The Life of Brian

brian aitken 2 brian aitken 1Former athletics weekly correspondent, EAC member and self confessed athletic anorak and fanatic, Brian Aitken is hoping to lay claim to being the most versatile athlete of all time by having competed in just about every male event on the track and field programme over a career that has spanned nearly half-a-century, his  story is posted below,

The last distance
“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses- behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”
Muhammad Ali

Aitken who remembers competing in a sack race with a snotty nose as a five year old, only has the track 10,000 metres and the race walks to complete the feat.
Remarkably, it was not planned but happened by chance as he only realised the deed was possible with his 50th birthday looming next year.
Smiling he said, “My 50th is in February so I was wondering what I’d do? A good friend ran the Athens marathon to celebrate his so it got me thinking.
Then the penny dropped that I’d done every event except the the longest track distance.”

Aitken, a former PE teacher, and a middle distance runner by trade, having competed for the Scottish schools’ over 1500m in 1982, once trained briefly with distance running great Yvonne Murray, his Edinburgh AC club mate, and was assistant manager of the 1990 Bedfordshire cross country team when another distance running legend Paula Radcliffe ran for the team. On the pair he said. “They were both always going to make it as they were self contained, highly focused, grounded and tough as nails when it came to running.”

His passion for track and field was instigated by the Thistle award scheme (5 star England), “Points were awarded for performances in two track and a field event to two field and a track event. A final award, one to five, was then won depending on the final score. It gave me a real appreciation of other events at a young age.

Asked about the hardest individual event he replied ,” I did a number of events as a B string scorer while competing for Edinburgh AC and Luton AC in British Leagues or GRE Cup matches. The Triple Jump, pole vault, hammer and 110m hurdles were difficult, but I would imagine the specialists in these events would find a 3000m steeplechase, marathon or cross country through cold deep knee mud tough going.”

His favourite event, ” The 800m and 1500 metres for sheer exhilaration- every speed gear used, tactically infinite.”

On the venue for the last distance, “I’m hoping do it at Meadowbank, my home track where I trained as a kid, or Alexander stadium, a track where I’ve never competed. It all depends on which promoter is willing to pay the most,” he said with his tongue firmly in his cheek.

On his fondest memories,

“Breaking 5 metres in the Long Jump in a Decathlon. The applause from the other Decathletes was heart warning. The camaraderie was wonderful, the event mentally and physically brutal. The   Breaking of three hours in the London, Boston and Edinburgh marathons also stand out as hair up on the back neck moments. Winning the individual Birmingham League Division four cross country title in my thirties was also rewarding as I hated the country when I was younger while running into George Square on the last leg of the Edinburgh to Glasgow road relay was a particularly poignant. Throwing the hammer without losing my head or arms and just making the sand in the triple jump are also memorable. Even so, representing Scottish Schoolboys over 1500m as a 16 year old in 1982 was my personal Everest. The 1992 Olympic 3000m 6th placer steeplechaser Tom Hanlon was right behind me and never made the team.”

On the present woes in athletics at present, ” It boils down to one word really, greed.”

Although confessing

to enjoying computer games, especially the athletic and F1 ones he said, “Nothing can beat the thrill and adrenaline of the real thing.”

He added, “I’m not sure kids get the same opportunities I did.

I used to sneak into Meadowbank stadium as a young one with friends, and play at the Olympics. The 1976 Olympic 400/800m champion Alberto Juatorena was my hero. I had the good fortune to meet him the in the street at the Gothenburg world athletic champs a few years back. He was pure class. I had no pen for an autograph but he pulled one out and signed the cap on my head.”

If I achieve the feat, I’ll probably have my usual celebration tipple, an Irn Bru. I’ll then look for another target- the walks look like a great final challenge.

His advice to young athletes starting out, ” Savour every moment, the sport is amazing and cultivates many life skills, the main one being work hard and success will arrive at your door. Athletics has also taught me that when you’reon the ropes you need to dance.”

He also recounts a story from a former England rugby player who advised a young player who was thinking about retiring, “You’re a long time retired.” He summed it up, compete as long as you can.
On the back of one of Aitken’s London marathon medals is the the words, ” Success is a journey, not a destination.”

He is hoping that his athletic odyssey will come to a happy conclusion on his 50th birthday in 2016. Hopefully he will be wiping his nose before the race though.

60m: 7.91
100m: 12.1
200m: 23.0
400m: 51.7
800m: 1:55.6
1500m: 3:58
Mile: 4:38
3000m: 8:49
5000m: 15.44
4 x 100m: 56.4
4 x 400m: 3:48
10 000m: ?

2 miles: 10.08
4miles: 20:17
5km: 16:15
10km: 33.28
10miles: 56.03
HM; 1:14.35
20 miles: 2:12.16
Marathon: 2:49
30000m SC: 11:01.3
110mh: 21.7
400mh: 64.8

HJ: 1.49m
PV: 2.09m
SP: 8.71m
DT: 17:32
HT: 10.65m
LJ: 5.13m
TJ: 11.35
HT: 10.66
JT: 22:06m
Decathlon: 3699 points.

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