Eddie Knox

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Eddie Knox was a top-class runner by anybody’s standards and at Springburn Harriers he was the first of a whole series coached by international track and cross-country runner Eddie Sinclair.    He was followed in rapid succession by such talents as George Jarvie and Freddie Farrell and several more including Graham Williamson who were brought along by Eddie.   Very friendly and easy to get on with, Eddie Knox was always a club man too and was part of a very good group that included such as Harry Gorman and Mike Bradley.

Edward Knox was born on the 9th of May 1947.  Eddie remembers his first attempt at running was when he was as a pupil at Chirnside Primary School.   Heats were held for the Glasgow Schools Championships.   These involved P6 and P7 lining up and running the length of the football pitch.   He was so slow off his mark that it halfway before he caught them.    The Championships were held at Scotstoun where they faced Hutchie Grammar, Glasgow High School among others, several wearing real track suits.   Although defeated it was his first competitive outing.   Then when he was in the third year at Possil Secondary where he ran in the school championships and other events, school mate Harry Gorman, who was already a member of Springburn Harriers, invited him along to the club.   He was in the Under 15 age group at that time and left school at 15.  After enjoying playing about with other events such as the discus he came to distance running.   Someone gave him a pair of spikes and senior member Dunky McFarlane encouraged him to dubbin them to keep them soft.   Unfortunately Eddie dubbined the soles as well as the uppers and the result did not initially have the desired effect!    His first race for the club was in the Lanarkshire Championships where he finished seventh – in a Victoria Park vest!   He had been coached by Eddie Sinclair right from the start.   There were several packs for the boys who were taken out for a three-quarter mile steady run.    Eddie was running at school every day and felt th pace of these runs was too slow so after two or three, he just took off and ran at his own pace.

As a Youth and a Junior he enjoyed tremendous success, culminating in a superb victory in the 1967 ICCU Junior International Cross Country in Barry, Wales. Although this quiet, popular man continued to represent his only club –  Springburn Harriers –  for several years after that, sadly Eddie did not manage to improve as a senior athlete.   Eddie first appears in Colin Shields’ centenary history of the SCCU (the source of several quotations in this profile) in 1964, when he won the National Youths Cross Country title.   The ‘Athletics Weekly’ when reviewing the National Cross-Country Championships said, “The Youths event was as expected a fight between the Springburn runners E Knox and AD Middleton with Knox the winner by almost 40 yards, thus reversing the Midland District result when Middleton won and Knox was only third.”   On the track that summer,  he won the SAAA Youth Mile at Meadowbank in 4.19.7, and also ran two miles in 8.58.6 and three miles in 14.30.6.

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Eddie in the Kingsway Relay in 1966:   Bob Dalglish supplying the encouragement

A Youth (ie Under 17) in season 1964-65  Eddie won pretty well all he set out to win other than the District championship which was taken by team mate AD Middleton.   In 1965, Colin Shields commented, “Eddie Knox (Springburn H), with 30 wins in the past nine months, through a long, exhausting racing programme on track, road and cross country, won the Midland District Youths CC by the remarkable margin of 41 seconds.”  Springburn Harriers won the team championship. He went on to add the National Youths title, by 34 seconds from John Fairgrieve (Edinburgh AC), the Scottish Schools champion.   “Eddie Knox of Springburn simply ran away with the Youths event to record his second successive victory in this race.”  After this performance, Eddie was selected for the Scottish Junior team for the ICCU Junior International CC at Wellington Racecourse, Ostend, Belgium. There he finished an excellent fifth (first Scot), just four seconds behind third place. On the track, Eddie improved his three miles time to 13.57.4, which ranked him as top Junior and eighth Senior in Scotland.

The report on the McAndrew Relay in October 1965 started with this.   “there among the leaders was veteran I Binnie (Victoria Park) striding along comfortably with KD Ballantyne (Edinburgh Southern Harriers), E Knox (Springburn) and R Coleman (Dundee Hawkhill) ….”    The report on the first stage ended with “Despite having lost valuable yards when he mistakenly turned into Southbrae Drive from Anniesland Road (the marshal’s faulty positioning there was soon rectified) Knox ran a great race and sent his second man off ahead of all the others.”    Eddie won the first stage with the sixth fastest time of the day although Springburn could only finish eighth.   In the Kingsway Relays at Dundee two weeks later the club team was ninth but the report mentioned Eddie’s fourth fastest time of the day with E Knox is rarely acclaimed in these road relays because his club, Springburn are unable to maintain the progress he gives them.     On Saturday, he ran his club from eighth to first place in 13:32, the fourth fastest time of the day,  but over the last two legs eight places were dropped.”   On 30th October, in the Midlands Relays at King’s Park, Stirling, Eddie had the fifth fastest time of the day, twenty eight seconds slower than Lachie Stewarts’s leading effort, with his team – Duncan Middleton, Moir Logie, himself and Davie Tees being fourth and just out of the medals.

In the Glasgow University road race at Anniesland, Eddie was not mentioned at all in the report despite finishing third behind Lachie Stewart and Bert McKay (Motherwell) but his recent running had been noted and he was selected that afternoon for the SCCU team to meet the British Army at Glasgow Green on November 27th.  On  the 20th of the month, Eddie ran in his first Edinburgh to Glasgow and some run it was.  On the very hard second stage he moved his club up no fewer than seven places – from thirteenth to sixth – with the second fastest time of the afternoon.    The ‘Glasgow Herald’s correspondent called it a “sterling run.”   In the report of the SCCU v British Army match, the focus of the race was the struggle between Lachie Stewart and Eddie Knox for first place.    The victory went to the more experienced Stewart by 40 yards at the end.    First Saturday in December was the county championship and Eddie was second to Bert MacKay in the Lanarkshire championship and the second Saturday was SCCU v Scottish Universities where Lachie won again and Eddie was second – both being inside Fergus Murray’s course record at Cambuslang: Murray was third 20 seconds behind Eddie and behind him were the Brown brothers.   He then won the club 5 miles championship on 18th December.   In the Nigel Barge Road Race on 8th January, Eddie was second again to Lachie Stewart.   “In second place was E Knox who at 18 runs with a maturity one associates with a much older person.   Although he was 21 seconds behind the winner, his time was still 3 seconds inside the old record and for his efforts he won the prize for the first junior to finish.

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Bill Stoddart, Lachie Stewart and Eddie (right) in Madrid

Further progress was made over the country in 1966, when Eddie was a first-year Junior. On 8th October the club won the Lanarkshire Relays with Eddie being highly spoken of in the race report in the ‘Glasgow Herald’: “The winning trick was clearly going to be taken by Springburn when their ace in the pack, E Knox, set off determinedly after I Howarth (Motherwell) and Martin McMahon (Shettleston) in that order.   Long before the half-way point in the two and three-quarter mile leg, Knox had the measure of the two others.   Howarth in particular wondering where it was all going to end.  McMahon comfortably overtook him for a clear second place for Shettleston.”   Eddie was equal third fastest for the day with Alex Brown (Motherwell).    In the Midlands Relays at Stirling on 26th October, the Springburn team was fourth with Eddie’s 12:24 their fastest club time by half a minute.   On 5th November in the Glasgow University Road Race he was fourth behind Lachie Stewart, Andy Brown and Jim Brennan (Maryhill) but in front of Alex Brown and Dick Wedlock.   On the 19th of the month, he ran the fifth fastest time on the difficult sixth stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay to lift his club from 11th to 9th.   After the race he was told that he was a reserve for the Scottish team to compete against the British Army at Carlisle the following week: the selectors were at least keeping their eye on the first year Junior, and he was selected a week later for the team against the very strong  Scottish Universities.   The Lanarkshire Championships were held, as were all the county championships,  on the first Saturday in December and Eddie did well in what was possibly the strongest of these to finish fifth.    The match against the Universities was held from King’s Buildings in Edinburgh and Eddie was fourth behind John Linaker, Alex Brown and Gareth Bryan-Jones.    It was three very good runs on successive Saturdays.

 Lachie went on to win the Midland District Senior CC, with Eddie Knox “one of the youngest runners in the race, second (but winning the District Junior title). The strong whipcord frame and sharp features of Knox would become familiar in championship events as his talent and strength gained him many successes.” The redoubtable Ian McCafferty (Law and District) retained the National Junior CC, 49 seconds in front of Eddie Knox and Alistair Blamire (Edinburgh University). In the Junior International Championships at Soussi Racecourse, Rabat, Morocco, Eddie Knox ran brilliantly to finish third, just five seconds after the silver medallist. He also led the Scottish Junior team to bronze medals, behind England and Belgium.   Colin Shields’ report on the race read, “Eddie Knox showed his ability in the Junior race when finishing third, just five seconds behind the silver medal position, with the Scots team continuing their good record when finishing third of eight countries behind England and Belgium.”   During the track season, Eddie recorded 4.18.4 for one mile (thus winning the Scottish Junior title in a new championship record); and 13.48.4 for three miles (eighth in the senior rankings).

1967 proved to be Eddie Knox’s best year. He started by  recording a third place behind McCafferty and Stewart in the Nigel Barge Road Race – 27 seconds behind the winner and two seconds behind Stewart.  Springburn was third in the team race with Knox 3, Harry Gorman 18 and Davie Tees 24.   The following day he was second, 160 yards down, to McCafferty at Grangemouth in a 5.75 mile race with Springburn (Knox 2, Ian Young 3, Davie Tees 7, Harry Gorman 15, Moir Logie 18, Alan Picken 19) first team.   He followed this a week later by finishing second to the flying McCafferty in the Springburn Cup road race at Bishopbriggs.   After lamenting the absence of Lachie Stewart and lauding ‘the flying McCafferty’ the Glasgow Herald reporter had this to say, “A spirited assault by E Knox was worth watching.   In only his second year as a Junior competitor, Knox has still much physical development to come.   There can be no doubt that in the National championship next month he will be a worthy successor to his conqueror on Saturday.”   With Harry Gorman 12th and Davie Tees 17th, the team was second to Motherwell for whom the Brown brothers were fourth and fifth.   Missing the West District Championships the following week, he was out again on 28th January in the Edinburgh Southern Harriers 4 x 2.5 mile relay where he was second fastest behind Andy Brown’s record breaking time of 11:34 with 11:37.   A week later he won the club Junior championship by 13 seconds from Harry Gorman.   It was two weeks to the National Junior CC at Hamilton Racecourse which, Colin Shields said,  “was the closest race of the day, with Eddie Knox and Alistair Blamire locked together throughout the five miles.   Neither would give way, whatever the pressure applied by the other until, in the final 100 yards, Knox forced his way ahead for a narrow one second victory over Blamire, who had the satisfaction of leading his EU team-mates to gold medals.”    Ron Marshall in ‘The Glasgow Herald’ commented “the battle in the Junior race between E Knox and J Blamire was the feature of the afternoon.   Over all but the last 100 yards of the five miles they were inseparable, but over that last vital stretch Knox got his head in front and managed to repulse Blamire’s dying effort.”     Following the race four Juniors were chosen for the International – Knox, John Myatt, Norman Morrison (Shettleston) and Jim Cook of Garscube.    Only one week later Eddie ran a disappointing race in the English National when finishing nineteenth.   Then at Barry in Wales, Eddie Knox emulated Ian McCafferty (in 1964) when he became Junior International Cross Country Champion “in an exciting race.  He was in the leading group throughout and edged his way into the lead 400 yards from the line, holding on for a two-second victory over a Belgian, Eddie van Butsele.   Scotland finished third in the team championship.”    That was Colin Shields’ take on the race but the ‘Glasgow Herald’ noted only the result while reporting at length on the Seniors and ignored Scotland’s only victor.   However, when publishing his own Scottish cross-country ranking list, Ron Marshall had this to say about him: “It was hard to fit our brilliant Junior into this list because he is segregated in the big meetings but I felt he was good enough to rub shoulders with our top half dozen Seniors.   On the occasions when he has run against them, he showed up well as his record will show.   As a Junior he won the National and International titles, what more could we ask?”   

In the summer, Eddie started out with a win in the West District Championships on a foul afternoon at Westerlands in 13:54 from Alex Brown and Pat Maclagan.   The following week it noted that he was leading the Springburn Harriers club championships with 27 points.   On 24th June at Meadowbank, Eddie won a bronze medal in the SAAA three miles championship behind Lachie Stewart and club mate Ian Young running in the colours of Edinburgh University in a time of 14:14. His fastest three miles that season was 13.54.0 (8th in the rankings for a third time). He also improved his one mile best to 4.15.1.

Into the 1967-68 season and the first race was the McAndrew Relay at Scotstoun and there Eddie was second fastest, only one second down on Ian McCafferty but ahead of the rest of the field including Andy Brown, Alex Brown, Pat Maclagan and Gareth Bryan Jones.   One week later he was third fastest, this time behind Alistair Blamire and Alex Brown, in the Lanarkshire AAA road relay race at Bellshill.   This was followed by fastest time in the Dundee Kingsway Road Relay the following week.   The race was a real battle between Shettleston and Aberdeen but the ‘Glasgow Herald’ pointed out that “It mustn’t be thought that the other clubs were mere props for for the display of these two clubs.   Springburn Harriers, for example, were close enough to Shettleston at half way to cause consternation in the camp.  And the man doing the damage was Knox, the Junior international cross-country champion.    He started the second leg in eighth or ninth position, forged up the brae at the Old Glamis Road into fourth, and flicked into overdrive on the level run of nearly a mile along the Kingsway.   His quarries were Ballantyne (Edinburgh Southern), Ewing (Aberdeen) and Scally in that order.  The first two he managed but the third was just out of range by 10 yards.   Knox had the satisfaction, nevertheless, of running 13:28 easily the fastest of the day.”   Second quickest was Bill Scally in 13:40 and the Springburn team was fourth.   In the Midlands District relay at East Kilbride seven days later, Springburn was second behind Shettleston but this time Eddie was third fastest in the race but only second fastest in the Springburn team!   Harry Gorman whose running had been erratic so far ran out of his skin on the third stage to turn in a time of 14:02 which was four seconds faster than Knox.   The team was Alan Beaney, Harry Gorman, Eddie Knox and Dunky Middleton.   Incidentally, Harry was only one second off the fastest of the day which was down to Dick Wedlock of Shettleston.   The first Saturday in November meant the Glasgow University Road Race and Eddie was second to Lachie Stewart, only two seconds down.   On November 11th, he won the club trial for the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay breaking the course record by 19 seconds.   He beat Harry Gorman by 12 seconds, so he was inside the old record too.      Then running on the second stage in his third Edinburgh to Glasgow relay, he held on to fourth place with equal second fastest time.     On 28th November Eddie ran in the representative match between the SCCU and the English Northern Counties and finished fifth for the team in an overwhelming SCCU victory.   On the same day he was selected with Jim Alder and Lachie Stewart to run in Granollers, North of Barcelona and for the bigger SCCU team to meet the Scottish Universities on 9th December.    On 2nd December he was second in the Lanarkshire Championships to Ian McCafferty.

Then on 9th December 1967, the report read “in a stirring contest over a grassland trail at Knightswood, which was not affected by snow, the Scottish Cross Country Union select snatched a six-point victory from the Scottish Universities representatives in the annual six miles team race. Holder of both the Scottish and International Junior  cross-country titles, Eddie Knox gave an outstanding performance to win his first major senior event and so gain first place points for the SCCU team. However, while the slim, lightly-bearded 20-year-old Springburn Harrier, who was runner-up to Ian McCafferty the previous week in the Lanarkshire championship, dictated the pace for almost the entire distance and seemed to have the race comfortably won a mile from home, he was all but caught on the tape by Alistair Blamire of  Edinburgh University Hare & Hounds, who closed in on Knox with a typical last-gasp finishing burst. Knox won by two seconds.”    As we might expect, Ron Marshall in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ added to the detail the following Monday, “In some races it is hard to say whether the pace is fast but the impression was of the leaders being jet-propelled round the springy grass circuit.   E Knox (SCCU) and A Blamire (Universities) ran like machines stuck in top gear and making no concession to the hillocks they encountered all along the way.   But machines cannot show the feelings and the faces of these two – Knox in front desperately trying to shake off his long-haired assailant and with perhaps just a touch of anxiety in his eyes and Blamire stretched to the limit, refusing to admit he has reached it, retaining the cold grimace of challenge about his features.   Knox won all right but only two seconds separated them at the finish.”

On 8th January 1968, Eddie was eighth in a very high-class Nigel Barge race at Maryhill to get the New Year off to a fairly good start – he was only 25 seconds down on the winner, Gareth Bryan-Jones.   On 13th January he was fourth in the Springburn Cup race, a position that Ron Marshall found difficult to understand since he was the outstanding man in the field, he hinted however that with the Midlands championship the following week (he had never won a Midlands title) he was just out for a spin.   But when it came to the race, with Stewart and McCafferty racing on the Continent that day, Eddie could only finish eleventh, explaining that he was still suffering from a cold.   As part of a Scottish team along with Jim Alder and Lachie Stewart, Eddie travelled to Hannut in Belgium on 3rd February.   Lachie won the race, Jim Alder was seventh and Eddie was sixteenth to be second in the team race.   Eddie didn’t run in the club championships the following week.

  On  24th February 1968, Eddie Knox was second to John Myatt (Strathclyde University) in the Scottish Junior Cross-Country Championship.    The ‘Glasgow Herald’ commented initially that Myatt hammered Knox but then described the race thus: “Myatt won by 60 yards from Knox in the  five and a half mile race for the Junior title.   Both runners drew clear of the field of 160 early on but Knox,  struggling to find his form, found it difficult to keep in touch with Myatt who by half distance was in complete command.”   It is interesting to note that Alistair Blamire (one year older) had improved considerably to gain a silver medal in the Senior National, only one second behind Lachie Stewart (Vale of Leven).    Myatt and Knox were listed as reserves for the Scottish team to run in the International in Tunis on March 16th.   There was no doubt however of Blamire’s inclusion.

In summer 1968, Eddie did not run in the Open Scratch meeting at Scotstoun on 11th May where Harry Gorman won the Mile from Mike Bradley of Paisley, nor did he contest the West Districts the folllowing week at Westerlands where Ian McCafferty won the Three Miles in 13:50.3 from Lachie Stewart and Alex Brown.   Nor was he placed in the SAAA Championships at the end of June nor did he appear in any results in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ for that summer.   He did however appear in the rankings with, by his own standards, not very good performances: 14:37.6 for 5000m and 8:37.6 for the Two Miles.

Into winter 1968-69 and Eddie ran for the Sprinburn team that finished fourth in the McAndrew Relay with a time of 14:11, ten seconds down on Harry Gorman and only third fastest for the club.   There was very little coverage of domestic athletics over the next three weeks due to the extensive reporting on the Olympic Games but in the second week in November there was no Eddie Knox in the Springburn team for the West District Championships.  Eddie ran in the Edinburgh to Glasgow on the 15th November, on the sixth stage, and held seventh position for his club with the sixth fastest time of the day in a really star studded field.   Probably because of this and his known quality, he was on November 25th he was selected for the SCCU team to take on the Northern Counties the following week.    In the race itself he was fifth in 27:23 with Alistair Blamire winning in 25:50.   Nothing was heard of him in a competitive sense for the remainder of 1968 and it was into 1969.  Eddie first appears in the results when he was seventh in the Midlands Championships at Cleland on 18th January being third Springburn runner in the team that won the championship.   In February 1969, Eddie Knox finished sixteenth in the National CC on a frozen Duddingston Park, Edinburgh.    The course was one of the worst I have ever seen or run on for a National Championships – five  one-and-a-half mile laps of a frozen Duddingston Golf Course in Edinburgh with steeplechase barriers substituting for natural obstacles.   At one point where there were two such barriers side by side, some of the runners at the start just pushed it over and the official to the side was shouting for the remainder of the field to “go over the one still standing!”    Many dropped out, others ran well below their capabilities and yet more just did not start.   But with the international that year to be held in Scotland in Clydebank, almost all of the top men were there.   Eddie’s sixteenth was actually a good run – behind him were Alastair Wood (17th), Alistair Blamire (18th), Craig Doiuglas (19th, Jim Brennan (20th) and Ken Ballantyne (21st); immediately in front was Andy Brown.   But there was no international for him in 1969.

