The decision to do Springburn Parkrun was very much a last-minute one. Michael and I had booked tickets for the Glasgow Games Festival months ago, as we (mostly he) run a board game review site. Last year was the first year we had gone to it, and we had just driven through early on the Saturday as it’s a one-day event starting at 10:00am. I assumed we’d do the same thing this year. Then, pretty much at the last minute, he decided he couldn’t face an early start and long drive both there and back on the same day, and booked a city centre hotel for the Friday night. Of course, I couldn’t resist a bit of Parkrun tourism, and tried to work out which of the many Glasgow Parkrun’s were near the city centre. Unfortunately, this was easier said than done using Google maps, so I turned to the wonderful Running Friends Scotland group for advice – asking whether Tollcross or Pollok was closer to the Royal Concert Hall. A few people recommended Pollok, and Ruchill and Victoria Park got mentions too. But a couple of folk mentioned Springburn, and Paula mentioned it was listed in The Running Bug’s top ten Parkruns.
Of course, work and life being what it is, I arrived in Glasgow about 9:30pm on the Friday evening still unsure as to which Parkrun to attend or how to get there. Once on the Hotel Wi-Fi, I soon discovered that Springburn Parkrun was only 2.8 miles away. As someone who hates trying to negotiate public transport (it just seems like more hassle than running or taking a taxi) I decided that was the best option as I could jog there, do the Parkrun, then jog back to the Hotel in plenty of time for the mid-day checkout. We’ve been doing this board games thing for a while, so Michael would know plenty of people at GGF and wouldn’t be wandering around aimlessly awaiting my return. Springburn also had the advantage of being something of a Goldilocks size for me. Having checked the results pages for the previous weeks, I could see that Pollock attracted around 400 runners. Springburn, with 100 – 150 runners, was a similar size to my local Montrose Parkrun, and that appealed to me. The fact it was also the nearest was an added bonus.
I woke up pretty early on the Saturday morning. Actually, I had been woken up by drunken guests at 4am shouting outside our door, and again at 5am by a different couple having a prolonged argument loud enough that it must have woken up most of the people on our floor, which ended when the woman angrily stormed out slamming the door as loudly as possible. I do hope she was okay and found somewhere safe to sleep, but at that point in the morning I very definitely did not care enough to get up, leave the room, and run after her to check: the Hotel had a 24 hour Reception so I assumed they would look after her. Anyway, after a less than restful night, I took full advantage of the continental breakfast on offer, and hoped it wouldn’t come back to haunt me during the run.
I left the Hotel about 8:15am, but quickly realised I had forgotten to bring any cash with me, so popped back to get a tenner. I was taking (and running in) my lightweight down jacket as I needed something with pockets big enough to store my phone (which I needed for directions) so I had a pocket for paper money. Of course, in going back for the cash, I left my water bottle in the Hotel room, and didn’t realise this until nearly 1 mile into the run, at which point I couldn’t find any shops that were open other than a Turkish Barbers – which I assumed wouldn’t have what I was looking for. I enjoyed the run to Springburn. Google maps kept me on track, and it was a pleasant, if cold, morning. I probably looked a bit daft running with my phone in my hand, with directions on full volume (I had also forgotten to bring headphones) but I didn’t pass many people.
Google maps got me as far as the tower in the photograph above, then said I had reached my destination, which I clearly had not. From looking at the map I figured I had to head North East a little. Heading past a gentleman wearing shorts, near the edge of a park, I was pretty sure I had found the correct place. I asked him, and got confirmation. He also told me where the start area was (next to the John Reid monument), and pointed me in the direction of the toilets. I was at the Sports Centre just before 9:00am but they had just opened and let me in.
