Brechin Road Runners had their first meet up on 22nd October 2017, after Pauline set up a Facebook Event and advertised it on a Brechin Community page. A lot has happened since then. Stuart had the bright idea of doing a back-and-forth interview about the first year of our fledgling club. But of course with it being such a busy time of year it has now become more of an end-of-calendar-year post. If you’re interested in how the group began, and what we’ve been up to over the past year or so, read on.
Stuart: Hi Pauline
So about 1 year ago you set up a facebook group for Brechin Road Runners. I was so pleased to see that as I’d just moved to the area and was missing running with my previous club in Aberdeen. What did you expect to happen from there?
Pauline: I had no idea what would happen to be honest. I was just looking for people to run with locally as I’d recently got into it through Montrose Parkrun, but the folk I’d been doing that with initially weren’t as keen as me and weren’t running regularly.
Brechin Road Runners actually came about because I had just joined Arbroath Footers after their takeover of Montrose Parkrun. On my second run with them, one of the guys said “Surely there must be people in Brechin you can run with?” So I asked on the Brechin Community Facebook Page and got enough of a positive response to set up a first event. Six people showed up to that, and I thought it would just be a case of people using the Facebook group to set up their own events or find people to run with on a spontaneous basis.
I was really happy when you messaged me and said you were keen to organise a regular Friday night intervals session. That got more interest than the first Sunday morning run, and it was really good of you to put in the work of planning and organising those sessions. It was also great that Sandy agreed to organise hill sprints on a Wednesday. I was a little worried that we might be spreading ourselves a little thin though, and had no idea how to build an actual club.
Pauline: Stuart, you immediately stepped in and started organising speed sessions for the group. You mentioned running with a previous club. How much experience did you have as a club athlete? Did you have any prior coaching experience? And how does running with Brechin Road Runners compare to being part of a much larger, city-based club?
Stuart: Yeah I was really pleased with how quickly a wee core group got started after your first shout out.
I ran with Aberdeen Amateur Athletics Club from around 2010 to around 2015. I had previously done nearly all my running solo and although I was happy as a solo runner I found I had reached a plateau and wasn’t improving anymore. Finding the club and their interval sessions really pushed me on to some faster times and I’ve never looked back. So for years I attended 1 or 2 interval sessions per week with them and logged my other miles solo. You’ll have noticed I’m still much the same, most of my miles are solo but I love getting a group together for the interval and harder sessions. I hadn’t really done any of these harder sessions since moving to Angus in the summer of 2017 so I jumped at the chance to get some interval sessions going. I’ve no coaching experience, but I have been keeping a training log since 2010 so I had a big back catalogue of interval sessions that I could use for Brechin Road Runners. The interval session I attended with AAAC had a very mixed group and I would often hear the coach say to newcomers or those returning from injury to take it easy, so I figured a similar approach should work for us.
To compare the running in Brechin vs Aberdeen the groups are very different. I found in Aberdeen there was always a reasonably big group compared to Brechin where I’ve been known to be the only one show up for the session at times. However I put this down purely to population size and don’t take it personally. From a selfish point of view even if I’m on my own at least I still get out a run which I might not have done without the planned session. I had thought I might have been one of the faster runners due to the smaller group sizes but there was a bit of a reality check for me, turns out there’s always someone faster (in this case at least 3 folk regularly finish ahead of me at our interval sessions).
Stuart: So now our wee club is about to turn 1 what would your highlights be from the first year? And what do you see for the second year?
