John Graham

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John is one of only two Scottish marathon men to be under 2:10 for the distance and his best of 2:09:28 is only 12 seconds outside Allister Hutton’s national record.   The picture is of him winning the Rotterdam Marathon and the article is by Colin Youngson and was written with John’s co-operation and approval.

In 1974, seventeen-year-old John Graham, representing Motherwell YMCA Harriers, won the Scottish Cross-Country Union Youth Championship. Legend has it that he was already running a hundred miles per week in training. In fact he says that it might not have been quite as much, but that his coach Bert Mackay, the experienced Peter Duffy, and several young hopefuls made the local two-hour Sunday run an initiation ordeal, which he passed at the tender age of sixteen! He claims only to have ‘hit the wall’ once in his life! Bert Mackay encouraged him to try plenty of high quality interval training, and also to take pollen tablets for energy and resistance to infection.

John had been a footballer and also slightly asthmatic, so he took up running. Two early races he remembers were a two-second loss to Allister Hutton, his main Scottish marathon rival much later, in the British Boys Brigade cross-country at Ingliston in 1973; and an ‘unofficial’ 48.30 time in the Tom Scott 10 (minimum entry age 21) at seventeen.    He went on to represent Scotland in the IAAF World Cross-Country Championships four times: once as a junior (1975); and thrice as a senior (1977, 1978 and 1980). Running for Clyde Valley AC, alongside such stars as Jim Brown, Ronnie MacDonald, Brian McSloy, Ian Gilmour and Peter Fox, he won Scottish team titles: the National Cross-Country Relay and the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay. John always enjoyed running hard with a group of competitive clubmates like these.

Further proof of John’s toughness was provided in 1978. He had always been good at jumping fences, but it was a considerable feat when he twice broke the Scottish Native Record for 3000 metres steeplechase, ending up with 8.39.3. He was selected for the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, but unfortunately a virus prevented him from competing. However John is very philosophical about the downside of athletics.

John Graham moved to Birmingham in 1979. Representing Birchfield Harriers and advised by club secretary and coach Maurice Millington, he started his marathon running career in 1980. His debut was an extremely impressive 2.13.21 when he won the Laredo Marathon in Northern Spain. Even better was an excellent third place behind Alberto Salazar in the famous New York event (2.11.47), which was a Scottish best performance. He improved this record in 1981 when he won the Rotterdam Marathon in a startling 2.9.28 – a time then only beaten by six other athletes in history!

Although he hated repetitions longer than 600 metres (and the aversion might have stopped him running faster at 5k and 10k) he did a great deal of track work, as well as many hill reps in Sutton Park and, often wearing both a tracksuit and a wetsuit, based his fitness mainly on ten-mile runs. In fact on Tuesdays and Thursdays he ran 10/5/10, with the third session of the day the extremely competitive Birchfield club run. Virtually covering the full marathon distance fast twice a week gave him plenty of speed endurance and meant that his Sunday run was seldom longer than one and a half hours. Over the year he might average about 115 miles per week, but he built up to a marathon with six heavy-mileage weeks, followed by six weeks of faster work. He neither ‘did the diet’ nor eased down properly before the marathon, but might decrease the intensity a little. He tried to race a half-marathon, a ten-miler and a 10k, in that order, in the weeks before the long race.

Trained after 1982 by John Anderson, who introduced sessions like ‘fifteen minutes flat out, followed by a return journey even faster’, John Graham battled on for several years. A valiant if unlucky event was the Commonwealth Games marathon in Brisbane 1982, when despite racing boldly he suffered from a cruel stitch (an old problem due to a scarred stomach muscle) and finished fourth in 2.13.04. Unfortunately, four years later in the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games, he came home fourth once more (2.12.10).

The good performances continued: 1982 2.10.57 in New York; 1985 2.9.58 in Rotterdam and 2.12.55 in Chicago; 1986 (as well as Edinburgh) 2.13.42 in Rotterdam; 1987 2.12.32 in London. Amazingly, John Graham once held nine of the best twenty Scottish marathon times.

John’s peak coincided with the boom years for the marathon. He raced all round the world and received marvellous hospitality and prize money. He met and formed friendships with great runners past and present, from Herb Elliot to Frank Shorter and Steve Jones. Domestically, it gave him great pleasure to win his local classic, the Tom Scott 10, in 1982, while his father and grandfather watched. Internationally, his 1980 New York Marathon performance produced almost too much adrenalin; and he particularly enjoyed his 1985 Rotterdam ‘race win’ when he outmanoeuvred a very classy pack, ignoring the great Carlos Lopez’s world-record-breaking 2.7.13.

There are so many John Graham stories, few publishable. John describes himself as ‘laughable and affable’ but very serious and disciplined about training. Although he himself could absorb the punishment without getting injured – a rare talent – his companions were less resilient. He used to run many miles with his dogs in Sutton Park until, it is rumoured, one suffered badly from shin-splints!

Considering his 1987 2.12.32 ‘slow’, John reduced his mileage and eventually stopped racing. Nowadays this talkative amusing extrovert states bluntly that many ambitious marathon runners simply do not train hard enough to succeed. Real speed as well as stamina must be developed and there is no easy way. He himself still runs twice a week, and before long he and Brendan Foster may make a pact to lose weight and strive to increase their fitness.

I recently asked John in an email what his training regime was and he replied as follows:

“Brian, the simple answer is hard work.   A sample week might have been – Monday: 10 miles then 5 miles fast; Tuesday: 10 miles plus ten miles then 10 miles at the club; Wednesday: Long run, anything from 90 minutes to 2:20 at a fast pace; Thursday: the same as Tuesday; Friday one easy run of ten miles; Saturday: Race or ten miles of efforts on grass and paths; Sunday: Long run between 1:30 and 2:30 and then track session in the afternoon.   The usual session was with Dave Moorcroft of (100+300 + 600)  x 5 with 3 minutes between sets.   600 was in 86, 300 in 43.   Then finish off with 4 sets of  4 x 50 metres flat out with 15 seconds between reps.   It was the end of a lovely week of pain but it worked for me.   I asked Deek what he did and it was exactly the same, session for session.

My coaches over the years started with Bert McKay who met me at 14.      He was a great motivator and pushed me to do 100% no less.   We have kept in touch to this day.   When I moved to England it was Maurice Millington from ’79 to ’82.   By the time I met Maurice I just needed someone to sound off to and get feedback from.   He was excellent and we never missed a day without seeing each other.  John Anderson was my coach from ’83 to ’87.   He had the hard man attitude I thought could take me to gold at the Olympics but we clashed.   Agreed on the need for speed in the marathon but there are different ways to achieve this and this is where we fell out – in a good way!   Always debating different training methods.   From ’87 to ’89 it was Alan Storey.   I enjoyed working with Alan and some of his sessions were the hardest I have ever done.   Example: Jog two miles to the start of the short stage of the 12 man relay then run the short stage in 15:00 – 15:15, then run one mile to the track then do 10 x (150, 300, 600)  then run the short leg again and run home.   Total time on my feet was about 2:56 and I just fell in the door!!!

One of my great heroes is Jim Brown.   I had the great pleasure of running with Jim when he was at his very best between the ages of 18 and 21.   He was the hardest man I have ever trained with and the only man to have a complete set of gold, silver and bronze in the Junior World Championships.   Clyde Valley was a great club to run with – Jim Brown, Ronnie McDonald, Brian McSloy, Colin Farquharson and Peter Fox – great days!!!

I have been lucky enough to meet the best in the world – I always listened to what kind of training they were doing and try it in my own way.   It seemed to work pretty well.”

So now you know.   When I asked Doug Gunstone why the standard of marathon running had slipped so much he said “they do too much training and not enough running.”   Whenever I look at what the top guys were doing I marvel at how much work the body can take.   John certainly deserved his success.

From Running Magazine

Peter Fleming

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Peter Fleming was at the top of Scottish marathon running for 17 years and for most of them he was top ranked Scot in the distance and at times holding the top two, three or four times in the same year.   For example look at his record in the 1995 in the table below where he had three times of 2:16 or better.   Like most of the top runners of his generation he travelled far and wide in search of competition and times but eventually he did most of his running in America and he is currently settled in Boulder, Colorado.

To begin with he was one of a very good group of young endurance runners from Bellahouston who all went on to become first class marathon runners – Andy Daly, Graham Getty, George Braidwood and Peter all ran sub 2:20 for the marathon and had good careers as cross country runners as well.   Peter however has clearly been the best in terms of times run and victories all over the world in many classic marathon races.  He became a specialist marathon runner and he must be regarded as one of the most consistent of the top marathon men of the twentieth century.   Before looking at his progression let’s start with a young (22 year old) Peter Fleming answering the SMC Questionnaire in May 1983.

Name:   Peter R Fleming

Club:   Bellahouston Harriers

Date of Birth:   5/1/1961

Occupation: Student attending Langside College of Further Education

List of Personal Bests:  800 – 1:57;   1500 – 4:02;   3000 – 8:19; 5000 – 14:34;   4 Miles Road – 20:15; 6 Miles Road – 30:24;   10 Miles Road – 48:58;   Half Marathon – 69:20;   Marathon – 23:19:40

How did you get involved in the sport initially?   When I was about 10 years old my father made me run 100 metres which I did in about 16 seconds.   He told me that men could run 6 seconds faster and ever since I have tried to run as fast as possible over every distance I attempt.

Has any individual or group had a marked effect on either you attitude to the sport or your performance?   Yes, myself.   Being able to discuss within myself (as I am self coached) my training schedules and racing performances in a critical way and in a way in which I can bring about peak performances for certain races that I feel are important.

What exactly do you get out of the sport?   The feeling of euphoria and speed after a good training session or race and the overall feeling of fitness and health.

Can you describe your general attitude to the sport?   To get as much out of athletics as I possibly can and while I can.

What do you consider your best ever performance?   The 1982 Glasgow Marathon where I reduced my personal best from 2:17:21 to 2:19:40.

And your worst?   The 1982 Glasgow Marathon for not winning it.

What do you do apart from running to relax?   Sleep.

What goals do you have that are still unachieved?   To receive an international vest and to go under 2:15 for the marathon.

What has running brought you that you would not have wanted to miss?   Self confidence.

Can you give details of your training?

A typical week’s training for the Glasgow Marathon:

Sunday:                       am 20 mile run in 1:55.                                                                                        pm Half hour stretching

Monday:                     am  2.5 mile run to college            lunchtime   5 mile run on hilly course                 teatime    2.5 mile run home

pm    7 mile run on hilly course

Tuesday:                     am    2.5 mile to college                lunchtime  2.5 mile run home                            pm  15 mile run in 1:25

Wednesday:                am    2.5 mile to college               lunchtime   5 mile run on hilly course                 teatime 2.5 mile run home

Thursday:                    am    10 mile fartlek over country and road                                                          lunchtime 2.5 mile to college

teatime 2.5 mile run home from college.

Friday:                        am    2.5 mile to college                lunchtime  2.5 mile run home

Saturday:                     RACE    or  am 12 – 13 miles steady in 65 – 70 minutes

Total Week’s Mileage:   99 – 100                                    All on grass except Sunday.

So where did this confident young man go from there?   Was his confidence misplaced?   Was his estimate of his ability totally wrong?   The figures show that he was spot on in fact.   In 1995, maybe his best year, he had the top three marathon times by a Scot and topped the half marathon list as well as the 10,000 metres on the road.   So how did he get from being a promising young runner to the top Scottish road runner for six years in succession?   His annual progression might be interesting in this respect.

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1981 Marathon 2:27:22   New York
1982 Marathon 2:19:40 8 3rd in Glasgow
1983 Marathon 2:17:46 11 1st in Glasgow
1984       Luddon Half Marathon 65:52
1986 Marathon 2:17:47 7  
  10000 Track 29:08.26 4  
  5000 Track 14:18.9 6  
1987 10000 Track 29:03.36 1 Not in top 20 marathon
  5000 Track 13:51.2 2 times.  So no marathons?
  1500 m 3:48.69    
1988 10000 Track 29:45.58 3  
  5000 Track 14:15.6 5 Also 1st in Falkirk Half Marathon
        in 65:49
1989 5000 Track 14:25.63 14 Still no marathons recorded
1990 10000 Track 28:30.44 2  
  5000 Track 14:07.9 4 Still not in marathon ranking list
1991 Marathon 2:14:17 3 1. P Evans; 2. A Hutton
  5000 Track 14:27.35 15  

So after a promising start between 1981 and 1986 he took four years without a marathon while his track times for 5000 metres and 10000 metres improved.    Now have a look at his times and rankings within Scotland from 1992 to 1997.  It was a bit of a purple patch where he had total domination of the Scottish marathon scene, albeit that most of the runs were done outside Scotland and steadily gravitating towards the USA.   What follows are the bare statistics from what I regard as his real top class running and racing as a professional marathon runner.   From the days when Duncan Robertson could not take time off work to compete in the Olympics we now have the first Scottish athlete to make a career as a professional athlete.   To me, his best year was 1995 but in this five year period period he ran at least nine marathons with only one as slow as 2:20:00, at least five half narathons inside 65 minutes and was ranked in the GB lists at 3000 metres, 5000 metres, 10000 on the road and 10 miles on the road.   Even during this period he would turn up at the Kelvin Hall on an open graded night and do the 3000 metres – on one occasion when Des Roache was running 1:49 for 800 metres and mid 3:40’s for 1500 he offered to share the pace so that they would both get a good run out of it.   As Peter Coe is said to have said, “If speed is the name of the game, never get too far away from it.”   

His best single year in my opinion was 1995.   In January he ran the marathon in Houston in 2:13:35 (5th), on 9th April he ran 10 miles on the road in Washington in 47:38 (9th), on 20th April he ran the half marathon in Philadelphia in 64:13, in May it was the Pittsburgh marathon in 2:16:00 (5th), in August he was back in Glasgow where he was 13th in the half marathon in 64:32 and in October he was timed at 2:15:25 for the marathon in Chicago.  GB marathon ranking positions for his best run each year were 7th in 1993, 8th in 1994, 6th in 1995 and 9th in 1996.   His personal best of 2:13:33 in 1993 ranked him in the top 170 in the world for that year (including Africans).   The rankings below are for Scottish lists only.  

Year Event Ranking Time Venue
1992 Marathon 1st 2:16:48 Houston
    2nd 2:17:02 Beijing
  5000 Track 30th 14:44:0  
  10000 Track 2nd 30:10:42  
1993 Marathon 1st 2:13:33 San Sebastian, Spain
  Half Marathon 1st 62:52 Glasgow
  10 Miles Road 7th 48:20 Greenock
1994 Marathon 1st 2:14:03 Naaldwijk, Holland
  Half Marathon 1st 63:50 Philadelphia
  10000 m Road 8th 29:52  
1995 Marathon 1st 2:13:35 Houston, USA
    2nd 2:15:25 Chicago
    3rd 2:16:00 Pittsburgh
  Half Marathon 1st 64:13 Philadelphia
  10000 m Road 1st 29:26 Washington
1996 Marathon 1st 2:16:58 Duluth
    2nd 2:20:00 Columbus, USA
  Half Marathon 1st 63:57 Philadelphia
1997 Marathon  
  Half Marathon 1st 63:15 South Shields
  10 Miles Road 1st 48:14 South Shields

(Note that, in 1993, his GB team won bronze medals in the World Marathon Cup.) 

After this period and settling in the States he did not stop running or running well.   Without attempting to give total coverage of his running since 1998, the following races are noted:   1999:   Austin, Texas   2:17:14   first veteran  ; Also in 1999 – New York   2nd in class;  2002 – Motorola Marathon, Austin, Texas  2:23:48  first veteran (aged 41);   2003 – Motorola Marathon, Austin, 2:23:20 first veteran (42); 2004   Vermont City Marathon 1st   2:24:02.  Note that the 2004 time is 5:30 a mile pace.   These were just picked from the internet but it is clear that Peter is still running and he must be enjoying it or he wouldn’t do the training to turn in these performances.

As Scotland’s first real professional marathon runner with more really top class times (ie sub 2:20) to his credit than most it is unfortunate that he never competed in any major Games – Commonwealth, European, Olympics and World Championships all eluded him – and that may be the price that the top men and women have to pay nowadays but I can’t help regretting that his name does not appear even once on the list of Scottish Marathon Champions.

Peter Fleming – Marathon Career Record                        

No Date Venue Position Time Winner (Club) Time
  1 25 October 1981 New York (USA)     145 2:27:21 Alberto Salazar (USA) 2:08:13
  2 17 October 1982 Glasgow         3 2:19:40 Glenn Forster (Sunderland) 2:17:16
  3 11 September 1983 Glasgow         1 2:17:46  
  4 13 May 1984 London (AAA)                  102    2:23:34 Charlie Spedding (Gateshead) 2:09:57
  5 16 March 1986 Barcelona (ESP)         3    2:17:47 Frederik Vandervennet (Belgium) 2:15:45
  6 06 November 1988 New York (USA)       27 2:21:48 Steve Jones (Wales) 2:08:20
  7 10 December 1989 Palermo (ITA)         1 2:15:22  
  8 30 September 1990 Brussels (BEL)         7 2:22:32 Csaba Szucs (Hungary) 2:17:36
  9 20 January 1991 Houston (USA)         7 2:14:57 Carey Nelson (Canada) 2:12:28
10 15 September 1991 Brussels (BEL)         2 2:18:17 Anatoliy Korepanov (Russia) 2:18:04
11 26 January 1992 Houston (USA)       12 2:16:48 Filemon Lopez (Mexico) 2:13:12
12 11 October 1992 Beijing (PRC)         9 2:17:02 Takahiro Izumi (Japan) 2:11:29
13 31 October 1993 San Sebastian (ESP-World Cup)       24 2:13:33 Richard Nerurkar (GBR) 2:10:03
14 19 March 1994 Naaldwijk (NED)         1 2:14:03  
15 09 October 1994 Eindhoven (NED)       14 2:17:33 Aiduna Aitnafa (Ethiopia) 2:11:37
16 15 January 1995 Houston (USA)         5 2:13:35 Peter Fonseca (Canada) 2:11:52
17 07 May 1995 Pittsburgh (USA)         5 2:16:00 John Kagwe (Kenya) 2:10:24
18 15 October 1995 Chicago (USA)                        12 2:15:25 Eamonn Martin (England) 2:11:18
19 03 March 1996           Los Angeles (USA)     DNF   Jose Luis Molina (Costa Rica) 2:13:23
20 22 June 1996 Duluth (USA)         3 2:16:58 Patrick Muturi (Kenya) 2:13:43
21 20 October 1996        Chicago (USA)     DNF   Paul Evans (England) 2:08:52
22 10 November 1996 Columbus (USA)         2 2:20:00 Abderazzak Haki (Morocco) 2:17:29
23 14 February 1999 Austin (USA)                             1 2:17:14  
24 11 July 1999 San Francisco (USA)     DNF   Brad Hawthorne (USA) 2:24:36
25 16 April 2001 Boston (USA)     DNF   Bong Ju Lee (Korea) 2:09:43
26 17 February 2002 Austin (USA)       13 2:23:49 Andrzej Krzyscin (Poland) 2:12:11
27 16 February 2003 Austin (USA)       10 2:23:21 Andrzej Krzyscin (Poland) 2:12:41
28 15 February 2004 Austin (USA)       12 2:28:49 Andrzej Krzyscin (Poland) 2:14:17
29 30 May 2004 Burlington (USA)         1 2:24:02  


Jim Dingwall

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Jim Dingwall in the Edinburgh to Glasgow, 1985

Jim was one of the really good guys – nobody ever had a bad word to say about him.   A superbly talented athlete over a whole range of distances as outlined below he is indeed a Great Scot!   The article is from the Scottish Marathon Club magazine from 1985 and is one of a series on Great Scots which included Chic Robertson, Alistair Wood, Don McGregor and others hence the title!


by Brian McAusland

“Jim Dingwall can by any standards – titles won at several distances, times turned in at any one of five distances, international vests won – be classed as a great Scottish marathon man.   He must be included in a series such as this when others who have done only a couple of fast times, or won one SAAA or AAA Championship would maybe not come within the scope of the series.

