Discipline: Road, cross country and track
Member since: 2004
Born: Glasgow, 1979
Job: BT Corporate Account Manager
Interview: Jethro Lennox
Video Editing: Lucas Cheskin
Words: Matthew Low
Bandana-wearing, modern day club legend Paul Sorrie tells us about his journey from track to road domination via 90’s dance floor emersion and of the devastation caused to him and his training by the new Irn-Bru recipe.
It’s a story as old as the hills; promising young athlete succumbs to the temptations of the night life, and in Glasgow such temptations are never far away. Less conventional, though, is the story of a talent rediscovered.
If you have seen Paul Sorrie toe-the-line at any of the 350+ races at which he has represented Shettleston, his long sideburns protruding from beneath his trademark bandana, then you will know that “conventional” is just not the way to describe the tall, rangy runner from Rutherglen.
Nor is it the way to characterise his considerable running achievements.
Individually, he has claimed 33 race wins, many of these coming at the Linlithgow 10k, an event which he dominated for virtually a decade, taking the title each year between 2007 and 2014 and then again in 2017. The distance is one of his favourites, and seven times he has broken 31 minutes, including at the 2011 Scottish West District cross country Championships in Irvine when a time of 30mins 48secs for second place was just 10 seconds behind the winner Craig Ruddy of Inverclyde. The personal best of 30mins 31 secs he recorded just two years later would only confirm his stature among the elites of the Scottish road running circuit.
But it is in team events where Paul has really made his mark, clocking up a staggering 49 district and national road and cross country medals such as at the National Cross Country Championships, National Cross Relays, National 5km and 10k road races, National 10 mile, National 1/2 Marathon, the National 6 stage Relay, 12 Stage Relay (UK Championships), West District Relays, and West Districts Cross Championships. Such prolific form has also been replicated across local events such as the famous Allan Scally Relays, George Cummings Relays and the LAAA Championships, where Paul’s first, second and third place team results have also included him personally recording fastest laps and fastest legs ran.
Despite having joined Shettleston at the start of high school, the prospect of such achievements soon seemed to have evaporated for a free spirit who, quite literally wandered off track. Paul’s father, John, Shettleston treasurer when his son joined, recalls how Paul had quickly been earmarked as a prospect, so obvious was his talent to the onlooking club doyen Bill Scally. Paul’s was a raw talent that swiftly turned into success, with first year, and then second year cross country championship titles taken for his school, Holyrood Secondary.
Paul, though, remembers how track running was his first love. “I didn’t like to run far, I just liked to run hard”, he recalls of a time shortly before he would discover that he also liked to play hard. The bright lights and siren call of the city’s world-famous night life and music scene took hold as the running track was ditched for the sticky floors that were the foundations of dance music culture exploding in 90’s Britain. It is a time which he still remembers fondly: “Going night clubbing in my younger days was my big passion. Especially in the Arches seeing Carl Cox, Mauro Picotto, Paul Van Dyk, Seb Fontaine, Judge Jules etc. That kept me fit dancing all night on the dancefloor after a bottle of Buckfast and a few beers.”
For most, this would be an irreversible life choice, a decision perhaps only reflected on a decade or two later with resignation and a little melancholy about an athletic life not lived. Not Paul. Just as suddenly and wilfully as he turned his back on running, he returned. As the new millennium began, and the energy of the previous decade’s dance revolution ebbed, the night clubs released their grip on the would-be athlete who remembers the realisation that something had to change: “I had stopped regularly hitting the night clubs where I was burning up my energy dancing on the dance floor, which had kept me fit. I felt the need to freshen up after that and take a new direction in my life to feel better and fitter. The connection was always there with Shettleston and I asked my dad about contacting Bill Scally to see if I could start racing and give it a go”.
Paul’s father, John, remembers his delight at his son’s decision in 2004 to swap his dancing shoes back for runners again, and happier still to immediately discover that the Buckfast-fuelled sabbatical hadn’t diminished Paul’s prowess. John said: “He quickly made an impact right away because he obviously had that talent. We can all run, but you need a talent to be at the sharp end of the race scene, and he’s always had that, and it came back to him quickly.”
The long list of honours racked-up since his decision to return show that this time Paul was here to stay. And while track racing may have been the desire of a restless teenager eager to “run hard, not far”, Paul soon discovered he now liked to do both, and especially while part of a team. The excitement in his voice is clear as he explains: “My favourite thing is the relays, and the team thing. I like having that pressure of having to run your leg for your teammates and you don’t want to let anyone down.”
Kilbarchan Athletics Club home race, the George Cummings Relay holds a particularly fond place in Paul’s heart. Perhaps that is because it is the first relay of the winter season and held in the pleasant surroundings of the Renfrewshire town of Houston, perhaps it is because, as he says, he enjoys blasting the 4km legs, or maybe it is the post-race home baking he singles out for praise. Most likely, though, for the ferocious competitor, it is the slew of wins he and his Shettleston team mates have racked-up there over the years. Local triumphs regularly replicated at the now sadly discontinued McAndrew Road Relays once held in the streets around Glasgow’s Victoria Park.
