Metro, The First 30 Years!
by Kirsty Walter
Metro Aberdeen RC’s history
“Breakaway faction”, “splinter group”, “spawned by the belief that Aberdeen [Athletic Club] caters inadequately for road runners”. That’s how Metro’s beginnings were summarised back in 1990. But that doesn’t account for the true spirit of Metro.
When Metro set out to form a specialist club for road running - named after George Mitchell, proprietor of the Metro Hotel in Aberdeen and the club’s first sponsor - we had in mind a strong ethos. Indeed, the secretary of the time was keen to stress inclusiveness. In a 1991 article, the club was found petitioning for more female members.
We were in all-red garb to begin with - Metro weren’t donning our iconic yellow and black until 1997. But with 35 members within the first two weeks, 80 by the time it came to qualifying for the November 1991 Edinburgh-Glasgow road relay and now in excess of 300, I think we can safely say that Metro has achieved our original goal “to develop into one of the foremost clubs in the country as far as road running is concerned.” A starting line-up at a Scottish race not tinted with our classic yellow vests is a rare sight.
Introducing… the Metro interviewees:
Jackie Stewart: member since 1990; committee member, assistant secretary, secretary, L3 coach.
Derek Dunn: member since 1990; helping hand at the Proms 3K series, cross countries and anywhere else his assistance was required.
Rob Taylor: member since 1990; committee member, training coordinator, men’s captain, chairman.
Peter Jennings: member since 1990; committee member, chairman, men’s captain, L3 coach.
Kirsty Harper: member since 2009; club treasurer, women’s captain.
Claire Smith: member since 2006; women’s captain.
Ingrid Machell: member since 2000; committee member, women’s captain.
Life-long friends with like-minded people
When asked about their fondest memories of Metro membership, everyone had something to say about the friends they’ve made over the years, as well as about seeing club membership grow and its runners – of all standards – improve.
Other special mentions were bus journeys to and from races, relays and a ‘running’ weekend to Aviemore (think: high ABV, very little running).
Rob, Jackie and Pete are also honorary club members, a title they received for having contributed so much to the club over the years and they’re particularly proud of it. (Jackie even said that being awarded it nearly left him speechless - “nearly!”)
Boosting female membership sits well in memories, too. After Jackie discovered women weren’t attending because they had to look after the kids, he said, “Bring them down to me,” and started the junior section. One of those half a dozen kids is still a proud member: “Now Nathan Tosh is turning into a good senior athlete!”
Ingrid emphasised how great it’s been to see the club grow. “Especially the female membership. There were only four women when I joined!” she said. “My running successes have been largely due to all the help and encouragement I’ve received from the one and only Jackie Stewart. He has given me some great coaching and has shared in all the highs and lows that go hand-in-hand with competitive running.”
Illness, injuries and a balancing act
Unfortunately, not everything is to be looked back on warmly. All runners face obstacles and we discovered injuries and illness have affected even the cream of the Metro crop over the years. Derek described injuries as “the bane of all runners”. Pete was always “plagued with calf injuries” as well as a mystery stitch in the latter stages of all but cross country races. Ingrid even faced two road accidents (she also competes in ultra-distance triathlons), but she got back to it and now working the winter season in the Alps is her biggest challenge (we reached for our tiny violins, too).
But fortunately, our runners have all been reminded at some point or another of why they run. Although Jackie has suffered from atrial fibrillation for a number of years and he nearly gave up running altogether after a disappointing Elgin marathon, he thanked Pete for “cajoling” him to go out running.
Meanwhile, Kirsty faced pretty major setbacks, when an X-ray confirmed arthritis. Although disappointed at having to drop her mileage, she savours being able to get out on her local hills over shorter distances for an “outdoor fix”. She said, “Even a shorter run can be so good for the soul.”
The club faced obstacles too, with a drop in members in the early 2000s. But our ever-devoted Metro stalwarts pitched in, got creative with training venues and the club not only lived on, but went from strength to strength.
Looking to the future
We asked about bringing back local races and events or setting up new ones. Pete used to love the Castle series races. “I am actively trying to resurrect the series,” he said. There’s consensus that the Aberdeen Marathon - starting and finishing on Union Street - should come back, too.
Derek said, “I especially enjoyed the Bogenjos Brienge. Strange name but a great mixed terrain race around Dyce and Kirkhill Forest,” pointing us to the excellent archive of past races and newsletters on the Metro Aberdeen RC website for an indication of the races that were available and some “hilarious” race reports!
And now, some quick-fire questions:
DD: Doing six London [Marathons] and many, many Highland Crosses. These days a decent parkrun gets me excited.
PJ: Any cross country. I seldom missed any of the national competitions.
JS: My 2hr40min London Marathon at the age of 44! Also when I won the Scottish Veterans Marathon in Elgin and British over 45s Silver at Lochaber.
KH: The Lairig Ghru hill race. Everything just went right on the day and I felt great. Only pity was that I was enjoying the run so much I hadn’t realised how far up the field I was. Fifth female and first vet, but – oblivious – I left for home and wasn’t there to pick up my prize!
CS: Probably Frankfurt Marathon. I just felt great from the get go which doesn’t usually happen in a marathon. Enjoyed every single mile.
IM: Moray Marathon 2004, hoping to break 3hr30min and seeing 3hr24min on the clock (as well as winning my age group, the team prize, and going home with two bottles of Macallan - result!); my only win - the AAAC 6 miles; turning 40 and picking up some age group wins; turning 50 and picking up some age group wins; completing my first ultra; running in races at home - you cannae beat the Beach 10K!
