Murder Most Foul

The Death of the E-G

The Death of the Edinburgh to Glasgow

(aka the ‘E-G’ and ‘The News of the World’)

If the race was so popular and so good why did it die?   It had everything going for it:

* The affection of runners and officials who made it the centre of the first half of the winter – this was reflected in the atmosphere leading up to the race and on the day itself.   I have seen banners and special T Shirts, I have heard trumpets, bugles and drums enough to do a small orchestra and clubs with not a lot of money saved up to hire a bus of their own for the race.   Every club had a difficult to get on with guy who was a good athlete – clubs made their peace with them until after tea time on the race day!

* Tradition – it had been going on since 1930 and many clubs had a long list of past performances  which was kept rigorously up to date, produced weeks before the race and comparative times noted and discussed.

*  As a publicity item it was without equal.   One of the biggest papers in the UK had been shovelling money into it and writing it up the day afterwards and even after the sponsorship was reduced and then stopped, it was still covering the race; it was written up by other papers and the ‘Herald’ always had good detailed coverage on the Monday in particular and the ‘Scotsman’ always had the annual picture of the start inside the back page on the Monday.   The publicity could never have been bought by the SCCU.

*   As  a spur to performance for athletes and clubs it had an entirely beneficial effect.   It is easy enough to lament the passing of a separate Scottish team in the World Cross Country Championships and I have lamented and made moan with the best of them, but the loss of the E-G was at least as serious.   There was a dynamism at the start of the cross country season then that is now missing.   The cause?   The loss of the E-G which gave a focus and an attainable target for dozens and dozens of club runners who would be stars for a day……………………..and on the same day every year afterwards when folk said “Do you mind the year when…?”   Twenty clubs listing twenty runners each, twenty score Scots with an ambition at the very start of the winter.   All gone.

And Why?    Mainly because some officials in Edinburgh decided that it would have to go.   Reasons were given but they were the sort of reasons that a tired and irritable parent gives to a particularly bothersome child.   Not real reasons but with maybe a grain of truth in them.   Ostensibly it was because of lack of police permission, apparently it was because the roads were getting too dangerous but both of those could have been got around.   A half hearted attempt was made to find an off road course between the two cities but when there was a minor hiccup it was simply abandoned.   No consultation with the clubs merely a passing of information about a decision that had basically already been taken.   

If we look at the road safety aspects of the decision then two points stand right out.   First almost all the runners were road runners which means that they trained and raced on roads all the time.   Training daily in the streets of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee or Aberdeen had made them all streetwise to the nth degree with senses tuned to the situations that they faced day and daily.   Nor were the drivers to be encountered on the roads any more good or bad than those met daily.  Indeed many runners ran to work on dark mornings daily sharing the road with rush hour traffic.   Second, having run in or followed the race from the mid 1950’s to the 2000’s I only knew of two traffic related incidents – one in the 50’s  and one in 1960 .   Two in fifty years and none in the last 44 years of the race’s existence is not a bad record.   So you had well trained runners with good road sense running in a race with two minor accidents in more than 50 years.   Unfortunately minds were made up at the Gyle well in advance and no doubt existed in their minds that it was a good thing to end the race.

Suggestions were made but ignored.    The two main principles of the race were that the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow were involved and the race had to have only twenty invited teams.   It could of course have been run backwards as it has been in the past – ie Glasgow to Edinburgh.   Starting at Crown Point at 8:30 it would be clear of the crowds in Airdrie before they were even up!   Ending at Ingliston would not have meant running through Edinburgh either.    Or how about really radical measures like running it in the dark?   Running through the night is a wonderful feeling – even I used to feel that I was running fast – and poems such as the ‘Night Runners’ have been written about it.   Start it at midnight in Edinburgh.   That would give us a wonderful race to have on the calendar.   If you want to make it more dramatic, the men could carry flaming torches instead of batons and pass them from hand to hand.  As the torch burned down the last stages would have to hurry home before it did them some damage!     There’s two suggestions.  If you want more I could come up with another two or three.   Others could come up with more and better!

But there are people alive today in Scotland with murder on their CV.