Hugh’s Gems: 2

There are 42 excellent interesting and thought provoking pictures and documents on our Hugh’s Gems pages.   Hugh Barrow is an outstanding Scottish sports historian and a former top class miler and his selections are usually classics.   This is the start of his second selection

A prominent English coach said at one time that there was room for invitation middle distance races at football matches where there were big crowds and where there was a need for pre-match and half-time entertainment.   Hugh promptly pointed out that such races had been held in Scotland for many years – he had run in quite a few himself!   The first picture below feres to onesuch race:


.Next we have a Scotsman involved in a  close victory – the caption tells the story

Jock Semple was one of the main organisers of the Boston Marathon working on it – and his business as a physiotherapist – right up to the year before he died.   He was in Scotland almost every two years and he appears in the next photo when he went to see the Luddon half marathon.

Staying with the Luddon – a very successful race organised and master minded by Hugh – we have the start of the race with many well-kent runners clearly shown.

Hugh was, is and always will be a proud member of the Victoria Park AAC, having run with the club when it was flying high as probably the top club in the land.   He certainly ran with Ian Binnie and the two pages below are from the programme at Cowal when Binnie smashed the Scottish 10 mile and one hour records, and just about every other on the way.

If you are a regular user of the website, you’ll know at least one of these …

Signatures from Emil Zatopek and his wife 








Robert McKinstray

Maybole is a very attractive village in Ayrshire, south of Ayr, four miles inland from Culzean Castle  and with the ruins of Crossraguel Abbey two miles to the South.   Like the people of Ayrshire generally, the people always had a keen interest in sport but at the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, it was well known for long distance running with many very famous ‘peds’ coming from the area.   Robert McKinstray and William Rodger were among the best.   The local website comments on this and actually has a page on McKinstray at : It says: 

“In the last part of the 19th century and for the first decade of the present century the great interest for Maybole men was foot running and cycling.  The milestones on the Cross Roads from West Enoch to Cargilstone were carefully set exactly one mile apart and this became known as “The Measured Mile” where all the local athletes trained.   An up to date sports track with cambered bends was formed at Gardenrose Farm and many sports meetings were held there and famous runners and cyclists from all over Britain came to compete at them.   After the great exodus from the town about 1909 the interest in athletics fell away through lack of young men (it was nearly all young men who emigrated, leaving a population of older men and young children) and the sports ground fell into disuse although the raised camber at one end of the track could, for years, be seen behind the farmhouse at Gardenrose.”   

When amateur sport became prevalent in the 1880’s the performances of the peds, or professional runners, were either quietly forgotten about or diminished.   That did not take away from the exploits of the men who took part in them or from the quality of some of the running.   This well seen though when the individual runners and their careers are inspected.   McKinstray was probably the best so it is McKinstray that we will look at fairly closely.

Robert McKinstray was born in Welltrees Street, Mybole in April, 1837, and became the greatest runner in Britain in his day, over all distances from 160 yards to 5 miles.  Nowadays that would include sprints and what we would call middle distance racing.   

He was not a big man, he stood only 5′ 6″ in height, but many of top distance runners are of a slight build.   It certainly did not impede his progress. . Bob first came to the attention of athletics supporters when he made his debut as a pedestrian as a 15 year old  at the Culzean sports, where he won half of the races on the card.   Away from the sports field, the young McKinstray was apprenticed to a local butcher and served his time faithfully.   He was lucky with his employer who indulged him in his running and every summer he toured the Games circuit and defeated nearly all comers on sprints, long distances and hurdle races.   He had a wider range of events than most going from short sprints to what we would now call middle distance races.   He was “King of the Red Hose” at Carnwath for many years: the red hose race is reported and generally accepted as the oldest foot race in the world and is held annually at the end of July.  


McKinstray learned his trade as a runner by racing at all the local Sports and Games.   There were many held in Ayrshire at the time, some were full scale athletics meetings, some races were add-ons to local gala days.   For instance he ran in 

“The annual Trades Races and Sports came off on Thursday last, on the Town Green, Newmilns, when a large concourse of spectators assembled to witness the proceedings.   The day was fine and the different races were, on the whole, well conducted.   The Newmilns Instrumental Band was present, equipped in all ts splendid new uniform; and the variety of airs performed by it during the day contributed in no small degree to the pleasures of the meeting.   The following is the result of the running:- First Race, 2 Miles – 1st Robert McKinstray, Maybole,  2nd Matthew Brown, do,  3rd Cock of the North, Strathaven. “

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 25 July, 1857.

When you are starting out on your road as an athlete, you run at all sorts of meetings, this one was a particularly small one – there were three races and a running high jump.   


1863 was a good year for him – he won the Three Mile Champion Belt at West Calder on 29th July and on October 3rd won the Two Miles championship and £50 in cash at the Stonefield Grounds in Glasgow, defeating the well known J Murdoch of Stonehouse to whom he was conceding 150 yards.    Alex Wilson had a look into the Stonefield Grounds, which is a name unknown today to any of our acquaintances, and says, “The Stonefield Recreation Grounds, were first mentioned in Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle in 1861, making them Scotland’s oldest enclosure. The Royal Patent Gymnasium opened in Edinburgh in 1865. The Powderhall Grounds didn’t opened its gates for business until 1870.   I was unable to find a map showing the exact venue as a running ground but did narrow down the location to a plot of land across the Clyde from the Glasgow Green, and this was leased out in late 1860.”   He later pinned it down to “The site of the former Stonefield Recreation Grounds is today located between the Adelphi Conference Centre and the Strathclyde Distillery. Shawfield is however nearby. And the district was the Gorbals”

 The following year, 1864, started with a defeat by Dan Shannon of Glasgow, on February 6th in a 400 yards race for £50 at the Stonefield Grounds venue.   Then on 12th March, he beat W. Park for the 2 mile championship and £50 at Stonefield,.   This was followed by a win over Charlie Mower of Norwich for the 2 mile championship and £50 at Glasgow on June 11th.   He then won the 5 mile championship at West Calder, on July 27th.   26th Nov 1864, at Manchester Royal Oak Park grounds, where the track was 651 yards, he was fourth in a race for sweepstakes over three laps (1 mile 193 yards).   

In 1865,  his first victory was over Dan Shannon on April 22nd, in a  600 yards race for £30 and then he headed for the Manchester Royal Oak Grounds, where on May 20th,  McKinstray won the half mile sweepstake, £75, beating W. Richards of London and J. Heyward of Rochdale/   He ran the half mile in 1 minute 56 seconds, a world record.   The report is from Bell’s Life in London and is given almost in its entirety, partly because of what it tells us about McKinstray himself.

“This was another red letter day in the annals of pedestrianism.   A few weeks ago Robert McKinstray of Glasgow, William Richards (the Welshman) and John Haywood of Rochdale, entered into a sweepstake of £26 to run half a mile, the winner to take the £75.   Ever since the articles were signed, the affair has created more than the usual amount of interest, not only from the fact of their being tried public performers, but also on account of the men representing Scotland, England and Wales.   Before entering on the proceedings of the day, a few particulars relative to the men engaged may not be uninteresting to our readers.   

McKinstray was born at Maybole where he resided until about twelve months ago when he migrated to Glasgow.   He is 28 years of age, stands 5 foot 6 1/2 in and when in condition weighs 9 st 11 lbs.   For a long time he has been accustomed to attend the various Caledonian athletic gatherings where he has carried off nearly all the pedestrian honours of note.   He has also contested against the cream of the fleet of foot over the Border with great success, and from one to five miles McKinstray is champion of Scotland.   For the present contest he was trained by Mr William Straker of Newcastle-on-Tyne, and arrived last Monday at his final quarters, Mr John Booth’s King’s Arms, Newton Heath.   There followed brief notes on the other two runners but not as much as there was on the Scot, the odds were quoted (5 to 4 on Heywood, 7 to 4 against for McKinstray and 3 to 1 against Richards.   Shortly after 5 o’clock the stake holder and referee My John Brittain got them under way’by report of pistol’..   

“Intense excitement prevailed as the men came bounding along the straight which is 400 yards long and rather uphill, and on passing the stand McKinstray led the way closely followed by Heywood and Richards in the order named.   As they came sweeping round into the circular course the same order prevailed, the pace being terrific.   No change took place in the relative positions until coming along the back stretch, about 250 yards from home.   The Scotch representative now held a commanding lead of half a dozen yards, Heywood second and the Welshman close up.   Richards now buckled himself together, and putting forth a most determined effort breasted Heywood when the pair joined issue for second place which was obtained, after a gallant struggle, by Richards.   For a few strides the Welshman gained slightly on the leader, but as they neared the goal, the race became a certainty for the Glasgow man who was running well within himself and going in splendid style.   Richards and Heywood soon showed symptoms of distress, but the former in the most game and resolute manner struggled, though unsuccessfully, to overhaul McKinstray who turned his head to take a parting look at his men, and breasted the tape in easy style five yards in advance of Richards, who was two yards in front of Hayman.  The Scotchman had a large number of friends on the ground who were in ecstasies at the success of their man, and they may indeed feel proud of him as he has eclipsed all previous performances of half a mile, the stipulated distance being covered on the present occasion by the winner in 1 min 56 1/2 sec, the fastest time on record.   That time is 1 1/2 sec less than the great race between HA Read and Tom Horspool which took place several years ago at West Hill Park, Halifax, for £100 which the former won, having completed the distance in 1 min 58 sec which was then, and continued to be until the present day the quickest half mile race ever run.   We may add that the Scotch division  won about 300£ in bets.” 

This of interest for several reasons, one of which is that the Scottish amateur record only dipped below two minutes for the half mile in 1895 and that time was 1:59.5.   It was run on a standard two laps of 440 yards cinder track after three or four men had been inching it down over several years.   It came from 2:00.4, to 2:00.2 and then 1:59.5.   The runners involved (Mitchell of St Mirren, Malcolm of Morton and Langlands of Clydesdale, urged on by such as William Rodger, another Maybole runner) were all good men.   McKinstray is recorded as having run sub 1:57 on a track with a 400 yard straight, a bend and a circular track.   

He then beat W. Bell at Newcastle over 2 miles for £40, on June 4th; defeated E. Ashworth of Bury in the short distance of 160 yards winning £20, on July 14th; came back to Scotland and won the gold medal at Johnstone on July 15th, for a 3 mile handicap race; went on to defeat W. Richards in a 1 mile race, in which Richards received a 15 yards start and staked £30 to Bob’s £25 on July 29th, 1865.  Then came another major event, again held in Manchester where he ran third from scratch on August 19th, in George  Martin’s championship one mile handicap.   The race was held at the Royal Oak Grounds and there was quite a big field of 10 runners for this important race.  S Albison, W Richards (alias The Welshman), C Mower, R McInstra, J Sanderson, P Stapleton, W Lang, alias The Crowcatcher, J Nuttall, J Neary and E Millis, alias Young England.   The  report gave a lot of detail on the competitors and it told us that McInstra (their spelling) was the oldest in the race – now being 30 years of age, having aged two years since the half mile record run..   He was reported to be only 5′ 6 1/2″ in height and weighing 9 stone, He had again been trained by Mr W Straker of Newcastle on Tyne.   

Mr Martin himself held the positions of stake holder, timekeeper and referee and started the race at 5:22 pm.  The report in Bell’s Life on the race itself read:  “[at the half mile ..] Nuttall led the way, Neary and Sanderson, almost side by side, lying next, these being followed by the Scottish hero, the Welshman being alone in his track, and Lang, who being the outsider at the start, soon made up leeway, and with determined action, he proceeded.   Stapleton lying near, followed by Albison – Mower having no chance  and toiling in the rear.   The distance of one mile required two laps and 458 yards to be covered, and on passing the first time Nuttall was still in front, he being attended by Neary, Richards, Lang, McInstra and Sanderson.   Stapleton was then seventh, Albison eighth and Mower last of the lot.   Shortly afterwards, McInstra headed the field, but on going along the back stretch, Sanderson wrested the honour from the Scotchman and at the same time increased the pace which even up to this point had been fast.   The “son of the heather country” once more, prior to arriving at the stand, gained the supremacy, and before passing the referee, Neary, Mower and Nuttall gave up.   However, on went the residue, McInstra just in front, Richards next, Lang, third, Sanderson fourth, Stapleton fifth, Albison sixth; and in this order they entered the last revolution of the course.   Then came the “tug of war” when Sanderson and Stapleton, not possessing sufficient speed, the race was reduced to a trio; the performers nearing the final turn being Richards, Lang and McKinstra, the three lying well together, the latter holding the lead, Richards second, Lang third , Sanderson fourth, Stapleton fifth and Albison then last.   Just before arriving at the final turn, Lang and Richards gave McInstra the go- by, and between the last named pair a brilliant struggle ensued.   The concluding 150 yards were warmly contested – Richards and Lang being nearly breast and breast – and they came along at high pressure speed, their wonderful efforts resulting in a dead-heat; five yards behind them came McInstra and then followed Sanderson at a distance of 20 yards, Stapleton came in next and Albiston brought up in the rear.

It is almost needless to say that the race was of an interesting description, when we add that it proved to be the quickest on record – 4 min 17 1/4 sec, the time of Mills, Lang, Albison, Hospool and other renowned pedestrians being thus far excelled.   The dead-heaters received an ovation, many, however, maintaining that Lang had won by a few inches.   Mr Martin’s decision was, so far as we could perceive, a just one, not withstanding the hubbub occasioned thereby.”   

After this excellent performance,  McKinstray finished his year’s efforts with a race on Boxing Day against James Sanderson (Treacle) at Hackney Wick, just outside London, in a 10 miles sweepstakes.  He retired in the fifth mile but led at 4 miles in 20:45.0.   

The rivalry with Treacle continued on 31st March 1866, again at the Manchester Royal Park Grounds.   It was a two miles race  which he won in 9:57 , after coming through the Mile in 4:50.   Back there again on 30th June, it was a three quarter mile sweepstakes, where he was 4th: he came through 880 yards in 2:02 leading the field. Race result:  W Richards 3:07 .5e; 2nd James Nuttall (3 yards) 3rd Siah Albison (15y)  3:10e, 4th McKinstray 3:11e



According to the Maybole historian, McKinstray then took up his quarters in England where trained at Newcastle, and on February 23rd, 1867, gained the mile and a half challenge cup, value £80, won three times in succession, but this time was third behind Richards and Bill Lang.   

1st June, Manchester: 1 Mile, 1st  4:31

22nd July, Manchester, 1 mile against John Fleet,dnf but  4:26.6e (off 9y, 68, 2:14, 3:20) 

3rd August, Manchester, one and a half miles against J Sanderson and J Fleet, 1st  7:02.5 (64, 2:11.5, 3:15.5, Mile in 4:30.0, 5:39

“PEDESTRIANISM.   A foot race for a sweepstakes of £25 eachtook place on Saturday at the Royal Oak Park Grounds, Newton Heath, Manchester.   The pedestrians who took part in the contest were J Sanderson of Whitworth, near Rochdale, J Fleet of Manchester, and R McKinstray of Glasgow.  The betting at the start was evens on Sanderson, 5 to 4 against Fleet, and 3 to 1 against McKinstray.   On the pistol being fired, Sanderson shot to the front, immediately followed by Fleet, McKinstray bringing up in the rear.   In this order they ran for nearly half a mile, when McKinstray took the lead, was not afterwards headed, and won easily.   Fleet and Sanderson gave up before entering the straight.   Time, 7 min 2 1/2 sec.”

On 19th August, at Coatbridge, in the  5 miles championship of Scotland, he was first: 

“COATBRIDGE ATHLETIC GAMES.   These annual Games and Sports were held on Monday in a field near Coatdyke.   A drizzling ran fell all the morning and the the spectators at the commencement were few, but during the afternoon and the evening the rain held off and a large crowd gathered.   … The Coatdyke Sports got up in opposition were held in an adjoining field.   Captain Clark and a posse of constables kept excellent order.   There were the usual number of thimble-riggers and card-sharpers on the ground, along with a sprinkling of the “fancy”and members of the PR.”

One of the bigger meetings on the circuit, there were 18 events on the programme including the 5 Miles Race.   It may seem strange in the twenty first century but the race for the Five Miles Championship of Scotland was a handicap race.   That made no difference to McKinstray – he won from J Steel of Glasgow and William Parks, also of Glasgow, with Newcastle’s W Bell dropping out.   No time given but the report said that he ‘won easily’.   He also won on 8th October at Crystal Palace over 4 miles. and on 2nd November, back in Manchester, in a one and a half miles race against J Fleet  He was first after quarter mile splits of  60 sec for quarter mile, 2:05 for half mile, 3:19 for three quarters – finished at leisure but no time given.

“PEDESTRIANISM: Important Foot Race in Manchester.   A foot race for £50 and a champion cup of the value of £80 came off at the Royal Oak Park Grounds, Manchester, on Saturday between Robert McKinstray of Glasgow, and John Fleet of this city, the stipulated distance being one mile and a half.   The cup, which is a challenge one, had been previously won by McKinstray, and a few weeks ago Fleet challenged him for its possession.   The betting opened at evens on Fleet, and shortly afterwards 6 to 4 was laid on him, but at the start 5 to 4 was freely offered on McKinstray.   The pedestrians went away on the first attempt, McKinstray leading by about 2 yards at a quick pace and the first quarter mile was gone over in one minute.   In this order the men proceeded and they ran half a mile in 2 min 5 3/4 sec.  Fleet gradually fell further behind his opponent and when three quarters of a mile had been passed, 3 min 19 sec had elapsed.   Before a mile had been run Fleet, finding that he had no chance of success, resigned the contest, and McKinstray went over the remaining portion of the distance at his leisure.”

1867 had been a good year for him and he started 1868 on 7th March with a one and a half miles race against J Sanderson, where he was first in 7:04.5.   The report in the Dundee Courier read:

“GREAT FOOT RACE AT MANCHESTER.   Victory of the Scottish Champion.   The Manchester Examiner gives the following account of a foot race in that city, in which McKinstray, the Glasgow “ped”. proved an easy victor:- On Saturday at the Royal Oak Park Grounds, a contest: distance one mile and a half took place between Robert McKinstray of Glasgow, and James Sanderson, alias Treacle, of Whitworth, for a champion gold cup and £50, the parties engaged having staked £25 each.   The cup, which is of the value of 80 guineas, and is given by the proprietor of the above grounds, was originally contested for on the 23rd of February, 1867, when it was won by John Fleet of this city.   The principal condition on which this cup was given was that the winner shoud successfully defend it, against all comers, on receiving six weeks notice, for twelve months, before it became his absolute property.   Not being satisfied with his defeat, McKinstray subsequently challenged Fleet, and Sanderson having also entered, it became a sweepstakes of £25 each and the cup, and the contest came off on 3d of August last when McKinstray won easily.   Fleet, the original holder afterwards challenged the Scotsman and they met on the 2d of November when McKinstray again defeated Fleet, the latter having resigned the contest when about a mile had been covered.     Sanderson, being also dissatisfied with his previous defeat, again challenged McKinstray and hence the match on Saturday.   The attendance of spectators was meagre in consequence of the weather, not more than 600 persons being present.   The betting commenced at evens on McKinstray, but when the start took place as much as 2 to 1 was laid.   To complete the distance the course had to be traversed four times and 36 yards.   As soon as the men left the crease, Sanderson took the lead by a yard, and held it on sufferance until three laps of the course had been traversed, when the Scotchman passed him and gradually left him further in the rear, and when reaching the turn for the straight in to the finish had a lead of 30 yards.   From this point he slackened his speed but passed the tape an easy winner by a dozen yards.   The time occupied was : quarter mile, 1 min 3 sec; half mile, 2 min 11 sec; three quarter mile, 3 min 25 sec; mile, 4 min 34 1/2 sec; one and a quarter mile, 5 min 46 1/2 sec; 1 1/2 mile, 7 min 41 sec,” 

Then on 10th April,, back in Manchester over 1 Mile,he finished second in an estimated 4:27.0 20 yards behind the winner’s 4:23.5.


1869. 8th November at Hackney Wick, McKinstray was pushing the limits of his rane when he ran 10 miles.  He finished 3rd after leading through 2 miles in 10:07.8.   Shortly thereafter, still at Hampton Wick, 0n 27th December, he ran in a  5 miles sweepstakes.   He retired after running well for most of the race – 1 mile 5:03.0, 2 miles 10:17.4, 3 miles 15:36.2, 4 miles 20:28.4.   George Hazael won in 26:05.0.

