Club’s Home Track: Part 2
After a short period when we did not have a ‘home’ track after the local authority gave Whitecrook to the local rugby club. The new track opened at St Peter the Apostle School. In the time gap between Whitecrook and St Peter’s, members trained in Clydebank from the old tennis pavilion at Thomson Street and then from the Antonine Centre in Duntocher. Distance runners had to go to Erskine, Crown Point in the east end of Glasgow or, later, Scotstoun in the west end with Kelvin Hall’s 200m track being used particularly in winter. Field events athletes trained at Kelvin Hall, Crown Point, Scotstoun, Erskine and East Kilbride
When St Peter’s became available, we were all delighted – at last a proper track, and one with a synthetic surface. A track of our own and if you’re going to race on all-weather tracks, it makes sense to train on them.
But when you look at what was on offer, it provided less for an athletics club than either of its two predecessors.
1. It was a four lane track like Mountblow – but there was no half mile perimeter where off track sessions could be done, and if all the runners wanted to use it, the track would be crowded. In summer all runners WOULD want to use it.
2. The field events facilities were scanty – (a) no throws areas at all, (b) a very exposed long jump area vulnerable to whatever the weather threw at you,
3. No dedicated changing rooms close to the track,
4. Not nearly as accessible by public transport – local buses passed the gate but the nearest railway station was a fair distance away.
5. But it was our track. Cramped with the mesh fence very close to the runners, sprinters very close to the runners in the inside lanes and this feeling emphasised by what we had been used to at Whitecrook.
If there were going to be distance runners using the track for long reps, they would need to be confined to the inside two lanes for at least the home straight, or for half of the 400m should the sprinters be doing 150m or 200m reps; while the sprinters would need to be strictly confined to the outside lanes. With young children, ie Under 13, there is always the danger of straying into the other lanes – we’ve seen it happen on Tuesday and Thursdays in Kelvin Hall.
Another difficulty seems to have come from the friendly athletics habit of encouraging the occasional runner from another club to come along, pay their money and train alongside our athletes. That has always been the case – Davie Kerr of Garscube and Tom O’Reilly of Springburn came along to Mountblow on occasion and either did their own thing or trained with us. David Cairns of Springburn came along to Whitecrook several times to use the high jump fan and equipment and, still on field events, David Stevenson [international pole vaulter ] had trained with Ian Logie at Mountblow. has grown to pretty well sharing our track with another club. It also happened in the other direction – I myself trained at the Springburn venue of Huntershill when I lived in Lenzie, Bobby Young trains there still living as he does in Bishopbriggs.
But the situation with regard to athletics tracks has changed dramatically over the past 10 or 15 years.
*First, athletics facilities are scarcer than they used to be. Locally there was in Glasgow Westerlands and Scotstoun. Both very good eight lane tracks, top class changing facilities, proximity to public transport and of national championship standard. Then there was, from the 1980’s, Crown Point track which was eight lane, more than adequate changing accommodation plus a cafeteria. Westerlands is now a housing development, Scotstoun is still available at particular times of the year although a lot has been given over to the rugby club. I used to have a Saturday morning training session there and we used hurdles, plyometric boxes and other equipment from the store cupboard, then one week the plyo boxes were gone – they had been moved to the area roped off for the Warriors equipment and we were not allowed to get in there. There are times of the year too when rugby stand spill over on to the track. Both these tracks had big perimeters for training and warm up purposes but the grounds are now divided up by fences all over the place. Crown Point is now in the hands of the Health Service although Shettleston can train on the track. One example of the loss of facilities to athletics. Coatbridge had a big fire several years ago and now only the track, and that not in good condition, is there and rumour is that it will be removed and used for housing.
*Second, the cost of using local authority facilities has sky-rocketed. I know of one Scottish club (a big one) which has operated at a deficit in the past year and has employed an administrator.
The result is that at times clubs reach an agreement to share a facility. That is a different arrangement from having occasional or casual athletes from one club visiting or using regularly a track near their home. I have known runners from Victoria Park, Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Glasgow University, Garscube, Cambuslang and Springburn living in Clydebank and heading to their own home track on club nights. Were casual runners from each of those clubs turn up regularly a track such as St Peter’s would be swamped where the same would not have been true of Whitecrook.