The Carnethy Interview - Marbeth Shiell

From Meadowbank Stadium to Considine Gardens is a sharp climb on a bike – bottom gear, almost. Dougie met me in the sunshine and said “Just leave your bike there (at the front of the house), it will be ok”. The view over to Holyrood Park and across to Portobello is really something. An ideal location for a hill runner who wants to do some track training as well. Marbeth, Dougie and I chatted for a while – gloom at the impending invasion of Iraq, wondering what the news was. Marbeth said It’s difficult to understand what is going on. To Dougie: Are you going to stay? He can’t say anything, can he Marbeth? If you stay you must be quiet. No, he said, over to you two.

How old are you, Marbeth?
I’m seventeen. And how long have you been running? Oh, as long as I can remember. Since I was tiny, just a little girl. My Dad took me out when I was less than ten, I guess. Hill running, in the Borders, when we lived in Peebles. It was always hill running. I really like hill running, especially with my Dad.

Did you go to school in the Borders?
Well, we stayed in Peebles, near enough to Penicuik to go to Beeslack School – you know, where the Carnethy 5 Race is organised from. I haven’t been to any other school. You are now finishing off your Highers. Have you enjoyed your education? I wouldn’t say enjoyed it. Hated it? No, just somewhere in between. Just do it. What are your Higher subjects? Biology, Maths, English. I want to do animal biology. I applied for a place at Aberdeen University and went for an interview. Both Aberdeen and Stirling have great athletics backgrounds – I think this is what attracted me there in the first place. I’d like to do vetinary science. My grand-daughter, Jilly, went to Aberdeen for an interview recently and thought it was a theme park. You know, all the buildings are granite and different from any other city. I’m quite keen on Stirling, too. It’s very modern and I liked the atmosphere.

When did you join Carnethy?
As long as I can remember. My Dad was a member of Carnethy, so it was exciting when I got my first yellow vest. There have never been many junior members of Carnethy but my brothers and my sisters also run. I have 3 sisters and 2 brothers. I’m the middle one.

Do you go mountaineering as well?
No, not yet. I would like to try Mountain Marathons when I am older, just to get into all the mad stuff hill runners do. No Munros? No, maybe in the future, perhaps if I go to Aberdeen and get involved in running there.

Do you train in any structured way, or just go out and run?
It’s only in the last couple of years that I have done any real training. It has been great since we moved into Edinburgh because there are lots of groups to train with. I’m trying to do some planning. You get bits of information from everywhere and people are telling you different ways of training, different ways of doing things to get good results. Do you know Chris Robson? He’s the National Scottish Coach for the Junior Squad. When I go for weekends with the Scottish National Squad, we get advice on how to train and diet and stuff like that, as well as doing the running. There are regular weekends with the Scottish Squad.

So would you say you were on a training schedule?
Not really. It’s more a case of joining in different groups who get together informally and do things together. There is one on the Meadows, people from the University and others. We do different reps and stuff. I don’t do much track yet, but I may be doing a bit more in the future. I find track really boring but it’s got to be done. The Club have training nights at Meadowbank. Adam and Mark and others get together and do track reps. The juniors don’t get involved in that.

When did you first run for Scotland?
When I was about 13 or 14, I did a cross country with the Scottish team and came in about third or fourth in the team. The School enter you for National Events but don’t do any advising or anything. I don’t do much athletics or track running as such. There are Schools Championships for different age groups and similar things in England, Wales and Ireland. Then for the top few there are the International Schools Championships.

Would you call yourself a competitive person?
No, I just go out and do it and accept what comes along. You do your best. You never really know what’s going to happen. I suppose you have to be a little competitive to go out there and race. Most of the time it’s just a case of proving to yourself. What gives you the best feeling, the most satisfaction? I guess running for Scotland. All the times I go out in a Scotland vest I want to do my best. It’s a great feeling running for your Country. I’ve run for Scotland a few times. How many vests do you have? I don’t know. I’ve got some Welsh and English and American vests too – we swap vests at the International events. You mean like the footballers do on the TV? Yes. I didn’t know you did that.