His last appearance before the public was at Edinburgh, December 31st, 1870, when he ran a match against an Iroquois Indian named Debeaux Daillebour, alias Redhead, especially brought over from America to race him, 3 miles level, for £30 a side, on. which occasion our friend Bob made short work of the Redskin, leaving him so far behind that he gave up the race, leaving McKinstray to walk in at his leisure in a little over 15 minutes.   The report this time read:


Saturday, December 31st – DAILLEBOUR (THE INDIAN) AND R McKINSTRAY FOR £30 A SIDE.   The interest attached to the Three Miles match between the now celebrated Indian runner Daillebour and R McKinstray (the Scottish champion was very considerable.   McKinstray may now be termed a veteran, having figured in various matches, handicaps and sweepstakes during the last 20 years.   His greatest achievements were twice carrying off the one nd a half Champions Gold Cup given by Mr T Cooper of Manchester, when he beat Fleet and Sanderson.   The weather being most favourable for this season, there was a large number of spectators from 1,200 to 1,500.   On the appearance of the men the Indian was scanned with eager eyes and the general impression was that he would be proved the winner. but he appeared somewhat careworn and stale, either from over training or the fatigue of travelling.   Mr T Callaghan having been appointed pistol-firer and referee the men toed the scratch at 3:30 and away they flashed at fine speed, the Indian with the lead.   He covered the first half mile in 2 min 20 sec, the mile in 4 min 52 sec.   Here McKinstray took the lead, passing the Indian on the outside.   McKinstray’s style of running looked far easier than the Indian who, like all his tribe, has a rolling gait, which does not look as graceful as our local peds.   Co,ming up for the eighth lap – two miles – the Indian came up to McKinstray’s shoulder and looked like passing him but Bob was equal to the occasion and on passing the two mile crease in 10 min 6 sec was still leading by two yards; and here the Indian’s jolly condition began to tell on him and he was in difficulties,  McKinstray leaving him further in the rear gradually and surely every lap until at two miles and a half he was fully 60 yards behind.   Here Mac put in a spurt, amidst the plaudits of the spectators; the Indian tried manfully to do so but his condition told its tale, and his backer beckoned him to stop just before he had completed two miles and three quarters.   McKinstray ran a bit further before he too stopped.   Any odds could have been had on the Indian before the start but no one offered to back McKinstray until they saw that he had the race in hand, when it was too late of course.   McKinstray received quite an ovation and was warmly congratulated on his victory over the hitherto invincible Indian.”

As was often the case, there was a rematch on January 7th, 1871, which was reported as follows.    “Debeaux (The Indian), R Hindle and R McKinstray a short time back were matched in a sweepstakes of 2,000 yards, each man staking £25, the winner taking the whole.   Today was the day appointed for the contest but the weather was of the most cheerless disposition.   Snow fell from an early hour, with but a brief interval, till shortly before the hour fixed for the decision of the event.   This no doubt had a most material effect on the attendance which was very small.   The race resolved itself into a match between Hindle and Redhead, as McKinstray failed to put in an appearance.   Hindle looked in far the best condition, as it was apparent that the Indian had not recovered from the effects of his recent labours.   Shortly before the men went to the mark, snow again began to fall, rendering the competitors and spectators alike uncomfortable.   The race itself requires but little description.   On the signal being give, both went off together, but Redhead took the lead shortly after, Hindle being about a couple of yards behind.   The positions of the men underwent no change until they were about 100 yards from home when Hindle passed Debeaux, and coming up the straight in front won easily by six yards.   The time for the first quarter mile was 1 min 5 sec; second quarter 1 min 12 1/4 sec; third quarter 1 min 19 1/2 sec; fourth quarter 1 min 19 1/2 sec; the entire distance ( 1 mile and 240 yards); occupying 5 min 42 sec.”

McKinstray’s   last race then was on 31st December.   When he retired from running he returned to his home town of Maybole,  respected by all and honoured as the greatest British runner of his day.”   The following tribute was written by Kenneth Whitton who was an amateur athletics enthusiast, president of the SAAA in 1902-03,  and a man who wrote two chapters in the official SAAA history of the association’s first fifty years.   One was on DS Duncan and the other was on the early years of the amateur era.   Whitton was not just an administrator and official but also a very good competitor who won four SAAA shot titles (1883, ’84, ’85 and ’89) as well as four hammer throwing championships (1884, ’85, ’89 and ’90).   His opinions as a respected and experienced lover of the sport are to be respected.

 On May 9th, 1931 he wrote:

“While many wonderful runners such as T Carruthers, Yetholm, who was in business in Edinburgh for many years; D Wright, Jedburgh; A McLearey, Alexandria; W Cummings, Paisley; D Livingston, Tranent; and a field of others almost equally good did fine performances, it is of an Ayrshire runner who in his time, the ‘sixties and early ‘seventies, was the finest mile runner in the country, that the present article deals.   “Bob” McKinstray was brought up in Maybole in the late ‘thirties and very early came to the front.   At this time Maybole was a great sporting centre, and the Garden Rose Park housed for many years a great athletics festival of which many old cyclists and ‘peds’ have pleasant memories.   Bob was 5′ 6 1/2″ in height and was beautifully proportioned .   He was a butcher’s apprentice and his master gave him every facility for training and for competing.   After his running days were over he carried on his business in his native town and gave every assistance to prospective speedy men.   Bright and cheerful and of a genial disposition he was esteemed by his fellow peds.   

One of McKinstry’s first races was against a pony!   His butcher confreres, then as now, were great sporting men and keen on horse- and dog-racing.    They matched him against a speedy pony over a distance of 100 yards on Ayr racecourse.   Bob won by a very little, only because he got up speed quicker than his fleet opponent.   Culzean Sports, now defunct, saw his first real outing when he won more than half of the races.   Later he became “King of the Red Hose” at Carnwath, and this title he retained for many years.   1st July, ’63, he won at West Calder over a distance of three miles, a championship belt, which along with an £80 Cup won in England over a distance of a mile and a half is I understand in the possession of a grand-nephew.   

.McKinstray’s prize belt

In October ’63 Bob won at Stonefield Grounds the two miles championship  and £50, and in October of the same year, conceding 150 yards he beat Murdoch of Stonehouse over the same distance.Next year he met and defeated W Park in a two miles championship for £50 and in June of the same year, over the same distance and for the same sum, ???

In England he was well known and feared.   Appearing in Manchester in May ’85, he won the half mile sweep which brought him £35.   In doing this he easily outran W Richards London and J Heywood, Rochdale, finishing full of running in 1 min 56  1/2 sec; a  performance which stamped him as the greatest runner of the day.   After an all-conquering career, he took up residence in England, a move that did not commend itself to his friends, for it was thought he had got into the hands of the “pencilling” fraternity.   This is indicated in a great mile race that took place against Lang and Richards of England.   The first quarter was run in 60 sec; the half mile in 2 min 5 1/4 sec; third in 3 min 14 sec and the mile in 4 min 17 1/4 sec.   McInstray was beaten by a yard, but finished quite fresh, though his opponents were “all out”, and the impression was general that McInstray was running to “instructions.”   Robert P Watson, the famous referee, who judged the great race between George and Cummings, was of the opinion that up to that time no mile runner the equal of McInstray had appeared on the track.   Further, that though WG George had run the mile on 4 min 12 1/4 sec, he was convinced that McInstray was the superior of George.   

It may be interesting to know what the great Bob Hindle thought.   Last June at the SAAA Championships, I discussed with J Rodger, a fellow townsman of McInstray, the doings of the old “ped”.   Rodger himself was the amateur half mile champion and one of the best we have had.   And his opinion should carry weight.   He told me that it was the definite and well considered opinion of Hindle that McInstray at the top of his form could run the mile in 4 min 10 sec, and that frequently in practice he was round about this time.   

As to timings, Watson, who timed the George v Cummings match, says that the timekeepers were sound and solid, and were known as “show watch holders” who depended on their accuracy for their bread and butter.   They could, he says, split hairs in their division of a quarter of a second.”

During his career over the Border, Sanderson of Whitworth, Lang of Middlesborough, Leet of Manchester and Millis of London. and many other notable runners had all to yield to the Scotsman.  His last public appearance was in Edinburgh on December 31st, 1869, when he ran a match level over a three mile course for a £30 a side with an Iroquois Indian named Debeaux Daillebout, alias Redhead.   On this occasion he made short work of Redhead, leaving him so far behind that the Indian gave in, leaving Bob to walk in, in a little over 15 minutes.   

A well-known Edinburgh sportsman, Mr Clark, lately in business in Gorgie Road, has told me of this race, which he saw when a lad.   For McInstray, McLeavey, and Cummings, Mr Clark had a great admiration, and saw them all run at the Gymnasium, the making of which, with the Pitt Street Baths and Craiglockhart Pond, was due to Mr John Cox of the Gorgie, who was an early pioneer in creating recreation grounds for the toilers of his day.”

Kenneth Whitton

McKinstray was undoubtedly a super performer over a wide range of events.   In the twenty first century we are debating whether a runner should specialise in either the 100 metres or 200 metres rather than be a sprinter; 400m runners are a breed apart and some may run the 200m and others the 800m but their true event is 400m; there is even a split between the 800 and 1500m specialists with the 5000m, formerly a long distance event, now a middle distance event.   If we say that 10 miles was stretching his distance running a bit and the under 440 yards races a bit short we see him as an 880, Mile, three miles runner and finally settling on him, ideally, as a miler.   Comparing his times with those of the best amateurs after 1883, we note that it was not until 1935 that the record reached 4:12 (Bobby Graham of Maryhill Harriers), and if we believe Hindle’s statement that he could have run 4:10, the SAAA record in 1953 was 4:11.2 (Breckenridge of Victoria Park).   He must have been a remarkable talent and doubts have been cast on these times on the grounds that (a) the timekeepers were incapable;   or   (b) the distances were wrongly measured.   Whitton was as staunch an amateur official/administrator/historian as it is possible to get and he seems to have been sure that the timekeepers were were good men and true.   As for the measurement of distance, most of his best races were at the Manchester Royal Oak Park Grounds which had been used for decades, which were universally acknowledged to be well maintained and used weekly, often more than once a week,  and it can probably be taken that the distances were also accurate.   AlexWilson has this to say on the topic of course measurement:   “The Royal Oak Park Grounds housed a 651 Yards circular track. I`m not sure how long the “straight” was. The ground had a 400 yard straight but that  must have been tangential. There were no rules then as how a track should be configured and the size of the ground really dictated what shape it took.   Tracks such as the one at Lillie Bridge and Manchester were probably more accurate than some might be inclined to think. They would have used chains to measure them.”

The most damning charge against McKinstray was made by Whitton – ie that the race against Lang and Richards he deliberately lost the race.   One of the reasons for the popularity and tremendous growth of amateurism was  that the professional game was corrupt.   Roping and personisation were frequent – and often substantiated – charges against athletes at the time.   However this is only a hint by Whitton and only refers to one race.   There is no reason to think that it was a common practice for McKinstray or his backers.

By all the judges at the time, he was a remarkable runner who was the best in Britain and certainly a credit to Scotland.

Many thanks to Alex Wilson for all help with this article and for most of the photographs. 

Talking about Stuart, …


We learn more about a person by listening to what his friends say and what follows are just some of the comments about Stuart as a friend and coach by some of those who know him.   First of all there are some words by Aileen McGillivary:

It’s funny thinking back on my relationship with Stuart Hogg which is now approaching its 32nd year!  Our journey as coach – athlete lasted approx. 14 years; following that we had 10 years as joint coaching partnership and through the latter years have remained in touch regularly.  I find it difficult just capturing what he did for me as an athlete and try to reflect more on what he did for me as a person.  The great Philosopher Coach Vince Lombardi has an expression that ‘Coaches coach sport; Great coaches coach people’ and I would summarise that this was his driving principle to try to help those he coaches to  get the best out of themselves.  It would be fair to say that he has had a huge influence on shaping some of my values, standards and beliefs and my unashamedly elitist approach to performance sport which has now transferred into my career. 

He was a hard task master whilst also caring at the same time, his attention to detail was second to none and in the initial years I was on a fast-track to really understand what it took to succeed.  Fair to say that we had quite a few run-ins and differences of opinion whilst I was going through my latter teenage years!  

My career was by no means a roll of honour but I take great pride in the fact that Stuart’s influence, alongside support from my family and others, allowed me to get the most I could out of the ability that I had been given – ‘you cant put in what God left out’ I guess and it was important for me always to be realistic about that!  The unfortunate thing is that we can never measure these things and it’s not how careers or success are defined.  Having said that,  the most important thing is that I know that and will be forever thankful for the applied teaching that I received from someone who I still consider as my best friend after all of these years.

….Aileen winning the indoors 200m in the Kelvin Hall

Paul Hession was an Irish athlete who moved to Scotland to train with Stuart and lived with him and his family.   The bond that developed was more than coach/athlete and has a permanence shared by few.   He says: 

“I first met Stuart in 2005. I was coached previously by an Irish coach, Jim Kilty, who was very successful. However, I knew that I needed to change to get the best out of myself. Stuart had coached Nick Smith, whom I knew from doing some races with Shaftsbury Barnet, and I had heard good things. I met with Stuart at a hotel near Dublin Airport and I immediately knew this was a coach that I wanted to work with.

Stuart has many attributes that only the best coaches have. He’s dedicated and passionate. He has an incredible attention to detail. He commands a room…you could never be in room with Stuart Hogg and not know he is there. He is very loyal, and expects the same loyalty and dedication in return. As Stuart often says…’I coach people, not just athletes’. He recognises that athletes have lives outside the track and that these can impact on their performance in training. Therefore, he takes an active involvement in all aspects of his athletes’ day-to-day lives. This breeds a tight coach-athlete relationship that remains to this day, long after I have retired from athletics. He always looked out for me, and still does.

We had great success together. We built a great team around us, pretty much from scratch. I think the consistency I had throughout my career and staying, for the most part, injury-free is a testament to the way Stuart operated his schedule. He has a sixth sense. He knew when to attack and when to back-off in training, even if you didn’t yourself. He planned everything and stuck with it.

With Stuart guiding me I had my best success. I ran Irish records at 60m, 100m, 200m and 300m that still stand 12 years later. I was consistently one of the best 200m runners in Europe over a 4-5 year period. During my best years (2007, 2008, 2009) I was top 10 in World Championships and Olympic Games. However, almost better was Stuart’s ability to get me competitive right through the European season. I never won a Diamond League race, but I also don’t know if I ever came last. I was always knocking on the door, in the top 5 or 6 in some of the biggest races in the calendar. This is still something that gives me pride to this day.

You needed to buy in to Stuart’s way of doing things to get success from it. I guess this is the same with all coaches but even more so with Stuart. Part of the strength of the way he coaches comes from that coach-athlete bond. The sum of the whole machine was always greater than its parts. This is the art of coaching that can’t be taught, that only some people are lucky to have. Stuart had it in spades.

I look back to my 7 seasons with Stuart as the best of times. I have many happy memories of hard training sessions in Pitreavie, especially as the summer season approached and the excitement of racing began to hit. Perhaps my best memories, and where Stuart really came into his own, were away on training camps in Portugal, South Africa etc along with other top athletes from Europe. Both myself and Stuart kept to ourselves in many ways, not very showy about our success. We let our performances do the talking and it was a lot of fun! I am still in regular contact with Stuart and he takes a big interest in my personal and professional life. The coach-athlete bond remains strong to this day!”


Neil Turnbull was a very good professional runner who, with Stuart’s help, won the famous New Year Sprint, the top professional race in Britain, was reinstated as an amateur in the amnesty of the mid 80’s and had a successful career there too, winning the SAAA 200 metres championship.   He says –

“I first got to know Stuart through my running coach in Peebles ( Tom Beaumont) as Stuart had a tie to Peebles as he used to train here as a young man in the sixties with a runner called Tommy Allan from Peebles .   We would travel to Glenrothes on a Sunday to train with Stuart’s running squad and under his supervision i developed my speed.

It had been Stuarts goal to win the New Year Sprint and in 1983 he achieved this.   Our next goal after winning the New Year was to win the equivalent Stawell Gift in Australia.   Having run there in 1985, the plan was to go back in 1986 and win it – only George McNeill had done it before.   But in 1985 the IAAF granted reinstatement to former professional athletes so that they could compete on the amateur circuit and I got reinstated in 1986.

In 1987 I won the Scottish 200m championship at Meadowbank and numerous Scottish international appearances.   I owe a great deal to Stuart Hogg who was not just a trainer but a friend as he still is to this day.   As you get older you get wiser and I can now see looking back how much time Stuart devoted to athletics and  in developing training schedules for his athletes .”

Tommy Boyle has sent his comments – and given the relationship between the two men, they relly have to be included here and read in their entirety.   It shows an additional side to his character and coaching – the ability to work as part of a team.  Not all coaches can do this but it ties in with his thoughts as a new coach that the pro world was too secretive in their training and there was little or no collaboration between coaches.   Tommy says:

“Stuart was a very successful athlete on the pro-circuit for many years, a fierce competitor over 200 metres; my old coach, Bob Henshaw, who had a wee pro school in Bellshill, described him as a “big, strong lad with a good pair of glutes (a big behind) and a very relaxed and rangy stride.”

I guess I did not really realise how good he was until we became friends, before asking him to help with a few of the athletes at Bellshill YMCA athletics club.   I did a wee bit of due-diligence and was really impressed with his achievements as an athlete.   Over his competitive career Stuart learned a great deal from the varius pro coaches he met or observed.   However as he moved over to coaching and focused more on the amateur side of the sport, he like many recognised the differing objectives regarding the competition season, length, intensity and conditioning to compete at a high level over a longer period.   Stuart has always had his own views on the strengths and weaknesses of the various coaching processes and regimes.   He was however ingrained with the culture of attention to detail which underpins the pro sport in  preparing an athlete to peak for the big one, a knowledge that few amateur coaches really grasped.    

I was coaching a young sprinter, Ian Callendar from Bellshill who won the Scottish Schools, and I guess it was about that time I noted Drew Harley’s performances and what a fine job Stuart was doing with him.   It was clear to me, even in those early days, that it takes real knowledge and experience to develop pure speed and it was also clear to me that many of the pro coaches were good at this aspect back in those days.   Indeed it could be argued that many of the great sprint performances in Scottish Amateur Athletics in the 70’s and early 80’s had their roots in the professional game where Stuart had well and truly served his time.  

Fast forward to the mid 80s and I was coaching a young athlete, Tom McKean, a prodigious talent, even then I recognised the critical importance of speed and speed endurance in world class endurance running, and did my coaching exam in sprints.   However it was also clear that despite the qualification my effective experience in speed development was limited, so I sought out coaches who knew the game, were strong minded, spoke their opinions and were trustworthy – Jimmy Campbell, Frank Dick, Sandy Robertson and of course Stuart Hogg.   Gradually I confided more and more in these guys, all with different skill sets.   Stuart was a great bouncing board for ideas, my early impression were that he had a Growth Mindset, open to learning different ways of improving performance and when Tom qualified for the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Stuart took him up to Glenrothes and did a mini-rehearsal for the big day, including call-room and paced time trial.   He also facilitated the use of his friend’s flat at the back of Meadowbank Stadium, as a place to escape to between the rounds on the competition day and of course a bowl of pasta – it’s that old attention to detail again!   Tom won a magnificent silver medal in the final.

However it was in 1987 when Stuart volunteered to come along to the World Championships with Tommy and I that we grew closer as friends.   It was amassive learning experience for all of us.   There was ridiculous expectation on Tom (then ranked world 50th) especially from the Scottish Press.   It was all a big new learning experience and we learned the hard way when Tom was held in on lap one and at that level did not know how  to deal with it.   He was then tripped by Peter Elliott (an accident).   However the race was gone, and we all had a bad day at the office.   It’s at times like that when you need a friend in your corner and Stuart was great – even telling a preacher who tried to comfort Tom where to go!

