Jimmy Curran

James Curran

James Curran was an athlete from the Scottish Borders who emigrated from Galashiels in 1910 and only two years later  trained the 1912 Olympic 800 metres champion in Stockholm, Ted Meredith.   Meredith not only won but  broke the world record in the Stockholm Olympic final.    Curran went on to become a legendary coach in the US, training several Olympians over 50 years. Curran is acknowledged as one of the top track and field coaches in US athletics history.


Originally Jimmy Curran had been a member of Gala Harriers – indeed he was captain of the club – and ran well in half-mile and mile races.   Living in the Borders where there was always a thriving pro scene, he knew he was good enough to make some money as a professional and left the amateur ranks in 1905 to run in the Hawick Common Riding Sports.   Like many professionals did, even well into the twentieth century, he ran under a pseudonym – in his case ‘G Gordon’.   He did well and at New Year, 1907 running in the half-mile at the Royal Gymnasium Grounds he won from a mark of 15 yards and returned in the three following years.   In 1907 he went to America for a short spell but came back to race in Britain again.   He also won the Powderhall 300 metres Sprint in 1910 before emigrating permanently to the United States later that year at the age of 30  to become coach at Mercersburg University.

His biggest contribution to Scottish athletics, however, was probably through his work with Wyndham Halswell.   William Reid was an athletics journalist under the title of Diogenes at the start of the 20th century, and in “Fifty Years of Athletics” (1933)  commented that “A short  while ago I got a letter from Jimmy Curran, a Galashiels man, who has for almost a quarter of a century been one of the most distinguished athletic coaches in American school and college athletics.   He went on to say that Curran found Halswell and gave an outline of the relationship.   As we will note later, Curran was a great letter writer.


Wyndham Halswell

Curran had been in South Africa with the Highland Light Infantry during the Boer War (1899 -1902) where he met Lieutenant Wyndham Halswell.    On his return he induced the young lieutenant to start training seriously and is generally recognised as the first man to recognise the outstanding talent.  They were a real contrast, an unlikely pairing – the tough, uncompromising professional who had fought through the War, and an officer and a gentleman.   There is a lot of good information on the duo, and on Curran’s philosophy generally, in John Bryant’s excellent book ‘The Marathon Makers’ from which the following comments are taken:

Given Curran’s approach to both the practicalities and the theories of human performance, it is little wonder that he wanted to apply his knowledge and experience to the gifted Halswell, but this team of amateur and professional was bound to lead to tensions.  

‘It’s no use learning to run like a deer if you let others make you a target, and  cut you down with cunning,’ Curran would warn.   ‘There is no justice in sport,’ he would growl,’ ‘If you think you will win because you were better, or because you did everything right, or that you will lose because the other man deserves it, then you are a loser.   You win by outwitting your opponent with luck, or because of his mistakes.   If they give you half a chance to win, then beat ‘em.’

With his experience as a professional, Curran could explore that fine line between out-and-out cheating and being cagey.   In some cases, he realised these were part of the game, even a big part – sharpening the buckle of a belt and using it to scuff a cricket ball, or keeping your mouth sht when the referee fails to notice that you have beaten the starter’s gun.   ‘These things go on,’ Curran would say, ‘Sometimes if you want to win, and you think you can put one past them, then you’ve got to try.’  

Halswell would hear those views and he didn’t always agree with them or the philosophy they carried, but one thing he was sure of was that his visits to the track could teach him much.   Curran taught him the secrets of the punchball for speed, of distance work for stride length and dumb bells for strength.

‘Keep your body fresh,’  he would advise, sharing that nineteenth century preoccupation with how the human body might react to being pushed to the extreme.


Curran realised that once Halswell got in front in a race he was unbeatable but he still had to learn to fight in a tight corner.  

‘Your job is to win, right?’ So concentrate and do what’s necessary now.   If you are thinking, I failed in the past, and I’m going to get beaten now, then go home and don’t bother to compete.   I’m not saying it’s bad to lose, but it is bad to give up when you’ve still got a chance.   ‘

‘Courage,’ Curran would tell him, ‘is a form of stubbornness.   It’s a refusal to quit when you want to quit because you are tired or broken.   You need it in everyday life and often everyday courage is more important than the great deeds sort of courage.’

We well know how successful Halswell was, and the philosophies expounded by Curran went with him to Mercersburg.   It was a comparatively new college, founded in 1893, and one of the coaches before him had been a hard act to follow: Alvin Kraenzlein had won four Olympic golds at the 1900 Olympics and was known as the ‘father of modern hurdling’ and as a pioneer of the straight lead leg in hurdling.   But Curran he threw himself into the sport in America straight away and was thrilled by the standard of athlete he encountered.   In Olympic year he wrote letters home to several newspapers (The Daily Telegraph was one of the first and the Glasgow Herald was also on his list) about the talent that abounded there.   In May, 1912,the following note appeared in the ‘Sports Miscellany’ column of the Glasgow Herald:

“An old Scottish runner in an interesting communication on American athletes to an English paper, supplies the following particulars of the running of John Paul Jones who would seem to be the ‘last word’ in distance racing:

“You have no doubt heard of John Paul Jones of Cornell.   He is all he is cracked up to be and a little bit more.   I have seen him run only once and that was when he beat Billy Paul a grand little runner who did 4:1 4-5th making all the running himself and who should have gone faster the next year if everything had broken right for him.   In the last mile of the four mile relay in Philadelphia last April, Jones  was clocked in 4:22 and had a lot in hand.   He ran in the mile two weeks later in 4:12 4-5th beating Paul out on the home stretch by five yards on the same track.   Then he finished up by winning the Inter-Collegiate mile in 4:15 2-5th.   College runners say he could have run 4:12 if pushed.   I should like to have seen Tincler at his best against him.   I do not say he would have beaten George but he certainly would have given him a great race.   I hope he visits England after the Olympiad, then Englishmen will see some of the best distance running they have ever seen – if the climate agrees with him.   There are several more who can get inside 4:20; I should say about four or five.”

The old Scots runner was clearly Curran and this appeared in the Glasgow Herald on 10th June that year, just before the Stockholm Olympics, he wrote to the ‘Glasgow Herald’.

“America’s chances at Stockholm look brighter than ever.   Some wonderful performances have been recorded in dual meets these last two weeks, though this is the worst Spring I have ever seen for getting a team in shape.   Mike Murphy says he has been in the game for 30 years and a worse spring he has never encountered.   Look out for records this year when the boys get into condition.   America will send over the greatest team this year that has ever been gathered together.   It will take 12 feet 6 inches to win a berth in a team of pole vaulters, and about 6 feet 3 inches for the high jumpers.   I saw Mercer of Pennsylvania, do 23 feet 6 inches broad jumping last Saturday, and he is not the best long jumper in America by a long shot.   If the track at Pennsylvania Relays had been in good condition, I feel that Gutterson of Vermont University would have done close on 25 feet.   He did 24 in mud.   I should not be surprised to see four men do 24 feet.   No wonderful time has been done in the sprints as yet, but that is owing, I think, to the cold weather.   In the 440 and 880 some great running will be done.   All the 440 men who leave here will do 49 sec and the half-milers will make Melvin Sheppard run his best.   My boy Meredith will do 1:54 or better and at least 48 3-5th sec for the quarter.   This is for the full distance – 440 and 880 yards  – and when you consider the Olympic distances the times will be correspondingly lower.   The milers will all do 4 min 20 and Barns of Cornell, who ran the two miles in 9 min 17 sec  two weeks ago, will need some watching in the longer distances.” 

Sounds almost too good to be true and the Herald commentator was moved to say “All this reads like a romance, and if Curran’s predictions are fulfilled, Britain would seem to have small chance of success in any of the pedestrian events at Stockholm.   But much the same tale was told at the time of the last Olympics at London, and it may be remembered that the Union Jack was hoisted at some events over which the Stars and Stripes were expected to wave merrily.   And history often has the knack of repeating itself.”

Whether Curran’s optimism was justified or not can be seen from the fact that USA won gold in 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, hurdles, 4 x 400m, 3000m team race, long jump and pole vault; silver in 100m, 200m, 800m, 1500m, 10000m, sprint hurdles, long jump, high jump, shot, discus and two in the pole vault; bronze in 100m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, hurdles, high jump, long jump,  pole vault, shot, discus and hammer.

In particular the success of his 800m runner, ‘ my boy’ Ted Meredith, in winning gold and setting an Olympic record of 1:52.8 must have fired him up even further.   Meredith had come to Mercersburg as a good quality runner but Curran sharpened him up considerably.   Some of the run-up to the Olympics was described in the Mainline Today:

In April 1912, Meredith was back at the Penn Relays as anchor of the Mercersburg team, which won its event by 50 yards. Two weeks later, he set world interscho­lastic records in the quarter- and half-mile, covering the latter in 1:55. “Meredith doesn’t seem to know how fast he can run,” Curran said. “But I know he’s the fastest runner the world has ever seen.”

Curran thought the Olympic trials at Harvard University would be a good experience for Meredith. He made the team after winning the first 800-yard heat in 1:53 4/5—the same time run by Mel Sheppard in a subsequent heat. Sheppard, of Deptford County, N.J., had been the top U.S. runner at the 1908 Olympics, where he won four gold medals.

Curran later claimed that, in the trials, he deliberately put Meredith in the 880 rather than the 440—which, with weaker competitors, he could have run “in a walk.”

“I told him to run his own race in the final,” wrote Curran in Recreation magazine, “as he would be sure of the team now, and see if he could beat Sheppard in the sprint, a thing no runner had been capable of doing when Sheppard was fit.”

From the time he arrived he started making changes.   For instance the Williams Trophy was awarded for a pentathlon competition – 110m hurdles, 400m, 1600m, long jump and shot putt – but Curran changed it so that it was a selection process for his team.   There was no doubt that the successful college team was Curran’s team.    The USA college athletics scene is a hectic one with athletes competing wherever, whenever the college requires them to and Curran was at the heart of it.    The detailed programme for the 80th Annual Eastern States Track and Field Invitational programme says in its introduction:

“It was in 1934 that the Amateur Athletic Union first held an interscholastic meet at the old Madison Square Garden on 50th Street and 8th Avenue. There had been a “national”championship held earlier at the Newark Armory under the auspices of the St. Benedict’s Prep, a charter member of the New Jersey Catholic Track Conference, but it is from the Garden meet that the meet you’re attending today – The Easterns – draws its lineage.   The meet remained at the Garden until 1965, when the AAU decided to take its championships on the road for a couple of years. The 1934 meet had just one division, won by Jimmy Curran’s team at Mercersburg Academy, located in remote, rural Central Pennsylvania, about 75 miles southwest of Harrisburg. It was under Curran’s tutelage that several world-class athletes developed at Mercersburg, including 800-meter run world record holder Ted Meredith.”

Note the ‘located in remote, rural Central Pennsylvania’ bit: it is still not uncommon for a coach to lament that there are no good athletes in a particular area, and yet coach Arthur Lydiard produced a squad of world beaters whereever he went from New Zealand, via Europe to Mexico.   There are many examples of coaches who continuously produce good class athletes from small areas.  Nearer home there are coaches who move around the country and have almost all-star squads in every location.   Curran went on in remote Pennsylvania for half a century delivering the goods.

He was to be at Mercersburg for 51 years – ie until he died in 1961 at 81 years of age – and in all that time he coached or developed 13 Olympians including

* Ted Meredith, double Olympic gold (800m, 4 x 400m) in 1912 at Stockholm;

* Bill Carr, double Olympic gold (400m, 4 x 400m) in 1932 at Los Angeles whose career was cut short by a car accident in 1933;

* Charles Moore, double Olympic gold, (400m hurdles, 4 x 400m relay), 1952 Helsinki;

* Alan Woodring, Olympic gold (200) in 1920 at Antwerp.

An article in the Mercersburg yearbook 0n 20th December, 2010, under the heading “Olympic Medals Find A Home At Mercersburg’ quotes Charles Moore and it reads as follows:

“Olympic gold medallist and USA Track & Field Hall of Fame member Charles Moore has donated the gold and silver medals he won at the 1952 Summer Olympic Games to Mercersburg.  The medals will be displayed in the school’s renovated Nolde Gymnasium.   Moore won the 400m hurdles in the record setting time of 50.8 at the 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki and also ran the third leg of the mile relay for the silver medal winning USA team.  He was an NCAA champion in the 220-yard low hurdle and 440 yard dash at Cornell University.   He also won four straight AAU titles in 400-meter hurdles from 1949 to 1952.   The US Olympic Committee named Moore as one of its 100 Golden Athletes in 1996.  

I owe everything in my Mercersburg career to Jimmy Curran, who simply turned to this kid who had never – ever – run and said, “Here, let me help you.”   More says.”

An Article on Allen Woodring on the Family Search website says “For his education Woodring attended several prestigious academic institutions including Peddie Institute in Hightstown, NJ, then at local Bethlehem Park, and finally to Mercersburg Academy, graduating in the class of 1918.   At Mercersburgh, under the tutelage of coach Jimmy Curran, he began to develop his championship potential as a sprinter on the track team.   

Competing on the high school level, Woodring topped the state list in both the 220 and 100 yard dashes in his junior and senior years.   Setting the state record 0f 21 3/5th seconds in the 220 yard dash as a senior in 1918, he was named first-team All-American.   Also in his senior year, Woodring was the National inter-scholastic champion in the 70-yard dash.   Undefeated as a senior in major inter-scholastic meets in both the 70-yard and 100-yard dashes, he led both national lists for the year, and also led the nation in the 100 during his junior year.”

As for Carr,

“1932 Olympics, USA Track & Field: Bill Carr was the second Mercersburg track athlete to win two gold medals in an Olympics, racing to the top of the podium in one of the most noted 400 meter races in Olympic history and anchoring the triumphant 4 x 400 meter relay team at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California.   …   Carr, a member of the US Track Hall of Fame, was never beaten in a one-lap distance.”

The track at the college is still, in the twenty first century, called the Jimmy Curran Track and his name still appears college publications, indicative of the fact that he is still highly regarded there, 50 years after his death.    I quote from two fairly recent   references to him.      On 4th April 2016 – note the year – in an article in the “On Track” series in the college publications, there is an interview with coach Nikki Walker who is the current head coach for both girls and boys outdoor track and field teams.

“Question:   But isn’t track also an opening for a kid who really may not have excelled at any other team sport but discovers that he or she can really run?    Walker’s response: Yes, and that was the sole philosophy of our storied track coach, Jimmy Curran: if you come out for track, I’ll make you better.   CharlieMoore ’47 is a perfect example of a kid who had no background and went on to become an OIlympic gold medallist, and it all started out for him right here at Mercersburg under Jimmy Curran.”

Back a bit, in August 2008, the Track and Field News had a poll to find the five greatest USATF Coaches of all-time and among the nominations was Jimmy Curran.   He was right there with Tom Tellez, Bill Bowerman, Jumbo Elliott, Brutus Hamilton, Payton Jordan, Mike Murphy and the top men of all time.

Nor has he been forgotten back in Scotland:  Curran was inducted into the Scottish Borders Sporting Hall of Fame in 2008.    In addition, the European Coaches Association is considering awarding Curran a place in its own hall of fame in recognition of a lifetime of achievement in track and field coaching.   Curran is possibly the Scottish Borders’ greatest ever Olympic coach and it is said that, despite achieving global success, in a career at Mercersburg Academy that lasted 51 years he never forgot his roots.

Bill Walker

Scotland 2012 187

Bill outside the Old Clubhouse restaurant in Gullane in 2012.

BILL WALKER is known throughout the UK as a top class coach: a quiet and friendly man, a former athlete and committee man, he is relentless in his pursuit of success (however you define it) as a coach on behalf of his athletes.   Generous with his time and with a rare sense of humour he is deservedly popular.   However because of his quiet and unassuming nature, he is not as well known as he should be, despite the fact that he has had a very successful  career in the sport.   He has received many awards including life membership of Scottish athletics and as recently as last year he received a special award from UK Athletics for his services to the sport and was also the subject of an edition of ‘Surprise, Surprise’ where no one was more surprised than he was!

Richard Winton wrote the following in the ‘Herald’ in 2012 when Bill had won the Winning Difference Award and was about to be presented with it at the Kelvin Hall.

“Bill Walker equates coaching to painting the Forth Bridge; just as he has finished guiding one athlete to the peak of their performance, another talented youngster emerges demanding his attention and expertise.

It is the reason why, 52 years after taking his first session, the septuagenarian can still be found at Meadowbank Stadium six days a week, gently cajoling elite performers, kids and those with a disability alike to shave one more second or inch from their previous bests in pursuit of their own personal glory.

It is also the reason why he will spend tomorrow afternoon at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow, awkwardly stepping into the spotlight at the Aviva International Match to be presented with Winning Scotland Foundation’s annual Winning Difference Award ‘in recognition of his exemplary achievements and significant and lasting contribution to Scottish sport’. Walker scoffs at the suggestion he might mark the occasion, insisting that it is more cause for concern than celebration.