Jim was born in Edinburgh on 30th May, 1949.   A pupil at George Heriot’s School where Donald Hastie was head of Physical Education saw him hooked on athletics from the early 60’s, his mother encouraged this interest and by the time he went to Edinburgh University in 1967 he was already running the 880 yards in sub 2 minutes 02 seconds and had been third in the Scottish Schools Mile.   At University he was contemporary with Gareth Bryan-Jones, the Wight brothers, Blamire, Logue and Andy McKean.    He learned from them even though he  says “on a good day I could just about make the fourth team.”   This situation did not last for long however and he was soon a vital member of the great Edinburgh University team of the time.

At University he worked at his running and by 1969 was under 4 minutes for the 1500m.   1970 saw him run 3:51.2 at Durham.   In 1972 he joined Edinburgh AC while still at University and run pb’s of 3:46.2 for 1500m and 14:12.8 for 5000m on consecutive days.   Progress continued at an alarming rate and in 1974 he had bests for the season of 1:56.1, 3:50.2, 8:10.6 13:55.2 and 29:43.4 and in the process he won the SAAA 10000m.   The ironic point is that in season 1974/75 he established a record by NOT winning a medal..  In the national cross-country championships at Coatbridge the EAC team won the team race with our hero finishing 13th and out of the medals since his team mates were placed 1st, 2nd, 5th, 8th, 10th and 11th!   He is the highest ever placed non-counter in the championship.   Next season on the track, however, he was back to his best form setting a Scottish native and all-comers record for 3000m of 7:57.8 and pb’s of 13:48 (5000m) and 29:42.6 for 10,000m.

       Jim winning the 3000m in  the 1975 British Isles Cup at Cwmbran, outkicking Dave Lowes, Bernie Plain and Phil Banning.

It can be seen from these figures that like Alastair Wood and Donald Macgregor, Jim had a considerable track record before turning to the marathon.   In 1976 he left Edinburgh AC and joined Falkirk Victoria Harriers and simultaneously turned his thoughts to training for and running the marathon.   His first thoughts of running the race were in the early 70’s when he was racing and enjoying 1500’s and in 1972 he actually ran a late season marathon when the track season was at an end.   He ran 2:27:47 in a pair of heavy trainers and was sure then that he could do sub 2:20 with proper training.   He himself reckons that his track performances up to 5000m started to decline when he started to train for the marathon but the figures don’t exactly support this.

His first really good marathon however, was on 26th October, 1974 when he was fourth in the Harlow marathon in 2:19.01.   Gentleman that he is, he later apologised to Colin Youngson who had finished eighth in 2:21:06 because he knew that Colin had been trying to break 2:20 for some time while Jim had done so with no bother at all!  In 1976 he won the West District and SAAA 10000m titles and was third for the third consecutive year in the SAAA 5000m before he went down to the AAA Marathon in Rotherham where he turned in 2:26:00.   1977 however was a real turning point in his career.   He ran 2:21:37 at Rugby, then after two hard 10000m races in three days (in one of which he set a pb of 28:55.2) he won the SAAA Marathon in 2:16:05.   His track season that year included 1500m in 3:50.6, 3000m in 8:01.1 and 5000m in 13:59.5 and he retained his West and SAAA 10000m titles.

1978 was Commonwealth Games year in Edmonton and Jim ran well enough early on with 28:45.3 for 10000m and 2:13:58 at Sandbach to qualify for the Games.   On the day of the race (11th August) he led to the half-distance “and then the roof fell in” (his phrase!)   His finishing time was a lifetime worst of 2:32:54.   However he had gone as the only Scottish representative, run in very hot conditions and given it a real go – it was not a miserable tail of the field type run although he was naturally very disappointed.

In 1979 he was fourth in the SCCU Championship and selected for the World Championships; during the summer he ran 2:20:18 at Boston in April and 2:15:45 at Milton Keynes in September.   By 1980 he was running 5 marathons in one year with second places in SAAA, Aberdeen and Bermuda and wins at Le Quesnoy and Glasgow where he ran 2:16:07.   1981 began with first place on 4th January in Israel in 2:16:19 and this was followed by 2:14:54 in London.

After being third in the SAAA 10000m for the third year he went on to be fifth in Bermuda and also in the AAA race at Gateshead in 2:15:30.   With this kind of form over the last three years he could maybe be forgiven for looking for a place in the team for the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane.   he reckoned without the SAAA selection procedures.   Like many others he was led to believe that the AAA’s race was to be the qualifying race as it had been four years earlier at Sandbach.   Imagine his dismay on learning that he was not in the team but that Graham Laing whom he had beaten at Gateshead was.   He could be forgiven for feeling a wee bit bitter.

His reply the following year was to run a lifetime best of 2:11:44 in London for the marathon where he was fifth.   On paper this was his best run but he was left without the feeling of euphoria that normally accompanies such a performance.   To explain a bit, having had a cold for the three days prior  to the race he had not slept well, and then on the day he had lost a lot of ground on the cobbles at the Tower at 22 miles.   The resulting feeling was one of frustration as he felt that he could have gone even faster although he was pleased with the time.  

                                                                                                 Jim Dingwall: Personal Best in 1983 London Marathon

He also ran in Hong Kong, Laredo, New York and Bolton in 1983.   1984 saw him running in Hong Kong again where he ran 2:20:43, and London where he turned in 2:29:28.   He is now living in Hull and that has been a bit disruptive.

He can no longer (he feels) justify  putting so much effort into his running and and is currently doing only about 60 mpw.   Not only has his training been upset, but his career as an enlightened SCCU official has also been terminated for the time being.   He does however have the intention of returning to athletics administration.

After that brief resume of his career so far, let’s have a look at his thoughts on a couple of topics.   As far as training is concerned, he feels that we are limited by our brains rather than our bodies.   At the time he turned to marathon running he felt that he was unwilling to increase the amount of speed training he was doing and that without that increase he was not going to improve.   The type of training for marathons is not felt to be very important provided some simple principles are kept.   There should be some long runs, ie over 15 miles, and there should be some runs at faster than race pace – fartlek, shorter races, etc.   Training must also be consistent, not only miles per week, but also miles per year.   Jim’s lowest total since 1972 is 1990 which itself is an average of 77 mpw.   A lot of people train hard for a few weeks and then ease off.   This approach does not make sense to Jim.

The basic principle is that the harder you train, the fitter you get – provided you don’t break down physically or mentally.   The difficulty is getting it right for you.   Train too easy and you don’t reach your potential, train too hard and you get injured or depressed.   It is also wrong to adopt another runner’s training in its entirety – people doffer in talent, personal circumstances, objectives, etc.

As far as The Diet is concerned, he has done it a couple of times and run badly in the resulting race.   While accepting that it does increase blood glycogen, he doubts whether many people can stand the side-effects and suspects that most people who did The Diet ate significant amounts of carbohydrate during the depletion phase.   He himself does a slight depletion at the start of the last week – reduced carbohydrate to compensate for the reduced training load – 1 potato instead of 2, 1 spoonful of sugar in coffee instead of 2 and so on.   He also indulges in a carbo loading meal the day before the race.   The only dietary idiosyncrasy is that he eats a sandwich about 2 hours before a marathon since he gets a stitch if he runs on a completely empty stomach.

When it comes to assessing one’s best performance, the big boys can’t do it without arousing a bit of controversy.   As explained above, Jim’s fastest marathon left him feeling a bit frustrated; he places a higher value on his SAA win in 1977 since it convinced the sceptics that he had been right to move up from 1500m/5000m to the marathon.   He also feels that his most pleasing run was when he won the San Silvestre Vallecana road race in 1976 since he beat four Olympic finalists on that occasion.

Other than his publicly avowed aim to be the first 100 year old to break 5 hours for the marathon, what does the future hold for Jim?   It is well known that marathon and distance runners tend to keep their involvement with the sport in a way that sprinters and field events athletes don’t as a rule.   Well for a start he intends to go on running marathons and confesses that Ultra Distance holds a certain fascination for him.  In ’78 on his return from Edmonton he ran the Two Bridges 36 miles in 3:20:55 as therapy.   From there to the 24 hour race in October this year is a long way – it will be interesting to see what happens there if he decides to run.   He does not see himself as a coach with a ‘herd of young athletes’: this is not decrying the work that they do but he feels that his personality  is not suited to working in this area.   It would be a real tragedy if his experience of top class racing in all parts of the world were to be lost to the sport and he admits that he could maybe be ‘of some use’ as an adviser of good club athletes or international class athletes.   He seems to see himself becoming and administrator or official rather than a coach and from this point of view it is a pity he has moved to Hull where he does not know the scene, and where he will not be on the SAAA or SCCU committee – maybe our need is as great as Hull’s and the thought of Jim and Don Macgregor working on the already very good SCCU Committee for the benfit of Scottish athletics is an attractive one.

Jim is and has been a great ambassador for Scottish athletics and we are fortunate in the calibre of man currently at the top of the tree in Scottish marathon running.   It may be appropriate to end on a quote by one of them about one of his great rivals:  “I plan to run plenty more marathons … maybe I can run more sub 2:20’s than Donald.   I think he is about 10 ahead of me at present.”



The second feature is Jim’s answers to the SMC Magazine Questionnaire devised by Alastair Macfarlane and answered down the years by many marathon runners of all standards.

Name:   Jim Dingwall

Club:   Falkirk Victoria Harriers and City of Hull AC

Date of Birth:   30th May 1949

Occupation:   Research Chemist with BP Chemicals

Personal bests:   1500m   3:45.8     (1973)                     3000m   7:57.8 (1975)                              5000m   13:48.0 (1975)      10000m   28:45.3 (1978)                     Marathon  2:11:44 (1983)

How did you get involved in the sport?   I was fortunate that there was a big tradition of athletics and cross country running at my school (George Heriot’s in Edinburgh).   Donald Hastie and John Dickson (Head of PE and in charge of cross country respectively) were probably the most important people in getting me started.

Has any individual or group had a marked effect on either your attitude to the sport or to individual performances?  I’ve been around for a few years (or is it decades?) now so a large number of people have moulded my attitudes.   The ambitious runners I met at Edinburgh University eg Gareth Bryan Jones, Dave Logue and Andy McKean raised my sights.   The tremendous team spirit at Falkirk thanks to stalwarts like Willie Day, Willie Sharp and Davie Wilson made it seem worthwhile to train hard year after year.   Now down at Hull the friendly attitude of CoH has made me realise that there is more to running than bashing 100 mpw.   I’ve been lucky to meet hundreds (possibly thousands) of people through running many of whom shed new light on the sport.   Even people who know little about the distance running game can can often make profound comments like “You must be mad!”

What exactly do you get out of the sport?   Nowadays I get friendship, a good social scene, a reasonable state of fitness for an old stiffy and a bit of cash.   I can also look back on good times, trips abroad to exotic places but above all to making friends with many fine people.    Running is such an honest sport – you get out of it what you put in so there is a high proportion of decent down to earth people involved at all levels.   You couldn’t meet a nicer bunch of folk.

Can you describe your general attitude to the sport?   This has changed.   Once upon a time I wanted to be a world class marathon runner and was willing to train hard to achieve that (all right – you can’t win ’em all!)   Now I have a more easy going attitude.   I don’t train so hard and have to accept that I won’t break my 2:11:44 pb.   I do still want to be able to run reasonably well , though if the Don can still break 2:20 at 46 there should be a few years left in me yet.

What do you consider your best ever performance?   Winning the San Silvestre Villecana road race in Madrid in 1976.   I was such a novice on the international scene and was very surprised to beat quite a classy field including four athletes who were Olympic finalists that year.

And your worst?    Enschede Marathon in 1977 in 2:36 odd.    I thought I was quite fit before the race but I blew up at 2 Miles!   I presume there was something wrong with me  (I had to dive into the bushes) but I never discovered what it was.

What do you do apart from running to relax?   Not enough!   I sing in the Hull Choral Union and our local church choir.   I’m also out eating and drinking quite a bit.   I’ve recently started home brewing.

What goals do you have that are still unachieved?   The long term objective is to be the first person over 100 years old to break 5 hours for the marathon.   Gordon Porteous might have other ideas though!

What has running brought you that you would not have wanted to miss?   Apart from what I’ve said already, running has allowed (or forced) me to develop skills in certain areas eg public speaking, negotiating, organising events, which have been very useful particularly at work.

Can you give some details of your training?   I’ve done almost everything over the years from bashing two or three miles every night (in my late teens) to LSD (long slow distance – remember that?) in 1976.   Now I do 50 – 70 miles per week in one session a day.   I try to get into a reasonably long run (at least 15 miles) and a hard fartlek each week.   I also race pretty frequently (20 – 30 times a year).   I try to build up the mileage a bit before marathons – but am not always sufficiently dedicated to actually do it.   I suppose that after nearly a quarter of a century in the sport I just don’t want to be a slave to hard training any more.   I’ll settle for what comes.   Any achievements are a bonus.

The above two articles give a coverage of his racing and training and just a hint of his personality and attitudes.   His personality to a large extent shaped his athletics and the obituary below, written by Alan Fowlie and Colin Youngson, who both knew him well gives a real sense of his character.

Jim Dingwall was born in Edinburgh on 30th May, 1949 and died, after a long struggle with cancer, on 22nd July 2005.   He was one of the finest Scottish runners of his generation and a man known for dedication, clever tactics and an open cheerful disposition which won him universal popularity and honour.   Jim had a great number of friends and not one enemy, which is unusual since athletes tend to be self centred.   He certainly enjoyed a night out with both club-mates and rivals.   Real ale and good banter sometimes inspired him to display his singing talents, honed in the Methodist choir.   He was brave, matter of fact and uncomplaining – a role model.

Although his racing record and personal best times were extremely impressive, and his rivals could only respect his ability and consistent success,  his greatest achievement was to remain himself – a modest, positive, generous friendly man who was always great company   and an especially memorable character.   My memories of Jim (writes Colin Youngson) include many race defeats and a few surprise victories, but I will remember specially:   training with Jim and his great friend Willie Day in Falkirk; the Water of Leith pub crawl; the Isle of Man Easter Festival of Running (and beer drinking); and celebrations after the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay and the London Marathon.

Jim, who worked as a research chemist with  BP in Grangemouth was transferred in the mid 80’s to work at Hull (writes Alan Fowlie).   He arrived there in his prime as a distance runner with 30 marathons already under his belt and wins at Le Quesnoy (France),  Glasgow, Sea of Galilee and Hong Kong among others.   With this pedigree, plus his impressive record in track athletics, he was understandably welcomed with open arms by his new club, City of Hull AC for whom he filled a pivotal role for the next fifteen years.   In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, in local and regional races from 3000 metres on the track through 10K and 10 Miles on the road, right up to the marathon, the only question tended to be “Who’ll finish second to Jim?”   While based in East Yorkshire he completed a further 24 marathons winning the Humber Bridge and the Bolton within a fortnight of each other in 1985.   He ran 20 London Marathons between 1981 and 2003.

To the unsuspecting members of his new club he introduced the concept of ‘serious training’.   100 miles a week at training camps in North Wales and Derbyshire, and Tuesday night with Kirkella fartleks converted many joggers into runners, and more than a few runners into athletes.   Jim’s athletic prowess and commitment, his sociability, honesty and decency, and his infectious sense of humour all ensured that he was well loved and respected in this corner of England as he was in Scotland.

Jim Dingwall – Marathon Career Record            

No Date Venue Position Time Winner (Club) Time
  1 19 August 1972 Morecambe         6 2:27:47 Jeff Norman (Altrincham) 2:21:24
  2 26 October 1974 Harlow         4 2:19:01 Jim Wight (Edinburgh) 2:16:28
  3 08 May 1976 Rotherham (AAA)       30 2:26:00 Barry Watson (Cambridge) 2:15:08
  4 07 May 1977 Rugby (AAA)         8 2:21:37 Dave Cannon (Gateshead) 2:15:02
  5 25 June 1977 Edinburgh (SAAA)         1 2:16:05  
  6 27 August 1977 Enschede (NED)       45 2:36:22 Brian Maxwell (Can) 2:15:14
  7 07 May 1978 Sandbach (AAA)         5 2:13:58 Tony Simmons (Luton) 2:12:33
  8 11 August 1978 Edmonton (Comm)       18 2:32:54 Gidamis Shahanga (TAN) 2:15:40
  9 26 August 1978 Rosyth (2 Bridges 36)       12 3:50:25 Cavin Woodward (Leamington) 3:24:45
10 16 April 1979 Boston (USA)       55 2:20:18 Bill Rodgers (USA) 2:09:28
11 22 September 1979 Milton Keynes         2 2:15:45 Gianpaolo Messina (ITA) 2:15:21
12 27 January 1980 Hamilton, Bermuda         2 2:18:49 Andy Holden (Tipton) 2:15:20
13 03 May 1980 Milton Keynes (AAA)       22 2:21:38 Ian Thompson (Luton) 2:14:00
14 06 July 1980 Le Quesnoy (FRA)         1 2:18:40  
15 14 September 1980 Glasgow         1 2:16:07  
16 28 September 1980 Aberdeen       10 2:30:55 Graham Laing (Aberdeen) 2:19:33
17 04 January 1981 Tiberius (ISR)         1 2:16:19  
18 29 March 1981 London         7 2:14:54 Dick Beardsley  / Inge Simonsen 2:11:48
19 21 June 1981 Sandbach DNF muscle trouble   Andy Robertson (Army) 2.14.23
20 25 October 1981 New York 166 2.28.38 Alberto Salazar 2.08.13
21 31 January 1982 Hamilton, Bermuda         5 2:19:48 Colin Kirkham (Coventry Godiva) 2:17:28
22 13 June 1982 Gateshead (AAA)         5 2:15:30 Steve Kenyon (ENG) 2:11:40
23 26 September 1982 Beijing (CHN)       14 2:19:48 Jong-Hyong Lee (PRK) 2:14:44
24 22 January 1983 Hong Kong         1 2:15:48  
25 17 April 1983 London (AAA)         5 2:11:44 Mike Gratton (Invicta) 2:09:43
26 19 June 1983 Laredo (ESP) – E Cup       37 2:21:35 Waldemar Cierpinski (E Ger) 2:12:26
27 21 August 1983 Bolton         9 2:27:12 Ian Thompson (Luton) 2:18:09
28 23 October 1983 New York     117 2:25:33 Rod Dixon (New Zealand) 2:08:59
29 21 January 1984 Hong Kong   2:20:43 Graeme Kennedy (Australia) 2:17:27
30 13 May 1984 London (AAA)             223    2:29:28 Charlie Spedding (Gateshead) 2:09:57
31 30 September 1984 Glasgow         5 2:16:44 John Boyes (Bournemouth) 2:14:54
32 21 April 1985 London (AAA)       18 2:15:24 Steve Jones (RAF) 2:08:16
33 01 September 1985 Bolton         1 2:20:58  
34 15 September 1985 Humber Bridge         1 2:21:24  
35 20 April 1986 London (AAA)     102 2:24:53 Toshihiko Seko (Japan) 2:10:02
36 10 May 1987 London (AAA)     217 2:32:15 Horomi Tanaguchi (Japan) 2:09:50
37 17 April 1988 London (AAA)     104 2:26:48 Henrik Jorgensen (Denmark) 2:10:20
38 11 September 1988 Humber Bridge         4 2:21:49 Steve Brace (Bridgend) 2:18:53
39 23 April 1989 London (AAA)       86 2:24:50 Douglas Wakiihuri (KEN) 2:09:03
40 10 September 1989 Humber Bridge         8 2:26:37 Marty Deane (Belfast Olympians) 2:19:53
41 22 April 1990 London (AAA)     161 2:28:53 Allister Hutton (Edinburgh SH) 2:10:10
42 09 September 1990 Humber Bridge         3 2:27:44 Ieuan Ellis (Newport) 2:19:26
43 21 April 1991 London (AAA)     232 2:29:20 Yakov Tolstikov (RUS) 2:09:17
44 12 April 1992 London (AAA)     252 2:34:43 Antonio Pinto (POR) 2:10:02
45 04 October 1992 Humber Bridge       18 2:39:31 Ieuan Ellis (Elswick) 2:19:53
46 18 April 1993 London (AAA)     150 2:32:34 Eamonn Martin (ENG) 2:10:50
47 17 April 1994 London (AAA)     170 2:32:42 Dionicio Ceron (MEX) 2:08:53
48 02 April 1995 London (AAA)     234 2:37:39 Dionicio Ceron (MEX) 2:08:30
49 21 April 1996          London (AAA)     177 2:39:16 Dionicio Ceron (MEX) 2:10:00
50 13 April 1997 London (AAA)     277 2:39:14 Antonio Pinto (POR) 2:07:55
51 16 April 2000 London (AAA)   1476 3:03:48 Antonio Pinto (POR) 2:06:36
52 22 April 2001 London (AAA)     710 2:56:26 Abdelkader El Mouaziz (MOR) 2:07:11
53 14 April 2002 London (AAA)     578 2:52:01 Khalid Khannouchi (USA) 2:05:38
54 13 April 2003 London (AAA)     295 2:47:30 Gezahegne Abera (ETH) 2:07:56


Scottish Athletics suggests that Jim Dingwall raced 54 marathons. Mick McGeoch, a fine Welsh International marathon and ultra-distance runner, and also an excellent athletics statistician, has compiled the above list. (Jim often ran well over marathon distance in training: in 1977, for example, he completed a 32 miles circuit on the road around Loch Tay.) This list provides excellent detail about Jim’s illustrious marathon-racing career.     