In September 1987 I was asked to coach Yvonne Murray.   Early analysis of her armoury combined with physiological testing by Professor Myra Nimmo indicated a few areas of opportunity for improvement, one of which was her speed.   I discussed with Stuart and he agreed to take some sessions on a Saturday at Glenrothes, and gradually work on the technique and speed aspects.   Stuart gave it 100%.   Having two girls of his own, he was like a father to Yvonne and sometimes we even managed to get her extensive intervals and circuits squeezed into the week ends at Glenrothes.   Stuart was on a steep learning curve leveraging on the professional support team I had established to take Tom McKean to world level.   There was no Institute in those days just old fashioned professional business approach to the development of excellence.   Stuart maintained the support to Yvonne throughout the winter months.   It was open book stuff, I shared the training schedules and Stuart focused on the technique and speed aspects improvement.   It was a tough winter for Yvonne, massive changes, but with all those tough sessions with the squad at Bellshill, the weekends at Glenrothes and a great professional support team around her, confidence and performances grew.   She qualified for the Olympics in Seoul, and again Stuart volunteered to come along to the prep camp in Japan and the Games in Southe Korea too. 

The GB and US teams were held in a secure camp in Nihon, a high class private  country club with awesome facilities and food.   Highlights I remember were Yvonne doing  OBLA 3 mile runs through the village.   She was flying, Stuart on a bicycle taking point and me on a bicycle protecting the rear – everyone thought were were mad?   We slept in cabins and Stuart always made a big thing of putting my shoes outside at night.   He also raved about his great dry toast and we had many long talks about everything in life.

The press were in the village, which was unusual.   Stuart made friends with Jim Rosenthal, ITV Sports Commentator, they then proceeded to talk endlessly about football, as Stuart had good insight having done sprints with Rangers, Aberdeen and Dundee United.   Tom McKean was on fire in the camp- he ran 73 for 600m and I thought OMG.   However he had family personal issues which were uppermost in his mind and were to become the dominant factor in his Olympic failure.   Yvonne was going great guns.   Running 300m reps in 41 seconds, however when we moved to the GB camp in Korea things changed.    Reality hit Yvonne and in the first training session in front of the GB team, she froze, ran 300’s in 48 and was findng it very difficult.   A situation I had discussed with Peter Coe and yes, a massive l;earning curve for Stuart when I knew I had to sieie the moment and her lapels, looked her right in the eye and said a few things.   Stuart was sweating buckets and said to me that the GB coaches were watching.   I said “Stuff them, it’s Yvonne that’s important, not them.   She walked off, came back and ran los 40’s – a massive learning curve.   We had a reality call and an indelible memory for us all in the warm up area before the Olympic final.   Old friend Derek Ibbotson was with us as the Puma Marketing Manager, a wily old fox, he said, “Did you see that athlete go into the loo with her bag?”   He timed her and it took 14 minutes before she re-appeared, just before the final.   The athlete medalled and we were later informed via an anonymous letter under the door how she cheated.   However the great news was that Yvonne was switched on, fitter, stronger more confident and she ran a massive PB, won a bronze medal – a fantastic example of a professional team in action supporting an athlete to become the very best she could be – on the hour, on the day, one the minute, just like  Powderhall!!!

It was not until 1990 that we truly witnessed the benefits of her improved speed and ability to change pace.   We knew after the Olympics that she would be targeted, and also that the athletics world was saturated with drug cheats and especially so in the female events.   Many long phone calls and meetings throughout 1989 with the support team: Stuart continued to refine her speed in preparation to change pace, combined with specific sessions with her training partners at Wishaw track.   These sessions were in parallel with all of the other physical and mental improvements we incorporated into her training and racing: experimenting with going from different distances in the European circuit from 200m through to 1000m out.   The plan was to send confusing messages about where she would go from in the Europeans.   

Stuart again travelled to the Europeans in Split, Yugoslavia, this time with wife Madge, which was great.   I was with my wfe Julie.  I remember we had a very relaxed pasta lunch with Tom and Yvonne on the day of the European finals.   Stuart had ‘great crack’ and it helped the athletes relax and was indeed the start of a historic day in Scottish and UK athletics.   Tom ran first and we decided that he would front run and he executed a magnificent race dominating the race and winning the gold.   Yvonne heard the news in the warm up area.   Now much more mature and experienced at this level she kept control, executed the plan precisely and took 10m off Romanova, going at 500m, on the crown of the bend.   A second gold medal and the culmination of years of hard work   by the whole team that supported the athletes.   

Yes, Stuart, it is fantastic when a plan comes together especially given the massive effort and contribution you made over those years of improvement.   A big well done.

In summary: Stuart Hogg, long time friend, has a fantastic family, and Madge was a special person – sincere and true lady.   Stuart is a “one off”.  Like many effective Scottish coaches he was not part of a club, he said what he thought which many did not like, and yes, to be truthful, he was outspoken when he felt he needed to be.   However, he is one of a dying breed which I fear we may never see again and sadly all that hard earned knowledge is being lost to the sport as our coaching knowledge and experience is gradually eroding.

I personally believe that Stuart gave Scottish Athletics and the Sport a great deal more than they realised or ever appreciated – or indeed than he got in return.


Achieving great results with Drew, Aileen, Neil, Paul and many, many more


Yvonne Murray’s name has appeared several times in the course of his profile and it is clear that Stuart has a lot of respect, admiration and affection for Yvonne and her abilities.   She clearly feels the same about who he is and what he has to offer.   

I’ve always said, over the years, that Stuart never received the recognition he deserved for all his hard work with me.  I have some amazing memories, not only with Stuart but also with his family – Madge, Tracy, Graeme and Kim.

Stuart and I worked extremely hard the first season I was with him. I spent the first four years predominantly with Stuart at Glenrothes, Pitreavie and Wishaw.  Tommy spent his time with Tom McKean.  Changing coach one year before the Olympic Games was always going to be a challenge.  I had a superb back up team with Myra Nimmo (physiologist) and Dave McLean (Physio) along with Stuart and Tom.  Everything changed – for the better.  I lost my markers and pointers from previous years (a guide to how I was getting on) but I knew that if I wasn’t successful it certainly wasn’t down to the team.  It was a leap of faith but Stuart was so professional, calm, supportive, encouraging and caring that gave me confidence and determination.  I started to believe in myself again.

Stuart was instrumental in my success at the 88 Olympics, World Cup, European Championships and Commonwealth Games.  Having a devastating kick, which I never had before, was a new tactic in my armoury.  I remember my first sprint session with Stuart at Glenrothes.  I thought I was ok at sprinting but after the first couple of runs Stuart asked me if that was my strides – I had a lot to learn.  He brought humour into the sessions which I needed at times.

Stuart’s professional attention to detail was very impressive – on and off the track. No less than !00%.  I believe that our successful athlete/coach relationship was down to the fact that he “coached the person”.  He was interested in what was happening in my life because ultimately this would affect my training/racing programme on the track.  It was 100% input or nothing, but I understood that was required in order to become a top athlete. Stuart understood me so well.  He knew when to step in to lift my mood, if down and also when to give me some space.

One side of Stuart’s character was his sense of humour.  I remember when we were at the Nihon Centre in Japan. I had to do a three mile obla run with Stuart and Tommy on bikes (to give me some protection as the road was particularly busy).  If there is a time in an athletes life when they can get their own back on the coaches – in a nice way of course – this Was it.  I took off and and enjoyed passing both of them trying to keep up.

One other incident at the Nihon Centre was when I was doing some 100m sprints on the track when out of the blue Mary Decker (who was also competing in the 3000m); came over and dumped her bag in the lane next to me.  There was no one else on the track at the time so she could have used the other straight.  Anyway, Stuart and Tommy clocked what she was doing.  I started the session and Stuart started to call out my times rather loudly.  My times were incredible – I’ve never run that fast in my life!!!!!!!! A few minutes later Mary Decker picked up her bag and left.  A lesson learned in the power of psychology. 

I know that Stuart has talked about the World Cup in Barcelona but when the event was stopped initially due to heavy rain no one knew when it would resume so it was pointless warming up, so I sat down and listened to my music and Stuarts voice  came into my head saying keep calm, relax, save your energy…….it worked.

There’s more to coaching than writing a schedule for the athlete to follow, especially at the top level. Knowing the person, their strengths and weaknesses.  When to give assistance and when to stand back.  Good communication is essential.

One event that sticks in my mind is the Europa Cup 91, when we were trying a new tactic (suggested by Tommy).  Running from the front from 200m out.  Running laps at a different pace. I have to be honest and say that I had my doubts which unfortunately came true in spectacular fashion.  I was gutted because I could have won it quite easily using my normal tactics.  I was really upset afterwards and Stuart was the first person to come to my aid – the only one to come to my aid.

I feel so lucky Stuart, to have met you, to have you as a coach.  I have benefitted so much from your expertise but most of all to have your friendship which means so much. 

I promised Stuart I wouldn’t mention the dog mince story (pet food), from the 1990 Commonwealth Games. It’s a cracker of a story but one I am saving for my book which I am currently writing with my ghost writer which is called “Setting the record straight”.  Stuart, you have nothing to fear.  In fact, quite the opposite.

I’ve included a paragraph below because I know that Stuart is worried about this, he needn’t be. Tommy Boyle has commented on his profile and that of Stuart’s here on what happened at the Olympic Games 1988 at the training track in front of athletes and coaches of the British Team.  This was not the first time!

There are many ways to coach an athlete, but one way that doesn’t work is grabbing your athlete’s tracksuit lapels, lifting them off the ground and shouting expletives in their face.  Not only does it destroy the coach/athlete relationship but can end up with the coach being arrested for abuse.  Its totally irresponsible for a coach to put this information on the internet and to brag about it as if it is okay, IT’S NOT. Hardly a Positive Coaching method.

An excellent photograph of Yvonne and Stuart

Finally, you can often gauge a lot about a person by the remarks that are made about them when they don’t think their remarks are being recorded.   

For instance, British internationalist Peter Hoffmann commented on one website

“Stuart was one of the good guys – when he’d moved into coaching and I was racing he was often very supportive either at competitions or training.”

Leslie Roy is one of the best team managers and administrators that the sport in Scotland has ever had, and after listing Stuart’s achievements, her comment was :

“When I worked on teams with Stuart he was meticulous in everything he did.  He always wanted the best from and for the athlete and his preparation was second to none which led to the athletes he coached winning many Scottish Championships over many years.

….there was a Facebook message on “I was or am a runner” where there was a quote from top Scottish distance runner Liz McColgan which read “Stuart Hogg is indeed an unsung hero and never received the true accolade as yet from Scottish athletics for his coaching of Scotland top athletes in his day. A very quiet unassuming man who just got on with it behind the scenes, lovely man and even now still enthusiastic and will chat forever regarding athletics coaching”

It was unsolicited and all the more welcome for that. 

Stuart Hogg: Athletes

Stuart receiving Coach of the Year Award from Laurent Primeau

It is possible for a coach to have a reputation based on success with only one athlete: one famous coach that I knew was world renowned and gave talks all over the place, because he had one very good athlete a  multi medallist at Olympic level – who said he wanted a different athlete to work with since he didn’t want to be known as a one-athlete coach.    He did take on another athlete subsequently – but this one was already a GB record holder and an Olympic silver medallist.   Stuart is not a one athlete coach, nor did he have five or even ten years of success with a single group of athletes.   From the 1970’s right through to the twenty first century, he worked with a range of athletes and we look at just four of them below:  Yvonne Murray and Aileen McGillivary  from the 80’s to Paul Hession and Allan Scott in the twenty first century.


Yvonne is one of Scottish athletics’ best known and best loved athletes – known and respected the world over her rivalry domestically with Liz McColgan in Scotland and Paula Radcliffe in England which helped develop all three athletes and attract others to the sport.   She was a wonderful ambassador for the sport.   Starting out with Bill Gentleman in Edinburgh her principal coach in the 1980’s was Tommy Boyle from Bellshill.   Stuart takes up the tale of his involvement from here.

“Although Tommy Boyle was her main coach I was a part of the team from 1987 until 1991, I had a great deal of contact time with her especially in the first three years this involvement certainly had a great bearing on my learning of performance athletics.

There were many great days with Yvonne there were the down times as well, all athletes will go through this that is when they need the coach most. This was a learning experience of a real world class female athlete, how she applied herself to training, lifestyle, diet, determination both in training and competition. At the major championships how she went about her business focusing on the business at hand and able to shut everything out that had nothing to do with her race at the same time the ability to shut that out when needing to relax.  

The emotions she went through in the days leading up to the Olympics of 1988 were amazing to witness – up one day, down the next.   However when it came to the crunch she performed, as history tells us she won a bronze medal against what can only be described as “some dodgy athletes”.

A few of those “dodgy athletes” were there in Split at the European Championships in 1990 they followed her home as again she ran a brilliant race this time winning.

One other story that bears telling is that in 1989 competing for Europe in the World Cup in Barcelona second race on the track when it absolutely poured with rain delaying the meeting two hours. Neither Tommy nor I were there but she had the presence of mind to stay calm put her music on, stayed relaxed until the event was reprogrammed, warmed up to the new timetable and proceeded to win the 3000m with a great run and testimony to her mind set in adversity.  

I worked on her technique, speed and change of pace it took a great deal of time to fix this but her learning curve and application was first class.

She was a good pupil took everything in, applied it and it worked.

She was a very emotional person as a result her highs could be very high and her lows very low, it was the job of the coach to work on these once you got to know her it could be done. 

She was a dream to work with and I am pleased to say we are still very good friends.”

Aileen McGillivary

Aileen was Stuart’s first British senior international runner and he had started coaching her when she was 17.   When she started as a Senior in Scotland she had to contend with Sandra Whittaker, Wendy Addison and other very good, experienced athletes.  In the Scottish championships she won the 100m in 1989 after finishing second the year before and third in 1987.   That was to be the first of seven 100m victories in nine years at national level, and there was a 200m victory in 1991,   She completely dominated the Scottish rankings for many years – the cutting below is from 1992.  [NB Stuart was also coaching Morag Baxter!]

Her complete championship medal record reads:

UK, 1992, 100m, 3rd; AAAi, 1995, 60m, 2nd; 
Scottish: 100m 1st 1989, ’90, ’91, ’93, ’94, ’96, ’97.   200m  1st 1991.   2nd: 100m  ’88, 100m, ’98, 100m, 1991; 200m, 3rd 1987
Indoors:  1st 60 m, 1989, ’91, ’98; 200m 1st 1991, 2nd ’95.
In terms of championships contested we have these: 
  • European Junior championships 100m;
  • Europa u/23 cup winning the 100m this was held twice before becoming the European u/23 Championships;
  • On two other occasions for the G.B. U/23 team 200 and 4×100;
  • World indoors 60m;
  • Senior Europa cup 4×100;
  • Four other occasions for the G.B. senior team;
  • Commonwealth Games 200m.

Her career was managed astutely by Stuart – witness the following at the beginning of her career:   “The first chance that she had to achieving her ambition of a GB senior vest was when 20 years of age she ran the indoors season breaking Scottish senior records in the 60m and 200m. Though her time showed that the 60m was better there was a 4×200 in a GB v Italy international in Milan it was the latter that would be her best chance of making the team therefore she ran in the 200 at the indoor AAA championships (there were people surprised at me suggesting this) and was chosen in that event in the international. She would not have been chosen for the 60m.

The reason for choosing the relay was as she had never at that point gained a British senior vest this would be her best opportunity to do so which I considered would boost her confidence as well as gaining valuable experience. Traveling to another country (Italy) competing then traveling home all in three days, the opportunities to do this were limited then not like now when it is fairly normal to do so, it worked all that I was looking for in doing this was gained.”

That and other such smart decisions, added to her undoubted ability, had the result that he could say at the end of her running career that ” She achieved her ambition, she adapted, became a really good professional and in my opinion got out of herself what was available to her, this is an impossible to quantify this with any athlete but it was my unbiased opinion she did and that is something to be proud of.   Her athletics career gave her confidence in life working in high performance for Scottish Institute of Sport and to this day we are really good friends.”

The two cuttings reproduced here were taken at random from the SATS Yearbooks covering her career – this one is from 1997

Allan Scott

Allan was already a very good athlete when Stuart was asked to help him.  He was coached by Bob Somerville in Glasgow who was a well liked, highly respected, hard working hurdles coach with a string of medal winners and GB internationalists to his credit.   Where did Stuart fit into all this? 

“Allan was a good athlete before we got together having competed at European Indoors, World Championships and Commonwealth Games however there was some fine tuning that needed to be done which was stopping him from making a difference to his performance.

Allan had really structured his training himself before I got involved with him and although he was a fit lad the programme was not right for what he was trying to achieve. He is a very intelligent lad who had got away with too much as his previous coach was too nice, he needed someone that was stronger to tell him – I must admit I was that guy. Don’t get me wrong I did do it in a slow and I think clever way and we had a good relationship.  

His daily structure was not the best, his speed endurance was not the best, as a great number of his sessions were strength endurance based and his pure speed could be better. I knew Allan had a good application to training therefore I knew this was a great starting point and one that was essential if he were to make that small improvement to get him that Olympic vest.

Working with two other athletes that had PBs of 10.18 and 10.28, as well as more speed endurance based sessions, helped him greatly.  Off this he ran 6th. In the world indoors and broke the Scottish Record for 60m hurdles (3rd. all time in the UK) during that summer qualified for the Beijing Olympics. At the Olympics he ran to within 3 hundredths of his PB, made the quarter finals which was a satisfactory result. During the time we were together he also ran in the final of the European indoors and was 3rd. for GB in the Premier division of the Europa Cup. I only wish we could have met each other a few years sooner.  

Very interesting at the World indoors, the heats were in the morning with the semi-finals and final at night.  They took the athletes out into the arena a bit earlier for the final than in the preceding rounds for tv purposes.  Because of the extended period on the track Allan, who done his normal track warm up, had five minutes longer to wait for the race and as a consequence slightly lost his concentration.  He was in a position to gain a bronze medal started the actual race with his hips slightly down nicked hurdle 4 and finished 6th. A great but hard lesson. We should have prepared for this situation but didn’t .  That is how fine a line it can be at this level   He did learn from this as the Olympics had the same situation for all the races we knew that beforehand therefore he had the experience to cope and we prepared for it beforehand.”

Paul Hession

If you look at the Athletics Ireland website for Paul Hession, then you see this:

Date of Birth: 27-01-1983
Club: Athenry A.C
Coach: Stuart Hogg, Scotland
Place of Birth: Athenry, Galway
Height: 184cm
Weight: 76kg
Career Highlights: World Track and Field Championships, semi-finalist Berlin 2009
Olympics Games semi-finalist 2008
World Track and Field Championships, Osaka 2007: semi-final (6th)
World University Games 2nd 2003, 3rd 2005
European Indoor 60m 7th 2007
National Record holder for 100m and 200m

It also tells us that his personal best times are 6.61 sec for 60m indoors (Mar 2007);   10.18 for 100m (Jun 2007);   10.36 for 100m indoors (Feb 2008);   20.30 for 200m (Jul 2007);   20.82 for 200m indoors (Mar 2005)   and   32.47 for 300m (Jun 2008).

That just about tells you all you need to know about the quality of Paul Hession as an athlete.   I mentioned him to another coach of international runners who remarked on the fact that Paul actually lived with Stuart and his family for several years.   Stuart says of Paul:  “What a professional.   A coach’s dream.”   The two of them got together in March 2005 while Paul was studying medicine and Paul did stay in Stuart’s home for several years while applying himself to training.   Stuart had put it to Paul in 2005 that he had a serious decision to make – there was no way that he could run world class times and do the 5th and 6th years of medicine simultaneously. The decision taken was that the medical career would be put on hold for several years while he became a full-time athlete. This was not Stuart’s decision but that of Paul’s family after the coach had told them straight what the demands of training for international competition would be. It can be seen from the notes above that it took from 2005 when they met up to 2007 before his track times for 60 and 100 metres right down.   Work was done on his starting, his pickup; the weights were carried on right through the summer racing season.   Everything came together to the satisfaction of both coach and athlete (not always the case) and Stuart says:

“Paul finished his career being the Irish Record holder for 60, 100, 200 and 300 unless I am much mistaken it will be a long time before they are broken.   Paul is a very highly intelligent human being while he was a full time athlete he done an Open University degree in history and gained a first class honours degree!!  He is now a fully qualified anaesthetist in Ireland we are still good friends.”

If a coach’s ability and character can be seen in the athletes he  works with, then Stuart had it all.

