Bring on the Dancing Horses – The Scottish National Road Relays 2023

Every now and then I decide that is it, the blog is done. I am an old man doing old man things and I don’t expect anyone to care, but I do enjoy writing, and it can be a cathartic release through some of the highs and lows. Having sacked it two months ago and with Easter approaching I guess it is time to resurrect it it again.

Tasteless joke touching on religion. Controversial. Bad Baldy.

Quick recap though, for myself when I read back as I do sometimes. (I am an old man, we reminisce, aye mostly with ourselves, but we are harmless really).

It’s January, I had sneaked my indoors 3000m medal and was working hard towards the indoors 1500m, was really getting somewhere and felt in great shape to take the best on, when I simply overdid it a few days out. Hamstring overstretch on some 200m reps and out the game. Gutted aye, but it let me draw the line under the track and move onto my next adventure of marathon training. Being me of course there was room for extra adventures along the way, the first being the Scottish National Road relays. Great strength in depth at Cambuslang M50 level just now, even making the team is tricky, and there was only one window in my training to prove my fitness, to try and do a fast Strathclyde parkrun, but unfortunately, that one would be the one my old club Motherwell AC were hosting. As usual, I got myself in a flap about it. This running malarkey really is something else, I really do love it but it plays havoc with my head at times. It is not the running as such, it is more my (and some might say lack of) personality that is to blame. I get myself worked up easily and the nerves kick harder than Billy Abercrombie. And there was absolutely no need, my old club mates were great, it was magic to get a catch up and the support was brilliant as I ran 17.09 for my first “first over the line” at Strathclyde.

Cambuslang selector David Cooney was there watching, stealthily like he does. He sees and knows all. We spoke briefly and then he was gone, no doubt teleporting to another event, or dimension.  My time was on the board though, and a decent marker for me too, which is just as well because the next day my back went.  Think I was doing something as strenuous or exciting as picking up some socks and boom, I was on the floor. For a few days I could hardly even walk, it was that bad. Couldn’t get out the bath and felt like an auld eejit.

And like an auld prune.

Managed to get a midweek lunchtime appointment with Mark Boyd in East Kilbride who hurt me in that way that he does but seemed to ease a bit off and over the next few days things settled a bit. Had missed a full week though, not good. So I did the worst 20 miler in history, not clever. Over the next 2 weeks though I worked hard, or as hard as I could. Things still weren’t right but were better, getting more mobile each day, core feeling stronger each day, but certainly couldn’t go back out and do another 17.09. David Cooney would know anyway. He always knows. I’ll keep myself open for selection and do the best I can.

As I waited on Thursday for the team announcement I was actually in a hub in Glasgow having somehow been persuaded to go along to an Athletics Trust Scotland event starring Eilidh Doyle. This was with the Scottish HR Leadership Group and a good chance for the Trust to gain awareness of it’s Transforming Lives through athletics and running campaign. Having had my story featured by them in the past, I was asked if I could come along and be on hand for any questions. Accessibility and inclusivity for all is a big thing for me, so despite being scared of people I agreed to go along, hoping there would be no questions. Then I saw the email thingy for it.

Baws, I’m mentioned.

The talks start. Eilidh was brilliant. Graeme from ATS spoke very well but must have made a mistake when he said that in the Glasgow Hub Mark will tell you all his story. Nope. As I got out from underneath the bus that I appeared to have been thrown under, and with no prep of any kind, I had to stand in front of a room of people and talk for 20 minutes then take questions after it. Petrified. Horrified. The nerves again nearly making my head explode. The dancing horses of doom cascading round my brain, dancing to the rhythm of the bongos of fear. But flight or fight and somehow I pulled myself together and I actually ended up enjoying it. The feedback on my honesty was positive and hopefully I was able to convey the positives of how powerful a tool running in the workplace can be to an individual’s wellbeing and personal development. Once again, worked myself into a frenzy and everything ended up ok.

Have a wee look here to find out more about the trust.