Joe Small sent a copy of an article on the Sandbach Marathon prior to the Edmonton Commonwealth Games.   It is attached below.




Fraser Clyne

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Fraser Clyne in the Commonwealth Games, 1986

Fraser Clyne from Aberdeen was one of the very best marathon and long distance runners Scotland has produced with representative honours and championship medals on the road, on the track and over the country.   He travelled the world as did many of his contemporaries in search of good races – perhaps more than most – with a penchant for excellent racing in the Unites States where he was second in their national marathon championship in Sacramento in 1985.  A real student of the event his historical and statistical knowledge  is said by those who know him to be vast.    “He is basically”, says his friend Colin Youngson, “a serious focused guy who has been known to laugh.   His appetite for horribly hard training is legendary.    This was one determined, ambitious, tough athlete (with long relentless legs!) who deserved every single success and ended up much better than a few equally or more talented runners.   He occupied the position in Aberdeen AAC which Allister Hutton occupied in Edinburgh Southern Harriers – simply the best on very nearly every team occasion.”    Given the feats achieved by this obviously intelligent athlete one has to wonder why Scottish Athletics has not sought to use some of his knowledge and experience in any capacity/   Given the dire state of the event at present he would certainly have something very useful to say!

Unlike some of his contemporaries who never raced a Scottish Marathon Championship he won it on no fewer than five occasions with a record equalling three in a row.   The wins were in 1992, ’92’, ’94, ’96, ’97 and to add to the statistics, he was inside 2:20 for the distance no fewer than 22 times.    From Oakland and Sacramento in the States to Fukuoka (Japan) and Melbourne (Australia) he carried the Scottish flag and brought credit to the country.    His best time of 2:11:50 is still fifth on the Scottish all time list (well, fourth as far as I am concerned  –  the four ahead of him include Paul Evans!)   This page will be completed gradually because of the amount of information to be amassed so we will start with his replies to the Scottish Marathon Club Questionnaire as published in the June 1985 issue.


Name: Fraser Clyne

Club: Aberdeen AAC

Date of Birth: 23rd August 1955

Occupation: Chartered Town Planner

Personal Bests: 29:23 (10000m in 1983), 63:52 (Half Marathon 1984), 2:11:50 (Marathon, 1984)

How did you get involved in the sport? I started running in my second year at Aberdeen University (winter of 1974/75).   Until then I played football in the local amateur leagues but I got tired of being kicked off the park every week so I decided to try athletics.   I got a great deal of encouragement from people such as Tony Millard, Steve Taylor and Ron Maughan who were in the University Hare and Hounds team at that time.   The first race that I competed in was the Edinburgh to Glasgow Road Relay!   I had only been running a matter of weeks but I was given the fifth leg to do.   It was a disastrous performance, the team actually finishing in last place!   Nevertheless I wasn’t discouraged and in December of 1975 I decided to broaden my athletic horizons and joined Aberdeen AAC.   This was an important move as I was soon introduced to Mel Edwards who has been a valuable source of encouragement and advice throughout the past decade.


What exactly do you get out of the sport?   In my career to date I have been a member of three clubs – Aberdeen University, Aberdeen AAC and Glasgow University – and at each one I have enjoyed the social side of the sport as much as the competitive element.   I have great memories of Aberdeen University’s annual tour of Ireland, particularly the occasion when Steve Taylor asked for a bottle of sweet stout in a Galway bar – he was offered a pint of Guinness and told that if it wasn’t sweet enough he could add sugar!

Obviously in recent years I have had tremendous opportunities to travel throughout the world because of my running and that has been a tremendous bonus for me.   I have been to most European countries, the USA and Japan and as a result I have made good friends in these places.

Probably the best thing of all however is being able to go down to the club on a Wednesday evening and do a hard 10 with the rest of the guys then retire to the pub for the rest of the evening.

What do you consider your best performance?   Obviously my  second place at the US Marathon Championships in Sacramento in a pb of 2:11:50 stands out as my most satisfying performance to date.   But I got equal pleasure in finishing sixth in the national junior cross country championship in 1976 when Aberdeen AAC won the team award.   Winning the Scottish Universities cross country title in 1979 was also a highlight as were my two wins in the Oakland Marathon (1983 and 1984).

And your worst?   There are a few to choose from but probably the worst moment I had was finishing last in my international track debut in the 3000m steeplechase at Crystal Palace in 1980.   I wasn’t just last I was 100 yards behind the next closest finisher.   It was awful.

What do you do to relax?   I don’t have much free time but when I do I like to listen to some good music – Bob Seger, Eagles, Don Henley, Supertramp, Toto, Reo Speedwagon, etc.

What goals do you have that are still unachieved?  My main ambition at the moment is to gain selection for the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.   If I succeed in making the team I would then aim to do as well as humanly possible at the Games themselves.   However if things don’t work out there will always be new targets to be met.   Running always gives you something new to aim at regardless of the level of competition you are involved in.   I would like to do some more road racing in the United States if I have the time.   The atmosphere at American races is tremendous and the weather is generally more conducive to fast running than here in Scotland.

I also have ambitions in the cross country season.   I have run for Scotland in four World Cross Championships (1981-84) but I would like to gain selection for this competition on at least another three occasions to take me past Alastair Wood’s Aberdeen club record of six appearances in the event!   I have twice taken third place in the Scottish Cross Country Championships and that is something else that I would like to improve on.

Can you give details of your training?   During the build up to a major marathon I run around 90-100 miles per week.   Generally this is made up of a long run on a Sunday (20-22 miles) and a series of steady runs during the week which vary in distance from 5 to 10 miles.   If I don’t have a weekend I do three ‘work sessions’ between Monday and Friday.   Normally these take the form of hill repeats, mile reps and 300m reps although sometimes I will do a series of 1200m reps or 800m reps.   The training programme remains constant throughout the year.   In the final seven weeks before a big marathon I cut back my mileage quite drastically (to around 30 miles) to ensure that I’m as fresh as possible for the race.



This was written in 1985 and already he is talking about international vests on the track and over the country and his second place in Sacramento etc.   And he wasn’t nearly finished:   he still had to win his first SAAA Marathon Championship.     And as far as passing Alastair’s record in the World Championships is concerned then he just failed to do so – mainly because of an act of Fate!    He ran in the World Cross in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1986 and then the rules were altered and Britain was required to enter a single British team instead of the four home nations entering separate squads.   This has a really serious effect on Scottish Cross Country running – and I suppose on Welsh and Irish as well since the bulk of the population, the nature of selection and the actual selectors tend to massively favour England.   He did not have the opportunity to emulate his illustrious fellow Aberdonian.   At this point there was a real congregation of distance running talent in the North East and as a part-illustration of this I mention the coverage of his victories in the East District Cross Country Championships – in the 1981 race Colin Shields reports that “Fraser Clyne just outsprinted Youngson for the title“, and the same reporter on the 1982 East District Championship said “Clyne and [Graham] Laing outclassed their opponents to such an extent that they linked hands in a staged dead heat.”   However the race referee who didn’t like dead heats awarded it to Laing.

There is an interesting article by Fraser himself on the SATS Website at where in the Blog section he writes about “My Favourite Race”.   You have to go right to the bottom of the page but the article is well worth the effort.

Fraser is also journalist who writes about athletics for Aberdeen papers and magazines and along with club mate Colin Youngson, Fraser wrote a history of the Scottish Marathon championship under the title ‘A Hardy Race’.   Just click on the title for access to it.


No Date Venue Position Time Winner (Club) Time
  1 27 September 1981 Aberdeen         4 2:23:36 Max Coleby (England) 2:21:29
  2 13 June 1982 Gateshead (AAA)       17 2:20:39 Steve Kenyon (Salford) 2:11:40
  3 19 September 1982 Aberdeen         3 2:19:58 Gerry Helme (England) 2:15:16
  4 06 February 1983 Oakland (USA)         1 2:18:18  
  5 17 April 1983 London (AAA)       23 2:14:29 Mike Gratton (Invicta) 2:09:43
  6 04 December 1983 Fukuoka (JAP)       31 2:19:18 Toshihiko Seko (Japan) 2:08:52
  7 05 February 1984 Oakland (USA)         1 2:15:21  
  8 13 May 1984 London (AAA)               18    2:15:54 Charlie Spedding (Gateshead) 2:09:57
  9 30 September 1984 Berlin (GER)         6 2:15:21 Johan Skovbjerg (Denmark) 2:13:35
10 02 December 1984 Sacramento (USA)         2 2:11:50 Ken Martin (USA) 2:11:24
11 14 April 1985 Hiroshima (JAP-World Cup)       48 2:16:20 Ahmed Saleh (Djibouti) 2:08:09
12 05 May 1985 Pittsburgh (USA)       13 2:23:28 Ken Martin (USA) 2:12:57
13 13 October 1985 Melbourne (AUS)                 2 2:14:20 Frederik Vandervennet (Belgium) 2:12:35
14 08 December 1985 Sacramento (USA)         7 2:14:26 Peter Butler (Canada) 2:10:56
15 20 April 1986 London (AAA)    DNF   Toshihiko Seko (Japan) 2:10:02
16 01 August 1986 Edinburgh (SCO-Comm)       10 2:17:30 Rob DeCastella (Australia) 2:10:15
17 07 December 1986 Sacramento (USA)         6 2:15:03 Daniel Gonzalez (USA) 2:13:20
18 12 April 1987 Soeul (PRK-World Cup)       47 2:17:43 Ahmed Saleh (Djibouti) 2:10:55
19 19 July 1987 San Francisco (USA)         5 2:17:27 Mehmet Turzi (Turkey) 2:14:07
20 06 December 1987 Sacramento (USA)         5 2:18:58 Peter Maher (Canada) 2:16:49
21 06 March 1988 Casablanca (MAR)         2 2:16:32 Petr Klimes (Czechoslavakia) 2:16:32
22 02 October 1988 Saint Paul (USA)         4 2:16:04 Daniel Boltz (Switzerland) 2:14:10
23 15 January 1989 Houston (USA)         9 2:16:11 Richard Kaitany (Kenya) 2:10:04
24 16 April 1989 Milan (ITA-World Cup)    DNF   Metaferia Zeleke (Ethiopia) 2:10:28
25 01 October 1989 Berlin (GER)       23 2:17:45 Alfredo Shahanga (Tanzania) 2:10:11
26 03 December 1989 Sacramento (USA)         4 2:17:57 Budd Coates (USA) 2:14:07
27 02 November 1991 Black Isle         1 2:27:18  
28 08 December 1991 Sacramento (USA)         2 2:16:58 Bruce Deacon (Canada) 2:15:16
29 03 May 1992 Pittsburgh (USA)       18 2:25:03 Jorge Gonzalez (Puerto Rico) 2:17:33
30 02 August 1992 Elgin (SAAA)         1 2:25:38  
31 06 December 1992 Sacramento (USA)         8 2:20:43 Steve Plasencia (USA) 2:14:14
32 30 June 1993 Greenock (SAAA)         1 2:26:40  
33 24 April 1994 Fort William         1 2:25:17  
34 19 June 1994 Loch Rannoch (SAAA)         1 2:23:08  
35 15 September 1996 Greenock (SAAA)         1 2:28:25  
36 13 April 1997 London (AAA)       70 2:26:29 Antonio Pinto (Portugal) 2:07:55
37 07 September 1997 Elgin (SAAA)         1 2:29:37  
38 17 May 1998 Fort William         2 2:33:46 Mike Girvan (Warrington) 2:30:46



No Date Venue Pos Time Winner (Club) Time
  1 19 March 1994 Pitreavie 50 km 1 3:03:33  
  2 03 April 1994 Speyside Way 50 km 1 3:02:07  
  3 08 May 1994 Greenwich (UK 100 km) DNF   Paul Taylor (Woodstock) 7:35:03
  4 15 April 1995 Two Oceans (RSA) 56 km 37 3:26:22 Simon Malindi  (RSA) 3:10:53





Dave Clark

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Just behind him is the Admiralty Arch as he strides out down The Mall

Colin Youngson writes this tribute to one of Scotland’s best ever but least known marathon runners. Dave Clark came to marathon running comparatively late in his running career but had an amazing and swift impact and Colin covers his career in detail.

David R Clark (Born 7th October 1943) developed rather late as a marathoner.   He first broke 2:20 at the age of 35 in 1978, and for the next nine years had an outstanding career.   Born in Aberdeen he went to Aberdeen Grammar School – as did Mel and I – and went straight to Aberdeen University from there.    Arguably he became the most successful Over 40 marathon runner Britain has ever produced.   When I joined Aberdeen University Hares and Hounds in October 1966 he had already graduated and moved South.   His team mates had included Scottish International runners like Mel Edwards and Bill Ewing, and I knew that Dave had won a ‘half-blue’ for cross-country running.    We first met after the British Universities Sports Federation Cross-Country Championships on Saturday 4th February 1967.   This was my very first trip to London and nothing had prepared me for Parliament Hill Fields!   After struggling through six miles of mud and hills, and finishing 77th from 270 (but second Aberdonian), I hope that I showered before we headed off downtown.   Our guide was spectator Dave Clark, who made us walk ‘miles’ through the strange city before introducing us to his favourite Indian restaurant.   There he encouraged us to sample curries hotter than hell.   When we failed to clear our plates he did so with relish.   Had he been born in India?   Did he have a cast-iron stomach?   Obviously a hard guy, despite his medium height, trademark spectacles and otherwise civilised demeanour.

Ten years later we met for the second time!   Dave was living in St Albans by then.   He fills the gap thus:

“I enjoyed running from an early age.   At school it was not only an escape from team games involving balls but something that I was surprised to find myself quite good at.   For most of my career I had survived on a theory based on the benefits of rest.   A training run on a Wednesday for a race on Saturday was enough.   However having done a 10 miler around 1970 and suffered in the last five, I was aware that longer distances needed proper preparation.   So it was in 1975 that, encouraged by team mates who felt I could do it, I got it into my head to run a marathon before I retired from the sport.   With a steady job in London the obvious way to increase the mileage was to use this journey to good advantage.   So it was out at 7:20 am, then on the train to West Hampstead, Cricklewood or Hendon, and a run into Piccadilly Circus (via a patisserie) , a quick shower and ready to go at 9:00 am.   Then in the evening, the same in reverse.   I also extended my Sunday morning runs with my Verlea team mates, finding parts of the county I never knew existed.   With confidence I tried an all-the-way-home run.   John Dryden (Shaftesbury Harriers) took me his favourite route through Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill, Hampstead Heath, Golders Green to near his house in North London, leaving me to finish the run on my own.   The route was as rural as possible and pathfinding was tricky but I made it and thereafter tried to do this run once a week if I had no serious race at the weekend.   This regime, with additional runs through Hyde Park at lunchtime, eventually led to (one) week of 130 miles.   But one of the first effects of this new regime was improved results at shorter distances – even when there was no easing up for the race.   One early success – possibly because of the rural nature of most of the training – was a fourth place in the Orion 15 in March 1976, only a minute behind the winner.   This is a wonderfully muddy cross-country course in Epping Forest which I have always loved.  

I had decided to make my marathon debut in Milton Keynes, the RRC Marathon in July, so the training was geared to that – the other races being part of the build up.   So I was not disappointed in tenth place over 16 miles in the Clydebank to Helensburgh in April or 52:35 in the Hampstead 10 in May.   By this time the temperature was rising and we were due to have a real barbecue summer.   My plan for the marathon was to acclimatise myself by running the Welwyn Half Marathon the previous weekend without drinking any water.    By ten miles I was in third place.   My memory of finishing is hazy.   I almost lost consciousness and was ill for the rest of the day, but later found out that I was fifth in 76 minutes.   But the message was clear, drink early and drink often!   This paid off the following week: the temperature was 33 degrees C (91 degrees F) but I loved it.   Running with a club-mate, we agreed to start slowly and run together as far as we could.   We were around thirtieth at 10K but still running steadily and seeing other runners drop out.   I was eighteenth at 20K, tenth at 35K and finished ninth in 2:34:53 , tired but elated.   The atmosphere was way beyond that of a normal road race – we were all survivors of a shared experience and I was hooked – the marathon was going to be my event.

Later that summer I was a very close second to Graham Milne in Inverness to Drumnadrochit Road Race and then sixth in the Achmony Hill Race about  an hour later.   This crazy regime continued until September when I ran the Ben race as a training run the week before the Poly Marathon at Windsor.   I was not too concerned about finishing 40th on Ben Nevis.   Having dropped from the first ten at the summit, I was inhibited from running fast downhill due to a desire to remain alive with a full complement of limbs.   I started the Poly full of confidence and felt very easy in fifth place in 53 minutes for 10 miles.   At 20 I hit the wall.   My eleventh place in 2:28:48 was respectable but in my first year I had learned a great deal about marathon running – and my own limits.   From then on the event was not only in the blood but in the brain as well, and every waking hour was spent on working out how to improve my performance.

At work there was one of these new devices called a computer and I arranged to come in early and wrote a program which would take my daily food intake and calculate its value in terms of carbohydrate, Fat, protein and dozens of vitamins and minerals.   I read running books – Arthur Lydiard was particularly valuable –  and discussed training methods with my club-mate John Steed.   We developed a method called ‘modelling’ which involved running three miles very easily as a warm-up, then a fast sub-5 minute mile, followed by 5 miles of tempo running at 5:30/mile, finishing with 100m sprint and a few warm-down miles.   This was intended to replicate race conditions and build an ability to sprint to a finish line when totally shattered.   I read Ron Hill on carbo-depletion and resolved to try it next year.”

1977 started well for Dave Clark with a fourth place in the Hampstead 10 in April in 49:53 (his first time sub-50) as a build up to the AAA’s marathon in Rugby.   On 7th May, 1977, representing Verlea, he finished a solid tenth in 2:21:54, two places behind Jim Dingwall who did have a cold.   This led to his first GB vest for a 25Km road race in northern France.   The GB team filled the first five places and Dave was fourth.   Then he turned up on 25th June for the SAAA Marathon in Edinburgh.   This was the year that Jim Dingwall broke my championship record by 45 seconds reducing it to 2:16:05.   Willie Day recorded a very good 2:17:56 and Sandy Keith 2:18:52.   After running with Dave for a long time I managed to get away to finish in 2:19:35 while he slowed a bit to fifth in 2:21:18.   And that, I suspect, is the only time I have finished in front of him in a marathon.   Not content, Dave actually recorded his first marathon win (in 2:22:50) on a return visit to Rugby on 4th September 1977.   He ended the season with a fourth place in the Northwood half marathon in 1:03:40 on a course which he hopes was the correct length and 34th position in the UK marathon rankings.

