I have always enjoyed running, both participating and watching.
One event which lodged itself very firmly in my memory
was the 5,000m European Championship of 1962. I had always been attracted by the longer races where you had time to study the faces and body language of the runners to gain clues as to the final
outcome and the 5,000 and 10,000metres were definitely my favourites. In those days all you would get of the marathon would be the winner entering the stadium! The European Championships were being
held in Belgrade that year. One of the British representatives in the 5,000m was Bruce Tulloh. Something of a fascination for me as he had remarkably spindly looking legs – something with which I can
empathise increasingly in my more mature years – and he ran bare foot. On cinder tracks that is no mean feat. It was a wonderful race. The favourite was Bolotnikov, the world record holder for
10,000m. The early pace was slow but with some 700m remaining Tulloh broke away from the pack. At the bell he had a 15 yard lead over the Pole, Zimny and with a 57 second last lap he held on for a
dramatic, poised and immensely brave victory.
Bruce Tulloh came back into my life in 1970 when I bought his book "Four Million Footsteps" which was the story of how
he ran across the United States from Los Angeles to New York to set a new world record for the crossing of 65 days. The whole concept of such an epic ignited inside me.
In running terms nothing dramatic happened for the next 15 years or so. I ran my first marathon, I ran my first sub 3 hour
marathon to gain qualification for the Boston marathon, I ran many big city – New York, Montreal, Venice – marathons and many small – Mid Wales, Ynys Mon (Anglesey), Snowdon, Hudson Mohawk –
marathons. However, as time went on the germ of an ultra run which Bruce Tullloh had planted so many years before began to grow and grow until it became a constant pain in my running psychi.
I thought about many different alternatives but when the request came round for novel ideas on how to celebrate the 550th anniversary of the establishment of the University of Glasgow by Papal Bull it seemed obvious! The Bull came from Rome, why not retrace the route. I got out my map of Europe and at about 1,500 miles could be manipulated to around 2001 kilometres. In the end the actual route has turned out to be closer to 2,500 km but morally I shall feel that I have arrived after 2001!
Following last year's Glasgow marathon (August 2000) I had a repercussion of an
Achilles tendon injury I had first suffered from in 1998. My experience with this particular injury is that the only solution is to rest. Literally to do nothing. Although I
had planned to start my training build up for Rome Glasgow in September and October I didn't run a mile until the beginning of December. I was really thinking that
the run would have to be cancelled. I needed a test and so looked around for an early year marathon. The best I could find was the DisneyWorld marathon in
Orlando. I thought that it least it would be warm. It turned out to be 1 degree Celsius at the start and had only dragged itself up to about 11 degrees by the time of my
finish. By far my slowest ever marathon but all I had wanted to test was whether I could run that distance without the Achilles flaring up again. To my great relief it did
hold up - well it wasn't too bad - and so the dye was cast. I knew that I was going to be at the beginning at Rome. Whether I would reach Glasgow was another question...........
You might be wondering about the Gala Harriers vest and South African shorts. I
joined Gala Harriers because my daughter's name is Gala - my wife, Sonja, is a great Salvador Dali fan and his wife/inspiration was called Gala. Also, as a very
mixed family - Sonja is Slovene and I am a welsh speaking product of a Scottish/Yorkshire union - I liked the idea of the Scottish connection in the name
Gala. As to the shorts, I got my taste for ultra runs whilst on sabbatical at the University of Cape Town and it is a runners heaven!