Pitreavie Track 1954
Few of us who ran on the track at Pitreavie back in the late 1950s and 1960’s could possibly have visualised the stadium as it is today with the all-weather facilities, indoor training arena with running and weight/circuit training facilities. The transition over more than a half century is of course down to the word done and initiatives of a whole series of individuals and committees over the years. In the beginning athletes turning up for championships had to change in what is now a football pavilion and walk or jog down to the track Now it is a matter of yards. One of the best facilities in the country it has hosted meetings at all levels from club to international. As it has developed, the Pitreavie AAC club has also grown and has turned out many top class performers in track and field events. Graham McDonald has worked hard to produce the story of the track, and the club over the years and we begin with his account of the beginnings in the 1950’s and taking us up to the formation of Pitreavie AAC.
Graham has also drawn up lists of the best performances in all events (Men’s track, Women’s track, Men’s field events and Women’s field events) over the years – a veritable who’s who in Scottish athletics and not a few European, Commonwealth and Olympic greats too. Just click on the appropriate link. Now read about the stadium.
PITREAVIE ATHLETICS STADIUM
The Concept and Construction
The Carnegie Dunfermline Trust was keen to encourage outdoor sports for local schools – particularly Dunfermline HS – and leased the ‘Pitreavie Games Park’ from the Trustees of Pitreavie Estate in 1926. In 1930 the CDT purchased the Park outright and expanded it by buying adjacent fields . A year later, plans were put in place to construct a Pavilion and prepare the playing area for games: Rugby , Football , Cricket and Hockey. It was also used for Cycling on a marked out grass track from time to time. The New Pavilion was opened on 13th June 1934 by Mrs Louise Carnegie , wife of Andrew Carnegie. Further progress in the development of the Playing Fields was interrupted by the outbreak of WW2 in 1939. The Pavilion was requisitioned by the military to accommodate , initially RAF personnel and then 300 Royal Navy Wrens. Following the end of WW 2, there was an increasing demand from the public to open up the opportunities for playing sport again. In 1945 CDT requested the MOD return the Playing Fields and Pavilion to them but it wasn’t till 1947 that was completed. However in order to make them suitable for public use again , quite a bit of work was required , particularly on the Pavilion which had the serious problem of a leaking roof which meant the original ionic Clock Tower had to be demolished.
In the meantime Mr Ord Cunningham , Vice Chairman of the CDT , a keen athlete in his younger days , was keen to explore the possibility of an Athletics Track at Pitreavie Playing Fields. He contacted Jimmy Gilbert, Secretary of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association at that time, to enquire about the specifications required for the construction of an ‘Olympic’ standard track. He also asked Gilbert if he could recommend a list of contractors he
considered suitable of building such a facility. Gilbert was very keen to help and encourage a new facility in Scotland as the tracks here were run down following the hostilities and a new facility would give a much needed boost to the development of the sport North of the Border. He contacted Jack Crump of the AAA. Crump arranged a visit to London to discuss the new track with those involved laying the new track at the White City for 1948 London Olympics. The ground at Pitreavie Playing Fields was surveyed , the position of the track agreed and in 1949 tenders were issued for the construction.. The original idea of a cycle track outside the athletic track (similar to Grangemouth) was dropped due to cost and the contract awarded in 1950 at a cost of £17,000 (how much of a track would get for that sum these days). Tony Chapman, Scottish National Coach , advised on equipment and
Bill Pryde , head groundsman at PItreavie , went down to London University’s Motspur Park, to learn the maintenance programme requirements for new tracks, from legendary groundsman Archie McTaggart , who was in charge of maintenance of the ’48 Olympic track.
The Pitreavie track was finally completed in 1953. By modern expectations it would be considered quite basic:
A 440yd cinder track by En-Tout-Cas with tubular railing round it. 3 sand pits for the jumps (grass take offs) , 2 throwing circles and a Javelin throwing sector (grass). There was no cover or facilities for spectators with only a grass banking round the track. Equipment was stored in an old shed next to the main changing pavilion 200yds away. In order to train for a field event , an athlete would barrow over the equipment required , by hand. For an organised meeting , the groundsman’s tractor and trailer required.