M4 DC 2

Dave on the left with GB team mates Greg Hannon (NI), Sandy Keith, Bernie Plain (Wales), Paul Eales (England)

at the Karl-Marx-Stadt marathon, 1/9/79

So far so good but there was a good deal more to come from Dave Clark.   In April 1978 he was second (1:42:52) in the prestigious Finchley 20 (beaten by a fast finishing Tony Simmons who, ironically, had not entered the Inter-Counties Championship, allowing Dave to collect the winner’s cup.   Both had been using the ’20’ as preparation for the AAA’s at Sandbach on 7th May which was the selection race for the Commonwealth Games and European Championships.   Simmons won but Dave, who had been second Scot behind Jim Dingwall, developed a foot injury and fell back to finish 29th in 2:20:26, still a personal best.   On holiday in Finland in the summer, he recorded 2:27:57 for fourth place in Jakobstad, and on returning to Rugby had to concede victory finishing second in 2:22:25.   On 14th October he was fourth (53:55) in the famous Paris to Versailles race over 16.3 km.   Two weeks later Dave finished second in the Unigate Harlow Marathon breaking 2:20 easily to record 2:17:55.

1979 was even better with Dave Clark showing real consistency at a high level.   On 3rd March for Aberdeen AAC, he was fourth (51:32) over a hilly course against a classy field in the Edinburgh University 10; a week later he ran a brisk 49:10 in the Tonbridge 10; and then on the 25th March produced another PB (2:16:01 for eighth on the Scottish all-time list) when, representing Great Britain he finished second in the International Essonne Marathon in France.   Dave wrote about this race in the SMC magazine.   He took an early lead but at 13km his GB team mate, Paul Eales, shot off and by half way was 350 metres in front of Dave, the French champion Kolbeck and Go Tchoun Sein, a Korean who had won the classic Kosice marathon.   The Korean escaped at 26 km but Dave Clark managed to move away from the Frenchman at 30 km.   Eventually Paul Eales slowed down allowing Dave to pass him.   He wrote “The Korean, Go, had gone and was nowhere to be seen.”     Go went all right – on to win in 2:13:34 but Dave had worn the British vest with distinction finishing well in front of good English competitors like Paul Eales, Barry Watson and Mike Gratton, although North Korea won the team race with Britain second.

Dave Clark showed impressive powers of recovery by running 2:18:29 for forty third in the world class Boston Marathon on 16th April 1979.   Jim Dingwall was fifty eighth in 2:20:18.   This was another salutary learning experience – at this time fields of thousands were unknown in Britain, and to be left in the cold for half an hour without one’s tracksuit  resulted in two hours of agony.   Back home the AAA’s marathon was at Coventry with Dave finishing tenth in 2:25:56, the time reflecting Dave’s caution in the sweltering conditions.   Then on 8th July, I learned only too well how Dave had improved.   The two of us were selected to run for Scotland in the BLE (Eire) marathon championship at Tullamore which was held at the same time as a triangular athletics contest between Scotland, Denmark and Ireland.   English and Welsh teams competed in the marathon too.   I believe that, running into a headwind, a large group of about 20 reached halfway with Graham Dugdale of England ahead.   After the turn the race speeded up and I was left grovelling to finish a miserable twenty second in an exhausted 2:30:42.   Dave, however, who had impressed me before the race with his immaculate preparation for the race, involving the use of a humidity meter, came very close to winning but eventually finished only second, only 15 seconds behind Ireland’s Pat Hooper whose time was 2:17:46.

A British vest and a Scottish one, plus three sub-2:20’s in less than four months.   Characteristically, Dave battled on remorselessly.    On 1st September, running for GB once more, he finished third (2:18:22) in the well-known Karl-Marx-Stadt marathon in East Germany.   Then he rounded off a great year with fourth place in the Paris to Versailles (52:36) and second in the Pol-de-Leon to Morlaix, France.   By now Dave Clark had become an experienced and well-respected international marathon runner.   He was ranked eighth in the Athletics Weekly UK Merit Rankings for the Marathon in 1979.   Surely this had been his finest hour?

Not at all.   Although injuries might have intervened to restrict Dave’s racing, he ran for Scotland in the Swintex 25km, and for GB in Le Quesnoy, France, in July before spending the summer in Switzerland and doing mountain races including twelfth place in the tough Sierre-Zinal 28 km race with 1900 feet of climbing.   At the international  30km at Lillois, Belgium, in August he wore the GB vest for third place in 1:36:20.   On 28th September 1980 he finished second (2:19:33) in the Berlin marathon, running by now to a highly controlled even pace regime of 16:30 per 10K.

M4 DC 3

On Sierre Zinal, 1983

1981 did not start well due to a number of injuries.   On 29th March 1981 he was 29th (2:21:37) in the first London marathon, then on 10th May, sixth (2:20:01) in the AAA’s, seventh 2:18:42 at Sandbach in June and on 27th September, third (2:20:10) at Berlin, again after another summer in France and Switzerland racing every weekend.

1982 produced Dave’s fastest times.   On 14th March 1982 he was seventh in a sizzling 2:15:06.   The event was the Romaratona marathon in Rome and the course may have been 120 metres short.   However Dave provided crystal-clear proof of his fitness on 9th May when he finished seventh once again, but this time in the London marathon, to record a permanent PB of 2:15:28.   Even in late 2010, this makes Dave Clark 14th on the Scottish all-time list  (plus 125th on the British one and 18th on the British M35 one).   Dave ran two more marathons that year: on 8th August he won the Col de Lumiere race in France in 2:22:22, and following a win in the Luton 10, on 26th September he recorded  2:18:36 for eleventh (for GB again with Jim Dingwall as team-mate) in Beijing, China.

1983 started with third place (2:19:14) in Hong Kong on 22nd January, won by Jim Dingwall in 2:15:48, followed by 45th (2:16:06) in London on 17th April.   Then on 29th May, fifth (2:18:19) in Geneva; on 3rd July a win in (2:21:51) in the Pennine marathon for which the prize was a trip with entry to the New York marathon.   Only two weeks later he won the Caithness marathon in 2:20:34.   Dave Clark was three months short of his fortieth birthday!   Not content to rest he finished seventh (2:24:27) in the Adidas British Marathon in Bolton on 21st August.   His veteran adventure was about to begin.   He would prove to be a true ‘Master’.

What a start!   On 23rd October 1983 in the classic New York marathon, Dave Clark finished 40th and first Master in 2:17:30.   This performance places him sixth on the all-time British M40 list, but certain of the people in front of him may well have benefited from short or downhill courses or substantial tailwinds but the NYC course is tough!   Of those around Dave, only Donald Macgregor (six seconds faster on the list) and Alastair Wood actually won a World Veteran title….

Dave Clark’s success continued for four more years.   By the time he had worked out that race promoters attended all the main events, and that it was relatively easy to pick up a promise of an invitation (with flight and hotel)  to a race of one’s choice by doing reasonably well and talking to the right people.   This resulted in some crazy choices such as Marseille (sixth in 2:26:49 on 11th March 1984) and Barcelona a week later (19th in 2:21:36).   On 13th May 1984 he was 48th in the London marathon recording 2:18:38, 32 seconds behind first Master, Barry Watson.   He followed that on 27th May with tenth in Geneva (2:20:02) feeling somewhat weak, having experimented with a vegetarian diet.   He was back for another go at the Pennine on 1st July but this time had to settle for second place behind the Northern Irishman Malcolm McBride.   On 23rd September he he took seventh place (2:20:27) in the Montreal  International Marathon, Canada, running with Graham Laing as a British team; and on 28th October seventeenth (2:21:04) in NYC winning $2,200.   Indefatigably Dave finished the year with a (possibly) short course fifth place 2:18:07 in Florence.   What is it about these Italian course measurers?

On 21st April 1985, Dave Clark ran 2:18:10 for 37th (and second Master, only six seconds behind Gunther Kopp of Germany who used to run with Victoria Park AAC’s Hugh Barrow in Glasgow).   26th May produced second place (67:49) in the first 22km Royal Sandringham Run in King’s Lynn, Norfolk.

Sunday, 9th June, 1985 was the day that Dave Clark became a World Veteran Champion, with a clear win in the IGAL 25km event in Lytham St Anne’s recording 80:03 with prominent ex-international athletes Allan Rushmer second (80:49) and Tim Johnston third (81:15).   Six days later the amazing Dave Clark finished fourth (2:18:51) in a marathon some distance away – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!   20th July 1985 saw Dave win the Belgrave 20 in London recording a time of 1:43:41 (which is either first or second on the British All-Time M40 list.)   It was the first time in the 34 year history of the race that it had been won by a veteran.   Then he went off on a couple of so-called ‘holidays’ in the USA.   On 3rd August he was second in the Kelly-Shaefer race in New London; followed by 14th (first M40) in 2:18:57 in the Twin Cities marathon in St Paul on 6th October.

On 8th Match 1986 Dave Clark was forty second (and third M40) in in 48:11 in the 15km River Run in Jacksonville, Florida.   He flew over to Bruges in June for a third place finish in the popular international veterans 25km, then on 20th July he finished eleventh (first M40) in 2:26:04 in the San Francisco Marathon.   A fast 10K (31:47) gave him fourteenth place in the well-known but hilly Barnsley event on 28th September.   And then Dave finished the year in real style!

First on 12th October he won $3000 for thirty third (and first Master) in the Twin Cities marathon in 2:22:32.   Then Dave picked up another $3000 on 2nd November when ending up 65th (but first Master) in the New York City marathon (2:25:35).   This result hit the headlines as, at the awards ceremony Dave was presented with the award for the second M40 only to discover a few weeks later, that the ‘winner’ had not been seen by race cameras at key points.   He was told the result by a national newspaper while at work in London.

The obsession with racing continued into 1987 with a trip in March to the World Veterans Championships.   David had been flown over for the Tel Aviv marathon a few days later so he ran only the 10K (5th in 32:01) and the 8km cross-country as preparation.   He posted 2:27:36 for second place (and first M40) in the marathon.   In Spring 1987, Dave at the age of 43, rounded off his outstanding career as a world class ‘Masters Marathoner’ by finishing first M40 in the Boston Marathon in 2:21:37.     But there was one more: an obscure 2:46:06 in the Honolulu marathon in Hawaii, nursing a groin injury and finishing the race only by splashing the iced water offered at the drinks stations on to the aching tendon.

Thereafter injuries took their toll.   Dave Clark took up cycling – touring but also competing.   Nowadays he lives with his wife Genefer in Oxford, and is running once more – racing over rad and cross-country for his club, Herts Phoenix.   The M60 and M65 trophies have begun to take their place on his shelves – but not for the marathon.

Started 50
Finished 48
Won 4
1st M40 10

Aberdeen is proud of him.   Thank goodness he didn’t win a ‘full blue’ or who knows what he might have achieved!



Colin’s profile of this remarkable athlete finishes here and it really amazes me that we do not know more about him.   Top class times on all five continents, GB and Scottish vests in both Senior and veteran events, on the road and in the Mountains,  and I didn’t know very much about the man at all.   I would hope that his inclusion here would help redress the situation somewhat and let more people know about his achievements.

David Clark – Marathon Career Record

No Date Venue Position Time Winner (Club) Time
  1 03 July 1976 Milton Keynes (RRC)         9 2:34:53 Norman Deakin (City of Stoke) 2:25:50
  2 11 September 1976 Windsor       11 2:28:48 Bernie Plain (Cardiff) 2:15:43
  3 07 May 1977 Rugby (AAA)       10 2:21:54 Dave Cannon (Gateshead) 2:15:02
  4 25 June 1977 Edinburgh (SAAA)         5 2:21:18 Jim Dingwall (Falkirk Victoria) 2:16:05
  5 04 September 1977 Rugby         1 2:22:50  
  6 07 May 1978 Sandbach (AAA)       29 2:20:26 Tony Simmons (Luton) 2:12:33
  7 22 July 1978 Pietarsaari (Finland)         4 2:27:57 Jorma Sippola (Finland) 2:20:57
  8 03 September 1978 Rugby         2 2:22:25 Dave Francis (Westbury) 2:19:28
  9 28 October 1978 Harlow         2 2:17:55 Paul Eales (Windsor S&E) 2:16:40
10 25 March 1979 Essonne (FRA)         2 2:16:01 Chun-Son Go (PRK) 2:13:34
11 16 April 1979 Boston (USA)       41 2:18:29 Bill Rodgers (USA) 2:09:28
12 13 May 1979 Coventry (AAA)       10 2:25:56 Greg Hannon (Northern Ireland) 2:13:06
13 08 July 1979 Tullamore (Ireland)         2 2:18:01 Pat Hooper (Ireland) 2:17:46
14 01 September 1979 Chemnitz (East Ger)         3 2:18:22 Waldemar Cierpinski (East Ger) 2:15:50
15 06 July 1980 Le Quesnoy (FRA)         4 2:23:06 Jim Dingwall (Falkirk Victoria) 2:18:40
16 28 September 1980 Berlin (GER)              2 2:19:33 Ingo Sensburg (West Ger) 2:16:48
17 29 March 1981 London       29 2:21:37 Dick Beardsley / Inge Simonsen 2:11:48
18 10 May 1981 Rugby (AAA)         6 2:20:01 Hugh Jones (Ranelagh) 2:14:07
19 21 June 1981 Sandbach         7 2:18:42 Andy Robertson (Army) 2:14:23
20 27 September 1981 Berlin (GER)         3 2:20:10 Ian Ray (Salisbury) 2:15:42
21 14 March 1982 Rome (ITA- ?distance)         7 2:15:06 Emiel Puttemans (Belgium) 2:09:53
22 09 May 1982 London         7 2:15:28 Hugh Jones (Ranelagh) 2:09:24
23 08 August 1982 St Hilaire de Riez (FRA)         1 2:22:22  
24 26 September 1982 Beijing (PRC)       11 2:18:36 Jong-Hyong Lee (PRK) 2:14:44
25 22 January 1983 Hong Kong         1 2:19:14 Jim Dingwall (Falkirk Victoria) 2:15:48
26 17 April 1983 London (AAA)       45 2:16:06 Mike Gratton (Invicta) 2:09:43
27 29 May 1983 Geneva (SUI)         5 2:18:19 Ryszard Kopijasz (Poland) 2:15:00
28 03 July 1983 Huddersfield (Pennine)         1 2:22:51  
29 17 July 1983 Caithness         1 2:20:34  
30 21 August 1983 Bolton         5 2:24:17 Ian Thompson (Luton) 2:18:09
31 23 October 1983 New York (USA)       40 2:17:30 Rod Dixon (New Zealand) 2:08:59
32 11 March 1984 Marseilles (FRA)         6 2:26:49 Christian Geffrey (France) 2:17:50
33 18 March 1984 Barcelona (ESP)       19 2:21:36 Werner Meier (Switzerland) 2:14:50
34 13 May 1984 London (AAA)               48    2:18:38 Charlie Spedding (Gateshead) 2:09:57
35 27 May 1984 Geneva (SUI)       10 2:20:02 Svend-Erik Kristensen (Denmark) 2:14:55
36 01 July 1984 Huddersfield (Pennine)         2 2:23:54 Malcolm McBride (Salford) 2:22:54                                              
37 23 September 1984 Montreal (CAN)         7 2:20:27 Jorge Gonzalez (Puerto Rico) 2:12:48
38 28 October 1984 New York (USA)       17 2:21:04 Orlando Pizzolato (Italy) 2:14:53
39 02 December 1984 Florence (ITA-?distance)         5 2:18:07 Andy Robertson (Army) 2:15:23
40 21 April 1985 London (AAA)       37 2:18:10 Steve Jones (RAF) 2:08:16
41 15 June 1985 Rio de Janeiro (BRA)         4 2:18:51 Ron Tabb (USA) 2:16:15
42 06 October 1985 Saint Paul (USA)       14 2:18:57 Phil Coppess (USA) 2:10:05
43 27 October 1985 New York (USA)    DNF   Orlando Pizzolato (Italy) 2:11:34
44 20 April 1986 London (AAA)    DNF   Toshihiko Seko (Japan) 2:10:02
45 20 July 1986 San Francisco (USA)       11 2:26:04 Peter Pfitzinger (USA) 2:13:29
46 12 October 1986 Saint Paul (USA)       33 2:22:32 William Donakowski (USA) 2:10:42
47 02 November 1986 New York (USA)       68 2:25:35 Gianni Poli (Italy) 2:11:06
48 19 March 1987 Tel Aviv (ISR)         2 2:27:34 Michel Constant (France) 2:23:27
49 20 April 1987 Boston (USA)       24 2:21:27 Toshihiko Seko (JAP) 2:11:50
50 13 December 1987 Honolulu (USA)       37 2:46:06 Ibrahim Hussein (Kenya) 2:18:26

Back to Marathon Stars


Donald Macgregor

Don in Munich

The Don, as he was known had a fantastic record in the marathon where one of his finest runs was that pictured above – although Hill eventually passed him to finish sixth to The Don’s seventh, it was one of the best ever races by a Scottish endurance runner.   He had a super career as a runner on all surfaces and over all distances – 25 sub 2:20 marathons for a start!   He continued this excellent running as a veteran and in the 45 – 49 age group he appeared four times in the world rankings with times of 2:19.1 for eleventh in the world all time list as well as 2:19:36 (16th), 2:23:00 (54th) and 2:27:27.

There are two articles below: one is Colin Youngson’s previously unpublished biography written with the co-operation of Don himself and below that again is the article that I wrote for the Scottish Marathon Club magazine of April 1984 – again with Don’s help and it may be that you can see his turn of phrase scattered throughout.   There is inevitably some overlap but they are very different articles.   Colin first.

While at George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh, Donald Macgregor was no good at rugby. So he tried running a mile on the track and, miraculously it seemed to him, won an inter-school event, breaking the five minute barrier just three years after Roger Bannister had broken the four minute one. At St Andrews University he improved in cross-country events and qualified as a teacher of French and German. By 1965, at twenty-five years old, he had: finished fifth in the Scottish National cross-country; run for Scotland in the International Championships; won the SAAA ten miles track, beating Alastair Wood; and decided to try the SAAA marathon.   In preparation he ran two weeks of 100 miles each. During the race, Donald kept up with the experienced and confident Alastair Wood, who eventually drew away up a long hill about nineteen miles. Wood won in 2.20.46 (his third championship record) while Donald struggled in to finish in 2.22.24 – a painful but promising debut.

By 1967, Macgregor had progressed to third in the AAA marathon (2.17.19) behind Jim Alder and Alastair Wood. This was after three weeks of ‘intense hot weather training in Vichy, France’. He ran ten to fifteen miles in about six minute miles; and, on alternate days, a speed session, such as fartlek, or two miles of short sprints and short recoveries, or 30×200, or 4×600, or four times a mile in 5.00 to 5.30 with a 200 fast non-recovery! About seventy miles per week, which led to good track speed and a personal best in the marathon.

In 1969, Donald represented Great Britain for the second of many occasions, this time in the famous Kosice marathon in Slovakia, finishing second (2.17.12) to Demissie Wolde of Ethiopia, who had been seventh in the Mexico Olympic event – an omen for Munich 1972?

By now, Donald was teaching at Madras College in St Andrews, and most weekends came through to run very fast with an infamous Scottish ‘training school’, based at ‘The Zoo’, a large house at 78 Morningside Drive in Edinburgh. Many of the runners had nicknames: ‘The Beast’ was Fergus Murray; ‘The Crab’, Martin Craven; ‘The Bear’, Chris Elson and so on. Most of the denizens were linked to Edinburgh University, which had an exceptional cross-country team, winning Scottish National and British University titles and breaking the Edinburgh to Glasgow record. Other International runners in the group included Dave Logue, Gareth Bryan-Jones, Alistair Blamire and Alex and Jim Wight.

