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End of an era as Fraser Clyne calls time on second career as athletics reporter

Fraser Clyne at Aberdeen Sports Village
Fraser Clyne at Aberdeen Sports Village

He is putting away his reporter’s notebook this week but do not dare suggest retirement to Fraser Clyne.

The former Commonwealth Games marathon runner turned athletics reporter is calling it a day after covering the sport he also competed in for more than 30 years.

But it is clear Clyne, who has covered the north and north-east athletics scene extensively for the Press and Journal and Evening Express, will have plenty to keep him occupied.

He said: “I hate the word retirement. As you go through life you change direction, you do different things. I’m not the sort of guy who will ever be doing nothing.

“I’ll be 67 this year and I’ve reached the stage where there are other things I want to do. Firstly I want to have some time for myself and my family but there are other projects too.

“I’ve always been interested in the history of athletics locally and have been doing some research into that.

“I’d like to find out a bit more about that as there was a lot going on in the early days of athletics in the north-east which hasn’t been recorded.

“I’m involved with Arbroath FC and I’m the club historian and statistician. I’ve always wanted to write a proper history of the club which has never been done.

“It has been an ongoing project for about 30 years but has stalled in the last decade as I haven’t had the time so I am keen to go back to that.

“Being able to spend a little more time running would be nice too. I do a park run every so often but nothing serious.

“I’m running but not a lot, maybe three or four times a week at the very most. I know some people will say that’s enough but it’s low key.”

From aspiring footballer to marathon runner

Graham Laing, Fraser Clyne and Peter Wilson in training.

Clyne’s love of sport was clear from a young age but he quickly realised his dream of playing football as his father did with Arbroath was not likely to materialise.

However, Aberdeen University offered Clyne the chance to seriously pursue a different sporting discipline.

He said: “When I was at university I had always enjoyed running so I joined the cross country club and was fortunate to meet a lot of good people.

“Steve Taylor, who was a mature student at the time, took me under his wing and gave me a lot of encouragement and help. He had been a Scottish champion and international and he pointed me in the right direction.

“I could see improvement very quickly so I joined Aberdeen Athletic Club where I got involved with guys like Mel Edwards and Alastair Wood. Mel especially was a great inspiration.

“I had two years at Glasgow Uni so ran for them before coming back to Aberdeen where the main part of my career was with Aberdeen AAC.

“My peak years were with them.”

US win was Clyne’s breakthrough

Those peak years included some pretty significant moments with Clyne announcing his arrival on the international stage following a landmark win in the United States.

Fraser Clyne crossing the finishing line at the Oakland Marathon in 1983 in black and white.
Fraser Clyne celebrates winning the Oakland Marathon in 1983.

He said: “By good fortune I got the opportunity to run in California in 1983 in the Oakland Marathon. It was just across the bay from San Francisco and I managed to win it.

“It opened other doors for me in America so I went back to Oakland the following year and won it again before going to Sacramento in December of 1984 which was the US Championship race.

“That was my big breakthrough as I finished second, running my best time of 2hr 11min 50s. I think it’s the sixth fastest of all time by a Scot and it is still the Aberdeen record.”

Commonwealth dream turned sour

Those successes led to Clyne being named in the Scottish team for the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986.

It proved to be a bittersweet moment for the Aberdonian.

He said: “I have mixed emotions about that one. I was 10th in what was probably my worst year with injuries.

“It was so frustrating going into that race knowing I was nowhere near 100%. I gave it my all but it wasn’t the way I wanted it to be.

“It was still a great honour though. Representing Scotland at the Commonwealth Games is not something everyone gets to do.”

Fraser Clyne crossing the finishing line and holding up peace sign in black and white.
Fraser Clyne wins the Evening Express half marathon in 1988.

Clyne’s highest world ranking was 40th in the world. He was also recognised as fourth fastest in Britain but the three men ahead of him were formidable.

Clyne said: “Steve Jones, the world record holder at the time, Charlie Spedding who the Olympic bronze medallist that year and Jeff Smith, the Boston Marathon winner.

“British marathon running was at an all-time high and it was just fantastic to be around.”

Domestic highlights in Scotland and England

Fraser Clyne crosses the finishing line of the Moray Marathon as the clock indicate 2.29.40
Fraser Clyne winning the Moray Marathon in 1997.

As he reached the veteran stages of his career Clyne focused on Scottish and British events and there are two competitions in particular which he holds in high regard.

Clyne said: “I won the Scottish Marathon five times. I never ran it until I was past my best as there was always other things going on.

“I had decided I couldn’t go through my career and not win a Scottish marathon title.

“The first one I won I was 37 and I think I was 43 when I won my last one so I was squeezing them in at the end.

“There is a race no longer held, the Morpeth to Newcastle race which was held on New Year’s Day. It ran from 1902 until not too long ago as the police stopped it. It was ran on the A1 and was becoming dangerous.

“I took great pride in winning that race because when you look at the names on the trophy over the years it is a who’s who of British distance running.

“I remember Brendan Foster saying to me once his father told him it didn’t matter if you had an Olympic medal, if you haven’t won the Morpeth to Newcastle it doesn’t count.

“I still have pride in the fact in Aberdeen I still have the club record for 3,000 metres which is pretty short for me. I was talking to some of the guys recently and they are going to have a go at beating it this summer.

“I told them it’s about time as it has been my record for 40-odd years. Surely it’s time someone beat it.”

Runner turned reporter

Fraser Clyne in jeans and blue top sitting on the bleachers facing the tracks at Aberdeen Sport village.
Fraser Clyne covered several athletics meetings at Aberdeen Sports Village.

A keen writer and contributor to the Green Final as a teenager, when the chance to cover the sport came his way Clyne was only too happy to take on the challenge.

Little did he think his coverage for Aberdeen Journals would last more than three decades.

He said: “Once my own athletics career began to wind down in the early 1990s I was quite keen to promote what was going on in the sport and I don’t think there was anyone covering athletics in a big way.

“As the years have gone by, and I must credit Aberdeen Journals for this, they have given more and more space for athletics.

“It got to the point until lockdown I was writing for the Press and Journal Monday, Tuesday and Friday and the Evening Express on Thursday and Saturday so it was full-on.

“It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing because the main aim was to promote the sport and what people locally were achieving.

“Seeing people develop has been great fun. The whole time I’ve done this I’ve followed top athletes from when they were young right through.

“In the case of Zoey Clark it has been from almost her first race right through to becoming an Olympic athlete.

“There’s Robbie Simpson too. I covered him running the schools races at Balmoral to becoming a Commonwealth Games medallist.

“It’s been great to chart that but also scary to think it has been that long.”

Viren interview the reporting career highlight

His running career accomplishments are extensive but when it comes to reporting highlights one stands above the rest for Clyne.

He said: “Lasse Viren, the Finnish athlete who won the Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 metres in 1972 and 1974 Olympics, one of the greatest runners of all time, was a great hero of mine.

Fraser Clyne, left, and Lasse Viren in 2005.

“I interviewed him in 2005 in his home in Finland and the P&J did a big spread at the time.

“It was the day I got to wear both hats as a journalist and competitor. It was a great thing for me.”

Clyne may be calling it a day as a journalist but it is clear his live for the sport is as strong as it ever was and he plans on still being involved.

He said: “I have along with Robbie Simpson a wee running group which we coach every week either in Aberdeen or Banchory and I do some other coaching as well so life will still be busy – it always has been.

“I will keep watching too and follow what people are doing of course but at the same time I will enjoy not having to do it as well.”

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