Today would have been my Dad’s 74th Birthday but sadly he is no longer with us. It got me thinking back to when I was young and in my first spell of running and he would always come to the races. And wasn’t slow in telling me where I had went wrong. Which was running too slow, having no bottle, no positional sense, and not trying usually 🙂 He was hard but fair. I think it was 1985 and I was running for Hamilton Harriers when I won my first title. I do remember all the races I won as there weren’t that many of them. There is a point to this rambling, so bear with me.
So Drumpelier Park, Coatbridge, in, I think, 1985. Lanarkshire X Country championships and I am running for Hamilton Harriers. I’m not even the best Hamilton runner as I have been having a few ding dong battles with a fella called John McGhie and he’s been shading it. It’s the Senior Boys race. The coach John Smith told us to go out hard as we were always getting left behind at the start. It was to be a loop around the circuit then out and through the woods and back round a half loop to the finish. Off we went, and I ignored John. I wasn’t good enough to line up with those guys. Thankfully the pace slowed a bit and a couple of other Hamilton runners came past me. My cue to speed up a bit as one Hamilton guy beating me was enough. I was actually up to about 5th as we went through the railway bridge after the first loop. I was ahead of McGhie. So I dug in. We did a wee loop through the woods and I’m third. I don’t know how. The pace is not fast, the runners that I recognised from EK and Larkhall etc were all watching each other. Cagey. I thought I had a chance of a bronze as about 7 of us seemed clear so I decided to break for home as we went through the railway bridge. No one went with me. I was a nobody from Hamilton. They would swallow me up in the last sprint I am guessing they thought. A madness possessed me. I started sprinting with a good 800 m or so still to go. Thinking back probably fear. I was well clear then I heard the shouts. The coaches of the real runners weren’t happy. They had let me away and were in danger of not getting me back. I could hear every step behind me as the stampede came but I sprinted on empty legs round the last corner and a 100m straight to the finish into heavy driving rain. I could see my Dad pushing through the throng at the finish, screaming his lungs off. I found a final bit from nowhere and got across the line. I actually held off the peloton by 7 seconds and was Lanarkshire champion for the first time. My Dad, always the critic, said nothing, but took off his sheepskin coat and put it around my 14 year old shoulders, a gesture I have never forgot. Sometimes words just aren’t needed.
This race got me selection for the West of Scotland team for the Inter Districts for the first time, and also for the Lanarkshire team. It started a lot. But I’ll never forget that sheepskin coat. Miss you old fella.