Apart from the trails that we used to run on there were the various open races held in the area at the time from the Springburn Cup, to the Marathon Club Twelve Miles and the Kirkintilloch Highland Games Ten Miles (which was universally recognised to be the longest ten miles in the civilised world). Some of the roads have been so messed about by road works that they are no longer runnable as proper races and I’ll have to go out and have a wee look at them to see for myself how they have changed. Anyway, this is how they were – all interesting, all testing and with a degree of overlap.
The Kirkintilloch Games 10 Miles started at Adamslie Park (the Rob Roy FC Park). Coming out of the park after a lap of the track the runners turned right and headed out past the town centre on the low road all the way to Inchterf and turned left up Antermony Road. The three mile marker was held up there and one year I came through with Ian Donald of Clydesdale and the time on the car at the side of the road was well inside 15 minutes and the temptation to drop out with a pb was great! Anyways. the trail them just made a big semi circle round via Milton of Campsie and Lennoxtown to Torrance, up the big drag to the roundabout where it was left again and into Adamslie and once round the track. 10 miles? I don’t think so.
There was the year when I jogged out from Lenzie, knocked myself out on the race and won the handicap prize which was a big box with a water jug and six highball glasses nicely packed. See running back to Lenzie carrying that lot? And trying not to break it? Part of the attraction was the notion of having a Highland Games in Kirkintilloch (My Heart’s in the Hielans my heart is not here, my heart’s in Kirkintilloch a chasing the deer…).
The Scottish Marathon Club was a fine organisation run by secretary Jimmy Scott and his committee of fine men such as Jimmy Geddes, David Bowman and others. It organised a whole series of races over the summer with a championship that included specified races – the Scottish Marathon was one that HAD to be in there, the Clydebank to Helensburgh was another and the Springburn 12 was yet another. This one started outside the Springburn clubhouse at the bottom of the hill with the start being in line with Crowhill Road. The race progressed straight up past the Littlehill Golf Club and round to where there is a very sharp uphill turn to the left and over the railway bridge into Crosshill Road. It then went right round that back road past what we called the Barrage Balloons (where these were moored during the War) and where the Golf Driving Range is now. Down Cole Road to the Torrance Roundabout, right across the road and in to Kirkintilloch. We then turned left up Campsie Road to Milton of Campsie via Birdston and then left again and back to Lennoxtown (where there was a watering point – a rarity in the 60’s) and down to Torrance. Back up to that bloomin’ roundabout then right along the main road to finish just before Colston Road. Another hard, hard trail to race although pleasant enough to run.
Jim Bremner was a very good guy, one of the nicest chaps you could ever meet and a member of Springburn Harriers. He was a very good 800/1500 runner and he came out with us on some of the Sunday runs but always doubted his ability to complete it. That was his one fault – excessive modesty about his own ability. Well, one year in the Marathon Club 12 I came off the Torrance roundabout and crossed the road to head for home while Jim who was a few yards behind me(40?50?) stayed on the other side of the road but looked much fresher than I felt. He caught up with me on the other side of the road until we came to Bishopbriggs Cross where he had to cross the road in two directions and I only had to cross in one. As we got up past the pub on the left he started to catch me big time. I saw a car in front and swung out well before it kind of inviting him in to the inside which invitation he accepted. Then as we came up the hill and he started to pass me I cut him off at the back of the car – he had to stop almost dead. Quiet unassuming Jim was so annoyed that he came back and rook about 20 yards out of me in the finishing straight! Lesson: Don’t try to cheat if you’re not good at it.
The Luddon Half Marathon was an excellent race and one of the best sponsored in the country – thanks largely to Hugh Barrow and his team at Strathkelvin. It started at the Monklands outside the Baths and headed to Eastside before turning sharp right and heading out towards Twechar before coming back up to the Campsies then it was round to the Torrance roundabout, across the road, up the Cole Road, past the Open Prison at Lowmoss, round the back road to the top of Gallowhill Road and down to cross the Lenzie – Kirkie Road at the Baths and across the grass to the finish. It was a hard race over a varied course and to keep the spectators interested there was a Street Mile which, on the invitation of Hugh Barrow, I organised for the BMC.
There was the year when I was running in the race and having been brought up in the days when there were designated feeding stations, I was seriously irritated by the number of times that wives, girl friends and no doubt lovers as well, were standing roadside handing out drinks to their chosen runner. Eventually when I saw a woman giving a guy a sponge at the road down into Torrance I snapped! As I passed I grabbed the sponge: she said “But it’s only for him”: I sucked mightily on the sponge – which had been soaked in very soapy water! The taste of soap does not aid running.
The Street Mile started at the off license in Lenzie and came straight in the road through Lenzie to finish in front of the Baths. This attracted many very good athletes and the prizes were good. There were races for Senior Men and the Senior Women and Under 17 Men ran against each other. The ingenuity in the prize list was wonderful to behold with meals for two at a restaurant in Bishopbriggs at one end and the winner of the Under 17 Men’s Race getting his weight in mince and tatties at the other. He didn’t have to take them all at once and the winner, Glen Stewart, made several journeys to collect his goodies. Liz Lynch (as she then was) won the Women’s Race in the first year and Yvonne Murray the year after. If you ask me nicely face to face I’ll tell you about the relative expenses!
I always ran the the women against the Under 17 Men to add an element of unpredictability to the event and give the top women a really hard race. They appreciated the chance to race against the U17 Men such as Glen, Frank McGowan, Bobby Mooney, etc, in all three such races that I organised at three different venues each year. In 1986 I was appointed Scottish Staff Coach for 5000/10000 and went on an already arranged three week holiday just before the Commonwealth Games. I asked Lachie Stewart to organise the Street Miles at Stirling University that year and when I returned from holiday and went in to the Village the first person I met was Liz Lynch. Wee and in a red tracksuit she started by saying that she could have won the 3000 metres the night before (Yvonne was third) and then started complaining that the Street Mile at Stirling had separated the Women from the U17 Men. She had brought a friend over from Alabama University otherwise she would not have had a good run! Never mind, she won the 10000 metres in the Games!
The first Springburn Cup race that I took part in was a Relay Race with teams of one Under 15, one Under 17, one Under 20 and a Senior Man. That finally fell away because so few clubs have strong (or indeed any) runners in all four age groups at the same time. There were subsequently three other trails that I know of for the trophy now renamed the Jack Crawford Cup. The one I ran most often came out of the back gate at Huntershill into Avon Road, turning left and making for Crowhill Road where we went under the bridge and through the cross before turning very sharp left up Kirkintilloch Road to Colston Road then up Auchinairn Road to Springfield Road and into Avon Road before going round again. There were three laps of that one.