Two thousand and seventeen – a brand new lesson

Disclaimer: I originally wrote this for an online retailer but our timings didn’t correlate and it’s shelf life about over since I’ve ran another race since, but please give it a go. I’m a loser and I’m good with it 🙂 where I say yesterday it’s now last weekend, but you get that. 

It’s yesterday and let me set the scene. 150 metres to go and I’m gaining on third. Sprinting as hard as my 46 year old legs will carry me and I keep gaining. Closer and closer, but the line comes too fast. I finish 4th by 0.8 of a second in the Lanarkshire AAA 1500m senior champs.
Sounds good eh? But not very dramatic enough for a blog. Let’s set some more scenery up here. Let’s go back to 1989 and another 4th place. The Scottish Junior Athletics championships and I smash my PB to finish 4th in the 2000m steeplechase. The top 2 get picked for the Scottish team. The guy in third is Irish so I’m third Scot. The guy who wins has cracked his leg on the last barrier and he’s injured. I get the call from my coach and I am selected to run for Scotland. A total honour and one I’m immensely proud of. I have the vest framed and hanging up in my house and it was my only one.

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Wearing the vest after a 25 year gap…

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 Despite being in many regional and county teams I never made a further break through and was lost to the sport as a 20 year old, preferring alcohol, cigarettes and women. “So Mr Gallacher, where did it all go right?”. Cue 2011 and an overweight, unfit chainsmoker. I was persuaded to run a charity 10k by some friends and struggled round in 55 minutes, after my first training run of 5k taking 43 minutes.

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I did one more 10k and wrecked my back but a year later, and even more overweight after being unable to exercise and being on pain relief due to my back problems I give up smoking and start to run again. Now I’m not going to into detail here, you can read about it on my blog at markgallmac.wordpress.com if you want because I kept going, I got the bug again and I’m still at it. Now after over 20 years of unhealthy living and nicotine abuse, along with back problems and current breathing issues I am not naive enough to think I can ever get back to where I was. That was difficult at first, getting the head and legs on the same page, but I’ve so far got that 10k back down to 37 minutes, got my 5k to 17 minutes, and completed my first marathon, and I know I’m a respectable club runner for my age.

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But the only prize I have won is for my blog, at the 2017 Running Awards, but I’m OK with that as well. So that’s my background. I’ve been around the block, I’ve ran a lot, and there’s nothing new to see eh? Wrong. And I will get to that, really. Now last year I ran the track for the first time since 1990. I enjoyed it but I wasn’t very good. I did steal a bronze at 1500m in the LAAA in 4.48, the same day I got my first sub 18 5k. What day that was, great day to end the season and so many plans for this year at 5k, and on the track. So of course I got into London on the ballot. It changed my full year and I worked really hard. PBs smashed at 10k, 10 miles, half marathon and a decent first marathon despite cramp from 23 miles on.

But I just never seemed to get the speed this year. Couldn’t get under 18.20 for a 5k. And as for the track? Every race got worse. I didn’t understand it. Yes I had trained differently, and in the last few months there’s been a lot going on in my personal life but even looking at my 1500ms this year, the first in 4.51, the second 4.52, the third in 4.53 in a dreadful performance, and I had no idea what was going on. My 3000m was 13 seconds slower than last year. Did 2 800ms and the second again was slower than the first. My form has got that bad that I withdrew from planned 3000m and 5000m races over the last few weeks. So this week I had to make a decision, let the season fizzle out and potentially never run a track race again, or do the final race of the season and sod the consequences. Ach why not do it, only real aim was to try and reverse my negative results, try not to be slower again. You know I was even going to try for a sub 4.50. “If you think you’re beaten then you are…..” You know the result. 4th place. Nearly a medal, so close and sounds great. But I turned up on the day and of the entries only 4 seniors declared. I was either going to medal or be last, that tight. In all my runs ever in my life I have never been last. It ended up being a combined race with under 15s upwards so was a fuller race and off we went. The pace was fast and too fast for me. Within 300m the other three seniors were away from me. There was no doubt about it, I was going to be last in my age category. Unless I dropped out. And I thought about it, genuinely. But to my credit I kept going. At 800 they were so far ahead. I had one junior behind me but was really in no man’s land. I kept my focus. My splits still had me looking like the low 4.50s, so the aim to be under 4.53. Last lap bell and although the three seniors all 50 – 80 metres ahead it looked like the third one was slowing. I went for it, I really did. I gave everything my legs could, but as you know I just came up short. My team mate Jim won in 4.39, second was 4.41, third was 4.49.1 with me in 4.49.9. I was last. For the first time ever. The shame I had worried about since my first run as an 11 year old was with me. But did I feel shame? I didn’t and I still don’t. Many seasoned runners will shake their heads here and not believe that. But I went out there and did the best my body would do. I ran faster than I have all year and only 1 second slower than last year. I battled my head as well as my body, even getting to the starting line was a battle with the head. And yeah I was proud of myself. 46 year old and learned for the first time what other people do very single race. Someone comes last in every run, every race, every event, and if you can go out there and do the best you can, and look at yourself in the mirror afterwards? Then you ARE a winner. There are different ways to be a winner in a race and it isn’t all about the bling. I am not for one second claiming that what I did yesterday compares to the actual race winner, or to Mo Farah or anything like that, but I now get a different perspective on the taking part counting. I was last and I don’t care and I respect very single person that has done it and that will do it, as long as you go out there and give it your best. At the end of the day it is all we can do.

Yours humbled, happy and with a new zest for running, Marko 🙂

So the tune. Mellow. And this year. Aye could now be me.

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