The park was largely deserted as I had arrived very early. There was a small group of runners doing a warm-up lap, and a few other runners doing strides or jogging in ones or twos. I spotted some of the Hi-Viz volunteer jackets and headed towards the statue. Unlike at Montrose and Camperdown, there wasn’t a tent to leave valuables in. However, I was told just to leave my jacket on the railings in front of the statue, and the kindly volunteers carry everything down to the Finish point about 50 metres away. One of the volunteers (I think she was called Sheila) was telling a couple of young first timers about the Parkrun so I asked if I could join the conversation. It was mostly about how Parkrun works (barcodes and the like) but she also gave us a bit of a description of the course. More runners were arriving by this point, and I jogged slowly down to the Finish area to investigate it. I had also spotted a table there. There appeared to be a lady who had set up shop. There were a few dozen bottles of water on the table. I know Parkrun is organised by volunteers with next to zero budget (other than fundraising or applying for grants) so it seemed unlikely that any Parkrun would be providing bottled water for participants on a regular basis. I asked how much it cost for a bottle of water, but she said I could just take one. It turned out she was setting up in preparation for a post-run celebration as one of the runners (Tomas) was doing his100th Parkrun this morning. I gratefully took a bottle of water, and jogged back up the hill in time for the first timer’s briefing.
The Run Director was giving the First Timer’s briefing, and seemed surprised at the number of new runners there. It seemed to be busier than the previous week, perhaps due to the planned celebrations or maybe just because of the sunshine. We were sent over to the start area, and the usual announcements and instructions were given. Tomas got a cheer for his 100th Parkrun, as did Stephen for his 50th. It was also announced that there were visitors from as far afield as London, Ireland and Ellon. The RD asked if she’d missed anywhere and I shouted Montrose, but wasn’t heard over the crowds. The ladies next to me turned to wish me well though, and one of them gave me the kind of quizzical “You look familiar, but I have no idea how” look, and asked how she might have met me before. I mentioned Running Friends Scotland, but she didn’t seem completely convinced. The run was about to start, though, so there was no time to work it out.
The route is a 2.5ish lap course around the park. It starts off in the middle of the park near the top end, heading past the John Reid statue and provides a nice downhill start once you get the first 20 or 30 metres out of the way. Once you get to the bottom of the park you turn right and head along the bottom right hand half of the park before another right hand turn onto the Western perimeter. This is where it starts to climb. Sheila had warned us about the hill, but it’s not an overly long or steep one, with the elevation gain for heading up it 2.75 times only being around 40 metres. I’d taken good advantage of the downhill though, and my pace dropped to around 8:30 miling on the climb, with a few folk overtaking me. They were obviously more used to the route. I’d quickly realised that this was a Parkrun with some seriously good runners. I was nowhere near the front, and would have no chance of placing. I should also have perhaps been going at an easier pace to save my legs for the Hartley Cup the following morning. But I figured my legs were going to get beaten up from the distance anyway so I might as well make it at least a tempo run. One of the ladies I had been talking to at the start wasn’t far in front of me, so I decided to try and stick with her for as long as possible.
There was a bridge over a road which broke up the cadence a little, and the path continued upwards. We thankfully reached the top of the hill (first time round, at least) and ran round the back of the big house at the top of the park. The Marshals at this point were very encouraging, and one of them I think recognised me as a first-timer and said “Excellent running.”. I passed a few people as the path cut off the top eastern corner of the park, passing a pond on the left-hand side. My watch buzzed and displayed a first mile split of 7:20: not great compared to my 5k PB pace, but better than I have been doing recently and not bad for a hillier-than-usual course that is unknown to me. I overtook a tall gentleman shortly after this point, but he overtook me again on the hill. Past the pond and we turned right onto the Eastern perimeter this time.
I took advantage of the second downhill and finally went past the lady I had been following. I was now passing more people than were passing me on that second climb, despite the guy overtaking me, and a few people had started walking. It’s always hard to know how to pace a multi-lap course. I was beginning to feel the burn a bit but I knew it wasn’t too long a climb (nothing like Camperdown!) and had a better idea of what the second lap would entail. We went around the back of the house for the second and final time, and I overtook a couple of guys at that point, which spurred me on. The second mile buzzed in at 7:21, so I had managed to keep my pacing relatively consistent.
