At the Newcastle Pride 5k, in 2016, I’d ended up there practically on my own which was fine, you know – Newcastle is fab and there’s much worse places to be on your own! I used to run with Leeds Frontrunners but struggled to get to the runs with a combination of locations and a varying work pattern so I became a bit of a solo runner. I’d spied Jason (who I’d met previously on another run) and a few other GFR lovelies. Being full of similar northern warmth, they extended an invite to hang out with them and join them at their group meal curry that night. They were out in full force that night at Akbars – practically taking over the joint! and there was a massive sense of generosity and camaraderie. I don’t think I’d ever found myself in such a large group social setting before where I wasn’t stuck out on the periphery.
“And don’t forget to sign up for OUTrun” was the parting battle-cry as I left that evening. Through the buzz of the evening, I’d remember hearing about what must be the Glasgow Pride associated equivalent of the event I was at. I got home, did the Facebook thing, and bagged my OUTrun place– it sounded cracking, challenging (hmmm “Hilly bits” not really don’t those before), but certainly achievable even with my limited experience. And bonus! I was going to be in Edinburgh with work for the Fringe at that time and a weekend sojourn to Glasgow (even for a hilly 5miler) would be just the tonic.
The day came. Arriving at Kelvingrove park. Hundreds and hundreds of people. Big patches of colour where tribes of other running clubs are gathering and huddling together. There’s a nervousness which comes with turning up at such group focussed events when you’re on your own – even when you’re representing a group on your own!
There’s a few GFR members I recognise from the Newcastle run. But they’re busy. Of course they’re busy, it’s their event, you drongo! But some others, from that same Newcastle meal who’d spotted me and called me over. And some Londoners (the brilliant Khalid!) who’d seen me in Newcastle and joined the group. And suddenly the apprehension leaves you because the aerobics lady’s on the Kelvingrove Bandstand stage and you’re thankful for the Tuesday night squat class you go back home.
Then the piper. THEY HAVE A FUCKING PIPER!!! I kid you not!! We’re PIPED TO THE START LINE!! What is this brilliance, I’m asking???
I’ll not beat about the bush, the run’s not easy but it’s definitely one of the prettiest I’ve ever known. I love the loopback, and the reciprocal shouts of encouragement I can hear as runners pass each other spurs me on. The Hill. The dreaded hill I’d heard about looms ahead. Just slow down a bit you can do this. Turn it into the fastest walk and put a hop and skip in it. That’s still running. I reach the top and I’ve not had to stop. What a feeling! Then you get to the top and the drummers are there and you fall into their brilliant lively beat and rhythm and before you know it that hill is a thing of the past and they’ve put you back in your stride by beating and waving their magic drumsticks. You feel the passion for what they’re doing matching the passion for what you’re doing. It’s another wedge of brilliance added to the pie. You’re spurred on and on by more wonderful stewards. They love doing this, you can just feel it. And then the ends in sight. That final push. You can even here that the compere has spotted you as you approach the finish line, you get your own special mention and cheer…
A highlight or a favourite bit? This sounds trivial but I didn’t hear “Can you move aside for the fast people please?” called out once (the scourge of many a park-run these days, I find) but then again I’m clearly seeing there’s nothing this gang need telling about equality and inclusiveness.
But the evening – the GFR meal, and Ceilidh. The DANCING!!! Oh, the dancing again takes inclusiveness to another level. The folk-dances are in the blood with this lot, there’s no getting out of it and not that you’d want to – you just don’t ever want all that whirling around to stop until your willow’s well and truly stripped!
I win in the raffle – twice. A Hotel stay with dinner PLUS a £50 quid Wagamama voucher. I feel a bit of a fraud, the out of town boy coming in here, nicking the prizes (weeks later Allan gets the Wagamamma voucher as I can’t get up to redeem it so I feel less bad!).
I’ve changed jobs again and for the first time in five years, my weekends are completely my own. I’m still Yorkshire based but I’m really looking forward to sticking even more Glasgow runs and events in my diary throughout 2018. I’ve even paid my subs and become an official member. I’m affiliated. It’s important to belong to a “tribe” of some kind. This gang are awesome and it’s a great joy to run with them and really feel I’m a welcomed part of what they do. And they do it brilliantly and beautifully, there’s obviously a cracking team and committee at the heart of it.
So thanks for welcoming me, you wonderful, wonderful lot. With a natural ability to keep an eye out for the outsider and for generously inviting me into your events, your socials, your conversations: Jason, Allan and Robbie, Mike, Jimmy, Owain, Gary, Richard, Mark, Chris, Alex, Sean …. And Sarina for ‘hanging with the oldies’. And anyone else I’ve embarrassingly forgotten to mention (wow – just read that – I’ve only done a handful of runs with you lot and yet I know so many of you – just goes to show….). And David for asking me to write this and sharing how it feels. I know there’s lots more among them that I’ve yet to get to meet properly and know – but it’s only a matter of time and it’s always good to have things to look forward to!