Copyright 2021 - Dundee Roadrunners

Ged Hanlon


Influences in my athletic adventures.


First and foremost I could never have gotten anywhere without the wholehearted support of Gill. She encouraged and supported me through thick and thin, well, except the time before we started running when she couldn't stop laughing as I announced that I intended to enter a marathon. 


I suppose my first influence would have been "Skull"! Mr. McDonald ( from the south of England ) was a science teacher at my secondary school and was so named because he was extremely thin. He helped with the track team and looked rather comical in his shortie short shorts and his bone thin legs but he could run like the wind. I remember him shaking his head at me when I'd just finished the 880yds on the cinder track at Caird Park. "A big lesson in intimidation Hanlon, eh?" I'd finished second last and while the rest of the field were doubled over gasping for air I was barely out of breath. A big lesson!


At about 16 I got more involved in team sports and left athletics behind, so fast forward 15 or so years to 1983 and here comes my brother, Richard, running down the High Street to finish the first Dundee Marathon. I'd gone to cheer him on and whilst watching the finishers I thought "I could do that!" So I decided I'd enter the 1984 marathon. I went training with Richard and we became regular Sunday running partners for many years. 7.00am every Sunday wind rain or shine to get our long run in and home in time to let Gill do the same before lunch time.


The biggest help to get me on the road, literally, was Eric Ferguson. Eric was physiotherapist at Dens Park and also for the national football team and he helped me deal with an old knee injury I'd picked up playing football. We had to work for a number of months building up the muscles around the joint to give it the stability to endure the distances I hoped to run. I almost gave up this long and painful process at times but Eric was sure that I'd be ok as long as I stuck to the plan.  


Now after running the 1994 race, Iíd competed the course in 3hr 7min which would be the fastest I would ever go over that distance, I met long time friend Charlie Anderson. He had also started running and encouraged me to join a new club in Dundee, Dundee Roadrunners, and soon both Gill and I were members.


Enter one Dave Roy! Dave was club secretary, and a real buzzer. He was at the heart of almost everything going on at the club. Organising buses, arranging teams, encouraging newcomers, you name, he did it. His natural enthusiasm infected us all and drove us to push ourselves and each other to do the best for our club.


The next people, and I say people because I can't separate them, were Bob Wood and Ricky Davidson. We'd train as a group running 10 miles each Tuesday in under an hour and faster on a Thursday. The rep. type training we do now was a few years away. Whoever was feeling best would set the pace, the others hanging in knowing that the group wouldn't split. I remember Ricky saying to me after training one night, "Thank goodness you were able to keep asking Bob all these questions!" Each time he pondered his answer and spoke the pace would drop to just about manageable. These guys pulled me on to faster and faster times.


Karl Oparka, later to become club president, joined and encouraged us to have a go at the cross country. The club didn't really participate in these events and Karl had done some whilst at university and reckoned we would all benefit from the discipline. It was to become my favourite type of racing not least because I could cuff a lot of runners I couldn't look at on the roads. I ran and enjoyed cross country for many years and was rewarded with many fine runs and a Team Silver at the National Cross Country Championships.


The next influence came from a dirty Hawkhill Harrier, Alan Matheson. Alan was a work colleague and suggested we train during our lunch break on Mon. Wed and Fri. and so fartlek, stepping stones, acceleration and reducing recovery all became part of a nice relaxing lunch. Alan trained exceptionally hard especially if there were any dogs around. Although there was on occasion a huge hound of some kind stopped him in his tracks by pinning him to a tree. Ours were tears of laughter, his were real. Unfortunately Alan died as the result of a freak accident.


On these lunchtime sessions we were often joined by this lassie and I think without Liz McCollgan's persistent nagging at me to train on the track I would never have developed the mental toughness that would take me to the next level. Some of the training left you feeling quite sick and at first my legs were so gone that a warm down was out of the question. But I hung in there and was rewarded with my best times. 30.29 for 10k, 54.02 for 10ml, 70.14 for half marathon and 21.20 for 15ml. The 15 was probably one of my best races. After going through the half marathon banner in 68min, never to be achieved in a half itself, I finished a very creditable 14th.


John Anderson, the Gladiator man, was Liz's coach at that time and he always had time for the rest of the group. He taught me how to do "my training" and how to use the faster and slower runners to get the best from the session but he mainly influenced me to start coaching. I'd been involved in instruction through the Boys Brigade and mountaineering, so I started to coach middle distance at Caird Park track. I was still with Roadrunners and as I got more into the coaching, now with some national standard athletes, I found I was not really being able to get along to train with them. Plus when I travelled to events I couldn't take part in very much and if I could I was a team of one. Gill was now expressing a desire to have a go at racing on the track and so we became turncoats and transferred our membership to Hawkhill. I would never run any better times in a "Hawks" vest but I did get that cross country silver.


After about 7 or 8 years Hawks fell into a bit of decline and the group I had was to disintegrate. University, work, beer or boys beckoned and with Gill having to give up the track racing we decided to come home to Roadrunners. I did manage to run for a few years more but that old knee injury flared up again and eventually I had to hang up the old trainers. I still keep involved with the club, helping with training on Thursdays and supporting races and social events.


Other people of note, in no particular order, would be - John McInally, member of Dundee Thistle Harriers. If you can remember that far back. Frank Clarke, stretching and warm up expert. Errol Galloway, wind-up expert. Sue Roger, sheer determination. Muriel Muir, untapped talent. Dave Moorcroft (world record holder) he wasn't too big to train with me a few lunchtimes at Caird Park. Ken McAndrew, enthusiastic coach. Pete Fox, he could still run a half in 64min wearing floral shorts. Irene Gibson, daughter of an Olympic athlete and with the legs to prove it. Bruce Anderson, exceptional racer.


Just as a footnote, our club are now going global after some Afgan pinched Tony McPartland's club vest. Tony, a serving soldier in the Army, was stationed here as part of the training set up at Buddon Training Camp and he ran with us for a number of years. Once his tour of duty had finished he first served in Bosnia then on to Afganistan. It's amusing to know that there's some Afghan going around, pleased as Punch, wearing the colours of Dundee Roadrunners.

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