The Carnethy Interview - Adam Ward

In June 1997, while on a visit to Orkney, I was reading the local newspaper, as tourists do. On the sports page, who was pictured as the winner of the Hoy Half Marathon? None other than Adam Ward. I’d read in the Newsletter of Adam’s exploits as one of Carnethy’s best runners, so I gave him a ring about it. Over the years since, we have met up occasionally at races and Club Events and I have come to appreciate what a nice guy Adam is. He bore my pestering for an article for the Millennium Book with good humour and came up with one of my favourites – an account of why he had no time to write an article. His personal history (a bit out of date now) is in the archives. The Interview gives the chance for an up-date.

How did you come to run the Hoy Half Marathon?
I was visiting Orkney with my Dad, saw it advertised and couldn’t resist having a go. I never expected to win but the pace was so easy just behind the leaders that I decided to go for it. The locals weren’t too pleased at an outsider winning!

How did you get into running?
I started in 1981, after watching the London Marathon on tele and thought I could do that. In fact it was Jenny Wood Allen, who was in her late 60’s then, that inspired me – she’s still running. As a teenager I was always active (unlike most today) and cycled everywhere, played squash and badminton. I thought I was fit, so I ran round the block that evening and nearly collapsed! I joined Edinburgh AC soon after and discovered I had a bit of speed and for a number of years ran mainly track - 800 and 1500.

Which was your first hill race?
I ran the Carnethy Five as far back as 1982 and thought it was the hardest thing I’d ever tried, though enjoyable at the same time. (Unlike a 10,000m on the track, which is less exciting than watching paint dry!). I ran 60min 05sec, so will never be able to claim I always run under 60mins. That race was won by Bob Whitfield of Kendal and a certain R.L.Morris was 3rd, obviously putting his hot air to good use in those days. A poignant memory is that Peter Brooks finished one place, and 6 seconds, in front of me.

Did you already know the mountains?
I first went hill-walking in November 1981, with Graeme Carracher, now a Carnethy member and Munroist no 245. Being injured, having trained too hard, I went up 3 Munros instead! I was instantly smitten with the hills, which were noticeably quieter then, and have never looked back.
It doesn’t matter a jot how many Munros you’ve done, as long as you enjoy yourself – either with good company, or on your own, I don’t mind. I’ve had so many memorable days on the hills (and nights in bothies) and hope there are many to come.

Are you an Edinburgher?
Yes, I was born in Edinburgh, in time for a heavy metal breakfast, in 1961 and haven’t stopped eating since! Went to Craigmount, which became a High School half way through my time there – think it was something to do with it being on a hill. I have a brother and sister, both living in England now. Neither are athletic, though my brother has started to run a bit to combat middle age spread. Angela says that’s why I run.

You once told me you travelled a lot with your job.
Yes I used to travel for Scottish Natural Heritage, surveying all over Scotland. I’d always take my running kit with me to enjoy new places. Having said that, most of the time, after doing a day’s survey carrying a heavy theodolite over rough terrain, you tended to be pretty knackered. Good training though! Having moved a little up a very long ladder, I have moved away from what I originally enjoyed doing at work, so I don’t get out and I don’t make maps any more!

Tell me about your trip to New Zealand.
New Zealand was great. The standard in races was crap, so even I was a star there. Seriously, though, a brilliant country for the outdoor enthusiast. Fantastic scenery, great wines and a mostly good climate - Scotland as it should be perhaps? Although I wouldn’t live there, as its too far from the rest of the world. I love seeing new places and I do enjoy travelling.

Who are your heroes?
On the world stage it would have to be Nelson Mandela – THE person of the 20th century.
As far as Athletics go, I wouldn’t call them heroes. More people who have inspired me. After all how can you compare someone who runs fast with what Nelson Mandela achieved? Hero is an overused word these days. My favourite athlete would have to be Paul Tergat, I think the best runner of all time. I would love to see him do a hill race. Perhaps we should invite him to Carnethy – for a sub 45 minute time perhaps! I also admire Antonio Pinto who has his own vineyard and allegedly puts on a stone in weight in the close season, yet can still run a 2.07 marathon, while enjoying the fruits of his labours! I’m also inspired by runners who push back the barriers of age and still perform at a high level, such as our own Brian Waldie, Bill Gauld and Andy Spenceley. And Colin Donnelly for making every World Hill Running Championship.

What is your average weekly training schedule?
I try to do two quality sessions a week. Usually one on the track, and another of hills, fartlek, mile reps (or in the bar!) and this hasn’t changed much for 20 years. Well, the speed of the reps has slowed a little! Weekly mileage is probably between 50 and 60 all the year round, as much of it as possible off-road. I also find that a good long hard hill walk is perfect stamina work for hill running – you don’t even need to run. I still get a kick out of the look on some runners’ faces when you tell them you’re just going for a walk at the weekend. (Ask Martin Ferguson of COE. He came on a bothy trip with me and was absolutely knackered after 2 days walking and he’s a 2.27 Marathon runner!)

And your favourite type of run?
I suppose a long easy run with good company over the hills has to be a favourite but I just enjoy getting out for a run – especially at lunchtimes from work. What about diet? Just eat as much as possible.

Are the foot and mouth restrictions this year affecting you a lot?
No, not much. Edinburgh was a great place to be during the worst of the outbreak You could still run up hills and find plenty of off-road running. Most of the hills up North are open now, although it annoys me that there have been inconsistencies with access throughout the outbreak. There are still KEEP OUT signs up where there shouldn’t be. I also feel that races have been cancelled before a proper risk assessment had been carried out.