“I’m worried that by getting this they maybe think I’m about to die or something, that’s the danger at my age,” he says, judiciously ignoring congratulations.

Instead, he insists, his reward comes from the success of those in his command. And how rich that reward has been. Some of Scotland’s finest have come under his tutelage over the years, most notably Alan Wells, who worked on his starts with Walker in the months leading up to his 100m gold in the Moscow Olympics.

“A coach is only good if they’ve got a good athlete and Alan was never satisfied and always looking for improvement,” recalls Walker, clearly more at ease when not talking about himself. “He always felt he couldn’t be perfect so he was self-motivated, which served him well when he went out and beat every American afterwards after people tried to talk down his achievement.”

The increasing paucity of world-class Scottish competitors in the intervening years means winning a track-and-field gold in London later this year is unimaginable. As much as it pains Walker to acknowledge as much, the fact is that athletics struggles to attract the most gifted youngsters in the face of more financially appealing disciplines, such as football, tennis and golf, amid an ever expanding sporting spectrum.

Consequently, the standard has dropped – “at one time I had two part-time 800m runners doing 1.45/46mins who would be superstars now” – despite the prevalence of sponsorship deals and development of more appealing facilities affording young Scots a better chance than ever to reach the top in their chosen event.

“It’s still feasible if they are prepared to work but I think it’s a different animal now,” Walker says. “Kids don’t have the mobility and range of movement they once had because they are always sitting down playing on computers rather than being outside. Sure, we are working on identifying those weaknesses and working on them but without those basic motor skills we are starting from a lower level and their technical capabilities are limited because of that.”

We can come back to this article later but to begin at the beginning, Bill Walker like so many very good coaches started out as a runner.   Like all of his generation he was called up to do two years National Service in the Army.  Starting in Bath, he was transferred to Leuchars in Fife where he managed to get his 440 yards time down to 49.1 – and on grass at that.   National Service was brought to an end in 1960, so Bill’s running was in the 1950’s.  The time above would have placed him twelfth on the Scottish ranking lists in 2015.   In other words his time on grass would have been beaten by only eleven Scottish runners on tartan more than 50 years later!   He is quoted as saying “There weren’t enough jobs for everybody so I was pushed into sport to get rid of me,” he explains. “I ended up running with them and basically getting a big skive because I was practically a full-time athlete. In fact, it was so good that I signed on for an extra two years.”

Bill Ronnie

The  Braidburn Junior Champion trophy being presented to Ronnie Browne

When he did finally leave the RAF, Bill worked at electrical engineering firm Ferranti before going to Heriot-Watt University as a physics lecturer.   He had also joined Braidburn AC, a club with several very good runners such as Neil Donachie and Bill Linton, by then and was training with Tom Drever.   It was at Ferranti that he began coaching, setting up sessions for colleagues who had spotted him training alone. That continued when he moved to Heriot-Watt.    Incidentally, one of the younger members at Braidburn was a  boy called Ronnie Browne (related to Peter Hoffman as it happens) who discusses his time at Braidburn in his autobiography “That Guy Fae The Corries”  and ‘Big Tam Drever’ is mentioned fairly often – the book even has a picture of a young-ish Bill Walker presenting the club’s Junior Champions Trophy to Ronnie.

When Braidburn merged with several other clubs to form Edinburgh Athletic Club, Bill and Tom joined the new outfit. Bill later married Tom’s daughter Kay.  Another Ferranti employee was Eric Fisher who also joined Edinburgh AC.   They became friends and competed for the club as individuals but also in league matches for the team.     Eric remembers travelling with Bill as part of an Edinburgh AC team trying to qualify for the British Athletics League.   Bill doubled up the 400m, 400mH, steeplechase and 4 x 400 while Eric doubled up on the steeplechase and 5000m!

While working at Heriot-Watt Bill was also involved in their athletics activities setting up coaching sessions for his colleagues who joined in with his sessions.     Doug Gillon, now well known as one of Scotland’s best ever and most respected sports journalists joined Edinburgh AC in 1964 and trained alongside Bill, becoming a firm friend.   He remembers the time, the training and the friendships well.   He recounts that

I first met Bill when Jack Macfie and I joined EAC in the autumn of 1964.   We knew nobody, but Bill (and Claude Jones and John Convery) made us very welcome. Because my girlfriend (now wife of 45 years) lived in the next close in East Claremont Street, Bill frequently gave me lifts home, to her house.   He was still competing then, but was very helpful with racing and training advice, though he was never my coach in any formal sense.

John Fairgrieve (later first paid SAAA secretary), was the same vintage. At that stage I had no formal training schedule – I was absorbing the methods of Lydiard, Cerutty, and Stampfl, and picking bits out of each in a completely haphazard and ill-considered manner. I would turn up and do whatever session seemed best – no structure at all.

Club nights at Ford’s Road usually, for Jack and I, and as I recall, John Fairgrieve, would mean tackling a track rep session, usually with Bill lending advice and encouragement, and holding the watch.   I do recall him joining in 200 and 400m rep sessions, but not the most savage: a 6 x 660 with a 2-min interval.    At our best, the peak target was 90 seconds. Bill would be holding the watch for these. Jack, John and I would lead out two each, alternating every 200m, then free-for all on the last 200, attempting to make the time, with Bill shouting encouragement, and the seconds as we went through. The format of switching every 200m was Bill’s.    It was possibly not coincidence that Jack, John and I finished in that order in the mile at the Scottish Schools the following year. In hindsight, I reckon these tough track rep sessions, drawing each other out, played a part in our modest success.

When I went to Heriot Watt University, after a year at EAC, Bill was in charge of the electron microscope. He was also in charge of the athletics and cross-country teams.     He was always a great enthusiast and motivator. In winter, at lunchtimes, he oversaw weight training in the university’s mining engineering dept in the Grassmarket. Generations of athletes would have learned or been introduced to the sport, and conditioning, by him

Bill selected the teams for track and cross-country matches – always seemed involved in every aspect, up to laying courses. Not every university was as disciplined. I remember a match on a poorly-marshalled and marked course at Caird Park in Dundee. Adrian Weatherhead was about 100 yards in front of me and took a wrong turn. I put in a desperate mid-race sprint, yelling at him to come back – which he did, and still won!

For track meetings it would be much harder to put together a team. He could be compellingly persuasive: I think that’s where I first heard the philosophy of: “just go round for the point”. In hindsight I wonder how he managed to fit in the day job. 

He would give lifts to highland games, explain the pleasures and pitfalls of handicap racing, and how it taught pace judgment.


He continued to coach his athletes and Eric Fisher tells of the first night back at the club after the successful Commonwealth Games  when there were 129 children down at the track, most of them for the first time.   In the midst of this, Bill was trying to do a session with Adrian (mile time in 1970: 4:00.7).   At that point Eric and he had a conversation in which Eric agreed to work with the younger athletes in the club and pass the best of them on to Bill.   It was a system that worked well.   Bill was recognised as one of the best coaches in Scotland at the time.   Frank Dick was the National Coach and the individual coaches included Eddie Taylor, Alex Naylor, George Sinclair, Gordon Cain, Sandy Ewing and Bill.

If we want to see how good Bill’s athletes became, it is instructive to look at  some of them.

* Norman Gregor was SAAA 400m hurdles champion in 1974 and had 5 second places in that event as well as at 400m flat.   He had personal bests of 21.8 (200m), 48.4 (400m), 16.1 (110mH),    51.56 (400mH) and 1:49.4 for 800m.

Hoffmann Peter 1978 (Mike Street)

Peter Hoffman

 * Peter  Hoffman had been a very good sprinter who became a very good class 800m runner.   His career at the top lasted from 1974 to 1982 and he competed in Olympic, European and Commonwealth Games, won gold silver and bronze at British and Scottish championships, and had pb’s of 10.8 (100m), 21.8 (200m), 34.7 (300m), 46.76 (400m), 1:46.63 (800m), 2:24.8 (1000) and 54.2 (400H).    He was an outstanding athlete by any standards.

* Paul Forbes:   Bill and Paul always had a close contact although John Anderson also had some input.   Paul started out with EAC and was coached by Eric Fisher before training with Bill.   Paul had pb’s of 47.69 for 400m, 1:45.66 for 800m and competed in three Commonwealth Games, and won gold at both UK and Scottish championships.   In 1983 Paul ran 1:46.83 which would have been a Scottish Native Record but he was denied the honour because he was not wearing a club vest;

* Peter Little was a top class young sprinter who competed between 1976 and 1981.   He had best times of 6.84 (60mi)10.6 (100m), 21.5 (200m), 48.49 (400m) and won gold, silver and bronze  both north and south of the border, winning GB championships indoors at a time when there was no Scottish indoor scene at all.

* Roger Jenkins won the SAAA 400m twice, one second, and was third in the AAA’s 400M.    Competed in the European and Commonwealth Games and had pb’s of  10.5 (100m), 21.3 (200m), 46.49 (400m) and 51.66 (400mH).

* Ross Hepburn was a high jumper who was originally coached by Tom Drever.   I quote directly from the SATS website: Talented young athlete who set world age bests at the age of 13 (1.88m) and 14 (2.04m).   He represented Scotland at the age of 14 years 334 days  v  England and Wales, then represented GB  v  Russia aged 15 years 316 days.   This made him the youngest male athlete ever to compete for Great Britain.   AAA Youths champion but retired from the sport through injury while still in his teens.

He has also worked with others such as  Graeme Grant,  Ann Dunnigan and Mary Speedman .

The Edinburgh AC club record for 4 x 400m relay is a magnificent 3:08.9 and was set by a team of Peter Hoffman, Paul Forbes, Norman Gregor and Roger Jenkins: all coached by the same coach – Bill Walker.

Gregor, Norman

Norman Gregor

Several of the wonderful athletes mentioned above were in action at the same or similar distances at the same time and yet another top class athlete – Adrian Weatherhead  – spoke of some of them and Bill’s sessions.

“I first met Bill when I was an undergraduate at Heriot Watt University.    I was just starting my athletics career and Bill was very keen to organise a Heriot Watt athletics team using his expertise from his days in the RAF where he had been a 400 metre runner.    When he left the university to take up a post of Assistant Manager at Meadowbank he rapidly accumulated a very successful squad of athletes with whom I trained a number of times each week.
Many of the sessions had an all GB international line up ( Pete Hoffman, Paul Forbes, Norman Gregor, Roger Jenkins and myself) and were of the most murderously high quality where each individual had some dominant quality which he could impose on the others.
Bill has continued his excellent coaching and has inspired young athletes over the decades.   I am proud to relate that he has many times over the years given some shock therapy to some of his protégés by informing them of the quality of the sessions attained by the GB training squad of the 1970s!!”


Bill was also very active in the club away from the track and as well as organising club coaching, he served on the the Committee and progressed through the system until in 1969 he was elected on to SAAA East District and General Committees as the Heriot Watt representative.   By 1977 Bill was the fourth longest serving member of the SAAA General Committee, with only Oliver Dickson, John McClurg and Eddie Taylor having been longer than he had on the 43  strong body.   He had progressed to being on the  Joint Coaching Committee and had qualified as a Senior Coach for Sprints.   As an official he was  a Grade 1 for track. jumps and throws, a marksman and Grade 3 Timekeeper.   He had come a long way in a relatively short time.

The Commonwealth Games of 1970 had been a great success and sports promoters started to bring the best athletes in the world to Scotland.   There were three tracks of a high enough standard for these meetings, Grangemouth, Coatbridge and  Meadowbank, which was not just a track but a stadium with memories of the great athletes and performances at the Games.    Athletes like John Walker, Irene Szewinska, Steve Scott and many others from Europe, the Antipodes and America  were mixing it with the best of British and Frank Clement, Geoff Capes, Allan Wells and David Jenkins.    On 19th August 1978 the Glenlivet Highland Games took place at Meadowbank and many of the Scottish athletics top brass were involved as was Bill, by then assistant manager at Meadowbank, in the organisation of the meeting.    On the following day the Coca Cola Meeting took place at Coatbridge – this was not the first time that the two meetings had followed one on the other and athletics fans loved it.   Almost all the same athletes turned out: Capes, Wells, Clement, Black, etc were all there.   Everybody knew that these athletes were being paid, at the very least generous ‘expenses’ were on offer.  The European circus was just starting up and payment of athletes was an open secret.   Unfortunately details of some athletes expenses from Meadowbank became public and the SAAA Committee started to ferret out the truth of the situation.   Attention finally focused on Bill Walker and his team.   The investigation did not take place until after a police inquiry had been held.   The police found no reason to proceed any further. As has been said, Bill was on general committee of the SAAA and a special meeting was called.    The upshot of that meeting was that he was suspended.

This provoked an uproar in the athletics community.   Andy Arbuckle of Fife AC acquired the signatures of the requisite number of clubs to call a Special General Meeting of all clubs with the intention of having the suspension lifted immediately.   The result was the lifting of the suspension.   There is no doubt that Bill’s reputation and the high regard in which he was held made a great contribution to the final decision.   The whole affair was a blot on the record of the SAAA.   An interesting side light on the affair was that an attempt was made to investigate the expenses paid at the Coatbridge meeting.   However at the meeting at which the decision was taken to lift the suspension the following appeared in the minutes:   “On 24th May 1979, a letter was received from Monklands District Council, stating that the information requested would only be made available on condition that an inquiry would be held into all International Sports Meetings held in the UK, Europe and America in 1978.”   There followed a correspondence with the Council but no action was taken with regard to Coatbridge.

It should be pointed out though that there was general support for Bill from the Scottish athletics community, and two British international stars spoke out on his behalf – David Jenkins and Geoff Capes – at a time when it could have ruined their careers as sportsmen.   In addition, the spotlight shone on the proceedings by journalists such as Doug Gillon made sure that nothing that happened was exempt from scrutiny.   It was nonetheless a very difficult time for Bill and his family.

Bill in the dark

The surprising thing is that Bill went on coaching through it all.  He kept producing top class athletes despite the toll that the whole affair must have had on his family life as well as on him personally.   A look at the names above indicates that he was working with  Adrian Weatherhead, Peter Hoffman, Peter Little and others – none of them suffered at all.

What was he like as a coach?   What did he expect of the athletes?   One thing they must do, he said in an interview, is demonstrate an appetite for work.   He continued,  “It keeps me young and, as long as the athletes are giving me everything, I’m happy,” explains Walker, whose science background led him to dabble in photo finish and electric timing technology years before it became popular. “If they are committing themselves, they deserve the same commitment back but I won’t tolerate skiving. If they are wasting my time I will tell them, no matter what level they are at. With that attitude, I think they’ll have to carry me off the track in a coffin in the end but that would maybe be quite a nice way to go.”

Bill has a reputation of being a very strict coach who thinks that athletic clubs should not spend their time with those who come along not prepared to do the work.   His sessions all start on time and there is the tale of an occasion when there was no athlete ready to go at the appointed starting time.    Bill called “Go!”, started his watch and after the non-rep rep went to the cafeteria.   A late arrival turned up in the cafeteria only to be told, it was over!    At another time, an international sprinter was to practice sprint starts: she had three faulty starts and Bill told her to go home.   When she protested he told her that’s what would happen in a competition, so – go home, we’re finished for tonight!    The same man stands up for his athletes – who always come first – at times to extremes.  As at the time when he encouraged his women runners to move from Edinburgh AC to their city rivals Edinburgh Southern Harriers because the demands being made of the athletes in team competition were against their better interests.

Many coaches and athletes remain friends long after the athlete’s career in the sport is over and Doug Gillon says “In my career as an athletics journalist, I have lost count of the number of athletes who have sung Bill’s praises, who talk of his selfless help, generosity, and integrity. His good humour and enthusiasm is unfailing, and remarkable after so long spent as a  coach.”  

Bill at Lake Konstanz 2

Bill on holiday at Lake Konstanz with Ross Hepburn

Ross Hepburn , for whom Bill was a friend and advisor, remains a good friend to this day, decades after Ross’s retirement from high jumping.   He says:

“I was at Fords Road when Mr Jones (Claude) and Mr.Carrigan (Jimmy) suggested when l was 12 years old that l go to Meadowbank to improve my talents as l was more a jumper/sprinter, with needs regarding training other than what was possible at Saughton. There, l was to meet a Mr. Walker.

Bill introduced me to his father in law, Tom (Drever), who started me off on my road as a high jumper. I remember Tom and Bill taking me in 1974 into the Meadowbank weights room to test me at sit-ups, pull-ups etc. I can still see them both giving me a nod of approval. Later Bill would allow me to join in one or two winter sessions with his athletes – sessions like 20 x 200 with a walk back recovery – l never saw the end of a session, and Bill would just smile at me saying l told you that you still have a long way to go – and l decided l’m not going that far – l think he knew that anyway.

I left for Germany at a young age (17) but when l came home every other year for a visit l instinctively headed for Meadowbank. Bill would be pleased to see me and always found time for a cup of tea in the cafeteria, and he would insist on paying for it, and to enquire how l was doing. Or we would go for lunch together and he would inform me of what was going on … this has gone on now for the best part of 36 years!

