Karen MacLeod

Karen Nicolson – MacLeod

It is with deep regret that we have to report the passing of Karen Nicolson formerly Macleod.

Karen competed in these major games:
1990 Commonwealth Games  Auckland, New Zealand(10,000m)
1993 IAAF World Championships Stuttgart (Marathon)
1994  Common Games Victoria Canada 4th (Marathon)
1996 Olympic Games Atlanta (Marathon)
as well as numerous victories across the UK and Europe.

Although Karen never ran as a veteran or in any veterans events, she is listed in the Scottish Athletics Yearbook as having run 16:59 for 5K on the road (she would have been 39 then) , 36:08 for a 10K and 17:17.2 for 5000m on the track.   A final note – on 14th July 2008, a Karen MacLeod ran in the Isle of Skye Half Marathon as a FV 50+ where she finished 250th in 2:49:50.   Was it the same Karen MacLeod?   Yes, it certainly was – and it was only four weeks following her kidney transplant operation!   A quite remarkable feat and possibly as good as any run she had ever done.  

Born on April 24, 1958 in Tanzania and growing up in Skye, she has been described as one of the best athletes to ever emerge from the north of Scotland. However her career was brought to an end in 1998 when she fell ill at the Boston Marathon.
She was diagnosed as having Berger’s disease – a rare kidney problem – and she later had a kidney transplant from her sister Deborah, Karen and her sister were keen advocates for organ donation and feel that more people should be aware of the programmes.

A final note – on 14th July 2008, a Karen MacLeod ran in the Isle of Skye Half Marathon as a FV 50+ where she finished 250th in 2:49:50.   Was it the same Karen MacLeod?   Yes, it certainly was – and it was only four weeks following her kidney transplant operation!   A quite remarkable feat and possibly as good as any run she had ever done.  

Everyone at Edinburgh AC send their condolences to all the family. R.I.P

Article  taken from SATS

According to the British Olympics records, she is Karen Margaret Anne MacLeod, her height is 5’6″ (168 cm), her weight is 112 lbs (51 kg), she was born in Iringa, Tanzania on 24th April 1958 and she was a member of Edinburgh Athletics Club.   For Scottish endurance running aficionadas she is one of the few Scots to have run in the Olympics  a runner in two Commonwealth Games and a competitor in the World Championships.   Of course, for some who look for the unusual, she was ‘the athlete sponsored by Runrig, the Gaelic Rock Band from Skye’.   She was married to John Davies , the former Welsh schools and Bath stand-off who became her coach as well as her husband.  To examine her career as an athlete we should maybe examine her personal best times as a measure of her quality.   The rankings are the all-time rankings.

Event Time Date Scottish Ranking GB Ranking
5000m 16:08.3 1987 16th 75th
10000m 33:17.88 1989 9th 35th
15K 50:22 1993 2nd 10th
10 Miles 54:44 1994 3rd Low 20’s
Half Marathon 73:07 14/7/99 10th 37th
20 Miles 1:56:23 1992 2nd 6th
Marathon 2:33:16 1994 6th 24th

These are very impressive, the more so when you remember that she was running at almost the same time as Liz McColgan and Yvonne Murray and that there have been several athletes who were English/Scottish who were only so for a few years.   Her list of major Games appearances is no less commendable: Commonwealth Games in 1990 (10000m) and 1994 (marathon), World Championships 1993 (marathon) and Olympic Games 1996  (marathon).   And yet there is remarkably little written about her or her running.   For the purposes of this profile I will draw heavily on two articles by Doug Gillon (one from the ‘Scotland’s Runner’ of June ’93 and one for the ‘Herald of 14th August ’93) as well as the usual statistical sites.   It is generally assumed that she was born in the Western Isles but the truth is that she was born at altitude in Tanzania where her father was a government architect and she moved to Skye as a toddler.   “When we there I spoke Swahili and had to learn both Gaelic and English”, she told Gillon, “I only remember a couple of words of Swahili now – enough to say hello to Kenyans and goodbye.”  Karen left Skye at 18 and by 1993 she was a PR graduate of Dunfermline College and also had a degree in English and History and was studying for a post-grad degree in health promotion.

She did not race until the age of 24 and her first race had been the 1982 Bath Half Marathon which she ran shortly after the death of her father to raise funds for cancer research.   “I was a bit of a sloth,” she told Gillon, “I liked my drinking and was not that fit.   I was clueless – ran in a pair of Dunlop green flash and could hardly walk the next day.”   The article goes on to say: ” She met her husband during the Wells Half Marathon later that year.  ‘He’d been following me for some time, then drew level and came out with this corny line about us wearing the same shoes – I’d graduated to a real pair by then.     John decided I should become more competitive.   He reckoned I was a real wimp.   I suppose I was a bit pathetic.   I chased after one rival and told her she had taken the wrong route – then she beat me.   I helped another girl through a stitch – and she beat me too.

John indoctrinated me to the rugby mentality of killing people off – that when people are suffering is when you put the boot in.   I’ve come around now but it’s taken a long time.”    Then there was the horse injury.    In 1983 she was thrown from a horse while pony trekking in the Mendip Hills.   “I’ve never been on a horse since, she said, “On Skye we were used to riding bareback.   If you ever got in trouble you just slid off.   But my foot stuck in the stirrup and I was dragged at the gallop, hanging by my left ankle.   I twisted my pelvis, damaged muscles and suffered sciatic problems.   Being an idiot I kept trying to run.   I developed a very awkward style and it took the physio ages to sort me out.”

Nevertheless, after starting running as reported in 1982, she started winning Scottish titles in 1985: when she won the Scottish 4000m closed cross-country championship in 1984 she beat Yvonne Murray.   She won the same title in 1986  and it was reported briefly in ‘Athletics Weekly’ thus: “SWCCU Championships held at Lochgelly on February 9th and raced over 4000m, the SWCCU ‘closed’ championships resulted in a win for Karen Macleod (EAC) in 16:07 from Penny Rother (EAC) 16:35 and Jean Lorden (ESH) 17:28.”   On the track indoors she won the WAAA Indoor 3000m, also in 1987.   She has also won the Scottish outdoor 3000m on 19th June 1987 in 9:26.61 from Christine Haskett-Price (9:28.72)   “Scotland’s Runner” reported on the race: “A cold and blustery Friday evening and the absence of Murray and Lynch conspired to ensure no fireworks.   But Karen Macleod did a competent job in adding the Scottish title to her UK indoors one.   With two laps remaining she finally broke fellow international Chris Haskett-Price, opening an ever increasing gap by the bell.   Although Chris closed on the final stretch, a last lap of 72.71 seconds was fast enough for Macleod to hold on.”   At the end of 1987 she was ranked tenth in the 1500m with 4:25.89 and eighth in the 3000m in 9:25.50.

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