The 1969 track season started for Eddie at the Land’O’Burns Trophy Meeting at Ayr on 17th May when, on a very blustery day not conducive to track endurance running, he was second in 14:12.9 to Dick Wedlock (14:09.4) in the 5000m.   In the West District Championships two weeks later, Eddie stepped down a distance to the 1500m where he was second to Mike Bradley of Paisley (3:57.4) in 4:00.2.   He was unplaced at the SAAA Championships in Grangemouth that year  but by the end of the year he had managed to have two performances recorded in the national rankings: in the 3000m he had 8:37.6 which placed him 18th and in the 5000m he had 14:37.6 which placed him 21st.

In October 1969, Eddie Knox received a wee mention in Ron Marshall’s coverage of the McAndrew Relay at Scotstoun, Glasgow.   “Springburn Harriers had their troubles.   Eddie Knox, their lead-off man was somewhere round the course, limbering up when the starter’s gun went off.   He eventually got away some two-and-a-half minutes late and subsequently the team failed to make the first ten places when they might have been expected to make the first three or four.”  He redeemed himself the following week in the Lanarkshire relays when the report read: “Eddie Knox (Springburn) showed a complete return to his best form when he he completed the course in 11:51 – the fastest time of the day – and gave his team a lead after the first leg.”   Dick Wedlock was second fastest on 11:52 and Alex Brown third on 12:00.   The Springburn team was second in the Dundee Kingsway relay the following with a team of Tom O’Reilly, Harry Gorman, new runner Mike Bradley and Eddie on the last stage.   He had fifth fastest on the day.   In the Midlands relay the following week, Springburn was third team and Eddie was third fastest on the day.   On November 8th he  was second to Pat Maclagan (Victoria Park) in the Glasgow University Road Race.  Then he was eighth fastest on the sixth stage of the Edinburgh to Glasgow holding ninth position.   Eighth doesn’t sound too hot until you realise that among those ahead of him were  Fergus Murray, Lachie Stewart, Alastair Blamire, Jim Wight, John Myatt and Alex Brown!    On to the inaugural Allan Scally Relay at Barrachnie and with the team in second place Eddie ran a good if undistinguished last stage.   On 29th November at Edinburgh Eddie was a member of the SCCU team which beat the British Army – and won the race ahead of Bill Stoddart to win the team contest.   In the Lanarkshire Championship on 6th December, Eddie was third behind Lachie Stewart and Dick Wedlock of Shettleston, and the team finished second.

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On 13th December, he finished second behind Adrian Weatherhead (EAC) in the SCCU versus SU contest at Paties Road, Colinton, Edinburgh.    Ron Marshall again, Adrian Weatherhead made most of his local knowledge by leading virtually from start to finish of the one-and-a-half mile course which they covered four times.   He was being harried considerably by Eddie Knox and Gareth Bryan-Jones in conditions that would have deflated a lesser competitor.   ‘The wind was cutting me in half but when I looked round the gap wasn’t closing at all,’ Weatherhead said after the race.    He swept over the finishing line 20 yards ahead of  a fast-finishing Knox with Bryan-Jones third, but two minutes later there was a shock for Knox.   He was disqualified for not wearing a number.   His initial reaction was unprintable but he then followed that up with,  ‘It’s my favourite trick.’     Apparently Knox has a habit of overlooking this footery but important detail.”   Anyway his lapse did not stop his selection for Granollers in Spain the following Saturday.   He ran well here too.   Weatherhead was the leading Scot in seventh (24:58.6) with Knox fourteenth (25:26.2) and Wedlock fifteenth. (25:28.2).

In the Nigel Barge race on 9th January 1970, Eddie was ninth in a very strong field indeed.   With teh Commonwealth Games to be held in Edinburgh that summer every distance runner in the country started the year with the intention of impressing the selectors early and often!  Alistair Blamire was the victor at Bishopbriggs the following week with Pat Maclagan second and Eddie Knox in a race enshrouded in thick fog.   Running in Lenzie on 24th January Ian McCafferty had one of his really brilliant runs and Eddie In second place was seventy two seconds back.   On his day, McCafferty had to be one of the best runners in Europe if not the world and Eddie caught him on such a day in Lenzie in the Midland Championship.   Most clubs held their championships on 7th February that year and “Eddie Knox overwhelmed the opposition in Springburn Harriers club championship, defeating Harry Gorman by over three minutes.”   He was on international duty again on 14th February in Madrid when he was nineteenth behind Lachie Stewart (1st) and Bill Stoddart (10th).   He was reported to be on the fringe of selection for the Scottish team for the international along with Norman Morrison, Bill Mullett, Gareth Bryan-Jones, Bill Stoddart, Don Macgregor and Adrian Weatherhead.    In the National at a wet and unpleasant Ayr Racecourse,  Mullett was 3rd, Morrison 5th, Weatherhead 6th, Stoddart 9th, Macgregor 12th and Bryan-Jones 13th with Eddie down in 20th..    The first three made the team and Eddie had run his last international championship.

In summer 1970 Eddie’s best 5000m was slower than in 1969 on 14:38.6 and 18th place.    In summer 1971 he wasn’t ranked at all and in 1972 he was ranked in the 3000m (838.0, 22nd), 5000m ( 14:41.0, 24th) and 10000m (30:42.6 14th).   Despite track results slipping from his own high standards his country and road running was still good.

Winter 1970/71 and in the McAndrew Relay Eddie was a member of the Springburn team that finished fifth but was the third fastest member of that team.   He was also third fastest of the club in the Lanarkshire relays the following week when the team was third behind two good Shettleston teams.   On November 7th Springburn was second in the Midlands Relays with Eddie second fastest club man behind Harry Gorman.   In the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay on 21st November, Eddie ran the sixth stage and dropped one place (from sixth to seventh) in a team which finished ninth.   On 7th December in the Lanarkshire championship Eddie could only finish twelfth and his team was second with Mike Bradley fifth and Tom O’Reilly twenty first.   In the District championships, he was seventeenth finisher when Springburn was fourth.  In the National in 1971 he was twenty third and second Springburn Harrier, Mike Bradley in sixteenth being first.   There were no ranking places for him that summer at all in any events   but he went into the 1971/72 winter round as a regular member of the Springburn team.

Running on the third stage of the McAndrew Relay he was part of the team that finished fourth.   In the Lanarkshire relays the following week, Eddie ran on the second stage and kept Lachie Stewart at bay until the very last stride but nevertheless he had the fourth quickest time, behind Stewart, Ron McDonald and Jim Brown, in the victorious Springburn team which also won the Youths and Boys events.   In the Edinburgh to Glasgow he ran on the mostly downhill fourth stage and held third place with the fifth fastest time of the day.   On to December and on the fourth of the month, in the Lanarkshire championships Eddie Knox was fifth finisher behind McCafferty, Borwn, McDonald, Wedlock and Morrison to lead his team to third place.   He finished 1971 with second fastest time to Mike Bradley in his club’s Christmas race.   In January 1972 there was a clash of fixtures when Springburn moved their road race to the date already slated for the classic Nigel Barge race at Maryhill.   Most runners went to Maryhill but with big prizes on offer many of the fast men went to Bishopbriggs.   It was Eddie’s home race and he went along and performed very well indeed to be fifth, less than a minute behind winner Dick Wedlock.   Obviously running better than in 1971, Eddie was second to Mike Bradley at the East Kilbride road race the following week and with Harry Gorman in fourth they easily wn the team race.   In the West District championships, Eddie Knox “gave possibly his best performance of the season” when finishing fourth behind McCafferty, Jim Brown and Alistair Blamire.   One week later at the end of January, Eddie won the Inter-Counties race from Jim Wight by three seconds after taking an early lead.   This had clearly been his best start to the year for some time.   In the National, held at Currie when the government was operating a four day working week, many athletes were unable to attend but Eddie was a very good tenth in a race dominated by a duel between Jim Alder and Ian McCafferty.   The following week in the Grangemouth ‘Round the Houses’ race, Eddie was third behind Jim Dingwall and Willie Day  and only half a minute behind the winner.   Into the summer season of 1972 and in the Lanarkshire championships at Carluke on 14th May, , Eddie won the 5000m in 14:52.2.   In the West District Championships which took place at the same venue just two weeks later he was second in 31:23 in the 10000m behind Willie Day of Falkirk (31:04.4).    By the end of that summer, he had best times of 8:38.0 (3000m), 14:41 (5000m) and 30:42.6 (10000m).

Although Eddie did not appear in the official track rankings after 1972, he continued to run on the roads and over the country for several more years, always well and occasionally very well,  which can be noted in the following table.

Date Race Time Place Comments
Nov 1973 Midland Relay 13:11 Team 4th J Lawson 7th, H Gorman 1st, A McFarlane 3rd, E Knox 4th
  E-G Stage Six Dropped from 5th to 7th Very high quality year: D Macgregor, G Hannon (NI), N Morrison, D Logue, J Dingwall, etc
19th Jan 1974 Midland Championship     No result available, Springburn won the team race so he probably ran
16th February 1974 National Championships Not in first 50    
November 1974 Midland Relay 13:28 9th fastest time T Paterson, E Knox, J Martin, J Lawson
  E-G Relay Stage Six Maintained 5th Sixth fastest time
18th January 1975 Midland Championship 32:59 8th Winner 32:33
15th February 1975 National Championship 38:22 15th  A very good national against all the top men in the country
15th November 1975 E-G Relay Stage Four Maintained 11th 7th Fastest

 

His complete track ranking are in the following table.

Year Distance Time Ranking
1964 1 Mile 4:19.7 20
  2 Miles 8:58.6 5
  3 Miles 14:30.6 16
1965 2 Miles 9:03.0 12
  3 Miles 13:57.4 7
1966 1 Mile 4:18.4 26
  2 Miles 9:08.0 13
  3 Miles 13:48.4 8
1967 1 Mile 4:15.1 25
  2 Miles 9:17.2 28
  3 Miles 13:54.0 8
1968 1 Mile 4:16.8 19
  2 Miles 9:09.4 19
1969 3000m 8:37.6y 21
  5000m 14:37.6 18
1970 5000m 14:38.6 18
1972 3000m 8:38.0 22
  5000m 14:41.0 24
  10000m 30:42.6 14

 

His best 5000m time above is 14:37.6 – a time that would have ranked him in the top ten in the country in every year from 2003 to 2010 and just outside that group in 2011 and 2012.

Some extracts from Eddie’s diary are interesting.     The 1965 sesions were done after returning from night school.

7th June, 1965:   5 x 440y in 61/61/63/64/65

8th June, 1965:   12 x 300 in 40/41

9th June, 1965:   4 x 220 (all between 26.4 and 26.9)

10th June, 1965:   At work until 7:15, arrived ten minutes before the start of the Club Championships:  440 – D Middleton 53.2, E Knox 54.5;   Three Miles:  E Knox   14:52.

 

Then two years later we get:

Monday, 27/7/67:   am:   One and a half miles.          pm:   30 x 200 in 30 seconds with 100m recovery.

Tuesday, 28/6/67:   6 x 300m fast

Wednesday, 29/6/67:   am:   One and a half miles.         pm:   3 miles and 1 mile invitation races at Celtic Park:   14:40 for the 3 miles behind the winning 14:08; 4:58 in the Mile behind the winning 4:22.

Thursday, 30/6/67:   Mile and a half time trial in 6:48.     6 x 100m averaging 15 seconds each.

Friday, 31/6/67:   Rest Day

Saturday, 1/7/67:   12 x 200m unchecked but fast.

Sunday, 2/7/67 :   Long run of 8 – 10 miles.

 Eddie says that his biggest regret as far as running is concerned is that the marathon was not more popular or ‘the In Thing’ in the early 1970’s.   He had lost interest in racing but not in running.    Round about 1970, he had done some work with John Anderson and did a big session of 200m x 100 with 30 seconds recovery.    He started doing big sessions and trying to race off some huge sessions.   He kept this going for a year or so.   Sessions keyed off the one above included 20 x 800 in 2:15 which he found ‘comfortable’) and 40 x 400 which averaged ‘not as slow’ as 70 seconds.    He did this for about a year and adds that just by slowing the pace by a couple of seconds a lap he could get in long sessions without too much difficulty.   In 1964 at the age of 17 he ran in the Lanarkshire 12 miles road race where he went round with Gordon Eadie and found the pace more than comfortable.   He remembers running a loop of approximately 20 miles from Milton in Kirkintilloch – and he can give you the exact route followed.

Away from the sport he worked for the Daily Express as a compositor and proof-reader.   He then went to the short-lived Scottish Daily News and not being too happy with the new printing system, did a management course.   This led to a job in charge of leisure at Coatbridge where he did a very good job and even competed for the local team in the BBC ‘It’s a Knockout’ programme.

However you look at it, Eddie was a top class athlete and a tough competitor at a time when the standard in Scotland was very high indeed – he would have been an even bigger star on the current scene at Scottish athletics.   The thought of what he could have  done in the 26.2 miles of a marathon is an intriguing one.

Eddie died tragically early in October 2019.

Alastair Johnston

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Alastair (53) leaving Moorcroft Park at the Babcock’s Sports in 1970 in the 14 mile road race which he won in 1:12:31

Behind him is Bill Stoddart (Wellpark) and Joe Reilly (VP) with the three Clydesdale Harriers,  Cyril O’Boyle, Ian Leggett (25) and Allan Faulds (27 on the left

Alastair Johnston was a superb athlete on all surfaces and one of whom his club can be justly proud.   He was always well-liked by all endurance racers.  This did not alter the fact that he was always a class athlete.   He will also unfortunately be remembered  for the dreadful accident at Meadowbank, when a stray hammer escaped the cage, accelerated off the track where it hit Alastair, breaking  his leg.    It was an accident that changed the organisation of athletics meetings for ever after.   Alastair was an outstanding runner at a time when Scotland was very lucky to have possibly the best generation of talent in my lifetime – and have a look at the scalps that Alastair took at one time or another as you read the profile!   They are all there – Olympians, Commonwealth Games athletes and Scottish and British champions.    His career post-accident was really first class but it should have been so much better.

Colin Youngson has written the profile which follows but first we have Alastair’s own replies to the questionnaire in the box below.

Name:   Alastair Johnston.

Club:   Victoria Park AAC

Date of Birth:   17th January, 1947.

Occupation: Chartered Accountant (just retired!)

Personal Bests:   5000m:   14:11 (1972);    10000m   29:55 (1970);   Marathon:  2:19:31 (1970)

How did you get involved in the sport?   I got involved by “following in my brother’s footsteps.”

Has any individual or group had a marked effect on your attitude to the sport or to individual performances?   My club’s high standard in all aspects of the sport was my biggest motivator.   ie in reputation/achievements/role models, coaching, management, admin (led by the meticulous Bill Armour), competitiveness, friendships and team spirit. .  I would like to make a special mention of  the coaching received under the redoubtable Johnny Stirling.   Also being fortunate to be competing at a time when Scottish Athletics was at its peak possessing many fine world class distance runners who were also great role models for me.

What exactly did you get out of the sport?   I found running both exhilarating and competitively challenging and that it was a sport that did not rely so much on natural ability as on consistent hard work.

 What was your best performance?   The 1970 Commonwealth Games Marathon Trial, breaking 2:20 – first ever and only marathon.   I led at 20 miles and finished sixth (fifth Scot) only two minutes behind the winner, Jim Alder, who led in the other all-time greats of Scottish and UK distance running, Don Macgregor, Fergus Murray and Alastair Wood.

What ambition did you have that remained unfulfilled?   My ambition was to represent Scotland in the marathon at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch.

What did you do – apart from running – to relax?   My other sport was – and is – golf.

Can you give some details of your training?  I did not manage, or have the inclination, to do a big mileage but was happy with an average mileage of about 50 or 60 miles a week but done usually at a fast tempo.   (I was often accused of “racing” in training!)

 

Colin writes: “Alastair Johnston of Victoria Park AAC was very well liked and highly respected by his contemporaries in the 1960’s and 1970’s.   He shone occasionally in track and cross-country events but it was clear that he was especially talented in road races.   Sadly, just as Alastair was about to break through to consistent international standard, he suffered a horrible, totally unexpected injury, which made it impossible for him to achieve his sporting ambitions, although he ran well, especially in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay for another decade.

The record books show that Alastair made an immediate impact as a Junior, running his first Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay in 1965.   He was not only the fastest man on the eighth stage, but also broke the stage record and Victoria Park won bronze medals.   What a debut!   In 1966 he was even better setting a record (26:22) for the fifth stage, breaking that set many years earlier  by miling great Graham Everett as VP finished second behind Edinburgh University.  He was less successful on Stage Two in 1967 but his promise as a road runner was very clear.   Yet he had finished no better than eleventh in the National Junior Cross-Country Championship in both 1966 and 1967.

During my first year at Aberdeen University I became acquainted with Alastair as a quiet friendly runner from Strathclyde University.  Although there were many talented competitors in his enthusiastically sociable team, few were fairly abstemious gentlemen!   In January 1967, the Scottish Universities Cross-Country Championships started and finished at King’s Buildings in Edinburgh via a shockingly steep ascent and descent of the Braid Hills.   Eight runners from the unarguably superior Edinburgh University team took off and only Myatt from Strathclyde managed to hang on.   As the route entered some fog, I was running alongside Alastair.   Neither of us relished the underfoot conditions and both, it became clear, were unfamiliar with the route.   Having gone astray in thirteenth position we eventually regained contact with the race in thirty fifth!   Furiously we started overtaking like crazy.  I finished seventeenth and believe that Alastair actually managed to reclaim thirteenth.

In November 1967, Aberdeen and Strathclyde Universities both sent cross-country teams to Belfast and Dublin to race against Queen’s, Trinity and UCD.   Alastair took part in this last ‘Irish Tour’ weekend (before the political troubles started) In the muddy contest at Queen’s, Belfast, on the Saturday, Alastair was second, ten seconds behind John Myatt, and then went one better when finishing first on the Sunday at Trinity College, Dublin, fourteen seconds up on Myatt.   The second race was mainly through Phoenix Park which was road and parkland and much more to Alastair’s liking!   By early December Alastair showed decent form in the annual Scottish Universities v Scottish Cross-Country Union competition at Knightswood Park, Glasgow, when he was sixth SU counter.

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Alastair in the Hyde Park Relays in February 1968 when the Strathclyde team (noted below) was sixth

(A Johnston, I Picken, I Mitchell, D McFarquhar, J Myatt, C McIvor)

The Tom Scott Memorial Road Race over ten miles from Law to Motherwell, was an Easter classic.   I did reasonably well (53:22) in my first attempt in April 1968, but Alastair’s superiority on the road was obvious, as he was tenth (against the top Scottish runners) in 51:04.   There were several of what Alastair considered successes in the course of 1968.   He had started the year by winning the New Year’s Day race at Beith  ahead of Norman Morrison of Shettleston and Pat Maclagan.   This was usually a heavy plough course with a stream at one point which you just ran into to be faced with a three foot bank as you emerged.   In 1968 however, because of a foot and mouth epidemic it was held on the road, again to Alastair’s liking!   He also had good runs in the traditional year starter of the Nigel Barge Road Race at Maryhill where he was seventh, the Springburn Cup Road Race (sixth)  and the Midlands Cross-Country Championships where he was seventh.   In University competition, Alastair was third in the Scot Unis and as a result was picked for the Scottish Universities team against the English Universities at the well-known and muddy Parliament Hill Fields where Scotland won – Alastair Blamire seventh, Dave Logue tenth, John Myatt twelfth, Jim Wight fourteenth, Andy McKean eighteenth and Alastair Johnston twentieth.   The points between the two countries were even but since Alastair was one place ahead of the English final counter, the Scots won!   He also helped the Strathclyde University team to a good sixth place in the Hyde Park Relays when he was second on the first stage in the excellent time of 13:55.   During the next three years, Alastair crossed my path on several occasions but I never got near him on the road.   In late 1968 he was 26 seconds faster in the Kingsway Relays in Dundee, although he once again showed his comparative dislike for cross-country when finishing fifty first in the 1969 Senior National at Duddingston (two places behind me, another mud-hater).

