Living it, Loving it, Larging it -Scottish Masters Steeplechase Championships 2021

I have drafted this opening a few times to be honest and still don’t know how to start it. There’s always that fear of annoying and upsetting people but I’m really happy to have achieved something that’s so inconsequential to so many but meant so much to me so yes, I think I will start off with the explanation, the apology.

Through the years I have blogged about the bad times, the very bad times, the embarrassing times and I have blogged about the good times. There has been a lot of both good and bad, and last year in particular I put my feelings down about how I was struggling during lockdown and was fortunate that a lot of people really got where I was coming from and it was a very cathartic experience. If I am going to share being at that level of a low, then I need to share when I am at a high, it’s ying and yang, the two sides of the coin, the Renee to the Renato even though I know it is going to annoy people. I know there are people out there that don’t like people to celebrate when they have achieve something for themselves and this apology is for you. To me? There is too much bad news just now, too much you can get yourself bogged down in. This is the other end of the see saw for me and I want to have it down in writing and then read it again when I inevitably end up sloping down to the other side again. My positivity fix. I don’t think that’s too bad a thing?

Last year after my “Lockdown” blog (Weightlifting – We aren’t all PB smashing in lockdown.) I set myself a series of targets, some aims, high aims but aims none the less and I was honest about it to the few people I confided in. The first two of these were that I wanted to try and win the M50 Master’s 3000m steeplechase and to try and beat the Scottish M50 record of 11.19. My PB at this time was 11.36, set in 2018, so 3 years later and having hit 50 can I actually expect to run 17 seconds faster? Likelihood not great, but not so far off that it’s impossible so it was a fun target to aim for. Of course I did nothing about it until March when I realised time was getting away from me and then made a big step.

Yep I bought a hurdle off the internet for £34. Woo, the Kenyans were shaking.

A hurdle. Like mine. Yesterday.

That counts for training in itself eh? It sat in a corner unloved and forgotten about until May when I realised basically I had run out of time to get my body tuned to the chase. A year I had thought about it, and hadn’t actually done anything about it.


So over May and June, when I had time, I started doing a wee bit of hurdling, trying to lead with both legs. Wasn’t great and I was terrified of it but was making a wee bit of progress. Even took my hurdle on holiday with me, isn’t that sad? Couple of morning sessions but was giving me pain about the groin area so had to stop. Anyway what would be would be, needed to try and get some practise over a real barrier but even getting time on a track not easy just now, let alone getting a barrier brought out. The last blog had me just back from holiday and managing a decent 5k. The two Pauls and I had arranged to do the Dunfermline OGM at Pitreavie on the Saturday after that for a last wee blast of speedwork prior to the masters and to again to just get a race in, to blow the racing cobwebs away. One of the things I had asked Forbesy’s help with was getting my 800 time down as my last one I had run 2.23 4 years ago, and my latter day PB was 2.21. I believed I could run under 2.20 with a bit of help, and my wee group have been helping me with my speed. So this was to be a wee sub 2.20 attempt. It was agreed that I would go through the bell in 68 and then try and kick off from 300 and all being well I would get my aim.

Aye simple as that lads, cheers.

I am happy to say it went better than plan, lap 1 68, second in 66, a PB of 2.14, and 12 seconds ahead of second place. Job done and to be fair my confidence running quite high.

Dunfermline T&F OGM 800 2.14.5

I’ve said it before, get in the best shape you can and sometimes luck can go on your side. Managed to get a barrier session on the Thursday at EK, bit later than I would have liked but you take what you can, and I’m kind of glad that I did. But at the same time wish I hadn’t. I was scared of that big barrier and it took me a few goes to even attempt to get over it, and I soon realised that I was faster taking a partial step than clearing. But then it happened, after doing a left leg lead hurdle I felt my back jar as I landed. Two days before race day and I spent the rest of the day hobbling as my back and groin area were agony. Friday? Worse. Had the race been this day I couldn’t have done it. Saturday, it’s a bit better but not right. I travelled down anyway, did a mile or so jog and it seemed to calm down but I knew it was there. Now I veer slightly away from my run just now just to talk about the event.

It was so good being at an event like this again. Thanks all involved in the organisation.

