There is nothing quite like a big city race—especially when it’s a city you haven’t yet explored.
This past weekend I pulled on my leggings and strapped on my heart rate monitor to run the Great Scottish Run, an extremely popular half-marathon hosted each year in Glasgow’s city centre.
When I first found out I would be spending a semester in Glasgow, I immediately started looking into what races I could compete in. I had just completed my first half-marathon and needed another race to look forward to and train for. It isn’t often that a runner gets to experience a European race and I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity.
After doing a bit of research I discovered that the two biggest races for the fall season in Scotland were held within weeks of one another. The Scottish Half-Marathon was held at the end of September in Edinburgh and was a fairly new race with a lackluster Internet presence. The Great Scottish Run was held in early October in Glasgow, right by my university, and was considered Scotland’s biggest running event—it was even televised live on BBC each year!
The race was every bit as popular as I hoped it would be. Over 30,000 participants filled the starting area at George Square. The music blasted from the PA and the BBC’s sky cameras circled above. It was a typical cold Scottish morning, but I enjoyed being able to run a race in long sleeves for the first time.
There were a couple of things about this race that really set it apart for me. Firstly, there was no course time limit. This was THE BEST. Unlike my first half-marathon, the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon, where I spent months worrying about street closures, my pace, and getting “sweeped,” I was able to go into this race knowing that there would be runners of all different abilities and that no matter my pace I would be able to finish. Because of this the race also attracted quite a few characters, including a man running the entire race in a bunny suit to raise money for his grandmother’s surgery, several women wearing giant boob costumes for breast cancer awareness, and countless superheroes, tutus, and clowns. Glasgow closed the roads on their course for over six hours. While I’m certain I might have run a bit faster had I felt the pressure of a time limit, I wasn’t trying to set any records. I was able to remain calm and truly embrace my environment during my run.
Secondly, the course included what could only be described as a smorgasbord of all of scenic Glasgow. Not only did we get to run by popular tourist attractions in the city centre like the Clyde Arc (pictured below), the Hydro Arena, and various monuments, but we also ran through several parks including Pollack Park which features rolling Scottish fields and plenty of farm animals.
While there weren’t any booths set up at the starting line, the finish line at Glasgow Green was decked out in tents. Philanthropies, food distributors, and shops had been set up for all of the finishing participants and their supporters to enjoy. The finish line also featured rows of lifted bleachers so that supporters could easily watch the runners finish their last half-mile.
There were a few things I think the coordinators could have handled a bit better—there weren’t many security personnel around the starting line which made me feel a bit unsure at the beginning of the race and the finishers bags could have used a few more freebies, but given the cheap entry fee of £32 I was quite impressed.
The race was an absolutely unforgettable experience. It was such a great way to help me get accustomed to Glasgow in my first two weeks of arriving and I met so many lovely people. I highly recommend the Great Scottish Run; it meets the needs of both novice and experienced runners.
Work hard and radiate positive vibes,