DD: Can’t think of a race I would describe as my worst, especially after having showered and had a good laugh with everyone.
PJ: My first marathon - the Aberdeen Milk Marathon. I had only done a couple of halves and thought, “How hard can it be?” The hardest thing I have ever done. Still, I went on to complete almost 60 marathons after that. So never let it defeat you.
KH: Inverness Half and my only DNF to date. The nonsense of it all still annoys me now! Don’t let your head rule your legs!
CS: Nairn half, I didn’t even finish it. Waste of a bonnie day!
IM: Glen Clova Half in 2001. It was so windy that all the mile markers had blown away after seven miles. It was my first half, and I’m surprised it wasn’t my last. And all those miserable races where you swear you’ll never do it again - but you somehow always do.
If you could beat any other Metro member in a race, who would it be? At which race?
JS: I just ran as best as I could and if other Metro Runners beat me, I would shake their hand and say well done. My philosophy was that if anyone was going to beat me, then they would have to run hard.
KH: Rob Taylor [aka Sandbagger extraordinaire] in any race over any distance!
CS: I’m just happy to be running without that extra stress.
IM: It would be nice to beat Fiona Brian at any race because that would mean I was really fast!
If you were a running shoe… which brand and model would you be and why?
Nearly everyone chose Asics, except Claire, who gave a heart-warming response: “Something with ‘support’ – it’s nice to be a support to others and genuinely happy to see others doing well.” It seems Vaporfly just isn’t the Metro way!
Are you going to the 30th event and have you bought your tickets?
JS: Yes to both!
IM: Sadly, I’ll be in France working.
Are you planning to run on the day? Or the day after?!
DD: It’ll be a parkrun for me.
PJ: Probably both.
JS: Not sure as I have a wedding the day before!
What will you be wearing at the event itself?
DD: Great chance to get the kilt out.
PJ: My wife hasn’t told me yet.
JS: Probably my kilt.
What tipple will other Metro members catch you sipping on the night?
DD: Just a few beers.
PJ: Guinness or Brewdog.
JS: I am a rum drinker and a McEwans Export man.
And now what you’ve all been waiting for!
Always look where you’re going
Pete confessed to this one himself, but several other members were keen to check it would be included:
“I once ran into a canoe on the roof of a car during a club run. It was waiting to turn onto King Street. The group I was with split either side of the car at the last minute, too late for me to see. I don’t know why I still have my teeth! I completed the 10-miler with blood all over my face and t-shirt.”
Metros with no sense of direction
Pete’s perhaps better known to many as “Pathfinder Pete”. In addition to once getting lost leaving the car park after training, there was the first Clachnaben Hill Race. He opened a clear lead over the rest of the field but, “Due to poor visibility and the course being marked with bamboo canes and tape” (he says), he missed a turn, ending up fourth. At the Lonach Hill race, he left it to the last mile to take the wrong turn. This time he was second - by only a second!
But he’s not the only Metro to have gotten lost, as Claire and Rob took the troops to Cumbernauld for Cross Country as club captains. Their warm up run before the event got them lost in a council estate! They eventually found their way back without missing any of the races… “top captains, indeed!”
We all dream of breaking records but, seemingly, some find it easier than others: Jackie’s name has seen him mistaken for a woman on many occasions, allowing him to break the Baker Hughes 10K female course record and win second female at the Buckie 10K!
We’ve all dreaded leaving something behind for an important race - that’s why we all post a pre-race photo of our kit on Instagram (honestly…). But for some Metros, the fear has become a reality. Kirsty was beside herself with nerves before Paris Marathon 2013, her first as club treasurer. In France, you need a medical certificate to run, but when she went to pick up her number day before marathon day, she discovered she had travelled to France with Alan Brown’s membership subs instead! Tears, frustration and nausea ensued but her wonderful daughter located the medical certificate and she still thanks “some random man in a photocopier shop in Paris” for taking pity and letting her onto his computer to print off the certificate!
The first time Jackie ran the 50K, he had really trained for the race and arrived calm and collected the night before. Until he suddenly realised he had left his running shoes at home. Thankfully, Jackie’s daughter and Pathfinder Pete came to the rescue!
On race day, however, he managed to curdle his cereal milk by chugging down a couple of glasses of orange juice… vying for first place at around 18 Miles, he all of a sudden felt sick and had to stop for the unthinkable. Same again at 20 miles. Race day ruined! But he went back the following year to redeem himself - with nothing less than a silver at the Scottish Vets 50K.
And when Alan Brown snuck up on Ingrid at the Baxter’s 10K, he drove her into such a sprint that she brought up her breakfast. They can’t even remember who won - that’s the true team spirit!
Today and the club’s future
When we spoke to him, Jackie reflected on one of our biggest obstacles as being “the tag of being an elite club. We worked hard over the years to try and dispel those thoughts and today, we have a great spread throughout the running community.”
There have been some substantial changes to the club’s representation this year, Metro’s 30th, but it’s beautiful to see that the values we have recently agreed to strive towards remain the same as those that motivated the club in its earliest days. Ingrid’s love for being able to “rock on up to reps on a Thursday” and feel “like coming home” resonate throughout our membership, and long may our increasing numbers of friendly faces continue to feel that way.
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