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British and Irish Masters Cross Country - Morag Taggart

British & Irish Masters Cross Country International Championships 2015, Santry Demesne, Dublin - Morag Taggart


In November this year, at the age of 56, I finally had the honour of representing Scotland! Many years ago as a 20 something, I used to just scrape into the East of Scotland Cross Country team but had never, ever contemplated running in a dark blue vest with “Scotland” on the front. I really have Gillian Sangster to thank for this – Gillian had run in the Scotland team the year before and suggested I contact Scottish Veteran Harriers and put my name forward for this year’s event.

Three months later, on a damp Friday afternoon, Gillian and I set out forEdinburgh airport to catch our flight to Dublin. We were both very excited and nervous. I really didn’t know what to expect from the trip or the race and was worried that the size of Scotland vest I had ordered would be too small.

Arriving at our hotel in Dublin, I began to feel a little less anxious as we met the other members of the Scotland team – everyone was really friendly and there were quite a few familiar faces. A group of us headed to a nearby Italian restaurant to pack in some pasta and pizza carbs for the run and found it almost overwhelmed by runners. Back in our room after the meal, Gillian and I nervously studied the race programme and the course map. There seemed to be some really fast runners competing.

Despite our nerves, Gillian and I both slept well and woke the next day to an extremely wet Dublin – it was going to be a muddy race! At breakfast one of our team produced lengths of St Andrews flag ribbon for each of us and most of the ladies team had their nails painted blue. Everyone was beginning to get really excited as we set off for the course. The Irish Masters Athletic Association had done a brilliant job in choosing a course (Santry Demesne) which was directly across the road from the athletes’ hotels, so not far to go.

The rain pelted down as we posed for our Scotland team photo, then set off to jog around the waterlogged course, dodging giant puddles. As we went round, we could see all the other runners, with men’s and women’s age groups in 5 year bands from 35 – 39 all the way up to 75+ and teams from England, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The course was quite a flat three loops but at least had some thick mud to plough through and hopefully take the speed out of the faster runners’ legs.

The women’s race was the first race at 11.30, and also incorporated the men’s 65 – 75+ age group race. Not feeling particularly fit or confident, I positioned myself near the back as we lined up at the start and soon found myself stuck behind a wall of older (but very fit) gentlemen as the course narrowed at the first bend. By half way round the first loop I was able to run a bit more freely, but couldn’t see anyone I knew to gauge my speed. My fingers and toes were numb with cold in the wet and windy conditions, but the course was actually more interesting than it had seemed at first sight, with a wooded section and some nice twists and turns. I decided to just get my head down and run as fast as I could!

On the final lap, I found myself running alongside an Irish woman with V60 on her vest – that gave me the incentive for a final push and by the time I crossed the line, I felt I had run as hard as I could. I was fourth counter for my team and really hoped I hadn’t let them down.

Afterwards, we were all pretty cold and miserable, but we did manage a short warm down then into the changing room with its lovely hot showers. We were so muddy and cold that a group decision was taken to get into the showers in full running kit, including shoes. This was a brilliant idea for us, as we emerged soaking but at least warm and clean, but maybe not so good for the shower drains (sorry!)

After having a well-deserved lunch in the centre of Dublin (yes, there was Guinness involved), we had time for a little bit of sightseeing before the Gala Dinner at night. Again, the Irish Masters Athletes Association had done really well arranging the dinner in the hotel next to our own, so not far to walk, luckily, as we had swapped our spikes and studs for slightly less practical footwear. After the meal came the awards ceremony. As expected, with a much bigger population to draw on, England won gold in many of the team awards although Ireland, as hosts, made the most of the home advantage with some excellent results. Our table of Scottish women erupted into cheers when we heard that we had won team bronze in the 40 – 44 and in the 55 – 59 categories. Full results at!race-results/mia2s

The Gala Dinner finished after 1am – those masters athletes proving their stamina on the dance floor as well as the cross country field! I am so glad that Gillian persuaded me to put my name forwards for this – I made lots of new friends, met up with some old ones and had a brilliant time at this very well organised event… and I have my Scotland vest tucked away with the rest of my running kit!

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