Alastair reckons that his only notable performance in early 1969 (when he was bogged down in final year studies) was a good second stage (14:05) in the Hyde Park Relays which helped Strathclyde finish an excellent third.   He was in good form towards the end of the 1969 track season winning a steeplechase at Grangemouth in 9:38.0 and running 10000m at Scotstoun in 30 minutes precisely.  A lot of confidence was drawn from winning the 18 Miles Road Race in 1:35:44 at the Bute Highland Games and breaking the record by no less than two minutes.   This was a regular fixture on the Scottish Marathon Club calendar and had been won by many of the best of Scotland’s distance runners over the previous 20+ years.    In the E-G that year he was given the responsibility of taking the baton on the formidable Stage Six and finished fifth fastest (behind Lachie Stewart, Fergus Murray, Alistair Blamire and Jim Wight) with VPAAC fourth.   Shortly afterwards he ran well (this time for the SCCU) in the December 1969 fixture versus Scottish Universities at Colinton, Edinburgh, finishing tenth overall, beating good runners like Mike Bradley and John Myatt.   In the 1970 Senior National Cross-Country Championships at Ayr Racecourse, Alastair improved to a thoroughly respectable eighteenth place.

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IN Strathclyde colours again: Hyde Park Relay, February, 1969, where the team was third

(Team: A Smith, A Johnston, I Mitchell, J Myatt, C McIvor, I Picken)

All good Scottish runners wanted to make the team for the 1970 Commonwealth Games. The year had started well for him with third fastest on his home trail with third quickest time in the McAndrew Relays in 13:44.  It was also notable because he was one whole second faster than Lachie Stewart!  The marathon trial took place on 16th May and Alastair was amongst the front runners for most of the way and led at 20 miles.   Despite the fact that it was his debut at the event, he finished strongly to record a very promising 2:19:31 in sixth place (fifth Scot and only two minutes behind Jim Alder who won the event – see questionnaire)) ahead of fellow VPAAC runner Pat Maclagan (who went on to win the Scottish Marathon Championship in 1971).   After the 1970 trial, Alastair was offered a Great Britain vest to participate in a major international event – the Toronto Marathon on 25th August.   Unfortunately he had to turn this chance down due to professional accounting commitments so Pat Maclagan took his place and ran well.

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Commonwealth Games Marathon Trial, May 16th, 1970: Alastair partially hidden by Jim Wight (22) and behind Pat Maclagan (12)

Six men, including Alastair, under 2:20: 1st J Alder (2:17:11), 2nd D Macgregor (2:17:14, 3rd F Murray (2:18:25), 4th B Jones (NZ, 2:19:03), 5th AJ Wood (2:19:17), 6th A Johnston (2:19:31)

Alastair achieved another two pb’s in 1970:   10000m in 29:59.4 for fifth in the SAAA Championships only two weeks after the marathon, and 9:25.6 for a steeplechase at Grangemouth behind Commonwealth fourth placer Gareth Bryan-Jones.   Earlier, Alastair had won the the West District 10000m in front of the consistently very good Colin Martin.   In the 1970 Edinburgh to Glasgow he switched to Stage One and was fourth, only 12 seconds down on the fastest man, Craig Douglas of Edinburgh Southern Harriers.   Victoria Park won bronze again.   Then in the SCCU V SU at Knightswood, Alastair showed real cross-country progress when he finished an excellent third overall, just behind the flying Monkland Harriers, Ron MacDonald and Jim Brown.   I was pleased with eighth, in front of my future VP team mates Pat Maclagan, Hugh Barrow and Joe Reilly.   One of the more popular Sports Meetings at the time was the Babcock’s Sports at Moorcroft Park in Renfrew where one of the feature events was the 14 Miles Road Race – everybody with pretensions to being a road racer turned out in it.  In 1970 Alastair won it in 1:12:31 beating a very good field and setting a new course record.

When I joined Victoria Park in September 1971, Alastair was a committee member and also running very well indeed.   As mentioned in his questionnaire answers, Alastair had already run very well in the 1971 Nigel Barge Road Race and Springburn Cup and had finished third behind international runners Jim Brown and Norman Morrison in the Midlands Cross-Country Championship.   Along with Bill Mullett and Peter Stewart he was chosen for a small Scottish team to run in Hannut, Belgium, international race and finished a worthy sixteenth.   After that Alastair was injured for a while.   He had pulled his Achilles tendon in March when finishing a close second to Andy McKean in the very hilly Edinburgh University 10 miles road race at King’s Buildings.   It was one of his best performances – while Andy won in 49:06, Alastair was second in 49:11 with Jim Wight third in 49:46 – Fergus Murray was sixth with Colin seventh in 51:04. Injuries happened now and again, possibly because he nearly always pushed hard in training and did not bulk up his weekly mileage with recovery session.

However, he was flying by October 1971.  To my chagrin, I had learned the hard way that VPAAC club runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays were short but speedy.   Coach Ronnie Kane would set off with the ‘slow’ pack issuing a strict order to the genuinely fast pack to give less talented clubmates two minutes start.   No chance!   Maybe sixty seconds after they left, we flew out of Scotstoun Showgrounds in pursuit.   There were a number of traditional road courses, but the one I remember with horror was the four mile ‘Shorter Knightswood Backwards’!   A tight, silent pack rapidly overtook the others and swept away along dark pavements under dim streetlights.   Guys like Pat Maclagan, Albie Smith, Hugh Barrow, Innis Mitchell – and sometimes the great retired racer Ian Binnie – ensured that the pace was relentless.   I struggled to keep up since I could never remember the route!   However Alastair Johnston was The Man to “beat” in these so-called training runs (although his close rival Pat might argue the case).

Once the Victoria Park McAndrew Relay Trial had been endured, the big day came: the Victoria Park AAC Road Relay (ie the McAndrew Relay).   This long-established event was new to me, a stranger from the North East, but I was captivated by its intensity.   On 2nd October 1971, no fewer than 306 club runners participated.   Alastair was outkicked up the hill at the end of the first stage by Willie Day of Falkirk Victoria Harriers and eventually Victoria Park’s first team (Johnston, Mitchell, Maclagan  and Barrow) finished second to the mighty Shettleston.   However Alastair’s 13:47 was fourth best behind Jim Brown, Lachie Stewart and Willie Day.  Then on Saturday, 13th November Pat and Alastair ‘enjoyed’ a tremendous battle in the five and a half miles Glasgow University Road Race.   Eventually Pat (25:05) won the sprint on the Westerlands track by a single second.  I was fifth, 23 seconds slower, with Davie McMeekin and Hugh Barrow close behind.

Victoria Park were obsessed with (a) the McAndrew, and (b) above all, the Edinburgh to Glasgow.   This was a specialist road running club; cross-country was optional for most of us.      It seemed that this year, 1971, Victoria Park might have a chance of victory in the greatest relay race of them all.   Unfortunately we finished second, 59 seconds behind, and forty years later some of my former clubmates continue to blame me.   I can understand their point of view and still feel contrite although Shettleston might still have won anyway.  What happened was that Davie McMeekin ran the fastest time on Stage Three and handed me a twenty one second lead over future Commonwealth Marathon bronze medallist Paul Bannon of Shettleston.   I shot off, full of determination.   Sadly this leg was new to me, there was no marshal at the Bathgate junction, and I zoomed straight on to the bypass.   Someone yelled and I cut right across  some bumpy grass and back on to the route having lost nearly all of my hard preserved lead.   Depression set in, Paul rolled past and eventually took another ten seconds out of me by the changeover.   Net loss, 31 seconds.   Incredibly, Joe Reilly put us back into the lead and Alastair (second fastest on Stage Six) finishing only twelve seconds behind the outstanding Dick Wedlock, but Shettleston ground out a winning lead over Seven and Eight.   What a rotten shame, although the newspaper reports all congratulated VP for making a real contest of it.

I know that Alastair was selected for the infamous SCCU ‘International Training Sessions’ at that horrendous mudbath, Cleland Estate, Motherwell.   Unlike many, he did turn up at these sessions fairly often – including some held at Pollok Estate – and still loved trying to burn everyone off.  He says: ” At Cleland most of the run was on road and I remember Jim Alder, Jim Brown, Andy McKean and I testing each other up the final big hill on the main road before turning back into the Estate.”   Hewas selected to  represent the SCCU – which he did with distinction – once more in December 1971 at Merchiston, finishing fifth individual and third counter for his winning team.   I was twelfth, thirty seconds behind.

On 1st January 1972, once again I was firmly put in my place on Alastair’s favourite surface.   He, Willie MacDonald and I travelled down by train to the prestigious Morpeth to Newcastle thirteen and a half miles road race.   It was wet and cold throughout but Alastair (1:05:56) ran brilliantly to finish a close third behind Jim Wight of EAC (1:05:47) and local hero, Jim Alder (1:05:54).   Over three minutes later I managed sixteenth, Willie was forty fifth and Victoria Park finished third team (prize: three frying pans!)   We were honoured when Jim Alder, (the proudest of Geordie Scots) chatting non-stop walked us all the way into town to the railway station.

Although Alastair ran the January 1972 Midland Cross-Country again, he missed the National at Currie.   The truth was that after the poor run at the Midlands, where he was twelfth over a muddy Bellshill course, Alastair was both injured and ill for the next few months of 1972.

On the 27th May, Alastair (14:32.4) finished only one second behind his old rival Dick Wedlock in the West Districts 5000m at Carluke.   A couple of weeks later on 11th June in a Scottish League Match at Meadowbank he revised his pb utterly with a superb 14:11.8, seven seconds down on Fergus Murray of Edinburgh Southern Harriers.   Undoubtedly Alastair was in the form of his life and prospects were excellent, not only for the SAAA Marathon Championship, but also for the Scottish 10000m championship (which was to be part of the GB v Poland match at Meadowbank on 17th June).   I ran the race, which was contested by a big field for that era of 34 competitors, and was relieved to avoid being lapped and end up ninth on a difficult, windy day, in about 30:45.   Jim Brown won in 29:25.4 and Fergus Murray was second in 29:38.8.

This result became totally irrelevant when we learned of the freak accident which had destroyed Alastair’s chance of achieving his true potential.   When I glimpsed my friend lying at the side of the track, there was shock and disbelief.   Instead of fighting with Fergus for a well-deserved silver medal, Alastair’s season had ended in agony and frustration.   There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Alastair Johnston would have won the 1972 Scottish marathon.   Probably the time would not have been ligtning fast due to the headwind after the turn at halfway.  However on a better day, Alastair was certainly capable of between 2:15 and 2:17, and on 23rd June, 1973, when the Scottish Marathon was also the team trial for the 1974 Commonwealth Games, Alastair would have been a genuine contender.   Donald Macgregor and Jim Wight who finished first and second that day, and were selected for New Zealand, would have had a real battle to defeat the strong smooth striding athlete from Victoria Park.

Alastair himself takes up the tale of the season after his recent fast 5000m races including a pb of 14:11 and comments on the accident as follows:    “Please note that I was using the 5000’s along with the following Saturday’s fateful 10000m on 17th June as warm-ups only for my attempt at recording a significantly good time (of around 2:16/2:17) in the marathon at the Scottish Championships on 24th June (which might possibly lead to recognition as a contender for Christchurch).   The 10000m race at Meadowbank was in fact the SAAA’s championship and quite unique as it was incorporated in the first British International match every held in Scotland – GB v Poland – which attracted live TV and a crowd of over 10,000!   With three or four laps to go I had broken away with Jim Brown and Fergus Murray with each of us sharing the lead.   Going into the penultimate lap, Jim made a decisive break which Fergus attempted to cover.   I was slower to respond and became slightly isolated in the back straight and was hit by the hammer at around the 200m mark, adjacent to the hammer circle.   It had been released accidentally almost at right angles by Barry Williams, the British record holder.   It burst through the inadequate protective netting and bounced once on the track and into my left tibia.   Ambulance men arrived quickly and tried to get me back on to my feet seeing only the bleeding coming from my left shoulder caused by my fall.   However the hard reality for me was that I had seen where the 16 lb. ball had struck and I had no feeling in my left foot – something serious had happened to my leg!   I had no concerns about not being able to complete this race, but realised immediately and more importantly that I would not be able to run in next Saturday’s Scottish marathon championships and possibly realise my aspirations!   Apart from the physical damage it was a real psychological blow to my morale as I was sure that I had probably been at the peak of my abilities at that point in time.

However I was greatly consoled by the huge wave of sympathy and support I received from my Club, friends and fellow athletes who visited me in hospital that night and at my home during my convalescence.   I have to mention also that my assailant himself, Barry Williams, came up to the hospital and offered me his sincere regrets along with the two heads of British male and female athletics, Arthur Gold and Marea Hartman, who were so pleasant and concerned about what had happened and presented me with a pair of BAAB cufflinks as a memento of their visit.

I was in full length plaster for about four to five months.   Thereafter, building up the “withered” leg was painful but with the encouragement and support of the club, friends and fellow athletes, along with great physio help at Firhill from Jackie Husband, Partick Thistle’s coach, who was a friend of my father, I managed to start light jogging by early 1973.   I eventually returned to racing at the McAndrew Relays in October of that year, recording a reasonable time.   Thereafter I continued to race well as a club athlete and enjoy my running for about another ten to fifteen years, but unfortunately I never regained the standard or the motivation that I had at the time of my accident.

The lessons learned by my misfortune were no doubt that in order to provide more safety for all at track and field meetings, the area surrounding the throwing circle had to be protected more robustly and that throwing events like the hammer and discus should be timetabled not to coincide with middle and long-distance track events where the track can be ‘cluttered’ with athletes for thirty to thirty five minutes as was the case in my 10000m.”

Eventually he regained fitness and his first big comeback race was actually in Chicago in September 1973!   He was visiting his brother Ken who lived there at the time and Ken knew big Jim McLatchie.   Jim had been a member of Doon Harriers and then Ayr Seaforth AAC before going on scholarship to Lamarr Tech in Texas.   Jim was an outstanding middle-distance runner in the mid-60’s; Alastair met him, they trained together several times and Jim got him an entry to the AAU 30K Championships.   It was run over nine laps of Jackson Park and Alastair finished a good fourth in 1:40:21, about two and a half minutes behind the winner.   Domestically he was back in time to represent his club in the 1973 McAndrew and record the third fastest time of 13:52 (equal with Fergus Murray) followed by running a good sixth stage in the Edinburgh to Glasgow recording 32:30 (seventh fastest against very good opposition) and VP were fourth.   Although Alastair’s fitness increased to a good level, his injury meant that he was unable to train as hard as previously and could not tackle the long road races which would have been his forte.   In 1974 he ran well in the inaugural National Cross-Country Relay Championship with Victoria Park finishing fifth.   They were fourth in the E-G with Alastair fourth fastest, once again on the important Stage Six behind internationals Andy McKean, Jim Brown and Dave Logue.   When his club was down to sixth in the 1975 E-G, it was through no fault of Alastair Johnston who was third fastest on Stage Five behind the outstanding new record set by Allister Hutton and the prominent Northern Irish Great Britain marathoner, Greg Hannon.   His other E-G performances were as follows:

  • 1976:   Stage Six:         Sixth Fastest:        Team fourth
  • 1977:   Stage Four:      Second Fastest     Team seventh
  • 1978:   Stage Four:      Fourth Fastest      Team second
  • 1979:   Stage Four:      Second Fastest     Team fourth
  • 1980:   Stage Three:    Third Fastest        Team third
  • 1981:   Stage Eight:     Fourth Fastest       Team fourth
  • In addition Alastair took part in the very first National Six Stage Relay in 1979 when Victoria Park finished fifth .

Altogether Alastair ran in his favourite event fifteen times from a possible seventeen successive races.   He won six medals and set two fastest times which were both stage records.   Despite his dreadful injury in 1972, he maintained a very high standard and any Scottish club would have been delighted to have him in their Edinburgh to Glasgow team

I remember Alastair’s final two performances well: both were duels which demonstrated that, even towards the end of his career, the spirit remained strong.   In 1980 there was a really fierce headwind.   The distance of Stage Three had been extended.   As we waited nervously at the changeover, Alastair and I could see Ian Elliott of my club (ESH) sprinting towards the changeover in the lead only one second ahead of Alastair Douglas (VP).   Fearing my old friend would ‘sit’ behind me, I grabbed the baton and tore off into the gale and narrowly succeeded in breaking contact, before settling into a battle against the elements.   Alastair chased as hard as possible but when I flopped over the line exhausted (setting the fastest time for the stage, only 31 seconds up) the tables were quickly turned and Vicky Park shot past, since the ESH runner had not anticipated my arrival and was enjoying a ‘comfort break’ in a field!   The air turned blue as I communicated my unhappiness!   Eventually our clubs engaged in a tactical joust for the bronze medals which were won by the wily Bobby Blair (VP).

By 1981 I had moved north to my home town and was representing Aberdeen AAC.  On the final stage we had to chase Victoria Park for the third team spot.   During the warm-up we both whinged like old men about suffering from ‘man flu’!   Alastair took over 22 seconds in front and this time I had to chase him.   He put up stern resistance but very gradually I caught up, took a breather and tried to run away.  No chance.   He settled in behind.   It is fair to say that neither of us is a renowned sprinter.   When I made my final effort, Alastair was unlucky not to pass me, since (laughing?) spectators made the finishing funnel very narrow indeed.  I apologised, he was magnanimous, and we both enjoyed the contest.

Alastair was a very good runner for a very long time, but with better luck he would certainly have been a successful international marathon runner.   More importantly, he always was and remains a very good man.

Colin’s account of the career of Alastair Johnston (who was clearly a very good friend and close rival for several years) ends here and his opinion that Alastair was destined for great things but for the dreadful accident in 1972 is shared by all Scottish athletics aficionados everywhere.   He was a good athlete to watch, he was fast, he was intelligent and he was determined.  His affability disguised the determination but it was there, no doubt about it!  All qualities that are essential in a distance runner.   Given that his debut marathon was sub 2:20  for fifth place in a big field of top class marathon runners speaks volumes for his temperament and ability.    Even after the accident and his comeback, he says that he never regained the standard or motivation but if you look at what he did – even the racing against Colin in the E-G when Colin was racing very well indeed – he had a very good career in the sport.    We could well do with an Alastair Johnston in Scotland’s colours in 2014!

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Doug Gunstone, Lachie Stewart, Alistair Johnston, Dave McMeekin and Colin Youngson

April 2012

Hugh Barrow has uploaded Alistair Johnston’s video of classic races (McAndrew, E-G, National, etc) to youtube.   It is at  http://www.youtube.com/results?q=burning+up+the+roads+of+scotstoun The quality varies as you might expect in a film 40 years old with some shot in the near dark of the conclusion of the E-G in late November but really worth seeing.  Have a good look. 

Lorna Irving

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Lorna Irving first  came to prominence when she won the 1984 Glasgow Marathon in what was then a course record of 2:37:19.   She had started running after being inspired by watching Joyce Smith win the 1983 London Marathon and thought “I can do that!”   Eighteen months later with only two attempts at the distance behind her, she shattered the Glasgow Marathon record in one of the fastest times recorded in Scotland.   What was so remarkable about Lorna’s run was that it was only seven minutes slower than  Joyce’s London time.   Joyce had been running since a teenager, had reached the semi-final of the 1500 at the 1972 Olympic Games, had held the world record for the 3000, and won several medals in the world cross country championships.

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Lorna was not without a background in sport.   She had been riding horses since a very young age and for a time had been a professional horsewoman.   The strength she built up over these years coupled with her light frame gave her the ideal build for endurance running.   Her first race was the Muckle Toon Run in her home town of Langholm; her next race was her first marathon at Windermere in 1983 in 2:52:08, a time which still stands as the course record.   She followed this up with a 2:44:00 in London the following year, then came her breakthrough in Glasgow.   For the next few years she dominated road races in Scotland and the North of England.   her half marathon personal best of 71:44 still stands as the UK W40 record and is fifth in the Scottish All Time lists.   No one has yet come close to her course record of 56:59 for the 1986 Derwentwater 10.   For a distance runner she had remarkable speed and recorded 9:25.2 for 3000 metres in a UKWAL match when running for Edinburgh Southern.

