Fine and Dandy – my story of 2022

I’m nearly 5 miles from home when I admit defeat. In Salsburgh of all places where people introduce you to their wife and sister and there’s only one person there. Not the best place to get stuck but this knee pain isn’t just a wee niggle as I had thought. It’s sore. Really sore. Like every step making me want to punch a squirrel sore and it’s a long slog back. Two weeks on now and rehab is slow, even though I am embracing it like a less reluctant Amy Winehouse. ITB and tib ant along with big toe and quads all getting the blame, so despite my aim having been to go all out for a sub 35 attempt at the Tilli 10k at the end of December I have to admit defeat and admit my season and year’s running is over.

Injury comes to us all though so you take it on the chin and move on. Just means I get to do my annual review a little bit earlier and hopefully the fast typing will burn the calories that have fat Marko threatening to make a comeback.

Aye, my review. I do it every year and I like to look back on it. Don’t feel you have to, this is for me but if anyone else has any interest it’s there in the public domain and if you already detest me it won’t change your mind. It’ll probably make you hate my smug wee face even more.

It’s been a funny old year. Pace and speed wise I never quite hit the marks I was looking for, but racing and results wise it’s been my best year ever. I know, I said that last year. Get some originality baldy, but it’s true.

Hard stats first of all:

Honours (all at M50, the young whippets can do their own review):

British and Irish Masters International Cross Country Championships – Team Bronze

Scottish Championships:

Gold : Scottish Indoor 800m, Scottish Road Relays (Team gold, fastest short leg)

Silver: Scottish 5k Championships, Scottish outdoor 1500m, Scottish XC Relays

Bronze: Scottish indoor 1500m, Scottish Indoor 3000m, Scottish Road 10k, Scottish outdoor 800m

West Districts:

Silver – Team XC Relays(M40s)

Scottish vests:

Inter area track at Nuneaton 1500m and 3000m

British and Irish Masters Cross Country Championships Dublin

For someone of my limited ability that’s a bloody good innings for the year right there. I know I am not one of the most gifted runners out there and if you look purely on times I am not among the fastest. I also know that some better runners than me didn’t compete, but all you can do is go toe to toe with who turns up to compete on the day and give what you’ve got and that’s my big success story this year. By and large I raced well on the days that counted, I punched above my weight and consistently, and have some bling that I can look back on with pride. I have heard and read the negativity and actually have stopped caring about it. Since I already suffer from imposter syndrome that has showed no sign of relenting then certain people’s views don’t cut and scar anymore. That’s a good thing.

So Marko, where to begin? Month by month from the start of the year probably the best bet. Calendars exist for a reason, I’m not going to try and change the world like Nick Knowles or Kevin Bacon would probably do.

on the starting line a few of us older ones were told to go a row behind the younger runners as we “weren’t going to be breaking any world records anyway” I came into the year with on and off calf problems amongst other ailments. Sometimes wearing the wrong shoes, as I did a lot of track work, ended up with me not quite being where I wanted and I had to race above myself tactically to take the bronze at the indoor 3000m champs, really dying a death over the last couple of laps. Our race had actually been brought forward by half an hour with only 20 minutes notice. Not the ideal championship prep but my dodgy calf just about stayed intact. I was a bit stronger by the time that the other masters events came around the next month and in the 800m I tactically got it just right as I timed my closing kick to plan to narrowly beat my training partner Paul to gold. He got his revenge in the 1500m, his strength far superior to mine as he took the silver and I struggled to the bronze. A good indoor season for me having never medalled indoors before. As we moved out of the indoors my focus was going to be on outdoor track rather than on the roads. Doing SCY Yoga for runners had settled my niggles down again and training was starting to come together again. My big mistake of the year though was thinking I had potential over 800m. Having run 2.14.5 off no specific training the year before, then winning the indoor title in 2.15 off an injury, I was convinced I had a good bit to take off that. Let’s just say that never quite happened but the training I was doing for it did get me in shape for other events.