[Stuart Hogg: Sprinter ] [Stuart Hogg: Coach] [ To The Top] [Achievements ]  [ Talking about Stuart …}


Stuart Hogg, To the Top

Stuart with Paul Hession and Allan Scott

Stuart had to start his coach education again – albeit at a higher level than before – when he started working with elite athletes.   It was a bit like a university graduate going back to do a second degree.   Where and when did he start on this path that would lead him to a higher level of coaching>   He says, “A friend of mine, Tommy Boyle, who already coached Tom McKean, a world class 800m athlete, took on Yvonne Murray, a 3000m athlete, asked me if I would help in a specific aspect of her training.   This was where I found out what top class athletics was all about.   The involvement, both at training and in competition, was paramount in my learning process to reach where I ultimately wanted to coach.   Tommy was a realist which, at that time, I now see that I was not, but he soon changed my thinking in this area which would prove to be vital to my coaching ability at this level.”

Stuart is not slow to acknowledge his debt to others or, unlike many others, to name them: there was Jimmy Campbell, now there is Tommy Boyle.   Believing that as a coach to top flight athletes, he had a duty to learn as much as he could about the event and to understand what it took to reach the desired goal.   Like all coaches he made mistakes but as he gained in experience he cut the mistakes down.   He had to pay more attention to detail than he had in the past.   He was almost greedy for information and learned about all the various disciplines that had to be called upon and which people within those disciplines were the right ones to consult.   

  • Nutrition is vital and when the focus turned on that he attended lectures and read as much as he could on the topic.
  • Physiotherapy: Training an athlete to the max is high risk and there must be a physio on hand to consult and use appropriately.   He had to go through the same learning procedures for that as he had for nutrition.
  • Strength and Conditioning: He knew nothing about weight training, for instance, in 1972 but by 2004 he was setting out the conditioning programmes for his own athletes who competed at the Olympics.   He received help here from Meg Ritchie to start with and then Aileen McGillivary while keeping Meg on his phone in between times.   
  • Blood analysis: having his athletes who were members of the Scottish Institute of Sport tested for this on a six-weekly basis taught him what to look out for and he gives credit for his learning in this area to Dr Walker and Prof Greaves at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
  • He has also worked with Sports Psychologists but points out that the psychologist and the athlete have to get on with each other or it will not work.

If you add in the ‘athletics politics’ such as dealing with administrator & officials and dealing with governing bodies then it can be seen that at this level coaching is a multi-faceted occupation fraught with obstacles to be overcome.    He learned more about both of these over two years in 1985 and 1986 when he was Scottish Staff Coach for the 200 metres event.  The SAAA Coaching scheme at that point was excellent – there was a National Coach with four Group coaches reporting to him (Sprints, Endurance, Jumps and Throws.   Each of these had a Staff Coach for the events in their group (the Sprints had Staff Coaches for 100m, 200m, 400m and the relays).   There were also in 1985/86 two squads of athletes, the senior squad and the development squad (Under 20’s and Under 17’s).   The responsibilities for developing the event, assisting the athletes and their coaches and keeping tabs on the scene were all down to these coaches.   Stuart, like several others, felt that the set up was good, the back up from the governing body was non-existent.   This meant that it was impossible to do the job as he wanted to do it, so he gave up the official role in the national structure.     He went back to coaching his own athletes, noting that he coached individual athletes and not clubs.   During this time he was involved with Tommy Boyle and Yvonne Murray, with a lot of contact time with Yvonne, and “during this association I was learning what performance athletics was all about.   What I was learning both excited and motivated me.”     

Despite not holding any official post with any governing body or coach structure, Stuart went on to be a team or personal coach at all the major championships – indoor as well as outdoor – at least once.   There have been 19 of those in total.   All hard work, but all enjoyable.   Stuart leaves nothing to chance, nothing: his list of do’s and dont’s for operating in such an environment is comprehensive.   I’ve seen it and it covers the whole range, for instance –

Pre-event home work:

  1. Temperature at the time athlete will be competing
  2. Humidity 
  3. General village layout
  4. Food on offer
  5. Transport to venue
  6. Training facilities
  7. Sleeping accommodation
  8. Daily timetable
  9. Location of call up room
  10. Call up times
  11. Length of time before call up
  12. location of team gazebo

He also notes what is required on arrival at the venue, notes what the actual responsibilities of the coach are as well as what his official responsibilities are, and so on.   His lists are meticulous and detailed.   

The boy from Cardenden had come a long way.   We should look at the actual athletes that he coached at this point.

[Stuart Hogg: Sprinter ] [ Stuart Hogg: Coach ] [ Stuart’s Athletes ] [Achievements ] [ Talking about Stuart … ]


Stuart Hogg, Coach

Stuart with Neil after winning the New Year Sprint in 1983

Stuart had left the Bradley school in 1972 and started training his own way when he was about 32 – 33 years old and kept on competing until he was 34, winning the Lanark Lanimer Day Sports, for example.   There were several aspects of training that he felt should be addressed:

  •  It should not be boring.   The same session night after night was dull and uninteresting.
  • There had been something missing in his training and he had to find it and correct it.   
  • He felt that using weights was the way forward.
  • The pro scene was very secretive, no talk around training programmes, pockets of training which kept themselves to themselves and Stuart could not see how this would help his development as a coach. 

As far as  weight training was concerned he had his first exposure to weight training at the body building club in Kirkcaldy leisure.    There were body building clubs all over the country and there was the National Association of Body Builders which they were encouraged to join.   Stuart immediately recognised from the shape and size of these trainers that this was not for sprinters.   They were good at what they did but he had to find a middle way between their regime and the ‘no weights at all’ training that he had been used to.   

Jimmy Campbell, on right holding the clip board

At this point, in 1976, he went on the SAAA Club Coach Course with Bill Walker in charge and there was no doubt about his passing it.  He was then excused the mandatory two year delay between Club Coach and Senior Coach and he took this exam and passed with flying colours in 1977.   (He did not become an amateur as such until 1986 when the SAAA gave a full amnesty to all professionals: He did this so that no one could ever point the finger at him being a professional should he ever be an international team coach.)   The coaching courses at that time were held at Inverclyde Recreation Centre at Largs and Stuart attended several of them.   Like everything else, they had their good points and their bad but it was here that he met Jimmy Campbell of the City of Glasgow club.   Jimmy was a great character, always full of life, always asking questions, always ready to give you a straight answer to a straight question and a real font of knowledge.   Stuart says of Jimmy: “One of the lecturers there was Jimmy Campbell, the best I ever came across in any course I attended at Largs by a country mile.   He was passionate, knowledgeable and a humble man.   He made all his lectures interesting.   When I first coached women, Jimmy had a wealth of experience in that area and I would pick his brains on a regular basis.  ….  Jimmy Campbell was the person who had the most influence on my coaching philosophy:   he made me understand all the emotions an athlete at the top level would go through.”

He says much more about Jimmy who had a great influence on many coaches throughout the land.   

He kept on training pro sprinters, and his first big success was when Neil Turnbull won at Powderhall.   Never having won the New Year Sprint as a runner himself, he was quite keen to do so as a coach.   Neil linked up with Stuart when he was an 18 year old Border Games sprinter.   He raced sparingly but Stuart felt he had the ability to win the Sprint.   Stuart,  had learned how to peak for a big race and used his experience together with his own training methods to get him ready.   He also persuaded a local hotel owner to put the runner and a training partner up for a month before the meeting.   He ate well, had massage when necessary – and it all paid off when he won and his sponsors got their money back with interest.   This was in 1983, and,  under the heading  ‘PREPARATION PAYS OFF FOR TURNBULL’, the ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported:

“Neil Turnbull, the 4 – 7 favourite, won the £1100 first prize in the New Year Skol Sprint to give Stuart Hogg’s Glenrothes squad their first success.   Turnbull a 19 year old electronics technician from Peebles, where he is helped by Tom Beaumont, moved into a Glenrothes Hotel for three weeks to prepare for the big race and the move paid off.   From his mark of six and a half metres and aided by a brilliant start, Turnbull won the final by nearly two metres from the veteran back marker, George McNeill (Tranent), covering the 110 metres in 10.78 seconds.   A strong wind helped the runners but it was still a fine performance as was the running of McNeill who, from two metres, covered the distance inside 11 seconds to repeat his runner-up position of 1971,   McNeill, 5 – 2 before the final, edged Stewart Freeman (Ashington) into third place.” 

A very good run and a personal triumph for Stuart.   Neil stayed with him as an athlete, became reinstated as an amateur under the terms of the amnesty offered by the SAAA in the late 1980’s, and went on to win the SAAA 200m championship in 1987, and added three second and three thirds in Scottish championships indoors and out.   You can see Neil winning his Heat at Meadowbank in 1984 on youtube at

Neil Turnbull wins the New Year Sprint

Stuart already had some form as a coach by then.   He had trained his first amateur when he took on Drew Harley of Pitreavie AC as a 15 year old in 1972.   His work with Drew was also very successful in that he won the AAA’s Under 20  200m  twice in succession and ran for the GB team in both years.   He first won it in 1974 in 21,5 which was a championship record time, and then again in 1975 in 21.9.   No British Junior had won that title twice in succession before.  At the end of ’74, still a junior he was ranked number 8 in the 100 yards and number 5 in the 200 yards Scottish senior rankings.  Harley’s Championship record domestically was a victory in the SAAA 200m in 1975,  and a first in the indoors 300m in 1974., ’75 and ’76.   A really good runner, he unfortunately had to curtail his career after a bad case of Glandular Fever.   

Stuart’s next amateur athlete was a runner called Bruce Livingstone who won the SAAA Youths title in 1976 (22.2),4 Junior (U20) Championships 100m (1977: 11.2) and 200m (1977 22.1;  1978  22.7), went on to gain a GB B international vest.   As recently as 2019 Bruce appeared in the all-time junior rankling list for his hand timed 10.6 sec: the runners ahead of him were Roger Jenkins 10.5, Drew McMaster  10.5 and David Jenkins 10.6.  Not bad.  For the coach, it meant that his runners had won the SAAA 200m in 1974, ’75, ’77 and ’78:  four years out of five.   At this time, Stuart was still coaching pro athletes – and would continue to do so for a few years yet as he had an obligation to continue with them until they no longer competed.

The coach who was ‘learning his trade’ already had runners who had set GB junior records, won GB junior vests, won SAAA titles and represented Scotland: many coaches would have settled for these as lifetime achievments, most coaches never reach that level.   But Stuart felt that he still had a lot to learn.   He notes his mistakes:

  • Allowed ordinary athletes into his squad – not bad people, but those who wanted to socialise were not the sort he wanted in the squad;
  • Sometimes he overtrained the athletes – eg at warm weather training they trained harder which put them in injury potential zone;
  • He learned that it is not at all an easy task to bring athletes through to maturity and to be successful senior athletes.   There are many aspects that can put obstacles in the way of a successful senior career
  • The coach has to make judgments such as – is the athlete going through rebellious phase going to turn into a good athlete?   If so, then he has to be educated by the coach.   

In these early days he put his finger almost immediately on one of the difficulties facing the coach: where to find good support staff.   There was no funding available to assist the better athletes to be able to pay for medical treatment.   It took him years to build up a support team that he could trust.   

Finally he also felt that although he had athletes who competed for the British Junior Team at the European and World Junior Championships, that was not what his major ambition was, it was to have someone in the full team who would compete at the major championships.   What was required?   “I realised that attention to detail had to be much greater when you need to step up a level;  as well as the need for the athlete’s commitment to be greater you as a coach needed to match it at least as much, if not more so.”

[Stuart Hogg: Sprinter] [ To the Top ] [Stuart’s Athletes ] [Career Achievements ] [ Talking about Stuart .. ]




Stuart Hogg: Career Achievements

 Given his contribution to coaching and the number of athletes he has coached to a high level, Stuart has naturally won his share of honours – the two majors are at the top of the page – but perhaps a better picture of the work he has done at the very highest levels can be seen by simply listing the achievements of his athletes without any comment being required.   Have a look at these lists.

Scottish coach of the year 2008/2009 and 2010

Life time achievement award from Scottish Athletics 2010



1986 WORLD JUNIORS 1 KIM HOGG 4X100 (6th.)








British senior athletes Stuart has coached are:-

1) Brett Rund 400M
2) Aileen McGillivray 60/200M/4×100 4×200
3) Lorraine Campbell LJ
4) Neil Turnbull B” 4X100
5) Bruce Livingstone B” 200M and 4X100
6) Allan Scott 60H/110H
7) Eilidh Child 400H/4X400
8 ) Nick Smith 100M/4×100

ATHLETES AT EUROPA CUP (while Stuart was coaching them)


Allan Scott 110H ONCE 3rd.
Eilidh Child 400H/4X400 TWICE 4th and 2nd.
Aileen McGillivary 4×100 ONCE


Paul Hession 100M/200M/4×100 5 TIMES (6.61/10.18/20.30/32.47)
Marian Heffernan 400M/4×400 3 TIMES (53.10/2012)
Paul McKee 400M/4×400 ONCE (46.5/2008)
Brian Doyle 4×400 ONCE (47.14/2008)


Aileen McGillivray Dallas memorial trophy winner 1992 (11.54/23.29/1992/1993)
Nick Smith Scottish Male athlete of the year 2004 (6.60/10.28/2010/2004)
Allan Scott Scottish athlete of the year 2008 (7.52H/13.53H/2008)
Eilidh Child Scottish athlete of the year 2009 and 2010 (55.16H/2010)
Paul Hession Irish track athlete of the year 2007
- Irish Athlete of the year track athlete of the yearand performance athlete of the year 2008
Special contribution to 200m running 2017
Emily Dudgeon U/20 Athlete of the year 2012 (2:01.89/2014)

Athletes’ best performances while being coached by Stuart are in brackets

[Stuart Hogg: Sprinter ]  [Stuart Hogg: Coach] [ To the Top ] [Stuart’s Athletes ] [ Talking about Stuart ]

Stuart Hogg, Sprinter

Stuart Hogg

Stuart Hogg is maybe better known in the twenty first century as a very good athletics coach who has also worked with several of the very best football clubs in Scotland.    He has worked successfully with athletes representing their country in all the major championships in the world:   Olympic, European and Commonwealth Games, World and European Championships, indoors and out.   There are not so many however who realise that he was a successful athlete on the professional running circuit in Scotland.   Many of these men have gone on to be coaches in the amateur ranks, such as John Freebairn, Keith Redpath, John Wands and others, but none have do so as successfully over such a long period.   He learned a lot while a professional athlete and it is appropriate to look at Stuart Hogg, the Runner, first.  

Why did he become a professional athlete and not join a club and go straight into the amateur ranks?   “There was no amateur club near me if I wished to join one it was three bus journeys there and three back. Cars in those days were for the very few people who could afford them and my folks were not one of them.”   

He wanted to run as an amateur so that he could run in the international meetings but the rules were the rules – even for twelve year olds:

“I won my first prize in the second year of competing when finishing second in one of these boys races winning a prize of 10 shillings (50p) which I refused, wishing to retain my amateur status.   Upon which I was duly informed that once I had competed against a professional I automatically became one, no matter what age I was.   It was pointed out to me that I could be reinstated for a small fee but I could never compete for my country.   Therefore I thought what was the point of being reinstated?   Surely it is everyone’s dream and ambition to run for their country?

Asked about training, Stuart says “I was coached by my father in my formative years.  He really had no idea of what was needed but gave me his time and his encouragement.   I was really doing it all myself by what I was picking up.

In an article in the Glasgow Herald, Stuart elaborated a bit and the report read:

The son of a Cardenden miner, Hogg was beaten by a yard for the Big Sprint title in 1964. “My dad was a butcher, but went down the pit because it paid better. One of his best pals died in a roof collapse, and eventually he went back to the butcher’s shop. But I remember dad taking me down the pit on a Saturday when they fired the shot to strip out the coal.”   It was a vision of Hades. Hogg confesses a suspicion that father may have taken him down to put him off the pit. And so it did. Hogg went to university and did a degree in building technology. He’s spent much of his subsequent career building sprinters and footballers.

But the Hogg family was steeped in another Fife pit tradition: “I remember he took me to Powderhall, in 1954.” It was the last great betting coup. Finlay Scott had trained wearing a balaclava and ginger wig, so nobody would know who he was. “I remember this guy, Scott, winning his heat,” recalls Hogg.   “He wore black football pants, a white simmit, and trudged back up the track as if he was walking behind the plough. But my dad’s pal went down to the long-odds bookies, and he was 25-1. He stuck a fiver on – half a week’s wages then.   “Next day Scott comes out, immaculate, in the blue silks of Marshall Braidwood , an iconic coach of the era. He’s been backed down to 6-4, and he wins.”

The school collected £54,000.

A decade later the race had moved to Newtongrange. Hogg was beaten for the sprint title by Bill McLellan. “But I won the British championship and that meant more to me, because it was a scratch race. I wasn’t into holding back.” 

Stuart confesses that he never had a proper coach until he was 23 as he was keen – he had done it all himself up until then.   The group, or ‘school’, that he joined was that of the famous Jim Bradley.   He says:  I joined Jim Bradley’s squad and was there for 6 years. I can honestly say that the only thing he taught me was how to hit the speed ball. He never once coached me on my technique or to come out the blocks. His squad was made up of lads that wanted to run, good trainers and because of this it made for a great competitive training environment.

You peaked for one race in the season as well as the New Year Sprint.  This was not my idea of being an athlete. Interestingly many years after I had this same conversation with Ricky Dunbar who shared my view.   I guess I was a thinking athlete always inquiring why we would do certain things which now looking back I was already preparing myself for coaching.  This is the reason I left Jim Bradley as he did not like the fact I asked questions.”

Stuart says: My favourite running meeting was Jedburgh Border Games.  When I competed, there were 25 heats of the 120 yds handicap, the venue was full of spectators and the events were very competitive.   I ran second there once behind one of my training mates and was awarded a gold medal for the best performance of the day.   This was the same year (1967) that I won the 120 yards British Professional Sprint Championship which is a scratch race (ie. no handicapping).  

What does he think was his best race?  My best race is very difficult to quantify as I think there are a few =  but probably the race I won at Lanark Lanimer Day Games was the most satisfying as I completely changed my training ideas and introduced weights.   I tested them on myself and I proved to myself it worked.   This when I was 34 years of age!!   My best year was 1969 which coincided at being my most consistent – that year I won the SGA athlete of the year.

The old saying is that sprinters are born – then made.   Stuart’s response to that is that “No one made me.   I guess it was just natural ability I have recently seen videos of myself running and if, as a coach, I had seen that young athlete, would have made changes.   I guess I was a training regime inquisitive athlete, as I didn’t really realise that I was on my way to being a coach.”

Why did he turn to coaching?  I coach as I like the challenge and with like-minded athletes as I am as a person I get great satisfaction in seeing them improve


It would be difficult to cover a career in the sport that has lasted as long and was as successful as his but we can see the quality of his sprinting by looking at various aspects of his time as an athlete.   First of all his early years at Powderhall, starting in 1962.

In 1962 Stuart, unplaced in the big sprint race, appears in the results of the 80 yards with a win in his Heat in the fastest time of the round (8.34 sec) from a handicap of five yards, and he was second in the final, losing by inches to J Sharp of Dunfermline (off seven and a half yards).   

A year later and the Glasgow Herald of January 3rd 1963 reported: “RF Dunbar (Edinburgh) yesterday won the 120 yards handicap at Newtongrange.   …..   In a cross-tie Dunbar beat S Hogg (Cardenden) who had returned the best time in the Heats …   Hogg gained consolation for his defeat when he won the 80 yards handicap.”   The dismissal of the 80 yards races was unfortunate – Stuart had  won Heat 7 of the 16 Heats in the fastest Heat time, he won the second of four cross-ties in the fastest time of the four, and then won  the final.   

In the 1964 New Year Sprint held at Newtongrange.   “There will be plenty of speculation today when the cross-ties of the 120 yards handicap are run.   R Dunbar (Edinburgh) who was off scratch in the fifteenth heat yesterday was beaten on the line by S Hogg (Cardenden), off six.   Dunbar would certainly have passed Hogg in another five yards.”    But someone could maybe have told the reporter that the race was over 120 yards, and not 125.   The report on the final on the following day read: “W McLellan (East Wemyss), a student at Jordanhill Training College, won the New Year Sprint at Newtongrange yesterday.   He was trained at Crosshill, Fife, by Mr A Mitchell (Kelty).   McLellan ran at some summer Games meetings, but his £150 prize yesterday was his first major success.   The Jordanhill student was off 7 yards and he held from start to finish his yard advantage over S Hogg (Cardenden.

