Last Train to Trancentral – British Masters M50 3000m steeplechase

The usual disclaimers for the usual people that I should learn to ignore. No I am not claiming to be anything I am not. This is a personal blog about me and my running and in the big world what I am doing here counts for nothing, and I know that. I prefer to look at the positives of these things rather than look for the negatives and if personal achievement makes someone happy and doesn’t impact you then I don’t see any problem.

So where were we? Aye the Scottish steeplechase had wrecked my body but I wasn’t turning down the chance to run for Scotland, so I did and having done my deal with the devil of course I was in pieces afterwards. Sadly I had to step aside when the Scottish 5000m track champs came to town as I was struggling, hadn’t trained and wouldn’t have done myself justice. It was one of my season “A” races and I had high hopes of a sub 17 track PB but at my age you can’t do it all. No regrets, I had made my choice. The week after I started training again and should really have taken extended time off but wisdom has never been my strong point and I wanted to try and keep my personal form train choo-choo-ing down the track. All aboard , all aboard ooh.

The BMC GAA miler meet at Scotstoun. 1500m and despite still hobbling felt I could trouble my 4.40 PB of last year. We had a 4.30 pacer and to be honest on the night I found it tough to stay with the early pace and pack and at 800 was sitting at the back of the field, and it wasn’t for tactical reasons. Finished well though and moved from 15th to 8th over the last 500m with a shiny new PB of 4.32. No complaints at all.

Again though I was struggling a bit. I should have taken time off but the British masters was just around the corner. Rightly or wrongly I told myself to keep going and get through it, just make it to then or I’d be filled with regret. Tony at Extra Mile Therapy did his job of getting me where I could train though it was uncomfortable, but time would help. Again I scratched from the Scottish 10,000m track champs and a real medal chance as my fitness too suspect. Couldn’t comprehend running with groin and quad pain for 25 laps. Had pencilled in a 1500m steeplechase race at Meadowmill as prep but two weeks out from the British couldn’t even comprehend trying to jump a barrier.

Not looking good to be fair.

Did the 800m OGM at Livingston as a speed session instead to see what, if anything, was in the legs and got stuck in lane 2 on a curve start and ended up at the back after being too slow to react. Took me until 350m to get from the back to the front of the group and by then 2 lads well away. Pleased that I took the group through the bell and let them chase me the rest of the race, just holding off the Scottish 800m M50 silver medallist Craig Johnston to finish 3rd in 2.16. Wee bit slower than my previous one but decent enough with a few niggles and lack of focused training.

There were 2 weeks to try and get race fit for the British and also to play the “lets get paranoid about my competition” game. The Masters steeplechase master is an English fella called Graham Moffatt. He has won the last 3 British champs and also took a medal at the Europeans. Even worse GG told me he was a lovely guy. “Mr Pushy” Jim Buchanan told me he was lovely too. Obviously he became my enemy as he was everything I am not, and started living rent free in my head. The things we put ourselves through. It’s bad enough that my training was slipping, I just wasn’t where I was and everything hurt, though not as bad as it had. Had a wee go over the barriers for the first time since the Scottish and struggled. Focus though, I can do this .

No I can’t.

Yes I can.

My head going overtime. With every day in my head Graham getting fitter, he’s the championship specialist, no doubt training with the Kenyans and doing epic plyometrics in his lunch break. My last wee session before travelling was 100m strides at EK track and of course I felt the hamstring tighten. Friday at work and it’s painful. The race isn’t even going to happen, after all this. All the training, the focus, the build up and I am going to miss my only chance of a British medal. I feel it’s ready to pull. Its tender to the touch. Its 2 hours before I am due to travel and I don’t know if I am going. Having not slept I go a one mile jog, slowly. I feel every step. Any other race and I would have scratched but I take the 5 hour drive and hit Derby. Another wee jog to the track and feel every step. What am I doing? Any jump here could rip the hamstring beyond recognition. This was the ultimate punt, a long way to go for what could be one barrier. But I wanted this. I would regret the not having a go. This is where the focus has been for months, for longer even. This is probably the only time I will compete in a British championship event and being a young M50 this is probably the only chance I will have to medal. That wee fat guy from jogscotland deserves the opportunity to at least give it a go, I owed it to him because Fat Marko still lives inside me, and it’s for him as daft as that sounds. I was really terrified about this one, it would go one of two ways. I’d give it a right go and end up on that podium. Or I would be crumpled in a heap, season (at least) over. A fine line. I was really missing my family, my real support team, but was fortunate in that the other “Incredibles” were down here. Forbesy had won 2 silvers over 800 and 1500 on the Saturday with GG running a PB to finish 4th in his 800m. Brilliant stuff. There were also friends from Cumbernauld, Kilmarnock, a right good Scottish contingent, and I met up with Mr Pushy who fresh from his M55 Scottish record at Kilmarnock was again to be in the same race as me. He looked after me over a short warm up. If nothing else out of this daft steeplechase dream I have been fortunate to make friends like Jim, another of these nice guys, how do they manage it? Went to striding area and I looked at what pace things started to get really sore and reckoned that excepting the jumping I could run around 10 – 10.20 3k pace. Add slow barriers and realistically I could run around 11.20 – 11.30. Way off my Scottish pace but this is a championship and racing it right here would be key. With the sun having come out we retired to the shade of the stand and he introduced me to a lad called Graham.

