My Finest Hour – The Tom Scott Road Races and Scottish Athletics 10 mile championships 2023

Disclaimer : I wanted to shoehorn this song by The Sundays in as I had been listening to it, and thought it relatively apt and they don’t have one called (spoiler alert) “My finest 59 minutes and 2 seconds”, so if we want to be pedantic let’s throw in the time it took me to get and eat my Mars Bar too, because that was nice.

I do love the Tom Scott Road Races. I genuinely do. It is local, well-organised, great atmosphere, fast races, ticks all the boxes really. Since my return to running I have ran the 10 miler 4 times, stewarded at it once, and did the 6k last year when I was playing at short stuff. When I cobbled together my marathon plan at the end of last year this was a focus for me as a marker. The aim was to do the Alloa half as an endurance test,  Clydebank 10 miler as a range finder, then do this one as a sub 60 attempt and it would give me a marker as to how I was progressing.  Due to the fact that the first week of March I could hardly walk with my back problem then Alloa and Clydebank didn’t happen for me and the rest of the month has been a catch up, though last week’s gold at the Scottish relays was a welcome boost even though it was only over 5k. I was still going to do the Tom Scott anyway, but had no idea what type of endurance I had.

Could be eventful.

What do I do? Marathon paced miles? Sharper than MP? Or go all out for a go at the sub 60 with the chance I blow up and get laughed at by the 40,000 Motherwell AC runners that would be there on their home turf? (I know, my head is a funny place. They were, as always, lovely to me). Had an ok week’s training and did a 10 minute out and back at the club on the Thursday where I tried to dial into 3.40k pace, the pace which would bring me in at 59 minutes if I felt daft come Sunday. Why sharper than the hour for standard pace? The course was changing and an extra couple of hills were being introduced. Not Bobby, not Ross, but real slopey up and down ones. Aye hello Mr hill, nice to meet you. And again. And again. I’d lose time on the hills so may need some sort of wee buffer. My head was sure of itself, my legs weren’t and they had a fight about it but it was all good natured and since I had no idea what would be in the legs and didn’t expect to be featuring in the M50 championship race I was surprisingly calm and the nerves that had plagued me the week before were absent this time around. Quite refreshing really. Did this mean I didn’t care? Nah, I always do but strangely I was more nervous before pacing 23 minutes at parkrun on the Saturday then I was about a 10 mile Scottish championship race.


I’d looked at the start lists. My clubmate Stevie red hot favourite and plenty of other good runners. I reckoned that if I could get near to the hour then I could chap the door of the top 5 of the over 50s which would be a good result.

Wee parkrun pacing session on the Saturday to tick the legs over and all feeling decent enough. Sunday morning and conditions perfect and to be honest I have no excuses to not go out and see where my endurance is. I didn’t want to be afraid of failing, I’d rather fail than have the fear of trying. Wee baldy cliché man. Warm up done and felt ok. I had parked my car next to Gala’s Sara Green and watched how the real runners prepare compared to me playing at it. Parked beside her car to be more accurate. And not as strange sounding.  I’d seen her dominate her age group over in Dublin at the XC International, beating almost all of the younger age group too. Brilliant. That’s the calibre of runner here today, so just go out, follow my plan and see what happens.  

We are all on the start line. Fingers on the watches. Adrenaline pumping. The tooter toots as tooters are prone to do and we are off. Then we aren’t… Everyone suddenly stops. Hundreds of folk slam into me.  A false start in a 10 mile race, there’s a first for me. Confusion abounds and 500 people try to reset their watches before the restart. Beeps go and satellites explode as garmin overloads and this time we are off and I get carried away, I admit it. Looked at the watch and I was far too fast and decided to slow it and let a multitude of runners pass me. Shared a wee joke with Speirsie before he ran away from me.

Suddenly wasn’t feeling that comfortable anymore and my pace going all over the place but needed to keep the cool. Mark from my club, a fellow M50 who was looking to be under the 60 minutes, was getting away from me. Colin from my club who would go on to win the M60 was cruising past me. We got to the new roller coaster section, up hill, down hill, U turn, up hill, down hill and I started to settle. Running smoother and my pace not a million miles away from where I needed to be. The runners that have been round the u turn are coming back up. Out of interest I look to see how far up Stevie is. He isn’t there. OK maybe I have missed him but he is distinctive. I don’t think he’s there. That potentially opens the medals up. In the absence of other top M50 runners then sub 60 could potentially get a medal. Mark is well ahead but the elastic not fully snapped yet, keep him in view and see how the second half pans out.