So from nowhere in 1961 to second in the final by 1965, having won the 80 yards in between.   That was in the biggest meeting, with the biggest number of competitors as well as the best competitors from all over the UK.  


15 year old Stuart winning at Markinch

If we jump a bit and look at his record over the summer seasons leading up to what he considers his best season in 1969 we see the following picture.  As a boy he began running two mile ‘marathons’ and his first ever race was at Falkland where the sheep dog trials had a few races on the programme.  Never a distance runner,  Stuart ran his first sprint race at the Games at Markinch in 1955 – and won.   Not only that, but he was the youngest person ever to win an open 100 yards at any Scottish Games Association meeting.   He was just 15 years 26 days old, and it was to be the start of a great career on the Games circuit that would bring a British championship and a Scottish Athlete of the Year award.    We can look at the British championship first.

The Lauder Common Riding Games are held on the first Saturday in August include the British Professional Sprint Championships over 120 yards.   Being a championship, it is a scratch race and usually a very good field.   Going head-to-head with the best on the circuit, Stuart won the race into a ‘stiff, unfavourable breeze’ in 12.24 seconds.   That was a good run by any standards and there was a dead heat for second place between JI McAnany (Blyth) and M Murray (Barrow).   McAnany was the SGA Athlete of the Year for 1967 and Murray was a winner at Powderhall.    The Report read: 

The red flash from the gun, a puff of white smoke, the click of many 100th second stop watches and the roar of the crowd, added to the excitement of a race that had been talked about for weeks.    Hogg and Murray appeared to be best away, but  at the 60 yards mark all three were in a line.   Murray was a foot behind at the 100 yards mark, where Hogg gained the lead.   Then McAnany came to Hogg’s shoulder to draw level.   In what proved to be a great finish, Hogg threw himself at the tape to dip his chest in his very last stride to become the new champion.   

“I never saw Hogg the whole race,” said McAnany a few minutes later.   “I was sure I’d won.”   

But the judges did not agree – the verdict and the title were Stuart’s to enjoy.   

Progress was not without its problems however: at Kirkconnell in 1959 where the sports were held on a football field, he broke his leg.   Just 19 at the time, he had had a fall but the physio thought it was OK to run but in the finishing straight he went over on his ankle and broke his leg.   The result was a plaster cast for 12 weeks.   It might have terminated his career but it turned out to be merely a hiccup.   

In addition to the British title, in 1967 he won the Jedburgh Games 120 yards in July off three and a half yards where he was second to W Rutherford, Ballingry (8).   This was rated as a two star performance by the SGA.   The Games Association rated notable races on a one to four star scale and they clearly thought highly of this effort by Stuart.   He was given one star for his win later in the year at Crieff where he won the 100 yards off a mark of 3 yards.   Another race in 1967 which indicates the intensity of the competition that there was week in, week out was at the St Ronan’s Games in Innerleithen in the Borders.   The 100 yards sprint was won by McAnany from McGibbon and Davies with Hogg fourth – the race was won on the tape with one foot separating second and third.  

Into 1968 and at Jedburgh, Stuart was second in the invitation Short Limit 120 yards Handicap to former amateur internationalist Alf Meakin  (European and Empire Games in 1962, Olympics in 1964) who won in 11.66 seconds but one of the interesting features of the meeting was a relay race between Scotland and England for the British Professional Relay title.   The Scottish team (Stuart Hogg, Kirkcaldy, Dave Deas, Buckhaven, Willie Rutherford, Ballingry, and K Heggie, East Calder) narrowly defeated the English squad of Mike Murray, Barrow, Alf Meakin, Blackpool, David Bell, Dalston, and Ronnie Anderson, Ashington.   When it came to the British Championship at Lauder, Stuart as reigning champion turned out again.   This year it was won by 19 year old Bert Hutchison from Tullibody from McAnany and Cain of Carlisle with Stuart fourth.   The preview in the Kelso newspaper for the Morebattle Games the next week commented that there would be fifteen Heats of the sprint with McAnany, Bob Swann of Kirkcaldy (3), Bob Rutherford (Ballingry) were all running,   Then it said “Stuart Hogg, Kirkcaldy, 2, who lost his professional sprint title on Saturday to Bob Hutchison goes to his mark in the fifth Heat.   Because of a cold he ran slightly below his usual form last Saturday.   

In the Hawick 120 yards he finished second to R Clayton, Carlisle, (9), in race for which he was awarded a star by the SGA.  After his defeat in the Championship, Murray (scr) came back at Stuart (1) at the Selkirk invitation 100 yards where they dead-heated for first.   At Aboyne on 3rd September, Stuart won both 100 and 220.


1969 was another good year :

  •  at Oxton  in the 120 yards he was second (off three and a half)  to J McAnany, Blyth  (off two and a half) in a race where McAnany was awarded two stars to Stuart’s one star.   
  • at Jedburgh in July,  in the invitation 120 he was first (2 yards).
  • at St Ronans  Invitation 100 in Innerleithen, also in July, he was first (1 yard)  by 4 feet
  • at Morebattle on 9th August he was second in the 12o yards off one yard to JI McAnany .   McAnany had two stars to Stuart’s one.
  • At Crieff on 16th August he won the 220.

As a result of these and other performances over the summer, he was awarded the SGA Athlete of the Year Trophy.  The presentation of the trophy was made at a Dinner in Dunfermline  ‘in recognition of  consistent, meritorious track performances throughout the season’.   


It is clear that Stuart Hogg was a very talented runner and a good racer.   He beat all the top names in competition at one time or another, he won race finals after a Heat and a cross-tie and was highly respected by his peers.   So what were his strengths as a runner?   Stuart himself thinks that he was a very good starter – certainly the number of races over 100 yards supports that, but the fact that his only win at the New  Year’s Sprint was in the 80 yards would seem to prove it.   On the other hand, he reckoned that his best distance was 220 yards.   A fast start and the strength to do a good 220 would account for most 100/120 yard race successes.

Stuart in blue in the centre of the picture

For several years Stuart wore the red silk outfit of the Jim Bradley school.    He had started training with Bradley in 1964 and, apart from one year stayed with him until 1972.   Not many of the pro sprint schools had their own ‘uniform’:   Bradley’s runners had red silk, Marshall Braidwood’s had blue silk and Norman Atkinson’s runners wore gold coloured outfits.   He trained with Bradley until about 1974  when he started training on his own theories.   Two questions pop up immediately – What was it that Jim Bradley did in training that prompted athletes to seek him out,  and why did Stuart leave and start coaching on his own?

In response to the first issue, Stuart says that Bradley’s training was boring.   He trained five days a week during the season – Monday through to Friday.   There were six days of training in the off season with Saturday being the sixth day.   Stuart describes it: “We did the same track session every day in any particular week, our winter sessions consisted of press ups, abs. of sit ups and single leg squats after which we would do speed ball sessions five days of the week with weekends off. We never went on to the track full time until the beginning of April I must say I found it the training boring and that was from someone who enjoyed training. It allowed you to peak for a very short time, as the season progressed your form would rapidly go downhill. We would run training races on a Wednesday every week from four weeks before the session begun until the session ended you got fed up racing you ran out of condition as a result.”

As to why he left to do his own training,  he says, “We did compete at the New Year Sprint a two day meeting which most of us peaked for (my best result was second. place) I did win one of the supporting (80 yards) one year.   All this when I look back gave me a good grounding for the future on how precise they were at peaking for one race, however the season is long and you have to ready for that I know you cannot hold a top peak for much more than six weeks but only for one race?? This is not why I wanted to be in athletics. I found that the coaches I encountered had a closed mind and most certainly not open to change.”

And this where the next chapter in Stuart’s athletic life begins – Stuart Hogg, Coach.


[ Stuart Hogg: Coach ]   [Stuart Hogg:  To the Top ]   [Stuart’s Athletes ]  [ Stuart’s Career Achievements ] [Talking about Stuart..] 





Donald McNab Robertson Trophy

Donald McNab Robertson leads off the Living Fire Relay.


For the Scottish Road Runner of the Year

Compiled by Colin Youngson

In 1951 an appeal was launched to commemorate the outstanding Scottish marathoner Donald McNab Robertson who had died so suddenly in 1949. This appeal came to fruition in 1952 when the Scottish Marathon Club handed over a trophy to the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association, to be awarded annually to the Scottish athlete with the most meritorious performances in long-distance road racing, as adjudged by a joint sub-committee of the SAAA and the SMC.
Donald Robertson (Maryhill Harriers) had been the AAA Marathon champion six times (1932, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1937 and 1939, adding a silver medal in 1946. He had finished second in the 1934 London Empire Games; and won the first two Scottish Marathon titles in 1946 and 1947. In Leni Riefenstahl’s notorious yet epic film of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Donald can be seen finishing seventh. Tragically, he died in 1949, aged only 43.
(N.B. From 1987, gaps appear in the list of Robertson Trophy winners; and there are no certain recipients after 1995. However, I have done my best to nominate yearly candidates right up to 2018. When one candidate seems to have the best claim, I have indicated this in bold italics. When it was difficult to make a decision, I have not emphasised any name in this way. At some point, the Donald McNab Robertson Memorial Trophy ceased to be presented; and now it seems to be lost. However, I wish to suggest that there should be annual recognition of Scotland’s best distance road (or trail) runner.)

Charles Robertson on right

1952 Charles D Robertson: The minutes book of the SMC makes clear that Charlie Robertson was chosen unanimously as the first trophy winner “by virtue of his fourth place in the AAA Championship Marathon, when he returned a time of 2 hours 30 minutes and 48 seconds, the fastest time ever recorded by a Scotsman.” The presentation was made by Miss Betty Robertson, sister of the late Donald McNab Robertson. Charlie (Dundee Thistle Harriers), the 1948 Scottish Marathon champion, was no relation of Donald. Before nearly making the 3-man GB Olympic team in the AAA event, Charlie had broken the Perth to Dundee 22 miles record; finished first in the Edinburgh Marathon; and then, after the AAA, tackled the Scottish Marathon (a lengthened Perth to Dundee), winning by 25 seconds from John Duffy.
1953 Joe McGhee: While Joe (St Modans) was the up-and-coming runner, and definitely a member of the SMC, he was beaten into third place in the Lauriston (Falkirk) to New Meadowbank Scottish Marathon championship, the winner being John ‘Jock’ Duffy (Broxburn and Hadleigh Olympiads), who had taken the train up from Southend to London and then Edinburgh. This was a twelve-hour journey. He slept for a few hours in his father’s Broxburn house; then more travelling to the start, rather tired already! Duffy was not a member of the SMC, so was not considered for the Robertson Trophy, which was awarded to Joe “for consistently high standard running in 14 races and particularly for his fine performance in the Perth to Dundee race on 29th August 1953, when he beat the existing record set by C.D.Robertson, who had been awarded the Trophy in 1952.”
1954 Joe McGhee: Joe had joined Shettleston Harriers and increased his training. At the end of May, the Scottish Marathon course was from the Cloch Lighthouse, Gourock, to Ibrox Park. Joe set a new championship record of 2.35.22. In early August at the Vancouver British Empire Games, Joe McGhee secured a famous victory in the marathon, after Jim Peters of England collapsed during the final lap of the track. Joe was made an Honorary Life Member of the Scottish Marathon Club. The SAAA presented him with the ‘Coronation Cup’ as “outstanding Scottish athlete of the year.” Naturally, he kept the Robertson Trophy.
1955 Joe McGhee: Joe was fitter than ever, ready to show that he was a worthy Empire Games champion, when at the end of June, over the Falkirk to Edinburgh course, he won the Scottish Marathon by nine minutes. John Emmet Farrell, a Scottish cross-country champion before and after World War Two, wrote in ‘The Scots Athlete’ “Joe McGhee’s championship record-breaking 2.25.50 was easily the feat of the SAAA Championships, puts him into world class and adds extra glitter to his British Empire gold medal.” The SAAA awarded Joe the ‘Crabbie Cup’ for the best performance at the Scottish Athletics Championships; and it was a formality for Joe to retain the SMC Robertson Trophy.
1956 Joe McGhee: Joe retained his Scottish Marathon title – a third successive triumph – in 1956. Injuries had prevented some training but this was a successful come-back. He won in 2.33.36 – a meritorious performance in warm sultry conditions. The pace was fast from the start, but Joe had to slow down after 20 miles. However, his rivals suffered even more and the margin of victory was thirteen minutes. Therefore, Joe McGhee was awarded the Donald Robertson Trophy for the fourth year in a row.
1957 Harry Fenion: This was to be Harry Fenion’s most successful season. The diminutive Bellahouston Harrier became not only the Scottish Cross-Country champion but also the Scottish Marathon winner. Even in 2019, this double achievement in a single year remains unique. Before the Marathon, Harry finished first in the Clydebank to Helensburgh 16. For some time after the start in Falkirk, on a cold and sometimes damp day, Harry was content to lurk in the leading pack. At the first water station after ten miles, he put in a kick and quickly pulled away. When he eventually entered the track, someone told him that he had a chance of beating the 1955 championship record, so he gave one final sprint and did so – by six seconds, in 2.25.44, three minutes clear of Hugo Fox (Shettleston) who finished second. The SMC agreed that this race was ‘undoubtedly the performance of the season’; and Harry Fenion received the Robertson Trophy.

Harry Fenion

1958 Alex MacDougall: although Hugo Fox, a former cyclist, won the Scottish Marathon in 1958 (arriving in the lead at New Meadowbank to discover a six-foot spiked gate still locked, but climbing over, without impaling himself, to finish in 2.31.22), and Alex McDougall (Vale of Leven) entered through the newly-opened gate to record 2.32.35, it was Alex who was awarded the Robertson Trophy. This was because, although Fox, Harry Fenion and Alex all represented Scotland in the 1958 Cardiff Commonwealth Games Marathon, in almost unbearably hot conditions only Alex McDougall finished – a fine 7th place in, against very strong competition. Alex also won the season-long SMC championship.
1959 Hugo Fox: Gordon Eadie (Cambuslang Harriers) remembered this race, from Falkirk to New Meadowbank. Hugo Fox, the holder and a good judge of pace, raced into an early lead from the start. By half-distance, he was several minutes in front; but, by twenty miles, runners dropped away from the chasing pack and Gordon found himself alone in second, and closing on the leader. However, “Hugo was one fox who wouldn’t be caught and finished on the track to win by almost a minute”: 2.28.27 to Gordon’s 2.29.22. After a long discussion of several road race results, the SMC committee voted to nominate Hugo for the Robertson Trophy (rather than Andy Brown of Motherwell) and consequently the SAAA presented Hugo Fox with the prestigious award.
1960 Gordon Eadie: Gordon had been the 1959 SMC champion. He retained this title in 1960, narrowly from John Kerr (Airdrie Harriers). In the Scottish Marathon to Meadowbank, on a particularly hot sunny day, Gordon started cautiously and ran an even-paced race, making steady progress, and passing the leaders in later miles, to win convincingly in 2.36.40 from John Kerr. Gordon Eadie received the Robertson Trophy.
1961 John M Kerr: John, a former cyclist, was a strongly-built runner with a low but very powerful running action. The Scottish Marathon – yet again, Falkirk to Edinburgh – was held in very warm conditions. Four English runners turned up and sounded very confident. However, the heat got to them, and John Kerr won in 2.36.06, from Bill McBrinn (Monkland Harriers – 2.37.32). John won the SMC championship as well (and retained this in 1962); and was a unanimous choice to receive the Robertson Trophy.

Alastair Wood

1962 Alastair J Wood: was one of Scotland’s finest International athletes, who had won Scottish Track titles (3 miles in 1957 and 1959; 6 miles every year from 1958-1961). He was Scottish Native Record holder for both events. In Cross-Country, running for Shettleston Harriers, he became National champion in 1959; and was an excellent seventh in the International Championships at Hamilton Racecourse in 1960. Then in 1962, by now a member of Aberdeen AAC, Alastair took part in the Scottish Marathon, which started and finished at New Meadowbank, via Dalkeith and Cockenzie. The course was hilly, with a headwind on the way back, but Alastair broke away at 18 miles from Andy Brown (who later dropped out) and won, well clear of John Kerr, in a Championship record of 2.24.59. In July, Wood ran splendidly in the AAA Marathon to finish second to Brian Kilby; and then represented Great Britain in the Belgrade European Marathon. Kilby won, with Wood a meritorious fourth. After such a superb season, Alastair Wood was bound to receive the Robertson Trophy.
1963 Ian Harris: The favourite for the Scottish Marathon was Jim Alder (Morpeth Harriers and EAC), the famous Geordie Scot. He had won the 1962 Scottish Cross-Country title, and represented Scotland in Belgium and GB in Barcelona, as well as setting a new record in the Edinburgh to North Berwick 22. The course for his marathon debut was out from and back to Anniesland in Glasgow. Jim was well clear early on, but the long uphill stretches wore him down. Although he was three and half minutes in front at 20 miles, he slowed dramatically and only just held on to second place after Ian Harris (Beith Harriers and the Parachute Regiment) swept past. Ian won in a good time of 2.25.23, over six minutes in front of struggling Jim Alder, who learned a lot from this experience. Harris, a Scottish International cross-country runner in 1961, when he had also won the Beith Harriers New Year’s Day event, raced well in hill races like Ben Lomond and Ben Nevis (4th in 1963). Ian Harris was awarded the Robertson Trophy.
1964 Alastair Wood: The redoubtable, satirical Ally Wood, who inspired a generation of good Aberdeen distance runners, secured the second of his six Scottish Marathon titles on a slightly easier course, which finished at New Meadowbank but went out through Portobello and Musselburgh to the turn at Aberlady. Wood was not content to win, but pushed hard to reduce his own Championship record to 2.24.00. Despite Jim Alder finishing third in the AAA event, Alastair was awarded the Robertson Trophy.
1965 Alastair Wood: This Scottish Marathon was a tough one – a genuine head-to-head between the reigning champion and a future one. The course was a switchback out and back to Westerlands in Glasgow. Donald Macgregor (Edinburgh Southern Harriers) lived and worked in St Andrews. In March, he had run for Scotland in the Ostend Cross-Country International. Then he had lost to Alastair Wood in the Dundee 10; but gained revenge by winning the SAAA Ten Miles Track title in front of the Aberdeen man. In the Marathon, these rivals ran together until 19 miles, when Donald became tired and Wood drew away to win in his third Championship record (2.20.46), from Macgregor (2.22.24). Later in 1965, Fergus Murray (ESH) won the Shettleston Marathon in 2.18.30, with Wood second in 2.19.03 – the first sub-2.20 clockings in Scotland. In May 1964, Dale Greig (Tannahill Harriers) had set an inaugural Women’s World Record by completing the Isle of Wight Marathon in 3.27.45, and in 1965 the SMC made her a Life Member; but Alastair Wood retained the Robertson Trophy.
1966 Gordon Eadie: There were three outstanding candidates for the Robertson Trophy this year. In July, Alastair Wood achieved a European record 2.13.45 in the Inverness to Forres Marathon. This was eventually ratified as the 1966 World’s fastest marathon time. In Kingston, Jamaica, in very hot conditions, Jim Alder produced a wonderful run to win the Commonwealth Games Marathon for Scotland. Gordon Eadie had finished second behind Charlie McAlinden in the Scottish; but showed real strength by winning two ultra-distance races. The first was gaining revenge on Bernard Gomersall, the Englishman who had won the 1965 London to Brighton 52 (when Gordon was third). In July 1966, Gordon beat his rival by nine minutes, winning the Liverpool to Blackpool 48 and a half miles race, recording 5.00.22. Then he set a new record time of 4:41:27 in the Edinburgh to Glasgow 44. In addition, he became SMC champion. After a vote between Alder and Eadie, which ended up five to four in favour of the latter, Gordon Eadie was awarded the Robertson Trophy.
1967 Alastair Wood: In the AAA Marathon at Nuneaton, near Birmingham, Scots finished first (Jim Alder 2.16.08), second (Alastair Wood 2.16.21) and third (Donald Macgregor 2.17.19). The Scottish Championships were held in Grangemouth Stadium, and Wood secured his fourth marathon title, on an out and back course, in 2.21.26 from his Aberdeen clubmate Donald Ritchie (2.27.28). The Robertson Trophy was regained by Alastair Wood, who won it for the fourth time.
1968 James N C Alder: On several occasions, the Robertson Trophy was presented to a runner who had almost won it the previous year or the one before. Jim Alder (who must have been very close indeed to receiving this honour in 1966 and 1967) was well clear at the top of the Scottish rankings in 1968, with a time 2.14.14 in the Polytechnic Marathon. He also recorded 2.16.37 when he finished a fine third in the AAA Marathon in Cardiff. This performance ensured GB selection for the Mexico City Olympic Marathon. Unfortunately, the high altitude forced even this toughest of competitors to drop out. Nevertheless, it was crystal clear that Jim Alder fully deserved to be presented with the Donald McNab Robertson Memorial Trophy.
1969 Jim Alder: There could only be one winner of the Trophy: the holder, Jim Alder. In the AAA he was third in 2.18.18; and was selected to race for Great Britain in the European Championships Marathon, over the notoriously hot and hilly course from Marathon to Athens. Jim fought his way to a bronze medal in 2.19.05. Consequently, he was a unanimous choice to retain the Robertson cup and plaque.
1970 Jim Alder: This was a very important year for Scottish Athletics with the Commonwealth Games at Meadowbank in Edinburgh. The Scottish Marathon was the team trial. Jim Alder won in a championship record of 2.17.11, with Donald Macgregor second just three seconds behind and Fergus Murray third (2.18.25). These runners were selected as Scotland’s representatives in the Commonwealth event; and Jim Alder was chosen as the ‘Mystery Man’ to enter the stadium, complete the relay from Canada, and hand the baton to Prince Philip, as the official signal to declare the Games open. In the Marathon, England’s Ron Hill smashed the European record with 2.09.28, but Jim Alder (who had won gold in Jamaica 1966) battled in, exhausted, to secure a valiant silver medal in the Scottish National record of 2.12.04. Murray was seventh (2.15.32) and Macgregor eighth (2.16.53). For decades thereafter, this remained the fastest marathon ever run in Scotland. There was no doubt that Jim Alder would receive the Robertson Trophy for the third successive year.
1971 Alex S Wight: The Scottish Marathon rankings were topped by Alex Wight’s marvellous 2.15.27 victory in the Edinburgh to North Berwick Marathon, not far in front of his brother Jim (2.15.43). In the AAA Maxol Marathon, Jim Alder finished sixth in 2.15.43, but was 22 seconds from qualifying for the GB European Championships team. In ultra-marathons, Alex Wight won twice: in the Edinburgh to Glasgow 44; and the Two Bridges 36, by more than five minutes. (In 1972, he was to break the Two Bridges course record with 3.24.07.) He also won the Clydebank to Helensburgh 16. Consequently, Alex Wight was chosen to receive the Robertson Trophy.
1972 Donald F Macgregor: In June’s Maxol Marathon (and British Championships), Donald Macgregor finished third in a personal best 2:15.06, and thus qualified for the British Olympic team. In Munich, he surpassed even this performance. Timing his effort brilliantly, he came through to seventh place (, the highest achieved by a Scotsman in any 1972 Olympic final. Furthermore, he was less than four seconds behind the illustrious Ron Hill, who seemed severely shaken when Donald appeared at his shoulder. Donald Macgregor was chosen unanimously as the most deserving of Robertson Trophy recipients.
1973 Don Macgregor: In 1973, events were inevitably less exciting, but the Scottish Marathon Championship served as a trial for the Christchurch Commonwealth Games team. Donald remembered the race as tough but he did not have much difficulty winning in 2.17.50, 34 seconds in front of Jim Wight. They were both chosen to compete in the Commonwealth Marathon. Despite Aberdeen AAC’s Rab Heron topping the Scottish rankings with 2.17.07 (set in winning the Edinburgh to North Berwick Marathon), Donald Macgregor retained the Robertson Trophy.