It was him.

My nemesis.

My enemy.

The champion and the guy everyone liked.

I hate to say this but he actually was really nice. And tall. And we all chatted away. Outside the call room all the steeplechasers looked at each other shiftily full of nerves and pent up bounding frustration, like chained kangaroos but with nicer hair and colourful vests but into the call room and the ice broke. Bizarrely we all started talking to each other, having a laugh, a joke about, we walked to the start area making conversation instead of psyching each other out. It wasn’t what I was expecting from championship racing and my nerves were gone. A wee bit of striding, and a very easy step over of a barrier which is all I would manage today. Didn’t rip, bonus. Simple tactic now, I knew the pace I thought I could do and hoped that the water jump wouldn’t rip anything and do you know something? I got away with it. I slowed it down and even going through after the first part lap before we started jumping I was about 4 seconds slower than I had been at the Scottish. I got over the barriers though with more caution and I hit the water jumps as best I could with a slightly more limited range and I can’t complain. The support, especially from Paul and Kim Forbes was phenomenal. My winning time of 11.16 was a good bit slower than my Scottish time but it’s my second fastest since I started back and was inside the old Scottish record. Yes I said it, winning time. Wee Fat Marko could have a smile at his leaner older friend. I know, scoff away negative naysayers but for someone of my limited ability to have hit the clean sweep of Scottish Champion, British Champion and Scottish record holder? That’s bonkers that right there. That shows that we can chase our dreams even when others tell us to accept our abilities and that “You think you’re far more capable than you actually are”. Of course the achievements look better written down than they actually are but I will take this opportunity to be proud of myself for pushing myself to the limits of anything I thought I could do.

Come on, if nothing else I at least deserve credit for that?

Obviously I have to have some pictures here, and there’s a wee video of myself and Graham presenting each other with medals but my favourite of those pics is actually the one with the bulk of the chase crew larking about after the race. We all raced hard, we all respected each other and we all had a good laugh off the track. That’s what its all about really.

The presentation, with Graham.

A big thanks to everyone who has helped me on the journey of utter daftness. There’s been so many people who have helped with advice, friendship, tips, far too many to mention, but I have to say a special thanks to Elaine, Louis and Jon for supporting me and putting up with so much nonsense from me. To Paul Forbes, Paul McMonagle and Graeme Gemmell for lifting me up to another level with their training, positivity, advice, belief and friendship. To the team at Cambuslang Harriers for changing my outlook and those tempo runs and to Balega for providing me with the best socks in the business. As for the steeplechase, this sounds bizarre but I have loved doing it. There’s no track event like it. No hiding place, and it’s not surprising that not as many folk do it, especially those of “advancing” years but I love it. Unfortunately I am sure I am shrinking and the barriers getting taller, and it has really hurt me this year, so there’s a good chance this has been the last train to trancentral and the second steeplechase retirement is upon me. But do I regret any of it? Not a single bit.

And as the KLF say at the end of this epic track? “Over and out.”

Thanks Elaine Gallacher, Paul Forbes, Kim Forbes, Laura Haggarty, GAA, Graham Moffatt, Jim Buchanan, Mike Taylor and me for the pictures. A massive thanks to all at BMAF and the volunteers for a fantastic event. The competition and camaraderie was fantastic.

16 thoughts on “Last Train to Trancentral – British Masters M50 3000m steeplechase

  1. Great achievement mate, the tough bits always getting to the start line! Can’t believe you spoke about trains after the pelters you gave me and GG all weekend about train talk! 😂🤣😂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great wee write up. Highlighting what all runners go through at some or other. I saw you winning the Scottish at kilmarnock. those barriers look to solid for my liking. Very well done on your win at the weekend. I have done the British a few times and know the feeling.
    Keep up the good work mark

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Mark
    Great blog and many many congratulations

    Was great to meet up at Livingston – as you say a great part of it is the camaraderie – I missed that the last 3.5 years through injury and apathy. It’s great to be back in the gang

    All the best for the future – you are inspirational – as are all the masters competitions who all have interesting stories to tell


    Liked by 1 person

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