The Unforgettable Fire – Kilmaurs 5k and English Masters Inter Area Track and Field champs

I know I have been racing a lot recently and I am looking forward to a spell away from it but me being me I wasn’t going to do it that easily. Where would be the fun it that? Last blog was from the start of the week and the Masters relays was such brilliant racing fun, loved it and this set the scene for the week to be honest. Good, fun, enjoyable racing, head in the right place even if the legs felt about 5 paces behind. The end of the week was to see me head down to Nuneaton for the second year in a row to represent the Scottish Masters in the English Inter Area track and field championships. Aye, wee jammy Marko had sneaked another Scottish vest. I could write a blog on its own about how proud I am to have been selected and what it means to me but I would probably go on for ever and I’d have to get Limahl to sing the theme tune. We will get to that (the race that is, not Limahl), but Mr Eejit had another race before it.

My club has a summer club championship and I wanted to try and integrate a bit more and take part in more races. I’m not great at this integration malarkey and even though I have been banging in some good results over the last year, and have won a few medals, I still feel a lot like the new guy from Motherwell, nearly two years on. All my fault of course but its hard for us oldies sometimes. Anyway entered Kilmaurs 5k as this was on the championship list.Was a great turn out last year of about 30 red and whites or so, this will help. Except entries closed and hardly anyone from the club had entered. On the night only 4 of us turned up, Vet superstar Erica, myself, fellow Vet Iain and his daughter Millie whose back I had had a good view of as she ran away from me at Shettleston 10k. She has had a brilliant season and despite still being in the 15-17 age group already had a sub 36 10k and 17.30s 5k to her name. A big talent with a big future. The conditions on the night were pretty perfect and I had been warned that it wasn’t a course for PBs as the general gist was 3.5k of a climb, a k downhill then half a k flat to the finish finishing on an ash track. Was actually a really good atmosphere there and I was being sociable, a great community feel. With my weekend races the plan was for a good steady pace to tempo as club champ points weren’t under threat anyway, that’s if it was still a club champ race (where was everyone? Secret race? Secret meeting?) We started on the “track” then out the park, back into the park, round tight turns, up some steps and up a hill. And this just in the first k. This was bonkers but cracking fun.

We had started to spread out and into the second k I had been dropped by Yvonne from Giffnock who is flying just now. As we went out on to the main road and single file I was behind Jamie from Kilmarnock and could see the group in front getting further away, and as we approached the steeper climb on gravel at about 3k I could hear breathing behind me. “Come on Millie” shouted the corn from the fields as indeed it was Millie who was catching up with me. As I say, a runner with a big future, but unlike Shettleston she hadn’t destroyed me here yet. Despite Sunday coming, and against better judgement I decided it was race time, in years to come maybe I could say to folk “I beat Millie Nicholl that day”. I go wide past Jamie and start to up the pace a little. I hear more shouts of “Come on Millie!” Is it the farmer? Is it the cows? Random Cambuslangers? I don’t know but the shouts seemed everywhere. There is no one in front of us for quite a bit, there’s a gap and no one to latch onto. We get to the top of the climb and she is still there, poised to pass.”Come on Millie” come the shouts. The downhill stretch is coming and I run it hard. I’m starting to catch the group in the distance. I get to the road alongside the track in the last k. “Come on Millie” rings out. The Cambuslang supporters getting right behind Millie to encourage her on as she is on for a good time here. I think I hear “Come on Marko” from Ayrshire’s “JB and the big Chap” but it might be my head playing games and they will probably deny it. I think I am pulling away and as we turn for the track with maybe 400 to go I am fortunate to catch Yvonne who is fairly shifting. Onto to the track and there is a group of runners ahead including David from Killie who had recently kicked my arse over 800m. I kick hard and early and pass the group, and come home in 17.08.

Really chuffed with that. A last 1000m in 3.06 after averaging in the 3.30s before that. Behind me Yvonne had broken the course record in a big PB of 17.16 and Millie had run a PB of 17.27. Brilliant stuff. Like Sunday, once you get that fire in your belly to race it is so rewarding and enjoyable, it’s what we train for. The unforgettable fire. Was fortunate to get the M50 prize and despite the photographers attempts to make me look as shifty as possible I left really positive with the race and my performance.

Really chuffed to be honest with how I ran it, in my second fastest time of the season. Was great to see the club whatsapp group full of praise for Millie, hopefully she’ll take encouragement from it and keep progressing.