What about other sports - orienteering, cycling, etc?
I’ve tried orienteering but it always seems like a waste of a good run. Too much stopping and starting. But then again I’m not very good at reading a map at speed! Obviously I’ve competed on the roads, cross country and track and still very much enjoy the first two. I’ve also rock climbed a fair bit over the years, though I don’t have the head for leading anything difficult – I’m a big fearty! I also cycle every day and would love to try a time trial type of event sometime, and maybe even a downhill mountain bike race – all you need is a low IQ!

Why join a club and why Carnethy?
I’ve always been in a club since I started competing. They are the lifeblood of the sport whether it be track, road, cross country or hills, and I think its really important to join a club, especially if you intend to compete. Carnethy is a great club, with good social occasions, lots of club weekends, the best newsletter of any club I’ve seen. I often think of Carnethy as a giant extended family, with lots of loveable eccentrics involved! It would be good to get some younger blood involved in the club – certainly the men’s team these days are mostly in they’re 30’s and beyond!

Is there a perfect race you would like to add to the Calendar of events?
Yes. Resurrect the Arrochar Alps Race – an absolute classic.

Do you run outside Scotland a lot?
I will always try and fit a run, and if possible a race, into a visit to any country to which I travel. For one thing it’s a good way of exploring. It’s a pity I wasn’t running as a teenager or I’d have more countries bagged. I think I’ve run in about 18 countries and raced in 12 – well short of Ron Hills 100 countries!

What is your most satisfying athletic achievement?
Beating Mark Rigby at Tinto in 1996. Finishing 10th at Peris Horshoe when it was a British Championship. Finishing 2nd in the Boat race. Doing a sub 4 minute 1500m. Winning my first race as a vet. And every time I beat Angela! You were only supposed to have one.

Do you think access to the hills is satisfactory?
Generally, yes, with some notable exceptions but I, along with many others, have major concerns over the new access Bill going through the Scottish Parliament at the moment, with its definite bias towards landowners over the public. We’ll just have to see what develops. Hopefully, the bill will be revised before it comes statute.

Have you had any life-threatening experiences in the hills?
Doing the boat race with Angela wasn’t good for my health! Seriously, though, I was bagging a remote top in Fisherfield, scrambling over a rocky outcrop, when a small boulder came away in my hand. I was a millisecond away from plunging backwards about 30 feet onto rocks, when I managed to grasp hold of the rock face. I went round the rocky outcrop on the way back!

What are you reading?
I don’t read as much as I’d like to – and caught up with a lot of reading in New Zealand. At the moment I’m really enjoying reading some of the Ian Rankine novels, then I might advance to some of the Harry Potter books! I’d recommend anyone interested in mountains to read Joe Simpsons ‘Touching The Void’, an amazing account of an individual’s will to survive. I would also recommend Aspley Cherry Garrard’s ‘Worst Journey in the World’, and Scott’s journals too. I’m always dipping into these kind of books. Time for any hobbies? Other hobbies are photography, whisky, wine, food, real ale, the arts, Edinburgh. Do you like dancing? I love dancing of any kind, and would have loved to have been some form of professional dancer. Recently we went to see The Nederlands Dance Theater 2 , and it was the best show of any kind I’ve ever seen. Boy, are they fit! I think you would like “Tango Passion” next time that show is in Edinburgh.

Where does your motivation and enthusiasm come from?
I don’t ask the question. It’s difficult to say. I know I feel guilty if I haven’t trained and I’m almost always glad that I’ve got out for a run, despite feeling ambivalent beforehand. It’s quality ‘own’ time, if you like, and gives you a great sense of freedom. Whether a good thing or not, it gives a feeling of superiority over people around you who don’t run or go to the hills. I also love to compete and couldn’t just train with no goals in mind. I like the fact that I’m still performing nearly as well as 20 years ago. Beware. Bits start dropping off after 40. Yes, I am aware of that but nothing (touch wood) has dropped off yet.

Predict what will be happening in 2011.
Scotland will be independent. I will be British Vets 050 champion. Carnethy Men will win the FRA relays. There will be British Teams in the European and World Trophies. In Scotland, hill running will have its own governing body. No more SAF, SAL or whatever. The Parliament building will be 10 years behind schedule and 5 billion over budget and Hibs will have won something!

Do you like theatre and films? Have you seen Billy Elliot and did you cry?
Yes I love the theatre and go to as many plays as I can – I think Shakespeare is brilliant,(I’m constantly surprised at how many common sayings still in use to-day have come from old Shaky) - but I like modern plays too.
I also love the cinema and probably prefer older films more than modern ones – my favourite actor is Humphrey Bogart and favourite film ‘The African Queen’ with Bogie and Hepburn (Katherine).
I saw Billy Elliot in Alice Springs with Angela and, far from crying, it was a hoot. The Aussies didn’t understand the British humour, so we were laughing away and getting funny looks from the others in the cinema!

In one sentence, what is your definition of a civilised society?
To have respect for people regardless of colour, age, gender, religion (or lack of), running ability or football team supported!

Who has influenced you the most?
In life – my Dad, in running – myself!

I think you should interview Gary McInnes and Andy Patience next – they have a unique attitude to competition.



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