Official Opening of the Track Sat 12th June – 1954
The facility was opened by Lord Cawdor, Chairman of the Scottish Branch of the National Playing Fields Association in conjunction with 1954 Scottish Schoolgirls Athletics Championships.(Schoolboys Championships were held separately in those days) He apologised for the absence of the Duke of Edinburgh, President of the National Playing Fields Association and the Duke of Buccleuch, President of the Scottish Branch who were invited but unable to attend. He congratulated the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust (CDT) for laying down this facility – he understood it to be the only track in Scotland built to Olympic standards. Mr Ord. A Cunningham, Vice Chairman CDT was called upon to give a vote of thanks to Lord Cawder by CDT Hon Treasurer Wm Dick who gave Mr Cunningham credit for driving this project to fruition. Mr Cunningham added that 25 years ago, as a keen athlete, he had looked for a track to use but there was none. Now that the facility was in place he hoped that it would be fully utilised. Graham McDonald notes that Mr Cunningham’s’s faith in persuading the CDT to construct the track has been fully justified.
Another point of interest is that the medals at the Scottish Schoolgirls Athletic Championships were presented by Frances Barker, Principal of Glasgow HS for Girls. The Trophy now presented for the Best Girl’s Performance at the Schools Championships is named after Frances Barker).
The photograph below was taken at the opening meeting. The crowd as shown in the picture would please any meeting organiser in any sport.
Formation of Local Club
Having invested in a new ‘Olympic Standard’ track , CDT were keen that the facility would be well used by encouraging local youngsters to get involved in the sport and hopefully used to host national events. Most of the interest in athletics in the area had been in ‘Professional’ running , mainly in Highland Games and the annual Powderhall New Year Sprint. Although there are reports of some excellent results in the Scottish Schools Championships by pupils of Dunfermline HS as far back as the 1920s, there had been no provision to encourage them to continue in what was termed at the time as ‘Amateur’ Athletics. CDT had been hoping that the Pitreavie track would fill the gap. Therefore in 1953 , ahead of the official opening of the track , CDT had promoted the formation of an ‘Athletic’ club as a section of the Carnegie Physical Training & Athletic Club which was primarily a gymnastic club..
The new club was called Carnegie Amateur Athletic Club (ref Letter Dunfermline Press 11th April 1953). However , it never really got off the ground. Training sessions were sporadic and no competitions were organised. In order to help stimulate local interest in athletics , the SAAA offered to transfer the Annual SAAA v Atalanta (Scottish Universities) match from Meadowbank to Pitreavie. That took place on the 30th June,1955 and was attended by one Graham McDonald. The Atalanta fixture became a regular feature at the Pitreavie venue for many years.
However, CAAC continued to disappoint, the secretary resigned and it defaulted on the affiliation fee to the SAAA and ceased to exist. Early in the 1956 season CDT approached local athletics enthusiasts who used the track for training and were obviously very interested in the sport. The outcome was that CDT asked two of them, Geoff Seabrook and Claude Foley , if they would interested in forming an athletic club. One evening soon after that meeting, youngsters using the track were called together by Geoff on the grass banking surrounding the track, He explained that he had been asked by the CDT to form an Athletic Club and suggested that it be called Pitreavie AAC but it would have to be agreed formally at a properly convened General Meeting. In the meantime a couple of inter club competitions and ‘club championship events were organised to provide some competition for the youngsters who frequented the track.
This General Meeting took place in September 1956 when the club name Pitreavie AAC was formally proposed and agreed in the presence of Mr Ord Cunningham and Mr Andrew Buchanan of the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust. Mr Geoff Seabrook was elected President Mr Claude Foley was elected Secretary. A small committee was formed, Pitreavie AAC was up and running (& jumping & throwing.)