Now for us Scottish Masters there are only two opportunities to get selected for Scotland, the prestigious Home Nations XC in the winter, and in the summer the T&F side get to compete against Wales and the English areas at the English Inter Areas track and Field champs.I was fortunate enough to run it last year and what a brilliant event it is. Certainly didn’t expect to make the cut again but was selected for the 3000m. As it happened the athlete selected for the 1500m withdrew and I was asked if I fancied the double since I was down there and obviously having done so badly at the double at the Scottish Masters I erm said yes straight away. Come on though, running 1500m for Scotland? I would walk over broken glass for that opportunity. It’s weird though, unless you are in it you know nothing about it. For such a big event it’s like a secret up here. All these people achieving their aims of an international vest and no one else knows it’s on. Maybe in Scotland we should celebrate our older runners a bit more, embrace their achievements because this international recognition means everything to them, celebration brings encouragement, encouragement brings more of the older generation into the sport. That can’t be a bad thing? For this team going south at their own expense to represent their country to not even be a footnote on any form of social media is a real shame. That’s my only negative because it was brilliant. I loved every second and made sure I did, because I don’t expect to get this opportunity again. I know I am not one of the most gifted runners in my age group, but I have said it before, work hard and sometimes you can create your own opportunities. Away from the simple magic of the day with everyone encouraging each other the racing was magic fun. I had no nerves as I didn’t know who anyone was and there was a right good chance I could be last. Show no fear and give it a go. Even the disaster of a gel bursting in my bag all over my vest didn’t muck up the mojo. Only the vest. Had to hang it off the back off the stand as Scotland, or rather me, turned a stand into a back court midden. You can take the boy out of Lanarkshire…..

1500m first, and having warmed up in the rain it was starting to brighten up but was still a little bit windy. The 35s and 50s were to be in together and the race had soon split into two, the whippets and the geriatrics. As I say, I had no idea who was in my race and I took the 50s race on. A lap to go and one fella flew off the front and I couldn’t respond but I had a right battle with another lad and despite kicking first he outmuscled me and I came in in third. Bit disappointed at first to get outmuscled but that soon faded when I discovered that I had ran a new personal best (albeit by 0.04 of a second) in 4.32.87 and that the guy that outmuscled me had recently finished 6th in both the 800m and 1500m at the World Masters Championships in Finland.What isn’t there to be happy about? I have run a PB representing my country and took on runners way above my ability with no fear. Pretty pleased with myself, no regrets and enjoyed every second.

I was worried about the legs handling the double but by the time the 3000m came around I felt fine. Slightly heavy and tired, aye, but I had recovered well enough. The sun had come out with a vengeance and sun cream applied to the baldy napper. Couldn’t wait to get started. Again the 35s and 50s together and I was focused for this. Too focused. We were away and again in my no fear scenario I was taking the 50s pace on. But I was actually chasing the 35s and no 50s had come with me. Genuinely hadn’t realised how sharp I had gone out. Heard the split and I eased it back after a lap but knew I was in bother. Got through 1st k in around 3.16/3.17 but a host of 50s had pulled away. I was fighting hard to stay in touch but was getting dropped. The second k was painful in around 3.21/3.22 but I managed to consolidate, got back towards the group and in the final k was able to pick one off finishing well with a 3.11 last k. I had finished in 4th place in 9.49.87, less than a second outside my PB and my fastest for a few years. Actually my fastest outdoors, as my PB was indoors wearing (then legal) next%, can I claim the (now legal) PB? I was faster than last year and had beaten someone who had beaten me last year so again, all positives. Gave it a right go and the three guys who finished ahead are quality, quality runners, so no shame there. Over both races I had given everything I had so could look at myself in the mirror and pack my vest away with pride. As I say, I don’t expect to ever get this chance again but I didn’t let myself or my country down.

Giving it laldy over the last 100

Away from myself this was the theme of the day. Not just the Scottish athletes but everyone out there proud to be representing. Giving everything. Total effort. PBs were flying, tactical races executed, and in the case of Scotland’s Yvonne Crilly a world record (W60 800m) smashed. Absolutely brilliant and a joy to watch. The look on other teams faces when we were getting pictures taken while a piper played “Scotland the Brave” will live with me for a long time. Thanks to all my team for making me feel welcome and giving me a brilliant day. A few pics here.

So to all you masters athletes, give it a go for next year. Give yourself a wee aim for selection, it’s a great event and you’ll treasure the memories forever. And to the Scottish clubs and bodies, get behind your masters members and give them that little bit of kudos they deserve. I watched some amazing performances by some special athletes and yes, they may be a little bit older, but the work and effort put in to earn the right to represent their country shouldn’t be dismissed.

Apologies if I miss anyone out here, but thanks to the following for pics. Me, Alan Ramage, Colin Whitby, Paul Waddell, Jennifer Beattie, Kilmaurs Gala day, Iain, Kenny Phillips and the others I stole but can’t remember who from. Massive thanks to my boss Harry at FEM for the assistance to ensure I could travel down, he has been so supportive of my hobby. The song? U2 and The Unforgettable Fire. Because that is what gets in that belly when you are up for an event, for a race, and can drive you to be the best you there is. It’s also U2’s best song and no one will persuade me otherwise. It’s added to the playlist Now for a few weeks off racing, thanks for reading.

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