During these years l did run into one or two of life’s tests and troubles, Bill was someone l could rely on for good advice. Last year I visited Bill at his home in Edinburgh, and was physically moved to see a large photograph of Tom hanging in his hallway, a great man! And I recall a nice demonstration of Bill’s commitment to the sport. I remember hearing a story of Bill driving past Meadowbank with his family in the car, and one of the kids in the back said: “Look mummy, that’s where Daddy lives” …… you can’t describe dedication much better than that!

Three years ago Bill came over to Germany and stayed with me for a week. This was great for catching up on old times, and l was astonished at how fit he was for his age when we walked up a hill one day. If l ever reach his age then (late seventies) then l’ll try that hill, and probably see Bill saying “You still have a long way to go!” 

I hope there are many more years ahead for our yearly or twice-yearly lunches together!”


When addressing new coaches, Jimmy Campbell, another master coach, used to take the chalk, hold it sideways to maximise the size of the letters, and write on the board the single word   DIVORCE, before saying that that was where they might be heading if they did the job properly.   Bill never had that problem.   His family were all involved in the sport and that support must have been invaluable to him throughout his career.  His son Clint has followed Bill into the area of electronic timing.   Ross looks at this and says

In 1976 Tom moved to Limassol, Cyprus, after he lost his wife. Once settled in he invited his grandson Clint (Bill’s son) and I to visit him for Christmas / New Year ’76/’77. It was a great trip for two young lads. Bill later used this Cyprus connection for a few years, taking athletes to warm weather training. Bill also organised the Christmas party and dance for EAC for a while. One story Bill enjoys telling was when he had 16-year-old Clint helping at Meadowbank during an international match. Clint’s job was to guard the outside door from the track which led to the concourse and stairs up to the cafeteria and office area. You could not get through unless you had a pass. Well along comes TV commentator Archie McPherson. Clint, being a bit like his dad – very straight and correct – asks him for his pass. Archie didn’t posses one, and was kindly told by Clint he can’t get in. No comment as to what Archie said. 

Clint later followed his dad into the field of electronic timing. I remember Bill always was technically strong, and tried to set up the best possibilities for athletes regarding timing. Bill mentioned to me how Clint was fascinated by this. He later went on to programme the most complicated systems and worked at many major Games for a Swiss timing company. Sadly, last time I visited Bill he had had a lot of his equipment stolen. Thieves had put a small child through his small living room window and got the gear out that way. Being Bill, he periodically checked the local pawn shops and was able to get some of the stuff back!”

Staying on the topic of timing where Bill’s expertise is generally acknowledged, Doug says that he remembers Bill and Clint working on the photofinish/timing at stadia all over Britain. “They invariably seemed last of the technical guys and officials to leave. And in a media context he was always singularly helpful, in contrast to the majority of the blazer brigade. He always struck me as an “athletes’ man” rather than an “officials’ man”, in much the same way as I always regarded Raymond Hutcheson and Bob Stephen, and many of our other coaches . . . the kind of folk who never forgot what it was to be an athlete, and what was important to them.”

I do remember Bill giving me one smashing story from the wee room in the Gods, at Meadowbank. It was July 18, in the summer of 1998, and Ian Mackie and Dougie Walker had a tremendous tussle in the 100m final at the Scottish. The wind was +2.9. Mackie timed at 10.00 and Walker at 10.01. Bill told me that Mackie had actually run 9.994sec, thus being one of only seven Caucasians at that time to have broken 10.00. Ironically the women’s 100 final (Rostek beat McGillivray) was wind-legal.”

Bill working

  An aspect of Bill’s activities that hasn’t been touched on so far is his commitment to community sport.      There are several articles online in which this is mentioned but some the passion can be felt from the article in the ‘Scotsman’ of 16th June 2010 which can be found at http://www.scotsman.com/news/bill-walker-without-help-we-will-be-fit-for-nothing-1-1244565 .

He also discusses fitness levels in the community at large in the article by Richard Winton quoted from above and which can be accessed at


Bill has taken part in many activities fostering sport in the community and has received several awards for this.   He almost always passes on any money raised to athletics causes, either to the club or to another related cause.   See this article from Deadline News of 12th March 2012which as about efforts to assist a young sprinter come back from Gambia to Scotland.


This interest in Community Sport was the key to getting him to the television studio in Edinburgh in August last year when he was the  subject of a “Surprise, surprise!” sting.   Old friend and club mate Eric Fisher lured him to the studio on the pretext that they were to take part in a discussion about sport in the community where he was duly surprised!


Finally, we have tributes to Bill and his work from three coaches who know him well – Hamish Telfer, Eric Simpson and Frank Dick on a separate page which can be seen by clicking    here

Charlie Forbes

Charlie F

I first met Charlie in 1986 or 1987 when there was a TSB Schools of Sport week at Inverness.   I had invited Gerry Barnes up from Blackburn since he was the North of England staff coach for 5000/10000m and Charlie came along to give us a hand.   He knew all the athletes, filled us in on their backgrounds and helped with the coaching and administration.   Our respect for him grew over the week and has continued to grow over the years since then.   I have known several of the athletes and coaches that he has worked with and they all speak highly of him.    He has worked at local, district, Scottish and British national levels as administrator and coach, he has been a very good club man representing the club in many events on the track as well as on the roads, he has worked with all age groups – indeed his current Power of Ten profile has him coaching athletes from Under 15 to veteran, male and female.   I asked him how he got involved in the sport and his response is below.

“I suppose sport always figured in our family as my twin brother Gordon and I used to be encouraged to race each other at every opportunity.   Also our older sister Sandra was no slouch and was North Schools 220yards winner to her credit.   Egging us on was my late father who was a top sprinter up here in the North and clocked 10 1/5secs for the 100yards on grass tracks with no specific training.   His claim to fame was he competed against Iain Young who was Scottish Champion and Olympian at the time and held him off in the old North District 100yds Championships at Forres over a 1 yard handicap.   He also had other trophies and medals that that we goggled at as young boys for swimming and football where he had a spell with Inverness Clachnacuddin.

As Gordon and I went through school, sports days became a place to shine for me rather than the classroom, although Gordon was slightly faster than me in primary I emerged as the better sportsman in secondary school and competed in many school events under the guidance of my PE teacher – the well known North District and Scottish Athletics  official Colin Baillie.   Colin who later team managed Inverness Harriers in the Scottish Leagues was very passionate about pupils in schools taking part in sport especially rugby and athletics and I did my first formal athletics training under Colin at Millburn Secondary School in Inverness.   In first year I remember coming second in an Inverness Area Schools cross country event which I think I could and should have won had Colin not told me to sprint through the finish a lap too early.   When I think back to the sessions we did especially the 300 and 400 reps and the recovery we got between each might be an indicator why my 800 time only hit about 2.11.   Colin who is a good friend still and we talk quite a lot about school days.   Although I did quite a bit of athletics in school my first love was football and as a 14 year old I must have shown a bit of promise and was totally elated to receive a letter from Desmond White who was then secretary of Celtic Football Club to say they were watching me.   At sixteen I had Hearts knocking on the door and keeping tabs and at 17 had a two week trial with Aberdeen FC. It was about then I started to understand about more about speed (or maybe the lack of it in my case) as I played a couple of bounce games for Aberdeen reserves of which one was against the first team.   I was centre half and given the job of marking Scotlands top scorer and Internationalist over the last 2 years Joe Harper.   When I watched him on the telly he always looked a bit squat and dumpy and during the game I was totally mesmerised how a wee guy like this could move so fast. He was a great guy though and was very encouraging to myself and another couple of lads on trial. I played Highland League with Nairn County for a while but I suppose I was an amateur at heart as the treasurer was always chasing me for my national insurance number so they could pay me which incidentally was £3 appearance, £3.50 draw and £4 for a win.   I was not really interested in getting payed as playing for the team was more important and when players that took me through to training in their cars would try fiddle expenses claiming false passengers I moved on to play in another league and saw my football out there.   I always did running through these times and always kept myself fairly fit during close season at football.

In 1977 I married Liz and we now have 3 children (who all have 2 children each so 6 grandchildren keeps us both on our toes).   During the period they were growing up I got the running bug during the boom of the early 80s and when Neil our oldest was about 10 I took him down to Inverness Harriers and in 1985 I joined the coaching staff.   It was quite a baptism of fire and I was thrust into things that were taking me out of my comfort zone and had to learn quickly about thinking ahead especially with about 40 kids in your charge.   I also quickly realised that all these years playing football that it did not teach you much about how your body works and adapts to specific things, why we warm up etc. etc.   I can honestly say that my first 6 months athletic coaching taught me more than all the years I was involved with football.

CF Inverness Group

Charlie (fourth from the left, front) with some clubmates including Charles Bannerman in the dark blue on his right

I still managed to run the odd race and 10ks and ½ marathons were family days out. My modest bests for these were about 37.30 and 83mins although the half was about 400/500m short I believe. I also competed in Highland Games then and enjoyed the spirit in which they were run and competed in. My last couple of races were in 2004/5 and could still keep the youngsters at bay in the 100yds handicap. One of these was at the Newtonmore Games and as we were lining up on the start Andy Young  (Victoria Park and now coach to Laura Muir) who was recently crowned Scottish Senior Champion at 800m that year happened to be up in the area that weekend and entered the games. When he saw me lining up in the 100yds he thought going scratch would be still not pose a problem. He thought wrong as another oldie Trevor Madigan from Aberdeen and myself saw him off. I ran 11.4 secs off 12yds handicap.”

One of these was at the Newtonmore Games and as we were lining up on the start Andy Young  (Victoria Park and now coach to Laura Muir) who was recently crowned Scottish Senior Champion at 800m that year happened to be up in the area that weekend and entered the games. When he saw me lining up in the 100yds he thought going scratch would be still not pose a problem. He thought wrong as another oldie Trevor Madigan from Aberdeen and I saw him off. I ran 11.4secs off 12yds handicap.”


 Charlie at the Games

Another athlete I was managing to hold off at the games was up and coming star 14 year old Jamie Bowie whom I had under my wing for a few years in his early running career. Jamie went on to become Inverness Harriers most successful ever athlete competing in the 400mtrs picking up medals at World and European Championships as a Junior and Senior member of the Great Britain 4 x 400mtr squads.


     Jamie Bowie

He mentions Andy Young who  was one of the first athletes in a Scottish Team that he worked with when he was asked to be a Team Manager with the then Scottish Athletics Junior Commission in 1994.   Other coaches and officials he was involved with over the years included Walter Bisset, Rodger Harkins, Hugh Murray and Anne Scott.    Athletes such as Lee McConnell and Darren Ritchie were also part of the Squad then and under the guidance of Isabel Robertson who did such a fantastic job for Scottish Athletics for so long.   Charlie adds that

Getting invited to be a National Team Manager of this commission in 1994 was a great honour and the start of a 15 year journey of managing and coaching with Scottish Teams. From the humble beginnings of Celtic Games Teams where your character is fully tested looking after the young stars to the Senior Teams where I witnessed and worked with some great athletes, managers and coaches along the way. (Too many to mention) In 2000 I was selected along with Pat Rollo to be the Team Managers for the first Commonwealth Youth Games which were held in Edinburgh.   Following on from this I was selected to be male Senior Team Manager for Great Britain in the GB v USA v Russia International in Glasgow.    This was great experience for me especially the GB Match as there were all the International Stars on show including Paula Radcliffe, Jonathan Edwards and Bob Weir who is an absolute gentleman.

However the greatest honour for me will always be getting to manage or coach with Scotland`s Teams. Throughout that period of involvement I travelled far and wide and trips to Cyprus, Greece, Belgium, France and all over Ireland and numerous trips to the Loughborough International each May.   The only place I never got a trip to was Wales funnily enough. In Scotland after finishing team management I was asked to be one of the Regional Coaches and did that for 2 years while the project lasted and covered the Outer Hebrides which offers a great place to train for any athlete but especially endurance with some great dunes on the West coast.   I also covered Shetland and Orkney it was here I got to know Piotric Haczek who had just taken up the role of National Sprints and Hurdles Manager for Scottish Athletics.   Piotric was a Polish athlete who mainly competed in the 400 metres.   An outdoor and indoor world champion in the 4 x 400 metres relay, his success came mainly in relay, his best individual performance being a gold medal at the 1999 European Under 23 Championships.   I learnt a good bit from him as I still had Jamie Bowie under my wing and when Jamie went to University in Edinburgh I managed to get him fixed up with Piotric and the rest shall we say is history.

Going away with teams was a great learning experience and sitting chatting in the bar in the evenings was better that any coaching conference where discussions went on well over time.   Hugh Murray, Mike Johnstone and Brian Whittle always were good for getting things going.

I always managed to take something that I had learnt back home to my groups and hopefully (at least I like to think I did) make them better athletes because of it. I think back to the first athletes I coached Grant McDowall and Stephen Hendry  in 1986 and wonder what if they were about now with all that I have learned since these early days. But I am sure we all as coaches say “If I knew then what I know now”…… Both Grant and Stephen were very good U17 800mtr runners and they would knock lumps out of each other in training. Stephen did 1.55.60 (club record for that time) and Grant 1.56.20. It was not until 2012 before that record was broken by Sean Chalmers who I picked up from a schools competition a couple of years before and he took it down to 1.54.79 when he finished 4th in the Under 17 AAAs Final at Bedford. Sean has since gained a scholarship in Lamar University, Texas and I am pleased to see his running is going from strength to strength. Around that time Mhairi MacLennan was breaking through on the cross country scenes picking up National vests and still is under the expert supervision of John Lees another coach I met on National duties.

Of the group from that period and currently the one that is making a big breakthrough in such a short space of time is Stephen Mackay and now can claim to be a hot prospect for the future. He has now lowered his 800m time to 1.50.39 and in all my time coaching I have never met a more committed athlete. All he has achieved has been done locally without any financial support as he has travelled long distances to get the right competition out of his own pocket. He will deserve any success he gets.


 Stephen Mackay (no 14)

Sandwiched in between are many junior and seniors I have coached with many making National Junior teams as sadly for me we have not had the luxury of a University in Inverness (until 2015) and all athletes have I have had to move on to other coaches as I believe you cannot coach at a distance, some may disagree but I feel it`s not fair on the athlete that needs on hand support. Seniors are different.

The most successful XC Inverness Harriers had was in Dundee in 1993? when we had an individual winner with Under 15 boys race with Stuart MacKay who also led the team to gold which was followed up with bronze medals for the under 17 men and under 20 men`s teams that year.

Others to mention would be Simon McIntyre who as an Under 20 finished the year top Scot for 1500m and 9th in the UK rankings with 3.51.86. He picked up track and field Internationals as well as Cross-Country vests and proudly boasts to be the only Inverness Harrier to beat a young Mo Farrah in a Cross-Country meeting.

I have also coached an Olympian although she was part of the GB 2012 Modern Pentathlon Team, Mhairi Spence was also selected for a Celtic Games Cross-Country in Ireland when we had a good going group in that period and others then making national teams were Jennifer Main and DJ McAuley.

Disability Athletes have also been under my wing lately as part of my work is to identify and find coaches for them. Jason MacLean was part of the 2014 Scottish Commonwealth Games Team and finished 5th in the final of the T37 100mtrs. Paul Davidson a T20 400 runner is now making his breakthrough and has just been selected for the British Athletics Futures Squad 2015/16 and has his target set for Rio 2016 Paralympics. With both these athletes again travelling to other countries has been part of the journey with Jason competing in Dubai and Paul in Italy.

I still see quite a lot of former athletes and its special when they keep in touch when they have been away for some time.”

Charlie is now doing a lot of work in Disability Sport and holds the title of Highlands & Islands Regional Manager – Disability Sport at High Life Highland.   In recognition of the work he has been doing this year, at the Inverness Harriers club social night this year (2015) he received an award.   I quote:

Scottish Disability Sport is delighted to congratulate Highlands & Islands Regional Manager Charlie Forbes on deservedly receiving sportscotland’s Regional Coach Award. Inverness Harriers volunteer coach Charlie Forbes was surprised on Saturday night when at the Harriers Christmas night out he received the Highland Disability Coach of the Year award. Charlie was nominated for the award in recognition of his service to Disability Sport Coaching. Charlie has worked with many athletes throughout his coaching career which spans an incredible 30 years of coaching.  This award recognises Charlie’s commitment and time dedicated to his athletes outwith his full time employment in disability sport with High Life Highland. This award is a partnership approach with High Life Highland and sportscotland, recognising the outstanding contribution and significant impact of local coaches in enabling quality sport and physical activity opportunities to happen in communities across the Highlands. After a very impressive speech by Inverness sports legend Colin Bailey, Charlie was presented with his award by Commonwealth Games para athlete Jason Maclean and para athlete Paul Davidson.”

