Sunday, 27 July 2014

Race Day

Name corrected the night before

Although it had been exceptionally hot and humid in the run up to the weekend, the weather appeared to have broken, and so “marathon morning” dawned grey and overcast – good dreich Glasgow weather. I don’t think you ever sleep well the night before a race, but then I hadn’t slept much in the few nights prior to it either, so to my surprise, I managed to get off to sleep OK. I was awake far ahead of my alarm, but tried to stay in bed and “rest”. Hayley and Susan were going for breakfast at 6:30, but I need to eat later than most, so I got into my kit and had my “bagcheck” prior to making my way to the dining hall.

The competition!
 The other two had been very helpful to me as team newbie, but it was nice to sit alone in a near empty dining hall and gather myself (ie stress!!). I made up another jam sandwich to eat down at the course and met the others outside to be escorted to the 7:30 bus. It was finally happening, yet didn’t seem real! What made it seem even more of a random group jaunt out, was that the bus couldn’t get to Glasgow Green due to road closures etc and so the driver just dropped us on what appeared to be a random Glasgow street and told us that we’d have to walk from there.
 It was now spitting with rain, so we were glad to be able to go into a tent and sit down once we found the warmup area. The guys were off 28 minutes (random) before us so we had a chance to wish them well before they went into “First call” (First call and second call were amalgamated, but basically this is an area where you have swop your ID for a chip, have your numbers, name and kit checked, and are allowed no electronics etc – and after which you have to be escorted if you want to go to the toilet etc).

In the warm-up tent

After the lads had gone into first call, we went out to the warmup area – this was basically the race route from about 200m in, so a few people were starting to gather along in. It was nice to get a couple of shouts as the three of us jogged together (good team bonding – everyone else was out running solo!! – and what’s more I got to run with two amazing Scottish marathon runners!!), then it was time to change our shoes, pin on our numbers, hand over phones etc, and head over to the start.
In the call room, one of the officials checking our chips, numbers and kit was none other than Sandra Branney - another amazing runner who held the Scottish Native marathon record of 2:37:29 from the Glasgow marathon way back in 1986 (a native record is the fastest time run on Scottish soil by anyone eligible to represent Scotland), yet had no artificial airs and graces. We must’ve been checked at least 3 times each – which I did find rather funny – as how anyone could think that you would run a better marathon with a mobile phone concealed in your knickers is beyond me!
There were no toilets in that area so we had to be escorted back to the warmup area every time we needed a nervous portaloo trip – and it certainly amused the officials to see how often girls can ask to go! At 9:20 we were sent out into the road to get ready. It was a relatively narrow road, and as the start gantry and press filled most of it, there seemed to be hardly anyone around. We were allowed a short warmup and then were called forward to the start line. We cheered and clapped as they announced the leading ladies – and then I dropped back to about 15m behind the others. I felt like a giant compared to some of the small African ladies, and knew that I needed to keep moving my knees to stop them “locking up” at the start so I gave people space so as not to distract them.

Super Support!
I don’t remember hearing a countdown as we were off before I even had time to think about it, which is amazing, as I’d been worrying about the first 50m of the race ever since I was selected. With minimal knee dramas I was away and running, and by the time we rounded the first corner I was with the back of the second group. As we headed up the first “incline” (ie hill), I heard a familiar voice shout my name, and spotted my friend Ian waving at me – that was an amazing boost as I knew that he’d driven all the way up from the Wickerman festival to support me!
As the hill topped out we rounded a corner and a big grin broke out across my face as I spotted my family at the side of the road with their support banner (unfortunately I didn’t realise they were going to move around to spot me in different places so they weren’t there when I looked at the same place on the next lap!). We were still running in central Glasgow so there was a huge crowd presence lining the roads – which became even more obvious as we ran down the pedestrianised area (I had wondered how that would affect the general public but everyone seemed happy to be supporting rather than shopping).

