Sometimes it can be entertaining to write your thoughts straight after a race but sometimes you can be glad you waited. I know I’ve been the most irritating runner in Scotland for a while now, but I would have probably hit a new level. The most irritatingtaterest of all, but it’s what I am, so sorry and all that but at my rapidly advancing age I am not going to change. And you know you are getting old when you are running the National Masters championships and are calling those who have just moved up to the M50 age group from the M45s youngsters.
I am calling 50 year olds youngsters.
What happened to me, and my hair, and having my finger on the pop pulse? I called 50 year old Gordon Barrie a youngster, and even worse I meant it. I would have a word with myself but I probably wouldn’t hear me and would forget what I was going to say anyway. But back to the main gist, mirror mirror on the wall, why would I have been the most irritatingtaterest of all? Because I went to the National Masters Track Championships in Dundee, won two medals, ran a PB and was flat and disappointed afterwards. I know, I’d give me a slap too. Had I written this Saturday I wouldn’t have had the perspective I have now and in the game of irritating Top Trumps I would have been the card to beat.
I entered this when it opened. 800m and 1500m on the Saturday, 5000m on the Sunday. I took the decision not to defend my steeplechase title from last year because as much as I had enjoyed it I wasn’t coincidence that I spent months after it toiling with injuries that would flare up time and time again, wrecking my year. As the 800m was the first event I would go all out in that and see what was left for the 1500m. I have no excuses, the training was as planned. I knew my splits, my tactics and what I wanted to achieve. Cammy and Gordon, the youngsters at 50 (!!) were much faster than me at this (Cammy had just run 2.06 in the world masters final the week before) but with the pace I hoped to do I thought if any slip ups I could try and take advantage. Lewis from Edinburgh was right behind me at Livingston earlier in the season and was getting faster so any of the 4 of us could be filling those medal positions. Looking forward to the race though my nerves were worse than they had been for months. The sun was shining and there was a wee wind, a headwind on the back straight, but it could have been much worse. 66 67 at the bell, 1.39 at the 600, they were my aims. Off lane 4 and Cammy away at the front but through the stagger in second with young Gordon alongside me and Lewis tracking me like I knew he would.
To be honest I felt kind of awkward the whole run but these things happen, maybe the nerves had me too tense and not relaxing. Gordon started to pull away chasing Cammy while Lewis stuck to me, almost literally, with us being like some kind of a bald siamese velcro experiment.
We go through the bell in, I think, around 65. Maybe sharp but it’s ok. I need to lose Lewis, he’s a 400 man and should finish better. 300 to go and I start to kick off.
But the uninvited guest appeared. I have maybe overestimated my ability. Overestimated my strength, my fitness. Maybe its having kicked so hard into the headwind, and the heat. I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter but it arrived. The lactic monkey. Jumping on my back and attacking my legs. At Crownpoint it came with maybe 50m to go but today I hadn’t even reached the 100 to go. It hit me like a ton of bricks and the thought of smashing that PB just went to thoughts of staying ahead of Lewis. It was horrible. Every second felt like 3 or 4. Cement had been poured into my thighs and weights had been put on my ankles. I struggled over the finish line but had managed to keep 3rd. From what was looking like 2.12 to 2.14.41 just like that. I had got the PB by 0.09 of a second but to be honest I just wasn’t happy about how I had capitulated. I was chuffed with the medal though and thanks to Nicola and Faye from Pitreavie who made sure I got it on the podium.
I was still hopeful that I could get a decent run in the 1500m but I won’t dwell on that one. Great craic with the fellow competitors before it, but it had got very warm, very windy, my legs hadn’t quite recovered and although I tried to hang onto young Gordon he was away from me by 400m and having gone through 800 6 seconds slower then I had hoped and in no mans land between groups it was a case of grinding it out.
A silver medal and my third fastest official 1500m but I had been a lot faster as splits in my recent mile races. No excuses, I simply don’t have what I takes to do a decent double at a decent timed level, and the 800m had taken more out of my legs than I was able to put back in. Took the opportunity then to withdraw from the 5000m as knew I wouldn’t have done myself justice. Got my bling and had a wee photo with Chris who had done the double in the M55s. Made sure I enjoyed the podium as every one could be the last, particularly with these 50 year old whippersnappers coming up….
Driving home and in my head was “All those months of training for 0.09 of a second”. I wasn’t that pleased to be honest. But that was then and this is now. Up until 9th July 2021 I had won one solitary Scottish medal. By the 9th July 2022 I have won 10 Scottish medals and a British one from 800m to 10k, on road and track. While it is ok within yourself to reflect and think you could be running faster I have to look at the level of consistency I have maintained over the last year, particularly since the start of this year when I was coming off a poor winter due to a multitude of reasons. Gaun yersel’ Marko actually. Being 51 and sneaking a PB, no matter how marginal, is actually pretty cool. So I’m glad I didn’t write this yesterday, it would have been a different tone. Today? It’s one of gratitude that I can still get out there. That I can still compete against myself and the targets I give myself. That I can still compete against others at a decentish level for my age. That Mr quiet, nervous and shy can be a part of these events and be part of and get involved with such a diverse group of people. And one of pride. A year and a half ago I took a punt and changed my training, moving clubs and joining Forbesy’s wee group and although it has had it’s fair share of challenges (and still does) for someone like myself who really has severe integration issues, it has by and large worked for me. As I said to Forbesy this morning, two years ago I couldn’t have forseen being disappointed about PBing and medalling in a national championship. Disappointed in the moment as sometimes you know there is more in there. But I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to do that and hope that I get more opportunities to mix it up.
I have tried to explain myself here but as always there will be enough ammunition for people to come after me and if that’s your desire than go ahead, I wouldn’t expect any less. Me? I’ll keep training hard because I enjoy the training. I’ll stay on the peripheries because my nature doesn’t allow otherwise. I’ll get annoyed at these youngsters turning 50 and coming into my age group with their hair and teeth. And I’ll keep writing on occasion because I enjoy that too even though no one reads it. And even though at times the competitive monster can take over as long as I can put one foot in front of the other then its all worthwhile. Cheers for taking time out for these ramblings.
Big thanks to the following for some great pictures, though I haven’t put them all here: Alan Ramage, Bobby Gavin (Thatonemoment), Faye Allan, Stephen Brown, Kyle Greig (I was listening to him in the car then he took my picture, that’s bonkers), Nigel Hetherington. If I have forgotten anyone I am sorry.
The song. For all us 50plus people. The Housemartins. 1986. Think for a minute.