1970 was the year when the Commonwealth Games were held in Edinburgh and the trial for the marathon was hotly contested. Donald Macgregor ran almost 4700 miles in training that year, the most he ever did. He was only narrowly outsprinted by Jim Alder (the 1966 C.G. gold medallist) and was delighted to make the Scottish team. In the Games event, Ron Hill of England rocketed away to a British record of 2.9.28 (still, more than 40 years later, a Scottish All-Comers best performance). Donald has written that Hill ‘ran like a god…no praise could be too high for his performance.’ Jim Alder was the bravest of silver medallists and Macgregor was satisfied to finish 8th in a personal best of 2.16.53.

It was in the Olympic year of 1972 that Donald Macgregor, aged 33, reached his peak. In preparation for the Maxol Marathon British trial, as well as averaging ninety miles per week, he tried two consecutive 120 mile weeks, a month before the race. In addition this was his second attempt at the carbohydrate depletion/loading pre-marathon diet. In the Maxol it worked perfectly – he passed thirteen rivals during the second half, and finished in 2.15.06 to secure a surprise place in the British Team. Having recovered quickly, he managed ten 100 mile weeks, mainly at 5.30 per mile, and spent three weeks at altitude in St Moritz, coming down to sea level ten days before the Olympic marathon. In Munich on Sunday September 10th, he paced himself very well and came through fast, moving from 30th at 5k to 8th at 40k. Ron Hill wrote in ‘The Long Hard Road’ “I glance round and get the shock of my life: there, head on one side (the left), black-rimmed spectacles, grimacing face, it’s Macgregor ….He’s ungainly but Christ he’s travelling, he’s like a man possessed.” They passed Jack Foster of New Zealand; then Hill’s desperate sprint on the Olympic track left Donald to cross the line 7th in 2.16.34 – a very fine achievement, and one of which the modest Macgregor is rightly proud.

In 1973, Donald picked up his first SAAA marathon title from Jim Wight and both were selected for the Christchurch Commonwealth Games. Before the Scottish championship, Donald had been living and training around Dunoon. After three months of races over distances from 5k to 16 miles, he “did ‘the diet’ between Sunday lunchtime – (I lost 4.5 lbs on the morning 14 miler) – and Tuesday p.m. (14/3; 7/3; 7/3); and then ran next to nothing on the carbo-loading phase (3/3; 4;2.” Amongst his Scottish rivals, Donald was infamous for always getting the pre-marathon diet right and finishing very strongly indeed.

Before the Commonwealth Marathon, Macgregor maintained well over ninety miles a week for sixteen weeks and was fit, but perhaps not fast enough due to a lack of races during the last six weeks. His room-mate Ian Stewart convinced him to go for a slow run immediately after arrival at Christchurch airport, in a successful attempt to deal with jet-lag. Race day was on 31st of January 1974. Despite finding the pace too rapid after five miles (Ian Thompson beat Ron Hill’s Championship record with 2.9.12), Donald passed several runners in the second half of the marathon to end up 6th in his best-ever time of 2.14.15.

Donald won the SAAA marathon titles in 1974 and 1976, and continued to win medals in the event until his ninth in 1986, twenty-one years after his debut.

As a new veteran in Hanover in 1979, Donald ran an impressive30.04 to win the World Veterans 10,000 metres by 55 seconds. Then in the marathon, after he had waited for John Robinson of New Zealand, and had agreed to run in together, his companion sprinted away for a one-second win. However in August 1980 near Bellahouston, Glasgow, a determined Macgregor overtook Robinson with three miles to go and gained revenge by winning gold (2.19.23) in the World Veterans Marathon Championship, just 70 yards in front.

In 1983 he seemed reborn at 43 when he won the first Dundee People’s Marathon in 2.17.24. Donald Macgregor has run the most sub-two-twenty marathons by a Scot – 24.

Durable Donald won the Scottish Veterans M50 cross-country title despite problems with fading eyesight, steamed-up spectacles and a tendency to trip over dips, ruts and obstacles. He went on to win races in the over-Over 70 category.  In retirement from teaching, this droll, self deprecating man serves on the Community Council in St Andrews and talks as he writes with forthright enthusiasm. .

Now my own story – possibly not as up close as Colin’s but one with which I was quite pleased.   It covers the time from his school days and he even mentions particular people who were influential in getting him started and shaping his career from school days right through to his running sub-2:20 as a veteran.   It is maybe an appendix to Colin’s article which qualifies and adds to some of the points raised.


Don McGregor is unique.    As a marathon runner, he has won three SAAA titles and is universally respected abroad as well as at home; he has proved extremely efficient as an administrator and been elected President of the SCCU;  as an adviser of top marathon men he has been asked for advice by many of Scotland’s top men; he has done sterling work at grass roots level for his own club, Fife AC, and on behalf of the Dundee People’s Marathon.   A former SAAA marathon champion has said that although Jim Alder, Dunky Wright and Joe McGhee have better records in terms of Games successes, Donald’s overall contribution to the sport in Scotland exceeds a lot of these people.   Having indicated the width of his contribution to distance running north of the border I would like to take a look at his career as a runner in some detail.

Donald started at Daniel Stewart’s College in Edinburgh where, as a non-rugby player, he was allowed to ‘jog, run or amble’ round a short road circuit with some colleagues.   Being the best in the group, he won the school cross country championship and at the start of the following track season was running a brisk 5 minutes 25 for the mile.   He remained around this mark until one evening in May, 1957, when he won the triangular fixture for the school against Trinity and Heriot’s in a personal best by 23 seconds.   That really got him going and immediately he started training with a purpose.   He also raced a lot and it was not unusual for his name to appear twice or even three times in the ‘Scottish News’ column of ‘Athletics Weekly’.   His improvement was steady.   Up until his first marathon in 1965 his progress at Three and Six Miles was as follows:

1958:   Three Miles   –   15:48

1959:   Three Miles   –   15:16

1960:   Three Miles   –   14:53

1963:   Three Miles   –   14:28;   Six Miles   –   30:04.8

1964:   Three Miles   –   13:50;   Six Miles   –   28:42

1965:   Three Miles   –   13:57.6;   Six Miles   –   29:19.4

(First Marathon: 2:26:24)

As can be seen from the above times he was a good class runner on the track before he turned to the marathon.   The reasons why runners come into marathon running and racing have always intrigued me.   As far as Donald was concerned he had had a fairly successful season on the roads and the notion of running the marathon came to him at this point.   The actual decision to un in the SAAA Championship of 1965 was born after a poor run in the International Cross Country Championship at Ostend where the thick mud did not suit him at all.   The track season began with a win over Alastair Wood in the SAAA 10 Miles Track Championship in a time of 50:23 with the last lap covered in 61 seconds.   His training at this time had been approximately 70/80 mpw with Ken Ballantyne and the New Zealand athlete Bill Allison.   The 1965 season included a race in the Clydebank – Helensburgh where he ran in with Alastair Wood prompting the late Jimmy Scott to remark, “It’ll be MacGregor for ten years now.”

It can be seen from the  figures above as well as the results against Wood that he was in good form for the marathon.   Perhaps unfortunately for the new boy, the race was held over what he recalls as an undulating sort of course – it was in fact the very hilly, dead straight and fairly tough course from Anniesland along the Great Western Road to Dumbarton and back again and the opposition including the aforementioned Wood whom many of the top men have described as ‘an obviously very hard man’, ‘tough in competition’ and so on.   Donald held on until just after the 20 mile mark and despite wanting to drop out at about 23 miles carried on to the finish.

His next marathon was in the Poly event from Windsor to Chiswick.   On a very hot day he was never in contention, had some sort of heat stroke and dropped out at 20 miles.   He kept on running he says with the marathon as a ‘fall back’ event.   In 1966 his best three miles was 14:13.4 and he ran six miles in 29:28.8 to win the SAAA title.   In 1967 his times improved even further – 29:15.6 for Six Miles and 2:17:19 for the marathon.   This race, notable for the fact that the first three runners were all Scots, came after a lot of speed work in training.   His season up to that point was relatively low in mileage (60/70) but included sessions like 5 x 400 in under 60 seconds with a 400 jog,  or  10 x 300 in 45 with a 300 jog.   he also ran 8 minutes 58 for Two Miles on the five laps to the mile grass track at Murrayfield finishing behind Lachie Stewart but ahead of Ian Stewart.   In the course of the marathon by the way he was encouraged by the Secretary of the SAAA shouting “Keep it up, Duncan!”

By now, ‘The Don’ was racing a lot and racing well.   In 1969 he ran in the star studded Maxol  Marathon in Manchester (not too well) and then finished second in the international race at Kosice in the same year.   He is quoted in ‘Athletics Weekly’ in December 1969 as saying that his target was a medal in the Commonwealth Games in 1970.   This didn’t happen and it is common knowledge what sort of a race that turned out to be.   His next target had to be a place in the Olympic Games team in 1972.   He continued to run well and, to quote Ron Hill, ‘a surprise third in the race overall was Scotland’s Don MacGregor in 2:15:06.   (Ron Hill had been second.)   The reigning Scottish champion was Alastair Wood and jogging together before the race he had asked Donald what time he was looking for and was told two hours fifteen minutes!   He more than justified the faith of his club who had helped him with his air fare to the trial.

Moving from 20th at eleven miles to third in a time almost two minutes faster than his best he had won his ticket on the plane to Munich.   The Munich race is well documented in Ron Hill’s book if nowhere else but for one top Scots runner one of the sights of the Olympics that year was Ron Hill’s face as he realised that another British runner was catching him..   Donald ran a first class race to be seventh to Hill’s sixth.   Hill’s comment about him was not very original – verging on cliche for most Scots runners in fact – but sums up The Don in action: “He’s ungainly, but Christ he’s moving.”   There were only four seconds between them at the end.   Donald himself admits to feeling pity for Ron when he caught him up because he had put so much into winning this race.   He suggests too that perhaps Ron was the unwitting architect of his own downfall: by staying at altitude until 7 days before the race he did not give his body time to adjust to the new conditions.

For Don himself the relative success of the Olympics gave him a tremendous lift and a new stature as an athlete that he had not had before despite his excellent running at all levels on all surfaces (except Ostend mud!)   He put an end to his lack of SAAA Marathon titles by winning in 1973 (2:17:50), 1974 (2:18:08) and 1976 (2:24:12).   He tried ultra distance running with some success and still holds the Scottish records for 25000, 30000, 35000 metres and for the two hours run as well as 20 miles (1:42:07).   he also had a go at the Two Bridges race in August 1974 where he finished seventh (first veteran was in third place and was called Alastair Wood).   He kept on running marathons, road races, relays and cross country for club and country – in 1974 he was third Briton in the ranking lists with 2:14:15; in 1975 he slipped to 2:20:50 for 28th in the GB lists; in 1977 he was running 2:18:31.   In his first year as a veteran he won the World Vet’s Marathon Championship in Glasgow and last year at the age of 44 he won the Dundee Marathon in 2:17:24.   Brief as it is the above gives only the bones of his marathon running career and barely hints at his achievements in other events.  

Youn can read about his career as a veteran at this  page

What is he like as a man?

My correspondents all agree on one thing: The Don’s sense of humour.   Maybe training for the event nowadays makes a sense of humour more desirable or necessary than before.   In any case, his is described more as subtle satire.   I am reliably informed that he used to do a wonderful impersonation of the archetypal SAAA official; on another occasion having won a trophy for his run in the Westland marathon he spent the boat trip home unscrewing the trophy and re-assembling it in various ways, each more ridiculous than the last.   In the course of an SAAA marathon when Robin Morris appeared for the umpteenth time in a few miles shouting fiercely he turned to the other races to comment: “I hope he doesn’t intend keeping that up for 26 miles!”   He has been described as an excellent committee member being articulate, well organised and intelligent, and even better team manager being as one might expect athlete centred instead of being an official official.

As a runner he is said to be prepared to chat briefly to his rivals but to save the conversation for after the race.   His early aggressiveness has also been commented on by one former champion while another noted that he comes through late.   The truth is probably that he is pretty tough all the way through and if you yourself have a weakness he will be sure to find it at some point in the race.   All are agreed however that he had marathon training perfectly controlled – and this included the diet.   He has had several items published on marathon training but he has managed to lay them out under four distinct headings:

  1. Endurance which he feels is best achieved by lots of slowish, medium and even fastish runs.
  2. Speed which involves lots of shorter races on all surfaces but not too often.
  3. Experience which takes time to acquire.   By this he doesn’t mean necessarily marathon running experience but more racing in general over shorter distances.
  4. Rest.   Another runner once told me that knowledge of when not to run was as important as knowing when to run.   Donald feels that it is important to ease right back in the week or two prior to the race although this should be seen in the context of a 10 or 15 week build up.   His basic advice seems to be don’t train too hard unless you feel like it and there is no need for ‘bashing’ in training so long as you have a short race every 2 – 3 weeks.   The maximum would be three or four marathons per year to give  the runner adequate time to recover psychologically.

Finally, on the question of diet.   Donald, according to one SAAA champion kept charging through late in races because of the effects of the diet.   It was a surprise to many when he gave it up completely.   The man himself says that there is no need to attempt it until you can run under 2:20 without it.   It did help him in three bug races including Munich but he doesn’t do it often since the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch since he can’t stand the strain of the first three days.   His advice is not to deprive yourself totally of carbohydrate in the first three days – Ron Hill ate the occasional yoghurt as well as apple and orange during the low carbohydrate phase.

If George Sheehan can be described by ‘Runners World’ as a renaissance man because he can write and run as well as be a doctor, then I suppose Donald should really be called Leonardo.    As I said at the start – Donald is unique.

(‘The Diet’ referred to above had been pioneered in Britain by Ron Hill and details can be found by looking up either ‘Carbohydrate Loading’   or  ‘Glycogen Bleed Out’ or ‘Glycogen Depletion’ – all were used depending on the emphasis.)

Donald was a hero to many of us for a long time.   Unlike many he is always free with his advice and has written several articles and reported on races for magazines and newspapers and even broadcast training advice over local radio in the run-up to the Dundee Marathons.   The photograph below was taken at a reunion dinner in April 2012 and Donald is seen here with Lachie Stewart and Fergus Murray.   It was a good evening and Donald enjoyed watching the slide show and talking with all his old cronies.

                                                       Don Macgregor – Marathon Career Record   

No Date Venue Position Time Winner (Club) Time
  1 12 June 1965 Dumbarton (SAAA)         2 2:22:24 Alastair Wood (Aberdeen) 2:20:46
  2 11 June 1966 Windsor-Chiswick    DNF   Graham Taylor (Cambridge) 2:19:04
  3 26 August 1967 Nuneaton (AAA)         3 2:17:19 Jim Alder (Morpeth) 2:16:08
  4 01 October 1967 Kosice (SVK)       11 2:24:55 Nedjalko Farcic (SER) 2:20:54
  5 10 May 1969 Chemnitz (East Germany)         5 2:18:51 Tim Johnston (Portsmouth) 2:15:32
  6 20 July 1969 Manchester Maxol       28 2:32:09 Ron Hill (Bolton) 2:13:42
  7 05 October 1969 Kosice (SVK)                      2 2:17:34 Demissie Wolde (ETH) 2:15:37
  8 16 May 1970 Edinburgh (SAAA)         2 2:17:14 Jim Alder (Morpeth) 2:17:11
  9 23 July 1970 Edinburgh (Comm)         8 2:16:53 Ron Hill (England) 2:09:28
10 06 April 1971 Marathon – Athens         5 2:26:02 Akio Usami (Japan) 2:19:25
11 08 May 1971 Edinburgh – North Berwick         3 2:19:00 Alex Wight (Edinburgh AC) 2:15:27
12 13 June 1971 Manchester Maxol       19 2:19:34 Ron Hill (Bolton) 2:12:39
13 26 June 1971 Edinburgh (SAAA)    DNF   Pat MacLagan (Victoria Park) 2:21:18
14 30 October 1971 Refrath (West Germany)         1 2:19:01  
15 15 April 1972 Waldniel (West Germany)         3 2:25:18 Manfred Steffny (West Germany) 2:20:39
16 04 June 1972 Manchester Maxol         3 2:15:06 Lutz Philipp (West Germany) 2:12:50
17 10 September 1972 Munich (GER Olympic)         7 2:16:35 Frank Shorter (USA)
18 04 December 1972 Fukuoka (JAP)         6 2:16:43 Frank Shorter (USA) 2:10:30
19 23 June 1973 Edinburgh (SAAA)         1 2:17:50  
20 31 January 1974 Christchurch NZ (Comm)         6 2:14:16 Ian Thompson (England) 2:09:12
21 22 June 1974 Edinburgh (SAAA)         1 2:18:08  
22 26 October 1974 Harlow                                3 2:17:46 Jim Wight (Edinburgh) 2:16:28
23 01 June 1975 Stoke (AAA)       15 2:20:50 Jeff Norman (Altrincham) 2:15:50
24 28 June 1975 Edinburgh (SAAA)    DNF   Colin Youngson (Edinburgh SH) 2:16:50
25 08 May 1976 Rotherham (AAA)       12 2:21:27 Barry Watson (Cambridge) 2:15:08
26 26 June 1976 Edinburgh (SAAA)         1 2:24:12  
27 07 May 1978 Sandbach (AAA)       40 2:22:45 Tony Simmons (Luton) 2:12:33
28 03 June 1978 Edinburgh (SAAA)         2 2:23:33 Ian MacIntosh (Ranelagh) 2:23:07
29 15 October 1978 Middlesbrough                     2 2:19:19 Malcolm Mountford (Stafford) 2:19:11
30 26 June 1979 Edinburgh (SAAA)         2 2:19:15 Alastair MacFarlane (Springburn) 2:18:03
31 02 August 1979 Hannover (GER-World Vets)         2 2:22:54 John Robinson (New Zealand) 2:22:52
32 22 September 1979 Milton Keynes         6 2:18:30 Gianpaolo Messina (ITA) 2:15:21
33 12 April 1980 Maassluis (NED)         4 2:22:33 Jorn Lauenborg (Den) 2:17:30
34 24 August 1980 Glasgow (World Vets)         1 2:19:23  
35 28 September 1980 Aberdeen         7 2:26:48 Graham Laing (Aberdeen) 2:19:33
36 11 April 1981 Maassluis (NED)       36 2:38:15 Cor Vriend (Ned) 2:17:06
37 20 June 1981 Edinburgh (SAAA)         2 2:21:31 Colin Youngson (Aberdeen) 2:20:42
38 27 September 1981 Aberdeen         3 2:21:52 Max Coleby (Gateshead) 2:21:29
39 14 March 1982 Essonne (FRA)         9 2:21:40 Jong-Hyong Lee (PRK) 2:14:50
40 09 May 1982 London       36 2:20:42 Hugh Jones (Ranelagh) 2:09:24                
41 17 October 1982 Glasgow       10 2:22:06 Glenn Forster (Sunderland) 2:17:16
42 17 April 1983 Dundee         1 2:17:24  
43 26 June 1983 Loch Rannoch         3 2:26:51 George Reynolds (Elgin) 2:24:09
44 11 September 1983 Glasgow         7 2:19:34 Peter Fleming (Bellahouston) 2:17:46
45 29 April 1984 Dundee         1    2:18:16  
46 30 September 1984 Glasgow       10 2:19:01 John Boyes (Bournemouth) 2:14:54
47 31 March 1985 Wolverhampton         3 2:23:00 Ian Corrin (South Liverpool) 2:21:43
48 23 June 1985 Loch Rannoch         1 2:25:00  
49 22 September 1985 Glasgow       10 2:19:36 David Lowes (Chester le Street) 2:15:31
50 20 April 1986 London (AAA)                    66 2:22:05 Toshihiko Seko (Japan) 2:10:02
51 01 June 1986          Edinburgh (SAAA)         2 2:27:30 Brian Carty (Shettleston) 2:23:42
52 24 April 1988          Dundee     DNF   Sam Graves (Fife) 2:27:50
 U 24 August 1974 Two Bridges         8 3:40:45 Jim Wight (Edinburgh AC) 3:26:31





Pat Maclagan

Pat Maclagan 1

From Pat’s diaries …

Although I didn’t know Pat Maclagan well it was inevitable that we were acquainted with each other since our two clubs were fairly close together geographically and we were running in many of the same events.    He was always very pleasant and I remember a conversation with him on the train into Glasgow.   There were two races held in Glasgow at the start of the year – the Nigel Barge which had been on the first Saturday of the year since its inception and the Springburn Cup which had had many incarnations.   In the year in question, Springburn decided to hold their race on the same date as the Barge but with bigger prizes and more of them.   A fair few runners were talking of reneging on the Maryhill race but when I asked Pat which he was going to run in, he replied immediately that he would run in the Nigel Barge race – “after all, it’s a classic race, isn’t it?”   That was exactly right and if you look at the racing programme described in Colin Youngson’s story of Pat’s career you will see that he ran in all the classic races in the country whether on the road, over the country or on the track.   The SAAA Championships, all the cross country championships, the Edinburgh to Glasgow and others all appear in his story.    Incidentally in the race in question, the winner was Ronnie McDonald from Monkland Harriers who was sub-4 miler from Pat in second place with the difference being only three seconds.   Pat in turn was a mere one second ahead of the extremely talented Alistair Blamire who was two seconds up on Andy McKean, who was two seconds up on Alex Wight with Dave McMeekin 29 seconds back!   Six men within 37 seconds and only eight seconds covering the first five!     What follows is his friend Colin’s account of Pat’s career..