With Gladys

I knew that I wouldn’t see the leaders again until after the finish, but I could see Hayley slightly further down the street ahead of me. I knew that Gladys Ganiel (of NI) had a PB only 8s slower than mine, so I thought I might be running a similar pace to her. She did, however, cover the first couple of miles about 10s quicker than PB pace, so I figured she must be in great shape and that I should drop back and run my own pace to avoid blowing up spectacularly in front of the home crowd later on in the race. It didn’t really compute with me that I would then be running the whole way solo!
Concentrating under a bridge
As I ran under a road bridge, it suddenly became really dark and I couldn’t see anyone at the side of the route, but I know the support was there as the noise became deafening, and so I found that I couldn’t help but grin. Running alongside the Clyde and over the “squinty bridge” I recognised many friends – too many to mention everyone by name, but you know who you are and so I thank you all!
I’m not sure how it went for others but the first water station worked well for me – it was on the right hand side of the road as promised and Mark (a Team Scotland official) was holding out my bottle for me to grab. A comical moment was when someone shouted “run faster, you’ve almost got her” as Gladys was only a short distance ahead of me – little did they realise that we were only 5K into a 42K race!
There was plenty to look at (apart from the blue line on the road) as I ran along, as I spotted stilt walkers and entertainers as well as several Glasgow running clubs out to support and cheer. I had forgotten about the “inclines” in Bellahouston Park so was caught slightly unaware by them. They don’t seem so bad when you’re just doing a mile rep or a jog warmup, but in a race they suddenly appear much steeper, but again some familiar faces and shouts helped. It was noticeable that the wind was picking up as when you ran through a spray station most of the water was blown away from you rather than falling on you.

In Pollock Park
Turning a corner on top of a hill, I could see that Gladys had almost caught up to Hayley (and indeed they worked together for most of the rest of the race), but I also spied a Lesotho runner coming back to me (and I got her in Pollock Park). Just after entering Pollock Park, I spied the most “interesting” supporter on the route – a Shetland pony being held at the outside of a 90 degree bend with a large saltire tied over her back (the benefits of running alone....those running in groups at this point said that they missed her!). I knew there were several sharp hills in Pollock but Derek Hawkin (running in the men’s race)’s mum was standing halfway up the first one wearing a blue wig shouting encouragement, and the second one (up to the Burrell collection) was lined with people, so I actually enjoyed them, despite the rain that was now falling. An unexpected bonus was the fact that all of the sleeping policemen in the park had been removed for the race, so no excuses for accidental trips on tired legs.

A Happy Runner!
The next few miles stretched out in front of me with no runners in sight, and less support on the roads (though it was gathered in pockets). I felt comfortable tripping along, with the only slight upset being the 3rd feed station. It was manned for us by one of the triathlon support squad, and instead of holding out the bottle as prearranged he just pointed to show where it was on the table next to him – not really an issue at all, but anything unexpected can throw you off your stride.
Back into the centre of town and the support had built up again – I spotted my Running Club feather flags with many familiar faces on both sides of the road, so I just couldn’t stop grinning. I was loving being out there, though admittedly, I would have preferred to have people to run with.
Passing my DRC mates
As I came round to the start/finish gantry, I could see that the race was being led by one of the Kenyan ladies, as they showed her time, along with mine (in 18th place) and that of those just ahead of me. It did amuse me that we were given a bell to mark our final lap (of 13.1miles) and that the lap counter had gone down by 1. I felt quite upbeat about the run so far, and thought I’d held my own pace quite well, but I knew the second lap would be tougher as the wind had picked up a bit.
Rounding a corner to start the climb back up into town, I saw an English runner sitting down at the side of the road – the medic in me wondered if she was OK but as she was sitting up with 2 Clydesiders beside her, I realised that I could not really be of extra help and so had better just get on with my own run (I later learned that it was Aly Dixon who had pulled out with calf/Achilles pain). Unfortunately, because I was looking over to the right to see what was happening, I didn’t notice my family over to my left (and so I probably wasn’t smiling in those pictures, heading alone up another hill).
I started to reel the next runner in and passed her just as we entered the pedestrianised zone again (much to the delight of the crowds), though I worried that my sister wouldn’t be impressed with me as she was Namibian (my sister spent her year out after school in Namibia), and then managed to pass another couple of runners over the course of the lap (1 from Rwanda and another from Lesotho), though I didn’t spot that one of them was running barefoot (or so I was told afterwards).
After the initial sea of noise I found the second lap much harder going as I seemed to be permanently running into the wind. Many of the crowds further out on the course had dispersed – either driven away by the weather or else they had headed towards the finish in time to watch the leading men – though the Shetland pony was still there!! I actually had to remind myself on certain occasions, eg in one of the parks, that I was in a race, not just out for a run (as I’ve run there before) and I could see neither other runners, nor supporters.
The third feed station was destined to be my nemesis, as on this occasion I wanted some plain water, but they’d run out – and the water tables beyond the “national” tables were completely empty and unmanned, which didn’t exactly help the way I was feeling. I knew that it was not the conditions or the race to be able to run a good time, so I tried to focus on the whole experience of being there and actually enjoy soaking up every minute of it. By the time I came back into town for the final 3 miles and saw my friends and clubmates again, I was starting to flag. They gave me a boost, as did the talking to I gave myself (“you’re actually running in the Commonwealth Games – this will never happen again”)!