Chas Award

Receiving the Award

Recently he picked up another 2 awards one for The Highlands and Islands Regional Disability Coach and was honoured to receive the Inverness Area Sports Council award for Coach of the Year.

This does not mean of course that he has given up working with other athletes.   Charlie is currently the club coaching convener and is a UKA Level 3 Performance Coach for sprints/800m/1500m/long distance and steeplechase, although as a capable and experienced field events athlete himself he does some work in that area as well.   A look at Power of 10 – which is not a comprehensive survey – indicates that he has nine athletes under his supervision ranging form an Under 17 high jumper to a V35 half marathon runner.   In addition as a good club man as well as a talented sportsman, Charlie has competed in several events for the club in the track league although his recent events have included mixed terrain races and parkruns.    Speaking of which he is also a time keeper at these events and his contribution has been noted – “This week’s fabulous volunteers were Billy Skinner (course set-up), Charlie Forbes (timekeeper), Willie Ross (back-up timekeeper) …”  

As an administrator Charlie has worked at club, district and national level.   A former club president at Inverness, when the Scottish Athletic Federation came into being in 1995, Charlie was the North Area Representative on the council and sat as Chairman for the North District Cross-Country Committee as well as secretary over a period of years between 1995 to 2014. He officiated at the 2003 European Cross-Country Championships and 2008 World XC Championships when they were held in Edinburgh and last year was a Technical Official at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

 In this connection he has been involved in lobbying and supporting local politicians on behalf of the sport: when Inverness was selected by sport Scotland as a possible site of sporting excellence, he stepped up in support and was quoted as follows: “Support for the hub came from Inverness Harriers coach Charlie Forbes, also Regional Manager for Highlands & Islands Disability Sport.   He believes that in indoor centre with a running track is much needed and would lead to more athletes competing at a higher level.   Inverness Harriers have four athletes of Commonwealth Games standard and there could have been more if we had a big indoor centre,” he said.   “It can be pretty difficult at times for our athletes.   They often scrape the snow off the track which is not ideal for health and safety reasons and in winter there is often no training facilities available , unlike in the central belt.” 

Coaches, officials and administrators often have to fight their corner and in a place as remote from the levers of power as Inverness this is even more the case.   Athletes in the north are lucky to have men like Charlie Forbes to go into bat for them.

Tommy Callaghan

TBP 64 The start of the Edinburgh to Glasgow in 1964: Tom is second from right in the back row – behind Alex Brown of Motherwell.

This profile was written by Tom’s clubmate, Joe Small.   Tom is the personification of the really good athletic club member – the man who always did what his club needed him to do, and then went a bit further.   He was a runner, a club official, an administrator, a coach to several Scottish and British international athletes.  Tom also ran a sports shop along with one of his protégés, Ron McDonald for a time.  He was also the man on the wrong end of a very poor decision by the governing body of cross-country in Scotland which Joe refers to in the following narrative.   

Tom Callaghan came from Airdrie, but was involved with Coatbridge’s Monkland Harriers and latterly Clyde Valley A.A.C. for over 30 years as a runner, official, coach & organiser.

He joined Monkland in 1958, competing in cross-country & road running as a boy & youth. Among his club contemporaries at the time were top class runners like Jim Finn, who won the Youths National in 1960 and 1961, Jim. Grant, 2nd in the Boys National in 1959, Jimmy Johnstone, 2nd in the Youths National also in 1959. 1959 seemed to be a good year for Monkland, with Tom picking up a silver medal as the Boys team finished second in the National, only 3 points behind George Heriot’s School. In the 1961 Midland District race he was in the bronze medal winning Youths team along with race winner Jim Finn & J. Grant. Teams involving Finn, Grant, Tom & Tommy Gallagher won many other relay & team prizes around this time.

Moving up to the Junior/Senior ranks, the likes of Finn & Grant fell away, as is so often the case with talented boys champions. Tom, now training with Jimmy Johnstone ran on road, in cross-country & highland games events, winning the handicap mile at Kirkintilloch with a time of 4.08 in 1964. He competed in the Edinburgh – Glasgow on eight occasions, for both Monkland & Clyde Valley. In 1980 he picked up a team bronze medal when Clyde Valley finished 3rd. in the West District cross-country championships that year.

It was early in his senior career that he became involved in the organisational side of things. In the mid-sixties, Monkland were stuck in a rut. Tom, along with a few others including Jimmy Johnstone, Willie Drysdale & Willie McBrinn replaced the long running club secretary & proceeded to introduce a number of initiatives to reinvigorate the club. The launch of a series of cross country races involving local schools resulted in a good number of new young runners joining the club. The best known of these would be Ronnie MacDonald. Others included Frank Gribben, Peter Preston, Danny Nee, Jim Burns, Kenny Ashwood, etc. quite a conveyor belt of talent.

It was with the emergence of Ronnie MacDonald that Tom first became involved with coaching. He guided Ronnie to the level of performance and results that can be seen in his profile elsewhere on this site. When Jim Brown joined the club in 1970, he also advised him for a number of years, again the results can be seen on Jim’s profile. The other big name to join Monkland in the early ‘70s was Ian Gilmour. This came about after Ian finished 3rd. in the National Junior cross country championship (behind MacDonald & Brown). Tom approached Ian after the race & asked if he’d be interested in the joining the same club as the two guys who had just beaten him. Ian agreed & competed very successfully for Monkland & Clyde Valley for a number of years.

Back to the organisational side of things. Tom, through his contacts in Coatbridge Town Council, was instrumental in turning Coatbridge into the focal point of cross country, road running, later track & field for a good number years.

The National Cross Country championships first came to Drumpellier Park in 1973 (Jim Brown winning the Junior race & the Junior team also finishing first for good measure!) and returned to the same venue for a further three years. Other events held were the District & County cross country championships & relays, Schools cross country championships, Women’s international cross country race, Schools Home Countries international & Boys Brigade National championships, all sponsored by the council. On the road, the first running of the Coatbridge 5 mile race, initially as part of a town festival, saw the introduction of lucrative prizes, the winner receiving a portable tv, quite a step up from the usual cutlery sets etc. being handed out. Top class athletes from south of the border were enticed to compete. The first race in 1973 was won by Ian Stewart, his first race back since taking a year out of the sport following the 1972 Olympics. Again, Tom was the driving force behind most of these events, although he would always say that he had a lot of help from club members & other local organizations.

Through the success of these events & the local club, the council was persuaded to proceed with the building a new athletics stadium, opened in 1975, complete with an international standard 8 lane all-weather track & accommodating 8000 spectators, costing £410,000 (£3m in today’s money). The first meeting held on the track was organized by Monkland Harriers, after which they were not involved, the Council taking over running of events. Later, international meetings, national, district & local championships all came to the town.

One of the goals of the council (and Tom), was to attract the World Cross Country Championships to the town. Scotland was due to host this prestigious event in 1978. Following a special General Meeting of the Scottish Cross Country Union in 1976, the race was awarded to Glasgow. This decision saw the end of the local council’s involvement. The story behind this decision deserves an article of its own, one which Tom is working on at present. It will make interesting reading when complete!

The International Cross Country decision previously mentioned also saw the end of Tom’s direct involvement in the sport.

Tom was also one of the instigators in the formation of Clyde Valley AAC, this being an amalgamation of five Lanarkshire clubs, to try & form a `super club’ to compete on the same level as the large Edinburgh & Glasgow clubs of the time. A look through the results of the period will show how successful they were for a number of years. Probably the most high profile athlete to be produced was Tom McKean.

For a number of years the club secretary was none other than Tom Callaghan.

Just to give a quick idea of how busy Tom was, he was involved in all of the above, together with training & competing, bringing up a family, holding down a full-time job and then opening a number of sports shops in partnership with Ronnie MacDonald. Some of you no-doubt purchased shoes, track suits or vests from the aforementioned Monkland Sports! As the saying goes, “If you want something done, ask a busy man”

Nowadays, he’s retired, still out walking everyday, but still taking a keen interest in most sports, particularly Aberdeen F.C and the Tour De France, both formed in the same year, 1903, coincidentally!

Jim McLatchie – Coach


Jim McLatchie is well known as a talented and hard, no nonsense runner who never gave anyone an easy race in their life.   You can read about his time as a runner by simply clicking on his name.    He is not as well known here as a coach because it was almost all done across the Atlantic.   His record includes British and American senior internationalists as well as the many high school winning teams he has coached – and is still coaching – since he retired.   He is however a very successful coach indeed having worked with club runners and champions up to and including Olympic standard.

One of the questions that always comes up is “How did you get into coaching in the first place?”  In Jim’s case it goes back to the beginning, right back to his days in Muirkirk in the mid-1950’s.   He started a training group in the Community Centre which met twice a week in winter and they would go for a couple of miles easy run then get into some circuit training in the Centre.   Most Sundays they would go for a cross-country run but only about 4 miles.  For most of his running career he was self coached – I refer you to the link above about his time as a runner – and also when he was at college in the States he helped  all of his college guys for events between 880 yards and three miles.   When he was in Luton between 1965 and 1968 he worked with Tony Simmons.   Tony was a Welsh and British International runner whose personal bests included 3:41.1 for 1500m, 13:21,2 for 5000m and 2:12:33 for the marathon; his world half-marathon record of 62:47 which stood for 16 months after he set it in 1978.   They did two track sessions a week aimed at the mile and the rest of the week was mainly steady runs.   Jim reckons that Tony ran a 4:03 mile as a teenager.   Tony was trained for a while by Harry Wilson so there would be a lot of conversation between them about training too.   And of course as an athlete he was at times in teams with Frank Dick and his good friend Brian Scobie, both of whom became well known coaches.

When he was living in Scotland he did weight training twice or three times a week with a lot of hill running.   He says that at that time he did not know what drills were – but in Scotland (maybe even in Britain) not many did know about them.  As he has got older, he has gone back to hills and weights but has incorporated Drills and other Core strengthening exercises.   And he also believes that athletes of the same ability should train together – the girls train with the boys.

That’s the background story of  runner who was always interested in conditioning and training and who gradually made the transition into a successful coach.

After his serious racing career over, Jim moved to Houston in 1975 and, with Allan Lawrence (who had been third in the 1956 Olympic 10000m) and Len Hilton (who ran in the 5000m at the 1972 Olympics), started a running club called the Houston Harriers which was modelled on the British club system and was very successful.   Outside running he had been working in the computer field.   Houston was to be where Jim McLatchie’s athletic career as official, administrator, organiser but mainly coach, took off in the most spectacular fashion.    Any doubt about his status in the community is removed by the following report when he retired in 2002.


They call him tough, rough and crusty – a running coach with a philosophy of ‘my way or the highway’    But when Jim McLatchie shows up at the track with his famous red-covered clipboard containing the day’s workout, runners know they’re getting the best.   Now Jim and his wife, champion runner Carol McLatchie – Houston’s first couple of running – are heading into retirement and moving to Bend, in central Oregon.   McLatchie will leave behind nearly 30 years of coaching success stories and the well-known club he helped to start in 1975, the Houston Harriers.   He has coached some of Houston’s most talented runners for years, runners who continue to dominate the winner’s lists at area races, such as Sean Wade, Jon Warren, Justin Chaston, Joe Flores and Joy Smith to name just a few.  

A champion runner himself, McLatchie knows what it takes to give one’s best and improve on it.   He never recruited runners – they came to him.   And he didn’t take them all.   ‘Don’t come out if you don’t mean to follow the instructions,’ McLatchie said, ‘There was always only one boss – me.   And that’s how it has to be.   Someone has to take control.    I always tell people to tell me what they want to accomplish.   If they can’t tell me that, I’m not interested.   There are enough sheep in this life without me getting any more of them.   If you could come to track and be disciplined in the workouts,  it would help you in your life outside the track.’

His coaching offered a support system –    runners helped each other reach their goals, and the workouts were not based in the star system.   ‘The key to success is, can you build upon each previous workout,’, said McLatchie.   That philosophy helped spur a host of champion runners and a series of titles through the years. What had inspired

Carol McLatchie is on sabbatical from running right now, but she continues to hold titles – like the American Female Masters 30K, and was named by Runner’s World as Masters Runner of the year in 1993.   She is in her sixth year as Chair of the USA Track & Field Women’s Long Distance Running Committee.   She met Jim at a track meet and starting training with him in 1979.   They have seen young runners blossom, succeed and become champion Masters.   But their ranks are slow to fill.   ‘There’s no really good young ones coming up,’ says Jim McLatchie.  

In March, Jim will retire from his long time job overseeing systems and programming operations in Information Systems Administration for the City of Houston, the job that paid his bills all these years but an occupation few people knew about.   The coaching he did was never a money maker – it was what he gave back to the sport.   From his early days in Scotland, working in the coal mines at 15, running offered him the freedom nothing else could.  

‘Jim’s an enigma really,’ said Chaston, ‘the only way he viewed running was from a runner’s perspective – that’s what really made Jim click.’    ‘The best thing that ever happened – him leaving town,’ joked Wade, then he stopped laughing. ‘He’s going to be missed, especially by the more serious runners.’   Warren, now men’s head track coach at Rice, said McLatchie had been the single biggest influence on his own coaching career.   ‘Jim’s done a tremendous job with tons of people.   He’ll work with anybody but you have to be able to make a commitment.’

McLatchie will keep in touch with many of his runners,    Email makes it easy to communicate, and ‘the telephone still works,’ he said.   

He’s 60 now and hasn’t raced in five years.   But he was still good enough at 50 to run a 5K in just over 17 minutes.   ‘I’d like to do something for myself – I’d like to do some running and get myself in shape,’ he said.   ‘I know everything I have to do; I just need to apply it to myself.’    Some have suggested that he write a book, and he’s not ruling it out.    But he’s packing the red covered clipboard too in case it’s called into service in Oregon.”

What had inspired this eulogy?   Quite simply he had had success on a large scale and he had a personality that they Texans took to their heart.   He was by now a coach first and foremost – just look at the following tables to illustrate this.

Midde Hamrin

Mitte Hamrin (Sweden)

The first table is the list of Olympians he has coached.

Year Name Event Country
1984 Midde Hamrin Marathon Sweden
1996 Justin Chaston Steeplechase GB
1996 Sean Wade Marathon NZ
2000 Justin Chaston Steeplechase GB
2004 Justin Chaston Steeplechase GB

*  Hamrin was a Swedish marathon runner who won the Stockholm Marathon twice (1990 and 1991), the Chicago Marathon once (1991), and represented Sweden in the European and World Championships as well as running in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984.

*  Sean Wade is a long distance runner from New Zealand who ran in the Atlanta Olympics marathon in 1996 and also competed in the Commonwealth Games steeplechase in 1996.

*   Justin Chaston was a Welsh distance athlete who specialised in the steeplechase and competed in the European Championships in 1994, the World Championships in 1995, and three consecutive Olympic Games in 1996, 2000 and 2004.   His personal best was 8:23.4 from 1994.

Sean Wade

Sean Wade (NZ)

World Championship Competitors

1985 Carol McLatchie 15K Gateshead
1987 Carol McLatchie Marathon Seoul
1989 Charlotte Thomas Marathon Milan
1991 Carol McLatchie Marathon –  World Cup London
1991 Joy Smith Marathon – World Cup London
1991 Joy Smith Marathon Tokyo
1991 Joy Smith Half Marathon Gateshead
1995 Justin Chaston Steeplechase Gothenburg
1997 Patty Valadka Marathon Greece
2003 Sylvia Mosqueda Marathon Paris
2006 Max King Cross-Country Fukuoka
2008 Max King Cross-Country Edinburgh

*   Carol’s ability and achievements have been illustrated above. *   Joy Smith was named by running.competitor.com as one of America’s greatest female marathoners: a personal best of 2:34:20, set in the 1991 London Marathon and times of 2:35:09 when sixth in the US Olympic Trials (1992), and 2:38:35 when ninth at Boston (1993)  she went on to win the Athens Classic Marathon in 2:50:52. *   Patty Valadka was a very good marathon runner who won the Richmond Marathon twice (1994 and 1995) as well as qualifying for the Worlds in Athens in 1997.   Personal bests of 34:34 for 10000m in 1996, 57:29 for 10 miles (1998) and 2:38:35 for the marathon (1996). *   Sylvia Mosqueda was a noted American long distance runner with personal bests of 31:54.03 for 10000m track (1996), 2:33:47 in New York 2002 for the marathon and has set several very good course records. *   Max King is a very good ultra distance runner who as you can see above excelled at cross-country.

European Championships

1982 Midde Hamrin Marathon Athens
1994 Justin Chaston Steeplechase Helsinki

 ….  and these are only the major championships  – there are even more in World Masters, PanAm Games, State Champions, etc.   Little wonder that he was interviewed for the post of Scottish coach, a wonder that he was by-passed!  He was a genuine hero for his coaching in Houston.   He hadn’t forgotten his old Scottish friends however.   In the mid 80’s Brian Scobie had a wonderful squad of endurance runners and he took some of them to Houston for the marathon there.   Runners like Angie Hulley/Pain ran well but Veronique Marot was third in 1984 (2:31:16) and won it three times (1986 in 2:31:35, 1989 in 2:30:16 and 1991 in 2:30:55) and Brian won the Masters race in 1987 with a time of 2:30:59.   Jim’s own runner Martin Froelich won it in 1985 in 2:11:14.   These coaching feats had to be recognised and Jim had brought himself to the forefront of USA endurance running coaches and his reward was international coaching assignments which are shown in the table below.

