Super Trouper – Linlithgow 10k, Great Scottish Run 10k, West District Cross Country relays 2022

Disclaimer: Ach chill out, it’s just running.


To anyone who may read this mish mash of events welcome, come in, have a brew and let me irritate you. I know blogs are old fashioned nonsense and no one reads them these days, but I’m an old man and Tik Tok dancing isn’t for me, so this is my wee outlet. This is for me, and although I wasn’t going to bother I’ve had such a good month that I don’t want to just forget about it. It’ll be good for me to look back on it and times like this don’t come around often. Without setting the world alight I simply went out there and raced, and, for me, raced well.

My last blog was just after the Stirling 10k, over a month ago. I had had a decent outing after the calf problems, but took the call the next week to miss the Masters Cross Country trial for the International in Dublin as I felt it was too early to be hammering over uneven ground on dodgy calves. I was looking long term as I was worried that it could potentially put me out for a spell. To be honest even if I was in full fitness do I think I could have placed top 3 in the 50s? Nope, too many racers I respected out there, but was particularly chuffed for my pal Alan who had out muscled me at Stirling and kept his fine form going taking second place amongst an excellent 50s field. His first Scottish vest and well deserved. Whilst they were doing that I was banging out a ks session with Forbesy amongst the weans, walkers and fitba watchers of Bishopbriggs, so the fitness was getting there. The picture was taken by the esteemed podcaster Steven Watt of Young Hearts Run Free fame, was nice to say a hello after listening him on my long run every week.

So  it’s now Monday 19th September and I’m not in work. Have a wee look at my phone and check my email. There’s one from John Bell from the selection committee. It’s titled “Dublin”.

“Dear Mark, I have pleasure in informing you that you have been selected to take part in this year’s British and Irish Masters Cross Country International to be held in Dublin on November 12th.”

I have to be 100% honest, this was totally unexpected and I am totally gobsmacked but honoured. The selection process was the first three from the trial, then another 3 from known form of previous XC and from 5ks/ 10ks over the year. My 10ks and 5ks have been consistent and I have medalled nationally at both so I am guessing that is what has got me the call. I know that there are people out there that no matter what I do will always try to find the negatives in it, and believe me they aren’t as critical of me as I am in myself, but I don’t pick the team. You can’t blame me for this one. I have no influence in the picking of the team, and having been offered the opportunity to represent my country abroad in the biggest international representative event open to Scottish Masters athletes will I turn it down because I or others feel I don’t deserve a place? Of course I bloody won’t. I will train my wee arse off, I will wear that vest with pride and I will give all I have on the day, even if I am off the back of the pack in last. This really is a one off and the team I will be running with is stacked with talent. Oh I could, but I won’t feel guilty for being selected.

What a buzz and lift from that but now onto the actual running. The next weekend was to be the Linlithgow 10k. I had run it the year before being fortunate to take the M50 title. It’s a tough, tough course, I think the only flat bit is the bit where you pick up your t shirt at the end, but it’s an enjoyable one. I know, I’m not sure how that one makes sense either but it’s a “get out there and race” one as times aren’t as important. It’s good to have races like that. OK, times are still important, but only really as a comparison against times on the course rather than against PBs, and having run 37.45 last year I was wanting to try and beat it this year and maybe even go under 37 if all went well. Nearly a minute is a big ask, especially with the wind coming out to play, but why not? The 50s race was looking a lot more stacked this year, Stuart from Perth there who I had never beaten before, Steve from Fife again, so hopefully I could get myself dragged along a bit like I had been at Stirling. Alastair Hay away like a rocket from the start looking for something like his 87th consecutive win (which he got) but I was just trying to keep myself as far up the field as I could and get round in a good pace.

The minor M50 title stresses left me straight away as Stuart was well away from me at the start, him and his teammate Kev working well together. I was amongst good runners, running beside the likes of Paul Sorrie was a rare treat, and going through 5k in 17.52 after a few ups and downs was almost a minute faster than the previous year.

Just after that was the biggest hill on the course and this was my only negative point of the race, I didn’t fight hard enough going up it or the initial descent. I went into my own wee shell, maybe because I had started catching Stuart and lacked the conviction and self belief to race him. I know that’s daft but as I say it’s my only negative of the race. A mile to go I woke up and at 1k to go managed to get past Stuart and having committed myself ran hard to the end, legs wobbled a bit over the line but the last k of 3.16 into the wind saw me take the M50 honours in 36.11, a minute 34 faster than the year before. Really enjoyed that one, ran hard, raced hard and felt good.

I was feeling good going into the Great Scottish Run 10k the following week. I’m a few weeks on from Stirling where I ran 35.39 and training has been going really well. I have raced well. Dare I say it I am, for me, in decent shape. I want a season’s best and I want to challenge the sub 35.30 again. It’s not a flat course by any means, the start up the hill, and the hill over the Kingston bridge can be a challenge, but I know that if can get to the halfway point under 18 then the second half is much kinder, and the forecast for the day was to be a tailwind along the Broomielaw to the finish. Was I confident? No. But was I calm? Strangely yes. Wee stripey coloured number which was always exciting and into the pen behind Eilish.

