Note that these are the personal views of an old bitter man who has seen better days, and not the views of Motherwell AC, Mark Yardley or the IOC. As usual it’s all subjective and what’s good to me is poor for others, and what’s poor for me is good for others. Etc.
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The original title for this piece was Every Loser Wins, but I didn’t want to appear a Nick Berry tribute act. It is however the Motherwell AC prizegiving incorporating the awards for the (cue drum roll, 100 piece orchestra, slap bass, guitar solo, stylophone break (if they are still allowed), John Barnes rap, marching oompah band and mariachi trumpets) 2015 Motherwell Athletics Club Road Running Championship and Leagues.
You know by now it was a, in many ways, stupid attempt at validation for me to win my first individual medal since my 1989 heyday. And that the bulk of the club don’t care about it. And most of you are giving me “whatever”s. But it was/is important to me. There are reasons. I’ll tell you later in this blog. And since it is my blog then we can ALL pretend that it is important, and that this is on a par with the Olympics, and if I was to medal then sports funding is a distinct possibility and Newarthill parades with my face made out of Papier-mâché on a milk float are only a matter of time (take that Charlie Flynn, the mailman may deliver, but the accountant counts. Or something.) I was put into Division 2 with a lot of good athletes. Ten set races, plus, if you are mad, a theoretical marathon race where they take all the marathons run, and according to time dish out points. Your best 6 results count. When race no 1 came, I was struggling with the same injury I have just now. Back and groin pain annoying me, but unlike now I was able to run and was training regularly. The Strathclyde parkrun saw a good turnout of 32 MAC runners of which 9 were from my division. Luckily the favourite for my division had slept in, Ross Burton putting down his marker for the season. On a windy and rainy day I started negatively and slowly, racing more against the demons in my head than my opponents and was 4th from my division at the turn, marginally ahead of another 3 of my rivals, the aroma of Jim White’s hair gel catching my nostrils. Thankfully the last 2k saw some fire return to my belly and the last k saw me pass Deborah Comer, Scott Dickson and Clare Hughes to finish fast in a time of 19.34, only 4 seconds outside my PB at the time to narrowly bag the 10 points for first in the division. (https://markgallmac.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/an-old-man-learns-to-race/)
Onwards to race no. 2 and the 10 mile Tom Scott race at Strathclyde Park. I was still toiling and it was a last minute decision to run and I was delighted to finish the race in a PB of 1.07:53, third in my division behind Ross and Jim. I was happy with my fight once again in the latter stages of the race, and had a great sprint finish with Kirkintilloch’s Robert Rogerson. I look forward to racing this one again next year if fit. (https://markgallmac.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/me-in-the-park-the-tom-scott-memorial-10-mile-race/). Race no 2 done and on 18 points, ahead of Jim White on 15 and Scott “Let’s play on the swings” Dickson on 13.
Race no. 3. Balfron 10k. I was honking on this run. My head and I were having a few battles about this time. I had a stroke of luck as Ross didn’t turn up again having left it too late to arrange lift. I was only about 20 seconds outside my PB but knew I had ran cowardly and in a way to purely get my 10 points, not in the way I should be running to push myself or to the best of my ability. No bravery, no fight. No point really. I was feckin furious with myself. (https://markgallmac.wordpress.com/2015/04/27/i-do-balfron-fron-i-do-balfron/). I actually turned a personal corner after this race, reassessing what I do, and 3 days later got my first sub 19 5k to kick-start my season in earnest and the next 10k I ran was 2 minutes faster. Jim clawed the gap back at the Brian Goodwin 10k while I was sitting in a hotel in Manchester after having spent the day in a Wythenshawe hospital after an aborted attempt to go on holiday. I spent the next 2 weeks training really hard.
The next champ race was the parkrun at Victoria Park and I was in a different zone here. I was fresh from 4 sub 40 10ks, one of which was a sub 39. I ran hard. I ran positive. I smashed my PB getting my first ever top ten placing and running a time of 18.23. Over a minute faster than I had run at Strathclyde just 4 months earlier. (https://markgallmac.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/an-unexpected-groovy-treat/). 4 races in the bag. 38 points. Jim second in 31, but he had also run a good marathon and was likely to take 9 points from that.
