onto an even narrower trail path that runs parallel to the start/finish. It’s dotted with tree roots everywhere, fresh with a coat of white paint thanks to a cycle event in the park the previous weekend.

By this point I was close behind a group of three younger boys, probably in the 11-15 range, and a guy considerably closer to my own age! The boys were going at a fair clip, but expected them to fade over the 3 miles. I tucked in behind – overtaking was impossible, and besides, I was in no hurry.

2km in 4:38, passing this on the way. No, I have no idea what it is, but it’s massive and looks ridiculous.

The southern loop was fairly uneventful, though I made up a couple of places. I’m not overly patient, as it turns out.

I think I already knew that. 3km = 4:30

Back along the narrowest part of the track with only the youngest –
or smallest – of the boys still in front of me…that didn’t last too long. Comfortably in the top ten by now, but uncomfortably rolling my ankle meant a lot of hopping and testing out over the next 100m or so. Ouch.

My ankle’s been a bit iffy for a few months and I’ve no idea what I did to trigger it here, but it wasn’t terminal.

The last mile was on my own until the home straight. I could hear feet behind me and put the skates on a little to hold position – I know it doesn’t meant anything and it’s a run not race but whatever, I’m not letting anyone past me if I can help it!

Final time: 22:22
Position: 7th

This was probably the most efficient start I’ve ever witnessed at a parkrun, we’d two volunteers accompanied by dogs and the woods make a pleasant change from Cramond’s promenade. Reminds me of Plean or Lanark Moor, in that regard.

Oh, and of course I visited the cafe afterward, in a very grand-looking house. Tea and pancakes with bacon, which tided me over just fine thank you.

It’s been a good year:
16 new Scottish events
A first in London
A first in Ireland
Just the two volunteer stints…must do better.

I’ll probably carry this on into next year, though the runs are further away now and it’s going to take a little planning!

Until next time.