The final corner
I had a motorbike following me by now, and the roar of support was pretty continuous for about a mile. There was a brief respite of a quiet section before the final river crossing (the 8th of the race) back to Glasgow Green. In my head I knew there was only about a mile to run, but the corner appeared to be getting further and further away from me, hovering out of sight as the path twisted slightly.

The Finishing Straight
Finally I rounded the last corner (almost a U-turn) and saw the finish gantry away in front of me. The crowds were deafening here, as they all started banging the boards like there were at the F1 GP. It was an amazing experience and I crossed the line with my arms raised and a huge grin on my face – what a memory that’ll be!!

To the Finish!!!
Looking at the clock, I was really disappointed, but then I thought about what I’d just done – I’d run a marathon for Scotland, in Scotland, at the Commonwealth Games, at pretty short notice – and I’d run it alone (though with amazing crowd support) – and I’d done what I set out to do – my best on the day....and no one can take that away from me (and many people commented that I should get a medal for being the happiest runner as I couldn't stop smiling!)!!!!!

Much has been reported on the race, but respect to all who took part, all who supported, those who couldn’t be there, but especially to my awesome teammates Derek, Ross, Susan and Hayley for whom I’ve the most admiration, running the way they did that day - #GoScotland !!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

O What a Night!

There had been a lot of “discussion” about our Opening Ceremony outfits in the run up to the Games – to the extent that some athletes felt rather unsupported by the general public, but I was really excited to be taking part in the Ceremony, as it is something I have only ever seen on TV in the past.
Initially, it seemed that there would be an awful lot of hanging around that day, but actually it became rather a rush to actually make the 2pm bus up to the village (the short press conference that morning dragged out over about 3 hours, so we only made it back to Irvine for lunch at 1:30pm). I’m not sure if it says something about how often I wear dresses, but I was getting onto the bus when I realised that I’d left my dress hanging up in our room – hence another headlong run back through the hotel!!
Perfect for carb-loading!
A 2pm bus did seem rather early for an evening ceremony, but it did take the best part of an hour to get up to Dalmarnock (where the Village was), and it turned out that the bus had to arrive at the “transport mall” in a pre-booked slot. Still, it meant that we could check out the various coffee/barista facilities on offer, and I had the chance to spend some time getting to know Hayley better, as we’ve only really met at races before.
We were given a timetable of “5pm dinner, 6pm change, 7pm photos, 8:45 line up to parade” but we interpreted that slightly liberally, as the main dining room has food available 24 hours a day, so a set dinnertime is rather meaningless. Ross was finishing his carb-depleting and joining me in carb-loading so we spent a while in the dining hall getting stuck-in, with Hayley being slightly envious of us (as she wasn’t starting her carb-load until the next day).
Athletics Team

Marathon team

We were sharing the Athletics portion of Scotland Street with the shooters who had come down from Carnoustie for the Opening, so had to get changed 5 to a room, but this only added to the exciting party atmosphere. It was great to see everyone dressed up - other nations obviously thought the same thing as they all hung out of their accommodation taking pictures as we lined up for our formal sport-specific  photos. While other sports were being snapped, Ross and I nipped up to  “Casual Dining”  to check out the smoothies they made up for us (I nearly came a cropper with mine when we were all told to fling our hands in the air for the overall Team Scotland picture afterwards!!).