Pauline: There have been so many highlights! In terms of personal highlights, the Tay Ten on Easter Sunday gave me so much confidence as I was several minutes faster than I hoped to be, and I realised just how much I had improved over the 6 or 7 months I had been training with you all. In terms of club highlights, the first Farnell Handicap (staggered start) race was excellent. Not just because we had a great race, but because the beer and pizza (and cake!) session afterwards was great and made me realise how well we’ve all bonded as a group. I think of you guys as my running family now. The Forfar 10k was another highlight. Even though I was injured and couldn’t run, it was fantastic to get such a great turnout from BRR (ten running), with most of you wearing the new club vests. I’ve also been really pleased that so many of you have contributed to our BRR blog, and that enough people take the time to read the blog that we actually have an Alexa ranking. I was also overwhelmed with the support I’ve had from so many of you over the year, particularly with helping me train for Loch Ness, and with David pacing me round BHGE 10k and Charlotte pacing me round my first marathon, both to better times than I would have been capable of solo.
In terms of the second year, I hope we manage to keep the camaraderie we have as a group, whilst also getting some new folk along and spreading the love of running to a wider section of the Brechin (and surrounding) community.
Pauline: I’m going to be really lazy and ask you the same question: what are your personal highlights from year one, and what are your hopes going forward? Also, why do you train alone so much – don’t you enjoy our banter enough?
Stuart: Better get the alone thing out the way first. Mostly it’s practical, I live in Friockheim and from a use of time and environmental point of view (you could also read this as cheapness, not wanting to use fuel unnecessarily) I find it hard to get my head round driving to and from a run when there’s good running on my doorstep. Also I actually enjoy the solitude at times. I hope no-one takes my lack of attendance on Sunday morning club runs personally. I really enjoy any running I do with the BRRs.
Highlights; I would say similar, the Forfar 10k was top for me. Ten Brechin Road Runners in the race, most wearing club vests was great. Seeing some members really embrace their running over this year has also been great. Yourself, Ann-Marie and Barry are notable stars and I think you all have some more amazing running in you. Let’s hope for even more BRRs running next year. I’ve also really enjoyed the race reports on the blog, Kudos to you for encouraging us all to get writing! Being 3 abreast with Barry and Lee with around a hundred metres to the finish of one of our handicap runs was a personal highlight.
I have ambitions to organise an inter-club competition between the Angus running clubs for a bit of fun. Something like each year each club nominates a race and the top 3 male and female runners from each club to finish count towards each club’s score. Then work out the winner. I’ve put out some feelers so maybe we can get that going for 2019. I reckon it could be a good, close competition.
I also see Montrose Flyers talking about setting up a committee and constitution and wonder if we’re ready for that? I think we are, we’ve got a core of committed members and I think our wee club can only grow from here.
Stuart: What about your own training: what’s your next race and/or target?
Pauline: Thanks so much for that Stuart. I know how much progress I have made over the past year, and it is largely down to all the support I have received from the experienced runners in this group. I’d like to be able to pay some of that back, and have offered to pace a couple of people around races next year. I definitely agree about Barry, who seems to have no idea just how good he actually is. And it’s been fantastic to see Ann-Marie make huge improvements over the past year or so. I was really happy for her when she made the podium at Forfar Guide Dogs 5k, and she only now seems to be starting to realise just how much potential she actually has.
My next race is the Glen Clova Half Marathon. We just recce’d the route with a fairly large group from Dundee Road Runners. It doesn’t look like a potential PB/ sub 1:40 route, especially this soon after a marathon, but I’d be hoping for sub 1:45 maybe?
In terms of targets, I found the DRR club standards after Margaret (who I met at Montrose Parkrun then again at Tay Ten) posted on Strava that her Berlin Marathon result was Diamond. I’m currently only Silver across most race distances, though Gold for 10k and Platinum for Marathon. I’m looking to up that to Gold or above for 4 distances (which is what you need in order to be awarded a standard). So I’m looking to do at least two of the following next year: take 7 seconds off my 5k PB; take 42 seconds off my 10 mile PB; take 2 minutes 8 seconds off my half marathon PB. I think the final one of those will be the easiest of the three! I’m just not a sprinter and my 5k times at the moment are well off my PB times. But I also want to do both a Spring and Autumn marathon next year so I won’t be able to focus too much on bringing down my 5k times. There’s so much running I want to do, but you can’t do everything at once!