His appetite for competition, though, has also been unleashed on the national stage, where another favourite for Paul is the 12 stage UK Championship Relay, and it is clear he feels a great sense of pride in being part of a large team representing Shettleston at a UK-wide event. Paul revels in the occasion, from the camaraderie on the team bus down with his teammates led John Mackay, to cheering on his fellow Shetts as the tension builds before his own leg.
It is unlikely that any of the other top UK distance runners that his team beat to take third place at the event in 2010 had, a few years before, been fully committed to anything other than running, let alone all-night dance events, but that had been Paul Sorrie’s unique journey.
It will therefore probably come as little surprise that Paul has also adopted an unorthodox approach to running nutrition and race preparation. When it comes to a healthy running diet, it is pretty-much a case of, Sorrie not sorry, as he reveals: “I have never had one. I am not a slave to living my life like a saint for running. I love my Irn-Bru, chocolate and eating anything I like, which is mostly all the things runners are not supposed to eat. Not done me a great deal of harm having an Irn-Bru instead of a banana.
“My pre-race snack for years a couple of hours before a race was a can of Irn-Bru and a Fry’s cream”, he adds. “I don’t like energy drinks or coffee. I was absolutely devastated when the irn-bru recipe changed, the taste is not the same anymore. I bought around 440 cans of the original drink when news broke the recipe changed. A can of Irn-Bru went from 34g of sugar to 16g, less than half the sugar content. I take no sugar in my tea, so not so bad having sugar in my Irn-Bru. A bath and a run before a race always worked for me, along with my Irn-Bru!”
His more novel approach to training is also in-keeping with Paul’s general attitude to running and life. Much of his 60 to 80-mile week is taken up by his commute between his home in Rutherglen and his job in the city centre where he works for BT as a corporate business account manager. But he still adheres to the late Bill Scally’s maxim that a long run at the weekend is the core of any training regime, with a distance of 10 miles Paul’s favourite. Even if this must be done at 2am, or the morning after a night in the pub!
“My mates think I’m a bit mad, to be honest with you”, he discloses. “They’ll say, ‘How can you go out for a run at eight in the morning after you’ve been out for a few beers the night before?’”. Their question would seem to most to be an entirely legitimate one, but the fact that it works for Paul also seems to entirely fit with everything else about him. As does his cross-training activity of choice. Whereas some runners might take part in cycling or circuit training, not Paul, who practices Aikido martial arts, which, he says, “helps with a positive mindset in my running and life in general”.
Such support and balance also comes from his family. While sister Joanne can no longer be there in person to cheer him on, having moved to the Middle East, the support and guidance offered by Paul’s father is amplified at his many races by his mother, brother, fiancée and son, Brandon, whose presence Paul cites as a real motivating factor in giving his all. Although, the potential threat of a telling off from his dad, which the 41 year-old says he is still on the receiving end of from time-to-time, remains another.
But dad is at pains to stress how proud he is of all that his son has achieved.
The man in the bandana may look unorthodox among his fellow runners, likewise his diet, training habits, and his journey from dancefloor to podium, but the one indispensable element that Paul shares with all champions is the determination to succeed.
His father credits legendary Scottish race MC Murdo McGregor with giving Paul the title, “The John Wayne of Road Running”. The man on the mic would often make sure Paul was invited to compete at the Alloa Half Marathon, which he did on 13 consecutive occasions between 2006 and 2018; taking second place in 2008. In order to keep the series going, this meant one year hobbling around the course where he also set his personal best for the distance. A typically irrepressible sprint-finish the day before at the Clydebank 5k had resulted in a painful muscle injury. Approaching the finish line, 12 minutes off his usual pace, Murdo was there to welcome Paul with what had become a familiar line: “Here he comes, the bandana man, the John Wayne of Scotland: full of ‘True Grit’. Giving everything to the end”.
Such true grit can be seen in any image of Paul Sorrie in full flight. It is the face of a man who may have taken the long way round, but whether it is tearing up a dance floor or down a home stretch, the Duke’s most famous line from the Hollywood classic seems to apply to every passion in the life of Paul Sorrie: “Baby sister, I was born game, and I mean to go out that way”.
Paul remains as dedicated to his love of music as he was a teenager, and we asked him to give us his top five recommendations for running tracks. A tall order for someone with a personal collection of more than 800 records to choose from when spinning his beloved vintage 90’s Technics 1210’s turntables:
- Cafe Del Mar Energy 52 – “One of my first Vinyl records purchased back in the 90’s. This is a timeless song that will always be magic.”
- Guns N’ Roses – Nightrain – “High-octane song that gets the adrenaline pumping.”
- Underworld – Born Slippy – “Great dance anthem that makes you want to dance and energises me.”
- Hipsway – Tinder – “A band my dad introduced me to, absolute class. Great meaningful lyrics “Somethings never leave you”.
- Guns N Roses – Estranged – “Immense Piano and guitar play, plus some of the lyrics relate; “When you’re talking to yourself and nobody’s home’”.
Thanks to Bobby Gavin, Daren Borzynski, John Sorrie, Jethro Lennox and others for providing the images.