Even though there were a lot of runners and the park is fairly open, there are a lot of paths and it’s quite twisty-turny in places. There were a couple of points on that second lap where I lost sight of the person in front for a few seconds or more, and was keeping a lookout for marshals to ensure I didn’t take a wrong turning. I was catching and overtaking a few folk, but there were still a lot of people in front of me, including a young girl in an Edinburgh Marathon Festival t-shirt. I found myself a little adrift on the second time around the Sports Centre and was glad to see the Marshal, who kindly informed me it was the 4km mark with only 1k to go. The section after him has a gradual downhill gradient so I picked up the pace a little again to try and keep the two nearest runners ahead (who were at least 30 metres in front of me) in my line of sight so as not to miss where the lap cuts off part-way up the hill to head for the finish.
The third time up the hill was difficult on tired legs. I went past the young girl, and then a guy, but immediately wondered whether that was a good idea since I didn’t know when we got to head right towards the finish. I needn’t have worried though, as shortly after this a lady I’d never spotted before overtook me. I asked her where we were supposed to turn off, but she had headphones in and didn’t hear me. Unfortunately it was the right hand turning after the one I’d been hoping for, and my pace dipped a little. We were now onto a flat section thankfully, heading towards the centre of the park, but I still couldn’t see the finish line. And the lady was pulling away. Then I saw a beautiful sight: cones guiding us round the corner. That must mean the finish line was nearby. I dug in and kicked for a sprint finish. I think my watch buzzed the 3rd mile sometime around this point, but I didn’t check it. Unfortunately the lady was already a good 15+ metres in front and she had kicked too. I checked my watch at what appeared to be the final corner though, and was pleasantly surprised to see the time was just 21:58. With the finish line in sight I knew I’d be comfortably under 22:30 at least.
There was a decent amount of support at the finish. Nobody knew me, but I still got a few cheers and shouts of encouragement. The lady in front finished 5 seconds ahead of me and took first place in our age category. Glad to get a breather, I joined the queue to get my barcode scanned. The man on scanner duties was discussing his season’s best with the guy ahead of me. I said “How on earth do you manage to go sub 17? I’m still trying to get sub 21:30”. He said I should stick at it, and that I shouldn’t think of age as a barrier as he was 46 when he set his PB. As that’s 5 years older than me, this was encouraging. It was also slightly depressing though, as I realised I clearly look middle aged now. He nicely suggested I should go along to their running club if I wanted to improve. I explained I was just visiting from Angus and was already in a Club, so told me to stick at it, and that I looked in good shape. I hope that’s true, though I’m still under-performing compared to pre-injury and pre-marathon.
I hung around for a few minutes and took a couple of photos of folk finishing and milling around. At this point I saw Shirley again (the lady from the start) and we worked out where we’d met previously: she’d been at Glen Clova half marathon the previous Saturday, as a spectator rather than a runner. She might even have been one of the people who told me to get warmed up as I was shivering in my shorts before the race started. I decided I couldn’t stay for the cake (even though it was tempting) as I had to run back to Hotel and wanted to get to the Glasgow Games Festival, having left Michael by himself for long enough. So I collected my jacket and ran back to the city centre at a leisurely pace.
I finished in position 32 in a time of 22:17, and was 5th female. It was my fastest Parkrun since Loch Ness, probably thanks to being 100% on tarmac with no “pebble dash of doom” to slow me down. In fact, I’d actually sped up slightly on the final mile-and-a-bit and it was nice to finish strong. Springburn is a lovely Parkrun, with friendly volunteers and runners. It’s also a pretty competitive one for the size, with some seriously good runners. When I got my results email and clicked through, I was rather surprised to discover that everyone finished in under 38 minutes! It’s therefore perhaps not the best pick for someone looking to walk the full 5km, but is otherwise a nice route and a lovely way to start the weekend on a crisp autumnal morning. I’d definitely be keen to reattempt it.