Fergus Murray, Jim Alder and Donald Macgregor

1974 Don Macgregor: In January at Christchurch, New Zealand, a fast-finishing Donald Macgregor produced another fine race – 6th in the Commonwealth Games. This was to be his best-ever time – 2.14.15. After a respite period and period and a second build-up, later on Donald reflected that winning the Scottish Marathon in June 1974 was probably the easiest of his three victories (1973, 1974 and 1976). He recorded 2.18.08, in front of Rab Heron (2.19.18). Two other fine performances that year took place over a difficult course at Draveil, near Paris, where Alastair Wood became World Veteran Marathon Champion; and Dale Greig (aged 37) won the very first IGAL World Championship Women’s Marathon. Nevertheless, there was no doubt that Donald Macgregor should, for the third successive time, be awarded the Robertson Trophy.
1975 Colin J Youngson: Jim Wight (EAC) had run very well to win the August 1974 Two Bridges 36 (3.26.31); and followed that with victory in October’s Harlow Marathon (2.16.28). Since the Trophy decision was often made by the end of September, Wight’s Autumn flourish might well have led to the award in 1975. Sandy Keith (EAC) and Colin Youngson (ESH) often ran hard 20-mile Sunday sessions together, but were serious rivals. Colin finished in front of Sandy in the EU 10 and did so again when he won the Drymen to Scotstoun 15, but Sandy was peaking for the Scottish Marathon and getting stronger – he won the tough Fort William 10. In the Scottish, on a very warm day, Sandy charged off into a slight headwind but Colin sheltered right behind. After the turn, they ran side-by-side. Colin broke away at 19 miles, but Sandy was still dangerously close at Meadowbank. Youngson’s time was a new championship record (2.16.50) and Keith’s a personal best (2.17.58). Subsequently, both ran in small GB teams and finished second in International Marathons: Colin in Berchem, Belgium; and Sandy in Enschede, Holland. Then, too late for consideration, Sandy Keith won the Harlow Marathon in 2.16.12, which topped the Scottish rankings. However, Colin had finished a close second, and first Scot, in his ultra-marathon debut – the Two Bridges 36 – in 3.29.44, and this performance probably tipped the balance, so that Colin Youngson received the Robertson Trophy.

                   Colin Youngson just before winning the 1982 Scottish Marathon

1976 Alexander B Keith: This year there was no doubt – Sandy Keith was the top Scottish Marathon runner. (Colin Youngson had trained too hard and suffered sciatica; although he was to win two more Scottish titles in 1981 and 1982.) The big race was the AAA Olympic trial on a hot day in hilly Rotherham. Sandy finished 6th in 2.19.02 (which topped the Scottish rankings) having hung on as long as possible to the three men (Barry Watson, Jeff Norman and Keith Angus) who were selected for the Montreal Games. Sandy had to content himself with another British vest in a foreign marathon. On 31st July he was victorious in the marathon at Noordwijkerhout, Netherlands, in 2.21.43; and, up to 1979, was to run subsequent events for GB (and Scotland in 1982). Furthermore, his Harlow victory in October 1975 was extra evidence to ensure that Sandy Keith was awarded the Robertson Trophy.
1977 Jim Dingwall: The Scottish Marathon this year was to be the fastest until 1999. Once again, it was over the usual Meadowbank course on a warm day. The main man was that charismatic schoolboy 100 metre sprinter turned Scottish or British International middle-distance, cross-country and road runner Jim Dingwall (Falkirk Victoria Harriers) – the ‘Guv’nor’ as he was known at Edinburgh University – or ‘the Head Waiter’ as he was cursed by those who had suffered his famed ‘kick’ to the finishing tape. In the AAA event at Rugby in May, Jim had finished a good eighth. A personal best 10,000m (28.55) two weeks before the Scottish (which was held at the end of June) showed his good form. Confidently but uncharacteristically, Jim led from the start, and by halfway was leading with Sandy Keith and Willie Day (FVH). Dingwall surged away at 15 miles and won in a championship record of 2.16.05 (topping the Scottish rankings), from his team-mate Day (2.17.56). Soon afterwards it was time for celebratory beers at the Piershill Tavern, near Meadowbank Stadium. Jim Dingwall was a certainty to receive the Robertson Trophy.

Jim Dingwall

1978 Jim Dingwall: In mid-April, Jim Dingwall displayed fitness by winning the Clydebank to Helensburgh 15. The AAA Marathon at Sandbach took place in May and Jim managed 2.13.58 (top of the Scottish rankings) for 5th place and selection to represent Scotland in the Edmonton Commonwealth Games Marathon. Sandy Keith ran 2.18.15 and was unlucky not to be chosen. Unfortunately, Jim suffered during the flight to Canada and his training was seriously affected. Nevertheless, he led to halfway, and then hung on bravely to the leading pack, before having to drop away after 25km. Yet Jim Dingwall was the unanimous choice to retain the Robertson Trophy.
1979 Alastair Macfarlane: After a year of injury-free training, a sensible blend of mileage and short or long repetitions, Alastair Macfarlane (Springburn Harriers) showed ominously good form in April, winning the Clydebank to Helensburgh by over a minute, and, shortly afterwards, setting his fastest time for 5000 metres. In the Scottish Marathon at the end of May, a pack of six reached halfway, after fighting into a slight headwind. After the turn, suddenly the pace of the return journey became extremely fast, and athletes were dropped until Macfarlane, Macgregor and Youngson were left. After 20 miles, Alastair was out on his own and, with five miles to go, knew that he would not be caught. Relaxed and fresh, he won in a personal best (2.18.03), from Donald (2.19.15) and Colin (2.19.48). Deservedly, Alastair Macfarlane was presented with the Robertson Trophy. However, in 1979, things were changing for Scottish Marathon runners, with the introduction of inaugural Aberdeen and Glasgow Marathons, which would be emulated by several others around Scotland. With the possibility of prize money on the horizon, plus more expenses-paid ‘trips’ to International Marathons, the ‘Serious Amateurs’ would be replaced by ‘Semi-Professionals’, and the Scottish Marathon Championship would seldom, in future, be significant in deciding the recipient of the prestigious Donald McNab Robertson Memorial Trophy.

1980 Graham Laing: Top of the 1980 Scottish Rankings was John Graham (Clyde Valley AC) who finished a marvellous third (2.11.47) in the New York Marathon – held too late for Robertson Trophy consideration. The Scottish Marathon in June was, alas, to be the final one similar to the fast 1970 Commonwealth Games course. A strong following wind on the outward journey caused problems on the return. Young Graham Laing, an athlete of great potential from Aberdeen AAC, eased away up Wallyford Hill and reached the turn in 66.46, well in front of Alasdair Kean (Derby) and Colin Youngson, who were together in 67.08. On the way back, while Youngson sheltered behind Kean, Laing kept increasing his lead, as they battled the strongest wind they had ever encountered in a marathon. Youngson moved into second at 17 miles but Graham won ‘easily’ in 2.23.03, with Colin timed at 2.24.56 and Alastair Macfarlane 2.27.21, followed by the very tired Alasdair Kean. The race had been sponsored by a butcher, so Graham won £100 worth of meat for his freezer. Not even a chop for the others, however. Elsewhere, Jim Dingwall had won marathons at Le Quesnoy and Glasgow (2:16:07). Yet it seemed fair that the talented, improving Graham Laing, already twice a Scottish International at 10,000m, should win the Robertson Trophy.
1981 John E Graham: Having moved to Birmingham in 1979, joined Birchfield Harriers and produced a Scottish National record at New York in late 1980, John Graham improved even more in 1981, when he won the inaugural Rotterdam Marathon in a startling 2.9.28 – a time then only beaten by six other athletes in history. Second in the 1981 Scottish rankings was Graham Laing, with 2.13.59, when fifth in London. John Graham had represented Scotland in the IAAF World Cross-Country Championships four times: once as a junior (1975); and thrice as a senior (1977, 1978 and 1980). In 1978, he had twice broken the Scottish Native Record for 3000 metres steeplechase, ending up with 8.39.3. Now he was piling in many miles of incredibly tough training. Over the year, this averaged 115 miles per week, including track work. Before a marathon, John endured six weeks of even heavier mileage; followed by six weeks of faster work. Undoubtedly, John Graham raised Scottish Marathon standards immensely; and, of course, became a Robertson Trophy winner.
Leslie Watson (London Olympiades), a former Scottish International track and cross-country runner, won the British Championship Marathon in 2.49.08.
1982 John Graham: His marathon racing career (1980-1987) coincided with boom years for the marathon. He competed for GB or as an invited athlete all round the world and received marvellous hospitality and prize money. He met and formed friendships with great runners past and present, from Herb Elliot to Frank Shorter and Steve Jones. In 1982, representing Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, John raced boldly but suffered from a cruel stitch (an old problem due to a scarred stomach muscle) and finished fourth in 2.13.04. Graham Laing ran very well for seventh in 2.14.54. To finish the season, John Graham ran 2.10.57 in New York; and retained the Robertson Trophy.

John Graham

1983 Jim Dingwall Back in 1982, Jim had been 5th in the AAA race at Gateshead in 2:15:30, nine seconds clear of Graham Laing, who, along with John Graham, was selected to run the Commonwealth Games Marathon instead of Jim, due to lack of Scottish team funding. How did he respond to this setback? In January 1983 Jim won the Hong Kong Marathon (2.15.48). Then, in the London Marathon on the 17th of April, he ran the fastest time of his life: 2.11.44, securing fifth place and bronze in the British championships. On paper this was his best run, but he was left without the feeling of euphoria that normally accompanies such a performance. To explain, having had a cold for the three days prior to the race he had not slept well, and then on the day he had lost a lot of ground on the cobbles at the Tower at 22 miles. The resulting feeling was one of frustration as he felt that he could have gone even faster although he was pleased with the time. He also ran Laredo, New York and Bolton in 1983; and after that continued to represent GB in marathons. Looking back, Jim reckoned that his best ever performance had been winning the 1976 San Silvestre Villecana road race in Madrid, since to defeat four Olympic finalists came as such a lovely surprise. For the third time, Jim Dingwall was presented with the Robertson Trophy.
1984 Don Macgregor In 1983, Donald had won the first Dundee Marathon in 2.17.24, the fastest time of the year by a British Veteran. In 1984, aged almost 45, he won Dundee again in 2.18.41. After his birthday, he smashed the British M45 record in the Glasgow Marathon with 2.19.01. Donald, the 1972 Olympian, had been World Veteran Marathon champion in 1980; and also coached the Scottish Marathon squad. The fact that Donald Macgregor received the Robertson Trophy suggests that the SMC/SAAA selectors had become fully aware of the flourishing Veteran/Masters movement and were not automatically nominating the fastest Scot of the year. The 1980s were dominated by John Graham and then Allister Hutton, which meant that other really good marathon men never won the Trophy. In 1984, Fraser Clyne (Aberdeen AAC) finished second at the US Marathon Championships in Sacramento in his fastest ever time of 2:11:50. He had run for Scotland: five times in the World Cross; and had Scottish vests for 3000m Steeplechase, 5000m and 10,000m. Fraser, hampered by a lower back problem, still finished tenth in the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Marathon, and often represented GB, as well as (between 1992 and 1997) winning five Scottish Marathon titles. Fraser Clyne, along with Peter Fleming (Bellahouston) and Lindsay Robertson (EAC) must be the best male Scots never to receive the Donald McNab Robertson Memorial Trophy.
1985 Allister Hutton: In 1975, aged 20, Allister had won the Scottish Junior Cross-Country title. He was National Senior Champion in 1978 and 1982; and had a record ten appearances for Scotland in the IAAF World Championships. At 5000 metres, he recorded his best time, 13.41.45, at the age of 26. Four years earlier he had run 28.13.09 for 10,000 metres at a mere 22 years old; but it took almost another ten years before he finally broke a barrier to record 27.59.12. Thirteen of the top fifty Scottish 10,000 metres performances were his. Allister competed in three consecutive Commonwealth Games for Scotland during his career, starting in 1978. In 1985, he finished his third marathon in London, third in the race (and the British Championships) behind Steve Jones and Charlie Spedding, in a Scottish National record time of 2.09.16 – a mark which was to endure for 34 years. This excellent performance justified completely Allister’s years of Spartan concentration on maximising speed and stamina before switching to the classic distance. John Graham ran 2.9.58 when he was second in Rotterdam; and 2.12.55 in Chicago, but Allister Hutton had to be chosen as the winner of the Robertson Trophy.
Aberdeen AAC’s Lynda Bain (who in 1983 had been the first Scottish Women’s Marathon Champion, and retained this title in 1984) finished London in 7th place, with an excellent 2.33.38, a new Scottish National record.
1986 John Graham: In the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games Marathon, the holder – Australia’s Rob de Castella – zipped casually through the first ten miles in 49.27. He then increased the tempo, covering the next five miles in 24.10 with only Scotland’s John Graham (who that Spring had run 2.13.42 in Rotterdam) for company. The big Lanarkshire man was keen to pick up a medal after finishing fourth four years earlier in Brisbane, but paid a heavy price for trying to stay with the tough Australian. De Castella continued to power away and went on to win in 2.10.15. Graham ran out of steam and was overhauled by another Australian (Steve Moneghetti 2.11.08) and Canada’s Dave Edge (2.11.18). John had to settle for fourth place in 2.12.10. It was little consolation to win the Robertson Trophy for the third time.
Allister Hutton had been third in London again (2.12.36) and won a British Championship silver medal.
For Scotland, Lorna Irving (Border) was a very good fifth in the very first Commonwealth Games Women’s Marathon (2.36.34).
1987 John Graham: Although Scottish Athletics records are patchy, it seems certain that John Graham should have received the Robertson Trophy for the fourth and final time. He topped the Scottish rankings with 2.12.32 when securing bronze in the British Championships in London. Sadly, John considered this time ‘slow’, reduced his training mileage and eventually stopped racing. Amazingly, John Graham once held nine of the best twenty Scottish marathon times.
Another notable performance was when Lindsay Robertson (EAC) won the Frankfurt Marathon that October, recording his fastest-ever time of 2.13.30. During his career, he ran seventeen sub-2:20 marathon races; and won Edinburgh twice and the Tiberias Marathon in Israel three times. Lindsay ran several good races representing Scotland (or GB in the European or World Marathon Cups). He raced all over Europe plus New York and Seoul in South Korea.
1988 Allister Hutton: Sixth place in London, in a very good time of 2.11.42, made sure that the Robertson Trophy returned to Allister Hutton. Sheila Catford (Leeds) ran very well to record 2.33.44. Allister and Sheila topped the Scottish ranking lists.
1989: Allister Hutton (ESH) or Lynn Harding (Houghton). These two athletes might have shared the Robertson trophy, after topping the Scottish rankings, Allister with 2.12.47. Lynn finished eighth (British Championship bronze) in London, clocking an excellent time of 2.31.45, breaking the Scottish National record, which had been set in 1985 by Lynda Bain (Aberdeen AAC). Scottish selectors were now taking Women’s performances very seriously, and into consideration when it came to awarding the Robertson Trophy. Between 1976 and 1982, Leslie Watson (London Olympiades), a Scottish International on track and country, had topped the Scottish Women’s marathon rankings six times. She became an extremely popular competitor in umpteen British city marathons; and also set records in the London to Brighton ultra; and the World’s fastest time for 50 miles. Then Lorna Irving and Lynda Bain ran marathons for Scotland and Great Britain. Sheila Catford and Lynn Harding followed suit. Before long, Liz McColgan would become the top Scottish marathon runner, more highly rated than any contemporary Scottish male.

Allister Hutton

1990 Allister Hutton: There could only be one athlete considered for the Robertson Trophy this year: the British Marathon Champion, Allister Hutton.
Here is the official London Marathon history online report: “The tenth London Marathon saw the first British men’s winner since 1985 when 35-year-old Allister Hutton left a quality field far behind after dispensing with the services of pacemaker Bill Reifsnyder of the USA at 14 miles. In poor weather, Hutton maintained his form to the line, winning in 2:10:10. He was in such good shape that he even asked the early pacemaker Nick Rose to speed things up after only10km. The real race was among the chasing pack but Italian Salvatore Bettiol and Spaniard Juan Romera proved stronger than the rest to finish second and third. Romera set a new Spanish record with 2:10:48. Pre-race favourite Belayneh Densimo, the world record holder from Ethiopia, dropped out after 14 miles.”
Seldom has a television broadcast seemed so fascinating to Scottish viewers; seldom has time (and distance) taken so long to pass. Yet Allister showed no sign of distress: his style remained controlled and his face composed. However, the long, long straight of The Mall seemed an eternity to him – both agony and ecstasy as he lived out the dream of leading such an important event in front of so many rivals and spectators. Eventually he crossed Westminster Bridge first, still twenty seconds ahead, in 2.10.10 – a really dramatic Scottish victory in the English heartland.
Back in 1984, awesome runaway victories in the Morpeth to Newcastle and AAA Half Marathon had convinced Allister to try the marathon seriously. During his career, he ran well in London (five times), Chicago (twice), Oslo and New York; and in 1990 created a significant piece of Scottish (and British) Athletics History.
Sheila Catford won a bronze medal in the British Championships with a time of 2:36:42.
1991 Donald A Ritchie: Later voted the World’s finest ultra-distance runner of the 20th Century, Donald was aged 47, when he won the 1991 West Highland Way race and the AAA 24 hours title, before being awarded the Robertson Trophy. In 1992 he was victorious in the very first Scottish 100km event at Heriot Watt University, the British 100km at Nottingham and his third consecutive 24 AAA championship. Scottish Athletics presented him with the George Dallas Memorial Trust Trophy.
N,B. Paul Evans topped the Scottish marathon rankings in 1991 (2.12.53) and 1992 (2.10.36). Evans was born in Springburn but based in Suffolk. He was identified as a 1994 Commonwealth Games prospect but in 1993 ran a road race for England at Bamburgh Castle, then notified the Scottish CG team manager that he intended to continue competing for England. None of his later times featured in Scottish lists, even when he won the 1996 Chicago Marathon in 2.8.52.