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. Whilst my 5k shape wasn’t where it had been the year before when I was doing more 3k/5k workouts, one of my aims was to make the Cambuslang M50 team for the Scottish road relays. I left it late to prove my fitness, running a 17.25 parkrun the week before to sneak into the team. I did all I could on the day coming in first M50 on the first 5k leg and running the fastest short leg of the day for the M50s as the race went to the wire, a superb team effort from the lads saw Kerry lead us to a narrow victory over Cumbernauld and Perth with all three of us in the finishing straight at the same time.

 

Oh big shiny van of destiny, let me key my number and you can tell me my future. “Ah Mr Baldy of Cambuslang Harriers,” it exclaimed, “you shall indeed be embracing the podium and shall be looking resplendent in the colour silver!” With the Scottish 5k champs coming up I tried to up my speed endurance by doing the Tom Scott 6k and Round the Houses 10k and while both were ok I simply wasn’t where I had hoped to be. Well who actually hopes to be in Grangemouth? That’s another matter. Went into the Scottish 5k simply hoping to get a semi decent run in and try and get close to my course PB but any thoughts of a medal had went from my head with the realisation I was nowhere near the sub 17 shape I expected I would have needed to be in. On a windy evening I went out too slow but when I woke up I was able to work my way through the field feeling strong going into the headwind and the sight of someone in front, maybe possibly within catching distance, who I knew would be in or around the M50 medals, was enough to give me a flying finish. A national silver in what has always been a big race for me was something I never ever expected. If certain people on the night didn’t run like they are capable of, for whatever reason? That’s not my fault. If other runners decide not to run? That’s not my fault. I ran the best I could on the night, raced right to the line and picked up arguably the best achievement in my road racing career. At the time there were so many dampeners thrown at me over it, but now I see it as it is, and despite what others may think I am so proud of how I raced at this one.

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.  The track training had me sharp. I had shown that in the 5k finish. I went into the Monument Mile believing I could run sub 5 after having failed miserably the previous year, even after a humbling 800m at the West Districts where it started to dawn on me 800s weren’t for me. I was disciplined, I hit my markers and my aim of 4.55 was hit on the nose after another strong finish. Good confidence booster and again a fantastic night of racing. Things were on the up, an improved 800m OGM and an M50 victory sub 36 at the Shettleston 10k after a great tussle with 3 clubmates, my finish even after that distance was getting me out of trouble. Another 800m at Crownpoint and my time back down to the 2.14s again. Everything going in the right direction.

“If you know Richie his legs are bigger than my entire body and limbs at full stretch. I’m a short arse so us running together is like Boo Radley and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. Though a bald Scout. In Vaporfly.” I entered the roon the toon 10k so I wouldn’t be persuaded to enter the British steeplechase on the same day. A good hard Sunday run that’s all. It doubled up as the Scottish champs and despite the wind and rain I was at 5k in 18.12 and felt ridiculously fresh. Working with club captain Richie I ran really hard the second 5k to finish strongly in 35.39 and was delighted to see it had earned me a Scottish bronze medal. Not expected, not an aim, but having again seen people I knew would be up there on the second 5k, and having taken them on, I got my rewards. What a buzz! The same podium as Edinburgh though in different medal positions. The next week I was convinced I could smash my 10k PB at the Brian Goodwin and had probably my worst race of the season but it happens. Let’s pretend it didn’t.

I didn’t actually care because my head was more than a wee bit pickled so sod it. Came second to an Olympian at Crichton parkrun then got a late entry to the Clydebank 5k after my holiday plans had fallen apart. A great race, and although I knew I wasn’t in the shape I had been the year before I was delighted to go sub 17 again in 16.53. Again a really strong finish and I was confident of a good run going into the Scottish Mile at Silverknowes. Flat, point to point, slight wind behind, in vaporfly, on the road. I already had my sub 5 from Stirling so had nothing to prove. Went out well enough, in a good wee group then really got into my running over the last 500m. Clocked at 4.46, official time 4.47 and 7th on the all time British M50 rankings for the road mile. OK it may not be raced much, but nice wee place to be. Really felt good.