Patrick Maclagan, who was educated at Glasgow Academy, used to live in the quadrangle of Glasgow University, where his father was Professor of Moral Philosophy.    Victoria Park AAC clubmate Hugh Barrow (who once held the world junior record for the mile) remembers doing interval sessions round the famous Gilmorehill Campus with Pat, under cover of darkness.   Young Patrick had a good sporting pedigree, being related to William Maclagan who captained the first British Isles rugby tour to South Africa in 1890-91.

Pat was only nineteen when he ran the last stage in the 1963 Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay for Victoria Park.  This event was of massive annual importance for his club, probably because of traditions created during the Ian Binnie era in the 1950’s when no fewer than seven E to G’s were won by the club.   Ronnie Kane who ran in some of these winning teams, became club captain and coach, although Pat and other younger athletes of that era, such as Hugh Barrow, were coached initially by Johnnie Stirling who like Ronnie had won four E-G golds.   The only race taken more seriously by aspiring fast men was the TRIAL for the McAndrew Road Relay, since the top eight usually ended up in the prestigious VP team for the E-G!   In the autumn and early winter, every Tuesday and Thursday there were competitive pack training sessions over a variety of five or six mile routes round the local pavements.   In addition the club organised three or four mile road races for the Crawford or Knightswood Shields.   Compared to most of his clubmates, Pat was unusual in that he was also a good cross country runner, rather than mainly a road runner.

By 1964 Pat was speedy enough to be only 8 seconds slower than the fastest time on Stage Three of the E-G and VP finished fifth.   Next year they were up to third place with Pat only one second from fastest on Stage Three (and inside the previous record) taking VP from third to first.   1966 produced a silver medal for the club with Pat running the long sixth leg.   Between 1963 and 1977, Pat ran Stages 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8.   He did not run in 1970, 1974 or 1976; and represented Strathclyde University in 1973 and 1975, before returning to the VP team for the final time.   His main club won silver in 1966 and 1971 and bronze in 1965.   Pat was considered to be a good man to rely on and consequently was usually given the responsibility of running one of the two most important important stages – two or six.

A good result in his cross-country career was in 1964 when he was twentieth in the Junior National cross-country championship and the VP team won silver.   In 1965 he was up to seventeenth and team bronze.   In 1966, VP finished second team in the Senior National with Pat second counter in twenty third – a very good debut.   Later that season he finished an excellent thirty third in the English Senior National.   Apart from that his best cross-country performances came in 1967 and 1968.   First of all, Pat achieved a meritorious fourteenth in the Senior National (with VP third team), only just behind a well-known duo – Jim Alder and Alex Brown.   This was actually the equivalent of sixth since there were eight New Zealand internationals in front of him including ex-Scot Mike Ryan.   Deservedly Pat was chosen to compete in the ICCU Championships in Barry, Wales.   Pat ran very well to be fifth team counter in fifty first place (beating Alex Brown, Alistair Blamire and Jim Brennan, with Ian McCafferty dropping out) and Scotland finished a solid fifth from ten nations.   Pat also finished forty first in the English National that year.

One of Pat Maclagan’s finest victories was in 1968 when he won the Midland CC Championships after a real battle over a hilly course at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, surging away from fellow internationalist Jim Brennan before the finish.   Thereafter Pat went on to finish eleventh in the 1968 National.   He was also in the top twenty in the National CC in 1970 and 1972.

In the summer of 1969, Pat Maclagan was the first winner of the John Kerr Memorial 12 at Airdrie, and finished well clear of the field in the Strathallan 22 breaking the record previously held by John Linaker.   Signs of things to come in the marathon!   Another good result was in November 1969 when Pat escaped from Eddie Knox on the “back-breaking slope of Clevedon Road” to win the Glasgow University 5.25 Miles Road Race.   Alastair Johnston recalls Pat’s “many victories in the Vicky Park Club CC Championships, held at Milngavie, which involved taking on numerous fences over muddy farmland followed by hilly undulations over Hilton Park Golf Course (to which the likes of Hugh Barrow, Albie Smith and I were slightly averse!)   However the versatile Pat was in his element!

Pat Maclagan 2

Pat trailing Jim Brennan at the top of the hill in Bellahouston Park, Midland District 1968

On the track in 1965 Pat was third in the West District Three Miles (14:27.6) as well as running Six Miles in 30:26.7 in the Scottish Championships.   In 1966 he was again third in the West District Three Miles (14:16.4) and improved this time to 14:14.6 in the East v West match shortly afterwards.   He then finished second to Don Macgregor in the Scottish Six Miles in 29:41.   In 1967 he was fourth in the Scottish Six Miles (behind Lachie Stewart, Mel Edwards and Alex Brown) in 28:58, his best for that distance.   In 1968 his focus was on road running, preparatory to eventually moving up to the marathon, but he did run 29:16.5 in the Victoria Park club championship Six Miles.   In 1969 he was third again in the West 5000m and his season’s best was 14:42, plus 31:06 for 10,000m.   1970 saw him run faster: 14:33.6 and 30:26.2 respectively.

In 1971, on 11th August, he produced a lasting personal best time of 30:04.8 for 10000m.   Ten days later came another of his very best races: a one-hour event at Meadowbank.   This was won by Jim Alder in a Scottish Native Record of 12 miles 618 yards with Pat an excellent second with 12 miles 400 yards (the best-ever by a Home Scot and tenth on the UK All-Time list) having gone through Ten Miles in 48:45.   Almost a lap behind Pat were Aberdeen AAC’s Donald Ritchie, Alastair Wood and Steve Taylor.   In the seasons after this Pat trained with less intensity and his track times became slower.   It is interesting to compare his track times in 1970 and 1971 with his marathon times in these two peak years.   Pat Maclagan was not alone in finding that proper marathon training can help your track times and vice versa!

The Shettleston Marathon on 11th April 1970 was a marvellous debut for Pat since he won the race in a fine 2:22:03.   In the high quality SAAA Championships and Commonwealth Games Trial Marathon in Edinburgh on 16th May he improved to 2:20:49 for seventh place, one behind his Victoria Park friend and rival Alastair Johnston (2:19:31).    Alastair would undoubtedly have become an excellent marathon runner.   Sadly this was not possible after a dreadful accident on June 16th 1972 when English Hammer Thrower Barry Williams to blame when his hammer bounced on to the Meadowbank track and shattered Alastair’s left tibia preventing him from winning a bronze medal in the SAAA metres championship.   Poor Alastair was in plaster for 15 weeks and never really recovered top form although his contemporaries all knew just how good he could have become.

The British Amateur Athletics Board wished two good Scottish marathon runners to compete in a major representational event – the Toronto Marathon on 25th August 1970.   Alastair Wood and Alastair Johnston were invited but Johnston had to turn this down due to professional accountancy commitments, so Pat Maclagan was selected instead.   Pat finished a respectable eighth (2:24:34) in a good international field.   I have a photo of Pat wearing a GB vest, running towards the finish under poor streetlights.   Alastair Wood finished second to Jack Foster of New Zealand in this race – the First Canadian National Exhibition Marathon.   He reminisced that this started  “at 8:20 pm to ensure the finish would not interfere with stadium entertainment starring Johnny Cash!   Each competitor was accompanied by his personal motor-cyclist.   The parade before the start was mildly embarrassing since it featured uniformed national teams from Mexico, USA and New Zealand.   They looked slightly more professional than Alastair and his team-mate Pat who could only wear their normal warm-up gear.”

An insight into Pat Maclagan and his training in summer 1971 is given by an article he wrote for the VP club magazine that October.   It is entitled “Sunday Morning” and his twenty mile route, starting and finishing at his flat at Broomhill, went through Anniesland, Canniesburn, Craigallion Road, round the Waterworks, and back.   Excerpts are as follows.   “I often stop briefly.   Some can’t understand it.   I don’t care.   It works for me – a sort of fartlek training.   Passers-by stare.   Better get moving again.   I don’t like the idea of being thought unfit!   I’m not shut off in a little world of my own.   I’m part of society, out here expressing my individuality, striving for something, for the satisfaction sought by all men and discovered by few.”

“The free wind cools my face now and keeps at bay the fumes from the passing cars.   I can breathe deeply and fill my lungs.   I can feel the strength come to my chest and shoulders.   I can drop my arms down to my side and feel my legs as strong as steel as I relax down the gentle hills and, when i change gear for the sharp climb, I can sense the stretching of the tendons and contracting of the muscles in rhythmic unison.   There is no pain, no suffering, only a feeling of power, of perpetual motion, of balance as I float along over kerbs and potholes, picking out the even surface of the road, avoiding loose stones and the little whirls of windblown leaves.”

“Should I do extra?   No.  I turn my thoughts to the hot shower and lots and lots to drink.   Planned to do twenty, so don’t tempt providence, just do twenty.   The  Scottish Marathon is in two weeks.   Twenty six plus.   Never do over twenty in training.   Never have done.   No need to this time.   Funny, I never think about feeling tired in a race.   Suppose my mind is occupied and there are other blokes around.   So much easier than training.   All those miles on the road with no company.   And I look forward to the race, and try not to think about next Sunday morning, and suddenly realise I’m home again.”

Shortly after that, on 26th June 1971, Pat Maclagan easily won the Scottish Marathon Championship from Meadowbank Stadium, Edinburgh.   His time was 2:21:18.   Pat was working at the time as a production planner at J & P Coats Ltd in Paisley.   He felt that he had ‘pushed his luck’ in doing three marathons in 1970.   A stress fracture during the following winter gave him an enforced but invaluable rest!   By April 1971, however, he was fit enough to run 48:15 for second place to Andy McKean in the lightning-fast Tom Scott 10-miler.   Training amounted to 100 – 120 miles per week at this time, and was still at 90 in the three weeks before the Scottish Marathon.   Most of this heavy work was fartlek work done in the forests around Aberfoyle.

There was torrential rain at Meadowbank which forced officials to halt the track championships (temporarily) while the road runners squelched on dourly.  After six days of training totalling 58 miles, Pat remembers starting the race by running through standing water.   His Onitsuka Tiger running shoes had added foam padding under the tongue and heel pads.   Since he did not wear socks, he had also taped the soles of his feet.   Unfortunately the soaking dislodged a piece of tape to his considerable discomfort.   Pat recalls complaining about this to Donald Macgregor, who replied callously or helpfully, “Why don’t you stop and take your shoe off, then?”   Instead Pat spent some time trying to manoeuvre the offending tape between his toes so that it no longer became a problem.

Bill Stoddart, the 1969 champion, thinks that no one was too keen to take the pace, due to the depressing conditions, so he led for most of 22 miles.   By then Donalds, Ritchie and Macgregor, had dropped back and Willie Day had come through.   According to Pat, Bill and Willie tried to get away at this point but he hauled them back.   Bill remembers “Pat speeding past me as if I was going backwards, and he didn’t even say hello.”   Or indeed goodbye!   Pat Maclagan won the Scottish title by over two minutes, with Bill Stoddart second in 2:23:31 and Willie Day third in 2:26:07 – good times considering the weather.   Pat remembers being confident of winning because “in general, the longer I ran, the better I was relative to most others.”   In fact he covered the last lap in 70 seconds!

In November 1971, once again Pat won the Glasgow University Road Race by one second from Alastair Johnston with new team-mate Colin Youngson fifth.   A couple of months earlier, just before starting my teaching career, I had moved into Patrick’s flat.   My diary records, “Life with monastic, dedicated Patrick, as well as two other flat-mates, was rather novel.   Gradually I acquired Vicky Park’s superiority complex on the road; and its inferiority complex whenever a square foot of muddy grass loomed over the horizon.”  Training with Pat certainly helped me to improve and, generously, he put up with me for a  year, before I moved into another flat just off Byres Road with Dave Logue, the charismatic Northern Ireland steeplechase and cross-country international and cross-country runner.

In January 1972 Pat Maclagan was selected for a small Scottish cross-country team to compete in the Chartres International event.   Scotland won the team contest defeating France and West Germany.  Pat was seventh, Andy McKean fourth and the great Ian Stewart the individual victor.

Between September and November 1972, Victoria Park AAC won three relay races.   The first, not unusually for this club, was on the road – the Edinburgh Southern Harriers Road Relay at Fernieside, Edinburgh.   the team was Davie McMeekin, Hugh Barrow, Colin Youngson and Pat Maclagan.  The next two victories, atypically, were over the country!   Although Pat was not available for the Dunbartonshire CC Relay, Innis Mitchell proved an able substitute.   Then on the 4th November, Davie, Hugh, Pat and Colin won the Midland District Relay at Lochinch by almost 200 yards with Pat recording the second fastest time to Scotland’s best runner Jim Brown.   The club magazine asserted that “this was the club’s greatest victory for a long time.”

After that, Pat began to concentrate more and more on his studies at Strathclyde University and he graduated with first-class honours.   Before long he went to Hull to work as a lecturer, and to publish one book and many articles, some of which are available online.   Although he is now retired, as an Emeritus Fellow at the Business School, University of Hull, as of 2010 he was still writing the occasional academic paper and going for  one or two forty minute runs a week over the country plus a lot of brisk, one-hour walks.   After his move south, he competed for some years for City of Hull AC and in one of his last races finished fourteenth in the 1983 Ferriby 10 in 51:11.   In Scotland, he should be remembered as a dedicated, determined, consistent and versatile athlete who achieved a great deal.


Having re-read the piece, there is one thing that is missing I think.    Many athletes with Pat’s talents and list of achievements  would have shown it in some way in their dealings with others: phrases like ‘doesn’t suffer fools gladly’ and the like are bandied about as an apology/explanation.   There are athletes who change in their dealings with others when success comes.   Pat was none of these.   He was modest in the best possible way – as I said, I didn’t know him as a person but he was always friendly and didn’t seem to change as the successes grew.  

 Finally, I always find it interesting to see athletes running in the same event over several years as a kind of rough measure of their progress.   On long road races the times are often affected by the weather – eg the Clydebank to Helensburgh was run into the prevailing wind and then one year the wind was behind the runners and almost picked them up at Clydebank and threw them to Helensburgh.  The result was a whole series of personal best performances and a course record that stood for some time!   Bearing that in mind, we can look at  Pat’s competitive record in two races in particular.   The first is the 14.5 mile race at the now unfortunately defunct Dunblane Highland Games.

10 August 1966               1.   JL Stewart   1:17:23;     2.   P Maclagan   1:18:53

14 September 1968:        1.   JL Stewart   1:15:45;       2.   P Maclagan    1:15:53      3.   D Macgregor   1:17:30

                                             [The previous Saturday, Pat and Lachie had run in the Shotts Road race with its ferocious climb up past the Kirk O’Shotts against some of the very best in the country with the following result:

  1. JL Stewart   68:43; 2.   John Linaker    68:49; 3.   P Maclagan  69:57;  4.   AJ Wood   70:00;   5.   Alex Brown  71:37.   NB The existing record was Lachie’s 71:20! ]

12 September 1970:       1.   P Maclagan   1:17:58;    2.   A Faulds        1:19:09;     3.   I Donald           1:20:50

11 September 1971:       1.   P Maclagan   1:16:39;    2.   Bill McDonald 1:24:18   

The Dunblane race was one of the most scenic in the country: leaving the park it crossed a field to a road out of old Dunblane and on to the A9, the main road North, as far as the turn off for Braco and Greenloaning when it turned onto the back road twisting and winding its way through Kinbuck on its way back to the arena.   The drag up the A9 was a pretty serious slog until the turn off.

He also ran in the Kirkintilloch Highland Games which was billed as a 10 Miles Road Race but which was in fact virtually 11 miles: this was attested to by the fact that many of the best runners at the peak of their form were running 55 minutes and slower for the distance!   Pat’s record was as follows:

12 August 1967:          1.    AJ Wood      55:48;     2.   P Maclagan     55:58

10 August 1968:          1.    P Maclagan   56:32;   2.   A Johnston      57:22

8 August 1970:           1.   D Wedlock     56:14;    2.   M Craven        56:43;    3.   P Maclagan   57:00;   

14th August 1971:     1.    P Maclagan (Scotland)   56:35;   2.   R Kernaghan (Northern Ireland)   58:24;   3.   N Morrison (Scotland)   [This race incorporated a Scotland v Northern Ireland International]

Following up what was said in the first paragraph about running in all the classic road races – many if not most of which are no more – Pat ran in the Drymen to Scotstoun race on 24th May 1969.   This race with its fierce climb up the Stockiemuir Road from Drymen had one of the longest and most unremitting climbs in the country had been the subject of many good races featuring many of the Scottish ‘greats’ such as Dunky Wright, McNab Robertson and Emmet Farrell.   The result this times was:   first, AJ Wood in 1:17:53,   second  P Maclagan in 1:18:59.

What do we get from the above statistics?   First and foremost we see that Pat was a top class racer and not just a time-trialist.   The Shotts race in 1968 fully demonstrates that – every one of the first five was a Scottish Champion, three of them (Stewart, Linaker and Wood  on track as well as country and Wood of course a multi marathon champion) and all were ferocious competitors.   Second he could compete in fast races – which was just as well because he was running and racing at a time when the standard of road running in Scotland was probably at its highest ever.  Some competitor, Pat!

Back to Marathon Stars


Fergus Murray


Fergus (131) with Lachie Stewart in the National at Hamilton

“Scottish Athletics”, by John W. Keddie, was the official history of the SAAA in time for the centenary in 1983. Fergus Murray features prominently in the following extracts. He actually started running with Dundee Hawkhill Harriers in 1960, encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by Alistair Barrie. While at Dundee High School, he won the Scottish Schools mile in 1961, in 4 minutes 27.1 seconds.

“In 1963 a promising young distance runner emerged in Edinburgh University student Alistair Fergus Murray (born in Dundee on 11th September, 1942). Early that year he won the Scottish Junior cross-country championship. On the track he won the East of Scotland (14minutes 7.6 seconds) and SAAA (14.1.6) 3 mile titles, before giving a glimpse of his potential with a marvellous 13.32.6 clocking in placing 4th in the annual BUSF (British Universities Sports Federation) versus AAA versus Combined Services Triangular at Portsmouth on 20th July.

The following season in 1964, after winning the first of three successive Scottish Senior cross-country titles, he retained his SAAA 3 mile title (13.47.8) and really made a breakthrough at the AAA championships by placing 5th in the three miles with 13.29.2 – the best ever by a Scot. It was as a result of this performance that eleven days later – on 22nd July, at Helsinki – he was called in as a last-minute replacement for injured Mike Wiggs in the GB versus Finland contest 5000m. To his own surprise as much as anyone else’s he won the race decisively from Bruce Tulloh in a superb 13.49.0, fourth fastest ever by a UK athlete at that time. These performances, together with some fine runs over 6 miles/10,000m, clinched his selection for the 10,000m at the Tokyo Olympics later that year.”

