Now you will have to excuse me because this one will jump all over the place. Literally at points, like a decrepit Tigger reliving better days in his nursing home. As the great Garscube philosopher Jim Boyle succinctly put it this is all about overcoming barriers, but since that’s cheesier than Peter Andre eating Wotsits there will be none of that talk here.
It’s been a while since I blogged as I was on holiday. I always rave about running on holiday but this was majorly different this year as while the resort I was in was gorgeous, (except when they gave my wife salmonella and we had to change room after being threatened, two different stories though) it was 6 miles outside Marrakech in the middle of nowhere. A couple of runs outside in the barren wasteland but cut that short after a few encounters with packs of wild dogs and abuse from natives on their mopeds and had to run round and round a football park and paths instead with the most ridiculous 10 miler in my history.
But you are on holiday Marko I hear you ponder whilst stroking your invisible goatee. Why bother? Well my pondering friends I had set myself up with yet another challenge, and this was possibly the greatest one yet, more of a challenge for me than doing a marathon.
Any of you that know my wee story knows that my last race all those years ago was the steeplechase at Grangemouth. Walked off the track with a couple of laps to go in a tantrum, lit a Benson and Hedges and chucked running for 20 years. I had always toyed with doing one more just to get that monkey off my back but there were a few things stopping me.
- I simply didn’t want to put myself through it.
- My hamstrings are tighter than Barry Manilow’s face.
- I have had serious back issues over the years.
- Only d@cks do the steeplechase
There was just no way I could ever get round 7 ½ laps of mad jumping about. This year I had been asked to trial GOPO® which is a natural rosehip remedy designed to aid mobility and recovery of joints and I had felt it had benefitted me and through my Manchester marathon training and subsequent 5k training I had been able to ramp up my sessions and was recovering better. Couple of smashed PBs and have been running consistently well (for me I hasten to add) since. So I did something daft and entered the Scottish Masters 3000m steeplechase. GOPO® kindly agreed to extend my trial until after the race to see if it could aid my hurdling which was good of them. You know even training for it has been a challenge as naively I thought I would just turn up at a track and practise on a barrier like I did 28 years ago.
28 years ago!!!!
WHAT WAS I THINKING!!!
That wasn’t the case and it took some arranging with the John Wright track in EK to get the barrier out of the shed. Apparently it was the first time it had been out in about 10 years. That first session, 2 months before the race and I couldn’t get over the barrier. I don’t just mean couldn’t hurdle, I mean couldn’t get over it. Its 3 foot high. I had no bottle. I would run up and stop. Took me about 10 attempts to just jump up onto it. This wasn’t going to be easy. Swiftly I knew hurdling not an option so I just had to build up the bottle to jog up and try and jump onto it and spring off. Had only the time for 2 sessions at this, and none on the waterjump and here I am in Morocco and the only waterjump practice is in the pic.
Thanks to the team at the John Wright in EK for humouring me and helping out.
The entry lists were posted up the week before and I was slowest in the entire combine field of 16 runners. Ach that’s ok. I have my own challenge, get round it, and with it being the Scottish champs there were medal standards. For v45 it was 12.25 so that was my target. I reckon for a decent steeplechaser you would add on a second a barrier to your 3k time, average steeplechaser 1 ½ to 2 seconds and novice then 3 to 4. (I have no science to back this up, I have just thought of a number though although I have had a pint with him I have never been Johnny Ball) My best 3k last year was 10.34 , so with good novice territory then add on 3 x 35 = 1 min 45. This would have me coming in 12.19, so right on the standard, so a realistic target to try for IF I could get over that waterjump. There were 3 V45s a lot faster than me so the medal itself was never going to be an issue which was good to have no stress but achieving the standard would be a task in itself after 28 years out. 28 YEARS!!!! My big target was 12 minutes as I knew there were a couple of V50 guys looking for around that time so I would try and latch onto them.
As the day got closer I was really getting nervous. I still hadn’t done the water jump, the most crucial part of the race, and was terrified of it. But to be fair to myself I never considered scratching. Dropping out that one in 1990 and walking away from the sport (without my spikes) was my reason. My reason left to destroy. I was determined to see this through though I did feel like Gordon Strachan beside the barrier.
It was a warm day though so the water would be nice I told myself. The atmosphere was good before it, had a good natter with GG of Bella, Fife’s Daniel Newman, Justin Carter of Cambuslang and Jim Buchanan of Dumfries. It was a combined open and masters race so the whippets were in with us but what would be would be and we were off. The first half lap and no barriers and the whippets went away. The masters were all together, nerves permeating the air as we hit the first hurdle. Over it fine though they were all hurdling and I was stepping. Next one. Fine, but the first waterjump was looming. Jockeying for postion, all nerves but it seemed to come back to me as I jumped. Didn’t end up in the deep end and actually gained ground on the jump. This might actually end up ok. Kev caught it on video.
I won’t go through the rest of the race in detail, these pics will give a flavour.
Despite Jim and Justin being so much faster than me on the roads (4 mins over 10k in Justin’s case) I gave it a good go with them, even taking the pace on and we were pretty much toe to toe for 5 laps. I tired over the last couple of laps and lost the two of them but 100m behind Justin and 6 seconds behind Jim at the end as I came in well ahead of target in 11.36 was a more than decent return, as was getting an unexpected silver medal in the V45 category.
My first individual Scottish Championships medal and a real thrill when I remember 2011 and my first 43 minute 5k. I have never claimed to be the best runner, and I never will be, and yes fortune smiled on me on the day, but all you can do is get yourself in the best shape you can and put yourself out there to be able to take advantage if the chance presents itself.
For someone like me who was a 30 a day smoker, who couldn’t run 250m without stopping, who then spent a year on medication for his back after wrecking it doing 2 10ks, who was the fat one at the back of the jogscotland group, who was told to accept his level and quit running (I could go on here), this is like a surreal experience. At any of those times to have been told I would win an individual Scottish Championships medal? Utter craziness. So it’s banked. Monkey off the back, and probably steeplechase retired from again but as chuffed as I am of the medal I am more chuffed with the fact that I put myself out there again and came out the other side. Another challenge taken, challenge complete, I need to come up with a total cracker to beat this one!
Thanks to Kevin Durnian, Claire Thompson (Claire T Media) and Bobby Gavin at Thatonemoment for the superb pics.
A massive thank you for all that made this possible for me, Elaine for putting up with my madness, all the staff at John Wright EK who helped me with the barriers, John Hughes at MAC for giving me track workouts, my bosses at FEM for supporting my lunchtime sessions and GOPO® for arranging the trial (further blog to follow on this.) Go Team!! So here’s the Go!Team, with their reason left to destroy.