Donald Ritchie

1992 Liz McColgan: Suffice it to say that Liz McColgan (nee Lynch) of Dundee Hawkhill Harriers was one of Scotland’s greatest all-time athletes, world-class on track, country and road. Do read her full profile on the site Scottish Distance Running History, under ‘Elite Endurance’. She concentrated on the marathon between 1992 and 1998, setting very high standards which have never been equalled by a Scottish woman. In 1992 she won the first World Half Marathon title; and also the Tokyo marathon in a Scottish National record of 2.27.38 and was a clear choice to receive the Robertson Trophy – the first woman to do so, but certainly not the last.
1993 Liz McColgan: She finished a fine third (2.29.37) in the 1993 Flora London Marathon in 1993 and retained the Robertson Trophy. Then she was injured and, by 1995, had been told that she might never run again, since years of hard training were taking their toll, causing chronic pain in back, knee and foot. Yet her doctors probably didn’t realise who they were dealing with: this was Liz McColgan!
Top male Scot in the 1993 marathon rankings was Peter Fleming (Racing Club Edinburgh) with his fastest-ever time of 2.13.33 in San Sebastian, Spain. Peter also led the way in 94, 95 and 96 and enjoyed a long, successful, lucrative 20-year road running career, not only in Britain but also predominately in the USA. Aged 22, he had won the 1983 Glasgow Marathon for Scotland (leading his team to victory over the other home countries) but, between 1987 and 1990, concentrated on increasing speed at shorter distances. The result was a 1991 marathon in 2:14:17. GB marathon ranking positions for his best time each year were 7th in 1993, 8th in 1994, 6th in 1995 and 9th in 1996. Peter Fleming won several significant American races as a Veteran.
1994 Trudi Thomson: At the age of 35, Trudi Thomson (Pitreavie AAC) raced very frequently. By early June 1994, that year she had already won the Scottish veteran cross-country, half marathon and marathon titles, as well as finishing third in the UK Inter County 20 miles championship at Corby; and fifth in the Two Oceans (Indian to Atlantic) 35-mile race in Cape Town. At the end of June, Trudi represented Great Britain in the World 100 km championships at Lake Saroma in Japan. There she had the race of her life to take the silver medal, recording 7 hours 42 minutes and 17 seconds, a Scottish National record. Trudi also won her third Two Bridges 36 Miles in a much faster time than before, a record 4:06:45. Victory in the Edinburgh to North Berwick 22.6 miles produced another course record of 2:15:31. After such a marvellous season, Trudi Thomson was the outstanding candidate to receive the Robertson Trophy.
1995 Lynn Harding: In the European 100km Championship. Lynn won individual silver in the excellent time of 7.52.23, leading the Great Britain team to silver medals as well. Back in 1989, she had set a new Scottish marathon record of 2.31.45 in the London Marathon; and also ran for Scotland in the 1990 and 1994 Commonwealth Games Marathons. Lynn Harding was the last definite recipient of the Donald McNab Robertson Memorial Trophy.

Liz McColgan

1996 Liz McColgan: In soaring heat, Liz McColgan won the Flora London Marathon (2.27.54), becoming British Champion. The official report included the following: “Norway’s Anita Hakenstad, who was chasing a 2:30:00 Olympic qualifying time, formed an early breakaway alliance with Russia’s Firaya Sultanova and Estonia’s Jane Salumae and the trio left the women’s elite pack far behind. Hakenstad forged ahead in mile 10 and passed the half way point alone in a personal half-marathon best of 73:31. At this stage she was 2 minutes clear of Liz McColgan and was to stay in the lead until the 20-mile point. Chasing hard, McColgan did not gain sight of the fleeing Norwegian until 30km but, thus encouraged, the Scot quickly closed the gap and by the finish was over 2 minutes clear of the emerging Kenyan, Joyce Chepchumba. Defending champion, Malgorzata Sobanska from Poland, salvaged something from a lack-lustre run by taking 3rd place from Angelina Kanana of Kenya with a late rally. The bold Hakenstad, although suffering in the closing miles, was rewarded with a full marathon personal best in 5th place.”
In the Autumn, Liz McColgan finished first in the BUPA Great North Run, but had again been left disappointed at the Olympics. McColgan had chosen the marathon but, just days before, while preparing at her base in Florida, she suffered an insect bite. The poison entered her system and she was never herself, finishing sixteenth in the Games in Atlanta. There is no doubt that, had it been presented that year, she would have received the Robertson Trophy.
1997 Liz McColgan: In 1997 she was so close to successfully defending her London Marathon title, losing by one second to Kenya’s Joyce Chepchumba, who took victory with virtually the final step of a memorable race. But McColgan’s time of 2:26:52 was a personal best and a new Scottish National record.
Top male Scot was David Cavers (Teviotdale Harriers/ Border) who ran 2.16.18, probably in Rotterdam. Between 1990 and 2000, he represented Scotland four times for road running (10km, half marathon, ten miles, marathon) and nine times for cross-country, including the 1990 Home Countries International, which Scotland won, plus British championships and World Trials. Cross-country was his main strength: six East District titles; and amazing consistency in the Senior National. Between 1989 and 2001 he was second, fourth twice, fifth twice, seventh, eighth twice, ninth, tenth twice, twelfth and fourteenth. Dave’s silver medal in 1999 was won at Beach Park, Irvine, when he was defeated by Bobby Quinn but finished in front of Tommy Murray, Phil Mowbray and Tom Hanlon. When he was fourth in 2000, the three in front were also very high-quality GB Internationals – Quinn, Murray and Glen Stewart.
1998 Liz McColgan: Once again, Scotland’s best marathon runner finished second in the London Marathon with 2.26.54; and should have been awarded the Robertson Trophy for the fifth time.
Dave Cavers improved his personal best to 2.16.06 in Rotterdam. He was selected to compete for Scotland at that year’s Commonwealth Games. Unfortunately, this took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which proved extremely hot, humid and totally unsuitable conditions for long distance running. Dave was also unlucky to contract a virus and did not finish the race. However, by November 1998, he had recovered in time to win the Derwentwater ten miles road race in Kendal. Dave Cavers continued to run cross-country until 2008 before retiring after an outstanding career.
1999 Simon Pride: Born in Swansea, he represented Wales in 800m and 1500 metres as a youngster and was in the same Schools’ International team as World Champion hurdler Colin Jackson. His promising running career took a back seat after he left school to join the Army at 17. Four years later he moved to Fochabers in Moray, Scotland. An industrial accident almost ended his running but, once he recovered, advised by Donald Ritchie (the World 100km Track record holder) he found international success in the world of ultra-distance running. His first 100K in 1996 produced a Scottish Championship bronze medal. The following year he was ninth in the European Championships and by 1998 he had a top six finish in the World Championships to his credit (6:59:38). In March 1999 Simon Pride came close to breaking the world record for 40 miles track when winning the well-respected annual event in Barry, Wales, with a time of 3:53:55 which was a race record. The Keith and District athlete’s greatest triumph came in May 1999 in France, where he won the World 100km title with a UK and Scottish road best of 6 hours 24 minutes 05 seconds. In an exciting last 10K he prevailed over the Frenchman Thierry Guichard by a mere 21 seconds! Simon received the John Jewell Medal for 1999 which is presented annually by the Road Runners Club for the most outstanding annual road running performance at any distance from 10K upwards by a British athlete. In addition, he was Scotland’s Athlete of the Year; and would have been certain to win the Robertson Trophy

2000 Lynne MacDougall: 1984 Olympic 1500m finalist Lynne MacDougall (City of Glasgow) concentrated on road running after a very successful track career, winning Scottish and AAA titles. In 2000 she topped the Scottish rankings with 2:38:22 from second placer Trudi Thomson’s 2:40:40. Lynne’s time was set when she was first British female runner to finish in the London Marathon which meant that she was the UK Women’s Marathon Champion.
Simon Pride, who had decided to take a rest from ultras, won the Dublin Marathon in 2.18.49; and also the Scottish Marathon at Lochaber, breaking the course record. Running on his own for almost the whole way, he took advantage of perfect conditions to stop the clock in 2:21:17.

Alan Reid

2001: Alan Reid won the Anglo-Celtic Plate, running for Scotland in the Home Countries International, and became UK 100km champion. The Peterhead AC athlete won the Two Bridges 36 in 1999; and the Speyside Way 50km in 2000. His other ultra-running achievements include: Gold (2001), silver and bronze medals in the British 100km Road Championships, the Scottish 50km title in 1999 and 2000 and winning the Barry 40 miles track race in 2001. Naturally he was a GB International and deserved to win the Robertson Trophy.
Lynne MacDougall: Despite appearing on no fewer than five Scottish all-time ranking lists, Lynne in 2001 stuck to road running, where the ability, that had made one of Scotland’s best ever at distances from 800m to 5000m on the track, indicated that she was certainly one of the best of her generation on this surface too. Lynn topped the Scottish lists at 10 Miles (55:28 when winning at Carlisle in November), half marathon (74:24 when finishing in fifteenth in the Great North Run at South Shields in September) and in the marathon (with 2:37:40 at London in April). She won the Scottish 10,000m with a time of 34:41 and it was her second national title at the distance with the first being in 1993 when she was timed at 34:28.
Simon Pride ran a very good personal best of 2.16.27 when he finished the London Marathon in 17th place.
2002: Lynne MacDougall improved her personal best with 2.36.29 when second in Seville but was subsequently injured and did not race in the Commonwealth Games.
Simon Pride represented his adopted country, Scotland, in the Manchester Commonwealth Games marathon in 2002, finishing sixteenth. Earlier he had won the Belfast Marathon.
Jamie Reid (Law and District) was Scottish Marathon Champion in 2002, 2003 and 2007; and won the Scottish 50km in 2004. In 2002 he topped the Scottish rankings with 2.21.46.
2003 Simon Pride (Metro Aberdeen RC) topped the rankings when he ran 2.18.52 for 5th place in Dublin. He had always maintained not only endurance but also speed in his training – long mile intervals with short recoveries, and tempo runs or fartlek, often on undulating forest tracks. After a brief return to ultra-running when he finished third in the 2004 European 100K Championships in Faenza, Italy, Simon reverted once more to shorter distances. His marathon victories included: Belfast, Dublin, Lochaber and the Loch Ness event. He was Scottish Marathon Champion four times, in 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2006 (variously representing Keith, Metro Aberdeen and Forres Harriers).
2004: Kate Jenkins: Running for Carnethy Hill Running Club, Kate won the Scottish Marathon championship (always when it was held as part of the Elgin Marathon) four times (1997, 2000, 2003, 2007). In 2007 and 2011, she was first in the Scottish 50km. In the West Highland Way Race, Kate Jenkins set a Women’s course record of 17:37:48, in 2000, when only one man was faster. She was also victorious in this arduous event in 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2006. Kate, usually accompanied by her spaniel, won the Speyside Way 50k in 2000, 2002 and 2004. Surely these achievements made her a likely winner of the Robertson Trophy?
Topping the Scottish Marathon rankings were Susan Partridge (City of Glasgow) with a time of 2.41.44; and Simon Pride (Metro Aberdeen) with 2.19.42.
2005 Hayley Haining: On 17 April the marathon career started for a woman who had started out running fast 800m races as a twelve-year-old. In the Flora London Marathon, Hayley clocked an outstanding 2:35:23, which led to her selection for the Great Britain World Champion team. In Helsinki, on 14th August, Hayley raced to a personal best of 2:34:41. The British team, led by the champion Paula Radcliffe, won bronze medals. On 2nd October Hayley competed in the World Half Marathon Championship in Edmonton, Canada, and finished 24th in 73:39.
Top of the Scottish rankings was Kathy Butler (Windsor), with an excellent 2.30.01 in Autumn when 7th at the Chicago Marathon. However, after such a superb season, Hayley Haining (Kilbarchan) would have been a worthy winner of the Robertson Trophy.
2006 Kathy Butler: ran even faster, with 2.28.39 when 9th at the Chicago Marathon. Born in Edinburgh, she was British 10,000m Champion in 2004 and 2005. Kathy represented GB in the 2004 Athens Olympics and finished 12th in the 10,000m. In 2003 she ran in Liverpool, leading a winning Scottish team in a cross-country match against England. Kathy also competed for Scotland in the 2006 Commonwealth Games 10,000m, finishing seventh. She deserved to win the Robertson Trophy.
Hayley Haining: In the Melbourne Commonwealth Games Marathon, another good run saw her finish ninth in 2:39:39, one place and 20 seconds ahead of Scottish rival Susan Partridge. Hayley’s second marathon of the year was the Adidas Dublin Marathon where 2:31:51 was another personal best.

Hayley Haining

2007 Hayley Haining: She produced yet another fastest time when finishing sixth at the Berlin Marathon on 30th September with a time of 2:30:43. This topped the Scottish rankings and she should have regained the Robertson Trophy.
2008 Hayley Haining: After two fast half marathons, Hayley competed in the Flora London Marathon on 13th April: it turned out to be another personal best, a silver medal in the British Championships and an Olympic Qualifying time of 2:29:18, having gone through the half marathon in 73:56. It was the official qualifying race and she was second Briton behind Liz Yelling and had the time. BUT – and it was a very big but – Mara Yamauchi had already been selected and World Champion Paula Radcliffe had not run because she was injured and the selectors had to keep her in mind. Paula decided to run in the Beijing Olympic Marathon, although her performance was not good by her own high standards. Hayley was unlucky not to take part.
In the Scottish rankings, Hayley topped the lists for the 10K with a time of 32:24 run in Cardiff (second was Kathy Butler with 33:43 run in Cape Elisabeth, USA), for the half marathon with 70:53 in the Great North Run (second was Kathy Butler in 74:52 run in San Jose, USA) and the marathon with 2:29:18 (second was domestic rival Susan Partridge with 2:41:40). Hayley’s racing year ended with the New York City Marathon in 12th place, clocking 2:35:11. She should have retained the Robertson Trophy.
2009: Martin Williams (Tipton) topped the Scottish Men’s rankings with 2.18.24.
Hayley Haining ran 2.36.08 in the Berlin Marathon.
2010 Andrew Lemoncello: The Fife AC Olympic steeplechaser ran a very good 2.13.40 when he was 8th in the London Marathon and became British and Scottish Champion.
Susan Partridge: The Leeds City athlete ran 2.35.57 to become Scottish Champion in London and secure British silver. She was selected for the GB team in the Barcelona European Championships Marathon and contributed to team bronze medals.
Perhaps both of these athletes should have received Robertson Trophy plaques.
A very good ultra-distance runner, Ellie Greenwood (Vancouver Falcons), became 2010 IAU 100 km World Champion in Gibraltar; and led GB to team gold as well. She was born in Dundee, but spent most of her childhood in England. She moved to Canada after graduating from university to work for a ski tour operator. Ellie lives in Vancouver, Canada, but races for Great Britain, although she has never run for Scotland.
2011 Susan Partridge: In the London Marathon, she ran 2:34:13 (a personal best) and secured bronze in the British Championships. Susan was picked for the World Championships in Korea. Although the temperature there was extremely hot, she finished a very good 24th (first GB athlete); and should have received the Robertson Trophy.
Andrew Lemoncello obtained a British silver medal 2:15:24 in the London Marathon, but his time (2.15.24) was slower, since his training had been affected by an Achilles tendon injury.
2011 Craig Stewart: The Forfar Road Runner won the Anglo-Celtic Plate International 100k race in 7.01.36, leading the Scottish Men’s team to victory over the other Home Nations. Craig should have been awarded the Robertson Trophy.
Hayley Haining ran 2:35:10 in the New York City Marathon.
2012 Freya Murray-Ross: The Edinburgh athlete produced an excellent 2:28:12 in the London Marathon and won British Championship silver. In the London Olympic Marathon, she ran a good well-paced race to be first Briton in 44th place, recording 2.32.14. Freya was victorious in six Scottish cross-country championships; and, in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, represented Scotland in 5000m and 10,000m. She thoroughly deserved to win the Robertson Trophy.
Derek Hawkins (Kilbarchan) ran a fine first marathon, clocking 2:14:04 in Frankfurt to top the Scottish Men’s rankings.

Susan Partridge

2013 Susan Partridge: The Leeds-based athlete (who had been born and educated in Scotland) recorded her fastest time (2:30:46) when she was 9th in the London Marathon and became British Champion. In the Moscow World Championship Marathon, Susan came through very strongly to finish an excellent 10th and third European. She should definitely have regained the Robertson Trophy.
Derek Hawkins: The Kilbarchan man became British Champion by running 2.16.50 in the London Marathon. Although he was selected for the GB World Championship Marathon team, he decided not to go, preferring to continue training for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.
Hayley Haining secured a bronze medal in the British Championships with 2:36:56.
2014 Derek Hawkins: He had been Scottish Cross-Country Champion in 2011 and 2012. Derek ran very strongly to record 2:14:15 and finish 9th – and first Briton – in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games Marathon. He should have shared the Robertson Trophy with Susan Partridge, who was sixth in the Commonwealth Games race, with 2.32.18.
Hayley Haining ended her very successful racing career with 13th place in Glasgow. Aged 42, Hayley became Scotland’s oldest Commonwealth Games athlete.
Ellie Greenwood regained the IAU 100km World Championship in Doha. She has broken numerous course records, including those for the Western States 100, the Canadian Death Race, the JFK 50 Mile Run and the Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run. She was the first British woman to win (in 2014) the 90 km/54 miles Comrades Marathon in South Africa; and has a 100km personal best, set in 2010, of 7:29.05.
2015: Ross Houston: The Central AC athlete won the prestigious Anglo-Celtic Plate 100km (the Home Countries International contest) – and became UK Champion – in an excellent record event time of 6.43.35. Ross had been Scottish Marathon Champion at Inverness in 2011 and 2012. He should have been awarded the Robertson Trophy.
Topping the Scottish marathon rankings were: Susan Partridge, with a very good time of 2:31:31; and the promising Callum Hawkins (Kilbarchan) with 2:12:17 when 12th in Frankfurt.
2016 Callum Hawkins: The very talented young Scot became British (and Scottish) Champion when 8th in the London Marathon, in a personal best of 2:10:52. In the Rio Olympics, despite roasting temperatures, Callum performed marvellously to achieve 9th place in 2.11.52. He and his older brother Derek were both trained by their father Robert. Callum would certainly have won the Robertson Trophy.
In London, Derek Hawkins ran 2:12:57 for bronze in the British Championships. He was chosen to represent GB in Rio but, hampered by injury, was forced to struggle bravely to the finish.
Tsegai Tewelde of Shettleston (formerly Eritrean) was second Briton at the London Marathon in 12th place with a time of 2:12:23. Although this earned him a place in the Great Britain team for the Rio Olympics, he did not manage to finish in the men’s marathon.
Freya Ross became Scottish Marathon Champion in London with a time of 2.37.52.
Ross Houston created a new Scottish 50km Championship record (2.56.37).
2017 Callum Hawkins: performed superbly to finish fourth in the London World Championship Marathon, clocking his fastest-ever time of 2:10:17. In Japan, Callum created a new Scottish National Half Marathon record, winning in 60 minutes exactly. Previously, he had competed for Scotland in the 10,000 metres at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in the men’s 10,000 metres, finishing 20th. Callum was Scottish Cross-Country Champion in 2014 and 2017. Undoubtedly, he should have won the Robertson Trophy.
2017 Robbie Simpson (Deeside Runners) became Scottish Marathon Champion in London, with a time of 2.15.04, which secured a British Championship silver medal and qualified him for the 2017 World Championships Marathon, as well as the 2018 Commonwealth event. Unfortunately, injury prevented him from taking up his place at the World Championships but he bounced back to be at his best at the Commonwealth Games.
Susan Partridge became Scottish Marathon Champion in the London Marathon, clocking 2.37.51.
2018 Rob Turner: The Edinburgh AC athlete won the Anglo-Celtic Plate 100km and became both Scottish and UK Champion. Scotland’s Men defeated the other Home Countries to win the Team award.
Robbie Simpson: He had run his first marathon in 2016, finishing 18th in the London Marathon with 2.15.38. Previously Robbie had competed in mountain running events, having been a silver medallist at the 2014 European Mountain Running Championships and a bronze medallist at the 2015 World Mountain Running Championships. Robbie competed five times at the European Mountain Running Championships and five times at the World Championships. He won the Jungfrau Marathon in 2016 and 2018. In very hot conditions at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Marathon, Robbie judged his effort brilliantly and came through to secure a bronze medal in 2.19.36.
Perhaps both of these fine Scottish distance runners should have received Donald McNab Robertson Memorial Trophy plaques.
2019: SO FAR
Callum Hawkins ran brilliantly, and very hard, to secure 10th place in the London Marathon, creating a new Scottish National Record 2:08:14. He won British Championship silver behind Mo Farah. (The previous Scottish Record was set by Allister Hutton, 34 years ago!)
Callum’s performance guaranteed a place in the team for the World Championships in Doha and thrust him into contention for one of the three GB 2020 Olympics spots, since he finished well inside the qualifying time.
He said: “It was really tough. It was windy about three quarters of the way around. I had a funny moment when I hit 40km but managed to get myself back together. It’s a good stepping stone for whatever I choose towards the end of the year. Hopefully it will be the World Championships and perhaps I will be pushing for a medal and be in even better condition.”
Sophie Mullins (Fife AC) became the very first Scottish woman to win the Anglo-Celtic Plate (along with UK and Scottish titles).