Lorna was never known as a cross country runner and and only once contested the National Cross Country Championships, in 1987 which doubled as a trial for the Scottish team.   This would be the final time Scotland would be able to compete as an individual nation in the World Cross Country Championships.   Lorna finished ninth in the field, which because of it significance was much stronger than most other years and unfortunately she missed selection for the team.

Lorna’s marathon pb of 2:36:34 came at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh finishing a creditable sixth in a marathon won by the Australian Lisa Martin.   Although born in England she had been resident in Scotland most of her life so qualified to compete for Scotland.      Her time in Edinburgh stands as the twelfth fastest of all time in the Scottish Women’s Marathon rankings.

The last result we can find for Lorna was the Glasgow Half Marathon in 1988 where she was third in 73:26 behind Sheila Catford (72:49) and Sandra Branney (73:02) in what was probably the most competitive Women’s Half Marathon Race in Scotland.

Lorna still lives in Langholm where she owns and trains racehorses.

Lorna’s Marathon Progression

Date Place Time
October 83 Windermere 2:52:08
April 84 London 2:44
September 84 Glasgow 2:37:19
June 85 Bolton 2:44:13
September 85 Glasgow 2:38:29
October 85 New York 2:47:52
August 86 Edinburgh 2:36:34
November 87 New York 2:38:36

Lorna’s PB’s

Distance Date Event Place Time
3000 1987 UKWAL Edinburgh 9:25.2
10K September 87 Barnsley 10K Barnsley 33:55
10 Miles November 87 Brampton – Carlisle Carlisle 55:12
Half Marathon September 87 Ayr Ayr 71:44
Marathon August 86 Commonwealth Games Edinburgh 2:36:34

 

Lynn Harding

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Lynn Harding was born on 10th of August, 1961 but only took up running in 1984. Rhona McLeod interviewed her for “Scotland’s Runner” magazine five years later, after her very best performance in the London Marathon on the 23rd of April 1989. Veronique Marot won in a UK record of 2.25.56 (which lasted until 2002) and, in a top international field, Lynn finished eighth (third Briton) in an excellent 2.31.45 – a Scottish Record.    Rhona’s article follows.

ACCOUNTANT LYNN – COUNTING ON A GAMES PLACE

Rhona Mcleod interviews Lynn Harding, the little known marathon runner from Milngavie who set a Scottish national record of 2:31:45 when finishing eighth in the London Marathon, and who became the first Scot to achieve a qualifying time for New Zealand.

Having only taken up running five years ago, Lynn Harding stole a march on much more experienced Scottish athletes by racing well within the Commonwealth Gaes qualifying time of 2:35 at the recent London Marathon.   The race was only the second marathon of her life making her eighth place time of 2:31:45 even more remarkable.   Unlike most of our top athletes, Lynn’s career did not start as a young girl.   It began five years ago when as a 22 year old she decided to join a Harriers club to get some company in her newly adopted town of Sunderland.  

Lynn was born and brought up in the Glasgow area, attending Douglas Academy in Milngavie and then Glasgow College of Technology where she gained her degree in accountancy.   Having graduated, she found that job prospects were poor and so for eleven months Lynn was out of work.   “I felt quite ashamed at being unemployed – previously I thought everyone who signed on was just scrounging.   I started avoiding the neighbours as they kept asking if I’d had ‘any luck yet?’   They weren’t being nasty but they would have heard as soon as I got a job.”

It was at this point that she decided to take up running in order to occupy herself while she had nothing to do.   “I’d always enjoyed walking, so by running I could see even more of the countryside.   The other advantage of running was that it was cheap.”   Almost a year after graduating Lynn was offered a job.  However she had to leave home to move to England and an accountancy post with the Sunderland and South Shields Water Company.

Since then Lynn has been living and working in England and running for her local club, Houghton Harriers.   Her training began modestly – around four miles, three times a week, and then after about a year and a half she increased this to 25 miles a week.  “At the time I thought it was a massive mileage,” she laughs, “but I achieved my big target of being able to go out running with the men  and keeping up with them.”    As time passed, Lynn gradually increased her training and ran a few races ranging from 3000m to half marathons, then two years ago she realised that the 1990 Commonwealth Games were in Auckland, New Zealand.   It was at this point that she made a committed decision to gain a marathon place in the Scottish team.   She trained hard and last September she had her first experience  over the distance – the NALGO North Tyneside Marathon.   She finished with a time of 2:47:59, with the realisation that to gain Commonwealth selection, she would probably have to lose around 13 minutes from her time.  

She geared everything towards the London Marathon, intending to compete with the sole aim of running under the Commonwealth Games qualifying time of 2:35:00.   To help her with her task,   coach Paul Bentley took a higher profile in the athlete/coach relationship.   Previously he was very much an adviser, but only if Lynn asked him for help.    “Before the London, I thought I could maybe do 2:35:00, so I aimed to do all my mile split times in even time – that way I would stay on course for the time.”   Came the day of the race everything went exactly to plan.   “I managed to do all the splits to time and I just kept it going.   The only slight difficulties were when I first ht the cobblestones at around 22 miles, but they didn’t last for long.”

Sitting in their respective homes, Paul Bentley and Lynn’s family were despairing.   After the first couple of women had finished the race, the television coverage left the finish line to look at the field still out on the course.   The minutes were creeping towards and then past the magic 2:35:00 and still no sign of Lynn.   Just as anxiety was at fever pitch the results of the top group of women were flashed on the screen.   “8th: Lynn Harding: 2:31:45”.

“Bloody Hell!” were Paul Bentley’s exact words, as Mrs Bentley will testify.   Meanwhile in the Harding household in Milngavie, Lynn’s  Dad nearly jumped through the ceiling in joy and amazement!   “I phoned home after the race – my Dad was almost in tears.”   Were Lynn’s family surprised by her success?   “My Dad said he thought I was doing OK at the Harriers, but he didn’t think I was at this standard – he thought I was just a plodder!”

After the race, Alan Storey, the former GB national marathon coach said of the plodder, “It was a superb run.   She recently started to train under the guidance of Paul Bentley – he will be pleasantly surprised that at this stage she has been able to run that much faster.”   So what happens now in Lynn’s Commonwealth mission?   One thing that has been decided is that she will not be running another marathon before the Games.   “I think you can only do two good marathons a year,” she explained, “any more and it’s not fair on your body.”

As far as Lynn’s training goes, Paul would like to improve her speed by working over shorter distances.   He also planes to incorporate some hill running early on in her preparations for Auckland.  “She has already exceeded my expectations”, he said, “so we’ll have to think again about what she can do.”

All in all, it seems to have been Lynn’s single-mindedness and acute determination which have carried her to her achievements.   Bentley thinks it may be something to do with the disciplines of an accountant being as rigorous as those of a marathon runner.    Lynn agrees that she is well disciplined and adds that she would never think twice about doing a training run, no matter how long or how bad the weather.   Much of Lynn’s training is done alone, often without Paul to encourage her on her way.   Doesn’t she ever get lonely or question her dedication on a 22 mile Sunday run in the rain?   “I would get lonely if I was doing it 52 weeks in a year, but it’s OK as I’m training for a specific event.   After the Commonwealth I probably won’t do any more marathons anyway.   I’ll still compete but I prefer to run distances like 10 miles.   I’m pretty hopeless on the track but I’d like to try a 10,000m.”

One of the reasons Lynn feels she is so determined in her training is because she did not run when she was younger.   “I had a normal teenage life, I did everything I wanted to do, but now I have made the decision to run.   I’ve got a keen appetite for it as it is all new and exciting – I think people who have been running 12 and 14 years must get a bit stale.”

Although until now Lynn has been a little known name in Scotland, it is not because she has deliberately decided to Anglicize herself.   She is fiercely proud of being a Scot and would like nothing more than to be an integral part of the Scottish athletics scene.   Assuming Lynn is in the team for Auckland – and the selectors have said that all athletes who achieve the ‘A’ guideline will go – it’ll be almost a Cinderella type story – but this time the unknown at the ball will be there thanks to the magic of her own self-belief and commitment to her dream.

HARDing FACTS

Occupation:   Accountant

Occupation:   Accountant

Born:   Milngavie

Height:   5’5″

Weight:   7 stone, 7 pounds

PB’s:   3000m   9:35;   10K   33:26;   10 Miles   55:38;   half marathon:   74:16;   marathon   2:31:45

Typical week’s schedule:   Monday – Friday: 4 miles easy to work in mornings

Monday:   pm   7 miles steady

Tuesday:   pm   10 miles road run (with fast bursts of 3 x 5 minutes or 5 x 3 minutes, 2 – 2 minutes recovery between.)

Wednesday:   pm   steady 12 – 15 miles road run.

Thursday:   pm   Track session (range of  2 x 7 x 400   –   6 x 1600m (78/80 sec laps, short recovery)

Friday:   pm   rest

Saturday:   road or cross-country race (approx 3 miles)

Sunday:   long run (16 – 22 miles)

Average weekly mileage:  80 miles.

 

 

Later in 1989 Lynn improved her track times. She ran 3000m in 9.39.0 and won a gold medal when winning the Scottish 10,000m in a Championship Best Performance of 34.00.4. After a very fast PB half marathon in 73.09, she was selected to run for GB at the World 15k Road Race at Rio de Janeiro in September, finishing 36th in 54.30. The team was fourth.

Lynn raced mainly in the Newcastle area but often travelled to Scotland, usually for half marathons. On the seventh of August 1988 she set a record of 74.58 (which still stands in 2010) for the Moray Half Marathon, not that far behind the men’s winner Colin Youngson (69.18). As late as June 1994 she won the Dumfries Half Marathon.   In 1990 she came close to her 10km best in 33.32 as well as running a half marathon in 73.57 for fifth in the Great North Run. She won half marathons at Nairn and Cleveland, before finishing eleventh (2.47.24) for Scotland in the Auckland Commonwealth Games Marathon.

The marathon was not tackled by Lynn in 1991. She won 10 mile road race in North Shields in March and a 10k in Forres in May. However in 1992 she enjoyed a much better season, starting with a victory in March at the Redcar Half Marathon (76.01). Then on 30th May she ran for GB in the Stockholm Marathon, finishing a good third (2.43.26). In August she won at Nairn (77.16) and was fourth in the Great Scottish Run half marathon in Glasgow (75.43). This was her build-up for the Berlin Marathon on 27th September 1992, when she was tenth in an impressive 2.38.01.

In 1993 her Autumn season followed a similar pattern, with 4th in the Great Scottish Run (75.43); a win at Hexham over ten miles (56.41); and on 10th October a win over twenty miles at South Shields (1.57.58). Then on 31st October she was tenth in the San Sebastian Marathon in an excellent 2.35.04.

1994 was Commonwealth Games year and Lynn Harding tried to build up once again. In March she won a ten mile race (56.06) at Tynemouth and a twenty mile race (1.59.45) in Hull. In July she won the Helensburgh Half Marathon in 75.28. Then on the 27th of August she represented Scotland in the Commonwealth Games Marathon in Victoria, Canada. The field was small but very competitive. Lynn hung on as long as possible before fighting to the finish in 12th place (2.40.57, ten minutes behind the Canadian winner. Lynn’s time was second on that season’s Scottish ranking list to the outstanding W35 Karen Macleod, who was fourth (2.33.16) in Victoria.

Lynn made a very successful foray into ultra distance running in May 1995 when she was second in the European 100km Championships in France.   In her debut at this distance, she finished in the excellent time of 7 hours 52 minutes 23 seconds, and also led the Great Britain Ladies to Second Team behind the host nation and ahead of Germany.   Two European silver medals in one race!   Fellow Scot Donald Ritchie became European Over 50 champ in the same race, recording 7:16:17 while representing Great Britain for the eighth time.

Although road was her favourite surface, Lynn Harding had always been a good cross-country runner, winning an individual silver medal in the 1988 Scottish Championship after a real battle with Sandra Branney; and following that with a bronze medal in 1989. On the 9th of November 1996, she ran brilliantly for Scotland to win the W35 race in the British Home Countries International CC at Beach Park, Irvine, defeating athletes from Eire, Northern Ireland, England, Wales and of course Scotland.

Lynn was a quiet, modest, friendly International Athlete who ran in a stylish controlled way, to produce some excellent performances, especially over the marathon and her favourite half marathon distance.

Hayley Haining

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 Hayley Haining

Hayley Haining in World Championships,  Helsinki 2005

Hayley Haining is an immensely talented athlete who has had a career which incorporated more misfortune through accident, injury and interruption than any that I can think of.   Add the whole dreadful business surrounding the Beijing Olympic selection fiasco in 2008 and the admiration for her talent pales beside wonder at her sheer determination and courage.   Born in Dumfries on 6th March 1972 she won the British Schools Cross-Country international in 1985 at the age of 13 in 1985 and later that year won the SWAAA 800m title for her age group.   In 2005 – twenty years later – she was running for Britain in the World Marathon Championships in Helsinki  and three years after that she was reserve for the Olympics Marathon squad, four runners having done the qualifying time.   In the interim she packed a wonderful career as an endurance runner.     Just look at the range and quality of her list of personal bests.

Distance Time Date Event Venue Distance Time Date Event Venue
800m 2:10.96 1986 WAAA U15 Birmingham 10000m 32:47.98 2007 BMC Grand Prix Watford
1000m 2:51.4 1986 Nike U15 Tonbridge 5K 15:49 1988    
1500m 4:14.78 1989     5 Miles 26:29 2000 Compaq Balmoral
Mile 4:38.71 1991 Reebok Loughborough 10 K 32:24 2008 Great Wales Run Cardiff
3000m 9:12.28 1991 World Student Games Sheffield 10 Miles 54:31 2007 Brampton – Carlisle Brampton
2 Miles 9:51.38 1989     Half-Marathon 70:53 2008 Great North Run Newcastle
5000m 15:48.05 1999     Marathon 2:29:18 2008 London Marathon London

Her times for 5000m, 5K (Road), 5 Miles (Road), Half-Marathon and Marathon ranked her respectively 33rd, 14th, 20th, 15th and ninth in British all-time rankings, and appears in no fewer than six Scottish all-time lists being third in the marathon.   She won the AAA’s 5000m in 1999 and was most unfortunate not to run in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing when the selectors gave up on a difficult decision.

Hayley is reported to have taken up athletics at the age of twelve when she went along to her local athletics club, Nith Valley AC, with her elder sister.   She is quoted as saying, “she is the one who wanted to go, I just went along with her but I found I enjoyed it and then kept going back, trying out different events.”   It took several years but eventually she settled for the distance events and  in 1986 she showed just what she could do.   Starting the year with a victory in the Scottish Juniors (Under 15) Cross-Country Championship and followed with an excellent summer on the track.   Two personal bests, both set outwith Scotland, were the highlights.  ‘Scotland’s Runner’ for May 1987 reported on the Schools Cross-Country Championships at Irvine as follows: “The outstanding performance was that of Hayley Haining (Maxwelltown High) who stepped up to the 15 – 17 age group and won by a huge distance, recording a time 17:36 for the 4500.   To put her achievement in perspective, Aberdeen Grammar’s Carolyn Sheehan won the Over 17 category in 18:51!    …   Hayley Haining’s favourite athlete is Yvonne Murray – “she’s really nice!”    Her ambition is “to own a thatched cottage somewhere, like in the Miss Marple programmes,” and her worst nightmare is “being chased by a lawnmower.”   Isn’t it even money that Hayley can beat nay lawnmower?”   

An 800m in 2:10.96 in the WAAA Championships in Birmingham and a British Under 15 record for 1000m at Tonbridge showed her ability on the wider stage and a readiness to travel.   They also showed that she had a supportive background from which to work.   Coached from the very start by Jock Redmond from Sanquhar, he remained her coach until her late twenties.   In February 1987 she won the Junior Cross Country for the second time and ran in the World 6K Cross-Country Championships where she finished twenty second.

When asked in an interview for the website www.runbritain.com  “How did it feel to collect your first major medal?   How did the race go?”   her reply was that her first major medal was the Under 14 girls 800m at the Scottish Schools in 1985.   No one expected it, including myself.   I only remember going through the bell and feeling that everyone else seemed to be slowing down and thinking “Oh my goodness!   I’m at the front!”   I just kept running and luckily the line came before I had time to panic.   I remember looking into the stand to see my mum and my best friend’s mum jumping up and down on their seats – at 13 I was mortified.”   (I can recommend the interview which can be found at www.runbritain.com )   Apparently she had told her Mum at the age of four that she wanted to be a vet.   At home in Dumfries she lived near a vet and grew up with animals all around and they have been a major part of her life.   However the fondness and proximity to animals almost cost her her running career.   At 15, she was helping attend to a pair of young horses at an agricultural show but one of them spooked and pulled her to the ground while the other trampled on her.   So severe was the injury that the hamstring was almost torn from one of her legs.   Fortunately the jeans that she was wearing helped hold the battered leg together.   Her cross-country career had been progressing steadily and when she moved up to the Intermediate (Under 17) age group she finished third just half a minute behind the winner.   However after the incident referred to above she missed the next two championships.

1991 started with a victory in the Scottish Senior Cross-Country Championships, 18 seconds ahead of Vicki Vaughan of Pitreavie and Vicki McPherson of Glasgow University.  Doug Gillon reported as follows in the ‘Herald’:  “The prodigious talent of Hayley Haining, still a young senior under Scottish women’s cross-country rules,  not only earned the senior women’s title at Irvine yesterday but also finally brought her justice from Britain’s cross-country selectors.   Within minutes, June Ward, secretary of the Scottish Women’s Cross-Country and Road Running Association, was pleading the 18-year-old’s case at the UK World Championship selection meeting, ensuring that the former Nith Valley girl was not once again overlooked for a British vest.   Earlier this year, Haining, the UK’s number one junior this winter, was ignored for the Ekiden Relay in Hawaii.   “I’m looking forward to racing against the girls who got that trip”, said vet student Haining, who joins Liz McColgan as the only Scots in the world squad. ”   In the actual international championships at Antwerp on 24th March, Hayley was seventh to finish: first Britain in a team which finished fourth but fifteenth and 14 seconds back down the field was one who was to figure largely in her future career – Paula Radcliffe.

As an Under 20 track athlete in 1991, Hayley had a good season and continued the tendency to travel to good races when she was third at Loughborough on the 23rd June in a 1500m in 4:19.83 and returned a month later to record 4:38.71 to be second in a Mile at the Reebok  meeting.   On the 20th July that year she recorded  9:12.28 in the World Student Games 3000m at Sheffield.  Then she was sixth in the 1500m at the European Students Games at Thessaloniki in Greece in 4:25.26 on 9th August.   In the AAA’s Junior championships, she won the 3000m title in 9:31.32.   Clearly a successful season by any standards but the best came at the end of the year when this time she did get the Ekiden selection.

 In an interview for the website  www.inthewinningzone.com , she spoke of her first ever GB vest.   “An excited description of Hogmanay 1991 indicates that her memories are both cherished and crystal clear.   A 19 year old Haining embarked on her first senior athletics adventure having earned her first Great Britain vest as part of a team to compete in an international Ekiden Relay meet in Barcelona.   Glancing at the start list she saw a number of experienced names, many of whom had their own chunk of gold to show for their achievements in the sport.   ‘I remember seeing names like Wanda Panfil (World marathon record holder at the time) and Yelena Romanova (Olympic gold medallist a year later) and I was thinking, “Oh my goodness!” she laughed.  

However Haining was not overawed by the experience of the opposition in her leg of the relay, though she admits that she was in a position to race against the best in the world, but her mind did not go blank.   Sights and sounds remain embedded in her memory of her first experience of world class athletics.   “Every time I went through a kilometre what sounded like a cannon or a rifle would go off.   I remember helicopters flying above us throughout the race.   The whole thing for me, at 19 years of age, was incredible.”   Haining’s first major event was more successful than anyone expected, most of all herself.   “It was very, very fast,” she remembers, in fact she was the fastest on her leg of the relay and she crossed the line before any of her competitors.   

