3 Aug

Keeping On Track

This week sees the start of the World Athletics Championships in London. The 10-day event beginning on Friday will see Usain Bolt and Mo Farah returning to the Olympic Stadium, scene of some of their greatest triumphs, for their last ever track championships.

Along with the rest of the planet's great athletes, it promises to be a real feast of action for fans of the world's biggest Olympic sport. For the athletes too, what an incredible stage to compete on.

Crowds are expected to total 70,000 each night with one of the most enthusiastic, noisy and knowledgeable sports crowds in the world.


How exhilarating it must be to be in their spikes. As a humble club runner, I will never know. At my level, the roads and occasional off-road foray remain my domains.


But I have ventured onto the track three times and each one I have cherished. It's a rare treat for an ordinary Joe like me! The first time was back in 2005, when for the first - and only - time I took part in a Highland Games event.


For those unfamiliar with these events, they consist of traditional Scottish activities like the caber toss, tug of war, and handicap races and with fun fair, beer tent and food stalls, they attract a healthy crowd.


I entered the hill race, a notorious event at the Famous Alva Games featuring a steep ascent and descent up the nearby Ochils that towered over the makeshift arena and track.


It was exhausting, but it was a real thrill to scamper back onto the track and complete a lap to the finish among cheering - and well-lubricated - crowds.


Another occasion was when reporting on the 2010 Athens Marathon. I entered the 5k event earlier in the day which, like the classic distance event, finished in the historic stadium, host of the first modern Olympics. The steep marble monument teems with history and there is an almost overwhelming sense of sporting legend around the place. I loved every step on that track.


More recently, back in Scotland and again on reporting duties, I took part in the media race at the Commonwealth Games. Now a tradition at most athletics championships, it gives the members of the media a unique opportunity to race on the track in between sessions.


It has to be said some of the competing members of the media are pretty fleet footed. Not the ex-athletes among them, who stoutly steer clear of becoming a scalp for the more modestly talented among the press pack. But I finished fourth in the mile race and though there was no crowd, this time there was little for them to cheer anyway!


I think it's safe to say I will never know what it's like to break the tape in front of 70,000 people and kiss my medal for ranks of photographers, as the winners will over the next fortnight. But running in the footprints of champions is something I can happily settle for.