Finlay Wild is a name known almost exclusively to the hill running fraternity although it should be well known to all endurance runners in Scotland at the very least.
He was born on 8 September 1984 in Thurso. It was maybe ineveitable that he would be an enthusiast for the great outdoors right from the start: his father Roger Wild, was a mountain guide, and his mother Fiona (née Hinde) was an accomplished hill runner who won the Three Peaks Race in 1981 and the Carnethy 5 in both 1981 and 1982. Finlay was educated at Fort William primary and Lochaber High School before heading to the University of Aberdeen where he graduated with a medical degree and he now works as a GP in Lochaber. So much for his background which all (where he has always lived, parents occupation and involvement) point to a love of the hills. We can go on from there to have a look at his career as a hill runner.
His first hill race is said to be at Ben Rinnes at the age of 21. Held in conjunction with the Dufftown Highland Games, it is really three hills – there are the two tops of Little and Meikle Conval before the Ben Rinnes summit with the return via the same trail making it a total of 22 kilometres with 1500m of ascent. It is however through his superb running on Ben Nevis that his hill running talents have been shown to best advantage. Winning the race once is an achievement, to win it as often has he has is however a wonderful almost incomparable achievement. He first won it in 2010 and every year since! The ‘Press & Journal began its report in 2019 as follows:
“A doctor made it 10 in a row when he won a gruelling race up and down the UK’s highest mountain. Fort William GP Finlay Wild fought off competition from 450 other athletes to win the Ben Nevis race for the 10th time on Saturday. He conquered the 4,411ft mountain in 1 hour, 32 minutes and five seconds.
Despite falling on part of the route, Dr Wild was 17 minutes and 47 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger, fellow Lochaber Athletic Club member John Yells. The 35-year-old said: “When I won it the first time I was absolutely shocked so I never thought this would happen and I would be here with 10. I feel quite shocked really as it was very unexpected.
“It is a great local event that attracts people from all over and it is great to see so many people. “I am sure I will be back next year.”
Unfortunately he was not able to go back in 2020 because there was no race due to the Covid crisis – and as a GP he was probably working flat out at the time anyway.
There are some, many, runners who favour a particular event and run better there than anywhere else but that does not apply to Finlay Wild. He has the same high standards and displays them on short hill races, long hill races, the various ’rounds and, in short, in any event in which he takes part. Note the following:
- In 2012, he set a new course record for the Glamaig Hill Race, breaking the previous best set by top class internationalist Mark Rigby in 1997. He improved his own record by a further five seconds in 2018.
- Wild’s other wins include the Carnethy 5, Goatfell races 2013–2015, the Isle of Jura 2015-2017, Stuc a Chroin, the Ennerdale Horseshpe and the Langdale Horseshoe. He won the British Fell Running Championship in 2015. The heights and distance tend to be on the long side – Langdale is 21 km in distance and 4760 ft of ascent, Stuc a Chroin is 24 km and 5000 feet of ascent, Isle of Jura is 28 km and 2370 feet of ascent and Ennerdale is 36.8 km and 2290 feet. As an indication 21 km is 13 miles and 36.8 km is over 22 miles.
- He also has the fastest known time for the Cuillin Ridge traverse on Skye, completing the crossing in 2:59:22 in 2013. In February 2016, Wild and Tim Gomersall made a winter crossing of the Cuillin Ridge in a time of 6:14. There is an excellent report on his record in the UK Climbing website which sums the feat up in this quote: “On Saturday 12th October Finlay Wild broke the speed record for the Cuillin Ridge traverse for the second time in a year, knocking a hefty 15 minutes from his previous record to log the first sub-three-hour completion of Britain’s greatest mountaineering route. So how on earth did he manage to get from the summit of Gars-bheinn at the south end of the ridge to the top of Sgurr nan Gillean in the north, in just 2hrs 59mins 22secs”?