Alastair: Athlete of the Year 1968

Alastair Macfarlane was a revelation when he appeared on the Scottish amateur athletics scene in 1969 – well a revelation as far as the amateur athletics cognoscenti was concerned.   He had been running consistently well since he was a boy in Bannockburn;  as a pupil in the High School in Stirling, he was a member of the school team when they won the Joe McGhee Trophy for the first time.   He also ran for the Boys Brigade.   He first ran as a professional in 1965.   In 1968 won the non-championship athlete of the year award having run well in the Borders, in England, in Fife, and in the West Highlands.   He had as he later explained to Ron Marshall of the Glasgow Herald only ever regarded himself as an “amateur professional”.    

In Colin Youngson & Fraser Clyne’s book “A Hardy Race” he explains his start in athletics and how he got involved in the professional circuit he ran initially with the St Modan’s Club and won a team medal at the national cross-country championships and then :  ” Having left school, my commitment dwindled a bit although I had been doing some running with Willie Scott who ran in the professional highland games.   Willie convinced me that what I needed to do was to join him on the pro circuit.   At that time people like John Freebairn, Jimmy Bryce, Stuart Hogg and Eric Simpson, Arthur Rowe and the legendary Bill Anderson were all prominent competitors; and Olympics fourth placer Alan Simpson and former world mile record holder Derek Ibbotson were soon to join the pro ranks.   After a couple of years experience I improved sufficiently to become one of the top performers in the middle distance events.

Alastair’s best year was almost certainly 1968 where he had twelve first prizes as well as numerous seconds and thirds.  But these performances did not come suddenly – the previous year saw its own successes.   At the end of May 1967 he won the mile at Blackford from a mark of 100 yards and at Alva one month later it was the half mile that he won from 50 yards.   

At the end of the season he won both mile and two miles at Pitlochry with another half mile victory at Morebattle and the mile at Balloch in between.   There were also good races at other games and the results progressed as the season went on.   Alastair was training with the lads at St Mondans and he pays tribute to Charlie Meldrum and Graham Pearson for the help that he received.   The results included the half mile at Alva (off 50 yards), St Ronan’s (55) and Morebattle (30), the mile at Blackford (100), Balloch (100) and Pitlochry as well as the mile at Pitlochry.    It wasn’t just the other athletes who noticed, or the handicapper but the local papers all noted his running.   For instance in the coverage of the St Ronan’s Meeting at Innerleithen, the race was described the following week as follows.   “There was no holding Alastair Macfarlane, Bannockburn, when he raced away from the opposition in the half-mile to win in 1 min 52.4 sec.   Coming into the last lap it looked as if I Thomson, Kincardine, was going to repeat the win he pulled off at Netherdale earlier this month.   But Macfarlane, who is in his third season on the track never faltered when challenged.   Eddie Glen,Bathgate, finished third, and Jimmy Hogarth, Cornhill, was fourth.” 

And at the Morebattle Games in August, the reporter said: “Alastair Macfarlane of Bannockburn (30) came through with a well timed run over the last furlong to win the £15 half mile prize.   Coming into the straight, Jimmy Hogarth, Cornhill 65, and Eddie Taylor Wallsend were contesting the lead.   Then Macfarlane – who had held off Ian Whyte, Glenrothes 30, over the first two laps –  sprinted up to challenge for the lead.   Whyte also moved but could not break Macfarlane, who went on to win in a time of 2 mins. from Whyte and Taylor. “

He was being noted and his progress monitored in 1967.

With the added confidence gained from the 1967 season and a good winter’s work behind him, he started 1968 with a Two Miles win by three yards off a mark of 180 at the Blackford Games on May 29th in a time of 9:25.   His first Mile victory of 1968 was at  Hawick, on June 8th, when running from 100 yards he won in 4:10 quite comfortably from former Olympian and British record holder  Alan Simpson.   Simpson was now running as a professional and, unlike most amateur ‘stars’ who turned to the circuit when their best days are over, was still running remarkably well.   He had just won the British half mile championship at this meeting in 1:53.9.   This time the report read: “Alan Simpson did well to finish second in the one mile handicap to A Macfarlane, Bannockburn.   In receipt of 100 yards start, Macfarlane went out to set a fast pace from the start.   At the bell for the last lap he was still 45 yards in front.   This was exceptionally good running from Macfarlane, winner over two weeks previous over the same distance at Blackford Games, but the time was much better at Hawick with the watch recording 4 mins 10 sec.   When Macfarlane went through the tape Simpson was putting in a sprint finish to overtake Jack Knox, Selkirk, in the last 20 yards.   This was the part of the race in which Simpson gained the admiration of the crowd.   Over the five laps, Simpson ran many yards over the actual Mile in going round the field of runners.   Early on in the race, Simpson (scr) put in a fast first lap to overtake the British champion J Brotherstone, Gordon.   He did so at the 400 yards mark or so.   It was a creditable performance.”      The results for the Games meetings usually noted the prize money for the various events and Alastair’s winnings this time were £15: this compares with £15 (and the championship cup) for the British  880 yards Championship, and the open half mile  money was £20.   The report also spoke of Simpson having to weave his way through the field which had 87 entries but fortunately ‘only’ 46 ran on the five laps to the mile track.   Alan and Alastair struck up a friendship which worked to their mutual benefit with Alan passing on some advice that he’d picked up in the international and invitational meetings he taken part in.   The picture below was taken at Braemar – Alastair and Alan are on the left with Stuart Hogg, British champion professional sprinter and later international coach, in the blue track suit third from the right.

Next up was the Peebles Games on June 22nd.   Again, Alastair was out in the mile, and again he won, this time from 85 yards, in 4:11.6, a victory described as ‘comfortable’ in the SGA Handbook.   “Andy Macfarlane, Bannockburn, followed up his miles win at Blackford and Hawick – and two seconds at Selkirk – with a runaway win in the Peebles Mile.   He won the £30 prize in 4 mins 11.8 sec from Powderhall runner-up Jimmy Gray of Glenluce.   Macfarlane broke the field with some 300 yards to run.   At this point Gray, Chris Renton of Hawick, and A Rae from Lockerbie, formerly Galashiels, were running together just behind TA Gray of Swinton.   The Berwickshire runner was the limit man off 175 yards\qualifying in his heat behind Macfarlane and Renton in 4 min 14.6 sec.    Alan Simpson, the former Olympic runner and AAA champion withdrew from the final of the mile.   He ran second in his heat to Jimmy Gray and his decision not to compete for the £30 prize money came as a big surprise.   Simpson ran a hard half-mile in a bid to to qualify, then turned out in the mile to qualify behind Jimmy Gray of Glenluce.   Simpson said he had taken too much out of himself in the two earlier races.   Border followers will be hoping that Simpson concentrates on the mile in future for the former amateur star is a great runner.   He is the type of runner the crowd enjoys watching when he weaves his way up through the field.   The mile was split up into two heats to give the back markers a chance.”   On the amateur programme, it was always the case that a runner qualifying for the final of one event, could not compete in the heats of another until after the final for which he had qualified.   It would have saved these kind of problems.   The Peebles meeting prize money was generally good and the £30 for the Mile looks good – until you see that the 100 yards Beltane Sprint prize was £150 which was a lot of money in 1968.   There was a definite hierarchy in the Games with the Heavy Events having big money and trophies, then the sprints with many special races at the different Games meetings where some had a special 80 yards, others special races at 120 or 90 or 100, while the half mile, mile and two miles were generally not as well rewarded.   

 Alastair’s next victories in 1986 included Alva in the Hillfoots on 29th June,  where he won both 880 yards, off 10 in 1:59, and the  mile, also off 10, in 4:16 by inches *   The SGA had a series of star awards for specially good runs which were graded from 1 to 5 stars.   Alastair was awarded a star for the mile victory.   He also won two events  at Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond on 17th July – the mile, from 60, no time given;  and the two miles, from 150, again no time given, and won by 3 yards.   At Jedburgh on 13th July, there was bit of drama at the finish in which Alastair featured.   Running from 50 yards in the Edinburgh and Leith Plate Mile handicap, he made a tremendous burst coming into the finishing straight but Jim Minto of Morebattle, off 160 yards, was clear in front then “the competition for the second prize of £10 was keenly contested.   Macfarlane stumbled and fell a yard from the winning line and McGillivary was awarded second place.   In what was a dramatic moment. Macfarlane had the presence of mind to roll over the line to get his feet clear for the third prize of £5.”   The emphasis on prize money made good copy but these guys at that point of the race had no thoughts of money: they were wanting to beat the others to the winning post.   Fourth man won £2 but he was running as hard as he could to catch the two men in front of him simply because he was a runner.   Langholm was on Friday 26th July and he was less successful there – reported to have run a great race he was run out of the prizes.   Virtual scratch man at 35 yards, he was beaten by Hawick YMCA rugby winger 17 year old Doug Scott (75) in 1:59.3 with the minor places being taken by Jim Minto (70) and T Gray (90).   An interesting sidelight was that of the mile where Eddie Sinclair suffered a fate similar to Alastair’s when he ran well but was out of the prizes: in the not too distant future they would both be members of Springburn Harriers.   

Just as for the amateurs the first Saturday in August was a very popular date in the professional calendar.   For the amateurs it was Strathallan Gathering that was the draw, for Alastair and the professionals it was further south in Lauder where the Common Riding Games were held.   In 1968 they were on 3rd August, and he was running in the invitation mile against the legendary Michael Glen, now nearing the end of his racing career and Jim Brotherston, former British champion and the man after whom the winning trophy was named.   Report: “Alan Simpson, the former Olympic and AAA champion was, unfortunately, not entered for the one mile, short limit, handicap for the Brotherston Cup, but former holder of the one mile title, Jim Brotherston, Gordon, ran off scratch and he found it hard going against 22 year old Alastair Macfarlane from Bannockburn (16) .   In the field of six runners, Billy Temple, Gala, (70) led the field over the first two laps with Macfarlane and former title holder Michael Glen, Bathgate (30) battling it out for supremacy.   The lead changed hands three times over the last lap between Glen and Macfarlane.   In the home stretch, Macfarlane got the edge over Glen, and his deceptive rolling style showed he is a very strong man indeed.    Macfarlane finally went on to win in 4 min 15 sec, a time which made many shrewd judges of runners say that Macfarlane is the most important runner of this season, having won prizes at Hawick, Selkirk, Peebles, Jedburgh, etc.”   

Michael Glen had begun running in 1944 when he was 11 years old and competed for the next 26 years winning all that could be won including the British Mile Championship in 1958.    He was known to have started  up to 30 yards behind the scratch line.   He had been King of Middle Distance running in Scotland for many years.   Click on his name for a proper profile.   Alastair’s picture at the top of the page shows him receiving the race trophy.

Alastair winning at Grasmere

Next Games were at Morebattle, near Kelso, on  August 16th.   Alastair was off 45 yards in the Mile and among the opposition were Jim Brotherstone (35), and Michael Glen (60).   The preview said that “After their thrilling rivalry in the invitation mile at Lauder, Alastair Macfarlane and Michael Glen renew rivalry.   The game Stirlingshire runner meets the British record holder on five yards worse terms.”   In the event, the result was a triumph for a man we have seen before winning from a big handicap.   The same paper tells us “Despite being 30 yards ‘worse in’ for his Jedburgh success, J Minto, Morebattle (135) was never headed in the mile, and won from Macfarlane (45) and W Scott (Cowie, 170).”   The winning time was 4:24.3.

Grasmere, held this year on 22nd August, was one of the top meetings of the year with a good track, a very picturesque setting. good crowds and excellent organisation.   The headline was “SUNSHINE MADE THIS GRASMERE GLORIOUS”  and the strap line below read Mile finish and fell race were highlights.”    The meeting was a personal triumph for Alastair who won both half mile and mile.   The report opened on his performances and said:

“A 22 year old ‘flying Scot’ stole the honours on Thursday at a Grasmere Sports Meeting which opened under a shroud of threatening cloud but was largely held in brilliant sunshine.   On a day generally dominated by wrestlers and fell runners, the 10,000 crowd rose to Alastair Macfarlane, Bannockburn, as he put in a tremendous finishing burst to win the mile handicap.   Cockermouth runner Brian Carruthers, who had led almost all the way could not resist the spectacular challenge from the Scotsman who snatched victory inches from the tape.   The triumph, coupled with an earlier success in the half mile, earned Macfarlane the day’s top athlete award – the cup for the outstanding athlete of the meeting.   It was only the second time the trophy  had gone to a competitor in flat race events, the earlier holder from that category being Jeff Tinnion, Dearham, in 1959.   Macfarlane’s brilliant running provided some of the most enthralling moments in a Grasmere which was somewhat featureless compared with those of recent years.”   

The actual results were:  half mile:   1.  A Macfarlane(35); 2.  S Nelson (Kinross, 20);  3.  D Turner (Cleator Moor, 55). Time:  1:55 2-5th.   mile:  1.  A Macfarlane (60);  2.  B Carruthers (Cockermouth, 190);  3.  S Nelson (Kinross 50). Time: 4:15.  Alastair was the first Scotsman to win the half mile at Grasmere and it was rated a two star performance by the SGA. 

[There was a post on the ‘Memiours of Pro Athletics’ Facebook page that said: “Probably the best track on the circuit.   Such a shame that they don’t have track races any more.   Always a big crowd and a great atmosphere.”  The equally famous Cowal Highland Games has also dropped athletics from its programme and some others have reduced the number of running events. ]  

Alastair with the trophy for athlete of the meeting at Grasmere, 1968

After running in the North of England, it was back up to Perthshire for the next outing: Pitlochry, a ‘minor meeting’ accotding to the SGA handbook but a big one to those attending it, was held on the second weekend in September.   Itis a meeting held on a good track, well supported and popular with the athletes.  Alastair repeated his Grasmere form and had two victories   he won the mile and two miles there to finish off the track season.   

Having won races between 880 yards and two miles in all corners of the country, there was really only one big challenge left.   That was the Powderhall Mile held at New Year.   The headlines told the story: Powderhall had near legendary status and was always well covered.   “MacFARLANE WINS AT POWDERHALL”, “P.O. MAN WINS AT POWDERHALL”, “POWDERHALL SUCCESS”,   “Pedestrianism,   WINNER’S CLEVER TACTICS”   The last was from the Glasgow Herald which made it clear that the race was not an amateur promotion by giving the headline a pedestrianseparate headline!   We were told that ‘Macfarlane was an outsider in the betting’, that he put in a terrific spurt in the last 50 yards, and so on but the most comprehensive report was the one in the Glasgow Herald: “Alastair Macfarlane, a post office engineer from Bannockburn, won the mile handicap at Powderhall on Saturday and proved himself a clever tactician.   Macfarlane had finished a mediocre looking second in his heat to Stuart Tait of Cornhill who was made favourite for the finl and looked a good bet with a lap to go.   But Macfarlane began to make his move in the last quarter, sped past the opposition, and won by two yards from Tait with ‘Fid’ Veitch another Borderer, third.   Macfarlane was neglected in the market.   His starting price was returned at 100 – 8, and a few backers secured 20 – 1.”   He had survived Heat, Cross-Tie and Final to win in 4:23.2.   There’s another difference in terminology – Heat winners under SAAA rules would contest a semi-final and final; under SGA rules the semi-final was designated a cross-tie.   Alastair never bet at all, on himself or anyone else.   Had he done so here, he might have done well.

Having won no fewer than ten mile handicap races over the year, plus several victories at the half mile (with Grasmere being outstanding) plus a couple of two mile prizes, he was named as the Games Athlete of the Year, 1968.   The presentation of the award was made in the Waverley Hotel in Edinburgh on 16th March, 1969 and was awarded the trophy “in recognition of his consistent and meritorious form throughout the 1968 Highland and Border Games season.”   There were many groups (or schools) of athletes training together under a coach around Scotland, but Alastair did not belong to any ‘school’.   He trained on his own and with St Modan’s AC in Stirling.   He paid tribute to this group in recognition of the help he had received from them, saying in the Stirling Observer.  “I have to thank Charles Meldrum and Graham Pearson for early encouragement and help.”   Shortly after the presentation he recognised the assistance given him by Alan Simpson.   

One former pro athlete said that one of the difficulties the circuit had was the lack of a national organisation which set standards for the various aspects of the sport.   One comment from a gentleman involved in the attempt said “I remember when we got together with the handicappers to try and standardise handicaps to eliminate the discrepancies with each handicapper as it was always the biggest complaint amongst athletes.”  But there was a problem that the minute of the meeting setting the group up said: “We have met recently to try and come up with some uniformity in the marks of every athlete on the pro circuit.   But I can also stress that such Games will still be handicapped by their own individual man, and so marks will not necessarily be the same at every meeting.”   

One of the glories of the pro circuit is the individuality of the different Games but they were, in some ways, ‘too local’ from the athletes point of view. there was a problem in that different handicappers had different ways of working out the individual marks with each other.    This was recognised and at one point a committee was set up with representatives from the various areas to talk about this among other things. “But however different ways there were of handicapping, Alastair’s successes of ’68 would automatically have him ‘pulled’ at every meeting in ’69.   He never complained about it – it was part of the scene.   If you won your handicap was cut, if you won well, your handicap was slashed.   If you lost your handicap was increased.   

Alastair, according to the SGA Handbook, did not win any of the races in 1969 that he had won in 1968.   And at Powderhall he was handicapped at scratch. 

The programme extract from the Burntisland Sports in 1969 shows how Alastair’s already low handicap was affected by the successes of the 1968 season.   Virtual back marker in the Mile off 35 yards, his nearest opponents were Mike Glen and Sandy Nelson who were both 15 yards ahead at the start.   The same Michael Glen was giving him five yards in the two miles which was more of a problem for Alastair than starting level or five yards down would have been.

As Ron Marshall reported in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ on 17th January, 1977, “Eventually Macfarlane’s summer benefit reached its twilight.   Even his superior fitness fell prey to eagle-eyed handicappers, who would have been happy slapping a saddlebag of weights on this ex-amateur with the winning ways.”    Possibly a bit hard on the handicappers but the truth is probably that he had not felt happy with the scene for several years before he made the switch back to amateur athletics.   

You can read about his entire career at 

Alastair Macfarlane

where he talks freely about his time as a professional before he was reinstated and became Scottish marathon champion in 1979 and one of the country’s best road racers.