Year Assignment Venue
1986 USA Men’s IAAF World Relay Championships Yokohama, Japan
1989 USA Women’s International Road Relay Championships Hiroshima, Japan
1991 USA Women’s IAAF World Cup Marathon London
1994 USA Women’s International Road Relay Yokohama, Japan
1996 USA Women’s International Road Relay Seoul, Korea
1998 USA Women’s International Road Relay Beijing, China
2002 USA Women’s International Road Relay Beijing, China
2004 USA Men’s IAAF World Half Marathon Championships New Delhi, India

Having been a very good runner and then a top class coach in the States would have been enough for most – a pipe dream in fact – but Jim wasn’t finished.    He was also a bit of a fixture on several Coaching Committees and Action Groups.   Have a look at these –

  • 1984 – 1994:   Worked with Nike as coach of regional athletes to raise them to a level where they could compete nationally.   His women’s team won the cross-country title in 1988.   He was a member of several committees with associated coaches to develop a master plan to try to improve distance running in the USA;
  • 1985 – 2002:   Member of the Women’s Long Distance Running Committee where he was one of the selectors for international competition.   He also held a post lecturing and coaching marathon development at the Olympic Training Centre;
  • 1990 – 1993:   Member of the USA T&F Development Committee to develop a plan for distance running.   He received an award from the USA Women’s Track & Field for outstanding service to the sport;
  • 1994 – 1999:   Member of the USA Women’s Cross-Country Committee to promote the development of sport for women;
  • 1999 – Present:   Member of the Great Britain elite coaching squad for the steeplechase;
  • 2003 – 2009:   Volunteer Coach at Pilot Butte Middle School;
  • 2010 – Present:   Distance Track Coach at Summit High School

The fifth of these, the GB elite coaching job,  was unexpected but he explains that he went to England two to three times a year to work with Mark Rowland and the UK steeplechasers – and remember that Justin Chaston who was being coached by Jim competed in three Olympics and one World Championships for Britain.   Jim clearly had something to offer on that front.   Mark is now in Eugene, Oregon where he is the coach for Oregon Track Club.

What about the club that he set up with Al Lawrence away back in 1975?    Houston Harriers?   Well. he was a coach at the club from 1975 until 2001.   The club has approximately 100 members and the focus is on middle distance, distance and marathon running for High School, College, Open and Masters athletes.   The club was/is very successful and members have won more than seventy five USA National titles in twenty five years in events on the track, on the road and over the country.    Quite a record.

Sylvia Mosqueda

Sylvia Mosqueda

All coaches will now be asking what he did with the runners.   Information in the public prints is hard to come by but there is an interview with Donna Stevens easily available on the internet and in reply to the question ‘Can you give an insight into training in Houston in the 80’s?’ she gave this answer.    In 1979 I started training with Jim McLatchie and the Houston Harriers.   In a few years we had a group of 25 – 30 totally dedicated distance running athletes who met at Houston Baptist University on Mondays and Wednesday nights for track workouts and Saturday mornings for long runs.   On the track we were separated into groups of four to five runners that could run close to the same times.   Jim would have our workouts in his “black book” that he brought to the track.   Lots of  Mondays, we would run 6 x 1 Mile or 12 x 800 with a 200 jog between.   On Wednesdays we might have a mile breakdown of Mile, 1200, 800, 400 with 400 jog between.   We always ran hard on the track, holding nothing back, my heart rate was over 200 bpm.   Our long runs were 18 – 30 miles.   During marathon training, I did 2-a-days by running 4 miles in the morning and 6 – 12 miles during the evening (including our track days) with a 20 plus mile run on Saturdays and an 18 on Sunday.   I always built up from 70 miles a week in the off season to 100 – 120 peaking before a marathon.

We had a group of 4 – 8 women that consistently trained together and pushed each other to the limit.   Jim coached 8 of us to the Women’s First Olympic Marathon Trials in  Olympia, Washington.   Many of us PRed that day and it was an awesome experience and McLatchie’s training really paid off.”

Justin Ch

Justin Chaston

More detail and an example of the planning, content  and record keeping is shown in the work done by Justin Chaston leading up to the  the 2004 Olympic Games.   Note that most of this work was done at 6000 feet in Colorado Springs.    You can see the work done on a day by day schedule by clicking  here

He is now at Bend in Oregon where he is coaching at the local high school – the Summit High School referred to above – and enjoying retirement.   The boy from the coal mines in Ayrshire has come along way in every sense and it is all down to his own attitude and hard work.    And to me, one of the most amazing things is that he has done it all while holding down a serious day-job.   It was never paid employment.

His friend, Brian Scobie: “He certainly was an influence on me in the ways he trained and where he took his inspiration from.   At the time he was staying in Milngavie, he was working for the railways on the south side of Glasgow, having escaped from Mauchline and the fate of the mines.  He was already past the stages of creating a running track on disused railway track and running up pit bings in boots.    But these things linked Jim to mavericks like Gordon Pirie and beyond him back to the great Emil Zatopek  Pirie was maybe his way back to the great Emil Zatopek, as well as to the Cerutty group in Australia with its sand dunes.   To me he stood in that lineage in terms of training attitudes and inspiration as much as in training modes.   He is a man with huge charisma.   Stubborn as a mule when he thinks he’s right.   A great pal to have.   Generous to a fault.”

Jim's girls

Jim with one of his girls teams in November, 2015

I had thought that I had finished the profile there but Jim had other ideas.   We left him coaching at Summit High School after retirement – then in March 2012 we had an email saying that three of his girls had been 1, 2, 3 in the State Championships in the 1500m.   The first time it had been done!   He had coached the mother and grandfather of the girl who won.   Michelle Dekkers won the NCAA Cross-Country but was originally from South Africa.   She had moved up to Bend just so that her daughter Ashley could be coached by Jim.   Ashley who won also won the 800m and is headed for a scholarship at University of Oregon in the autumn.   The link is at  http://www.runnerspace.com/eprofile.php?event_id=118&do=videos&video_id=46503 .

In May 2012, his athletes won the Men’s and Women’s Leagues at State Championships and there are three videos to be seen showing some triumphs:

Boys 3000m:   http://www.runnerspace.com/eprofile.php?event_id=118&do=videos&video_id=68723
Boys 1500m: http://www.runnerspace.com/eprofile.php?event_id=118&do=videos&video_id=68811

Girls 1500m:  http://www.runnerspace.com/eprofile.php?event_id=118&do=videos&video_id=68808

The Girls won their league of 12 teams with a total of 106 points with second placer on 74 points, and the Boys won their with 88 points ahead of the second team’s 67.5; there were also 12 teams in the league.    And as of August 2013, they have continued to do him proud winning State and League titles with amazing regularity.   Right up to the present and we see Jim winning the Oregon State High School Coach of the Year award and it was right that he did so given the results of his young men runners.   The family double was complete when wife Carol won the women’s High School Coach of Year  in 2015 and went forward as a nominee for the National award.   J McL 3

 I once spoke to a senior, experienced coach who commented: “At this stage of my career I ‘m not going to work with youngsters any more.   I’ve done my stint with them.”   The man was an international coach and the comment, to say the least, surprised me.  It  is not a sentiment that you would hear from Jim.   When he  retired he was invited to help coach at Summit and he went willingly – he is still there many years later, enthusiasm undimmed working his magic year after year, with boys and girls, young men and young women, all year round, on track and on the road,  and over the country.    The athletes never look driven or anxious – they always look happy and enjoying their sport.  He is of course aided and abetted by his wife Carol who is an excellent coach in her own right and has been recognised as such by the American athletics governing body.   They make a formidable coaching team.

Three months into the winter of 2015, a wee run down of progress this year: September 12th, 2015, Ash Creek  5000m Boys:  1st Summit  33 points;  2nd Camas  75 pts;  5000m Girls: 1st Summit 54, 2nd Camas 58; 3000 Novice Boys: 1.  Summit 31; 2. Camas 51; Girls:  1.  Summit 29;  2.  Camas 30.   There were 24 teams in the Boys race, and 20 in the Girls event. September 19th, Oregon City Cross-Country Invitation 5000m JV Boys:   1.   Summit  15;   2.   Glencoe  75.    5000m Varsity Boys: 1.   Summit 15;  2.  Southridge 91;   5000m JV Girls: 1.  Summit 27: 2. Glencoe 62;   5000m Varsity Girls:  1.  Summit 28;  Oregon City 87;  Nike Portland Cross-Country:   1.   West Torrance 147;  2.  Mountain View  151;  3.  Summit 153.   24 Teams competed. Oxford Classic, October 2nd 5000m Junior Varsity Girls:   1. Summit 24;  2.  Mountain View 43;  5000m Junior Varsity Boys:  1.  Summit   16; 2.  Mountain View  63;   5000m  Varsity Girls:  1.  Sheldon  51:  2.  Summit  66; Boys:  1.  Summit 44  ; 2.  Capital 113 George Fox Cross-Country Classic, October 10th 2015 5000m JV Gold Girls:  1:  Summit 33; 2.  Camas 36;  5000m Girls Varsity Gold:  1. Camas 46; 2.  Summit  76;  5000m JV Boys Gold:  1.  Summit 23; 2.  Camas 52;   5000m Varsity Boys Gold:  1.  1.  Summit 41;  2.  Camas 118. 5A-4 Inter Mountain Conference Championships: October 23rd, 2015 Girls 5000m 1.  Summit 17; 2.  Mountain View 49;  Girls Junior Varsity: 1.  Summit  15; 2.  Mountain View  54;   Boys 5000m: 1. Summit 20; Bend 61;  Boys Junior Varsity:  1.  Summit View 16; Mountain View  61. State Championships – Oregon 5A, October 30th. Team Scores, Girls:   1.   Summit  23;   Mountain View 49;   Boys:  Summit 32:  2.  Crater 36

… and the early Christmas present for them was that the boys were ranked number 10 in the entire United States by the authoritative “Runners World” at the end of November 2015!    The 2015 Summit results will continue to be published   here  and the summer 2016 are at this link  Finally for this post, on 2nd September 2016, athletic.net published results from the start of the new athletics year’s cross-country.   They are to be found at  http://www.athletic.net/CrossCountry/Results/Meet.aspx?Meet=115210.   I have started a new page for the 2016 cross country results at this link.   while the 2017 performances are here, here, and the most recent are here

2018 summer results are going up now, the first two are here

Carol McL

You will know by now that he is not the only coach in the family – Carol is a considerably good coach – a fact that has been recognised by the national association.   At the ens of 2016, she was nominated the High School  Coach of the year for their home state.    After the girls had won ten straight State Championships, and they were going for their eleventh in October 2018, Jim had a stroke and was hospitalised.   He was allowed out on the Saturday for the race and the report here is a wonderful tribute to the man and his teams.

Summit Girls Win 6A Title, Emboldened By Recovery Of Coach

By Doug Binder, DyeStat Editor

EUGENE — The Summit (Bend) OR girls soared into national contention during a month when there was deep concern for coach Jim McClatchey behind the scenes.   The Storm have risen to No. 2 with a deep lineup that was on full display on Saturday at the OSAA Cross Country Championships at Lane Community College. Summit was entered in the Class 6A race after more than a decade of dominance in Class 5A.   And with junior Fiona Max leading the way in 17:29 — just three seconds off the state course record — the Storm scored 39 points to unseat 2017 champion Jesuit, the No. 8 team.

But the most important part of the afternoon for Summit was that McClatchey was there. The coach with the Scottish brogue and white beard suffered a stroke in mid October and spent the second half of the month in the hospital.   McClatchey coaches the team in partnership with his wife, Carol, but it is the one who writes the workouts.   “Even in ICU, I asked him ‘What are we doing on Wednesday?’ and he was (rattling off workout details),” Carol McClatchey said.

Jim McClatchey is up and mobile again and his mind and humor are as strong as ever.   A girls cross country team that is as deep as any in Oregon history had moment of deep concern as the momentum of the season began to build.   “It’s 100 percent a humbler,” Max said. “It gives us a moment to take a step back and realize that everything has to be lined up perfectly for us to have our best meets. We take a breath, realign and realize that we’re here for each other, we care about each other and every (opportunity) is special.”

Max and a handful of teammates visited McClatchey in the hospital.   “That man’s made of iron,” she said.   One of Summit’s seven assistant coaches, Dave Sjogren, stepped in to take a bigger role day to day with the team as Carol monitored Jim’s progress.   McClatchey’s recent health scare is related to a heart attack he survived five years ago.   The girls on the team have seen first-hand that time is precious.   “He’s our dad,” Max said. “It definitely added to the stress of the past few weeks. He just got out of the hospital and was at our workout on Wednesday. It was great to see him back on his feet and swearing again. We pushed past it as a family.”

Max was followed across the finish line by freshman teammate Teaghan Knox (18:01 for fifth), Isabel Max (18:13 for eighth), Kelsey Gripekoven (18:16 for 11th), Azza Borovicka Swanson (18:27 for 14th), Jasper Fievet (18:38 for 22nd) and Stella Skovborg (19:01 for 28th)


Captured at the 6A Mountain Valley District Championships on October 27, 2018 by Matthew Lasala

2018 was a superb year for Summit and the icing on the cake was when the girls won the National.   Read Carol’s Review of the year  at this link

   It was also notable because Jim had a stroke.   BeingJim he got a Saturday pass from hospital for the next race.   For his account of the stroke and the rest of the season  go here

Jim was a very good coach from early in his career but for all the information about how he trained himself, and the work that selected athletes did, then go the page entitled  Training with McLatchie

Justin’s Workouts – 2004

Justin Ch 1

This is the work done by Justin on his run in to the Olympic Gams in 2004: first the work done leading to the selection for the GB team and then the 21 days leading up to the Olympic race.   Jim has generously passed it to us for information but we can get more than just information if we look at it properly.

March 2004 

Ø1        2 mile – 10.00/ 5MR/ 1600 – 4.52/ 3MR/ 800 – 2.20

Ø3       20 x 200 with 30 sec rest 33-34

Ø8      4x 1600 in 4.40 with 3 min rest over 4 hurdles per lap

Ø10    4x 800 – 2.24 with 2MR/ jog 5 min/ 4 x 800 – 2.26 1MR over 2 hurdles

Ø15     5x 1k – 2.50 with 3 min rest over 2 hurdles per lap

Ø17     1600 – 4.40/ 1200 – 3.27/ 800 – 2.16/ 400 – 62/ 3 min rest

22        3x 1k – 3.10 with 30SR/ jog 400/ 2x 1k – 3.05 with 30SR/ jog 400/ 1k – 3.00 over 4 hurdles per lap

Ø25     8x 400 – 64-65 – 90SR over 2 hurdles

Ø29     400 – 63/ 1200 – 3.26/ 400 – 62 with 4MR over 4 hurdles

Ø31     16x 200 – 31-32 with 30SR/ jog 5 min/ 800 – 2.05

  • over 4 hurdles

 April 2004

  • 4 – 14 – 16 MILES EASY
  • 5 –     1 HOUR WITHJ 2X 4 MIN PICK UPS
  • 6 –   1K – 2.50/ 500 – 85/ 1K – 2.48/ 500 – 84/ 3 MIN REST
  • 8 1500M TIME TRIAL –
  • 10 HILLS
  • 11 10 – 12 MILES
  • 12 3X 1K WITH 2 MIN REST – 2.47/ 2.49/ 2.45
  • 13 1 HOUR EASY
  • 14 4X 400 – 68 PACE WITH 400 JOG
  • 16 MT SAC RELAYS – 3000M – 8:36.29 (3rd)
  • 17 HILLS
  • 18 10-12 MILES EASY
  • 19 1 HOUR EASY
  • 20 1600 – 4.35/ 1200 – 3.25/ 800 – 2.14/ 400 – 60 3 MIN REST over 2 hurdles
  • 22 20 x 200 with 30 sec rest 32-33 secs
  • 23 45 MIN EASY
  • 24 HILLS
  • 25 10 – 12 MILES EASY
  • 26 1500 – 4.20/3 MR/ 1K – 2.50/ 1MR/ 500 – 80 over 2 hurdles
  • 28 45 min easy with a few strides
  • 29 20 – 30 min easy with a few strides
  • 30 Stanford Invite 3000M S/C 8:24.88 (1st)