- In 2016, Wild’s results in the Tromso Sky Race (Norway: 33 km and 2000m of ascent) and the Glen Coe Skyline gave him third place in the Extreme section of the Skyrunner World Series.
- In October 2016, he set a record time of 10:15:30 for Tranter’s Round in the mountains around Glen Nevis. He further reduced the record to 9:00:05 in July 2020. Note that the second record was 75 minutes faster than the first – a huge lump off the time. Often, almost always, a runner going for a record round has pacers, guides or companions assisting but not this time for Finlay Wild. This quote about the run from the following link Finlay Wild breaks his own Tranter’s Round record – FionaOutdoors says “Finlay ran the Tranter’s Round solo and unsupported. He said: “Only a few people knew I was out for a record attempt against myself, so there didn’t feel like there was much pressure. This keeps stress levels low and makes it just an enjoyable big day out in the hills.” Finlay thoroughly enjoyed the run, He said: “It was a high watching the weather improve into the afternoon, just as I had hoped it would from an optimistic interpretation of the forecast. “It was great to take an hour and 15 minutes off my previous record, too. Even missing a sub-nine-hours wasn’t disappointing because I feel I made a concerted push to try for it over many hours, so I ran as well as I could have hoped.”
- In May 2019, Wild ran the Welsh 3000s in a time of 4:10:48 which broke the long-standing record of 4:19 held by fellow Scot Colin Donnelly since 1988.
- Wild set a record for the Ramsay Round in August 2020, completing the route solo and unsupported in a time of 14:42:40. Note that like the Tranter Round a month earlier it was a solo and unsupported run over some of the most difficult terrain the United Kingdom. It was also a huge chunk off the previous record – a massive 90 minutes. And it was done as a solo attempt with scarcely one month between the two. We should maybe look at the two Rounds. The photograph below is of Finlay after setting the Ramsay Round record and you can read about it at Finlay Wild sets new Ramsay Round record – FionaOutdoors
Hill Runners from all countries and of all standards seem to collect ’rounds’ with every country having its own tough round of hill, tops, peaks to be completed against the clock. And the various countries have other rounds. The two Scottish ones mentioned above are worth a look. The Tranter Round first. Described by the Gofar website as follows – “Named after Philip Tranter, who first completed it in 1964, this is considered to be Scotland’s original 24 hour challenge, before being extended by Charlie Ramsay in 1978. It is a round of some 36 miles and over 20,000′ taking in 19 Munros in the Mamores, Grey Corries and Aonachs together with Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis. It still remains a creditable and rewarding challenge in its own right. ” Note the reference to the Ramsay Round which is the big challenge for Scottish Hill Runners. For a description of the Ramsay Round we go to the appropriate website of https://www.ramsaysround.co.uk/tranters-round which reads
Ramsay’s Round is an extension of Tranter’s round which started in Glen Nevis. Travelling anticlockwise he completed all of the Mamores, (10 munros) thereafter he crossed the valley and onto the Grey corries (4 munros) before ascending onto the Aonachs (2 munros) and onwards towards Carn Mor Dearg, culminating on Ben Nevis, (2 munros) Great Britain’s highest mountain, finishing back at Glen Nevis. Following the completion of the Mamores at Sgurr Eilde Mor continue eastwards towards the South end of Loch Treig, continue onto the summit of Beinn na Lap, thereafter head for Chno Dearg then onto the summit of Stob Coire Sgriodain, before descending to the north end of Loch Treig, thereafter start the steady climb onto the Easains, before descending down to the Lairig Leacach, finally start the ascent onto the summit of Stob Ban joining up and continuing onto Tranter’s Round.”
To set records for both within a month and break the previous best time by so much indicates a runner of tremendous talent and determination.
And the hill and fell running is not quite enough for the full display of Wild’s talents. He has also competed in ski mountaineering and was the British champion in that sport in 2016 as well as the Scottish Skimo series winner in the 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 seasons.