Copyright 2021 - Dundee Roadrunners

Alan McLeod

I first got to hear about Dundee Roadrunners when I ran the now defunct Fireman's 10 mile road race round Camperdown Park in November 1985.  I had played football all my life but by 1984 I wasnít getting a game every week and couldnít take the knocks so myself and a couple of friends from the football team decided to start training for the 1984 Dundee Marathon.

 I also did the 1985 marathon (which convinced me that I didnít have a future in marathon running) and mainly trained on my own until I met Sue Roger at the Camperdown race.  Sue, who was already a member of the Roadrunners at the time paced me round for about 8 miles until she ran off and left me but not before she suggested that I might improve by joining a club such as the Roadrunners.  I still have the Courier photograph of the start of the race which apart from showing a fairly bearded version of myself also includes fellow Roadrunners Frank Clark, Irene Gibson, Val Fyall and Margaret Robertson.


I didnít join the club right away but waited until the week after the 1986 Dundee Marathon and joined on 6 May 1986 on the same day as Ken Peters who became a close friend as did a number of others that I met through the club.  The reason I am so specific about the date of joining the Roadrunners is that this coincided with the start of my running diaries which Iíve kept going now for over 22 years.  An accountant or what!  


In these days the club ran from Lochee Baths and met on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. In general Tuesday training involved an 8 to 10 mile run, Thursday was hill work and Sunday a 13 miler plus out through Camperdown to Liff, Fowlis and Flocklones.  The great thing about the club was getting the benefit of running with better runners. I remember quite often heading out on the longer Tuesday runs along Ancrum Road and trying to stay as long as possible with a faster group.  Over time I could do this for longer and my race times improved fairly quickly.  However over the piece I enjoyed the hill work better.  In the winter we did hills off the Perth Road from Hyndford to Glamis Road but in the summer my favourite was hill work at Balgay.  As usual with the recollection of older folk like myself the summers seemed to be warmer in these days but there was certainly no doubt that we sweated buckets and after a few warm up sprints up the back of Lochee Park we would set off on a wandering run over Balgay Hill pausing slightly after our legs were burning with the effort of charging up the dirt path with the wooden steps before we reached the top at the observatory.  The best bit was that after the efforts we always waited for everyone to catch up and in between the efforts we had a laugh at how much we were enjoying the pain.  


After a few years with the club I was persuaded to join the committee.  Not always the most popular job but in the Roadrunners at least most runners decided that it was worth putting something back into a club which may have helped them considerably to advance their running.  Committee nights were monthly and for much of the time that I was involved they took place in Eric Fairís flat in Blackness Road.  The biggest amount of work then as it is now was in the arrangements for the 10 mile road race in November.  It has always been a popular race and in recent years has had an entry of around 250.  In the late 1980s the entry was around 400.  Originally the meeting and changing facilities for the race were in Valentinesí gift card factory canteen on Dunsinane Avenue as a number of the runners who founded Dundee Roadrunners were employed by Valentines.  Eventually Valentines decided they didnít want to open the factory for use of the runners and we had to look for another venue.  This was not so easy due to the number of runners and helpers to be accommodated plus the requirement for changing and showers and space to provide food afterwards and not too far from the race start in Templeton Woods.  It was through the good work of the committee that we identified the Dundee University gym as a suitable site and the race entry was organised from there until the recent move to Ward Road gym.  After a while on the committee I took over as Chairman.  I was always keen on racing and still race a couple of times a month all through the year.  At the time I was Chairman we had a lot of very good runners who just happened to turn 40 and become vets within a few years of each other.  I had seen how other clubs had entered teams in events and thought that with the quality of runners we had we could do well if we had a vetís team.  So we agreed to enter menís vetsí team of 8 runners in the Alloa to Bishopbriggs 8 stage relays in 1991.  It was a great event with 40 teams of 8 runners entered and when you werenít running you drove in one of the cars stopping every so often to cheer the runner who was doing the particular leg of the race.  The standard of runners taking part was high with the best runners in Scotland turning out.  I particularly remember being passed like I was standing still by Jim Dingwall of Falkirk Victoria who was one of the best runners around in these days.  Anyway Dundee Roadrunners with the likes of Stewart Swanson, Dave Morgan and Frank Grier came 12th out of 40 teams beating Dundee Hawkhill who finished in 20th place.  The next year with Bob Wood also running and the route changed from Alloa to Twechar we came 11th but after 40 miles of running we were disappointed to be passed by the Hawks with about 200 yards to go.  


My son Kenneth has special needs and I had always done a bit of jogging with him near our house to try to keep him fit.  When he was 21 in 1995 he decided that he wanted to lose weight and with an increase in mileage and better eating habits he lost 5 stones in weight between 1995 and 1997.  From early 1996 I started to bring Kenneth to the Roadrunners on Tuesday nights.  Kennethís running improved dramatically with the benefit of running with the club and participating in races in the area.  His 10k times fell below 40 minutes and he also took part in cross country races despite a problem he had with his balance and lack of confidence in running down steep downhill.  He also started to be involved with the Special Olympics organisation and represented Tayside at the UK Championships in Portsmouth in 1997.   However this was only the start and he represented Scotland in the European Championships in Athens in 1998 and eventually as part of the GB Team in North Carolina in 1999.  In the latter event he ran the half marathon and won a gold medal in his category and although the time of 1 hour 51 minutes was not particularly fast by his Skye Half Marathon PB of 1 hour 33 minutes it was done in 80 degree plus heat and 90 percent humidity.  It was a bit like the recent Beijing Olympics as they had showers on the route which the runners ran through in the race.  Much of the basis for Kennethís run at North Carolina was participation in the 1999 Caledonian 10 Mile Challenge which Ron McGill organised and which comprised a series of races including our own 10 mile race plus 4 other 10 milers at Tom Scott, Calderglen, Ballater and Inverness plus a few half marathons including Skye as mentioned.  Running has been the making of Kenneth and he still participates regularly in road and cross country races on a regular basis and is well known in running circles as someone to whom running has brought great benefits and allowed him to compete with others who donít have his disabilities.  Long may it continue.



But things change and I donít run with the Roadrunners on training nights anymore because my legs donít like long runs on the road on a regular basis.  I mainly train with Kenneth and some other friends at Dawson Park or Crombie Reservoir on a Sunday and this has allowed me to continue running into my 60s with fewer injury problems than some of my contemporaries in the early days of the Roadrunners who had to give up when the pounding of the roads caught up with them.  I still race regularly but 10k now seems like a long race to me and some of my favourite races are at the Meadows in Edinburgh where my work has taken me and where there are 1 mile, 2 mile and 5k races every Wednesday in the summer.  I only found out in my 50s that the short distances were probably my best due to my football training and for the last 8 or 9 years I have enjoyed being first over 50 or 60 as well as meeting a whole load of new runners that I wouldnít have otherwise met if I hadnít taken part in these races.  The fact that the pain of the effort is over in 6, 12 or 20 minutes and I can get out to the pub sooner probably helps.  Finally as a PR exercise I would recommend running to anyone who is interested as you can keep going as long as you want unlike most sports.  Although in my 60s I donít feel out of place as more and more people are continuing to run into what used to be considered old age and believe me the competition in my age group is fierce with many a sprint for the line to beat the person who beat me last week.  Dundee Roadrunners club helped me develop this competitive spirit and as they say I wouldnít be where I am today if it wasnít for Dundee Roadrunners.

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