 May 2004

Ø2       10 – 12 miles easy

Ø3       1 hour easy with 8 min pick up

Ø4       3x 1k with 30 SR/ 2.55/2.56/2.55 jog 400

Ø           2x 1k with 30 SR/ 2.55/ 2.56       jog 400

           1x 1k – 2.46       over 2 hurdles

Ø5       1 hour easy with drills

Ø6       1 Hour easy

Ø7       1 hour easy

Ø8       HILLS           

Ø9       12 – 15 miles easy

Ø10     1 hour with a 8 min pick up

Ø11     1K – 2.50/ 1MR/ 2K – 5.55/ 2MR/3K – 9.13/ 3MR/2K –5.55/2MR/

1K – 2.48 – over 2 hurdles (9K of running)

Ø12     1 hour easy with some drills

Ø13     1 hour with a 8 min pick up

Ø14     1 hour easy

Ø15     HILLS

16 –      14 miles easy

17 –      1 hour with a 9 min pick up

18 –      1K – 2.43/ 3MR/ 400 – 62/ jog 5 min/ 1K – 2.43/ 3MR/ 400 – 59 over 2 hurdles per lap

19 –      1 hour easy with drills

20 –      1600 – 4.36/ 800 – 2.10/ 1600 – 4.36 with 4MR/ hurdles 1st & 3rd lap

21 –      1 hour easy

22 –      Hills

23 –      1 hour with a 9 min pick up

24 –      800 – 2.09/ 1600 – 4.30/ 800 – 2.07 with 4MR: hurdles 2nd & 4th lap

25 –      1 hour easy with drills

26 –      8x 200 – rest = 1.45/90/75/60/45/30/15 ave 31.4

27 –      1 hour easy

28 –      45 min easy

29 –      45 min warm up few strides

30 –      30 min warm – hamstrings sore – withdrew from Steeple – Stanford

 May 31st withdrew from Stanford Invitational – slight strain of hamstring

June 2004

June 1 – June 7          – Therapy plus light jogging

8 –        1 hour easy

9 –        2K – 5.41/ 1K – 2.49/ 3K – 5.40 with 3 MR

10 –      1 hour with a 5 min pick up

11 –      45 min easy

12 –      Hills

13 –      12 mile run

14 –      1 hour easy

15 –      1 hour with 3 x 4 min pick ups

16 –      1 hour easy

17 –      5x 1K with 2MR – 2.46/2.47/2.45/2.46/DNF over 3 hurdles

18 –      30 min easy with a few strides

19 –      5K road race at 6500 feet – 14.42

20 –      12 miles easy

21 –      1 hour easy with a few drills

22 –      1600 – 4.33/ 1200 – 3.19/ 800 – 2.10/ 400 – 60 with 3MR over 2 hurdles

23 –      1 hour easy with a few drills

24 –      800 – 2.07/ 8MR/ 600 – 91/6MR/ 400 – 57/4MR/ 200 – 28

25 –      45 min easy

26 –      Hills

27 –      12 miles easy run

 June-July 2004

                   14 Days before UK Trials     June 28 – July 11, 2004

1 – 1500 – 4.08/ 3MR/ 1K – 2.42/ 2MR/ 500 – 77 over 2 hurdles

2 – 1 hour easy (Travel to London)

3 –   4x 400 over hurdles 65 pace with 400 jog between

4 –   600 over hurdles 65 pace

5 –   45 min easy with a few strides

6 –   3000m S/C – Birmingham – 1st – 8:30.52 (2nd place 9:06)

7 –   1 hour run

8 –   1600 – 4.15/ 3MR/ 2x 200 – 29, 30 with 200 jog/ 3MR/ 1600 – 4.14

9 –   1 hour easy

10 –   4x 400 over hurdles with 400 jog ave 65

11 –   1 hour easy – supposed to have been a 600 at 65 pace pouring rain

12 –   45 min easy with a few strides

13 –   30 min warm up with a few strides

14 – – UK Trials – 1st – 8: 33.69 (2nd place – 8:39.44)

        July 2004 (continued)          

 12 –     Travel to Colorado Springs

13 – 16            Easy running

17 –      5K road race – 15.30 at 7000 feet

18 –      14 miles easy

19 –      1x 1k – 2.45 – quit workout still tired (5x 1k 2.50 with 1MR)

20 –      1 hour easy with some drills

21 –      8 x 400 with rest = 1.45/90/75/60/45/30/15 over 2 hurdles


22 –      1 hour easy with some drills

23 –      45 min easy

24 –      Hills – 20 x 35 sec – jog back

25 –      12 miles easy

26 –      1 hour easy with some drills

27 –      2K – 5.38/ 5MR/ 1K – 2.45/ 3MR/ 500 – 78 over 4 hurdles

28 –      1 hour easy

29 –      400 – 60/ 1200 – 3.19/ 400 – 60 with 4MR over 4 hurdles

30 –      45 min easy

31 –      Hills – 20 x 35 sec – jog back


21 Days before Olympic Race August 1 – August 21

 1          12 miles easy

2          1 hour easy with a few pick ups

3          800 – 2.12/700 – 1.54/600 –96/500 – 79/400 – 62/300 – 45/ 200 – 30 with 3MR over 2 hurdles per lap

4          1 hour easy with some drills

5          1600 – 4.26/ 800 – 2.07/ 1600 – DNF with 4 min rest over 4 hurdles 1st and 2nd laps

6          45 min easy

7          Hills 20 x 35 secs – jog back

8          14 miles easy

9          Travel to London – 45 min easy run

10        London – 1 hour with a few strides

11        Cyprus – 30 min easy

12        1 hour easy

13        1 hour with 6 x 150 pick ups (50 stride/50 accelerate/50 sprint)

14        2K TT full set of barriers – 5.26 (63.8/65.6/65.8/66.1/65.1)

15        4x 400 over hurdles 1MR – 62.2/61.9/61.5/61.7

16        45 min easy with 2x 200 pick ups

17        1 hour easy

18        800 over hurdles – 65-66

19        45 min easy with a few strides

20        20-30 min warm up with a few strides

21        Olympic Games – 8:28.35 5th place in prelims




Tony Chapman

Tony Chapman was the first ever Scottish National Athletics Coach.   He was not there to coach athletes but to coach coaches.   He also raised the status of coaches – not least by travelling round the country at the invitation of clubs to do some work with their athletes but more importantly to help club committees, coaches and trainers to improve their skills.   Unlike some of his successors, his car did not break down at Ingliston – he often made it all the way across the central belt and we saw him working at Scotstoun with Victoria Park members and also, on a different night, at Mountblow Recreation Ground with Clydesdale Harriers.   Any club that invited him was visited.   He died in 2010  and the following obituary by Sandy Sutherland, and the accompanying appreciation by Frank Dick, appeared in the first ever issue of PB in 2011.   Sandy’s obituary first.

It was the late John Rafferty, that doyen of Scotsman and Observer sportswriters who memorably borrowed a line from Keats’ famous sonnet  “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer”  to describe the impact HAL (Tony) Chapman had made on a young athletics coach back in the Fifties, who had previously been more interested in football.   That coach was AH (Alec) Dalrymple, the man who inspired me to take up athletics, having had his passion for athletics kindled by one of Chapman’s inspirational lectures.   But in truth Chapman, in his 12 years as Scotland’s national Athletics Coach, from 1949 till he resigned in 1961, set alight a whole generation of Scottish coaches and physical education teachers whose influence on the sport in the following decades is immeasurable.

Hugh Anthony Ledra Chapman was brought up in Plymouth (his father was a Rear-Admiral), attended Wellington School in Devon and saw service in the Royal Tank Regiment when his education was interrupted by World War II.   Author (he wrote “Track and Field Athletics” which appeared in 1961 to the contemporary acclaim of ‘quite possibly the best pocket book yet written on athletics’), coach, demonstrator, educator, lecturer and no mean discus thrower, having represented the Army in Hanover in 1946 where he threw 140′ 3″, this chunky but suave Englishman was endowed with great personal charm which helped him to implement the ground-breaking National Coaching Scheme.

I, like so many others, some of whom have kindly added their personal tributes to this sadly inadequate appreciation, also went on to benefit directly from Tony’s truly mind-opening talks at Scottish Schools coaching courses at Inverclyde and he continued to have an avuncular interest in my personal and athletics well-being long after he had moved on to pursue a career first with the Scottish Council for Physical Recreation (SCPR) and later with the Scottish Sports Council, from where he continued to assist the sport in various ways.

Frank Dick adds

Tony Chapman established our National Coaching Scheme as the first ever Scottish National Athletics Coach (and the second ever National Coach in any sport after the AAA appointed Geoff Dyson).    A giant of a man from Scottish Schools Easter Courses to teacher and coach development, to personal coaching excellence, he changed how Scotland thought about athletics and how it performed.   My personal debt to him was in his coaching when an athlete and his mentorship and guidance when following John Anderson as national coach.

Sandy Robertson one of Scotland’s longest serving and most experienced senior coaches, who interrupted his teaching career for a time to become National Coach for Malawi, maintains that he would never have achieved that post but for Chapman.

“He had tremendous proficiency as a lecturer, his explanations were marvellous and I’ve never seen clearer course notes – I spent a week at Inverclyde where he covered every event and it was a complete and utter knock-out.   I remember him bringing a 3’6″ hurdle into the small lecture room and then  going over it – I’d never seen it so close up.   He introduced me to PFI testing and the Harvard Step Test and brought in all of that interesting science.”


It seems a shame that after all the work done by Chapman, Anderson and Dick in particular but not excluding such as David Lease and Meg Stone to set up and encourage coach development that the present system of coach qualifications is held in rather less esteem.   As for Chapman’s coaching qualifications – well, I remember in the days when the route was from Assistant Club Coach, via Club Coach to Senior Coach there were those who criticised the necessity to have a rudimentary knowledge of all events at ACC level before starting to specialise in an event or event group.   It should be noted that the scheme implemented by Chapman and his staff included a qualification of  ‘Club Coach – All Events’.   That was where I and many other coaches started – the content was comprehensive and delivered fairly locally.   It was practical with an indispensable theoretical aspect.

Charles Bannerman

Chas and Jenny

Charles with daughter Jenny – in Inverness colours, of course!

Charles Bannerman is a name known in Scottish athletics for many things including coaching, journalism and broadcasting on sport, but these days possibly as a prolific poster on internet forums with insight, opinions and comments on all issues to do with athletics.   There is a lot more to him than that and he is living proof of a truth not often mentioned in the Press which is that Scottish athletics extends beyond the central belt although that’s not how those from the central belt usually see it.

When it was decided to hold the Scottish Cross-Country Relay Championships at Kinmylies in 1980 there were many who thought it was asking too much.   There were discussions, special club committee meetings and articles in the papers about why go all the way up there, how could they manage it, there should be a special train, team selection was difficult because a key runner had to work on Saturday morning and so on.   The event went off really well and was enjoyed by all those who were there.   Mind you, it didn’t go back there until 1989 and it hasn’t been back since.   This of course body swerved the question of how those from Inverness and further North managed to come to races in Glasgow, Edinburgh and their environs week after week for the entire year, every year.   Both these championships were organised by a man whose name is well-known in cross-country circles nationwide – Walter Banks, president of the SCCU in 1981/82.    Charles was asked about Walter whom he had cited as one of the men who had a big influence on him.

“The Banks had been close family friends for as long as I could remember and when Walter realised that I had a growing interest in athletics, he did a huge amount to encourage that in very many ways. That was tremendously influential.  I worked very closely with Walter for about 40 years and his input to athletics in the North was enormous.   At the 1980 national relay championships he put me in charge of the course and in 1989 the results. He attended his last meeting when he was in his mid 80s and not long retired from official duties, which included timekeeping.  I sat with him in the stand where, just for fun, he was taking his own times.   I unobtrusively scribbled down what he had for one 400 metre race to check it against the automatic timing.   The average error across the entire field was a mere 0.04 seconds!”

This all confirms, if confirmation were needed, that those outside the central belt are as enthusiastic about our sport as anyone in the land and work extremely hard not only to keep it alive but to develop it.    For those from the area who want to progress in the sport there are many hurdles to overcome and we can see from  Charles’s career in the sport what these hurdles are and how he overcame them.

In a very good article in the “Inverness Courier” he is described as “the ultimate multi-tasker” and it is probably how he manages to fit in everything he is involved in and still make an impact at national level.   As we look at his career it becomes clear how many strands intertwine all the way through.

Charles was brought up in Dalneigh in the west of Inverness and his career in athletics did not have an auspicious start. At primary school he was consistently last in the sports, even trailing in, he says, behind the lad who had a mild case of polio and wore a light caliper!   But athletics was appearing regularly on television where people could see top class athletics unavailable to them locally.   Charles’s developing and fundamental fascination with athletics, was fanned by the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, live by satellite for the first time.   That was the year of course that Scotland’s Fergus Murray and Ming Campbell competed for the British team.   Whether it was the impetus provided by the Games and other meetings shown in black and white on television, or simple maturity, or more likely a combination of both, Charles tells us that  “For some reason during early secondary, I acquired a modest athletic ability and eventually settled down at 400/800 (OK – 440 and 880 to start with!) although I competed at all distances in the 100 – 1500 range plus a little cross country and road racing. I first joined Inverness Harriers in 1969, I am now its longest serving member and have been a life member since 2007.”

Charles sat his Highers at Inverness Royal Academy in 1970 which was an auspicious year for Scottish athletics – the Commonwealth Games came to Scotland, to Edinburgh which was to be his choice of University.   It is impossible to think that he was not as inspired as the rest of Scotland by this event.   There was even an Inverness input.   In a report on the www.scottishdistancerunninghistory.scot website we read that

“There was an interesting Highland prelude to the 1970 Games when eleven athletics competitors from four Commonwealth countries took part in the Inverness Highland Games on Saturday, 11th July, as part of their preparations for the Meadowbank event.   The appearance was negotiated by the North of Scotland AAA officials including the late Donald Duncan, President of the SAAA in 1957.  

The squad was managed by former 440 yards world record holder Herb McKenley who was then Jamaican team coach.   From Jamaica there were 400m runners Leon Priestley and Eshinan Samuel and high jumpers Yvonne Sanders and Andrea Bruce.   The Canadian contingent consisted of endurance athletes Ray Verney, Andy Boychuk and Dave Ellis along with shot putter Brian Caulfield, while reigning Empire and Commonwealth decathlon champion Royal Wiliiams and hammer thrower Warwick Nicoll represented New Zealand.

Completing the eleven strong squad was Scotland’s own 800m specialist Mike Maclean who returned a time of 3:57.2 in the 1500m to defeat Verney.   Maclean also returned a surprisingly modest and comfortable 52.8.  

North distance running legend Alastair Wood moved to the very bottom of his range to take on Canadian opposition in the 5000m where he recorded 14:56 on a grass track whioch had suffered from an extremely wet summer.   He eventually conceded defeat to Boychuk and Ellis who crossed the line together in 14:41.  

The turf was wet enough for Saunders and Bruce not to risk High jumping but they instead contested the 200m which Saunders won in 25.8.  

Nicoll won the wire hammer, the only event of its kind on the North Amateur games circuit at the time, with a throw of 56.29m, nine metres clear of former Scottish internationalist Alex Valentine of Elgin AAC and RNAS Lossiemouth.

However the technical departure to the Scots hammer appears to have got the better of Nicoll who, deprived of the capacity to turn, had to concede defeat to Tony Cohen of Inverness Harriers.”

The next day, the NSAAA officials acted as ‘taxi drivers’ to get the athletes back down south where they were due to compete at another meeting over the then customary pre-Games distances of 150, 300 and 600m on the black Rubkor track at Grangemouth.

Ian Tasker, who wrote the “Courier” report,  was at that time a competitor himself but has just retired from handicapping after 43 years in the job.

After leaving the Academy in 1971, Charles went to Edinburgh University where he gained a first-class honours degree in chemistry.   The Courier reports that his multi-tasking skills were in evidence when at University; he told them “I’m quite good at using a lot of short spaces of time to do different things. For instance, when I was at university and exams were coming up, if I was waiting for a bus I would just open up the folder at the bus stop and revise a couple of lectures.”    The University experience was important, he says, in that  “I realised that there was a whole world of athletics outside the circuit of Highland Games which used to be such a limiting influence in the North. It is that limiting influence, which held back North athletics for so long, which has left me with a lifelong wariness of over exposure to Highland Games.

However I never really surpassed mediocrity in performance, failing ever to reach the finals of the Scottish Schools or SAAA senior championships and ending my track career with PBs of 52.4/1:58.7 plus a single North District and a single EUAC 400m title.   When I returned to Inverness to teach Chemistry in the mid 70s, I immediately acquired a desire to coach and this happened to coincide with very rapid development at Inverness Harriers.   There was a mission underway among four or five of us to modernise the sport in the North by removing it from the backward influence of the Highland Games and instead applying the likes of what I had learned in my Edinburgh years.
 In 1980 I stopped running completely in favour of coaching and administration and remained totally inactive for almost the entire decade.”
This was an important decision because he could now influence many more athletes than he could ever have done as a runner, and this was to the benefit of Inverness Harriers, the North of Scotland and Scottish athletics generally.   The coaching talent revealed itself fairly quickly.

