A MASS exodus of Borders athletes is set to take place on Sunday when more than 100 local runners head for Fife for the inaugural Pitreavie Gift meeting.
And, not only are almost half the entries from our area, Borders brains, businesses and backers have also helped make this event one of the biggest on the national pro-games circuit.
Although his sporting background was in rugby, both as a player and executive, Innerleithen’s Ron Sutherland became interested in Highland and running games some time ago through his son John’s involvement as a sprinter of potential.
Ironically, just as Sutherland junior gave up competing a few years back, Ron made the decision to ignore his birth certificate and forget a large legacy of rugby injuries to have a go.
“Mainly in the interests of personal fitness – and (with occasional assistance from the handicapper) I have enjoyed every moment,” he told TheSouthern.
Once an accountant, Ron is currently a visiting professor at Edinburgh University in sport and recreation management, making him an ideal candidate to be one of the five directors of the company created to organise the major new open track athletics meeting at Pitreavie.
“We hope that we have found a winning formula, with the combination of distances to be run and the mixture of youth and adult races,” he added.
“Apart from providing a competition at a time of year when such events are generally thin on the ground, we hope that the new approach to the event which we call ‘Where the athlete always comes first’ will provide a much-needed breath of fresh air to handicapped running on the open athletics circuit.
“We certainly appreciate the tremendous support received from fellow athletes and coaches from the Borders.”
The Pitreavie Gift is modelled on iconic running event, the Stawell Gift, in Victoria, Australia, set up by a Scottish emigrant, and has certainly captured the imaginations of athletics followers near and far.
While Fife’s own Don Campbell is responsible for handicapping the senior events (see page 22 for details) Border Games Association handicapper Ernie Blair provided the marks for the youth events. Hawick’s Kenny Short, Ross Weir and Billy McComb, along with Innerleithen’s Charlie Russell, have all sponsored races, while the Pitreavie Gift logo and event programme was designed and devised by Jedburgh’s Charlie Cochrane.
Finally, all running numbers, bibs and officials clothing have been provided by Alan Lyall at Reiver Embroidery, Galashiels.
On the running side, all the main Borders clubs are involved, with Tweed Leader Jed Track (TLJT) having 21 entries in the main 100m sprint.
The main hopes of the Tweedbank-based outfit lie with Jedburgh’s Craig Grieve – who notched his first victory of the year at the National Open Graded Indoor event at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall last weekend – and Hawick’s David Rae, who told TheSouthern: “I’m just coming back from injury, so hopefully I can get off to a good start at Pitreavie. Just being part of the whole thing is great though.
“The Borders obviously has a big influence on the national circuit and the fact that there is so much involvement from down here just underlines that.”
TLJT coaches Jock Steede and Bruce Scott have also entered the main event and will be hoping to keep their younger proteges on their toes.
“This event is the first of its kind to be held in Scotland and we feel it’s important that everyone supports it,” added Steede.
Organisers hope the Pitreavie Gift will be the first of many more such meetings to showcase the very best of handicapped running in Scotland.