So much space to warm up etc I felt safe but you could still see and say hello to people and catch some of the events. Loved it. Had a great chat with Jim Buchanan who was also running the chase, and indeed it was his record I had set out to try and beat a year ago. A top guy and he had a wee run with me as I tested out my weary old body to see if I could run. I didn’t want to miss this. I wasn’t going to miss this. A few tentative step ons of the barrier in the warm up. The jumps were all going to have to be led by the right leg as the left wasn’t playing ball but I might just get away with this and off we go. I have my splits all worked out in my head and in this ridiculous head I am aiming at a sub 11. Aye go on Marko, take over 36 seconds off your PB while injured, that’s going to work, but I know what the talking calf says, “If you think you’re beaten you are”.(*1) I follow Law’s James Gillon as he hares round the first non jumping half lap. OK I’m 3 or 4 seconds inside my split already but I feel good. We start jumping and James is away, but I am getting over, stepping yes, but it’s comfortable. First water jump comes up, 3 years since my last, man the nerves sprung up here but I got over without falling, I think the punters watching on were disappointed, uncomfortable landing on the left leg but I can handle it and that’s the tale of the first 4 or 5 laps.

Man fears water

Well, apart from when I came round the back straight on maybe the third lap to see James lying on the grass at the side of the track having badly hit a barrier. It looked bad, but he had help so I could carry on running. Seeing him taken away in a wheelchair after the race shows the margin of error involved in this event, but I’m told he is fine.

Back to the race now, I’m running solo but decently, not hurdling well but well enough to not be losing too much time, my flat between barriers so far not too affected. But with just over two laps to go every landed jump started to hurt. The back was sore, the groin was sore and the luck was running out. Through with two laps to go and somehow I was still within my target, grit the teeth, head down and see it out. Strip it back and just try and get round now. I clip a barrier but stay up, calm it Marko, concentrate. The bell chimes for the last lap and timewise I am where I want to be, I am under my 11 minute split, just get round safely. The crowd are great, the encouragement keeping me going, it’s so appreciated. The last couple laps the pace had slowed but it has had to. Last lap, three barriers safely down, now the final water jump. I’m knackered to be honest, I’m in pain and my spring off the barrier is more of a flop. Two legs almost in the deep end but I just about keep my feet.

It’s in my own hands
Drive Baldy

Just over a hundred to go, it’s going to happen, safely but slowly over the last barrier then the sprint for home. I’m in in 10.54.35, a new PB by 42 seconds and a new Scottish M50 record by 25 seconds. Really pleased with myself to be honest, it was faster than I thought I could do, and beating that 11 minute barrier was a real thrill. I watched Jim come home having swapped his M50 record for the M55 one, also taking 25 seconds off that record. A good day for the two old boys.

Mark Gallacher M50 and Jim Buchanan M55
With the two Pauls and their haul of medals. Pauls’ hauls. Together with GG they have changed my approach to track running.
Club recognition. So much for keeping head down and hiding.
That’s me on that there interweb thing
Scottish Athletics Report

So yes there you have it.

In the grand scheme of things, amongst my peers, clubmates, training partners etc I am just an ordinary runner. I work hard and have my moments but I am not and never will be one of the top guys. Also I know that not many people, particularly at my age, are daft enough to want to put themselves through 7 1/2 laps of hurdling and water. But that makes it even more exciting for me, that such a normal wee baldy runner like me can wake up the next morning being a Scottish Champion and Scottish record holder, now come on isn’t that an amazing thing? I have made so many mistakes in my life like most of us have but I can now say to myself “I did that”. I know the record is a soft one, it’ll be easily beaten and someone else will take the title next year. But for now?

Living it, Loving it, Larging it.

The third of my trilogy of aims is just 5 days away and I can almost touch it, but I also can’t currently run, my body hasn’t recovered but hopefully a few days rest and I will be fine. It’ll be touch and go as well but I am not writing it off, because I really want it and you know what? If I can pull that one off too then I’ll see you here next week.

The song, also on the playlist is from Glasgow’s Ace City Racers. Living it, Loving it, Larging it.

A big thanks to Bobby Gavin, Peter Jardine, Jim Buchanan, Flaming Pearl and Ross McEachern for the pictures, Forbesy and the Incredibles for changing my perspective on running, Cambuslang Harriers for the tempos and confidence, everyone who gave me a wee cheer on Saturday (it helped) and Elaine for everything.

(*1) – I have these words tattooed on my calf, there are no talking bovines involved.

7 thoughts on “Living it, Loving it, Larging it -Scottish Masters Steeplechase Championships 2021

  1. Great write up Mark, just one correction if I may – 10:54 ain’t no ‘soft record’ – it’ll stand for some time, unless you decide to trim it a wee bit further…. And I hope I am there to witness it.

    Liked by 1 person

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