Dave Andrews experienced perhaps the most unconventional of all international debuts during 2020 – as he had no opponents to run against.
The veteran Metro Aberdeen ultra-distance specialist was in line to make his first appearance for the Great Britain international team at September’s European 24-hour championships in Verona in September, but the event was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the International Association of Ultra-runners decided to offer some consolation for those athletes who had been preparing for the event by organising a virtual six-hour global solidarity run instead.
Each selected individual was invited to complete the run in their own local area, so Andrews, proudly wearing his Great Britain kit, chose to tackle a one-kilometre lap of Duthie Park in Aberdeen city centre.
He said: “It was great to be selected, but it was different from what I thought it would be.`
“However, we had a Great Britain squad WhatsApp group going for a couple of months around that time.
“I found it motivational to hear what all the others were saying about various issues.
“The whole purpose of the run was to show solidarity within the ultra-running community and I feel it achieved that.
“Six hours is a bit short for me, but it turned out to be good.
“I managed 78 laps of the park and around 20-30 other people came along at different points to do a bit of it with me.
“I would run four laps steady then, every fifth lap I’d run fast, so there was a bit of a structure to it. I wasn’t just plodding round.
“I could have done more, but, although I was wearing Great Britain kit and treating it seriously, I was still using it as a training run.
“Although the European Championships had been cancelled, there was still to be an open 24 hours race in Verona, three weeks after the Duthie Park run and I wanted to do it.
“Unfortunately, I picked up back and knee injuries and didn’t train much for four weeks before Duthie Park or again after it.
“So I wasn’t in great shape for Verona.
“And it was an abysmal performance.
“My knee flared up after three hours and I hobbled on for another three hours, but that was it.”
Andrews salvaged some pride at the end of October when he finished sixth in the Gloucester 24-hour race.
He said: “Gloucester came six weeks after Verona and – again – I didn’t get much training done.
“I only decided to go after completing 160k over five days a fortnight before the race.
“I adopted a more relaxed attitude than I did for Verona and it paid off.
“I just went out to enjoy it – which is all that matters.
“I finished Gloucester with 215k, which was about 20k short of what I would have liked, but, everything considered, it wasn’t bad.”