A Little Less Conversation – Scottish National Road Relays 2022

I left you back in February after the Masters Indoors, a cracking 800, a less than cracking 1500 and a body that was done in. The sensible among us would have taken a bit of time out but never let sensible and me be mentioned in the same sentence again. It is not fair to the word sensible. I cannot have that type of talk around here. Down with this sort of thing.

Careful Now.

I knew March had the Scottish Road Relays and one of my aims for the season was to just try to make the Cambuslang M50 team. I was gutted that after making the team for the XC relays that I had had to withdraw for reasons other than fitness and possibly my chance of being selected again gone, but I really wanted to try to make this team. My body wasn’t having it though, I kept hoping things would settle but the back, hip, groin, piriformis, everything round about there was just not playing ball. Just not settling. My training more up and down than a frog on a spacehopper and I toiled to an 18.30 parkrun. For selection purposes no use to man nor beast that as I reckoned I would have to be in 17.30 shape to have a chance of making the team. I was then out for a week as my back was so sore that every step even walking was horrendous pain.

Just wasn’t going to happen was it?

I take a punt on a recommendation from BRRs Bryan Mulgrew and join Carla Molinaro’s SCY (Strength, conditioning and Yoga) for runners group and on introducing myself and explaining my issues the next weekly Yoga work out is focussing on Piriformis, Hamstrings, Back, Calfs, Tib Ant and Quads. I am not flexible and bloody awful at it, but I will give it a go. A month down the line I am still doing it so there is definitely something to it. It has really helped me with areas I should have paid more attention to. It has helped get me running again.

Back running again but not quite comfortable yet. Not pain free yet. But it is getting better. Less than two weeks to try and prove my fitness and I am dealt a lifeline (though it’s a blow for the club) when we find out that the outstanding M50 athlete in Scotland so far this year, our own Stevie Wylie, will be in Benidorm watching Elvis impersonators instead of toeing the line.

Stevie’s Elvis – the real deal?

To be honest we are all shook up about this, but the wonder of this is that it potentially left another door open to get in the team, I need to do a couple of weeks hard work and stop just talking about it, definitely a little less conversation and a little more action please. Potentially a sub 18 might be enough to get me in the team.

A decent weeks training and another wee go at Drumpellier parkrun. I am going for the sub 18 but it’s slippy underfoot on the trails after a bit of rain, and the bad choice of the vaporfly is like running in Blue Suede shoes. I really do have a honking run, faster than my previous visit but 18.25 is not going to get me in the team.

One week left and I bang in a good weeks training but Drumpellier is off due to an event in the park and the only real option is Strathclyde parkrun and to be honest I have been avoiding Strathclyde for what are my own personal reasons. Even though it is my home parkrun, running at the end of the day is a hobby and should be enjoyed and there’s no point going somewhere you would feel anxious about going is there? I would have to pull on the big boy pants and try to improve the thickness of my skin if I wanted to achieve my aim.

It’s now or never.

It’s going to be a time trial, me against the clock and going for that sub 18. Hopefully others would pull me along. 3.36 per K, 5 times and job done, aye easy ….. Did I have an extra 26 seconds in my locker over the previous week? I went for it though, in perfect conditions, though the stressful part of being here was always on my mind.  1st k 3.30 so a wee buffer, then 3.34, at the turn on target.

Passing the runners who are on the way out as I go back I hear the “cheat shoes” comment but stifle my yawn. 3.33 for 3rd k, 3.34 for 4th. A k to go and I have a buffer of 13 seconds. It is on. There are a few runners ahead as I kick off. It is a case of how low can I bring it now. Sub 17.40 would be a huge boost. My endurance better than I was expecting and I finish in 17.25, my second fastest ever at Strathclyde and now in a real position for selection. I keep training hard and on the Thursday the teams are selected and I am in first short leg. Nerves are absolutely horrendous and had been all week but I have done what I set out to do; now I just had do what I was capable of for my team. I know I am almost a minute off where I was last year but this would be about racing. The 50s category was looking strong. Cumbernauld, Perth, Corstorphine, Edinburgh, PH. All with strong teams. Like us though all teams appeared to be missing one of their expected quartet. We might actually get away with me being in for Stevie and challenge for the medals. We were going to go for it anyway. I hadn’t raced the short course here since 2016 but memory tells me of an uphill start, tight turns, undulations and a good chunk of the last mile on the trails before a 400m or so uphill finish. A challenging wee course. As has been the norm over the last who knows how many races, my training buddy Paul Mac from Cumbernauld was going to be doing the first leg as well. He was the current champion in our seemingly never ending head to heads just now having seriously skelped me at the indoor 1500 and there was never going to be much between us today with him having PBed again over 5k the previous week. Trains hard, races hard, cracking guy. You may not believe this but we are here at Livingston and the sun has come out, shining resplendently and bouncing off my baldy napper as if it had the finest chrome finish. Forbesy even took his gloves off, though rumours of a Horlicks drinks station remained unfounded.

