It was the New Year of 1870 – the occasion, a 160-yard, foot-running handicap race; the venue, Powderhall Sports grounds in Edinburgh.
Time has since marched on, but despite the passing of years, this athletic event, in the heart of winter, still remains.
Nowadays it’s a 110m handicap staged on the pastures of Musselburgh racecourse. No matter the distance or setting, however, the New Year Sprint Handicap, as it is so fondly known, is very much alive and kicking.
During its long history, a woman has yet to write her name into the record books as a winner. This time, around 13 female sprinters – including Border runners Amy Clancy of Peebles (18.5m), Jazmine Tomlinson of TLJT (21.5m) and Hawick’s Megan Shiel (21.5m) – are poised to get down on their marks to change this.
For 16-year-old Shiel, it will be her first New Year appearance as a senior.
The Hawick High School pupil told The Southern: “I have been running on the games circuit for three years and I just love it.
“To begin with I ran in the youth races, but this year I moved up to be a senior.
“I knew this was going to be a big step-up and I didn’t think I would get near to winning even a heat. However, I managed to win the invitation sprint handicap at St Ronan’s Games as well as the 90m handicap at Birnam Highland Games.”
Since the curtain came down on the summer games circuit, Shiel, who has been with the Hawick-based Billy Edgar running school throughout her running days, has been training for the forthcoming New Year meeting.
She told us: “I trained in Hawick at the start, but for the past six weeks I have been training at Tweedbank.
“It might involve a bit of travelling, but I don’t mind as I like to train.
“At Tweedbank I can also run along with some of the TLJT girls who are coached by Bruce Scott, and this has been good.”
A young runner with a lot of potential, Shiel added: “I am not expecting to do anything in the sprint at all, but I am very excited about running in it.
“It’s just a big thrill to be in such a famous race and it will be a great experience for me as well.”
Turn to page 63 for more on the sprint.