Haddington half marathon was turning into a big grudge match. Jim was confident, Ross was running and threatening to break 1hr 30. We all had PBs within 2 minutes of each other, mine the slowest, so it was going to be close. Scott was running as well, an unknown quantity at this distance. The week before it I smashed my 3k best at 3k on the green in 10.21 and my confidence was high. Maybe too high, who knows? Two days later I pull up at training with pain in my foot. Couldn’t run on it all week. But wee fitness test on the Saturday and over to Haddington. I shouldn’t have run. I didn’t NEED to run. There is no need to do every event. But I got carried away in the rivalry. We were actually all taking it seriously. Nothing wrong with friendly competition, but always look at the long game, not the short. A hilly course. A very warm day. I went off ridiculously fast chasing Ross. The rest is history. I was on for a PB with just 3k to go, a good 6 or 7 minutes ahead of any of my rivals and my body packed up. Down I went, and heavily. Couldn’t finish. Couldn’t even stand. It killed my season. (https://markgallmac.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/the-rise-and-fall/). I had lost my lead in the champs. Jim White 40 points, plus a marathon in the bag. Me 38 points and running lame.
Dumfries half marathon was next and I wasn’t training. A couple of small runs. Unfortunately for Jim he pulled up the week before it and wasn’t able to run. I got myself round stupidly, 1 hr 42mins of back pain and while I enjoyed it I regretted it straight after. The pain was bad but I enjoyed the effortless wander, and I was in the driving seat again. (https://markgallmac.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/let-it-happen/). Tollcross parkrun and again on no training and on a cocktail of drugs I was able to run steadily up and down the hills and finish not far behind Clare Hughes in 20.45. Way outside my best but enough to clinch the title. (https://markgallmac.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/on-the-road-a-personal-review-of-2015/). 57 points out of a possible 60 despite a few races lame, so I can’t complain. I am delighted to have won this, and for Jim in second who shared friendly rivalry with me over the summer, but I will not do anything as stupid again. Maybe I would have got injured anyway, but I did not do myself any favours. I was also fortunate that I finished 3rd in the overall male title. This was without any concerted effort, apart from running the Lanarkshire road relays when I realised I only had to get round it to clinch my medal. Almost cost myself it without realising it by jogging at Dumfries, but it’s a bonus at the end of the day, but one I am pretty proud of. I was actually in level second until the last race of the season at Strathaven but Nick deservedly took the spoils here while I sat eating chocolate and feeling sorry for myself. I like chocolate.
So the positives: when I raced properly I raced well and although not everyone did every race my 18.23 at Victoria Park showed that I deserved to be up there in Division 2. When I think of where I was in 2011 and 2012 I am very proud of myself that I got myself into a position, from not being able to run 250m and being a 30 a day smoker to being a champion at a real running club. THIS was my aim. THIS was my validation. THIS was my very personal battle and no one can take that away from me. When the inflatable sumo man left me in his dust at Glasgow Green, I wondered whether it was worth carrying on almost dropping out the 2012 Mo Running 10k and that awful almost marriage-destroying moustache would have been for nothing. When I was getting left far behind by the Intermediate group at Jogscotland and they had to wait for me, and often, I felt just like a nuisance, and wondered what the point was. When I had to take the large running clothes I had bought back and exchange them for extra-large, there was a lot of self-doubt. This is why I took stupid risks and ran when I shouldn’t (though won’t do again). I have proven to myself and to my auld fella up there watching me that there IS still something in that locker, and that the difficult times trying to change my ways were worth it. You can all laugh, it is only the (cue hip hop scratching, Bollywood production, Aled Jones solo, three guitar clash, Calvin Harris remixed, Himalayan nose flute and Emeli Sande backing vocals) 2015 Motherwell Athletics Club Road Running Championship and Leagues, but in those difficult dark days I made myself a promise that I could turn things round, and now, almost exactly a year after my first blog, I can genuinely say I have. I am happy in myself and once more comfortable in my skin. I am proud that Elaine and my boys were there to see it and I hope those wee boys can look at their Daddy with a wee bit of pride, and I have in some ways set a good example to them.
This is the end of Volume One of the blog, and a Volume I never thought I could write. This Volume deserves a conclusion. There are my underlying messages of being brave and running for fun, but the main point is that no matter how unlikely your aims may be to you, how little they may be in the eyes of others, how irrelevant or trivial they can be in the grand scheme of life, give it a go. We might not make it, it may take a while, but we have fun trying. Do it one step at a time. I remember running up Chantinghall Road in Hamilton and catching that Jogscotland group before they had to stop and wait for me. I took an extra-large vest back to Sports Direct and swapped it for a large one (after wearing it for a Metafit class first, it must have been honking ;)) It took me a while, but small steps made big happiness. Every Loser Wins. I’d like to think that I can keep making those small steps to my next goals.
Wouldn’t it be nice?