What a day and what a race it was. Loved it. The first leg got away with the whippets flying at the front.

There was a testing climb to begin with and wise men say only fools rush in so I was content to ease in the first section. Paul alongside me. Iain from Corstorphine there too. The M50 posse already packing, noticeable by the “X” on our numbers. Over the first climb and I tried to move away from the 50s pack but Paul having none of it. He pulled ahead here and my legs struggled to react. My pal David from Pitreavie, who is having an outstanding year, also went past and I had to work hard to stay in touch. Got to the whirly windy flyover thing and I had pulled just ahead of them both. Lost concentration, Paul nipped past on the inside and as we hit the downhill just afterwards he was away. He was working really hard and he was getting me. I can’t let the elastic break, remembering what had been said to me before the race I know that if it does it’s not just myself I’m letting down, it’s the team. With Cumbernauld’s star man Stevie on the next leg we can’t finish too far behind them or the race will be more than over after the second leg. There are 3 or 4 runners between Paul and me but I have stopped the rot. The gap is maybe 30 metres but a good last k or so and I can try and close it. I get back in the zone, I am focussed. I know this part of the course now having done the parkrun here. Its trail but hard packed and although undulating there is no big climb until the last 400 on road so I can make a push. 1 k to go and I have managed to get onto Paul’s shoulder. Do or die. I have to kick off now and believe that I have the strength to see it through. Look only ahead. Focus. I have a decent last k and come round to the last hill where the support is immense.

I run as hard as I can, I really do, I know every second counts and the Cambuslang posse are all telling me this, shouting it to me, as I try just to not collapse. I don’t think any other M50s are ahead so I bring my team in in first place and that’s’ what I had hoped to do. Hit the deck, look at the watch, 17.47 and I am a bit disappointed, but see Paul coming in and we have a respectful fist bump. From a racing perspective, it was another great duel and I find out later that I have managed to give us a 21 second advantage. Over to the other lads now, nothing else I can do except watch the race unfold, and unfold it did. Wet vest off, t-shirt on, change of shoes and a jog round the course. Leg 2 and I am at about 1 1/2k to go watching and as expected Stevie has taken Cumbernauld into a big lead. Chris for us is battling as hard as he can but there are strong strong runners here, and Max from Corstorphine has a lead over us, and Duncan from Perth is right on Chris shoulder. All four of these guys are class runners and a pleasure to watch them. Chris hands over in 4th but there is still a medal chance, a lot of racing to be done. I am back neck and neck with Paul Mac again as we jog round cheering on our respective teams. Leg 3 and Richard has caught Corstorphine and is sharing air space with Perth and closing on Cumbernauld.

A superbly raced leg coming from way down and he hands over in second to our last leg star man. Kerry hasn’t raced for a while and his fitness isn’t where he would like it to be but his calibre is different class, he is the epitome of a Masters championship runner. When he passes us after 2k of the long leg he has a small gap on Perth and is closing on Cumbernauld. It’s game on. Corstorphine appear to have been dropped so the three medals are within 30 seconds of each other. Back to the finish now and see how it closes. I decide to go down to the corner just before the final hill and it’s a wait but it’s Kerry who comes round first, maybe 20 or 30 metres ahead of Stuart of Perth. You can tell both guys have given their all and Kerry looking behind him on the last turn but brings it home for the Cambuslang gold.

A testimony to the strong running of the day that both these guys and Cumbernauld’s Derek were all on the finishing straight at the same time after 106 minutes of racing. What a race! Richard and myself are elated.

51 years of age and our first gold team National medals. My first ever Scottish team medal, and Richard’s first ever Scottish gold. I know a lot of people turn their noses up at masters running, especially when it gets to the 50s and beyond but this was arguably the race of the day, all the runners gave their all and what it means to runners like me is intangible.

Team gold photo, look! And I am in it. I embraced that medal like the big hunk o’love it was.  I didn’t let my team down after all, and my disappointment in my own run faded when I later found out I was the fastest M50 over the short leg and indeed the only one under 18 minutes on the day. My typical imposter syndrome could have a day off today, as much as it was kicking at my door, I had actually earned my place on that winning team and that really felt good. I may, as was suggested, have had ideas above my station when I changed clubs but even if this is a one off I have still done it and my dear naysayers it feels good. What a great day out, thanks to all involved in the organisation of the day, it ran seamlessly, so to Scottish Athletics, Tru Wealth, Lothian Running club and all the volunteers a big massive thank you.

Todays song, and hopefully as good as the Stevie’s impersonator that got me my run in the team 🙂 It’s added to the playlist.

Thanks to Bobby Gavin @ thatonemoment.co.uk for the fantastic race and presentation photos. Cheers also to Colin Feechan, Richard Cooper, Stevie Wylie, Strathclyde parkrun and Drumpellier parkrun.

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