I called 50 year old Gordon Barrie a youngster, and even worse I meant it The Scottish outdoor Masters champs had arrived and despite all my training I knew the 800 wasn’t my event. I was still sure I could beat my PB but I hadn’t made the improvements I had hoped for. I still felt I could run around 2.12 though and maybe some of the other lads would have an off day and I could be up there. I have no complaints about how I ran. I had my gameplan and my splits. I got to 600 exactly in the time I planned to be there, I felt fantastic, I had opened a gap to go into third place, but unfortunately the lactic kicked in earlier than I hoped, with over 100 to go, and although I held onto 3rd and got the PB, the PB was by .09 of a second in 2.14.41. Medal earned, aye, but very disappointed with the time. I thought I had trained for better, but racing owes you nothing. 800m parked for good? Possibly. The 1500 and I struggled on tired legs in the wind and the silver medal was more than the performance deserved.

Even the disaster of a gel bursting in my bag all over my vest didn’t muck up the mojo. Only the vest SVHC Road relays and an M50 win for Cambuslang. My team had done the job for me before the last leg and I had a solo run to bring it home. M50 victory at Kilmaurs 5k in just over 17 with another good finish then it was onto Nuneaton for the Masters Inter Area challenge against the best athletes England and Wales had to offer. I had been selected for the 3000m but after a late call off in the 1500 was told I could double up if I wanted. 1500m for Scotland? Erm aye! It was a great field and I gave it a right go, being outmuscled over the last 100 by a guy who had just finished 6th in the world championships wasn’t bad, 3rd place in a new PB was a run I was proud of. 3000m the same day and again took it on , and suffered for it, but 4th in that calibre of field less than a second outside my PB again was a run to be happy with.

That was the end of my track season. Calf problems returned but I came back well, first over the line at Drumpellier parkrun, second M50 at Stirling 10k in 35.39 followed by an M50 win at a hilly Linlithgow 10k. Knew I was in PB shape for the 10k and went for it at Great Scottish run. Despite having lost my GPS signal I felt the 34.50 (34.48 on my watch) was faster than I thought I was capable of and indeed the race was found to have been short. Had it been the right length I think I would have been in the region of 35.10 – 35.15. The PB I had worked for would have been mine so was very disappointed.

The disappointment was eased by my selection for the Scottish Masters XC team which was based on my road performances over the year, having missed the trial as I came back from my calf injury.  So proud of that even though I know XC not my strength. A very big hairy and audacious goal and bucket list item ticked off. In all I ran three XC races and got three team medals, so can’t complain. West districts relays for the M40 team and was pleased with my last leg as I brought us home in silver. Scottish relays and disappointed with my own run as the M50 team took silver, then onto Dublin for the International. The team got bronze, though I personally think I got overawed by the whole occasion and ran below par but loved the experience, maybe I was already suffering from my impending injury as I never got going, but no excuses. Such an amazing thing to be part of.

 But there you have it, my year. Loved it to be honest. Raced as well as I could have and punched way above my weight and annoyed plenty of people in the process. Perfect. I now have to trust in my rehab. My indoor track aims are now up in the air, so it’s get healthy, build my base and aim for next year’s marathon goal. Big thanks to everyone I have run with this year, it’s been a blast. And of course Elaine and my boys for putting up with my daftness.

The song is Peter Astor’s tribute to the late great Pat Fish “Fine and Dandy” because it’s how the year has been for me. In the grand scheme of Scottish Athletics and the world it counts for nothing, but to me, Fine and Dandy. Hopefully catch you next year.

A few more photies of that there year

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