“It was over 10 miles on the track that Fergus Murray first showed his real potential as a long distance runner of class. In April 1964 he placed second in the AAA championships, in which he was pulled to a marvellous 48.41 (29.33.8 at 10,000m) behind Mel Batty, whose 47.26.8 constituted a world record. That performance augured well for the young Edinburgh University student in Olympic year. His attention was mainly focused on 3 miles/5000m, but after his ten miles effort he was selected for the 10,000m at Tokyo in October, and this decision was justified by his fine run for Britain versus Poland on his 22nd birthday (11th September, when he was second in 29.10.4). Unfortunately a heavy cold prevented him running to his full potential in Tokyo and he could only finish 22nd(30.22.4).”

“In May 1965, in perfect conditions for distance running, Fergus Murray treated an enthusiastic Edinburgh crowd at the East of Scotland championships to a marvellous exhibition of solo running over three miles at New Meadowbank, when he broke the Scottish All-Comers’ and Native records with a magnificent 13.25.4 (intermediate mile times of 4.24, 4.28 and 4.33). But even this was eclipsed by his run in an amazing AAA event on 10th July, in which the great Australian Ron Clarke became the first man to run the distance in under 13 minutes with a time of 12.52.4. In sixth place, Fergus Murray recorded a personal best time of 13.21.2; and exactly four weeks later, in the Triangular at Portsmouth, excelled even his AAA performance with a fine win in 13.19.0, ever to remain his best for the distance. Perhaps his best individual performance, however, was a third place in the 5000m at the Universiade in Budapest in August 1965, with 13.52.6. Murray, who trained very hard on a high mileage” had a cartilage removed in August 1966, which resulted in a temporary set-back but at Oxford University thereafter, Murray had a very successful season.

“Fergus Murray developed into a fine marathon runner. Less than a year after Jim Alder had become the first Scot to break the 2.20 mark with 2.17.46 for third in the AAA marathon, 1965 witnessed the first sub 2.20 marathon in Scotland when in the Shettleston Marathon on 15th May, Fergus Murray, who was making his debut at the classic distance, won in 2.18.30 from Alastair Wood (2.19.03).”    After graduating from Edinburgh University with a BSc in science and spending a year doing post-graduate work, Fergus completed a Dip Ed at Oxford University during 1966-67. The O.U. cross-country and track ‘Blues’ teams would have been delighted to recruit such a talented athlete. Alistair Blamire remembers Fergus coming to watch Edinburgh University win the BUSF cross-country team prize at Parliament Hill Fields in 1967. Fergus was wearing a felt trilby hat – very Oxbridge, Alistair thought!

“In 1967, Fergus Murray had a good season over the longer distances. Early in the year he again placed second in the AAA 10 miles, this time to Dr Ron Hill (Bolton United Harriers). Murray’s superb time of 47.45.2 – 6.6 seconds behind Hill – was the fastest by a Scot. Later in the year he reduced his best six mile time to 27.42.96 when placing 6th in the AAA race.”   “In 1967 Fergus Murray (Oxford University AC) won the famous Polytechnic Marathon from Windsor to Chiswick in 2.19.06.”   During the week following this long but apparently not exhausting race, he won the 2 miles for Oxford/Cambridge v Harvard/Yale at the White City in 8.44.0; came 4th in a 2 miles in Reading in 8.38.8; and won the BUSF 6 miles on the Saturday in 28.38.2!

“The 1970 Scottish Marathon Championship was a very exciting race over the course for the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games. On the 6th of June no fewer than six athletes (five Scots) clocked under 2.20 – certainly the greatest in-depth marathon in Scotland up till then. In the end Jim Alder (2.17.11) won by a mere three seconds from Donald Macgregor, with Fergus Murray third (2.18.25), England’s Barry Wood fourth, Alastair Wood fifth (2.19.17) and Alastair Johnston (Victoria Park AC) sixth in 2.19.31.”

“The three Scottish representatives ran wonderfully well in the Commonwealth Games marathon, in which they all set personal bests. England’s Ron Hill won as he pleased, in a brilliant 2.09.28, with Jim Alder second in 2.12.04. Fergus Murray (2.15.32) finished 7th, one place in front of Donald Macgregor (2.16.53).”   That is the SAAA version, summing up Fergus’s running career. Track omissions include: another win (13.46) in the 1966 SAAA 3 miles; first places in the SAAA 6 miles in 1964 (29.05.2) and 1965 (28.33.4); and a gold medal in the very first SAAA 10,000m (29.34.2) in 1969.

For more detail on Fergus Murray’s cross-country successes, the best source is Colin Shields’ Centenary History of the SCCU, published in 1990. Selected extracts are below. (All Fergus’s Scottish CC titles were won at Hamilton Park Racecourse, where in 1966 he raced in bare feet to defeat Lachie Stewart!)   “On 23rd February 1963, Fergus Murray, a first year student at Edinburgh University, who had previously won the Nigel Barge road race, won the Junior title as he liked – winning by over a minute from Mike Ryan (St Modans, who won Olympic bronze for New Zealand in 1968), with Alec Brown third and Lachie Stewart (who won gold in the 1970 Commonwealth Games 10,000m) fourth. Murray led Edinburgh University to the Junior team title, the first of three consecutive Junior team wins (1963-65) and 3 Senior team wins (1966-68) in a six year period when Edinburgh University runners dominated Scottish cross country and road running with a staggering series of wins thanks to punishing training schedules that developed talent to its fullest potential.”

“In 1964, Fergus Murray, after winning the British Universities championship in Nottingham (in a dead heat with Mike Turner) and finishing a close third in the Martini International 6 mile race at Brussels, behind Gaston Roelants (International CC champion) and Derek Graham (Northern Ireland), lined up with confidence for the National Senior championship race, representing Dundee Hawkhill Harriers. Racing over a heavy 7 and a half mile of racecourse turf, Murray trounced three former National champions. His great strength and speed proved decisive, giving him a 39 second margin of victory over Jim Alder, with Alastair Wood third, a further 22 seconds behind, but 4 seconds in front of Andy Brown.”   “Murray retained his National CC title in 1965 with a solo run. In an unrelenting mood, Murray set off at a gallop from the start, and by two miles had opened up a gap from the following group of Andy Brown, Lachie Stewart and Jim Alder. Alder set off in pursuit of the leader at 3 miles but made no impression on the flying Murray, who eventually won by 24 seconds from Alder, with Stewart a further 11 seconds behind and Brown fourth.”

“In 1966, Murray and his Edinburgh University team-mates were in impressive form at the National CC championships at Hamilton Racecourse, where the trail was now, of necessity, confined to the actual race track inside the boundaries of the ground, with no entry to the rough country by the riverside. Murray, Stewart and John Linaker (Pitreavie) ran together for 4 miles, but then Murray turned on the pressure, increasing his pace to find little reaction from his rivals. He established a lead and, with an impressive display of stamina on a heavy, muddy course, proved he was at his best when running on his own. He won by 70 yards from Stewart, the Inter-Counties winner, with Jim Alder making a late run for the tape, which took him into third position, ahead of John Linaker. Edinburgh University packed their six men into the first twenty-one home, to win the National Team Championship for the very first time. Such was the enormous margin of their victory that they had their entire team home before runners-up Victoria Park had their first man, who finished in 22nd position. This outstanding performance allowed the students to record a 109 points margin of victory – the largest ever recorded in the history of the event.

Fergus Murray’s third triumph in a row was only the fifth time that an athlete had achieved this success in the 81-year history of the championships.”

Although Fergus ran for Scotland in the International CC Championships four times (1964, 65, 66 and 69), Colin Shields suggests that he tended not to run to his full potential in the event. His best run was in 1969 (after finishing second in the Scottish National) when Fergus did very well (23rd) in front of a home crowd over a hilly, testing course at Dalmuir Park, Clydebank. Ian McCafferty was a brilliant 3rd, Lachie Stewart was 20th, and the Scottish team ended up a good 5th from the 13 nations taking part. Alistair Blamire reckons that Fergus did very well that day since there weren’t any hurdles, unlike in previous international cross-country championships.

Even after Fergus Murray’s peak, he continued to produce good team performances in the National CC. He was in ESH teams that won gold in 1969 and 1970; silver in 1971 and 1976; and bronze in 1973.

On the roads, Fergus was first of all an inspiration to his University team-mates; and later on a thoroughly reliable senior athlete in championship races. This is best exemplified if one examines his record in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay.

In 1963 he was fastest on Stage Two, traditionally reserved for speedy track men. In 1964 he repeated this performance and EU finished second. 1965 saw EU’s outstanding record-breaking 3.36.32 victory, with Fergus’s 31.07 record on Stage Six the finest individual performance of the day. Edinburgh University went on to win again in 1966 and 1967, without their leader but undoubtedly benefiting from the training regime he had set in place.

Fergus started 1968 in fine form, winning the renowned  Morpeth to Newcastle road race on New Year’s day, by forty yards from local hero Jim Alder. Later that year, after his marriage, Fergus retired for six months from racing. However he was fit again by late 1969, when Edinburgh Southern Harriers won the E to G, with Fergus (second fastest) battling to hold off Shettleston’s Lachie Stewart on Stage 6, before the last two ESH runners moved well clear. 1970’s race ended up with silver for ESH, with Fergus only one second behind National CC champion Dick Wedlock’s fastest time on Stage 2. Bronze team medals were won in 1971 and 1972, before ESH won again in 1973, with Fergus fastest, this time on Stage 4. In 1975 he ran Stage 7 during his team’s excellent new record victory (3.33.52). 1975 also featured one of Edinburgh Southern Harriers’ greatest performances: a silver medal in the AAA 12 stage relay and Fergus played his part well. Not far in front were Brendan Foster’s Gateshead Harriers and not far behind another great club, Coventry Godiva Harriers. No Scottish club has ever done as well as the 1975 ESH team in this extremely prestigious event.

Even when Fergus Murray was working at Fettes College, training was still hard and extensive, but time to relax and retain mental energy as in student days, was no longer an available luxury. Yet a final team gold in the E to G was won in 1977, when he ran Stage One for ESH. Although Fettes College was very supportive, the demands of teaching at a boarding school were more testing than the relatively carefree days of university. These were the days before professional athletics. Fergus would not have wished it otherwise, since that era gave a lot of joy and created lifelong friendships.

His marathon career was brief but very successful, starting with victories in the Shettleston Marathon (2.18.30 in 1965) and the Polytechnic Marathon (2.19.06 in 1967). However Fergus really concentrated on the event during the 1970 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games year. At five days notice, he travelled to Japan and on the 8th of February finished second (2.18.04) in a top-class international field in the Kyoto Marathon. On May 16th he qualified for the Scottish CG team fairly comfortably (third in the SAAA marathon in 2.18.25); and he peaked extremely well to break his personal best for seventh place (2.15.32) in the wonderful Commonwealth Games marathon on 23rd July. Fergus also ran the classic Marathon to Athens event in April 1971, finishing 4th in 2.25.04, with Don Macgregor 5th, over an extremely hard course.

Fergus retired from teaching in 1995 and put his running fitness to good use, instructing and guiding mountaineering and climbing in the UK and Europe, finally retiring in 2007, depressed about a series of multiple shoulder dislocations. He still enjoys running enough to keep fit and possesses a set of bound copies of ‘Athletics Weekly’ (from July 1960 to December 1974), which thoroughly document the era when he raced so successfully.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Fergus Murray’s outstanding athletic career was his influence on other runners, especially through his residence at ‘The Zoo’.

For his first two years at Edinburgh, Fergus shared a room in a flat in Mayfield Terrace with Chris Elson, run by very kindly landladies, Molly and Ena Cameron. Chris came from Rotherham AC and brought with him inspiring ideas about training, from club-mate Alan Simpson, a brave and whole-hearted athlete who went on to finish 4th, only one-tenth of a second from a medal, in the 1964 Olympic 1500m. Simpson also set a UK mile record of 4.55.7. These training ideas made a great impression on the Edinburgh University team, leading to their years of ascendancy in the 1960s. Professor Neil Campbell, who in his youth as an EU quarter-miler had often competed against the great Eric Liddell, was a great supporter of the club for many years, both before and after the 1960s. Sunday mornings saw a group meet up outside the Geology Department. They stripped off their tracksuits and left for a 21 mile run through the Pentlands – no worry in those days of kit being stolen.

Alistair Matson, studying Law, was instrumental in arranging the large house at 27 Morningside Drive, in October 1965, where 6 runners lived for the next 3 years until the property was sold. At one time or another, runners living there included Fergus Murray, Alistair Matson, John Meldrum, Brian Covell, Dave Logue, John Bryant and Alex Wight, whose brother Jim lived nearby as well. Others, such as Donald Macgregor, Alistair Blamire and Gareth Bryan-Jones, came along in time for the long Sunday run or a series of faster sessions including repetitions and fartlek. On the kitchen wall was a chart recording the inhabitants’ weekly mileage and woe betide anyone slipping, on pain of being sent out to get in a few more miles! (Alastair Blamire remembers that John Meldrum, who was a medical student and more of a recreational runner, didn’t train anything like as hard as the others. The idea was for ‘The Zoo’ to train 600 miles each week. One Saturday night, John came back at 11.30 p.m. from a night out, and wrote only 15 miles in his slot, bringing the grand total to 597 miles. Poor John was immediately ordered out on the road by some fanatic who had stayed in, to rest for the Sunday 21! There is another story about Alex Wight, a very promising marathon runner, having been on a course one week. Unable to train as much as he wanted, he came back one Saturday night and went out for a 15 mile-run! History does not relate which week these miles counted in….)

Studies were not neglected, however, as everyone graduated, with some going on to professorships or substantial roles in business. So strong did the Edinburgh Hare and Hounds club (The Haries) become, that on at least one occasion at the Scottish Universities cross-country championship, they had all the first team athletes home before the first runner from another university; plus seven out of the first eight in the ‘B’ team race! A real highlight came in February 1966, when they won the Hyde Park Relay, which was a highly prestigious race for university teams in the UK. They went on to retain it for the next two years.

Alistair Blamire recalls that Fergus always did the Sunday 21 and also followed the ideas of the great coach Arthur Lydiard. On one occasion, Alastair bumped into Fergus one Wednesday, and he was already up to 75 miles that week. However, he could be secretive about some of his training, not so much with his club-mates, but with rival runners elsewhere, just in case Andy Brown or Ian McCafferty or Lachie Stewart got wind of what he was up to. Alastair got a terrible telling-off when he spilt the beans to (Shettleston runner) Henry Morrison on one occasion.

Certain EU runners had nicknames: Martin Craven was ‘the Crab’; Chris Elson ‘the Bear’; Alistair Matson ‘the Bomb’; Roger Young ‘Bodger’. However Fergus was always ‘the Beast’, presumably because of his ferocious appetite for hard, hundred-mile training weeks. He was the role model; and his dedication and great achievements were emulated by a succession of extremely good Scottish distance runners. If only ‘The Zoo’ could be cloned in every Scottish city nowadays!

His old friend, rival and training companion, Donald Macgregor, remembers that Fergus in his dominant early prime “was very determined and stood no nonsense from others. For example, once when Sandy Cameron opened up a lead on the Sunday run, Fergus called to him “See you back at the house”, which had the effect of stopping Sandy in his tracks. If you were due to train with him, and wanted to call off, you had to let him know beforehand or you were in trouble! He trained very, very hard and was outstandingly consistent, especially on track or road.”

Alistair Blamire was a very fine athlete himself, who certainly considers Fergus Murray as a major influence. Alistair was twice a close second in the Scottish Senior cross-country championships; and in 1971, he finished 11th and first counter in the marvellous Shettleston Harriers team that shocked the Sassenachs, when they won the English National! He represented Scotland in the ICCU Championship once as a Junior and four times as a Senior; plus once in the IAAF World Cross-Country Championships. On the track he specialised in the 3000m Steeplechase, winning the Scottish title in 1972, setting a Scottish Native record, and representing GB, with a personal best of 8.41.4.

Alistair Blamire remembers that he was a keen follower of athletics while still at school, so Fergus was “a bit (I underestimate) of a hero before I met him. Imagine my ‘Fresher’ excitement when he stopped to talk to me when he was out for a run one day! It wasn’t a coincidence that Edinburgh University had the successes they had when he was there, and for several years after. He was truly ‘The Beast’ when it came to training, but everyone found their own level, based on mileage and fartlek. When he was captain of the ‘Haries’ he produced a wee booklet about training, diet, kit etc – all very innovative. I tried the same thing when I was captain a few years later, and was accused by some so-called runners of forcing them to train too hard! I trained with Fergus once a week later on, and they were always the hardest session I ever did, even though he was probably a little past his peak by then. These sessions were too hard really, but on has one’s pride. For example, at his house, Fergus provided a lunch of tinned stew and potatoes (no veg.); and then insisted on a brutally-tough ten mile run round the Braid Hills! I always felt that Fergus had an, almost mocking, edge over me, and it was a great relief when he wasn’t in the mood from time to time, and I could go at my own pace (while pretending to run as hard as usual).”

In conclusion, Fergus remembers the 1960s as giving great enjoyment, and considers that EU training sessions, while hard were not competitive, with in-built sensitivity to the likelihood that club-mates could well be tired from a session earlier that day or the day before. Fergus’s three summers with Ilford AC greatly helped track performances. He stayed with the parents of Dennis Plater, who also went on to represent GB at the marathon. Work at Fettes did not impinge too much on training but the freedom offered earlier was a thing of the past. The mental effort of hard training, and the realisation that a peak had been reached by the early 1970s, concluded in his development of a wider life-style. Running continued, but a developing enthusiasm for climbing and mountaineering fitted in with absorbing work at a boarding school. This offered a great deal of enjoyment, without the rigours of a demanding training schedule.

Fergus thinks that the highlights included travel, when this was not commonplace, to: Eastern Bloc countries; Japan (3 times); Puerto Rico; Jamaica; Canada; and all Western European countries. Friends from those days were very important and there was never any animosity. They have all stayed in touch and meet up from time to time. The club system then was very strong indeed, and Fergus wonders about the modern era of professionalism. Back then, they never looked upon running as a career, and while having a professional running career nowadays may be okay for an extremely small, very successful number of athletes, he believes that others ought to develop a working career for proper fulfilment.

Three Olympians

Three Olympians: Don Macgregor, Lachie Stewart and Fergus Murray at a reunion in April 2012

Fergus Murray – Marathon Career Record

No Date Venue Position Time Winner (Club) Time
  1 15 May 1965 Shettleston         1 2:18:30  
  2 10 June 1967 Windsor – Chiswick         1 2:19:06  
  3 08 February 1970 Kyoto (JAP)         2 2:18:04 Kokichi Uchino (Japan) 2:16:55
  4 16 May 1970 Edinburgh (SAAA)         3 2:18:25 Jim Alder (Morpeth) 2:17:11
  5 23 July 1970 Edinburgh (Comm)         7 2:15:32 Ron Hill (England) 2:09:28
  6 23 August 1970 Toronto (CAN)    DNF   Jack Foster (New Zealand) 2:16:23
  7 06 April 1971 Athens (GRE)         4 2:25:05 Akio Usami (Japan) 2:19:25


Andy Robertson

Andrew Robertson was born in Kenya on 25th March, 1957.   His parents were Scottish and his father was a farm manager.   Andy became a Physical Training Instructor with the Army and by 1979 was based at Harrogate where he managed to increase his marathon training considerably.   For the next five years he competed at a very good International level and his fastest marathon (2:14:23)  is still ranked at thirteenth in the Scottish All-Time list.

