Aberdeen teacher Sean Chalmers captured his maiden Scottish title on Saturday after winning the Scottish National 10k Road Championships in Kilmarnock.
Chalmers, who is also a PE teacher at St Machar Academy, broke away from Dundee Hawkhill’s James Donald in the closing stages of the race to win in a time of 29:59.
As ever with long-distance running, tactics and flexibility are crucial, and Chalmers made sure to use the windy conditions to his advantage.
Tucking in behind the leading pack for the first 3k allowed the Inverness Harrier to conserve energy in the early stages, before attacking the closing kilometres with the wind behind him.
And tactically, Chalmers had an unusual ace up his sleeve in the final kilometre when the course took competitors down Kilmarnock High Street. Wanting to keep an eye on runners behind him, Chalmers took occasional glances through the shop windows along the high street – not so he could spy a post-race bargain, of course, but instead to track any rivals threatening to mount a late charge.
He explained: “I was refusing to look behind me, but we were going down Kilmarnock High Street and I could see in the shop windows who was still there.”
Chalmers’ refusal to look behind him was as much a psychological ploy as anything else – a sign that he was unfazed by the trailing athletes.
“I don’t like looking behind me too much” he continued.
“I didn’t want to keep turning round to see who’s there. We got onto the High Street, and it was quite a long one lasting 400 to 500 metres. Because I was out in front and the boys had been behind me for the past kilometre, I didn’t know who was there.
“I was just looking in the corner of my eye to see who I could see in the window reflection. A couple of other runners dropped off so that gave me a bit of a boost to keep pushing the pace.”
It has taken plenty of hard slogging for Chalmers to haul himself onto the top podium. Training on weekdays usually begins as early as 5.30am in the morning and, as Chalmers himself admits, training solo is only ever going to make early sessions harder.
“About two weeks ago, the sessions started slipping a little bit,” he said.
“I was on the track and I was doing kilometre reps. The first one was 3:20sec, which was a lot slower (than I was expecting). I was meant to be hitting about 2:50, so I thought ‘wow, what is going on here? You’re definitely in better shape than that.’”
His punishing sessions received a boost, however, when Chalmers found out that fellow distance runner, Max Abernethy, was also in need of some company during training.
“At the end of the school day I’m pretty drained, and some of the boys train at 7pm at night. Max Abernethy has just got himself a job in Aberdeen and he starts at 8am, and morning sessions fit in better for him now.
“On (the Tuesday before the Championships) I did a session with Max Abernethy and I’ve had him with me for the past two sessions. That’s really helped with my confidence, because I’ve been doing solo sessions for god knows how long – eight months or something.
Sean Chalmers thrilled to break 30 minutes @roonthetoon to land first Scottish 10k title@InvHarriersAAC
Thanks @Bobby_ThatOneMo GIF@RossKCairns1 @aberdeenlive_ @InvCourier @PandJSport @EALeisure @euancrumley @WestSoundNews @MorayFirthRadio pic.twitter.com/mkO5X3TdZS
— scottishathletics (@scotathletics) June 14, 2022
“I was getting in a bit of a rut, struggling to hit paces and wasn’t sure what kind of shape I was in. He did a session with me on Saturday and then Tuesday – it was really good to have him there and that gave me a bit of a boost because he just pushed me on.”
With his first Scottish title, the 26-year-old will no doubt have his eyes on more. Now in Chalmers’ sights are the Scottish Championships in Aberdeen in August, and the Scottish Half Marathon Championships in the autumn.
“It’s at least seven or eight years since I’ve done a senior championship. Injuries at the wrong time, being out in America, and not planning the race calendar as well as I should have (are factors). I’ll look at doing the 5,000m on the track and then the Half Marathon Championships in September – I’m looking at that one as well.”
Entries open for Deeside race
Meanwhile, entries for the annual Tom’s Cairn 10k Trail Race and 5k Race are open at tomscairntrailrace.com.
The 10k trail race is in its sixth year, while a 5k event, open to all including under 16s, was added in 2017.
A fundraiser organised by the Parent Council for Finzean School and Ballogie Nursery, the trail race will start at Birse and Feughside Parish Church at 2.30pm on Sunday September 11, while the 5k race, and an additional primary kids race, will start shortly after.
Race organiser Sally Wallis said: “It was fantastic to hold the event again last year following the Covid-cancelled event in 2020, and we hope to see a strong turnout again this year. Participants of all three races can expect beautiful scenery and a lively community spirit – and with our 5k event we’re pleased to be catering for a larger audience and the growing number of secondary school-aged runners throughout Aberdeenshire and beyond who are not old enough for the 10k race.
“The 10k trail race follows a hilly course, on tracks and woodland trails around Finzean Estate.
“It’s certainly an event for all abilities though, and we encourage entries from those wishing to walk or jog the route.
“Enter online at www.tomscairntrailrace.com – entry for the 10k and 5k is £10, or £13 on the day if numbers allow. The 10k race is open to those aged 16 and over. There will be some great prizes, as well as free tea and cake for every competitor at the finish.”