So let’s be honest here, I am in the twilight of my running career and I mean that in a nice way and in a respectful way to myself. Now hold fire Mr Angry Keyboard man and hear me out, I can already see the smoke coming off your fingers, easy there tiger. It’s not that I will have to stop running or anything, as I hope I’ll be able to do that for many, many years to come, but at the age of 51 simply any time targets I haven’t yet hit are becoming less and less likely to be hit.
I get that. I accept that. I understand that. I know we can reset our PBs to age graded and all that, and re-adjust the aims and no doubt I will, but for many of us there is that sub-culture that we operate in. The original aims. We want to hit barriers (unless we are doing the steeplechase, but you know what I mean…. Ah the steeplechase….sigh… no Marko…!). Sub this and sub that. It can drive us. Come on, you do know what I mean, we all have our wee wish lists be it a sub 20 5k, a sub 90 half, a sub hour 10k, whatever your targets are. I personally can’t complain, I have basically hit all the targets I had with the exception of a couple. One I did the training for and didn’t get the race and probably my time for that has come and gone, the other is a sub 5 minute mile. I’ve tried a few times at this and last year thought I was in shape to do it but a combination of heavy winds and poor, poor racing had me well off my target. I wasn’t even close and now I’m a year older and although I have raced well and won a few medals my times are down on last year. It’s difficult because at my age you don’t know if age is making you slower or if you will be able to chip back away at it and get the times down again. There’s that invisible line and you don’t know if you have crossed it, however I know I am training well enough just now and the Monument Mile is coming round again and this could be my last chance.
In theory you try and pump that confidence up before a race like this. After that Scottish 5k medal I was feeling better about my running. Not quite confident but better, like a corner had been turned. I had entered the Scottish open/ West District champs at Kilmarnock at 800m and 1500m to get possibly a couple of track races in the week before the mile thinking it would be like a standard OGM.
Aye, that was a mistake.
Looking at the start lists, myself and Paul Mac were the oldest in the race.
When one of your 800m competitors, a junior GB international, comes to chat to you before the race because you were in his Mum’s class at school you realise you are back in a different world again. I go back to the starting point in this blog and sometimes you know that time is running out for certain things. I shouldn’t have been on that starting line. Competing against these younger whippets was a bit of a humiliation for me. That invisible line also extends to realising that this isn’t the standard of event that I can compete in anymore. I had stepped over it and yep, this was it for me.
I no longer belonged in this type of event.
I started in lane 1, staggered start, and by the stagger I was so far behind the pack, Paul alongside me. I couldn’t bridge any gap. I had no change of pace. I would have been better doing a track session or TT on my own and I was in a sorry state finishing in 2.18.33, my slowest since 2017. Had I gained anything from it? A hard work out. A wee go on the track under race conditions. Had I lost from it? Aye, every piece of confidence that I had built up in the previous weeks. It really was that bad. Here is a picture from the bell and I am the distant red blur at the back.
This isn’t even the leading group you see, they were even further ahead. I scratched from Sunday’s 1500 and did a solo split mile session instead and couldn’t quite hit my times that I wanted. Not far away but not quite there. This one was going to slip by me I think. Out of nowhere though on the Tuesday I had a good track session and the legs were working again so the confidence bouncy castle was launching me back up the way, just have to make sure I landed safely. Some easy running the rest of the week and the final start lists were out. Now the problem with entering a race so far in advance is that you feel optimistic about yourself. “OK It’s November. I know I have been injured and am running like a donkey but by May I’ll be flying. Sub 5 on the cards. 4.55, Bring it on”. As it gets closer you realise you aren’t quite in that shape, and after your worst 800m in 5 years your McRun predictor suggests a 5.07 mile. You are in the 4.55 expected time race. There’s some talented young athletes in it like my clubmate Sam McCarthy who is flying just now. Multiple World and European Masters medallist Adrian Haines who although coming back from illness is simply a class runner. Garscube’s Lesley Bell who is dominating her events on both road and track just now. There are two things I can do here, crumble like the week before or just try and learn a bit from it. Start faster mainly. Be mindful of my splits but ensure I keep with the group. I was actually calm. I was watching the other races and enjoying the spectacle of the flames on the home straight. There was fire!!!! It really was a right good vibe. Although there was a slight wind it was nothing compared to the previous year. Adrian sought me out for a wee chat and he was lovely. In your head you expect these top guys to be focused and po-faced with no time for the plebs like me but he was such a nice bloke! The rain stopped, the sun came out, the wind took some time out. The conditions to be fair were as perfect as they were going to be so I had no excuses, no complaints and was just going to have to get out there and run the best I could.
We are off.
First bend and I almost go down three or four times, it’s tight, compact, argy bargy all around but I am making sure I stay in the mix this time. Young Sam puts his foot on the ball and strides out taking it on. For the next few laps I stay in my group. I’m 7th or 8th out of ten and am hitting my markers that I need to run to be around 5 minutes.
Great encouragement from the sides. We approach the bell and I am 7th and my time is around 3.45. To run 5 minutes then you have to lap in 74.58 seconds. I have been doing recent short recovery 400 reps in 73. I have 75 seconds to complete the last lap and I feel ok. My splits are perfect. In my head I already know it’s on and is there to be lost. The last 60 seconds or so shown below but I move up from 7th to 5th on that last lap, lapping in around 70 to run 4.55.61.
Absolutely delighted. Sam and Adrian battled through the line in second and third, watching an U17 and a M55 racing like this head-to-head is an absolute pleasure and summed up the night, as I said earlier what a vibe there was.
The full race is here around 2.09.30 if you are bored, all the races for the night here.
You know over all the races on the night there were so many people both faster and slower than me and I am delighted for all of them because we all have our own, unique wee targets. At the end of the day, this is a hobby for most of us, and we work as hard as time allows us to get the best out of our own abilities and we deserve to celebrate it. I have actually stopped caring about what the negative people out there say about me, they are going to anyway no matter what. I am chuffed to bits to hit that sub 5 target that I never thought I could and I am telling you all that. Nothing wrong with being proud of yourself. Do I want adulation? Of course not, in the grand scheme what I do is bang average but I am excited about it and there is not a thing wrong with that. It’s that sub-culture and another sub can be ticked off the list. Again, the next bit is tongue in cheek, but according to power of ten this takes me to 3rd in the Scottish all-time list for M50s.
I know it isn’t raced often but it’s still a thrill for wee Marko. I never expect to be in any of these things, so if I get there, too right I am happy about it. So where am I? I am still considering that invisible line. I am not sure what side of it I am on yet so I guess over the next wee while I will make a few mistakes, race against the wrong people, be over or under ambitious and will have ups and will have downs. The legs will have their good days and bad days, but you know I am just glad I still have the opportunity to make the mistakes. And as Adrian Stott said to me on Twitter “Age is not, and should never be, a barrier to achievement”.
Thanks to Michael Wright and his team for a wonderful nights racing. Cheers Bobby Gavin at Thatonemoment for some more excellent pictures.
The song is Sub-culture by New Order and so it should be but have a bonus one of Stay Beautiful by the Manic Street Preachers as well. Just because. They go on the playlist.