A weekend in Derry and a 3rd Scotland cap for Walsh

Thinking of individuals who excel at sport may lead people to imagine highly-tuned athletes, carefully nurtured by coaches through their formative years, performing to the utmost of their powers in the peak of their physical potential, in their early-to-mid-20s.

On rare occasions, however, a late bloomer will emerge and challenge that preconception. In the world of UK club running, there could scarcely be a better example of this than Bellahouston Harriers’ Crispin Walsh. For ‘Walshy’, running life truly did begin at 40.

Now, let’s be fair, Cris was running respectable times in 2011 at the age of 39. He was 36 minutes for 10k; 1:26 for half marathon; 3:05 in the marathon – times many club runners would be thrilled with. Since that first year with the Harriers, however, Cris has pushed on and established himself as a runner of serious calibre in the sphere of Masters athletics.

The statistics speak for themselves: PBs of 33:48 for 10k in 2016; 1:12:56 for the half in 2014; and 2:36:31 for the marathon in London, also in 2014. Within his V45 age category in 2017 alone, Cris boasts the fifth fastest time in the UK over 10 miles (55:18 PB), eight fastest time for five miles (27:07 PB), and seventeenth quickest time for the marathon (2:38:58 in Berlin). For good measure, he also set a 5k PB of 16:26 in June at the Scottish Veteran Harriers Club 5k in Clydebank.

It is these hard numbers, together with a few memories, that the vast majority of club runners are left to rely on when reflecting on months and years of training, for comparison with peers, or for motivation for the future. A select few will win medals, but fewer still can measure their achievements through recognition at international level.

It is an honour that Cris enjoyed for the third time when he represented Scotland at the recent British & Irish Masters Cross Country International in Derry, Northern Ireland. Cris previously represented Scotland at equivalent fixtures in Nottingham in 2014 and at Tollcross Park in Glasgow in 2016. Only injury prevented Cris from winning further Scotland caps in Cardiff in 2013 and Dublin in 2015.

Cris said: “I treat running for Scotland as one of my four key races within the year – I start by adding the date of the international the year before and work towards it. There is a lot of organising and pressure getting selected. These events are always a great chance to feel part of something special and a reward after months of hard training.”

“On the day it is about performing as well as you can, but also picking up with the other guys in the team and becoming one big club. It is the only chance you get to do it,” he said.

After warming up, and in the minutes before the race began, Cris consciously surrounded himself in the company of others in the Scotland team.

“I gave myself 15 minutes before the start to get involved with the rest of the team and feel the camaraderie,” Cris said. “There was a sea of blue. Everyone comes together and is ready to go. With five minutes to go there were a lot of quiet handshakes and a few nervous looks. There were a lot of first timers for Scotland.”

With the tension building, there was a strict call to the line and brief instructions from the announcer. Then, they were off – four laps; 8k.

“When the gun goes it is just hell for leather. I know from prior experience that my place is middle pack and I know I had to run within my capabilities and not go off too hard. I was aware of the guys in the Scotland team who are usually around me in races, like Justin Carter in the V40 category, so I knew where I needed to be.”

“I got into a battle with Welsh and English guys who were also M45s - it was good racing. I could always see Justin ahead on the turn near the end of each lap so knew I was holding my ground. I burnt off a few people I know and went past a couple of the guys who were running in the M35s race for Scotland too. Great support from the Veteran Harriers team but also a lot of noise from the Northern Irish in their strong Derry accent. You knew you were part of something massive,” Cris said.

Cris finished as the second placed Scot of six in the V45 category in a time of 29.30.

One of the best parts of the racing weekend is being able to celebrate afterwards, and it is no different at the British & Irish Masters Cross Country International. More than 520 runners congregated for dinner and presentation of medals across the various age categories and teams in the Grand Ballroom at Everglades Hotel, on the banks of the River Foyle. With guest speakers, a live band and DJ, the Guinness flowed long into the night.

Cris said he is now planning a few “easier weeks” of running, and “lots of eating and drinking” in the lead up to Christmas, before training begins in earnest for his main running passion in the spring.

“I have a championship place for the London Marathon. It will be my fourth London Marathon and eight marathon in total. I had contemplated doing the Highland Fling – much to the delight of fellow Harrier Katy Smith – but thankfully saw sense. 54 miles is a long way. At 46 years young, I reckon I will have one more sub 2:40 marathon in me.”

Interested in Joining?

Bellahouston Harriers are an amateur running club based on the south side of Glasgow.

Our friendly atmosphere and great coaching make us a great choice if you are looking to start running for a club or if you have run with a club before.

Click here to find out more...

Twitter Feed