“I was so shocked when I reached the finish line, I sat down on the kerb and my legs went from me – I think I was just so overwhelmed.   I knew I had run so fast and I didn’t know where it had come from!”  

 But, she had been plagued throughout her teenage years by pronation of the foot and weak muscles in her lower shins.   Whenever she was improving and reaching her targets, injury would strike.   At the age of 19, after gaining her first Great Britain Senior vest, Hayley sustained a bone stress fracture that not only took several months to heal but it took her four years to get out of an injury cycle where she would recover, or partially recover, from one injury and gain another injury or accident.   While concentrating on her studies to get through Veterinary School in Glasgow, alongside dealing with injury, Haining decided to put athletics on a back-burner for a number of years.   She was back in action however in 1996 and on 15th December at Charleroi, having gained selection for the GB  team for the European Cross-Country Championships, she finished ninth and led the British women to the silver medals..   On her way back to competition fitness, she had run 10K on the road in33:25 at Solihull in October (placing her third on the ranking list behind Liz and Yvonne) and a half marathon in Glasgow in 77:01 (placing her fifth).

In 1997,  she ran on the 11th January at Luton in the CAU Inter Counties match and finished fourth in 20:28 running in the colours of Greater Manchester.   In the Scottish Championship at Perth on 16th February Hayley Haining won in 23:26 from Fiona Lothian in 26:00.    Back in Luton on 2nd March for the BAF Cross Country Championships, she won in 19:15 – five full seconds clear of the second runner.   This qualified her for the World Cross-Country 6K race in Turin on 23rd March  where she was 22nd, second GB runner behind Paula Radcliffe in second place.   In the Scottish Athletics Yearbook for 1998 (1997 results) we see her ranked fifth in the 10000m on the road with a time of 34:20 at Barnsley in November but not anywhere else.

1998 started with the World Cross Championships at Marrakech in March where in the 8K race she was thirteenth – not having run in the Scottish Championships in February – and again second Briton behind Paula Radcliffe in second.   There were no other races on the country listed in the Annual Yearbook either for the start or the end of the year.   On the roads however she is credited with a 5K in 15:49 in Edinburgh on 14th March which topped the rankings with Karen MacLeod second with 16:58 – more than a minute behind.   That was the sole mark recorded.

In 1999   Hayley Haining did not appear in any of the early season cross country fixtures missing the National and the World Championships.   There was a surprise for her admirers during the summer season however – Hayley Haining returned to the track.   The ‘Yearbook’ said above the 1500m rankings, “27-year-old Glasgow vet, Hayley Haining, who had never bettered 4:20 for the metric mile, twice set times under 4:16 with a best of 4:14.78 to take ninth position on the all-time lists, the first to enter the top ten since 1991.   Two of her fastest three runs were achieved in mixed races at the valuable, athlete-friendly Grangemouth open graded meetings in her first track races since 1996 due to persistent injuries.”   Her times ranked her first (4:14.78), second 4:15.85) and tenth (4:23.7).   There was more – comments on the 3000m rankings were as follows: Hayley Haining became the thirteenth fastest Scot over the distance when recording 9:14.0 in a Two Mile race at Loughborough with another back-up run just fractionally slower over 11 seconds ahead of second ranked Katie Skorupska. ”   The times in question were 9:14.0 at Loughborough on 23rd May and 9:14.05 at Solihull on 14th July.   Comments on the 5000m performances read “Hayley Haining, second ranked in the UK Merit rankings behind Paula Radcliffe, and Katie Skorupska both bettered 16 minutes for the first time to rank fourth and fifth all-time … Having confirmed her excellent form at all events from 1500m upwards when recording her fastest time in an international grand prix  race at Crystal Palace, Haining had her best competitive moment on the track when winning the AAA Championships at Birmingham.”   The fast times were 15:46.05 at London on 7th August, 15:48.98 at Ashford in Kent on 28th August and 15:56.59 when winning the AAA’s at Birmingham on 24th July.   It should be noted that two of the above times – 9:14.05 at Solihull and 4:14.78 at Scotstoun were run in BMC Nike Grand Prix races: Hayley was a supporter of these races which have helped so many athletes.   She had not however abandoned the road running scene and topped the ratings for the 5000m with a time of 16:23 at Bath on 28th March and for the 10K with 33:48 at Bedford on 25th April.   At the end of the year there were several good cross-country performances,   On 21st November in the Margate International she ran into fourth place in 18:25 in a close race – only eight seconds between first and fourth!   The European Championships were held in Slovenia on 12th December and she finished eighteenth.   1999 had been a good year for Hayley Haining.

Hayley began 2000 with fourth place in the Reebok CAU Inter-Counties and followed up with a victory in the Scottish Cross-Country Championships leading the City of Glasgow team to gold.  After which she was fourth in the UK Cross-Country Championships 8K race which earned selection for the World Cross-Country.   Held on 18th March at Vilamoura in Portugal, over the same distance, she was 56th.   The Statistical Annual Yearbook commented at the top of the 1500m lists that ‘an out-of-sorts Hayley Haining was almost 11 seconds slower than her 1999 best.’   Her time was 4:25.6 run at Grangemouth on 2nd August.   There was no Hayley in the 3000m at all and in the 5000m she had a time of 16:29.8 which ranked her third Scot, although it was good enough to win her the Scottish 5000m championship at Scotstoun in July.   Top of the rankings on the road 5 Miles with 26:29 at Balmoral in April, she was second in the 10K behind Lynne MacDougall with 33:38 – 16 seconds down.   The only road victory was in the Capital City 10K in Edinburgh in September where the time was 35:06.   At the very end of the year, Hayley ran in the Reebok Challenge at Cumbernauld on 16th December and finished third leading the West of Scotland to a team victory.

In one interview (In The Winning Zone) she is quoted as saying that “the dark cloud of injury caught up with Haining soon enough and in 2000 she decided to pursue a PhD and take a rest from her injury ridden hobby.   “I didn’t have enough time for the physio and everything,” she admits.  The sport which had provided Haining with such enjoyment and so many adventures was beginning to take its toll n her.    She reached a low in her athletics career whilst out injured in her third significant spell away from the sport.   “At that point I didn’t think I would ever race again.   I didn’t think I would have the energy to deal with all the injuries,” she recalls.    However with the support of her partner Willy and various other figures in her life Hayley was back.   Back setting targets, back in training and back enjoying herself.   She describes running as a ‘bug’ and her fervour for the sport is infectious.   “I think running is entrenched in my lifestyle,” she laughs, “It crept back and I joined my local club, Kilbarchan, again and that’s when I became infected with the bug again.”     

Nevertheless in 2001 she was again top Scot in both 5000m and 10000m on the roads with 16:53 at Glasgow in April and 33:40, also in Glasgow, in May.   In an interview with ‘The Scotsman’ in August, Hayley is quoted as saying, “I wasn’t injured when I stopped running four years ago but I was having to do a lot of rehab work at home every day just to be able to run.  Plus my work was so time consuming so the most sensible thing to do was to chill out for a while.   It was difficult to break the habit of a lifetime so I was still going out and doing some jogging and looking after my ankles and feet.   It wasn’t like I sat on my backside for four years,” she joked.  

Spring 2004, with her PhD completed, the brightening weather encouraged her back out running more often although an international return was the last think on her mind.   She started training with the Kilbarchan club and running a half marathon in Glasgow and a 10K in Dumfries.   And then the marathon appeared on the horizon”    True to her word, there were no competitive sightings of Hayley Haining in either 2002 or 2003.   The ability had not gone away and the break might have done her good.

She opened 2004 with 75:35 in the local Kirkcudbright Half-Marathon on 29th May.   It was her first victory in an excellent season.   On 8th August she was slightly slower when she did 79:45 in the Barr-Brady Helensburgh Half Marathon which was another win.   The Fresh ‘n’ Lo Great Scottish Run was on 22nd August and she was timed at 77:21.   Then on 1st September it was 35:08 in another local race, the  Gallovidian-Dumfries 10K where she was again first.  After the half marathons and 10K, she did the in-between distance of 10 miles on 20th November in 56:27 in the Brampton – Carlisle, before ending the year on 5th December with 34:47 to win the Stranraer 10K.    It had been her first proper season on the roads and it had gone well.   Still, the jump up to the full marathon distance is never easy and many top runners never make it.  At the end of that summer she was ranked sixth in the 10K, top in the 10 miles and fourth in the half marathon and with at least four first places behind her.

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The Helsinki bronze medal winning team, 2005

But Hayley ran not one marathon, but two in 2005.   Her first notable event was on 23rd January when she was timed at 73:31 for the Brass Monkey Half Marathon in York – an event that she would run again.   On 20th March she ran the identical time of 73:31  in the  Wilkinson Ackworth Half Marathon in the North East of England.   Then it was the big one – on 17 April the marathon career started for the woman who had started out running fast 800m races as a twelve year old.   In the Flora London Marathon she clocked an outstanding 2:35:23.   Established marathon runners now sat up and took serious notice.   The good running continued:   On 9 June she ran 33:18 in the Polaroid 10K in Dumbarton and on 26th June her time of 75:32 won the  Diet Coke Half Marathon in East Kilbride.   Her next marathon came up on 14th August when she raced to a pb of 2:34:41   Helsinki in a team than, led by Paula Radford was third so that she came home with a medal.   On 2nd October she competed in the World Half Marathon Championship in Edmonton, Canada, and finished 24th  in 73:39..   She returned to the Brampton to Carlisle 10 Miles on 19th November and ran 54:50, before ending the year on 4th December with 34:06 in the Hugh Wilson Memorial 10K  at East Kilbride.   It had been an excellent year with two successful marathons completed and the world half-marathon run in Canada.    At the end of the year she was second in four events on the road – first Scot in the eyes of many: in the 10K she was second to Kathy Butler with 33:18 run in Dumbarton to Butler’s 32:24 run in Atlanta; second in the 10 Miles with 54:50 to Butler’s 54:34 run in Philadelphia; second in the Half-Marathon with 72:34 to her rival’s 71:53 also run in Philadelphia; and second in the Marathon with her 2:34:41 run in Helsinki second to Butler’s Chicago run of 2:30:01.    Next year was now the one to look forward to.

The big event for almost all sporting Scots was the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.   With the qualifying time achieved in 2005, she was at the start line in Melbourne, Australia on 19th March.   Another good run saw her finish ninth in  2:39:39, one place and 20 seconds ahead of Scottish rival Susan Partridge.   Clear of injuries, she won the  Jim Dingwall Memorial Round the Houses 10K in Grangemouth in 33:26 on 23rd April and two weeks later ran a 34:11 in the BUPA Great Edinburgh run.   Two weeks after that (21st May) it was the Scottish Half Marathon Championships, Dunfermline in 74:19.   She seemed to like East Kilbride and on 25th June she won the Diet Coke half marathon in 72:27.   At the end of August (28th) in the Paisley Vision 10K 34:30 was the time when winning this one too.   In September she ran 33:26 in the City of Stirling 10K and her time of 71:41 was recorded in the Great North Run.    Her second marathon of the year was the Adidas Dublin Marathon where 2:31:51 was another personal best.   It was a genuine international field and it is worth recording the top five finishers:   1. A Ivanova (Russia)  2:29:49;   2. H Haining  2:31:51;   3.   L Zyusko (Russia)   2:33:09;   4.  L Cheptumi (Kenya)   2:33:34; 5.  J Vinoukorova (Russia) 2:33:43.  At the year’s end Hayley had two first places in the rankings and three seconds – all to Kathy Butler who did the times in Philadelphia and Chicago again.   Hayley was top in the 5 Miles (27:15), second in the 10K (32:26), top in the 10 miles (54:21), second in both half-marathon (71:41) and marathon (2:31:41).

She must have gone into 2007 in good heart and started the year on 21 January with a time of 72:06 Brass Monkey Half Marathon, York   1st.    In the ‘Let’s Run’ interview she replied to a question about what has been her favourite race with, “I have done the Brass Monkey half marathon several times now.   It is a flat, fast course (if a little exposed!), well organised with a great atmosphere.”   Hayley went on to win the Grangemouth Round the Houses race 10K on 15th April in 32:59 and then on   26 May ran 72:24 in the Kirkcudbright Academy Half Marathon where she was first.   On the 30 June 32:47.96   BMC Nike GP   Watford she was 2nd  in 32:47.95  (5000 16:14.9) and on 5th  August it was 33:14 in the Scottish Gas City if Edinburgh 10K.   On 19 August she ran 32:59   Birchwood 10K, and on 2nd September she was timed in at 71:18 in the  Fresh ‘n ‘Lo Great Scottish Run Half Marathon.   The times were coming fast with every race so it was no real surprise to see another personal best in the Real Berlin Marathon on 30th September of 2:30:43.   She was sixth.    In November, it was back to the Brampton race where she won in 54:31.

2008 was Olympic year and given the times being recorded by Hayley, she must have had a real chance of making the team.   No one realised how close it was going to be!   She started the year with the, by now customary, Brass Monkey Half Marathon and ran the fast time of 71:46.   That was in January and the next fast run was the Asics/Sweatshop Reading Half Marathon where she was even faster with 71:03.   These set her up for the Flora London Marathon to be run on 13th April: it turned out to be another personal best and 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 third Briton  when she finished behind Liz Yelling and had the time.   BUT – and it was a very big but – Paula Radford had not run because she was injured and the selectors had to have her in mind.   There were four with the qualifying time but only three places: Yelling and Mara Yamauchi would both be going to the Games but Radcliffie would go only if she were fit enough.   If that were not the case, then Haining would join the other two.   The two had been rivals as Juniors with Haining being regarded as the more outstanding prospect of the two but injury after injury had taken their toll and Radcliffe had gone on to win the medals and make a fortune while the Scot had been happy just to run.   Nevertheless when the selectors abandoned their responsibility and decided that they would leave it up to Paula to decide whether she would run or not it was clear that Hayley’s chance had gone.   No athlete would turn down the chance of running in the Olympics, no matter how many medals they had or how many Games they had competed in.  But Paula refused to say whether she would run or not until the very, very last minute.   An article in ‘The Scotsman’ of 22nd July, 2008, contained the following section.

“It remains unclear whether Hayley Haining will be going for gold this year at Beijing but whether she runs or not, the 37-year-old has already displayed the composure, drive and mental strength common to all Olympians.   However else is an athlete meant to prepare physically and mentally for sport’s greatest event when all the while they must wrestle with the knowledge that such a golden opportunity could be denied at the last moment?   It is fate both enviable and tortuous but one that Haining has come to terms with in recent months.   As the official reserve for Paula Radcliffe, the world marathon record holder and leading lady of British athletics Haining is on standby.   Should Radcliffe – diagnosed with a stress fracture in her left femur in May – fail to recover from injury, then her place will be taken by the Scot.   Radcliffe last week underwent a medical examination in Middlesex.   The only result was to further ambiguity.   Now back in her base in the French Pyrenees, the former BBC Sports Personality of the Year says she is  fighting her own “race against against time ” .    Given her pedigree UK Athletics are postponing any decision until the last possible moment.   The call, it has been suggested, may not be made until the eve of the race.”    As it turned out, Paula chose to run and after finishing twenty third said that there had been no long runs in training and a lot of the running had been indoors and the whole thing seemed strange to the ear of the bystander.   And for the 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.

Nevetheless, Hayley worked throughout the summer with a whole series of brilliant performances:   26th May: BUPA London 10K – 33:56;   1st July:  Scottish Athletics 10K   32:57.91;   27th July:  BUPA Great Wales Run – 32:24;   7th September: Fresh ‘n’ Lo Great Scottish Run – 71:28;   5th October: BUPA Great North Run – 70:53.  The year ended with th the New York City Marathon in 2:35:11, half marathon split of 75:23.   By any reasonable criterion she should have been at the Games and she was badly treated, but she did not complain, she never criticised either Radcliffe or the selectors although she must have been however slightly irked, and it was a good season.

2009 was a bit of an anti-climax but the good running continued.   On 10th May Hayley ran  33:31 in the City of Glasgow Women’s 10K and a month later 34:12 in the BUPA Great North Run 10K at Sunderland.   Two good races in August were both 10K’s – 34:29 on 2nd August in the Scottish 10K in Edinburgh and 34:08 in the Paisley Vision race on 30th August.   There was only the one marathon in 2009 and that was in Berlin where she recorded 2:36:08 and, as is the custom now, the half-marathon time was given – 74:31.

There is the tale that I heard from a friend and fellow-competitor of the European Cross-Country Championships in Edinburgh in 2002 when several athletes were assigned to the visiting nations as hosts.   Hayley was allocated the Ukraine team and when Sergey Lebid won his race, he insisted that Hayley accompany him to the bar.   Her Mum had to come to drive her car home!

Having a good job at Glasgow University and having given birth to a son in August 2010, she could be excused for stopping running and racing after having been in the sport since the early 1980’s but Hayley said that it is like a bug or an infection and she is still racing – maybe not as frequently but still appearing on race start lines.   In 2011 she ran 78:46 in the Bank of Scotland Half-Marathon in Glasgow and 2:35:10 in the New York City Marathon.    ‘If only …’ are words heard too often (and usually inappropriately) in sport, but in Hayley Haining’s case I’ll take the risk of asking – “What if her career had been minus all the stop/starts?

 

Dale Greig

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From Wikipedia: “Dale Greig (Born March 15, 1937) is a former Scottish long-distance runner who is recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federations as having set a world best in the women’s marathon on May 23, 1964 with a time of 3:27:45.   Greig held world best time until Mildred Sampson set a new mark nearly three months later.   With this performance she became the first woman to break 3 hr 30 min for the marathon distance.   Her record was set on 23 May 1964 at the Isle of Wight Marathon where she was followed round the course by an ambulance.   It was her first attempt at the distance.    She was also the first woman to run the 55 mile London-to-Brighton race in 8:30 in 1972 – seven years before female competitors were offically allowed.   In 1974 at the age of 37 she won the first international championship marathon for women at the world veterans’ championships in Paris.”   

The above entry from Wiki says a lot about her claim to fame but does not tell anything like the full story of Dale Greig’s remarkable career.    Track Champion,. Cross Country champion and international athlete for 13 years, marathon pioneer and world record holder, ultra marathon runner and more covers the bases and we need to look at what she did before the remarkable run in Ryde.    Doug Gillon listed some of her career highlights in an article in ‘The Herald’ in April 1998 as follows.

  • Scottish Universities 440 yards champion 1956
  • Scottish Cross Country Champion 1960, 1962, 1964 and 1968
  • Scottish Cross Country Internationalist 1957 – 1970
  • World Record Holder Women’s Marathon, 1964
  • First Woman to run the Isle of Man 40 Miles TT Mountain Course, 1971
  • Ran up and down Ben Nevis (4400 feet) 1971
  • First Woman to run the London to Brighton 53 miles 1972
  • IGAL World Champion Women’s Marathon, Draveil, Paris, 1974
  • Competed in 10 IGAL Championships and three European Championships

It is clear that we are not talking about a plodder who was lucky one day – we are talking about a serious athlete who had a core of steel which enabled her to do remarkable things in the sport.   If we take her career in order we might get some idea of what she had to do to become one of the top rated world athletes: was she not rated ahead of Ingrid Kristiansen, Wanda Panfil, Rosa Mota and others in an American poll of The Greatest Women Marathon Runners in history where she was ranked ninth with Catherine Ndereba first.

Dale started off her career as a track runner in summer and cross country runner in winter.   One of the interesting facts of her cross country career was the close rivalry at times with that other great marathon pioneer who came after Dale and who capitalised on what she did to such an extent that women’s marathon running in Britain was never the same again: Leslie Watson.    If we look at their relative positions in the SWCCU Championships between 1964 and 1971 we get this picture.

