Copyright 2021 - Dundee Roadrunners

Andy Llanwarne

Running for my life!


I've been going out running ever since I was trying to get fit as a schoolkid, finally making it to the cross-country team.  So it's been a big part of my life, but it's not just the activity itself, it's the people you run with and the places you run that make up a set of great experiences.  Which is why running on a treadmill is so tedious!


A good running club provides the encouragement and motivation, the advice, the competition which helps you improve, as well as the social side.  At university I ran with a group of friends, and since then have always been a member of one club or another as we moved around Scotland.  Perth Strathtay Harriers and Dumfries Running Club both ranked as excellent both for training and socialising.  Then in 1994 we moved to Dundee.  


Before we even arrived we had some contact with Dundee Roadrunners - I'd been involved in setting up the START running charity and Margaret Robertson came on to the committee early in 1994.  So when we moved into Dawson Road in West Ferry, with her and Dave just along the road, we were soon encouraged to meet other members of the Club.  I'm one of those runners who keeps a running log (some may call me sad), so I can see that my first run with the club at Lochee was on Tuesday 9 August: a hard 10 miles out to Camperdown and Templeton with Ricky Davidson and Neil Duthie, 63.23, 'fast training run, hard going'.  


Afterwards we went to McGonnigal's pub on Perth Road and I remember chatting with Ricky and Wilma, Neil and Jane, Margaret Robertson and Alan McLeod, who was the chairman at the time, and others.  Neil, Margaret and Alan had just been on an Alpine training camp in Switzerland so I heard all about that.  Clearly these folk were serious about their sport!


It was the middle of the 10th anniversary of the Club and various events had been organised to mark the occasion, which helped both me and the rest of the family to 'hit the ground running' socially.  A few days after that first club run there was a Mini Highland Games in the clearing at Balkello Community Woodland out at Auchterhouse.  Itís a familiar place now, and the small trees have grown into a small forest, but that was our first visit.  As part of the event there was a race up Auchterhouse Hill, with about 20 runners including a few from the Hawks.   So I entered, and to my surprise and everyone elseís I managed to win it, ahead of Charlie Love (of the Hawks).  Apart from one of the early Bridge of Earn 4-mile races, it was the first race Iíd managed to win outright.


Seeing those times again in the running diary now, I must have been running pretty well.  I tend to run at a steady pace, but before we moved I'd been at a club in Ayrshire where fartlek training for 10 miles was a regular feature on Tuesday nights and this had helped me to get my half marathon time down below 80 minutes after years of trying.  Now I was being pulled along by Ricky and Neil, and a couple of old timers, Dave Morgan and Bob Woods!  (15 years later I suppose I've become one of the old timers myself and, like Bob, I don't get along to the Club as often as I used to.)  Stuart Swanston made an appearance sometimes as well.  On top of the regular training, I was going along with Margaret and Alan for longer runs around Camperdown and Templeton, and out at Crombie and Monikie, as Margaret was training for the Dublin Marathon.   


On the back of this I managed to record 61.19 in the 1994 Templeton 10 miler, although Stuart and Ricky were 58 minutes or so and Dave Morgan and Bob Woods not far behind them.  So what looks like a very good time now felt a bit disappointing back then.  Next day I was surprised to open the Courier to find a colour picture of me running just ahead of Dave Morgan along the high section of the route after Auchterhouse.  I remember Charlie Anderson joking that I'd just joined the Club and here I was getting my photo in the paper already.  There's one of the Wurzburg runners in that photo as well - several of them came over for the race as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations.


As well as the special events held in 1994 there were plenty of other enjoyable social events as well.  When it was someone's birthday, on the nearest Tuesday or Thursday we'd go out to the pub after the run then on for a pizza afterwards.  There was the Robertsons' New Year run and social gathering as well, plus barbecues held on summer evenings including one I remember at Sandra Westgate's.  


With my birthday falling just before Christmas there wasn't much chance of organising a pizza night out, so instead Maggie and I held a soup run, starting in December 1995.  It was one of several held to brighten up the winter months and make sure people had the chance to get out for some good long training runs in the daylight.  It was also a good way of sampling different soup recipes!  I can look back on some of those occasions as among my happiest times with the Club - although it's a lot of work getting the food ready when it's your turn!  We held our last one in 2005, when the numbers fell away, but Ricky and Wilma had a good turnout for theirs last winter so maybe there will be a revival.


A few years ago Ricky took advantage of the occasion to get some help from everyone to move the garden shed.  It was quite an undertaking but provided one of many little memories from 15 years with the Club.  Another was Brian Dunbar taking a wrong turning somewhere on a soup run and getting back much later than expected.  But I think weíve all done that at some time.  Gus was another regular at soup runs, and fondly remembered.  He was great company and another who I was pretty well matched with, so we had some good tussles at different races.  I remember one bus journey back from Inverness when weíd both put in a big effort (I canít remember who won that one) and afterwards he went for a couple of extra pints rather than wasting good drinking time going for the pizza.  He came on board with a fish supper, demolished it, and fell asleep for the rest of the journey!


I did my stint on the Committee, quite early on - I think Ron was Chairman, Sandra was the Secretary, and Dave Robertson the Treasurer.  I'm not sure I contributed very much but we did organise a successful open evening in the Bonar Hall at the University which attracted quite a lot of people.   There was also a calendar of races in the local area, plus a few others, which I put together for circulation in the days before the SAF had them all listed on its website.  


