Tom Keenan reports on a night of fast racing at the Scottish 5k championships in Edinburgh...
The Scottish 5k road running championship has been held at Silverknowles, Edinburgh since its inception in 2011. The first event saw around 200 finishers and the latest event, held on Friday 3rd May 2019, saw 484 finishers from a record entry of 627.
The course has been refined to accommodate its increasing popularity, although it covers the same footprint. The start is adjacent to the refurbished, excellent café on the waterfront and heads east towards the cyclone cycle track and around a wide loop, before passing the start of the race and heading west for around 900 metres onto a narrow path which leads the runners back along the promenade to the café and the finish line on the grass.
The race is previewed by Scottish Athletics on their website and attracts the highest quality of field in Scotland with many international entrants, male and female, out to do battle for this prestigious title. Previous winners include Calumn Hawkins in 14:17 and this year's female winner and new course record holder Morag Miller of Central AC (15:49).
Club members have already competed with distinction and dedication at some of the early spring marathons and half marathons, as well as at the national cross country championship and the 6 and 4 stage relays held at Livingston.
For everyone who has completed a marathon this year it takes considerable dedication and many lonely and hard miles to allow them to finish this strenuous and difficult challenge. We have had participants both in the UK and abroad with excellent results. Gregor Yates' run of just over 2.30 at Rotterdam has raised the bar for all members and the inter-continential run of under 2.40 by Miguel in Boston, also a PB, enhances the reputation of the club on the marathon front.
The club had six competitors on Friday - Darren McQuade, Mark and Janine Porter, Graeme Gemmell, Kristina Greig and Calum Ferguson, with Robert Carson, Mark Wallace and my wife Carol and I the support crew. The night was a bit blowy and cold with the wind from the north, but conditions were not too difficult conditions otherwise.
Each of the runners had a point to prove and much talk had taken place about target times and possible achievements.
On the men's side of things, Darren had steadily improved over the last year or so with PBs at 10k and half marathon. His 5k PB had remained unchanged at 16:31 for three years. Mark had steadily improved over the last three years and was looking to get a new PB. Graeme, who prefers the shorter distances like 800 metres where he competed well in the masters world championship in Poland, was hunting for a good performance. Calum had been working very hard at his running and was hoping to break the 18 minute park.
On the women's side, Janine ran under 20 minutes for 5k last year and in the run up to her wedding in April this year missed the sub 20 mark by a few seconds on a number of occasions. Kristina had been getting closer to the 20 minute barrier too, including a 20:02 and a 20:04 in recent times.
The competitors were instructed to go to the start and were told quite bluntly to make sure there was no pushing or jostling. The supporters positioned themselves about 100 metres from the start line. The hooter went and they were off.
It was reminiscent of the 4k short course cross country start at Lanark. It was if an army were charging at you at great pace. Darren was the first Harrier to pass quickly followed by Calum and Mark and then Janine and Kristina. As the field headed east you could see it snaking around and moving at great pace. We positioned ourselves at the 3k marker and a pack of around 15 runners passed around the 8:50 mark.
Darren was first Harrier to pass at 9:45 followed by Mark around 10:30 with Calum 20 seconds behind. Graeme, running really well, was 35 seconds behind and in sight of him were both Kristina and Janine. A small gap existed between Kristina and Janine who were both under 12 minutes as they passed. All Harriers had put themselves in an excellent position at the 3k mark to achieve their goals.
Mark hurried down the course and positioned himself 100 metres from the finish to encourage the Harriers home, Robert went 50 metres down and both Carol and I went to the finish.
The race leaders appeared out of nowhere and the first person Kristian Jones crossed the line in 14:26 with another 13 breaking 15 minutes. The first home in the women's race was Morag Miller in 15:49.
As Darren approached the finish we could hear Mark and Robert offering words of encouragement. Darren finished strongly and was justly rewarded with a new 18-second PB, finishing as he did in a time of 16:13 - a full minute quicker than his time of 2015.
Mark came powering down the middle of the course and knocked 2 seconds off his PB with 17:29.
Graeme kept the pace up and equalled his fastest time since turning 50. His time of 18:59 was 46 seconds quicker than last year.
Calum looked done in until Robert gave him a good degree of encouragement, and he battled to the very end and got his target of sub 18. Robert described Calumn as looking busted but he still drove on.
Kristina looked very strong as she passed a number of people to record a PB of 26 seconds and a time of 19:36. Janine came down the left hand side of the finish line and was baulked by a slower runner, causing her to slow a little and shoot to the left before speeding up on the way to the line to finish in 19:53.
It was an evening of high quality running - 206 competitors broke 18 minutes. All Harriers met and exceeded their targets. Darren is moving up the rankings in the club. Mark and Calum are showing significant signs of improvement. GG demonstrates that whatever your age you can still achieve your goals and Kristina smashed her PB. Janine demonstrated again that she is a sub 20 runner and it is the first time in around five years that two women in the club have beaten 20 minutes.
A lot is happening in the running sphere for the club.
The morning after the 5k saw 33 members participate at various parkrun events, and there were two first places: Craig Lamont at Linwood, and Gregor Yates at Springburn. Gregor's time of 15:56 places him in the top 10 times at Springburn and just behind Jack Heathwood. A further highlight was a new PB for Jeff Hattie at Springburn (25:29).
Also on Saturday was the club's training day at Arrochar and there was a track session organised by Mark Wallace too.
The next few weeks is equally bust with more marathons and the start of the spring/summer 10k season, including the fast course at Troon and the west district 10k championships at Dumbarton on the 16th of this month, as well as further rounds of the club's summer championships.