Saturday 16th May will be remembered for a long time in the lockdown minds of Shettleston’s hill runners. When the call was made 33 of these caged animals, deprived of their natural habitat, were desperate enough to volunteer to run or cycle an unspecified distance in an unspecified direction all in the name of team sport and charity. At the very least a chance to dust off the blue and gold vest at long last!
The weeks of lockdown have required a creative approach to training and racing for everyone at the club. This is especially true of the hill runners, but despite the absence of any significant hills to run up many have discovered new nooks and crannies in some previously unexplored bits of the city and suburbs. Some old favourites however have come to the rescue again…and again! None more so than arguably the spiritual home of the club’s hill runners… Queens Park in the city’s Southside. In near desperation the Shetts, with help from a few rival Westies, have trodden a series of new socially distant trails through the grass and undergrowth leading up to the summit flagpole. Training, led by the irrepressible Malcolm Patterson has continued remotely augmented by a series of ‘lockdown challenges’. These have taken on various forms but involve participants following a specified route in the city against the clock, posting their results for inclusion in an online leaderboard.
What will be seen as the climax of all this remote activity is the Shettleston hill runners’ contactless relay. Great credit must go to chief organisers, Steve ‘brains’ Winter & Jethro ‘brawn’ Lennox who seamlessly stitched together a smorgasbord of postcodes (some didn’t even begin with G!) to link up the home addresses of 33 runners. To overcome the logistics, and complete the challenge of covering nearly 150 miles non-stop in daylight, a few athletes (3), some even willingly, took to bikes. Although observing social distancing rules this was not a virtual relay, more of a virtual baton where handovers were made in real time using visual contact only…an exchange of distant glances (mostly friendly) was sufficient.
Appropriately it all kicked off at the epicentre… the flag pole ‘shrine’ in Queens Park at 5am! This apparently ‘prestigious’ leg 1 was given to Bill Breckenridge. What an honour?…in truth it was more a logistical necessity, although not the closest Shett to the flagpole (at least 5 live within 1k of the shrine) he was the only one with a blue bike! Weather conditions on the day were looking favourable but with no mud, rock and heather underfoot, just endless miles of tarmac and concrete, it was going to be a tough ask.
The socially distant relay then weaved its way to Bannockburn via Strathblane and Clachan of Campsie before heading back to Glasgow taking in the sights of Bonnybridge and Cumbernauld on route. After a wee visit to Paisley it then crisscrossed its way several times east to west and back and forth over the Clyde before gradually homing in on the final destination, where it all began some 15 hours earlier. There were the usual familiar faces along the way, young and old, making up the 33 participants, a few looking curiously different in their lockdown hair and furloughed brows. The contrast couldn’t have been more evident when at 12.41 pm Malcolm ‘the emperor’ Patterson (the oldest by far) nodded a wink to 6 year old Rowan as she tore off with father in tow for the first time (but definitely not last) in blue and gold.
Remarkably, given the hill runners recent performances at relay events, the day progressed without any significant glitches. The only question that remained was who should and could handle the not insignificant pressure of the final glory leg. The choice in fact was an easy one. The organisers weren’t taking any chances here. Faced with the potential prospect of having to find a way to the shrine in fading light and possibly over shooting into the undergrowth at the back of the allotments…they played their ace card and opted for international orienteer Ali McLeod. After receiving the knowing look from Rodrigo Reis at 7.45pm in deepest darkest Gorbals Ali made his effortlessly rapid way south in the direction of Queens Park.
It was a glorious finish like no other. No high fives, no rapturous applause, no adulation from the baying crowds of fans, no spewing of champagne… just an about-turn and a gentle warm down to the Gorbals for a hot shower and some dinner.
A magnificent team effort that generated much real and virtual enjoyment on the day not to mention a kindred spirit amongst a generous bunch of very gruntled runners. The real prize of course was a whopping £2000 raised for key workers at local care homes in order to recognise and support the exceptional contribution they are making during the current Covid crisis. Special thanks to Shona ‘tinkerbell’ Robertson for organising the fundraising and to everyone who took part and donated money.
You can of course still donate to the fund here
Report by Bill Breckenridge
|Leg||Runner/Cyclist||Start time||Distance (km)||Time||Elevation|
|3||Joe Symonds (Bike)||06:18||35.18||01:25:00||636|
|29||Mark Russel (Bike)||18:37||9.03||00:20:00||55|
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