Fraser, Neil

Neil Fraser

Charles coached his first Scottish champions, including Neil Fraser (Senior Boys’ high jump), in 1978 and Neil was also the first schools internationalist he worked with when he gained representative honours in 1979.    In 1981, and by then a hurdler, the future national record holder was one of his first two senior internationalists.    Neil’s conversion from high jump to hurdles, which in the pre-Queens Park track era involved paving stones and a soft blaes surface, was interesting!   In 1981 Neil began a course at Heriot Watt University and Charles, while still retaining some input, was pleased to have his old coach Bill Walker to pass Neil on to.   By the time he had finished competing, Neil had won the SAAA 110 metres hurdles in 1983, 86, 87 and 88, been second in 1981 and 84 and third in 1991, he also had a full set of gold, silver and bronze for the indoor 60m hurdles and set a Scottish record for 110 hurdles in 1987 with a time of 14.11 seconds which stood until 1994.

Charles points out that he learned a lot about events he had never contemplated coaching from following the demands of athletes he was coaching.   This is almost identical to the coaching career pattern of many top class coaches who utilise every means of improving their knowledge of the sport by every means possible – reading, talking and discussing the events for which they are responsible, attending meetings and responding to situations that arise.   By 1981 he had a group of over 20 sprinters, hurdlers and high jumpers.   And in 1981 one of the new arrivals was Jayne Barnetson who would go on to become one of the country’s best ever athletes.   Four years later, Jayne became National high jump record holder and, 30 years on, still holds that record.   Jayne cleared 1.88 three times while Charles was coaching her and 1.91 in 1989 after she had started training with Scottish National Coach David Lease.    Jayne was also his first GB internationalist.   If we look at her record while she was with him, we note that she won the SWAAA High Jump in 1985 and 87 and was second in 1984, 86 and 88, took second in the WAAA’s Junior High Jump in 1985  and also won the heptathlon in 1988.   Jayne’s 1.88m in 1985 was a new Scottish record,  and the  1.91m has yet to be beaten by any Scottish high jumper.

His other Scottish senior internationalist of 1981 was high jumper Tommy Leighton and Charles also coached the first Scottish club Junior Women’s Under 15 team to break 50 seconds in the 4 x 100m (49.9 twice in 1980) as well as the Inverness Harriers club team which won the senior women’s title in 1981.   When asked about it, he points out that  “the leading light of that senior team was one of my very first sprinters who is now Dianne Chisholm whom I have mentored as a coach as and when over the years. Dianne had the distinction of coaching her own high jumper daughter Rachael MacKenzie to Glasgow 2014 so I therefore class myself as Rachael’s athletic grandfather!”

Barnetson, JayneJayne Barnetson

By now Charles was established in his career as a science teacher, coaching and learning about sprinting, hurdling, high jumping and  other events as well as being a member of the club committee and became chairman of the North District of the SAAA in 1980, an office he held until 1986 which he says  enabled him to play a role in modernising athletics up here.    In addition to the coaching and administrative involvement, he qualified as a Grade 2 starter and marksman, held various club committee posts and founded the Inverness Harriers Open Meeting in 1976, the year he also became athletics correspondent for the “Inverness Courier.  If you want a job done, ask a busy man!  A wee recap in case you missed it:

Coach of international standard athletes – fairly senior administrator at district level as well as locally – official as starter and marksman – club committee worker – sports journalist – and organising the Inverness Harriers Open Meeting.   All at the same time.

None of this went unnoticed south of the highland line: in 1985 Charles was approached by Scottish National Coach David Lease who offered him the post of Staff Coach for high jump.    Of this, he says  “That was an interesting offer since, due to a combination of work commitments and remoteness from Largs, my formal qualification never actually progressed past Assistant Club Coach for which there wasn’t even an exam! However I have always maintained that you learn far more during a couple of hours in the pub with people like Frank Dick, Bill Walker and David Lease, my own three biggest mentors, than you will at any official course.  I turned down David’s offer since my son was expected and I had therefore decided to wind my group up and withdraw from more or less all athletics commitments at the end of the 1985 season.   I was probably by this stage also suffering from a bit of burnout.   The one exception was that I continued with Jayne to the 1986 Commonwealth Games and World Juniors.”

David Lease was a Welshman with a very quiet demeanour who was known and respected by all Scotsmen.   On one occasion when he was with a Scottish team which had lost the pole vaulter, David filled in and competed for Scotland.   He knew what was happening in athletics all over Scotland better than many who had lived here all their lives and it was indeed an honour when he approached Charles.


David Lease

Charles became a freelance sports reporter for the BBC in 1985 but only had limited involvement in active athletics when his two children were very young but began to train and compete again in 1989.   This involved a combination of track and road 10Ks where, about to become a Vet, he managed 37:36.    (which is incidentally two and a half minutes slower than his daughter’s current PB).   You can turn runners into coaches but you can’t stop them wanting to run and Charles still runs as frequently as his aching connective tissue allows.   He would, he says, love to dip below 50 minutes for 10K once again (best for 2015 is 51:31).

His broadcasting career continued to develop and in 1994, when Inverness Caley Thistle and Ross County joined the Scottish Football League, he began to do live match day radio and television reports.

He couldn’t stay away from coaching for long and during the 90s he dabbled in short term coaching projects such as advising Mel Fowler on how to prepare for the European Police 400m championships whilst based in darkest Skye and helping David Barnetson with an experiment in 400 hurdles.   Mel was an interesting athlete who had started his career as a long and triple jumper with Victoria Park AAC and was already an internationalist when he joined the police and went north.   David was Jayne’s brother and a top athlete in his own right, winning the SAAA high jump three times, being second five times and third twice, with victories indoors and in the pentathlon.   His best 400m hurdles was 52.6 seconds in 1996.   So, although not responsible for their entire careers he was working with top quality athletes and, basically, taking up where he had left off.   He was however not involved in the nitty-gritty of full time coaching and came back into coaching in 1998.

The club was short of coaching specialists  and Charles spotted two extremely talented youngsters – Vicky O’Brien and Lesley Clarkson – and decided to take the plunge into coaching again. His Assistant Club Coaching qualification had lapsed but Charles received discretionary reinstatement to what has nowadays evolved into Level 3.   [Coaching qualifications at that time had three levels – ACC, Club Coach and Senior Coach.   The standards were high and the written examinations at Club and Senior level difficult.  On one occasion when Frank Dick was taking a group of Russian coaches round Britain, these professional coaches found it difficult to understand how amateur coaches could have the level of knowledge the senior coaches in Britain had].

The following year Vicky O’Brien won the Schools International long jump and the Scottish under 17 title with 5.95 and gained a GB under 18 selection. Lesley Clarkson became AAAs junior indoor and British Universities outdoor 400m champion in 2001, with a time (54.44) which qualified her for the European Juniors, in advance of making the 4 x 400 pool for the Manchester Commonwealth Games.

David Lease had maybe left a note for his successor or Meg Stone was really au fait  with what was happening in the country and was extremely encouraging, and gave Charles an opportunity as sprints coach with the Scottish team at the 2000 Loughborough International.   He worked as a coach for a whole Commonwealth Games four year cycle and withdrew from coaching until 2008 when his daughter, Jenny, made a delayed comeback to the sport as a road runner.   He is currently coaching Jenny and thinks he will stick with that.   Jenny has a series of marks ranging from 2:20 for 800m through to 58:51 for 10 miles via 9:51 for 3K and 35:15 for 10K.

Meg Ritchie Stone

Meg Stone

Away from the track, he is membership secretary for Inverness Harriers, a post he has had since he retired from teaching in 2013.   Having joined the Harriers in 1969, he has been involved in the sport for over 50 years now and has had time to think on the changes that have taken place over that period and how he feels the sport should be developed.   I asked him for his thoughts on where the sport is going and, maybe where it should be going.  This is is reply.

“My philosophy of athletics comprises a set up with clubs firmly at its centre, dedicated by commitment and hard work to achieving the highest standards possible for athletes all abilities – Olympians down to the most modest wearer of a club vest.

As a result I have little time for distractions such as Jogscotland, over priced city road races, Highland Games, Sportshall and Fun Athletics, especially distractions which dilute commitment and competitive ethos. The critical criteria for me, therefore, do not relate to elitist performance standards but to the values and attitudes within a competitive sport. I therefore welcome anyone of any standard who is prepared to pull on a club vest and compete.”

Meanwhile, where is he now?  Charles continues his broadcasting activities with shinty having been added to his responsibilities.   He has won awards as a sportswriter for his journalism at the Highland Media Awards ceremonies in both 2001 and 2005 and that continues.   He has written six books over the years including  “Against All Odds”, the official account of the controversial Inverness football merger, and “Maroon and Gold”, the history of Inverness Harriers up to Glasgow 2014.   We have already mentioned his post as membership secretary of Inverness Harriers and his coaching of daughter Jenny as a road runner plus his own continued quest for a sub-50 10K   – if you want a job done, ask a busy man!


Brian McAusland: … and afterwards

BMA Coatbridge

Leaving the track at Coatbridge – I’m hiding behind Charlie Thomson and Jim Orr.

(If you look closely you’ll see Douglas McDonald, James Austin, Derek McGinley (Clydesdale), Alex Gilmour, Sam Wallace, Pat Morris, Tam Rhodes and Bob Anderson (Cambuslang), Graeme Getty (Bellahouston), Hugh Forgie (Law), Mike Gallacher (Maryhill) and Alex Chalmers (Springburn)


Second : as an administrator 

I came out of the Army in 1958 and was on the Committee in 1961.   It was a very different Committee from most in recent years.   First, it was always well attended, second there was almost always competition to get on to the Committee at the AGM and third the top jobs were all held by experienced members.   You had to wait your turn – which might never come if the others didn’t think you would make a good Secretary, Treasurer or President.   I was unlucky that my first important job in the club came when club treasurer Jim Shields was asked to go to India by Singer’s and one January evening I had a rapid course in book keeping in Jim’s house in Vanguard Street.   The job lasted until the AGM when Jim Sweeney took over and I became Assistant Secretary for a year then Secretary – the first of four stints in the post.   I didn’t mind doing it because most of the work was done in your own time and didn’t interfere with training.   So long as you were organised it was straightforward enough.   I represented the club on the Dunbartonshire Committee with David Bowman for two years and attended SAAA AGM’s as club representative for several years.

In 1976 it was suggested by David Bowman and agreed by the Committee to put my name forward for membership of the SAAA and at the AGM in 1977 I was elected on to the General Committee of that body.   That involved at least one night a month at Committee Meetings which alternated between Glasgow and Edinburgh.   I also served on the West District Committee and the Joint Coaching Sub Committee as well as on a couple of ad hoc sub committees.   Again I learned a lot about organisation – for instance I was convener of the Senior National Decathlon Championships for three consecutive years.   I stood down in 1980 because of the pressure of work, club commitments and family duties – Liz was 10 and David was 8 and we were thinking of moving house at that point.   Thereafter I served on the club committee off and on for the next twenty five years or so.   I was lucky enough to hold the posts of President, Secretary, Assistant Secretary and Captain more than once each as well as the very short period as Treasurer.

BMA, SK, AN With Sean Kyle and Alex Naylor at the BMC Conference, Jordanhill, in 1985

Third : as a coach

In 1961 the continuing saga inside the club was the lack of  coaching and coaches.   A meeting was held and several members went on coaching courses as a result.   At that time there was a qualification for ‘Club Coach: All Events’ and I did that one.   I then started coaching the Ladies Section where I was lucky enough to work with some excellent athletes such as Lynn Dollin, Ann Hannah and Carol Campbell. All went well until I married in 1966 and handed the job over to a very good group of coaches.   The next coaching venture came when Robert McWatt, George Carlin and Dougie MacDonald asked me to coach them in the mid 1970’s.   That went well and Robert picked up two Scottish Junior International vests as well as a good collection of championship medals and Dougie became President of Glasgow University with a collection of Scottish Universities’ international vests.   The group grew to include many good club runners like Charlie McIntosh, Paul Ross, James Austin and Peter Halpin.

We did our training as a group on Wednesdays at Coatbridge so as not to take the guys away from club nights on Tuesday and Thursday.   When Frank Horwill (founder of the British Milers Club) recommended to Hugh Forgie of Law and District AAC (a 3:48 1500 metres runner/1:53 800 man) that he train with our group it added a new dimension to the coaching.   His presence not only provided a new challenge to the group but also brought along others of a very high standard such as Alex Gilmour and Eddie Stewart of Cambuslang.   At one point there were ten current Scottish Senior Road and Cross Country Internationalists training with the group. I had my first GB Internationalist when Sam Wallace (who had twice won the British Junior Indoor 1500 metres) was picked for the Under 20 match against Poland and East Germany.   The higher profile saw me asked by Alex Naylor in 1986 to take on the post of Scottish Staff coach for 5000 and 10000 metres events.   I did that and my education as a coach progressed.

Meanwhile I was Scottish Secretary for the British Milers Club putting on six or seven paced races a year designed to help runners get fast times and in one of these Paul Forbes set a new Scottish All Comers record for the 800 metres.   The BMC involvement meant travelling south of the Border for coaching week ends and actually working with squads of top class athletes from other countries.   I was emboldened to hold the BMC’s AGM and Training Weekend at Jordanhill with Peter Coe (Seb’s coach and father), Jimmy Hedley (Steve Cram’s coach), Sean Kyle (from Ireland), Malcolm Brown, Alex Naylor and of course Frank Horwill all in attendance and all of those who came (over 100) profited from the experience.   I was made President for a year  and then life member of the BMC.   But the work in the club and with the Scottish group was taking so much time that I had to stop the actual hands on stuff with the BMC to concentrate on that although I did more travelling – almost once a month – to Stretford for the BMC Tuesday night races with many athletes and not just the very top men.   This contact with the best coaches in Britain was invaluable.

Domestically, I was asked by National Coach Andy Vince to move over from the 5000/10000 metres job and become Scottish Coach for the 800/1500 metres which I did for three years.   Then in the mid 90’s I was invited to be Group Coach for all the Endurance Events from 800 to Marathon (and including Race Walking of which I knew nothing!)   The money paid at that time was £240 a year which you could not claim in one go; it was £120 at six monthly intervals – it really didn’t cover the phone calls – and you had to provide receipts.   All the Staff Coaches were in effect subsidising the SAAA’s.

 The one assisted the other.   For instance, via the BMC I managed to get Steve Cram to come to Largs and speak to a group of younger Scottish athletes (ie Under 20 and Under 17).   Then when the BMC Grand Prix series of five meetings devoted entirely to Middle Distance events started, it took two years of hard work and planning to get them to hold their final race every year in Scotland at Scotstoun in Glasgow.   The first year had seven men’s 800’s, four men’s 1500’ three women’s 800’s, two women’s 1500’s and a 3000 metres for each of them.   It was only after I resigned and the races were organised by Scottish Athletics in Edinburgh on a Friday night instead of a Saturday afternoon, that the momentum was lost and the meeting was lost to Scotland.   The point was that in both cases BMC contacts were being used to the benefit of Scottish middle distance running.

 When the organisation of Scottish Athletics was reshuffled in 1996/97 I stood down and did not apply for any subsequent post at national level preferring to work more locally.

Another Career: Clydesdale Harriers Men’s Team Manager

BMA Team Manager

Some of the Men’s team in 1994

I became team manager in about 1983 and kept it until 2002.   Realising that it was an impossible job for one man, I decided I’d be a co-ordinator rather than an overall selector and only deal directly with the Middle Distance group (partly so that I could give my own athletes the races they needed at any particular moment) and Billy Hislop took charge of the sprinters.   We then gathered a very good group of coaches to work with us; Scott Govan became a Senior High Jump Coach and a hurdles coach, David Gibson took up pole vault coaching and was Scottish Staff Coach for the event for a while, Bobby Bell took over the Throws and specialised in Shot and Hammer.   The coaches did a lot of their own recruiting and selected their sections of the team which did superbly well.   Without all the help it would not have been a success: at that time I was working with four or five really top class runners who needed a lot of maintenance, serving as Scottish Coach for one event or another and doing a lot of lecturing at various venues and of course there was the day job and family commitments.

And that’s it.   I enjoyed it all – mind you, I just wish I were running in races in the club vest again, that was the best time of them all!   Whatever fun and pleasure you get in athletics – and it is considerable – I was probably happiest just running and racing with people I liked and respected.