Some very decent 50s in the pen. Stuart again, Michael from Edinburgh who had beaten me twice over 10k already this year, my ex team mate Cammy who is getting sharper every week after an injury break. Joking with John from Airdrie about making sure we get a signal on the watch before the start as mine drops. It didn’t come back prior to the gun. Ooops. John was worse though, and the shout of “Aw f@@@ I haven’t started my watch” as we went over the top of the first hill gave me a wee chuckle whilst we ran past a choir singing “Super Trouper”. Brilliant. Stuart and Michael were piling on the early pace but while I was a wee bit behind I was controlled and relatively comfortable. I was in a groove even though I still had “troopapa troopapa” going through my head. My GPS was coming and going so I couldn’t trust the watch except going through the k markers. Through the 5k timing mat in the low 17.50s I’m feeling really good. It’s basically flat to the finish, the wind is going to be behind me, I have targets in front of me, let’s do this. I can’t emphasise this enough, for me I’m running well, I can feel it today. You know those ones where the stride feels effortless even as you pass people? It was happening for me today. The 50s race was on, I am within touching distance of Stuart and Michael who are racing hard.

There’s around a mile to go as we cross the river for a wee dog leggy type section and I am on their shoulders. I know what they are capable of, and I know the best thing to do is to commit. I am a long way out but I feel really good and go off the front of the pack. I am only looking ahead and am winding it up. Without a hint of arrogance I know that it will take something special for either of them to come back at me now. Sometimes it clicks, it comes together, you feel that flow, I was there.

Going into Glasgow Green were the legs tired? Oh aye, I was about done in, but I let the cheers of the crowd give me that extra fuel and channelled it. Round the wee commonwealth roundabout thing and the sprint to the line. Could see Pirate Paul up ahead, I’d got close to him again, but was more interested in the clock.

It’s still at 34, and it still was when I finished, getting over that line in 34.50, a course PB by 3 minutes and 36 seconds. Everything given there, and not just by me. Behind me Stuart and Michael had kept their battle going right to the line. Michael had made a late break over Stuart and having given everything he wobbled and collided with a barrier, his legs totally gone as he was helped over the finishing line by two fellow racers, great spirit from them, still running a season’s best with Cammy right behind him.

Again, really enjoyed this. Don’t get me wrong, I am one of those strange people that actually enjoys training, but the buzz you get on a race day when it all comes together and the plan comes together, it’s incomparable.

EDITED: On the 19th October Great Scottish Run announced that the course was short. I kind of suspected that. Had the distance been correct I would still have beaten my PB but it now won’t stand. This is not acceptable to have happened yet again at the Great Scottish Run and to offer a 10% discount on an extortionate race as an apology is quite frankly an insult. This situation is not acceptable. Support your local and club races because these big events frankly are a waste of money with a lack of regards for the runners.

So the road season over, and time to train for cross country and for Dublin. Having committed to the 10ks I hadn’t managed a decent training session on the grass apart from one set of muddy strides but would get the chance to have a wee run out at the West District XC relays. No M50s competition in this so I could just get an easy starter, no stress, no expectation, just get used to it again. I did genuinely think this. Until the Cambuslang M40 team finalised and due to various non starters I was put in the team. And not just that but on the last leg. I had a good sprint finish once apparently so I would have to take on the young 40 year old whippets. Aye, 40 is young, to me anyway. These people were born after Come on Eileen was number one. I danced to that at school discos, so its basically a different generation. They’d have danced to 2 unlimited instead at their school discos. Techno techno techno techno. Not so smug now youngsters…. Anyway, 2 nights of no sleep before it terrified I’d let the team down. On the day the sun was shining and it wasn’t as muddy as I had expected. The course was a cracker, all twists, turns, up and down hills and it was a good race. In the 40s we moved through the field on each each leg, George 6th, Justin 4th, Stuart handing to me in second and fear kicked though the legs. I started off just behind MAC XC specialist Davie Gardiner who would also be in Dublin and tried to stay in contact up the first hill. His team wasn’t in the 40s so there was no need and my team mates were screaming at me to calm it down. So I did. The good thing about the twists was you could see what was happening behind you. Half way through and I had pulled away from Shettleston and Cumbernauld and although Paul from Greenock was working his way though the field it would take a disaster to blow it thanks to the work of the other guys. Garscube were already home and smoking cigars so it was a case of keeping the heid to the end. Despite Mr Magoo seeing a Greenock vest closing over the last k it was their senior team and not the 40s and I was able to bring us home in second. My first XC medal since the western districts in 1989, and the medals, like wagon wheel biscuits, have definitely got smaller. Ended up second fastest in my team, so hadn’t let them down and a wee confidence booster ahead of Dublin.

So that’s me caught up, had to do it now or I never would have. If you have got this far then fair play, and I appreciate it, it’s better than the cow stampede in Emmerdale. It’s been a decent month for me, and I have nothing to complain about really, and we don’t get many spells like this so I’m indulging myself. The song? Has to be Super Trouper, thanks to that choir at the top of the GSR hill. There’s a second one, by Teenage Fanclub. Nothing to moan about really, so “Born under a good sign.”

Sorry if I have forgotten anyone but big thanks for the pictures to: Kevin Queenan, Lesley Ross, Linlithgow 10k, Bobby Gavin (thatonemoment), me, Jordan Orr, Steven Watt, Lindsay Theobald, Chris Upson,  2 Fast 2 Photo and Iain, David, Eddie and Des at Cambuslang Harriers.

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