As the host nation, we had to parade in at the back, so although it meant a lot of time just standing around at the end of Scotland Street in the village, it did mean that we watched many other nations walk past us to the exit of the village. Some people looked like airline stewards/stewardesses – smart but rather nondescript. I preferred some of the bright flowing costumes of the African nations, or the green showercap (!) headgear of Sierra Leone....and there’s the traditional overgrown schoolboy look (blazers, kneelength shorts, long socks and smart shoes) of Bermuda!!
Libby had been at the rehearsal 2 days earlier so had warned us that it would run late, but we did seem to line up for an awfully long time (which caused me a lot of foot/heel pain by the end of the night/the next day). I think it took us about 90 mins to walk half a mile, but as we were behind Wales in the queue, there was a lot of singing banter (Hayley practically learnt all the words to Flower of Scotland by the time we made it to Celtic Park due to the number of time we sang it!).

The Red Arrows
Waving the flag as we sang
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see most of the ceremony as the Athletes’ Parade is near the end, but it sounded good from what we could hear – and I was recording it at home to watch in a couple of weeks. There were a couple of screens near the Emirates Arena so we saw a few nations parade in. The sun set, lights came on, the red arrows flew overhead, the temperature cooled (so we were all actually quite glad to have our tartan jimonos), and the excitement built. People started jostling around to get to the front (it’s not often that endurance runners find themselves ahead of relay runners), and then suddenly we were handed coloured lights to put on our fingers! Singing with everyone, lights in the air, watching Euan wave the flag facing us really brought out the emotions in everyone. I find it hard to describe the feelings I had, but I’ll not forget them!
We were held back at the top of the ramp into the Stadium to avoid the “crowds going wild” for Scotland and taking away from Wales’ moment of glory, and it made you feel rather nervous as we could see how full it was – everywhere you looked was a sea of faces! Then we were off......what can I say?.......
Walking, waving, smiling, giggling with Hayley and Ross – so much to look at, senses and emotions overloaded, so happy and proud...
Look at their faces as he fails to open the baton!
As Team Athletics, we were meant to be “walking in and walking out” to get the bus back to Irvine, but I had been allowed to stay until the end of the ceremony (I pleaded my case as Libby was taking the Athlete’s Pledge at the end, and so I wanted to stay and watch my roomie – and it made sense for us to travel back together afterwards). What a night – listening to speeches, standing on my chair, singing away, and trying not to laugh when they couldn’t open the baton to get the Queen’s message out. We had been showered in confetti when we walked into the stadium, and were again at the end as everyone got up and danced – but this time, the confetti was all good luck wishes from schoolchildren all over Scotland – what a lovely touch!!
Afterwards I linked up with Libby and Mikhail (it turned out that I was the best guide for leading them through crowds of athletes – being a marathon runner has it’s advantages – sorry Mikhail) to get a lift back to Irvine (via the foodhall in the village clearly!!). We actually only got back half an hour after the others on the 2am.....but what a day to remember forever!!!!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Holiday Camp?

Waiting for Libby to arrive

I had no idea what to expect from a "Holding Camp" it was not without trepidation that I headed up to Irvine after work at the start of the week. A holding camp is designed for athletes to put the final touches onto their training and start their mental preparation for racing so I wasn't sure exactly how that would fit in with a pre-marathon taper.

I thought that whatever else it involved, at least it would be a good opportunity to get to know some of my team mates better. To a certain extent that was true, as my room mate (the awesome) Libby Clegg and I spent many hours putting the world to rights (ie giggling and gossiping, though I'm not sure I've ever made someone go to sleep laughing before) - and I certainly confirmed that the endurance runners and the throwers do get on the best. Some others, however, remained slightly apart from the rest of us, and others were preparing elsewhere (and some were even still competing).