So got home, the email is there from David Cooney. I think he waited until I was home, he knows where everyone is. All the time. He probably knows what I’m going to type next as well. Maybe he actually wrote it. Anyway, I have made the team. A short 5k leg. Bring it on. Except out came those dancing horses of nervousness again, dancing round my head telling me I was rubbish. I had done a track session on the Thursday, and felt awful. I am not in shape. I have no sharpness, I will let the team down and eyes will be rolled. Friday I was a mess, sleep was not my friend on the Friday night at all. I knew it would be a close one. My pal Alan’s Corstorphine team were strong and Cumbernauld are always thereabouts. Metro Aberdeen were unknown quantities but I knew they would have a great first leg with Dino on it who is flying just now. Michael from Edinburgh in great shape too and looks to have a good team. Since I couldn’t sleep, I tried to work out my tactics in my head, for both being ahead and being behind. I know the course well enough so at least that is something. Not a fast one in Livingston, but a great and exciting racing course, undulating, part trail. Made it to the event which is always a good place to start. Nerves relaxing? Nope. Biting me hard.  “Good Luck” says David Cooney as he appears in a puff of smoke. I tell him I am worried about my sharpness after my back injury. “Away, that was a good set of 6 x 800s during the week”  he says before again disappearing. I had done the 800s solo, at East Kilbride. No one else was at the track.But he knew. He always knows…

Listen, I know we are not the future of the sport or anything, but every one of these guys lining up trains hard and gives their all. As dismissive as many are of us oldies racing, this type of event, a Scottish championship, means a hell of a lot to us. It’s respectful aye, but it is also competitive, really competitive. The standard is also getting higher all the time with these young 50 year olds appearing 😉

Last year I was the youngest in the team, the baby. This year at 52 the oldest. I may never make this team again so I need to fight with all I have. It’s 4 legs, 2 short then 2 long. Last year I had a good start on leg 1 and ran the fastest short leg of the day for the oldies. Today I am leg 3, the race goes off on schedule and I get my first view of the first leg with about 1k to go. As I expected Dino was ahead but not far behind him our first leg runner Brian was racing brilliantly, having an almighty tussle with Keith from Corstorphine on his shoulder, and Vinny from Cumbernauld not far behind. We were in a race all right. Dino came in in 17.58, 19 seconds ahead of Brian who had a two second advantage over Corstorphine. Brilliant run Brian! Leg2 and I didn’t see who had gone out for Metro, but Justin for us and Alan for Corstorphine are two of the in form M50 runners just now. Could not call this and it was going to be some tussle. Trying to breathe while I wait, trying to relax, and trying to focus when Stuart Campbell of Corstorphine strides over towards me.

Pass me the pampers.

A phenomenal runner who I had assumed would be on their last leg, but no, he’s over for leg 3, my leg. Listen, I know he is a better runner than I am. Always has been, always will be. This is not me looking for a “aw don’t be silly Marko” response, he is class. This is a team event though, I cannot chuck it straight away and I cannot crumble. I need to get the big boy pants on over my invisible pampers, at the end of the day I don’t know how fit he is and it’s man v man. Would be interesting to see if I started ahead or behind, and I was delighted when I saw Justin heading up the final straight. A buffer, brilliant, thought I until I saw Alan on his shoulder with Metro nowhere to be seen. 

Justin v Alan.

Two legs in and only a couple of seconds separating us. I had my tactics for being behind. I had my tactics for being ahead. Oh aye, should really have thought about tactics for level pegging. That first fast downhill start, then the climb back up. I must admit I didn’t feel good here mentally or physically but I got to the top of the climb marginally ahead. Plan formulating in my head now. This wasn’t about times now, this was about tactics, and naw, I won’t tell you what they were,  but despite being a person devoid of just about all confidence I did believe if I could get to the last k in contact I would give myself a right chance. I got were I wanted to be and was fortunate that things went to plan and I was able to give Stevie on the last leg a 30 second advantage.

Stevie being Stevie still went out and ran the fastest long leg of the day to bring us home in first, Cambuslang’s 9th victory in the 11 year history of the over 50s race. I strangely have no complaints about my performance, as rare as that is, this time the dancing horses came out with a gold medal for us all, and I had raced it well. On the day, all of us had nailed our runs, a perfect team performance. I was delighted to have run the fastest short leg for the second year running, and faster than last year. Brian was 4th fastest, and Stevie and Justin were the two fastest long legs. A fantastic race and full respect to the other teams, Corstorphine consolidating the silver, and Cumbernauld coming through for bronze.

With Alan, rivals, but pals.

Big thanks to Scottish Athletics, Lothian RC, and all the volunteers and helpers who made yet another special day of racing happen. Thanks to Bobby Gavin (thatonemoment), Kenny Phillips, Dino Roussias, Joe Hoolaghan, Claire Cunningham for the pictures.

The song an oldie. Echo and the Bunnymen, Bring on the Dancing Horses. Recorded for the film “Pretty in Pink” like I’m sure I was in my shoes (if it had only been Baldy in pink). It is added to the playlist.


2 thoughts on “Bring on the Dancing Horses – The Scottish National Road Relays 2023

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s