Though it may seem to be in direct contradiction to the outcome-based goals above, I really want to focus on enjoying the process of training. It’s far better to focus on the process, so I have plans to run 5 days per week, with at least one speed or interval session each week. The mileage and types of sessions might change depending what races are coming up, but it’s all about getting out there consistently, enjoying the process, and not getting injured. If everyone can stick to those three things then running should be really rewarding. Hopefully the performance goals will happen too if the process is right, but if not it’s not the most important thing.
I think you may be right about the committee and constitution. I’m just enjoying how everything is working in a very de-centralised way. I’m not so sure I’m keen on having official responsibility for anything.
Pauline: What are your targets for next year Stuart, both personal and club-related? Are you looking to do more triathlons? Improve your swimming? Focus more on your running? Become President of BRR?
Stuart: Over the winter i’ve signed up for the Monikie Duathlon series and would like to find a 10k, maybe a Turkey Trot somewhere to gauge where I’m at. I still have ambitions for 5k and 10k PBs. I would like to do a couple more sprint triathlons and maybe a standard distance one. I’m also planning to keep my diary free for the relay triathlon at Monikie: it was a great way to dip my toe into open water swimming. I would love to swim a bit quicker but never seem to manage to spend enough time in the water. Partly laziness and partly that I’d rather be out running.
If no-one else wants the job then yes I could do chairman/president of BRR. A bit of homework is required regarding how many committee members are needed and what roles need filled to make the steps towards being an official club. I would hope the week by week and day to day workings of the club/group would remain unchanged. Watch this space…. And if anyone reading this would be interested in putting themselves forward for a role maybe send me a message and we can see if there’s enough interest.
Stuart: How about the website and our most prolific contributor Debbie Thain? She’s really good at the race reports!
Pauline: I think the website has been great for raising awareness of the group – at least amongst other keen runners whose Facebook feeds are full of Running Friends Scotland posts, or who actively search for blogs about local races they’ve participated in. It started off slowly, with the first post only getting 12 views. In September we had over 1,500 page views and we’ve had over 1,000 views so far in November. A few people I’ve met have mentioned that they read my blog posts, and Charlotte has had a couple of people ask if she is “Charlotte from the blog”. It seems her pacing skills are now sought after!
And of course loads of folk mention how much they love Debbie’s posts. I think she writes really well, is very easy to identify with as things never go fully to plan, and she has hilarious anecdotes about clown cars and balloon hands that make you laugh out loud. Her Stirling Marathon post was the first one on the site to get over 400 views, and I’m really happy she chooses to share her experiences with us.
There are now over 25 posts on the site and I’m planning to get It better organised. Michael tells me I can add authors without having to set up new accounts, so I should be able to get all posts properly attributed. I’m also going to have a page that lists all the posts. And keep nudging people for Members Bios so we can get those up on the site. I probably won’t have time to do this before Christmas, but it’s definitely on the to do list.
Pauline: Stuart, one thing we haven’t discussed yet is the C25K program. What were your hopes when organising that? Did you enjoy the process of coaching/ encouraging new runners? Did it fulfil your expectations? And is there anything you would change if we were to attempt this again?
Stuart: Members Bios – I’m sure you’ll get one from me one day, keep nudging please. The Couch to 5k was a mixed experience. We were very much winging it from week to week, session to session relying on someone leading it sometimes at the last minute. I’m not sure we supported our new runners as well as we could or should have.
Pauline: I think we did a good job in that we managed to cover two sessions per week for C25K and were consistent with the app we followed. I know some groups only cover one of the three weekly sessions. We never let the ladies down, even though it was sometimes last-minute as to who would be taking the session. I think it might be beneficial for a couple of us to do a coaching course if we were looking to run this again, and also look into affordable ways of getting insurance. We should probably take a more professional approach if we were to run the program again.
Pauline: So, it’s been an eventful year here at BRR. Here’s to seeing what next year brings. Merry Christmas everyone.