A marathon just to get ot the dining room!

The camp did provide an opportunity for me to go and support friends in a nearby 5 mile race, and it also meant a change of scenery in that I could do a couple of short easy runs on a new cycle path. It did seem
weird to be staying in a hotel, but even if my sleep wasn't the best, at least I was away from the pressure of work.

One thing I did discover is that everything takes much much longer than you are led to believe.....though I did learn that if you are important, then things happen more to schedule, so maybe the answer is to be more demanding.....but then again I was still in awe of just being there and would go along with everything I was told!

Finally I made it into the Village

Tour Guide Ross in Scotland Street

A "quick" trip up to the Athletes' Village to get my accreditation sorted took 5 hours. Some of the others managed a 15 minute turnaround, but not me! They'd corrected my name from the way it had been written at Stirling (zakrEzewski) but for some reason had mistyped my passport number. This meant that I had to sit in the entrance tent for the best part of an hour while it was corrected, and so by the time I got out and made it across to Scotland Street to exchanged mis-sized kit (or even mis-sexed kit, as I had been given mens' polo shirts) there was nothing left in the right size. Still, at least Ross got to show me round the village (he'd been on the formal pre-visit) while we waited for the next bus back. Some further transport issues then meant I got to sit for even longer in the food hall......but I wasn't complaining....what a spread there was.....yummmmm!

Outisde the press conference

Inside the press conference

A short press conference can also take 3 hours..... by the time you've spoken to everyone detailed to you (it was the Sunday papers for me, as the marathon was timetabled for the Sunday), and they've taken pictures (not quite sure why I had to sit elegantly by the track lane numbers), and then several TV crews have caught you for an interview and a bit of filming. I still wonder exactly what I said to everyone, and who on earth would want to read about me! It did mean it was rather a rush to make the bus for the opening Ceremony (which in itself was a 12 hr round trip, and worth a separate blogpost.......but o so worth it!).

Race nails...

I also used some of my newly found spare time to get some patriotic nail art done......well, if I was going to have to do the ultimate "walk of shame" and run round Glasgow on a Sunday morning in my knickers, then I'd rather that people looked at my nails than anything else!

Signing autographs!!!
Q&A with the kids

I met a friend for a brief dip in the pool, followed by a longer coffee and cake trip, and also ended up at a question and answer session with a local running club. I felt like a slight anomaly as the other athletes talked about all the hours they trained (more than double the time I spend running) and what facilities they had, while I said that I just "went out of my front door and turned left" but it was interesting to hear from people in different disciplines, and made me feel that I knew them better at the end. Bless the kids though - some of them even wanted my autograph work they just want it on a prescription!

All too soon, I was packing my bags again for the final trip up to Glasgow. We didn't all go up together, as most of "Team Athletics" only moved into the Village 2 days prior to competing, so it was odd to think that the marathon would be over by the time I saw some of them again......scary.......

Monday, 21 July 2014

Sharing the Experience

Although the approaching Games is rather nerve-wracking, it’s also quite exciting. I have realised that I am in an incredibly lucky position to be actually taking part. I am sure that many of my friends would have been there themselves if it were not for illness, injury and other things outwith their control, and many more would love to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.
For this reason, I’m going to try to write about my experiences when I can  so that we can all share in the journey.

While I’m not coming down from a big block of training, I still realise that I must ignore the temptation to do too much at too late a date. If it takes about 3 weeks to see a benefit from specific training, then squeezing an extra session or run in now will just make me tired with no benefit and so actually be detrimental on the day.
Even the top runners must start to doubt their training and themselves as the race approaches, so I’m trying to stay positive and accept what my sensible self (and others) are saying in that I’ve done all I can. At the end of the day, an event such as a marathon can be a bit of a lottery – no matter well people have prepared, some will have a better day than others, but it’s a case of getting to the start line in the best shape you can. 

How coordinated?

