St Andrews is quite possibly one of the downright loveliest places to run in the Kingdom of Fife. From the variety of postcard-picture running routes on offer like the famed West Sands, to the ancient paths running straight through the back of the town such as Lade Braes, St Andrews is ideal for whatever you feel like doing. St Andreans just love to take advantage of this splendid scenery as all sorts of harriers cross throughout the town on a pretty consistent basis. Now St Andrews is not just an average cosmopolitan university town, it is a most unique one in terms of the variation and sheer number of runners who love to do their favourite routes.
Most of us either turn a blind eye to the ‘proper’ runners, who, in my opinion, take themselves way too seriously to actually enjoy doing it. Running for a lot of people is simply addicting and it is difficult for many addicts to give up their sacred routine for fear of getting ‘fat’ and lazy. Common fears aside, running in moderation is the key to doing well.
On a competitive level long-distance running has had a steady foothold in St Andrews for quite some time. The University Athletics club came into existence in roughly 1869 and established itself as one of the original thirteen sports teams in friendly relations with the university of Edinburgh.
The point at which the university cross-country club was formed is somewhat of a bone of contention, though the first club came about during the start of World War II as Alan Peacock was among the first athletes to receive a blue in X country. In many ways the Cross Country club acted as a springboard through which other sports gained recognition on a national level.
Throughout St Andrews there are a multitude of different approaches to running, including the ultra runners who rack up marathons and half marathons on a daily basis before breakfast. Within the wider Fife AC, in fact, there are hundreds of such dedicated and talented runners who train hard all year round.
It may come as no surprise to many that there are several old hacks, particularly within Fife AC that love to hang around and show the younger athletes what it is to truly be a good runner. Don Morrison is a former Computer Science teacher and Olympic-level running coach, and has long played an integral roll at the university.
Don is remarkable in his devotion to cross country as a passion and sport to be enjoyed by all. No doubt putting some great athletes on the world stage is also at the back of any coach’s mind. Don has successfully coached some world-class talents such as Benjamin Wiffen (2003-2007) and many other terrific athletes that have competed on a national level. “If ye think it’s hard, what do I need you for!” he says.
All of this may seem impressive by standard, but of the hundreds of thousands of coaches out there, it is great to work with someone so modest about sports in general. With his wicked sense of humour and humble air authority to boot, every runner shows up ready to go. These simple pleasantries are what make me so proud to be a part of the running scene in St Andrews. Cross Country is one of the few teams that practices so closely and consistently with other local athletic teams, resulting in a host of healthy rivalries with plenty of banter between Fife and university runners.
Running means a great many things to many different people. For me, it is simply about getting out and enjoying the oldest past time known to us humans beings. Working with people like Don Morrison makes for great experience for everyone to enjoy. Flattery aside, results regardless.
So the next time you lace up those favourite pair of running shoes and hit the trails, take a chill pill. Relax, find your running rhythm or come to the cross country running sessions! Join your local club or even do a ParkRun for the first time.
Get out there and stay hungry for the challenge that distance running has to offer!
By Henry McCarthy