Marathons Man

As a child, my [lack of] genetic athletic prowess was amply demonstrated by being no good at any sports involving a ball and coming second last in any running race (there was always a fat kid behind me). I made the cross country team for my House at High School in Kilmarnock (‘cos everyone else bunked off when we ran during PE) and was posted missing in the race. I was resigned to being a skinny swot. Even in my teens with my dad taking me to the track and coaching me (he is a qualified Athletics coach), it was obvious that the genes he had (he had run a 4:30 mile on grass on 3 days a week training and he WON races at the Highland Games) had not materialised in my diminutive frame. I was still last at school sports. I once ran for the Region in a 200m race cos no-one else was going…and was last.

In April 1983 I was working in London and had noticed that endless trough dinners at the GEC Social Club and plenty ale was turning me into a porker. I had watched the London Marathon and it had really moved me emotionally, plus I had heard that my cousin in Glasgow had “done” a marathon in 5 and a half hours. So I took up running to complete a marathon. I did not get allocated a place in the 1984 London Marathon so opted to enter the Glasgow Marathon in September 1984 as my first ever road race. My first ever run was on Tuesday 5th April 1983 – 3 miles in 26 mins.

To say I was a novice when I ran my first marathon was a massive understatement. I had sorta completed a 2 hour run (complete with car entourage of friends feeding me chocolate) and I was running 3 times a week. I set the target at 3 hours 30 mins. I ran up until about 21 miles when the demons arrived and jog/walked to the finish in 3:33:40.

Between 1984 and 1991 I ran 11 marathons (Glasgow 1984 (3:33:40), London 1986 (3:32:50), Glasgow 1986 (3:22:59 – first time no walking), Aberdeen 1987 (3:24:41), Loch Rannoch 1987 (3:38:09 – v hot & was ill all week), Glasgow 1987 (3:18:53), Dundee 1988 (3:08:01), London 1989 (2:57:33), Loch Rannoch 1989 (2:56:00 PR), St Albans 1990 (2:56:30), Dundee 1991 (2:57:59)). Carbo gels etc hadn’t been seen yet, so I had only raced on good old H2O. The last 4 marathons I ran were all sub 3 hours, on 4 different courses. I had proved that hard hard training could at least take me to my potential and I was no longer last, I was a competent runner. I tried to put in more mileage as I was already running every day but my body could hardly even cope with 50 to 60 miles a week of training. In 1990 I ran every day for 123 days in a row and only stopped to taper down before the St Albans Marathon. My legs ached. I got virus after virus. I weighed 10 stone 4 lbs (144 lbs). It was time for something even more difficult – Triathlon.

My one and only 5km race in Tunisia 1990. Sooooo long ago lol!

I also ran loads of half marathons (PR 1:19:59), a few 10ks (PR 36:10) and one 5k in Tunisia (PR 17:45).

At the third attempt, I finally manage to run the whole marathon without walking…

In 1986, after I had finally decreased my time  in the Glasgow Marathon to 3:22:59 by doing some decent training, I set the dream target of sub 3 hours within 3 years. I trained my buns off for 3 years. Running 7 days a week. Hill sessions. Fartlek sessions. 20 mile runs. Track sessions: 20 x 400m on 2mins 30secs and then later I progressed to 10 x 800m on 5 mins, even on Thursday evenings when the track was soooo icy I had to wear spikes (nice part was I DID drive there in my red Lotus Esprit!). In 1989 (after 3 years of incredibly hard training) I went to London having told everyone I was aiming to break 3 hours. I finished 1964th out of about 25,000 in 2:57:33 (race clock 2:58:24). Note that if yer want yer pictures to show you broke the 3 hour barrier you had to go sub 3 on the race clock which meant I had to make up the 50 seconds it took me to cross the start line… Some notes scribbled on the back of my boarding pass for the flight home say that the temperature at 12 noon was 13 deg C. The splits I recorded are as follows: 1 mile – 8:01 (heavy traffic!!), 10 miles – 1:07:15, half way (13.1 miles) 1:28:12, 18 miles – 2:01:xx, 19 miles – 2:07:xx, 20 miles – 2:15:xx, 24 miles – 2:43:xx and 25 miles 2:49:xx. I was the first person at LHR that day with a finisher’s medal on and the barman bought ME a drink!. When I telephoned home, I couldn’t speak…I was in tears…all I could say was “I DID IT”. I was home by 4:30 pm that evening and in the pub later that evening…consuming adult recovery drinks…

London, April 1989 and the 3 hour barrier is broken!
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My PR (Loch Rannoch, June 1989 – only 8 weeks after London) and the infamous ‘Picture of Death’ …spot my Dad’s hand on my left shoulder!
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St Albans 1990 – the last mile in the park and it’s hurting…note the red gloves & Helly as it was December & the injury causing racers (Nike Air Mariahs)…

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