Kit trials for a shy runner
Tapering is almost a swearword to some people, but it does give you a lot of time to get everything else sorted. In the past few days, I’ve managed to catch up more with family and friends than I have in a while – no, not big nights out, but skype and phone calls, coffee and cake dates etc. I’ve been to see the physio to get a stretch of my ever tight hip flexors (actually, if I’m honest it was really to eat his birthday cake!), I’ve retaxed my car, had meetings at work about job interviews, paid my tax bill, made the decision about whether to cut my hair neatly for the Opening Ceremony or keep it so that it fits into a ponytail (function wins over fashion I’m afraid!), cut the grass, watered the plants, and eaten up most of the food in the fridge. I even found some less populated area (the local track and a local back road) to try out my kit without being seen (much!), and have realised that my race kit is so colour-coordinated that even my Irish friend Nicola would be impressed (she always seems to match in races!).
Now all that remains is to get sorted with the packing, and avoid any patients with infectious D&V in my last surgeries and on house visits before travelling up to “Holding Camp”.....

Monday, 14 July 2014

Staying Grounded.....

Some people develop a love of running at a very young age, others are born into families with a background of sport, and then there are some, such as myself, who are definitely not "sporty" kids. I still remember being last to be picked for every team, having marks taken off for not "trying" at rounders (when I just couldn't sprint), and even taking a computing class for a term instead of PE.
Being selected not only to run at the Commonwealth Games, but at a Home Games, is therefore way above and beyond anything I could possibly have ever dreamt of doing. Some athletes have had the luxury of the time and opportunity to get away from the stresses of the uk (and the added benefits of being able to train at altitude), but my way of dealing with the pressure of it is by simply carrying on with my normal life. Yes, I have had to focus my training, but I've also been going to work as usual - nothing keeps you grounded like seeing sick people walking into your surgery every day, and then going out and visiting those who are too ill/frail to come in!
Even so (especially after last weekend in Stirling), events can catch up with you, and you suddenly realise the enormity of what you are a part of, and it can threaten to overwhelm you. In order to avoid this, I decided to have a weekend Not thinking about it, and just doing what I enjoy doing. Therefore, this blog update is not about running - although I admit that most of the people in it do have links to me via running.
After finishing work on Friday, I started the weekend off with a visit to my good friend Ian (we went to run across the Atacama Desert together, and he was also in the New Orleans marathon when I first broke the 3 hour barrier). Running talk was put to one side as we caught up over tea and biscuits (and looked at plans for the new hospital to be built in Dumfries) but I made it home in time to watch the Diamond League on TV. I wanted to watch the races live to avoid hearing the results first, but rain was forecast for later, so spent the evening doing shuttle runs from mowing strips of my lawn in to watch the TV and back out again!!

The 800m and 1500m

Doug at the Diamond League

Betsy Mae at 24hours old with her supporter's pin

Another good friend couldn't make it to Saturday's continuation of the Diamond League, and so offered to sell me his tickets. Who better to go and watch world class athletics with than Doug, who has been a friend, sounding board and mentor to me since I started  this running m'larky (we ran Mountain Marathons as a team and went out to my first Comrades together)? It was great to see how Hampden has been converted from a football stadium into an arena for athletics, and there were some amazing performances that day. The highlights for me were the funny antics of an American high jumper, the Brits in the ladies' 800m, the Brits (well esp the Scots) in the men's 1500m and David Rudisha in the 800m - he was amazing, pulling away from the field, while appearing to be out for a jog!
When the athletics finished, we dropped in for a cuddle with Betsy Mae McDonald (Doug's granddaughter) - who must be one of Team Scotland's youngest supporters!!

On Sunday, Scott (another running friend) had offered to be chauffeur for the day, though he probably regretted that offer later. After picking me up bright and early, we set off for a drive into the countryside, only to be greeted by signs that the roads ahead was closed and that there was a "diversion" in place. The signs weren't exactly placed very well because after an hour of driving down tiny winding roads, we were back to where we started. We thought that mayeb the signs were old and so risked carrying on the original route anyway, but no....the road was actually shut and the roadworker there told us that the drive round was >60miles.
To fortify ourselves for this, we had to stop for coffee and carrot cake (a lovely new cafe discovered, so there was a silver lining to that cloud). It also meant that we missed seeing some friends finish a half marathon, but at least got there to catch them for their cool down and encourage some of those running their first race!