So you have run all over the UK and the World?
Yes, the UK, Italy, Austria, Germany. Not in the USA, they don’t seem to be into hill running, not in the juniors, anyway. The European races are very different from ours. They are usually just up forestry tracks. It’s not what we call hill running. In fact it’s difficult to get the same sort of courses here to train on. But we find that part of the enjoyment is belting over all sorts of country, up and down, isn’t it? How are you on the rough downhills? I like it but I’m not very good at it. I need more practice. The guys just belt down and don’t think of what might happen. I think you have to develop the confidence in your ability to do it, which means taking a bit of a risk. In Europe the downhills are very gradual on the tracks.

And you still enjoy it all?
Oh, yes. I don’t know what I would do without my running. I enjoy it so much. I wouldn’t know what to do to without it. My sort of run is about 20 or 30 minutes. It is something I have always done and it’s become a huge part of my life. I can’t imagine not doing it.

What do think about Carnethy as a Club?
I like Carnethy. There’s a big difference between the Juniors and the Seniors. I’m kind of in the middle at the moment and trying to make the transition. The women’s team are so good, they keep winning things. It is going to be hard to get in the Club team.

What is your most satisfying achievement, so far?
Probably going to the World Championships. I was 14, in the under 20’s. It was in Germany and I had been trying for years to get there. My place in the race wasn’t important; it was just getting there, for me. I’ve won the Scottish Junior Championship a couple of times in 2000 and 2001 and I was third in the British Championships in 2002.

I need to know about you, about Marbeth when she’s not running. What do you read, for instance?
I don’t read novels, I get bored. I have a really short concentration span. I’m sure novels are really good but I never get far enough to find out. I like more factual things. And what sort of films do you like? Thrillers and horrors but I didn’t like “Lord of the Rings”, it was so violent. I like the romantic films.

Who has influenced you the most?
My Dad – I’m so lucky to have his support. You still go out running together? Oh, yes. He’s not as fast and fit as he used to be but we enjoy running together. I think that’s marvellous. There can’t be many 17-year-olds who enjoy going out running with their Dad.

And your heroes – or heroines? You mean people you look up to and would like to emulate?
That’s very difficult. There are lots of people. I don’t know how to say it. It’s difficult to express. Try to put it into words. Well, people who keep at things and get the best out of themselves, who really try and do their best. People who are prepared to do anything to make their dreams reality, no matter how big or small these dreams are. People who strive for their goals. Any individuals? If it has to be one person, that has to be Angela. And there’s that amazing athlete Haile Gabrselassie.

Are you prepared to tell me about your dreams and ambitions for the future?
Oh, dear. They always ask me that at the training weekends. My ambitions seem too unreal. They seem too far away. They are not very specific. I want to keep running and enjoying it.

Do you ever think about your motivation to do things? Where it comes from?
No. You either have it or you don’t. My Dad and I motivate one another and encourage one another. My Dad supports me such a lot.

Have you any favourite places to go on holiday?
It is usually in the winter when I go on holiday. The summer is taken up with events and races. I love going to Arran. Not for too long. I want to go home again after about a week. Next time you go to Arran, run up Glen Catacol and look for the eagles – I once saw 12 in one afternoon.

Do you have any other names than Marbeth?
No. My Mum made that name up from my grandmother’s names - Margaret and Elizabeth. And I thought it was a traditional Scots name; it sounds as if it is. Any nicknames? I don’t want to tell you what my Dad calls me. You have to. This is The Interview. He calls me Snoopy. Well, maybe we should interview him and give him a real grilling?

At that moment the doorbell rang and in came Mark Johnson, on his way to training at Meadowbank. “I’ve brought your bum-bag” he said. He had also brought some photos of a cross-country skiing holiday in Innsbruck. So we looked at those and chatted, then I had to thank Marbeth and Dougie for their hospitality and dash off on my bike across Edinburgh to Colinton. But that’s another Interview.




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