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Liz McColgan recalls racing days in Aberdeen as she backs The P&J Run Fest 2024

The former world champion competed regularly in the Granite City and has backed the new P&J initiative in April.

Liz McColgan displayed her usual touch of style 'when she visited some coaching sessions at the TSB Aberdeen School of Sport in Aberdeen in 1990.
Liz McColgan displayed her usual touch of style 'when she visited some coaching sessions at the TSB Aberdeen School of Sport in Aberdeen in 1990.

It might have been a celebratory event rather than the pursuit of any medals, but Liz McColgan has never taken a backward step in her life.

So it was business as usual when she locked horns with her compatriot, rival and – despite what some of the tabloids claimed at the time – friend, Yvonne Murray, in Aberdeen’s Duthie Park in 1991, the same year she powered to global glory in Tokyo.

The former 10,000m world champion and 1988 Olympic medallist in Seoul, who shoved her silver into a drawer at home because she was so frustrated that it wasn’t a golden gong, has recalled fondly her many visits to the Granite City, including another joust with Murray in the BUPA 5k event at the city’s Botanic Gardens in 1993.

These weren’t her favourite distances by any stretch, but she still reminded those who watched her that McColgan is one of the most fiercely-committed performers who has ever appeared in track and field; a woman of unstinting commitment and resilience.

Liz showed an unstinting commitment to her sport

As a youngster, she competed in all manner of track and cross-country events for many years, even as she was making a name for herself at age-group level with her Dundee Hawkhill Harrier teammates, prior to surging to international prominence with a stunning victory in the 10,000m at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986.

The then Liz Lynch during a training session at Tannadice.

The Scot, whose daughter Eilish won the Commonwealth title at the same distance in Birmingham in 2022, is a dedicated believer in encouraging youngsters to participate in sport and, as somebody who used to pound the streets of Dundee, is convinced that people of all ages can benefit, physically and mentally, from being involved in athletics.

So she has emphatically backed The P&J Run Fest 2024, which takes place on April 14 at the entertainment venue P&J Live. With a 10k, 5k and junior fun run – which all start and finish on the concourse – the event is designed to bring together people of all ages and fitness levels from across the north and north-east to create a community of runners.

The busy programme also features a family fun day out and parents with babies in prams and buggies, while enthusiastic young athletes under the age of 12, will have the opportunity to participate in a 1k junior fun run, with all the diverse range of activities helping to raise funds for five inspiring charities.

Liz McColgan at the North Aberdeenshire Schools Athletics Championships at the Chris Anderson Stadium in Aberdeen, in 2004.

Liz backs the P&J Run Fest 2024

She told us: “It’s a great idea. What’s not to love about getting families and the local community active? I hope it’s a great success and, from my experience of running in the city, I know there is a real enthusiasm for athletics in Aberdeen and the north-east.

“I remember coming up here many times as a kid and running in all different kinds of events and, when you are young, you just get so much enjoyment from it – you’re not thinking about anything like the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games at that stage.

“The main thing, when you first put on your running shoes, is having fun and getting healthy exercise with your friends and your family.

“Then you can decide if you want to start taking it more seriously later on.”

Mel Edwards was loved by many in the sport

There’s a long and proud tradition of families and clubs developing their talent and proving that running was in their DNA in Aberdeen and few stories better illustrate that than the remarkable symbiosis between Mel Edwards and his son, Myles.

The former was one of those redoubtable individuals who kept racing against the clock, setting new milestones, defying medical diagnoses and proving that age is just a number. And he was also the man with the initials MBE – Meldrum Barclay Edwards – who ended up receiving an MBE for his services to sport and charity.

Myles Edwards with his dad Mel. Image: Submitted By Myles Edwards

This remarkable fellow, who died in 2019, enjoyed a prodigious international career, alongside many of the greatest names of his generation, including Commonwealth medallists Lachie Stewart and Ian McCafferty. Renowned for his intensive training regimes of around 100 miles per week, his marathon personal best time of two hours, 18 minutes, 25 seconds still places him high in the contemporary British rankings.

And, during a running career which spanned half a century, it was estimated he covered more than 100,000 miles, thousands of them for charity in the latter stages of his life.

Myles Edwards is a former Scottish 1,500m champion and is training for his first marathon. Image: Kami Thomson.

Myles, who shares that same philanthropic philosophy, can’t quite recall the first time he watched his father going through his paces. But then, that’s hardly surprising.

As he said: “I was only a couple of days old when I was taken to one of my dad’s races before going home from hospital, so I definitely don’t remember that one.

Myles Edwards followed in dad’s footsteps

“But I have very fond memories of watching my dad training with his friends in The Lynx Pack group at the Chris Anderson Stadium [which is now the Aberdeen Sports Village] and at Balgownie. As soon as I was old enough, I began to jump into their sessions and I always felt a huge sense of pride and happiness at being able to run with – albeit I was quite a bit behind – my dad.

“Then, as the years passed, I also loved making him proud through my own running when [among other achievements] I became the Scottish 1500m champion.”

Mel’s international colleague, Colin Youngson, a three-time Scottish marathon champion from Aberdeen, recalled: “When he first contracted cancer, I visited him in his hospital ward and we laughed our way through my collection of Alf Tupper – The Tough of the Track – photocopies.

“I could add so many more memories. His tales of dawn jogging at Rubislaw, saying hello to the fox that trained there at the same time; and so many charitable ventures into which he poured his heart and soul. The laughs and the exhilaration for life.”

And Myles has inherited those same traits and is enthusiastic about next month’s Run Fest, even though he is preparing for a major challenge of his own.

Myles Edwards with his beloved father, Mel, in New York. Pic: Myles Edwards.

P&J Run Fest ‘great’ for the community

He said: “The P&J Run Fest in Aberdeen is a great thing for the running community and the city as a whole.

“The fact that it is accessible for people of all ages and abilities is great and I am sure that it will be a big success.  I will be doing my first marathon this year in London, but I would love to take part in the Run Fest next year.”

In their different ways, Mel, Myles and Liz McColgan illustrate why Scotland has punched above its weight at the highest level on the athletics track over the years.

There’s a realisation there is more to the sport than elite competition and that you need to sow the seeds at the grassroots. If there’s no next generation, there’s nothing.

And that’s another reason to applaud The P&J Run Fest 2024 creation.

Further information about the P&J Run Fest and how to secure your spot is available by clicking here.

The P&J Run Fest 2024 is on its way.