My "Games Moment" of the weekend

By then it was time for a very late, but very nice lunch - how lovely it is to eat seafood while sitting looking out over a harbour/the sea with a chilled glass of wine! A chickflick in the early evening and I was dropped back home in time to watch the end of the World Cup (and celebrate a joint win in the bank sweepstake!!).
It was a great stress-free weekend, with only two token "Games Moments" - trying on my Opening Ceremony outfit, and checking out the location of the Scottish Athletics holding camp - so now I feel able to concentrate on the next couple of weeks, as I think there may be some upcoming sporting events in Glasgow!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Team Camp #GoScotland

This weekend was "Team Camp" up at Stirling University. There was a busy timetable of lectures,but part of the idea was for people to get together and meet each other. In total, 310 athletes have been selected to represent Scotland at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, covering 17 different sports, but many of us do not know each other. Athletics is the biggest team (followed by swimming) with 58 competitors, but even within athletics, I hardly know any of my team mates - "Ah, the loneliness of the long-distance runner" - probably because most track and field athletes meet at various events, but marathons tend to be separate. Hence, I was rather nervous about the whole weekend - and also worried about giving up the whole weekend 3 weeks prior to the race, as weekends are the main time available for training without the daily intrusion of work!
It didn't start well (well, actually it did because I eventually managed to find where to go to myself - Scottish Athletics were rather non-specific with "Stirling University" as the destination) as my name was misspelt on the lists, passes etc. It was, however, a good thing to pick up on, as it can hopefully be corrected in time for my official accreditation pass to match my passport (otherwise there'll be no entry to the Athlete's Village or Venues for me).

As I'd arrived early, I sussed the lay of the land and so by the time I met Ross (Houston - a fellow marathon loner), I could get him sorted with a Team t-shirt and photo before the sessions started.
To break the ice, we all had to practice a supporter's fist pump to the shout of "Go Scotland"! It was loud, but hopefully not as loud as we'll hear during the Games though, due to the marathon route passing through certain suburbs, Ross and I came up with our own hashtag of #GoVan!! That led us on to chat about the other athletics team members hearing the "Hampden Roar", while we get the "Glasgow Green Groan"!

With Team PingPong

Stirling University has a lovely campus with plenty of greenery and a central lake, so we could sit outside at lunchtime (having a laugh with Team PingPong) and watch the baton arrive, and I had a lovely walk in the evening, wandering around trying to find the dining hall. Slight schoolboy error when I had a look at a campus map before going for an easy morning run - there appeared to be a road that skirted round the outside of the campus, but unfortunately the map was clearly not to scale, as when I headed up said road, it appeared to climb up a 1000ft hill!

Opening Ceremony Kit

All in all, it was a good weekend and enabled me to put some faces to names, both within the Athletics Team (and management) and Commonwealth Games Scotland. We found out some useful information about the Games themselves and it really started to dawn on me just what I'm going to be a part of. 
Kit bags ready for collection

Nursing Home escapee?

One of the most memorable moments of the weekend was seeing the Opening Ceremony kit being unveiled to us on the Saturday (public launch Sunday). There was initially quite a shocked silence, but as Sir Chris Hoy put it - it is not about what an individual is wearing, and may not be to everyone's taste when seen alone, but all together, under the lights in Celtic Park - what an amazing impact it'll make! When we all picked up the kit on Sunday, you could look round the hall and see everyone so full of joy and laughter - that's what it's all about! I for one, cannot wait for the honour of wearing it and standing up for Scotland with everyone else ("17 sports, One Team") - and for all the naysayers, I'd be interested to see how many  refused to wear it, if they'd earned the right to!
For me, the stand-out moment of the whole camp was one that took me completely by surprise. One of the last things we heard was the new version of "Flower of Scotland" which will be played at medal ceremonies - I couldn't believe how much emotion washed over me, and I think half of the room were in the same position, trying to avoid anyone seeing the tears pricking at the back of our eyes - WOW!! and it still gives me the shivers just thinking about it!