Start to move well on the second climb. 4 mile point and I’m moving relatively well.

I lead my group through to the 5 mile point as try to keep on pace and it looks like we are through 5 miles in around 29.45. It’s going to plan, just. Through 6 miles and I am trying to drive the baldy train forward but the pace slightly slowing.

 4 miles, an extended loop of the loch and one hill to go.

I’ve done my bit for the group, I’ve been the wind shelter and as we go round the bend of the loch they start to go past me. David from Edinburgh, he’s in my age group. My plan falling apart. Dropping pace, dropping positions. Glance back and see Walter from Cumbernauld there too. At best I am in 3rd with 4th on my shoulder. There could be others ahead, I actually don’t know, but best case scenario? I am about to drop out of the medals. How do I feel? Although I am failing to hit my pace I feel ok. I am not hurting, I am not struggling, I just need to dig deeper, show a wee bit of mental resilience. Sorry David, not today. As we head around towards the beach I go past him and start to pull away from the group. It’s all about what’s ahead now. I have the dander up. One last wee look behind, yep I’m starting to pull away. Bring it on.

3 miles to go as we go up the last climb and the next group ahead of me is my clubmate Mark and Megan of Fife. Potentially the right move here could get a championship medal, or even better still, a title. Simple tactic in my head. Catch him on the climb, don’t let up when I go past and go away on the downhill as it’ll probably upset his head. It would do that to me. Two weeks in a row and an off the hoof gameplan, and you know what? It worked.

I found a fight and desire. Did have one scare when I thought the vastly improving Jim from Troon was in my age group and had to kick early to catch him  but later found out he was a young whippersnapper of 49 😉

I did the last 5k in 17.42 and had passed about 12 people in that last 5k and although I wobbled over the line having kicked off early I had taken 1 min 40 off my PB finishing in 59.02. Pretty much spot on for what I was after. Once I was able to get back to my feet it was off to the timing van and thankfully there was no one else about as I screamed at the top of my voice with the confirmation that I had placed first in the 50s.

I was the Scottish 10 mile champion.

Utterly bonkers.

You know and I know there are much better runners than me out there but I can’t make them race. I can only take on who puts their toe on the line. I had raced, and raced well and bloody hell, I was proud of myself. I don’t say that too often but I was. On the day could I have done anything better? No. Everything given. The fact the legs went on the line were testament to that. And I got my medal. And a lovely big shield – the Jackie Gourlay shield. Some legendary names on that. Surreal. As organiser Bobby Hill said to me “congratulations on winning the Jackie Gourlay Shield for 1st M50+. Now forever a part of Tom Scott RR history.”

Bonkers. All of it.

A huge thank you to everyone who reached out to me afterwards, in person, on social media, by message, it really means a lot. Someone who shall remain nameless so that I don’t embarrass them that has shared a lot of my running journey, and that I have a lot of respect for messaged me “Proud of you today mate. Sub 60 is a great effort on that course, coupled with the big prize. You should be very pleased with yourself. You’d have chucked that in the not too distant past so that should be commended as well.” That last sentence, the real measure of my progress. I didn’t chuck it and now little old me, the man who has devalued the Jackie Gourlay shield forever, is in the history books of probably my favourite race. Job done. A run of around an hour, probably the best I have raced, and the best title I have won. It has to be the Sundays with “My Finest Hour” It’s on the playlist. Thanks to everyone for the photos, David McNulty, Kevin Farmer, Bobby Gavin (thatonemoment), Cameron Newell, Kieron Pugh, Neil Richardson, Kenny Phillips, I know I will have forgotten some and will add when I remember, sorry. Not sure this has all sunk in yet, but a day to savour. Maybe we all have that big day inside of us waiting to get out. A big thanks to Bobby Hill and his team at Law and District for another marvellous event.

To finish though, just to prove that I am an old man, thanks to Kev Queenan for showing it’s not always easy for the over 50s to lift a trophy….


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