Photo from Alastair Shaw
Paul Forbes is a name not well known among the young athletes and their coaches of the twenty first century – buit it really should be. Look at the Scottish all-time rankings for his best distance, the 800m:
- 1:43.88 Tom McKean 28 Jul 89
- 1:45.47 Brian Whittle 20 Jul 90
- 1:45.6 Graham Williamson 12 Jun 83
- 1:45.66 Paul Forbes 8 Jun 83
- 1:45.76 Frank Clement 10 Jul 76
- 1:45.81 David Strang 12 Jul 96
- 1:46.4 Paul Walker 22 Jul 97
- 1:46.63 Peter Hoffmann 11 Jun 78
- 1:46.65 Guy Learmonth 21 Jul 15
- 1:46.8 David McMeekin 6 Jun 74
There he is. Fourth behind McKean, Whittle and Williamson and in front of several better known names such as Clement and McMeekin with today’s top Scot Guy Learmonth almost a full second behind him. He ran in two Commonwealth Games and won medals at Scottish and UK Championships and set records. His career should be better known than it is.
Paul, date of birth 20th November 1956, started off as a junior boy with Edinburgh AC being coached by Eric Fisher. Although Paul is best known as an outstanding track runner, at this point in his career he was a good cross-country runner and we should maybe look at his development through the ranks over the country. He was a successful cross-country runner right from the start, winning the East District Junior Boys Championship in 1969/70 and leading Edinburgh AC to team victory. The race was held at Grangemouth and having sprinted up the finishing straight to victory he kept on running till he reached Eric and said “We’ve done , we’ve done it!” That season he was also sixth in the National Championships in a field of 120 runners. In 1970/71 as a first year Senior Boy (Under 15) in the National Championships at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, Paul was 58th finisher and fourth counter for the club team which finished third – at least he went home with a Scottish medal. He learned from this and the following year, ’71/’72, he was eighth in the District Championships in the team which finished second. The national saw an improvement on the previous year – but only a slight one and he finished thirty eighth in a team which was fourth, well behind Monkland Harriers who were third. He went up another age group in ’72/’73 but finished higher up the field in the District championship where he was sixth leading the Edinburgh AC team to first place. If he ran in the national at the end of the year, he finished well down the field, nor was the club team placed in the first three. As a second year youth in 1973/74, he moved up to fourth in the District championships, and the team won again: in his four years in these championships he had three team golds and one silver. In the national he finished eighteenth in a field that had many excellent athletes – Nat Muir, Graham Crawford, John Graham, Hammy Cox, Mark Watt and Graham Laing among them. At this point when he was due to move up to the Junior age group, he stopped running cross-country, although he did run in a few team events – the National Relays in November 1975 where he was in the EAC second team, and two good runs in the Edinburgh to Glasgow Relay (third stages in 1975 and 1976 – each time the team was second) he was destined to be almost entirely a track runner for the rest of his career. Eric Fisher had passed him to Bill Walker and it was with Bill that he trained from then on.
Summer 1974 was a very good one for first year Junior Paul. Running mainly 800m and 1500m and still at school, he was ranked top Junior in the 800m and won medals at both distances. His best 800m time was set right at the start of the year when at Bell’s Indoor Arena in Perth he was timed at 1:54.8 to win the event on 3rd February. The East District Championships were held at Meadowbank on 25th May and Pal ran in the Senior/Junior 1500m and finished third in 4:10.5 behind Paul Kenney (3:56.0) and Graham Laing (4:10.5) – you will note the close finish for second and third. The championship trail then led on to Pitreavie on 15th June where Paul, running for Forrester Secondary, won the 800m at the Scottish Schools Championships in 1:58.0, half a second quicker than Alistair McLaughlin (Knightswood HS and Garscube Harriers). Only one year earlier Paul had won the Group B 1000m steeplechase at these same championships so it was his second gold medal in succession. In the Scottish Junior Championship at Meadowbank, Paul had another good run but had to settle for second place to John Fleming of Springburn who won in 1:55.9 to Paul’s 1:56.5 with John Robson third in 1:57.9. At the end of the season his time from Perth away back in February led the junior rankings and placed him sixteenth among the country’s best seniors.