In 1979 he ran 2:21:51 for ninth place in the Milton Keynes marathon.   The next year he improved this to 2:18:14 in Laredo in Spain and in the same year he also clocked 30:09 for 10000 metres.   1981 started very promisingly when on 25th January, after a close race, Andy Robertson finished second (2:17:20) to the well known and versatile Tipton Harrier Andy Holden )2:16:57) on the Bermuda Marathon.   On the 29th February Andy won the inter-services marathon at Swinderby in 2:19:06.   Then he started building up very seriously for a more important race: the Sandbach marathon in Cheshire on 21st June.   The course was reputed to be fast and flat and over three and a half laps.   Andy had averaged 125 – 130 miles per week in training because he knew he was capable of making a real break-through.   A confidence boost was provided a few days before the marathon, when on 12th June at Aldershot, Andy won over 5000 metres in a ‘big’ personal best of  14:18.06.   Then he eased down for the Sandbach challenge.   The late, lamented, Cliff Temple wrote a colourful, detailed article about the race for the ‘Athletics Weekly’.   He wrote: “The day’s hero was Andy Robertson.”   On a warm sunny day, none fast men had broken away by six miles: Trevor Wright, Graham Laing, Paul Eales, John Caine, Mike Gratton, Ian Ray, Terry Colton, Jim Dingwall – every one an international athlete – and Andy Robertson, who made a decisive move at the end of the first lap at a sponging station.   “While eager hands reached out for soaking sponges, the PTI from the Army Apprentices’ College at Harrogate, put in a sudden burst which took him clear of the rest.   “There was nothing planned,” he explained afterwards, “I just felt so full of running.”

Passing 10 miles in 50:31 Robertson was well over 100 metres clear of the rest and at around 12 miles his lead was 34 seconds.   A tall, lean 60 kg, with a hollow, unshaven face, Robertson gave the impression of a man ready to run away from the rest or die in the attempt.    Behind him the bunch kept together and it still seemed probable that the gaunt leader would be reeled in later on, especially as Robertson was by-passing all the drinks stations which seemed to invite dehydration”.   Jim Dingwall was forced out of the race with muscle trouble before halfway.   Robertson pulled further away and passed 15 miles in 1:15:18.   By 18 miles his lead was well over a minute.   The chasing group was down to four: Colton, Cain, Laing and Ray.   At 21 miles Colton was suddenly gripped by cramp in the calves and had to ease off although he still felt strong.   Cain pushed on alone and cut into the lead significantly, sure that Robertson would suddenly fold up.

“Meanwhile, what of Robertson himself?   Was he thinking he had gone too soon?   ‘It did cross my mind more than once or twice, but once you are committed it has to be eyeballs out all the way.   I hadn’t a clue how far ahead I was because spectators were calling out anything between 100 and 180 yards.   I was trying to stay relaxed, particularly up to 20 miles, then I pushed it again over the last five or six.   I knew they would close on me but I didn’t mind how much as long as I was still in front at the end.”   As he finally turned off the road into the Sandbach Leisure Centre for the approach to the finish, Robertson had little more than 100 metres of his lead left  as Cain charged after him.   But it was enough as he crossed the line 15 seconds ahead in 2:14:23, a personal best by almost three minutes.   Cain knocked 20 seconds off his own best with 2:14:38, while the freshest finisher of the day, Terry Colton, still sliced four minutes off his best with 2:25:11.

They were followed by –

* Graham Laing   in 2:15:29;          * Ian Ray in 2:15:58;          *Trevor Wright in 2:16:58;          * Dave Clark in 2:18:42;          *John Robertshaw in 2:18:56;         Colin Taylor in 2:19:09;       Des Austin in 2:19:21.

Ten under 2:20 and Robertson’s victims included four good Scots – Laing, Clark, Austin and Dingwall

As h had his “first drink since before the race”, Andy Robertson said, “I’d like to run for Scotland in the Commonwealth Games next year, if I can find out what I have to do to qualify.   This is my biggest marathon win so far, although I’ve twice won the Inter-Services Marathon at Swinderby..”      He hopes to have done enough now to claim a place in Britain’s six-man team for the inaugural Eiropean Marathon Cup in Agen, South West France, next September, where the course is apparently even flatter than Sandbach.”

On 2nd August, 1981, Andy Robertson wore the Scottish vest with pride in a track international at Meadowbank versus Denmark and Eire, finishing a solid fourth in the 10000 metres (30:24.61)  in front of an Irishman and a Dane.   Andy was rumoured to have Stirling connections, and by now he ran not only for the Army but also for Spango Valley AC, although not apparently in any major Scottish team events such as the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay, the Road Relay or the National Championships.

Sadly Andy Robertson struggled on 13th September because of an Achilles tendon injury.   Competing for Britain as he had hopes in the European Marathon Cup, he as ninth at 25km but ended up fifty first (and fourth Briton) in 2:27:01.   His team finished seventh.   From the nineteen nations fielding teams, there were 81 finishers, but many dropped out due mainly to temperatures in the seventies and high humidity.

On 31st January, 1982, Andy Robertson repeated his second position in the Bermuda Marathon.   This time he was timed at 2:18:11 behind the very experienced Coventry Godiva Harrier, Colin Kirkham (2:17:28).   Andy followed this on 10th April with third place (2:17:05) over another very fast course in the Westland Marathon at Maasluis, Holland.

Strangely, Andy did not compete in the AAA’s Marathon which was the Commonwealth Games trial on 13th June when Scots (John Graham, Jim Dingwall and Graham Laing) came fourth, fifth and sixth, all in 2:15+.   The result was that John Graham and Graham Laing were chosen for Brisbane and ran very well in October over a very testing, hilly course to finish fourth and seventh in the Games.   By then Andy had gained some consolation on 26th September by  winning the Torbay Marathon in 2:18:21.

His good form continued on 30th January, 1983, when at the third attempt, he fully deserved his victory (2:19:09) in the Bermuda International Marathon.   Then in 1984 he recorded yet another excellent time (2:15:23) in the London Marathon.

There is no mention of Andy Robertson in the 1985 rankings.   His career may have been short but indicates boldness, strength, speed and consistency at an impressive level which would certainly have qualified him to compete with distinction for Scotland in most Commonwealth Games.

We can finish with a report done by Cliff Temple for ‘Athletics Weekly’ in July 1981




                                                                                                  Andy Robertson – Marathon Career Record                                  

No Date Venue Position Time Winner (Club) Time
  1 22 September 1979 Milton Keynes         9 2:21:51 Gianpaolo Messina (ITA) 2:15:21
  2 06 April 1980 RAF Swinderby         1 2:24:12  
  3 08 June 1980 Laredo (ESP)       13 2:18.14 John Graham (Birchfield) 2:13:21
  4 25 January 1981 Hamilton, Bermuda         2 2:17:20 Andy Holden (Tipton) 2:16:57
  5 29 April 1981 RAF Swinderby         1 2:19:06  
  6 21 June 1981 Sandbach         1 2:14:23  
  7 13 September 1981 Agen (FRA-Euro Cup)       51    2:27:01 Massimo Magnani (Italy) 2:13:29
  8 31 January 1982 Hamilton, Bermuda         2 2:18:11 Colin Kirkham (Coventry Godiva) 2:17:28
  9 10 April 1982 Maasluis (NED)         3 2:17:05 Cor Vriend (Netherlands) 2:13:28
10 26 September 1982 Torbay         1 2:18:21  
11 30 January 1983 Hamilton, Bermuda         1 2:19:09  
12 15 July 1984 Bristol         1    2:18:58  
13 02 December 1984 Florence (ITA-? distance)         1 2:15:23  
14 02 June 1985 Plymouth         1 2:25:35  
15 17 August 1986 Bolton                   2 2:21:15 Mike Neary (Salford) 2:19:25
16 21 September 1986 Torbay         1 2:20:50  
17 20 May 1989 Ryde, Isle of Wight         1 2:25:13  

Lindsay Robertson

L Robertson 1

The team in Seoul in 1987: Fraser Clyne, John Brown, Sandra Branney and Lindsay Robertson.

Lindsay Robertson is ranked number seven on the Scottish all-time marathon ranking lists with a time of 2:13:30 run in Frankfurt on 25th October 1987.   Only two Scotsmen have run the distance faster since then.   In addition he has run seventeen sub 2:20 marathon races.   He was a member of Edinburgh Athletic Club which was one of Scotland’s strongest road and cross country running clubs of the seventies and eighties.   Among their top men were Jim and Alex Wight, Jim Dingwall in his pre Falkirk Victoria days, Jim Alder, Doug Gunstone, Sandy Keith and several others.   So when Colin reports below that Lindsay was EAC’s top road runner at the time, it is a considerable compliment.   He had a quite remarkable record and maybe more should be known about him.   With this in mind, Colin Youngson has written the following account of Lindsay’s athletic career.

Lindsay Robertson was born on 28th June 1958.   In time he developed into one of Scotland’s very best marathon runners.

At first he represented Edinburgh Athletic Club in the usual cross country and road races including the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay where his debut run in 1979 made an immediate impact – he was fastest on Stage Seven and EAC finished second.   Soon he was given the responsibility of running Stage Six and speeded up rapidly to hold his own in distinguished company.   In fact he raced the longest leg seven times and his club won two more silver medals, in 1982 and 1987.   Undoubtedly EAC rated Lindsay Robertson as their best road runner during this period.

Over the country he seemed less assured but still counted in EAC National Cross Country Championship teams which won gold in 1981 and silver in 1983.

L Robertson 2

In the Edinburgh to Glasgow 1985

When the time was right Lindsay concentrated on what would be his strongest event – the marathon.  Races such as the Edinburgh to North Berwick had been part of the programme for him – the race was/is a Scottish classic that had been started back in the late 1950’s and it had attracted a fine mix of top Scottish endurance runners (eg marathon champions Harry Fenion, Hugo Fox, Don McGregor) as well as some very good athletes from the North of England (Jim Alder, Terry Rooke)   The distance had originally been 22.6 miles but had changed by the time Lindsay took it on in 1982 to 21.8 miles.   No matter he won in a new record time of 1:50:55 which was over a minute and a half quicker than the next fastest over that course.   He repeated the feat the following year but the record stood.   So by the time he started on the 26.2 miles he already knew a thing or two about long distance road racing.    He was a very determined, hard yet intelligent trainer.   In addition he was quiet, modest and a true Christian with a healthy lifestyle who never ran a poor marathon.

His first Marathon was in Gateshead in 1982 and it was a sub 2:20 – 2:19:18 for fourteenth place to be exact.   He followed this with 2:21:43 for third in Edinburgh then in October it was off to Turin where he ran 2:19:16 to be fourth.   This was his first GB vest  although not quite the ‘full GB’ international kit – it had diagonal stripes but he made up for it with full colours for the European and Worlds in 1985 and 1987.   He remembers that he pulled or tore a muscle at about 10 miles and although feeling that he was running with a straight leg for several miles managed a sprint (he suggests that it was more just running slightly faster!) at the end of the 2:16 time.   The aftermath was that he couldn’t walk properly for some time afterwards.   Fourth place in his first British international in a fast time was some consolation though.   In 1983 there were three very good marathons in Barcelona, London and Edinburgh where he won in 2:21:36.

By March 1984 he was running for a small Scottish team in the Barcelona marathon which featured heat, hills and a huge field of runners with a number of very classy European international athletes at the front.  Totally unfazed, Lindsay finished a very impressive sixth in 2:16:15.   By September that year he had created a new personal best of 2:15:55 by racing away to an easy victory in the Edinburgh Waverley Market Marathon which included an England versus Scotland international.   The report in the Marathon and Distance runner for November 1984 read as follows:

“September 2nd.   EDINBURGH MARATHON.   Lindsay Robertson, Edinburgh Athletic Club, the defending champion and home favourite set a course record and a personal best in winning this year’s Edinburgh Marathon in a time of 2:15:55 (his winning time last year was 2:21:35.   A field of 3,597 runners lined up outside Meadowbank Stadium at 8:30 am on Sunday morning, with light rain making the conditions perfect for the runners.   As the race got underway, a group of four runners were immediately to the fore.   The group contained Lindsay Robertson (EAC), Evan Cameron (Edinburgh SH), Alex Robertson (ESH) and the winner of the first Edinburgh Marathon in 1982, Dave Ellis of Birchfield Harriers.   By the time they had run two miles, this group was 100 yards clear of the next runner with the rest of the field starting to settle into their pace.   As the runners reached Princes Street they were being caught by Brian Emmerson of Teviotdale Harriers.   However, soon after catching the group he was again dropped and they continued to push on.   Lindsay Robertson at this point was doing most of the front running and it was good to see the Scotland squad in a 1,2 and 3 position with Dave Ellis still with the group but not looking very comfortable.   By halfway, Lindsay Robertson and Evan Cameron had broken away from Alex Robertson and Ellis.   It looked certain that one of these two would be the winner as they sped through 16 miles with most of the field quite far behind.   Robertson, still doing most of the front running, started to pull away from Cameron as they ran along Cramond sea front and by 19 miles he had opened a gap on Cameron.   Looking stronger all the time, Robertson pulled further away from Cameron and entered Meadowbank Stadium to a huge roar from the crowd as he sprinted down the finishing straight like a 1500m runner and clocked 2:15:55.   There was a wait of over three and a half minutes for Cameron whose time (2:19:34) was still inside the course record.   Bill Venus of Exeter Harriers pulled through strongly to take third place.   Lindsay Robertson, on winning, is now faced with a dilemma: whether to take advantage of his first place prize, a full expenses paid trip to the New York Marathon, when he is earmarked to compete for Britain in an international event in Czechoslovakia around the same date.” 

By the end of 1985 he was well on his way to his treble victory in the Tiberias Marathon in Israel which he won in 1984 (2:16:28), 1985 (2:15:39) and 1987

(2:16:06).  He had received a personal invitation in 1984 and after running so well,  was invited back for the others – unfortunately he could not run in 1986 because of injury so when he won in ’87 it was ‘run three, won three! 1985 also produced thirteenth in the London Marathon in another personal best of 2:14:59.   A year later he completed the same  race in the same position only four seconds slower.   Now that is consistency!   Sadly, just when he was extremely fit and ready for an even more impressive run in the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, two days before the race he went down with an illness (probably food poisoning).

However he reached his peak in 1987.   In April that year he represented Great Britain in the World Marathon Cup in Seoul, finishing a fine twenty second in 2:15:07.  On the trip he was part of  a Great Britain team – four men, for women – who travelled to Korea to race over the course to be used the following year for the Olympic Games.   Fraser Clyne and Lindsay were in the men’s team and Sandra Branney was the sole Scot in the women’s team.   John Brown the SAAA Treasurer travelled as well as part of a fact finding mission.   They did not travel directly to Korea but lived for four days at the Nihon Aerobics Centre just outside Tokyo which was to be the holding camp for the GB Olympic team.   Described by Fraser Clyne as ‘impressive’, the word seems rather mild when you consider that it had (a) an outdoor synthetic six lane track, (b) a three lane indoor track, (c) the centre is fully equipped with every sort of exercise, medical and physiotherapeutic equipment, (d) a 25 metre swimming pool and jacuzzis, saunas, roller beds and a hydrotherapy unit.   The team were quartered in log cabins set on the wooded hillside.   Sounds ideal but apparently there was little in the way of off road training for the distance runners.    After the four days there, they transferred to the Sheraton Walker Hotel in Seoul.   Sandra ran well to finish twenty sixth and be a counter in the women’s team which was fifth.    In the men’s race, the race was won by Ahmed Saleh in 2:10:55 from Taisuke Kodama in 2:11:23.   The team finished eight with Dave Long first home in 20th place (2:15:04) just ahead of Lindsay who was only eight seconds outside his personal best.   He had been 79 seconds behind Long at 35 kilometres but finished very strongly and in fact his final 2 kilometres is reported to have been faster than Saleh’s.   Fraser Clyne was forty seventh.

Then on 25th October he won the Frankfurt Marathon in a superb 2:13:30 which makes him sixth fastest Scotsman ever for the distance.   An amusing anecdote about this race is that the owner of a bar had put up a prize for first man at 10K.   Lindsay did not know this but was determined to stick with the leaders no matter what.   So he followed a runner who turned out to have the sole aim of winning this prize.   Running flat out, Lindsay looked over his shoulder to see the European bronze medallist and the rest of the pack miles behind!   However his impressive stamina allowed him to hang on for an excellent victory.

L Robertson 3

Lindsay running in the Frankfurt Marathon in 1987

In all he ran no fewer than seventeen sub-2:20 marathons (not far behind Don Macgregor’s 25) during a short but extremely impressive career.   These are included in the table below.

Day Month Year Venue Event Time Position 5K 10K 15K 20K Half 25K 30K 35K 40K Notes
13 June 1982 Gateshead AAA Championship 2:19:18 14                    
5 September 1982 Edinburgh   2:21:43 3                    
17 October 1982 Turin   2:19:16 4                    
13 March 1983 Barcelona   2:18:02 6                    
17 April 1983 London   2:17:02 59                    
4 September 1983 Edinburgh   2:21:36 1                    
18 March 1984 Barcelona   2:16:15 6                    
13 May 1984 London   2:16:42 25                    
2 September 1984 Edinburgh   2:15:55 1                    
28 October 1984 New York City   2:20:09 14                    
17 December 1984 Tiberias   2:16:28 1   32:54   65:08 68:39   1:37:08   2:09:28  
21 April 1985 London   2:14:59 15                    
15 September 1985 Rome European Marathon Cup                        
17 December 1985 Tiberias   2:15:39 1   32:15     67:47          
20 April 1986 London   2:15:03 13                    
2 November 1986 New York City   2:17:31 24                    
12 April 1987 Seoul World Marathon Cup 2:15:07 22                    
25 October 1987 Frankfurt   2:13:30 1                   2nd: Herbert Steffny, Euro Bronze Medallist, 2:15:15
9 December 1987 Tiberias   2:16:06 1                    
17 April 1988 London   2:16:26 26                    

LRobertson 4

A Great Picture!

Lindsay Robertson – Marathon Career Record  

No Date Venue Position Time Winner (Club) Time
  1 13 June 1982 Gateshead (AAA)       14 2:19:18 Steve Kenyon (Salford) 2:11:40
  2 05 September 1982 Edinburgh         3 2:21:43 Dave Ellis (England) 2:21:09
  3 17 October 1982 Turin (ITA – ?distance)         4 2:19:16 Mark DeBlander (Belgium) 2:14:57
  4 13 March 1983 Barcelona (ESP)         6 2:18:02 Allen Zachariassen (Denmark) 2:11:05
  5 17 April 1983 London (AAA)       59 2:17:02 Mike Gratton (Invicta) 2:09:43
  6 04 September 1983 Edinburgh         1 2:21:36  
  7 18 March 1984 Barcelona (ESP)         6 2:16:15 Werner Meier (Switzerland) 2:14:50
  8 13 May 1984 London (AAA)               25    2:16:44 Charlie Spedding (Gateshead) 2:09:57
  9 02 September 1984 Edinburgh         1 2:15:55  
10 28 October 1984 New York (USA)       14 2:20:09 Orlando Pizzolato (Italy) 2:14:53
11 17 December 1984 Tiberias (ISR)         1 2:16:28  
12 21 April 1985 London (AAA)       13 2:14:59 Steve Jones (RAF) 2:08:16
13 15 September 1985 Rome (ITA-Euro Cup)       23 2:17:43 Michael Heilmann (E Germany) 2:11:28
14 17 December 1985 Tiberias (ISR)         1 2:15:39  
15 20 April 1986 London (AAA)       13 2:15:03 Toshihiko Seko (Japan) 2:10:02
16 02 November 1986 New York (USA)       24 2:17:31 Gianni Poli (Italy) 2:11:06
17 12 April 1987 Seoul (PRK-World Cup)       22 2:15:07 Ahmed Saleh (Djibouti) 2:10:55
18 25 October 1987 Frankfurt (W Ger)         1 2:13:30  
19 09 December 1987 Tiberias (ISR)         1 2:16:06  
20 17 April 1988         London (AAA)       26 2:16:26 Henrik Jorgensen (Denmark) 2:10:20