Masters Memories -by Ian Leggett

Masters Cross Country International

After the demise of the prestigious Edinburgh to Glasgow Road relays this annual event in November is a must goal for us old codgers, the event is circulated around each different participating country each year and this year it will be organised in Scotland.
My first introduction was in 1988 with only three home countries taking place now with the two Irish countries added it has become more International.
I’ve been fortunate enough to formulate lifelong friends from this event as normally the circulation of personnel thru the age groups have been constant, with the exception of the English teams who with their greater depth in numbers seem to be able to change their lineup regularly.
The Scottish team’s kit always seemed to be inferior to the other nations maybe because of the 50 shades of blue which is dark compared to the bright Greens of the Irish the radiant Red of Welsh and the White of England (who by the way are sponsored by Sport England).
It doesn’t mean the Scottish teams haven’t performed well because we have had some very notable victories in the past and will have in the future.
I would like to remark on two memorable events that have stuck for ever in my memory and both coincidently were in Ireland.
The first event was in CAVAN in Southern Ireland; we had a long trip by bus and arrived in the middle of a rain storm at 10 o’clock at night. The bus stopped in the dark outside this Country Manor stuck in the middle of nowhere covered in ivy, the arched wooden entrance door looked as if was out of the Rocky Horror Show or the Adams Family and with the torrential rain belting down all that was missing was the forked lightning as the door creaked open and we were ushered into the main reception area.
This was an old-fashioned library of old dark oak shelves up to the ceiling. The lighting was pretty dim and the heating consisted of a one bar electric fire. Our beds were in dormitory style as this used to be a Convent at one time. It was certainly very Spartan but we manage to put out a sterling performance in the race.
The second experience I want to relate to was in NEWTONABBEY just outside Belfast it was the times of the unrest In Ireland and the security forces were still operational in Northern Ireland.
Our accommodation was in the centre of Belfast and as we slept in our rooms suddenly in the middle of the night we had a helicopter with search lights scanning our hotel and as the bright lights swept across our window we wondered what was coming next, thankfully it passed on.
In the morning we had a warm up run planned and running thru the streets of Belfast at that time in the early morning we encountered British soldiers crouching in doorways guns at the ready and also on side streets complete with combat gear. Black cabs were everywhere they were the only way to get around as no buses were allowed into the centre of town, we encountered the barricades and every store had its own security guards prominent outside its doors.
The races themselves were all well organised and the Northern Ireland contingent were full of the best Irish hospitality I returned home with admiration for their bravery and fortitude in face of the situation they were in.
These are just memories for me personally, others will have many stories and memories attached to this event and long may it continue. I am always proud to pull on the Scotland Vest whenever I can.