BMA R Shields

 Handing over to Barefoot Bobby Shields in the Midlands Relay, 1962



Brian Scobie

Scobie Westerlands

Brian Scobie winning at Westerlands, Glasgow, in early 60’s 

Brian Scobie (born on 16th May 1944) was a very good runner who represented  Maryhill Harriers and then ran for Glasgow University AC in the 1960’s, before becoming a very highly regarded and much respected coach in the 1980’s, 90’s and into the 21st century.   Brian ran while at school and his father was also interested in athletics.   Living in Milngavie, he was eligible for the Dunbartonshire team in the Inter-Counties Youth Sports which was an annual athletics contest between the young athletes from local government authorities and was not a school or club based competition – athletes from schools, clubs, youth clubs, youth organisations, and whatever else were eligible so long as they had demonstrated ability.   Brian was only eleven months younger than Lachie Stewart from the Vale of Leven (also eligible for Dunbartonshire) and their paths crossed frequently in these sports.   With age groups in two year bands, they were in direct opposition every second year.   They competed together several times in that context.   Like many another, Brian describes himself as a ‘would-be footballer’ who ran a bit in the summer but did no formal training.   He did have a paper round however on six days a week with a circuit of about 6 miles.   Sometimes he cycled the route, sometimes he ran but from second to sixth years at secondary he was covering, one way or another, 30 miles in total.

In summer 1961-62 – the year before he went up to University – he was training with Queen’s Park FC Youth team at Hampden where they were not allowed even a sight of a ball until they had done 12 laps of the old cinder track.   Then there was a series of sprint sets – eg from one corner flag to the other, then from the tunnel to the corner flag, then from the edge of the eighteen yard box to the corner flag.   This, together with the school PE teacher he had, meant he won the County 440 yards and then finish second in the Scottish Schools 880 yards.   At that point he joined Maryhill  Harriers and started training with Tom Williamson’s group.     He gained a reputation as a good competitor who could frequently win tactical races.    Jim McLatchie the very good miler and middle distance runner from Ayrshire, moved to Milngavie and immediately the two started doing a lot of their training together, regularly training with the girls of Glasgow Western LAC under Tom Williamson’s guidance in the west of Glasgow.   If we take a look at his time with GUAC it is quite impressive.   He did not make the schools international mainly because, despite a good racing record, his times were not as fast as some others.   He had run in many highland games meetings and became a good tactical runner but tactical success doesn’t always mean fast times.   The performances of others such as Kenny Oliver and Davie Hendry in Dublin also rightly counted with the selectors of course.   He ran in a floodlit international; at Ibrox in September with such as Hugh Barrow in the Scottish team in a race won by England’s Morris Jefferson.

Brian first ran for Glasgow University in winter 1962-63.   Previously a summer runner, he had no experience of cross-country before joining the Hares & Hounds.  His initiation to the arts of cross-country running came when he ran the team trial, then went with the club to Belfast the following week where he was a very good third on the Saturday (27th) and then they went on to Dublin on Monday 30th where he was second to team-mate Cameron Shepherd, beaten by 12 seconds but four seconds ahead of Shillington of Trinity College. The first real domestic race with them was the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay in November 1962.   He ran on the eighth stage and held third place – holding off Chic Forbes (VPAAC) and Les Meneely (Shettleston Harriers) to win a bronze medal.   His next run in a winter classic was in the Nigel Barge Road Race on 5th January, 1963, when he finished 36th and third counter in a GU team that finished fourth and just out of the medals.     A week later in a match against Edinburgh University at Garscadden in Glasgow, he was fifth and third counter in a Glasgow team that won 26 – 52.  On 19th January he was sixth counter for the university in the Midlands District championship when he was 29th for the second placed Glasgow squad.   In action for the fourth consecutive week, he was in the winning team in a match in Glasgow against Aberdeen AAC, Aberdeen University, University, St Andrews and Dundee Hawkhill finishing eighth and fourth scoring runner for the University.   In a race featuring Calum Laing, Alastair Wood, Steve Taylor and Allan Faulds, eighth was not a bad run and the official history of GU AC comments that it was a confirmation of his return to form.   These races were the lead-in to the Scottish University championships on 2nd February when he was tenth, third counter in the team which finished second to Edinburgh.   In the National cross-country championships for Glasgow University on 23rd February, 1963, he finished twenty second for the team that won the bronze medals with 119 points behind Edinburgh University (49 pts) and Edinburgh Southern Harriers (91 Pts).

Brian ran over the summer and on 20th April finished first in the 880 yards in a match with Edinburgh University finishing in 1:59.5, assisting the Glasgow team to an 88 – 45 victory.   Although he undoubtedly raced al that summer, he was too young and too inexperienced to take on the many ‘big beasts’ competing in the country’s middle distance events – an area where Scotland was particularly strong at that time with runners like Lachie Stewart, Ian McCafferty, Graeme Grant, Dick Hodelet, Duncan Middleton, Fergus Murray and many more.

Season 1963 – 64 was a better one for him.  Running for the Hares & Hounds over the following winter, Scobie ran in the team trials on 19th October, 1963, and finished fifth behind such strong runners as Allan Faulds, Dick Hartley, Calum Laing and Jim Bogan with Dick Hodelet sixth.  A cutting from a University paper said that “the reprobate Scobie finished fifth as expected in 41:05.”    Not a regular in the first team, he ran in the Edinburgh to Glasgow in November 1963 on the short third stage and pulled the team from seventh to sixth.  Followed by Dick Hodelet who picked up another two places, the University scribes felt that they had both run very well.   On 23rd November at Kings Buildings, Edinburgh, in a match against Aberdeen University, Edinburgh University, St Andrews University and Edinburgh Southern Harriers, Scobie finished eighth – second Glasgow Scoring runner for the team which finished second to Edinburgh University.   On 7th December, he was second in a match against St Andrews to be second counter in 37:20 for the winning University team.   Into the New Year and Scobie was third in 38:08 to be second scorer in the winning team against Edinburgh U H&H over a six and three quarter mile trail.  A week later on 18th January  in the Midland District Championships he was twelfth and second scorer for the fifth placed team.  On 25th January it was back to Aberdeen to meet Aberdeen University, Aberdeen AAC, St Andrews University and Dundee Hawkhill over 6 miles of road and country where Brian finished third individual and second Glasgow man in the winning team.   On 1st February in the Scottish Universities Championships Glasgow won the team race with Brian Scobie in sixth place after seven miles of road and country.   Later in February he ran in the Junior National and finished twenty third in the Glasgow squad that was eighth.   At the club AGM on 27th April, 1964, Cameron Shepherd the club captain made his report in which he commented on the fine running of Calum Laing, Allan Faulds, Brian Scobie and Terry Kerwin and followed this up by saying that Brian Scobie had had an exceptional season and the Club was very disappointed that he had not been awarded the Blue for which he had been nominated.   It was however awarded the following year.

There are of course team contests on the track in the form of relays and Brian, a good team player, was in the winning teams for the 4  x  440 yards championship in 1963 (3:19.3) and 1964 (3:19.1) and ran the half mile leg of the winning team in the Mile Medley Relay in 1964 (3:36.6).


As the winter work would have led him to a high level of fitness, Brian began the summer season on 2nd May in a match between Glasgow University, St Andrews University and Queen’s University, Belfast, at Westerlands.   Running in the Mile he was second to Glasgow team mate J Wilson who won in 4:24.8.   A week later in the University’s confined championships he was third in the Mile, won by Dick Hodelet in 4:33.8 with Ray Baillie second, and second in the Three Miles, won by Calum Laing in 15:34.7.   As in 1963, the very high standard of competition in his favoured distances was so high that he did not appear in any of the other championships that year – not District, British Universities nor SAAA.   Nevertheless by the end of the season he was ranked 14th in Scotland over 880y with a best time of 1:55.6.

The first winter classic is the Edinburgh to Glasgow relay and in season 1964-65 Brian Scobie ran on the first stage and finished seventh.  The rest of team failed to hold this place and the team was fifteenth.   In the District Championships,  Scobie finished twenty second and the University team was fifth, and again the official history comments on the individual performances of Scobie and Shepherd.   Both were selected to run in the race against the UAU , and Scobie along with Barclay Kennedy and Ray Baillie was selected to run for Scottish Universities against a Scottish Cross-Country team.   He was, with four others, awarded First Team Colours and the report goes on to say “The outstanding member of the Hares and Hounds   over the season had undoubtedly been Brian Scobie; this was recognised by his winning of the Esslemont and McCulloch Trophies and the award of a Blue.”   He had been captain that winter and in his report he commented on the drop in standard of team performances following the graduation of several first team members.   Citing Barclay Kennedy as an example he said “that no-one could claim that Barclay was built as a cross country runner, and yet he had reached the standard of a Scottish Universities’ Select.”   He stepped down as captain at that meeting at the end of the winter season.

After this excellent winter, he started the next summer concentrating on what many felt was his best distance, the half mile.   On 24th April, 1965  Brian Scobie was part of a Glasgow team that defeated Aberdeen University in Glasgow.   He won the 880 yards to get the season off to a good start and the ‘Glasgow Herald’ reported:  “Bill Ewing of Aberdeen was well contained in the 880 yards by BWM Scobie (Glasgow University) who gives every indication of being an even better runner than he was last year.   Scobie had the race in control from the start and led Ewing over the finishing line by about five yards.”      On 1st May in Belfast against Queen’s, Belfast, and St Andrew’s, Scobie was again out in the half mile.  It was a windy day, witness this on the 880 yards, “After allowing lesser mortals in the 880 yards to act as hares, BWM Scobie (Glasgow) broke away with half a lap to go and won in 2:01.2, a time that on any other day but Saturday he would readily have scorned.”   Only one week later was the Glasgow University AC club championship and it was again a day of strong winds, so strong that the officials allowed the 100m competitors to run with the wind rather than against it.   Pity there wasn’t the same opportunity for the half milers – but Brian Scobie won the title anyway in 1:58.9 and the Mile in 4:38.1.   On the last Saturday in May, Scobie was third in the West District 880 yards behind Graeme Grant and Mike McLean – not a disgrace to be behind these two fine runners.     By the end of the season he had a best of 1:54.6 which ranked him sixteenth in Scotland.

I have spoken to several of his contemporaries at University who have all – without exception – said that he did not achieve anything like his potential as an athlete before graduating.

Scobie London 86

London Marathon, 1986: Brian Scobie A96

Brian moved to Leeds as an assistant lecturer in English in Leeds University in 1969 and stayed there until 2001 – a period of 32 years.   It was over this period that he developed his coaching skills and worked with many athletes of genuine quality – notably in the 1980’s when his squad of endurance athletes, particularly marathon runners, was arguably the best in Britain.   Athletes in the squad included

Veronique Marot, who was twice British record-holder, winner London Marathon, 2nd New York Marathon, three times winner of Houston Marathon (’86, ’89 and ’91)

*   Angie Pain Hulley, two Commonwealth Games for England (6th and 3rd), A European Championship competitor, a World Championships runner and an Olympian

*   Sheila Catford,  Scottish Internationalist, winner of the Glasgow Marathon and Commonwealth Games competitor.

*   Sarah Rowell, World Student Games marathon winner, second in London Marathon, third in the Columbus Marathon in Ohio and 14th in the Olympic marathon in Los Angeles

*   Jill Clarke, world student marathon winner and 2:39:42 was fastest GB marathon debut until Paula Radford in 2002.

Julie Holland, currently number 24 on the UK all-time list for 10000m with 32:47:48

*   Sandra Arthurton, an outstanding cross-country runner, multi international appearances.

* Peter Whitehead who finished fourth in the World Marathon Championship (interesting article at www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/sport/other-sport/athletics/merseysides-100-olympians-no-60-3345933 )

* John Sherban – Commonwealth Games athlete

There are many more and those cited have all done much, much more that can be noted in this profile of their coach, Brian Scobie.   At this point he himself made a come-back to competitive athletics but at a much further distance than in his GUAC days – marathon running no less.   His first run at the distance was in the inaugural London Marathon in 1981 with some of his club mates in a time just outside 2:36.   He ran marathons very well indeed.  He ran London in 2:24 and 2:23 with his very best being 2:21:50 in London in 1984.     In 1986 the Scottish ranking lists had him at the age of 42 with marks of 30:52.8 for 10000m, and 2:24:14 for the marathon.    But at a time when the ‘marathon boom’ was in full swing and times were all, Brian was still a competitive runner and had two notable marathon victories under his belt.   Both were in the Horsforth Marathon.   The first victory was ion the second race in the series in 1982 in 2:29:09  from a field of 488 starters.  Two years later he won in 2:27:06.   The time in ’82 was a record by 3 seconds but the 1984 victory took more than two minutes from his own record.   That record still stands.  The 80’s was a good decade for him and after the two Horsforth victories he won the Commonwealth Games vets 25 K in 1986, the Scottish veterans cross-country in both ’86 and ’87 and then later in ’87 won the masters category in Houston in 2:30:59.   No small achievement – the Houston Marathon started in 1972 and by 1987 there were thousands running every year with the winner in ’87 being South Africa’s Derrick May in 2:11:51.

It is of interest to note that at this point in his career he was back working with his old Glasgow University athletics team mate Craig Sharp.   Of this relationship Brian says:   “Craig Sharp was President when I was running for Glasgow University. In 1965 I won the trophy that he had presented a year earlier. My subsequent re-connection with him was when he was heading the newly-created British Olympic Medical Centre, in Uxbridge. In the late 1980s we had a number of professional contacts in relation to my efforts to prepare Veronique for the Worlds and Olympics 1990-1992. Craig was very knowledgeable and very accessible and helpful at every point, friendly and assiduous. Through him I had a mobile lab-van trackside in Leeds at one point, doing lactate field-tests. (Try that nowadays!) So Craig was a big and positive influence for me from the 1960s to the 1990s.”

Brian Scobie

Brian Scobie, the coach.

Into the twenty first century and Brian Scobie is still working as hard as ever – that his work is successful is seen by some of the positions held:

From March 2003 to 2009 he was a Senior Performance Coach for UK Athletics before taking a post as Sprints Coach at Leeds Met University, a post which he held for a year.   He then became an Area Coach Mentor, Endurance, for England Athletics  in May 2011, a position which he still holds.   What does it entail?   “Mentor to Endurance Coaches in Yorkshire and Humber on behalf of the Athletics governing body in England; he has taken the post on a part-time consultancy basis.   He is required to manage the England Athletics Area Endurance Coach Development Centre which is based at Leeds Metropolitan University.  It involves organising and structuring all forms of coach education and speaking at venues across this huge part of the north of England. If we look at Linked In, his talents include Blind Sport Development, Paralympic athletics, Sprint Speed Coach, Marathon Coach, Endurance Coach.   He has written on all aspects of coaching, several available on the web – eg www.sportscoachuk.org/sites/default/files/CE-Does-Disability-Make-Difference.pdf on the coaching of athletes with a disability.

In the context of working with athletes with a disability he works with Tanni-Grey Thomson and has been described as ‘her boss’ in her new job of identifying talent among those with a disability.   He has also worked as Head Coach of the UK Athletics Paralympic Team.     The involvement with Blind and paralympic sport should maybe be looked at and I asked Brian about it:

“As a result of getting fully engaged in the British Blind Sport project that John Anderson had invited me to be involved in from about 1982, I took a team to the 1984 paralympic event.   I was co-managing with John Bailey who was unfortunately stretchered off the plane in New York with a suspected heart attack.   So I had to manage and coach that very strong team at the event in Long Island.   The event management was poor in many ways and I found myself battling heavily n technical meetings, etc, and having to raise issues for non-English speakers.   As a result, I made friends but also some enemies.   In the end it led to my involvement in the development and growth of blind sports in general within the governing body, IBSA.   By the Atlanta Games I was the Technical Director, responsible for about 16 sports across five continents.   In the early years of this involvement I also managed and coached Visually Impaired athletics but relinquished much of that role due to conflicts of interest.   I was offered a post within UKA to establish the British team for the 2000 paralympics but was reluctant to quit my University post.”

And it didn’t stop there.   Brian worked for a time as a sports development consultant.   Many of the contracts he was involved with were funded by the Spanish organisation for the blind which traded under the acronym of ONCE, which translates as Spanish Blind Association.   He undertook a number of projects with them and their partners in promoting disability sports.   This not only took him to Africa and countries in Eastern Europe but led to his designing a programme for the UK to which he was later appointed as head.   He was also involved with the IAAF and delivered a programme for developing countries at the World Championships in Lille.

Brian is still coaching club athletes, and he coaches athletes from a wide variety of clubs.   The Power of 10 website credits him with 15 athletes from 9 clubs, covering distances from 100m to marathon, both men and women and ranging in age from Under 20 to M40 veterans.   Let no one think he is now coaching at a lower level than heretofore: he always coached athletes of all abilities, bringing many through the ranks to international standard, and in 2013 one of his athletes, David Devine who runs the 800m, 1500m and 5000m in the T12 category, was included on UK athletics world class performance funding programme for 2013.   If you are interested in how he trains his athletes and in the advice he gives to coaches, you can access a slide presentation at


It starts with the picture of the student Scobie winning a race at Westerland shown above and ends with a slide of him running in a marathon pack with Veronique Marot in the mid-80s, but it’s the content that matters.

His is a story of a lifetime’s involvement in the sport going from his days as a schoolboy in Milngavie, just outside Glasgow right up to the present day: and a commitment all the way through to excellence, encouraging the athletes he works with – able bodied and disabled, club standard and international class – to’ be all they can be.’