Year Dale’s Position Leslie’s Position Time Difference (where known)
1964 1 4
1965 3
1966 2 1 8 seconds
1967 2 1 11 seconds
1968 1 6
1969 8 7 14 seconds
1970 8 9 12 seconds
1971 10 9 3 seconds

In 1966 she was ranked fifth in Scotland for the Mile which was the longest distance women could race at the time with 5:36.0 – Leslie was second with 5:14.4 – and in the SWAAA Mile championships she was third to Watson’s first place; in the West District championship, she was third while Watson was second.   At this point she was of course thinking of the marathon.   Her next appearance in the ranking lists is in 1969 when the 3000 metres was introduced to the championships and she was fourth with a time of 11:46.5 on the cinder track at Scotstoun.   It is of more than passing interest to note that she was running for a club named Tannahill LAC.   There had been no club for women in Paisley at the time and this was not unusual, for instance in Greenock there were two clubs for men (Greenock Glenpark and Greenock Well park) and the women had to form their own club, Greenock Rankin Park LAC.    The difference was that Tannahill was a one member club – Dale was president, secretary and treasurer and sole running member!   When one bears in mind that this meant that she had to pay all the affiliation fees (SWAAA, SWCCU, County, etc) out of her own pocket as well as all the incidental costs that clubs have to bear in order to survive.   It was clear that she meant business.

A better than average career but not enough for Dale.    At a time when the longest distance that women could run on the track was one mile, she took on the challenge of running 26+ miles.    Working as secretary in Walter Ross’s printing firm, she knew of the marathon at Ryde in the Isle of Wight.    Walter’s brother lived in the Isle of Man so it was that she went to run in that one.    She couldn’t run with the men, that was clear so she started four minutes ahead of the field.   The first of the 67 men entered passed her soon after the start but she finished the course, the challenge was simply to last the distance.   She finished in 3:27:45 – she insists that she was actually 20 seconds faster but the recognised time was published in ‘Athletics Weekly’ and although the magazine published a correction a few weeks later, it has been ignored and the 45 seconds remained.    The report in ‘AW’ was fairly detailed as far as the men were concerned but at the bottom, after the results and separated from the report by a line, it said “Scottish girl Dale Greig, starting 4 minutes before the men, ran unofficially and completed the tough course in 3h 27m 45s.”   The report in the local paper for Saturday, May 23rd, (from which the picture at the top is taken) read: “A slim 27-year-old Scots girl astounded the AAA officials when she completed the IW Marathon course on Saturday – the first woman to run this distance in Britain..   Dale Greig who at weekends turns out for her local club at Tannahill, Paisley,, came to the Island a week beforehand to train over the 26 miles 385 yards hilly course, one of the toughest in Europe.   Three times winner of the Scottish women’s cross country championship, her aim was to better the unofficial women’s world record of 3 hrs 35 mins set up three months ago by an American girl over a flat course.

Although Dale was prepared to run among the 67 men competing, the officials would have none of it since marathons are, or rather were, a strictly male domain.   Instead they allowed her to leave four minutes ahead of the rest of the field, and had a quiet word with the course ambulance driver to keep an eye on her.   The same officials broke into cheers when 3 hrs 27 mins 25 secs later, Dale stormed over the finishing line in a sprint with a better time than many of the men, 19 of whom failed to finish.   She ran straight into the arms of her widowed mother, Mrs Ann Greig who followed the race for most of its distance in a car.

“I knew she could do it,” said Mrs Greig.   “Dale is a secretary for the editor of a Scots sports periodical and lives for athletics.”   Dale’s employer, Mr Walter Ross, himself a competitor in past marathons, agreed.   “She’s a bonnie lass,” he said admiringly.   Commented Dale: “Before the race I was nervous, but once I started I knew things would be all right.”   With a grin she added: “I felt sorry for the men  I kept passing in the closing stages – they looked embarassed.   A couple who had given up and were sitting at the roadside struggled to their feet when they saw me.

A few hours later Dale went off to the athletes dance at the Royal York Hotel and remained until midnight.  On Sunday she was up early and went for a swim before leaving on the long journey home.”

Several things are clear: she suffered no harm, she enjoyed the race and it was at that time illegal in Britain.   To make it worse, it was a mixed race and she had been helped for part of it by Walter’s brother Bill – some say that Walter himself helped out in this way too.   Officialdom was not happy and the following letter – reproduced in full – gives some of the flavour of their distaste.

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There were even family feuds about it.   A doctor writing in the ‘Daily Mail’ warned that women (running marathons) would become ‘old too soon’.   The misogynist IOC President Comte Ballet de Latour wanted women barred from all Olympic events.   Harold Abrahams supported this point of view but his brother Adolf, a noted sports medical expert and physician who had written a book called ‘The Human Machine’ among others, was very supportive of women running endurance events.   Dale said “Walter’s brother lived on the island and knew all the race officials and as I was going there on holiday, it was arranged that I would be allowed to run their marathon.   I had to start four minutes ahead of the field so that they could say I was not part of the race.   I was followed all the way by an ambulance and knew nothing about any world record at the time.   The challenge was simply to last the distance.   What nobody seems to realise was that I never considered myself a pioneer, championing women’s rights.   I just ran because I loved being outdoors.”

The furore blew over and Dale kept on running – having won the SWCCU title earlier in 1964 she continued to run and in 1965 was third.    Her next big challenge was the Isle of Man 40 miles TT Course in 1971 – interestingly enough the report on the 1971 SWCCU Championship says that she ‘was satisfied with placing in the top dozen as she had her eye on a run in the Boston marathon’   That would have been interesting as it was before Kathy Switzer had her famous contretemps with Jock Semple!   Also in 1971 she ran in the Ben Nevis race – Britain’s highest mountain at more than 4400 feet – which she said was a “body shattering” experience.

When she tackled the London to Brighton in 1972, she again had to start ahead of the men – this time she was an hour ahead.   “I carried a map in my hand because I was worried about going off course,” she said. “I needn’t have worried about getting lost,” she said, “the men caught me after about 14 miles and I was able to follow them after that.”  Her time was recorded by the Road Runners club of Great Britain as 8:30:04 but does not feature in the results.   It was only seven years later in 1979 after Leslie Watson and two other had run over the course unofficially that women were allowed to run the 55 miles from Big Ben to the Esplanade in Brighton.  It should be noted that she was not the first woman to cover the course but she was the first woman to run over it.   It had earlier been done by a walker, the little known Lillian Salkeld is credited with walking the race in 12 hours 20 minutes in 1932.   The ’72 race however was all-Scottish affair with Alastair Wood setting the wonderful record of 5:11:00 and Dale doing her unofficial run on the women’s side.   Doug Gillon in an article in ‘Athletics Weekly’ of 30th October 2002, says:  She had no doubts at all that she could go the distance after some remarkable training runs from her home in Paisley.   She would set out at 7 am and head for the Ayrshire seaside resort of Largs but not by the most direct route.   Her preferred run was through Bridge of Weir.  “I’d stop there for an ice cream cone and walk while I ate it.   By the time I’d got to Largs I’d done nearly 30 miles.   Then I would have a swim in the outdoor pool.   I’d hire a towel but I carried my costume in a pocket in a pocket of my wet-suit top.   Then I would go for a cup of tea and a scone in a cafe and return along the coastal route along the shore of the Clyde by Wemyss Bay and Inverkip.   If I got thirsty I’d just drink from a stream, or sometimes I might stop for a coffee and a wee cake before finishing in Gourock.   I’d go to a friend’s for a bath and then catch the train and be home by 3:00 pm.   The total run was just over 50 miles and I did it quite  a few times.”

Walter Ross was an enthusiastic veteran harrier and was responsible for starting up the Scottish Veteran Harriers Association.   He was also very keen on the international side of the movement and  when he managed to get the IGAL World Road Running Championships to Glasgow in 1980 there were hundreds of runners from all over the world running through the streets on the south side of Glasgow in the 10000 metres on the Saturday and the marathon on Sunday.   It was a wonderful festival of running and comradeship with exquisite pieces of jewellery in lined boxes for every finisher.   The first such championship was held in Paris in 1974: one Scottish runner ran with an armful of flowers which he distributed to spectators with the cry of “Vive l’Ecosse!”   As in Brighton, the day belonged to the Scots when, in 80 degrees heat, Alastair Wood won the men’s race and Dale, aged 37, took the women’s event in 3:45:21.   This was the first ever marathon in which men and women were allowed to run together.   The Editor of the ‘France Soir’ newspaper presented Dale with a trophy which she keeps in a cupboard at home with her other memorabilia.   Reports always comment on two things – the fact that she has no trophies, medals or certificates on display and the fact that she made no money from her career.   Doug Gillon goes on at  length about the houses owned by Paula Radcliffe, Liz McColgan, et al and makes the point that while they are millionaires, she lives in a small home bought from the Council.   Her line is simple and has been reported frequently and it runs as follows – “I don’t envy them the money.   I’m against materialism and glad to have missed the drugs which came into the sport after I had gone, but I envy them the opportunity that they have to make a career and a life out of running.   I would have loved that!”    The picture below is from an ‘Athletics Weekly’ article of 2002 by Doug Gillon and shows Dale with her friend Aileen Lusk running in the IGAL marathon.

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Finally, Dale is frequently seen as a bit of a loner – Doug’s article from ‘The Herald’ of April 1988 says, “She admits to being a loner forming Tannahill Harriers of which she was the sole member – named after the street where she lived – because Paisley had no women’s club.”    However you only have to see what she has put back into the sport to see that the remark is only partly true.   As an administrator she has been

  • Secretary of the SWCCU between 1960 – 66
  • Treasurer of the SWCCU between 1967 – 70
  • President of the SWCCU between 1976 – 1979
  • Life Vice-President SWCCU and Road Running Association
  • Member of the Organising Executive in 1980 when the IGAL World Championships came to Glasgow
  • Assistant Secretary World IGAL 1982 – 1987
  • Honorary Life Member Scottish Athletics Federation and Scottish Veteran Harriers
  • Member of the Notable 19: a club whose members have won major honours or held world records

Dale has had a wonderful career and been a first class ambassador for Scotland as a whole not just the running community: would that we had some like her today!

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Andy Forbes

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The picture above is from Colin Shields’s book ‘Whatever the Weather’ – the official history of the Scottish Cross Country Union.

I had just been elected Secretary of Clydesdale Harriers in 1959 and when the discussion in Committee about who to invite to the Presentation Dinner as guest of the club came up, someone said “Andy Forbes.”   And that was it – no further discussion when the usual form was to have two or three names discussed before one was settled on.   Given the rivalry with Victoria Park, the fact that this staunch Vicky Parker was invited nem con was remarkable but a measure of the respect that he was accorded throughout Scottish athletics.   He was Scottish champion over the country and on the track, a multiple record holder and Commonwealth Games medallist.   What more could you want?    As an introduction to his career we have George Barber’s portrait of Andy published in the ‘Scots Athlete’ of February, 1952.

ANDREW FORBES

(Victoria Park AAC)

by GS Barber

During an inter-club I had a good chat with Andrew Forbes, the present cross-country champion and three miles champion and record holder.   Andy – I must say now – is a very modest man and it was with the greatest difficulty that I got him to say anything about himself.   He first started running in 1935 with Victoria Park, and fancied shorter events when they took him across country and during the following years ran unobtrusively winning a few track handicap races.   Then came the war and in the Services he did little or nothing in the competitive side until 1944-45 when he won the BAOR (British Army on the Rhine) 1500 metres championship in 4 mins 10 secs.

His reaction to his services days was interesting.   He thought that the open air life, the regular meals and the training really did him good.   He mentioned the many opportunities he had of using tracks which did not exist outside the services and it was an illuminating thought that with so many of our boys having to do their National Service training that they may improve instead of otherwise.   On his return to civilian life Andy took to the country and was the Midland District CC Champion 1946-47 and also the Scottish National CC Champion – Junior and Senior the same year.

In 1947 he won the Scottish 3 miles championship and in the following triangular match finished a very close second to Alec Olney (England) in the 3 miles creating a new native record of 14 minutes 32 seconds at New Meadowbank.   In 1948 an unfortunate foot injury interrupted and spoiled his chances of Olympic selection but as the Scottish 3 mile champion, he ran second at Manchester in the triangular match in the 5000 metres when he and Alec Olney again raced for it and Andy was beaten by 12 yards in 14 mins 48.4 secs finishing ahead of two of the newly selected Olympic team runners.   The same year he ran for Great Britain v Denmark at Copenhagen.

In a thrilling race against John Joe Barry, he was second only in the 1949 Scottish 3 miles but put up a new native record of 14 mins 18 2/5th secs and ran for Great Britain v France at the White City, London.   Over and above at almost every open sports meeting in Scotland, large or small, Andy would appear and the result was a splendid race.   Other track achievements were British 3 mile standard medals in 1947-48-49 and 51 and his record to date of best performances are:

1 Mile:   4 mins 19 secs; 2 Miles:   9 mins 14 secs;   3 miles:   14 mins 15 secs  and   6 miles:   30:31 9/10th.   Quite an impressive total.

He won International honours over the country in 1947-49-50 and 51 and was the first Scot home in 1949 and 1950.

We had quite a long talk about his likes and dislikes of diet but Andy has no dislikes and can take any kind of food.   He likes to drink glucose before a race but is not quite sure whether it is not just psychological in its effect or not.   He trains hard and often, does not mind training on the road because he has a light step, but does not like running alone during training.   Andy feels that company is desirable and is certain that cross-country RUNNING is excellent training for strenuous track work despite what the AAA officials say to the contrary.   His proof is that after a hard continuous cross-country season in 1949-50, he ran so well in New Zealand.   We discussed whether there are too many races during the winter season and he agreed that even a minor event could take as much out of you as a major one and that no matter how you feel before a race, the actual race had to be started before you knew exactly your condition.   So many factors come into it.   The wind, conditions underfoot, reckless running of men with no chance in the actual race so that as well as the physical trials during the race, there is certainly a mental stress that draws from the reserves.

Andy has always listened to what older runners have had to say and studied carefully any information regarding previous races.   During a race he likes his time to be given to him as a check against himself and the others in the race.   Andy is now aged 35 and has a strenuous job as a Commercial Traveller, out in all weathers which suite him.   He feels at the moment he is at his best, he weighs about 9 st 8 lbs and likes to have a bit in hand to shed when he wishes.   He is looking forward after this full cross-country season to the following track season with an eye on Olympic honours at Helsinki.

As a track runner Andy won the SAAA Three Miles title four times and even set a record for the distance but never won a championship at Six Miles – the distance at which he won Commonwealth silver!   Andrew Forbes was born in Glasgow on 9th October 1915 and the beginning of his career is outlined above by George Barber.   Winning the SAAA Three Miles on 28th June, 1947, in 14:55.2, it was only a week before the battle with Alec Olney in the Triangular International match at New Meadowbank where he set a Native record of 14:32.2 which was only 0.2 of a second behind the winner.    He retained the title in 1948 with 14:45.0 but the target that year was to make the Olympic team.   As part of the Olympic possibles group he trained all winter specifically for that.   He missed the 1948 National Cross Country Championship and Emmet Farrell said in ‘The Scots Athlete’ of June that year: “I am more confident than ever of Andrew Forbes’ chances of earning selection at 5000 metres.   Victoria Park 3 mile Scottish Champion and record holder, proved last year in the AAA 3 miles that he was amongst the three best in Britain, but I believe his graduated training will prove him faster than ever this year.   With his nice combination of pace and stamina the other 3 mile contenders will have to produce fireworks to thwart him of his ambition..”   But we all know that Andy didn’t make the team and we have to turn again to Emmet Farrell for the reason.   in August he reported after the team had been selected that “I feel a meed of sympathy is due to Andy Forbes who, despite recurring foot trouble which handicapped him in the final stages of his training, still managed to do a 14 mins 32 secs 3 miles.”.   This was elaborated a month later, “Stylish Andy Forbes must be regarded as distinctly unlucky not to have gained his Olympic singlet at 5000 metres.   Just prior to the AAA Championships which was to be regarded as the official Olympic test, his foot injury was aggravated to such an extent that he had to ease off in his training.   In the test, despite a courageous effort of 14 mins 32 secs, he was not far enough up to catch the selector’s eye.   Yet later in the triangular contest at Fallowfield, Manchester, Forbes chased A Olney home in the 5000 metres with a time of 14 mins 52 secs, equivalent to a time a fraction over 14 mins 20 secs for the 3 miles, and in the process handsomely defeated Britain’s 2nd string in this event.   Throughout the season Forbes has put up some immaculate and pleasing performances at various athletic galas and has proved himself a great favourite with the fans.   Would it not have been a nice gesture for the British selectors to have included him in the 3 miles team event in the recent Britain v USA athletic match at the White City?   It would have been somewhat of a consolation for Andy to represent Britain and he certainly was worthy of the honour.”

The SAAA championship race the following year was another in which he finished second by only two tenths of a second – this time to John Joe Barry from Ireland.   His time of 14:18.4 was nevertheless another Native record.   Later that year he competed for Great Britain for the first time in a match against France in London.

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The man who beat Andy:  New Zealand’s Harold Nelson who won the Empire Games gold in 1950

he was the first NZ runner to break 30 minutes for Six Miles

The race against Barry was described  by Emmet Farrell in ‘The Scots Athlete’ as Andy’s greatest ever race:               

“The duel between John Joe Barry and Andy Forbes in the 3 miles was a classic and will be a fragrant memory to those privileged to be present.   Forbes in particular ran the race of his life and although losing his title cracked his own native record to the tune of 14 seconds, a remarkable display of powerful and artistic running.   It may seem churlish to lavish more praise on the runner-up than the victor, Barry after all came back in magnificent fashion despite the reaction caused by his earlier racing and previous heavy programme.   He too proved himself a ‘bonny fechter’.    But we knew John Joe was capable of such running.     On the other hand, Andrew Forbes surpassed himself.   Not only did he bear the heat and burden of the day, by assuming the role of pace-maker, but he took John Joe right to the tape, demonstrating an entirely unsuspected brand of finishing power.”   He goes on to talk of a 2 mile invitation race at Dublin the next day where Barry won off scratch and Andy Forbes, off 35 yards ran 9:17 which was only 4 seconds off the native record

In 1950 he had probably the finest race of his life when he was selected for the Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand where in a real sprint finish he won the silver medal in the 6 miles in a time of 30:31.9 behind WH Nelson (30:29.6) and in front of Noel Taylor (like Nelson, running for New Zealand)  who was also timed at 30:31.9.   The fourth man recorded 30:34.7 and the fifth 30:46.3.   Five men in 17 seconds!   Emmett Farrell again: “meritorious second places were earned by Andrew Forbes in the Six Miles and Alan Paterson in the high jump.   The former’s bid was a glorious one.   After a magnificent dust-up with Bill Nelson of New Zealand he was beaten by only 12 yards.   Forbes’ time of 30 mins 31.9 secs is inside the Scottish record figures of 30:42 but being done outside Scotland the record is not affected.”

Forbes’s young club mate Hugh Barrow sent the following three pictures of Andy in action during the race.

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Andy can be easily picked out by his erect running action with the high knee lift – in the third photograph he is running fourth.

He went on to win the SAAA Three Miles again in 1951 and 1952 in 18:28.8 and 14:26.9.

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The team that won the English National in 1952: Back Row: Bobby Calderwood, Ronnie Kane, Ian Binnie, Dunkie McFarlane and Alex Breckenridge;

Front Row: Johnny Stirling, Andy Forbes, Chic Forbes and Jimmy Ellis.,

I have separated the track running from the cross-country and road racing aspect of Andy’s career because, while the track running was entirely his own the team aspect of his winter seasons are as much a part of the Andy Forbes story – hence the team picture at the top of this section.   A very good clubman, Andy ran in many races for his club and helped the win many medals.    If we look only at his performances in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay and the National Cross-Country Championship, we get this table.