It's been remarked that there are fewer Club members taking part in races than there used to be, and the Committee have been trying various ideas to encourage more to compete.  Maybe it just reflects a change in the way many people enjoy running - for fitness and fun rather than racing.  There's certainly been a change in the nature of the Club since we moved from Lochee to Fitness First, there's been a turnover in active members, and the old get-togethers in the Ancrum Arms after the run have become a distant memory.  On the other hand there has been an influx of younger runners, especially women, and the Thursday evening training is very popular with Charlie and Ged providing the coaching (not that I take part as often as I should).  There are also different social events organised in the summer, and of course there's Ged, Douglas and Grant providing the music! 


Over the years Club members such as Ricky, Jane Blake and Morag Taggart have put in marvellous performances time after time, setting a great example to other members.  Dave Stewart and Gill Hanlon are both coming back now from serious injuries and promising more good results.  And Charlie Anderson is always there to provide encouragement to new members and a few reminders of the old days.


As far as my racing goes, my best year was 1995 and itís been downhill ever since!  In those days I used to run about 10 races a year ñ still fewer than some other club members.  These days itís 2 or 3 if Iím lucky.  I managed 2:49:42 in the 1995 London Marathon, 78:59 at the Loch Leven Half Marathon, and 78:44 at Glen Clova.  Now I can only dream of those sorts of times.  If Iím fit enough to run the Templeton 10 next month Iíll be doing well to get within 10 minutes of my 1995 time of 59:13.


However, there have been some more running highs, both with the club and on my own.  I had some satisfying runs in the Ceres 8, which is a good distance if you donít mind running continually uphill for 4 miles.  I think it was the 1998 race where I managed to stay in front of young Dave Stewart who had joined the Club fairly recently.  It was about the last time, and he left me well behind the following year at Ceres even though I ran faster than the previous year.  The Sidlaw Skyline in 2002 was an outstanding event as far as I was concerned ñ Ron planned and organised it and we had a good turnout in super weather, running and stumbling along the length of the Sidlaws from the Kirriemuir road through to Perth.  The same year a bunch of us did the Corrieyairack Challenge, 17 miles running over the hills and 26 miles on a bike, again in good weather.  I was with a team from work, but there was a club team too, and I was delighted to overtake Alan Lawson on my bike on the final hill past the church!  Itís the only duathlon Iíve taken part in although lots of other Club members seem to be doing this sort of thing regularly.  


I had one go at the Devilís Burdens as well, running the 3rd leg with Grant Gourlay in February 2000.  I remember, to my shame, that I was sitting in the car chatting with Denise Mellish when suddenly we heard shouts from the hillside that Ricky had already completed the 2nd leg and where the hell was I? Shortly afterwards, it was so windy on the top of Bishop Hill that I struggled to hold the paper steady enough for Grant to mark it with the stamp attached to the summit cairn.  


The relay run through Tayside and Fife was another successful event which Ron and Alison organised, involving just about everyone in the Club, to mark the 20th anniversary in June 2004. It must have been quite a sight to see the procession of runners coming over the bridge towards Dundee.


I ran a few more marathons, despite my times falling away, and never managed to get back under 3 hours.  Running Paris in 1997 was a great experience although I had to walk towards the end and eat one of the Lion bars laid out alongside the drinks.  Then a French spectator ran over to me shouting ìAllez, allezî, and managed to get me running again to finish in 3:03:48.  A few weeks later Ricky and I ran Lochaber and made great time out to the half-way turning point, so I had hopes of beating the 3 hours.  The sun was shining on the snowcapped Ben Nevis ahead of us.  Then I hit a wall very hard around 16 miles and had to beg a Mars bar from a youngster at a drinks point to help me keep going, finishing in 3:13:20.  Probably lots of other runners have had similar marathon experiences!  Back at Lochaber in 2001 I managed to get a better time, but still nearly 6 minutes over the 3 hours mark, and it was a similar story a few months later at Elgin.  Maybe the sight of seeing Michael Owen scoring a hat-trick for England in the 5-1 win against the Germans when we were out for a meal the night before was too big a shock.


My last, and most memorable, marathon race was in 2004 when I hit 50 and went to Tromso in the north of Norway to run the Midnight Sun Marathon.  Iíd managed to recover from a long-standing achilles injury, but when I got there a few days before the race the weather was miserable and my dreams of a wonderful run in the midnight sun seemed unrealistic.  Then it cleared up on the morning of the race and we started at 8.30 pm with the sun shining on the colourful wooden houses.  The ankle just held up and I ran most of the way with an Italian guy called Mauro (it was a very international event) with the locals shouting ìHey-aî from every building we passed to encourage us.  There were snow-capped mountains across the fjord and it was superb.   I was just on target for 3 hours ñ if I could keep the pace going ñ but we turned at the airport at 20 miles and I realised I had 10k left to go and just lost it.  After a couple of walking breaks I managed to get going again when I saw there were just a couple of miles left, and sprinted back into town past the most northerly brewery in the world.


Since then Iíve not really managed to ìperformî with the Club, slowed down by further injuries and too many other things getting in the way of running.  But 10 days ago I joined a team with Dave Stewart and Brian Smith in the inaugural DRAM (Dundee Adventure Running Marathon) around the Green Circular and we came in as 1st team in 2:56:06.  And so, along with fellow members of the Club, Iíve finally managed to get back under the 3 hours! 


30 September 2008

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