YEAR NATIONAL TEAM E-G TEAM
1947 1st 2nd No Race  
1948 DNR* 5th No Race  
1949 11th 2nd= April: Fastest on Stage 4

Nov: Fastest on Stage 2

2nd

2nd

1950 5th 3rd Fastest on Stage 6 1st
1951 1st 1st 2nd Fastest on Stage 6 1st
1952 3rd 1st Fastest on Stage 7 1st
1953 2nd 1st 2nd Fastest on Stage 7 1st
1954 DNR 2nd DNR  
1955 DNR 2nd DNR  
1956 DNR 2nd DNR  
1957 36th 1st DNR  
1958 DNR 1st Stage 7: No Details available 3rd
1959 13th 2nd Fastest on Stage 7 3rd
1960 11th 3rd DNR  
1961 14th 3rd DNR  

It is well known that Victoria Park in the 1950’s was virtually invincible on the road and almost as good over the country, nevertheless Andy’s performances in the Edinburgh ot Glasgow are really remarkable: eight runs, five fastest times, two second fastest times and no details available yet for the eighth!   As for the National, the star in 1948 indicates that although he was fit enough to run he had been training over short distances very fast as one of the pool of ‘Olympic possibles’ selected by the AAA’s: he was as ‘The Scots Athlete’ says “an interested spectator!   The picture below is of Andy passing the baton to Alex Breckenridge in the Edinburgh to Glasgow.

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Andy started 1948 by winning the Nigel Barge Road Race at Maryhill from a good class field but with the Olympics to be held later in the year was a non starter in the National so 1948/49 was his first complete winter for two years.  The December issue of ‘The Scots Athlete’ reported on ‘Mr Mercury’: “Andy Forbes, thwarted by being unable to show his paces in the Whiteinch relay owing to the unfortunate breakdown of his club’s first man, adopted the role of ‘Mr Mercury’ in the Kingsway Relay and thus duplicated Fleming’s feat of the previous fortnight.   Taking over in fifth place  he made a characteristic last lap effort to  pass all his opponents and win by a margin of some 8 secs.   His time of 13 mins 56 secs is only a few seconds hort of his last year’s record effort.”   He had fastest time in the Midland Relay and was a hot tip for the International when the National Championships were due with Emmet Farrell forecasting a duel between Andy and John Joe Barry for the title.   The race was held at Ayr and the report read: “Just as in the Grand National for horses, the jump known as Becher’s Brook has been the death of many a favourite’s hope – so at Ayr the stream encountered id-way round each lap ruined the chances of many well-known runners including the favourite Andrew Forbes.   Swollen and in spate and with both banks a sea of mud from which no correct take-off could be had, this natural hazard meant immersion each time and appeared to have a particularly adverse effect on some runners.”   James Fleming of Motherwell YMCA coped best with the conditions and Andy was eleventh.     He was selected for the International only by vote of the Committee because of his known class.   It was held in Ireland, and was first Scot home when he was fifteenth.

There was great excitement in 1949 at the return of the Edinburgh to Glasgow eight stage relay.   The first post-war race was held in April and won by Shettleston Harriers from Victoria Park.   Andy ran the fourth stage and lifted his club from third to second with the fastest time of the day, 64 seconds quicker than the nearest time.   Later in the year it settled into what would become its regular slot in November and the headlines told that Shettleston won again ‘despite a great bid by Victoria Park.’   The Forbes brothers had a lot to do with that – Chic Forbes ‘considerably whittled down Shettleston’s lead on the fifth fifth leg and his more famous brother Andrew stormed into the lead on the long sixth stage.’.   Chic was fastest on his stage by 58 seconds and Andy quickest on the sixth by 59 seconds.   Shettleston also won the District Relays but Andy again had the fastest time.   In the National Cross Country Championships in March, Shettleston were the winning team with Victoria Park third.   Andy in eighth led the team home and selected this time on his placing, Andy was twenty ninth and again first Scot to finish.

1950-51 was the start of Victoria Parks’ golden period which lasted for approximately ten year.  This was in evidence especially in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay.   The season started with a win in their own McAndrew Relay and they had two teams in the first four and Andy was second fastest behind Tom Tracey of Springburn Harriers.   In the Dundeee Kingsway Relay they were again victorious and Andy had the fastest time of the day again.   In the Midland District Relays, Victoria Park won again with Andy second fastest behind Tracey.   In the E-G Relay in November they won the event for the first time with the Forbes brothers again in the team.   Chic was on Five and beaten for fastest time by only three seconds and Andy had the fastest time on Six by over forty seconds.  The team in running order was Ian Binnie, Alex Breckenridge, Dunky McFarlane, Donald Henson, Eddie Bannon, Chic, Andy, Jimmy Ellis and Johnny Stirling.   In the Nigel Barge Five in January, 1951, Andy turned the tables on Tommy Tracey by winning with a 50 second margin.   There were no selection issues in 1951 when Andy won the National from Tommy Tracey – 13 seconds was the difference this time.   Having already won the Midlands title (with Forbes third) Victoria Park won the team race to make it a very successful season.   In the international Andy was third Scot to finish – Tracey was the first!    There was  one more event however – as winners of the Edinburgh to Glasgow they were entered as of right in the London to Brighton Relay.    ‘The Scots Athlete’ had this to say: “Victoria Park started poorly but improved later on and in the 7th leg.   Andrew Forbes with a 30:08 (2nd fastest) brought his club up to 5th place.   Although a trifle disappointing, this was good enough to win for the all-conquering Scottish club the medals for ‘the most meritorious performance.’

In 1951-52 the club again won everything there was to win with the sole exception of the Midlands District Championships and Andy continued his battle with Tom Tracey.   They won the McAndrew Relay at the start of October and were only third in the District Relay before tackling the E-G.   They led from the first stage to the last with Andy having second fastest time on the long sixth stage, eleven seconds behind Eddie Bannon of Shettleston.  On New Year’s Day he was second to Bannon in the Beith Cross-Country race and on the Saturday, Andy again won the 5 miles Nigel Barge race – this time from team-mate Ian Binnie with Tracey third and Victoria Park won the team race.   Came February and Andy was third in the Midland Championship and the team was second to Shettleston again.   In the 1952 National Forbes was third and Victoria Park again won the title.   Not content with the Scottish title, the travelled to England for the British Cross Country Championship and came home victorious.   Runners are in the picture above -Andy Forbes was 11th, Jimmy Ellis 32nd and Ian Binnie 41st before the ‘pack of three’ came in – Chic Forbes 51st, Ronnie Kane 52nd and Johnny Stirling 54th.   This was followed by third place in the London to Brighton Relay Race – their best ever performance.   In the international Cross Country Championships he was first Scot home in 52nd place.

Before the National Championships, Emmet Farrell had indicated that Andy was having problems with a foot injury and this might have contributed to him missing the McAndrews at the start of 1952-53.   In the Midland Relays Shettleston won from Victoria Park for whom Andy was slowest man in a team of Chic Forbes, Ronnie Kane, Bob Calderwood and himself.   After the first lap when Bobby Calderwood was second to Clydesdale’s George White, Victoria Park led every stage to the finish with Andy running a record time for ths seventh stage.   Emmet Farrell commented, “Andy Forbes showed a welcome return to form by narrowly creating a ne record on the seventh stage displacing Donald Urquhart, Garscube’s ex-internationalist.”   The question was also raises whether they could win the London to Brighton and it was felt that they had an excellent chance.   In the Midland District Championships in January, 1953, Andy was seventh, second VP member behind Breckenridge in second, and the team was first.   He had a better run in the National where he was second forty seven seconds behind Bannon to lead Victoria Park to team success yet again.    He had another very good run in the International where he was twelfth (one place behind Jim Peters and eight behind Bannon, nevertheless after praising Bannon’s fourth place, Emmet Farrell had this to say: under the headline, “Forbes Answers His Critics”: ‘Andrew Forbes twelfth place was a magnificent one, in a comparative sense very little behind Bannon’s effort considering his long service and his recent numerous hard races for his club.   By beating on the day such great runners as Vandewattyne, Coll, Pirie, Ranger, Theys and Holden he answered in unmistakeable fashion the suggestion that he is a fading veteran of other days.   On this form Forbes is still at the zenith of his powers – capable indeed of leading his country to an even higher placing in this severe and rigorous athletic test.”   In the London Brighton, in what was described as a great contest, the club was seventh.

Season 1953-54 had another victory for the club in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay after second in the Midlands four man relay.   Andy Forbes ran the seventh stage of the E-G where he had second fastest time but retained first place.   However, in his annual preview of the National Championships, Emmet Farrell did not include Forbes in his list of contenders for the top places and said: “Andrew Forbes, below par and under doctor’s orders, is not likely to take part in serious competition this season at least.   Not only his club but his country will miss his services.   One recalls his splendid second to Bannon in last year’s National and his perhaps even greater twelfth in the International in Paris.”   And indeed Andy missed the entire ’53-’54 season.

Andy F 1

Andy F 2

 

The above questionnaire replies were sent to me by John MacKay and they make a valuable addition to the site.

The following season, 1954-55 started with victories for Shettleston in both the McAndrew and District Relays and there was no Andy Forbes in either of them.   His club won the E-G in November in a new record time but there was no Andy Forbes on any stage.   He missed the Midland Championships and also the National.  In fact he missed the National in 1954, ’55 and 56 and did not run in the E-G in 1954, 55, 56 or 57.   He made a comeback in the 1957 National when he was thirty sixth and the club’s final counter and won himself a team gold medal.   It was clear that, apart from the E-G in 1959 when he was fastest on stage seven in the bronze medal winning team, his best days were behind him in terms of winning titles and gaining international vests.

He did not however give up the sport as so many might have done.   He not only trained at the club, encouraged, inspired and coached the younger runners but moved effortlessly into a road running career and ran with his friends including Emmet Farrell, David Morrison, and Gordon Porteous – I remember one of my own first road races after demob from National Service (at Dunblane) these four old guys ran effortlessly past, gabbing away pausing only to ask if I was OK, son? – which was running for the sheer pleasure of it.   When the vets scene arrived in Scotland, Andy was a veteran who raced and enjoyed it.   You could know him at that time, enjoy his company and never know how good he had been.   No boasting, no incidental name dropping – he carried on conversations, listened to the other fellow and was a pleasure to know.    He was also a direct contrast to his club-mate Ian Binnie: where Binnie was challenging, Forbes was encouraging.   the club was lucky to have them both at its disposal.

The word ‘gentleman’ is much abused these days and is often applied inappropriately so I seldom use it.   In Andy’s case however it is appropriate and the following tribute is  from clubmate and equally loyal Victoria Park harrier Hugh Barrow.

ANDY FORBES: ATHLETE AND GENTLEMAN

“Imagine being selected for the Empire (Commonwealth Games) and then finding you needed months off work just to get there and back at a time when employers didn’t co-operate.   Well, it’s 1950 and the War was not long ended  and Andy was selected for the Empire Games in Auckland , New Zealand, and you had to sail there.   Andy’s employers, Phillips, were not amused but in stepped Glasgow business man Sir AB King who offered to pay his airfare along with Alan Paterson, high jumper.   Mind you it still took a week to fly there but better than a month sailing.   This gesture enabled them both to gain silver medals.  

Andy, like Sidney Wooderson had his career cut in half by World War 2.   He was a stalwart for Victoria Park for so many years – star – club man – coach, it didn’t matter to Andy but always a gentleman.   He encouraged so many young athletes, whether it be at Scotstoun Showgrounds, Whiteinch Bath where he had his own stall, or his beloved Milngavie.   Each venue had its own atmosphere and I was privileged to be part of that time.   

Some of Andy’s programme collection was sent to Graham MacIndoe and extracts from some of then are reproduced  here

 

Andy F McBr

 

Andy F McB 2

 

 

Allan Faulds

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Allan Finishing in the Springburn Cup ahead of Mike Bradley

Allan Faulds was a really good endurance athlete – on the road, on the track and, perhaps especially, over the country.   He even ran in the Ben Nevis race and enjoyed that as well.   He was an inspirational athlete in whatever club colours he wore – it was not unusual to see him driving himself over the finishing line in a state of exhaustion and then a few minutes later making his way back down the trail shouting and driving on his team mates further down the field.   Off the running course he was one of the quietest and most gregarious men you could wish to meet – but you wouldn’t want to try to head him off at a narrow gap in a cross-country course.   What follows is a slightly expanded version of an earlier pen portrait that I did and also has a lot of information from a very full account of his career written by Graham Bennison in Fife in 1992.    Thanks to Graham for his permission to quote from it.

Allan’s introduction to athletics came as a pupil at the McLaren High School in Callander while living in Aberfoyle.   In June 1957 he was third in the 880 yards and a year later was first in the good time of 2:07.6 (which he bettered later that year to 2:07.4) and was second in the Perth County School Sports.     A year on and he won the Perthshire Schools 880 yards in the excellent time of 2:02.   Until then his main sport had been football where he had played a trial for Scotland’s Youth team,been invited to trial for  Rangers while at school and again to trial for Stirling Albion during his first year at University.   When on a University placement in Newport he did some running for the local club, Newport Harriers, and did some running in a variety of track meetings.

Even when he started at Glasgow University, where his athletics career really took off, his main sporting interest was with football but when he was invited to run in the Hares & Hounds Christmas Handicap in 1961 he started running seriously.   He won the race in the fourth fastest time of the day and soon became a fixture in the team.   On 27th January, Glasgow University defeated Edinburgh University and Edinburgh Southern Harriers over 6 miles from the King’s College in Edinburgh – ‘their greatest victory for 20 years’ – with Calum Laing first and Allan thirteenth in what was only his third cross country race.    One month later and he made his first appearance in the British Universities championships where he was eighty ninth and only seven days afterwards was eighth in the Scot Unis and the Glasgow team won the team race.   In March, running in the Scottish Championships, he was fourth in the Junior National in only his eighth race and led the GU team to the team title.   In summer 1962 he was second in a three miles at Westerlands in 15:13 – a time improved to 14:44 in the Scottish University Championships. before the season was over.

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Allan with some of the excellent Glasgow University team

n the 1962-63 season Motherwell YMCA, who as a team were virtually undefeated, won the prestigious Edinburgh to Glasgow eight man relay followed by Edinburgh Southern Harriers and Glasgow University in third.   Allan ran on the very difficult long Stage Six where traditionally many of the best distance men turned out.    It was a dreadful day with snow underfoot for most of the race and snow drifts in some of the more exposed sections – Allan’s time of 34:33 was the fourth quickest of the day and kept the team in third position.   Also in November, his second place helped Glasgow to a win over Loughborough Colleges and just five days later defeated Don Macgregor in an Inter-University 6.75 mile race.   The following month saw another battle between the two but this time Don won, Allan was fourth and St Andrew’s won the team race.   They were both in the Universities Select against the SCCU where Allan was sixteenth.    Into the New Year and Fergus Murray (representing Edinburgh University Hare & Hounds won the traditional New Year opener, the Nigel Barge Road Race at Maryhill with Allan in eighth helping Glasgow University to fourth team place.   He  finished January with fifth in the Midland District Cross-Country Championships to start the cross-country championship season.   Early in Februarythe Scottish Universities Championships were won by Calum Laing with Glasgow University first team: . Allan was eighth.   Finally at the National Championship, Laing was eighth while Allan was eight places further back.   In March 1963Allan made his debut for the Stirling club St Modan’s AAC in the Springburn Cup relay where the club was second.

To quote Graham Bennison, “That March  Allan, described as a “dour, tenacious runner of the Zatopek breed” was awarded a Glasgow University ‘blue’.   Calum Laing (15:06) beat Allan (15:26.7) in the Glasgow University AC Track & Field Championships that spring.   … …That summer Allan returned to work placement in Newport, Wales and competing for Newport Harriers  set times of 4:32.2 (Mile), 9:54 (3000m steeplechase) and 14:39.2 for three miles – a pb).

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In the autumn of 1963, Allan was in great form.   The Annual Glasgow University Road Race was won by Lachie Stewart (27:04) with Allan second in 27:17.   A week later Mel Edwards won an inter-universities match with Laing second and Faulds third.   In December, Allan won the annual match against St Andrew’s University, held at St Andrew’s.   In February 1964 Allan again featured in the British Universities Championships where Fergus Murray dead-heated with the legendary Mike Turner.   Allan finished twenty third, Calum Laing was thirty ninth and Glasgow were eighth in the team race.   The Scottish National that year read like a “Who’s Who” of  Scottish Cross-Country – 1.   F Murray 36:58; 2.  J Alder (Morpeth)   37:37; 3.  AJ Wood (Aberdeen)  37:59;  4.   AH Brown (Motherwell) 38:03; 14.  A Faulds  39:21.   A week later Allan dead-heated with Fergus Murray at an inter-university cross-country held at Edinburgh.   A full summer of track races followed and in the Autumn Allan was elected St Modan’s cross-country captain.   Allan’s time for the McAndrew Relay course (then two miles 1595 yards) was 14:34: Hugh Barrow (Victoria Park) was fastest with 13:38.   A tri-angular cross-country match between St Andrew’s University, Strathclyde University and St Modan’s saw St Andrew’s win the team race but Allan was first over the six mile course in 32:09.   Further success came when Allan broke Falkirk Victoria’s four and a half mile course record (24:12), two minutes better than the previous record held by W Morrison.  [The Falkirk Victoria Course (six miles 370 yards) was won by Allan in 31:56.4 on 16th November 1964.   He also won the same race on 15th November 1965 in 30:52.8).    Further inter-club wins came Allan’s way before finishing thirtieth in the National at the end of February.   That May Allan ran 9:35.4 for the 3000m steeplechase improving to 9:29.6 in August.   In June at the West v East match, Allan ran as a non-counter finishing fourth in the track Three Mile race in 14:09.6.   At the other end of the distance scale, Allan achieved third place in the Dunblane Highland Games fourteen and a half miles road race (79:43).   That winter season, 1965-66, was an uneventful one for Allan having a number of wins in the autumn.   In November Allan was a reserve for Scotland against the Army, he ran as a non-counter finishing sixteenth.   In January Allan, now 24 journeyed south where he was third in the Essex Country Cross Country Championships, won by another ‘legend’ – Mel Batty.   Back in Scotland Allan finished third in the Midlands Cross Country Championship behind Lachie Stewart and Eddie Knox.   Meanwhile St Modan’s changed its name to Stirling AAC.   In the Springburn Cup, Eddie Knox was the winner while Allan was runner-up in 27:11, ahead of Hugh Barrow who was third..   That winter, Allan had his greatest run to date representing Scotland at the Hannut International in Belgium.   Olympic Steeplechase gold medallist and World Cross-Country Champion Gaston Roelants of Belgium won the 10K race in 32:20, ahead of Tim Johnston (Portsmouth) in 32:28.   England won the team race with Scotland third – Jim Alder 6th, AH Brown 7th and Allan Faulds 19th.    Later in February, Allan finished thirteenth in the Scottish National won by Fergus Murray.   Allan was disappointed not to make the Scottish team for the World Championships at Rabat in Morocco.”

It was mentioned at the start that Allan had run in the Ben Nevis Race and it was in September 1966.   For a non-specialist he ran very well indeed to finish twenty sixth.   Many years later he said that he had enjoyed it and maybe should have raced in more hill-races.   Clydesdale Harrier Bobby Shields was second in that race and they would both feature in Clydesdale medal winning teams in the early 1970’s.   Allan then turned out for Woodford Green AAC in teh St Alban’s 4 x 2 miles relay where his running earned him a place in the team for the Epernay – Rheims Road Relay helping the team into second place.   On his return to Scotland, he beat Alastair Wood in the 5.5 miles Esk race and followed this with fourth in the Grangemouth ‘Round the Houses’ race behind Ian McCafferty.  His form shaded a bit after this and he moved to Exeter in the summer of 1967.

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Allan leading at Westerlands

In his first winter with Exeter he started with a wonderful run of success.   He was second in a 5.25 mile race at Paignton, fourth in his first Devon League Cross-Country race and helped the team to second place in the Exeter to Exmouth Relay.   Possibly his best win was when he won the Ross Shield Race in a new course record of 30:33.1 ahead of Denis Crook and Danny McFadzean – the latter being an established Scottish marathon internationalist and a regular member of Royal Navy teams.   That was on 2nd December,  on the ninth he won against Exeter University and St Luke’s College,  on the sixteenth he was forty third in the highly prestigious Hog’s Back 9.25 miles race at Guildford and finally at New Year he raced in the Nos Galan four miles race at Mountain Ash in Wales which was a race supported by all the very best in the country at the time: he finished nineteenth and his team was eighth.   He travelled back to Scotland to help his club, Stirling AAC, in the National Cross Country at Hamilton where he was twenty ninth.  Returning to Devon, he ran a 52:31 for third place in a ten miler at Plymouth and in April he ran into sixth place in the Bampton to Tiverton Race.   His first run on the track was in a steeplechase where he ran 9:45.4 to win .   In May in Bournemouth he was clocked at 2:03 for the 800m.   A week later he gained bronze in the Devon County Six Miles in 30:19.6 followed by fourth in the steeplechase in 10:25.4.   In June it was 9:41.2 for the ‘chase when he won in the Westward League.   He was third in the County Three Miles in 14:35.8and a third in the Three Miles He continued to race well for Exeter with times of 9:37.2 for the steeplechase, 14:13.4 for the Three Miles and 30:19.6 for the Six Miles.   Competitively he won medals at the County Championships and in Road Races.   There were lots of good runs but his strangest time ever was 23:29 for the Two Miles.   The explanation was that in a League Match his club had no walkers for the Two Miles walk, well the walkers were there but for some reason were not allowed to compete – so Allan and his friend just walked round to get the points!

In September he was elected captain for Exeter Harriers and performed up to his own high standards before moving back up to Scotland in September.   After a few months with Stirling AAC he joined Clydesdale Harriers when he moved to Clydebank for business reasons

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Allan (27) behind Ian Leggett (26) at Babcock’s Sports, Renfrew, 1970: the runner behind Allan is Cyril O’Boyle, the third member of the Clydesdale Harriers team

Clydesdale Harriers gained a runner who had taken on the very best and not been disgraced, who had won team and individual medals with every club he had represented, who was a prolific racer and who was a good club man.    Cross-country was his favourite followed by running on the roads with track third favourite – but he was excellent on all three.   After joining the club formally in January 1970, his first race was the club cross-country championship which he won from Ian Leggett and Bobby Shields.   This was followed by a twenty seventh place in the National Cross Country Championships at Ayr in February.   With no national six-stage relays at the time, his first opportunity for a team race thereafter was in the Edinburgh 10 Miles Road Race over a hilly course from King’s Buildings.   This was a new venture for the club but it proved successful – they won.   The race was won by Gareth Bryan-Jones in 49:48 from Andy McKean (50:37 and Pat Maclagan (50:57).   Allan was sixth in 52:02 (sandwiched between Alex Wight and Jim Dingwall) with Doug Gemmell eighth and Ian Donald twelfth.   They won by a single point from ESH.   Other club positions were Brian McAusland twenty second, Bobby Shields twenty fourth, Frank Kielty thirty ninth and (not on the result sheet because as a Junior he was not allowed to run as far as ten miles) Phil Dolan was approximately twenty eighth.  The following week was the Balloch to Clydebank 12 miles race where Allan was third with Ian Leggett second.   The 10 Miles Tom Scott Race in Motherwell was on 4th April where Allan was fourth (49:33), Doug Gemmell eleventh and Ian Leggett thirteenth to win second team prizes.   He then finished third in   For the remainder of the season he took part in as many road races as possible including Airdrie (13 miles), Babcock’s Sports in Renfrew (14 Miles), Carluke (12 Miles), Shotts (14.5) and Dunblane (14).   On the track he contested the all the club championships, the inter-club fixtures, and the SAAA 10000m at Meadowbank .   His last track 10000m that year was in September when he was third in the West District Championships at Scotstoun in 30:54.4.   He was placed in the first three in almost every race he contested and the team, which had been good before but was better for his inclusion, picked up many awards with various permutations of the top six runners.   Allan was an almost ever present in these teams.

Came the cross-country season and the McAndrew Relay at the start of October and he was the fastest club runner when he pulled the team from tenth to fourth on the third stage, a position held by Ian Leggett on the last leg.     The club dominated the local Dunbartonshire scene with a victory in the County Relay the following week with Allan second fastest for the course.    In the County Championships in January, Clydesdale Harriers won the team race with seven runners in the first ten, Allan winning from Ian Leggett and Phil Dolan.   In between the two DAAA events, he ran well in the Midland Relays at Bellshill where the team was sixth.   Then came his first Edinburgh to Glasgow race for the club.   The team finished fifth with one of its best balanced squads ever, Allan ran the long sixth stage and took the club from sixth to fifth with the fourth fastest time of the day.    For their efforts the team picked up the medals for the most meritorious performance.    For their running in the season up to that point, Allan and Ian Leggett were selected for the Scottish team against Morpeth Harriers, a Northumberland and Durham select and a North of England Universities Select on 5th December at Durham.  Allan was eighteenth and the team finished first.

In January 1971 he led the club home in the Midlands Championships at Stirling where he was thirteenth and the team took third place medals.   On 30th January he was part of a DAAA team that finished third in the Inter Counties Cross-Country Championship at Cleland Estate with Allan ninth.   At the start of February he won the Club Championships for the second time – this time from Douglas Gemmell.   In the National Championships at Bellahouston in February, Doug was the first club counter in twenty seventh with Allan forty second.   He regained his club superiority in the Sinclair Trophy 5 mile road race when he won from Doug Gemmell and Junior Phil Dolan.   On 6th April  a group of club runners travelled to Edinburgh for the University’s two-lap, ten mile road race.   The club was fourth and the key positions were Doug Gemmell 9th, A Faulds 14th, Ian Donald 12th, with Bobby Shields 24th.   Summer followed the pattern of the previous year with a good run in the Tom Scott 10 (16th, 2nd team) before jumping up to 16 miles in the Clydebank to Helensburgh where he was 12th and then a mega-leap up to the marathon – 10 miles further still.   There were three club runners in the race: Allan training about 45 miles per week was fifth in 2:41:28, Brian (about 65 a week) was seventh in 2:44:40 and Bobby Shields (putting in over 100 mpw in preparation for the Ben race in September) finished a further three places back.   With a hiatus in the middle of the year, preparation for the winter season included the club 5000m championship, the Strathallan 3000m and the 14.5  miles at Dunblane.   When the winter started, the team was seventh in the McAndrew Relay and a week later won the DAAA Relay with Allan moving from second to first on the final stage.   Thereafter a team travelled up to the Kingsway Relays where they finished second.   In the Allan Scally Relays at the start of November, Allan led the A team off and was second fastest club runner behind Douglas Gemmell and with two good club teams finishing well up, the prospect of a good race in the Edinburgh to Glasgow was good.   Came the actual race, the team was good enough to finish sixth.   The team consisted of Phil Dolan (12th on the first stage), Doug Gemmell (8th on the second stage), Ronnie Paton (6th), Ian Leggett (7th), Brian McAusland (6th), Allan Faulds (6th), Bobby Shields (6th) and Ian Donald (6th).    The two men with the hardest stages were Doug Gemmell on Two who had one of his best ever E-G races with sixth fastest times (just one second slower than Jim Alder) and Allan on Six with the fifth fastest time of the day.   At the DAAA Championships in December Allan won and the club had the first two teams.  It should be noted that at this time, the Dumbarton squad was very good indeed with Colin Martin, Billy Cairns, Bobby Mills, and many other good quality athletes so the club performance was excellent.

Allan started 1972 with seventh place in the Nigel Barge, leading the team to second place and followed that up with sixth in the Midland Championships and then third in the Inter-Counties behind Eddie Knox and Jim Wright.  He continued this vein of form by winning the club championships for the third consecutive year.   When the National Championships came round in February the country was in the grip of a Miners’ Strike and most factories could only provide four days work for their employees.   Many were working on the day but Allan was available for club duty and was seventeenth.   Four Clydesdale Harriers – Allan, Phil Dolan, Doug Gemmell and Ronnie Paton went to the English Championships at Sutton Coldfield.   The weather – which had been fine before the race – turned really nasty and developed into a blizzard with quagmire conditions underfoot – one of the race marshals died and many of the athletes dropped out.   Allan ran hard and finished 119th.  February was also the time of a missed opportunity for Allan to capitalise on his good form.   He was asked at the last minute to represent Scotland at Hannut in Belgium for the second time – but had to turn it down as his passport required renewal!   Tough!

The inaugural Dunky Wright Road Race for a trophy put up by Dunky himself and to the great delight of the club, Allan won with Phil Dolan (4th) and Doug Gemmell (5th) making up the winning team.   In March he was second (behind Jim Dingwall, in front of Colin Martin) in the Balloch to Clydebank Road Race (another team victory) and then two weeks after that was ninth (49:40) in the Tom Scott Road Race with a third place team award.   He was third in the Clydebank to Helensburgh (the team was second) and then he was second in the Scottish Marathon Club 12 miles race at Springburn.

He ran the last leg in the McAndrew Relay for the first time at the start of winter 1972-73 and the club also finished fourth.   The very good Victoria Park squad had now joined the DAAA and they won the County Relay with Clydesdale Harriers second..   Allan missed the District Relay that year but was available for the E-G but had missed time due to illness and work commitments and dropped to eighth on the fourth stage.   The club picked up to sixth by the finish.    Allan had run in three E-G’s and the team had been fifth, sixth and sixth.   The County Championships were strongly contested with Paul Martin winning from Colin Martin and Pat Maclagan.   Allan finished seventh and with Doug Gemmell (4th), Phil Dolan (5th) and Ian Donald (9th) Clydesdale won the team race.    In February 1973 he lost his club championship title when Phil Dolan won from Ian Donald with Allan third.   At the end of July 1972, Allan moved to Perth but kept representing Clydesdale until the middle of 1974 when he joined Perth Strathtay Harriers.

In January 1975 he ran in his first ever East District Cross Country Championship after a bet that he would finish in the top thirty – he was twenty eighth.   Later in May he moved to the Gauldry where he still lives.   He remained a member of Perth Strathtay until early in 1976 he joined Fife AC.   Let Graham Bennison continue the profile: “A problem with a knee cartilage resulted in an operation and Allan never really got going again although early in 1983 he did compete in the first Dundee Marathon finishing in 3:20.   Allan made a real effort in 1984 to train for the second Dundee Marathon joining in the long training runs organised by the club in Tentsmuir Forest.   Unfortunately he developed pneumonia and pleurisy – he never competed again.   Allan organised the first Gauldry Gallop Cross-Country Meeting in 1978 (when Graham wrote this piece the upcoming race was the 15th consecutive running of this event which ceased in 2009)   Allan and his wife Liz can also be seen helping at other  Fife AC promotions – the Largo Law and Cupar Six.   It was such good service to the club that saw Allan voted as a life member at the AGM in 1990.

This portrait reveals Allan as a top quality athlete at a time when ‘the best’ competed regularly against each other.   Unlike today there was no choice of which race to attend on a certain Saturday.   The athletes followed a traditional programme of inter-club fixtures and championship races, especially during the winter season.   Consequently the top athletes were constantly in competition against each other and the standard ‘at the sharp end’ was so much higher.   Scotland had Lachie Stewart, Ian McCafferty, Jim Brown, Andy Mckean, Fergus Murray, Dick Wedlock, Eddie Knox, etc.   The North of England had Ron Hill, Mike Freary, Colin Robinson, Mike Turner, etc who helped England to win after win in the World Cross-Country Championships.   That era ended with Hill’s victory at the Commonwealth Games Marathon and who can ever forget the victory of Lachie Stewart in the 10000m and the sight of Ian Stewart and Ian McCafferty sprinting to the finish in the 5000m ahead of Kipchoge Keino – an age of brilliance.   Allan Faulds was very much part of ‘that age’.

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Allan’s Last Race: The City of Dundee Marathon in 1983

The First 50 Years

In response to an invitation to do so, Mel wrote his own account of his first 50 years in the sport – fascinating, humorous but mainly informative and certainly inspirational they are among the best running stories I have ever read.

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You can see from that exposition why we just reproduced his own words – more detailed and eloquent than we could ever be!   Mel’s son Myles, who is referred to in the text, is also a runner but he has an excellent blog which has two articles in particular about Mel.

1.   At http://mylesedwards.wordpress.com/2007/12/17/cancer-facing-tough-opponent is an article called ‘Cancer Facing A Tough Opponent’ about his Dad’s attitude to the diagnosis, treatment, etc.

2.   Am article called ‘Some Things Never Change’ appeared on his blog at http://mylesedwards.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/some-things-never-change

Both are beautifully written, interesting as articles in their own right, but very informative about Mel.

Back to Mel Edwards

Mel Edwards

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Mel winning in Harlow in 1967  in 2:18:25 – his first marathon. 

I first saw Mel in action when he won the Scottish Junior Men’s Cross Country Championship in 1964.   This was probably the best cross country race that I ever saw with a really top class field of athletes who would go on to represent and win medals for Scotland and Britain in the not too distant future.   Coming from the West of Scotland and being familiar with Lachie Stewart and Ian McCafferty among others, we were surprised to see this very good looking runner in a yellow vest (we didn’t even know who wore yellow vests!) won a hard, hard race dropping first Lachie and then at the very end moving away from Ian.    My friend Cyril o’Boyle and I both reckoned that he was the best of a wonderful bunch of athletes.   This was proved by some wonderful runs and top class times on the track and the road as well as over the country before, like many another very good runner, he succumbed to the charms and challenges of the hill and fell running scene and became one of the best ever at that.   For instance , in 1963 after the victory described above and the subsequent selection to run for the Senior team at the international cross country championships, he appeared in the Scottish Ranking Lists for 1963 in the 880 yards – 1:56.5;  Mile  – 4:14.9; Two Miles – 9:14.7 and Three Miles – 14:40.   By the victory in the marathon at Harlow in 1967 his appearances in the lists tended to get better the further he went – Mile 4:14.8; Two Miles – 8:56.2; Three Miles 13:51.6, Six Miles 28:27.0 and Marathon 2:18:25.

He had many problems with illness and injury but none of them stopped him being one of the best ever.   It was 40 years before I met him and during that period he had a rich life as an athlete – not many runners have been as adventurous as Mel has been and that is a rare quality in any man.   His own story is at the link below to ‘The First 50 Years’: for an informative, educational and amusing read you must visit it.

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Winning the Scottish Junior Championship in 1963

 

Mel Edwards: Personal Memories: By Colin Youngson

“Meldrum Barclay Edwards was one-of-a-kind: relentlessly optimistic, enthusiastic, energetic, dedicated, determined, uncomplaining, brave – and encouraging to so many others.

I remember umpteen encounters with this marvellous human being. Like so many others, I was very fortunate to know the inspirational Mel Edwards.

At the end of my first year in Aberdeen Grammar School in June 1961, on Rubislaw grass track I fought a slow but dogged way through the Heats and into the Final of the Junior 880 yards before finishing eighth (and dead last).   From another planet was a tall, thin, dynamic 6th year boy who dominated the opposition to win the prestigious Senior One Mile title.   That heroic figure was Mel Edwards who lived only a few hundred yards from my house, so I often walked up to see him or chat to his parents Joy and Freddy. By the time, as Grammar Mile winner too, I started Aberdeen University, Mel had graduated and gone, leaving behind a fine athletic reputation on the track and over cross country.   Towards the end of my first year, in summer 1967, I remember thinking myself fit enough to join him for a late afternoon five mile training run from King’s College round the Links Golf Course.   While I panted, speechless, and strained to keep up, Mel kept on talking, praising, encouraging – and this was my only session of the day while it was Mel’s fourth!   It was his marathon racing period!

Later that same year, spectating during the prestigious Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay, I was fascinated to see him battling, exhausted, up the hill to the changeover, fifty seconds in the lead, recording the day’s fastest time on elite Stage Two (back in 1966, he had already been fastest on the other top Stage Six). Some foolish official tried to hassle Mel about his club vest being illegal. Mild-tempered Mel lost it, prodded the idiot repeatedly in the chest and the guy retreated wisely.

We all knew he trained like a madman, running endless mileage including 60 x 220 Zatopek-style.   An extremely fine racer but an Olympic champion trainer.   We all believed that he ought to rest a bit more – (partly because of jealousy – there was no way we could contemplate dedicating ourselves to training as hard as he did)   Eventually he got ‘injured’ and had to give up road running.   So what did he do?   Years and years of hill racing!   No one understood how his legs could cope with bashing up mountains and zooming down them while he said he was unable to cope with flat tarmac!

In 1972, when AAAC first attempted the John o’ Groats to Land’s End ten-man road relay, Mel was the Link Man – alone in a car, desperately trying to ensure that five dormobiles (each with two runners and two drivers) could be sure that the route ahead was clear and that they would take over on time for their two-hour stint. By the third day, even indefatigable Mel was utterly knackered and fast asleep in his parked car, out of contact and beyond linking anyone or anything!

When I turned 40, Mel was an important part of the Aberdeen AAC veteran cross country team.   In February 1988 at Dalmuir, after winning the Scottish Veterans M40 title, I glanced back a few moments later to see Mel punching the air with delight as he crossed the line just ahead of Rod MacFarquhar to win the M45 title.   His first cross country one since his Scottish Junior National title in 1964, when he ran right away from future greats Ian McCafferty and Lachie Stewart.   Mind you, he had hardly been idle in the interim.   That day Aberdeen AAC won the team title plus five individual medals.   Rod’s shockingly bad taste joke was that the last team to do that much damage in Clydebank had been the Luftwaffe!

A few years later, the AAC 8-Man Squad won the Scottish Veterans Alloa to Bishopbriggs road relay. On the drive home, we stopped to celebrate in the famous Gleneagles Hotel, since, if we proved victorious, as Captain I had promised to buy everyone a beer. We were all wearing totally inappropriate jeans, sweatshirts and trainers, so even mature, distinguished, confident Mel pushed me in front to negotiate with the posh doorman – who kindly let us into the American Bar, which did not have a dress code.

About then, a week after running disappointingly in an Aberdeen Marathon, I tried the Scolty Hill Race, which features a lot of easy downhill path. I took a few seconds off Mel’s M40 record, and was unsurprised when he could not have been more gracious.

Much later, in 2004, after we had both won age group medals in a particularly gruelling Scottish Vets Cross Country Championships over a horribly hilly course in Cupar, and were slumped, extremely tired, in the gym, we agreed that the ability to keep going when knackered was important!

Mel and Myles

Mel with son Myles

I remember seeing Mel cheering home absolutely everyone well down the field in a Balgownie cross-country race. Speed did not matter; only wholehearted effort. When, for services to Sport and Charity, he became Meldrum Barclay Edwards, Member of the Order of the British Empire (or MBE squared, as he called it) no one could have deserved the honour more. Everyone admired and liked him.

Mel Edwards will be remembered by a vast number of people when other runners are long forgotten.   His dedication has given so much to the sport – by organising races, coaching, dispensing training advice to joggers and fellow international athletes, inspiring youngsters and writing articles.   Yet his personality has the lasting impact.   Fitness, determination and a constantly positive attitude saw him cope with a serious illness for thirteen tough years. Hospital visitors left believing they must be ill because Mel certainly didn’t seem to be!  When I visited him, we laughed our way through my collection of Alf Tupper – The Tough of the Track – photocopies.

All the time, Mel was incredibly enthusiastic, supportive and motivating.  I could add so many more memories. His tales of dawn jogging at Rubislaw, saying hello to the fox that trained there at the same time; the seventy minutes run aged 70; so many charitable ventures. Is it any wonder that Oldmeldrum (should be) named after him; or that his son Myles has inherited the same generous spirit?

One final anecdote. An unusually sunny summer day in Aberdeen. Where did this happen, exactly? Could have been King’s College Playing Fields, Balgownie, Duthie Park or the sands between Donmouth and Balmedie? Anyway, I was jogging in one direction when I saw a familiar figure, dressed only in shorts, running fast, lightly, effortlessly towards me. It was Mel. Would we stop and chat? Not at all – he was ‘in the zone’. I remember his words exactly: “Aye, aye! Fine day! Bare chesty!” and away he went, revelling in runners’ heaven.”

The best exposition of Mel’s excellent career over the first 50 years of his involvement is contained in his own reflections of his career and they can be found from the link below.   I have simply scanned it in exactly as Mel wrote it.   Mel died in November 2019 and a tribute from the Aberdeen Pres & Journal is   at this link .

The First 50 Years