Stewarton 5k Brings Back Happy Memories for Me but Leaves Keith in Stitches

It was a bit of a mad rush on Wednesday, as I tried to get to Stewarton for the 6:30 cut off for the local bonnet Guild Festival’s 5k fun run. An oil spill on the M77 had caused major disruption and at 6:15, I had only reached the Silverburn/Pollok junction, I did think about turning off but decided to continue on my journey, imagining getting there after the race had started and setting off on my own. I wasn’t too fussed though, as I had had a good race on Saturday and was saving myself to pace at the forthcoming Men’s Health 10k, I wouldn’t be chasing a time but I did want to race again in Stewarton, after a 40 year gap.

I arrived at David Dale Ave to find one side of the street nose to tail with parked cars. I quickly grabbed the last spot and dashed into the woods. I ran down to the registration area with my entry form and £2 in my hand and was pleasantly surprised to see a long queue of runners waiting to register. The 6:45 Start was delayed for 10miins and I even managed a wee warm up before assembling with the others. There was a decent turnout from Jog Stewarton and the Killie Striders, as well as a few Kilmarnock Harriers too, there were also a lot of fun runners and children but most of these were doing the associated 3k run.

The 5k racers set off at 6.55 and headed east, briefly, before turning left, up into the woods. Another left and a right and we were climbing up through the Lainshaw Woods and across David Dale Ave and onto the Lainshaw Farm road.

I had been brought up in this neck of the woods…. and knew it well. I used to work at the Lainshaw Farm Eggs buildings that we past on our left hand site, which is where the name Jimmi Henshite comes from. I also remember that there was once a cross country race held in the field adjacent to the hen huts but I can’t remember if I ran in it, although much of my running as a lad was through these woods and fields. I used to run across the fields at 4am, herding the cattle to the farm for milking, before going to school. The Farm looked a lot less busy these days as we ran through it, there were no signs of any livestock to be seen, heard or smelled. Lainshaw Farm was 1.2k into the race and about 100m from my childhood home at 96 Lothian Road.

Apart from David Dale Ave, which is named after the famous Stewarton born textile merchant and philanthropist, most of the other street names reflect the fact that Lainshaw had been an Army Camp during the World Wars and are named after military vehicles, as well as Lothian Road, there is Crusader Crescent and Morton Road.

Past the Farm and we turned left onto Kilwinning Road, this used to be part of the popular ‘Around Chapetltoun Race’ which I used to race some 40 years ago. There are no pavements on the road but a small part of the road was cordoned off and we ran, downhill, along this before reaching Mid Kilbride farm and re-entering the woods.

I used to play ‘soldiers’ and ‘cowboys and Indians’ and have many happy memories of the area. The path in the wood is narrow but there wasn’t much overtaking taking place as the initial hill had helped to spread the field out. We ran west towards the old Robert Burn’s cottage, Uncle of the Great Poet. A sharp left and slightly down hill and, at 2.4k, we were climbing up another hill to the highest point of the course at 112m.

I was hot and tired but knew that that the hardest part of the course was now behind me. Downhill towards the Wendy woods I ran and approaching Montgomerie Drive, which was the site of the old Firing Range when I was last there, we were directed down some steps towards the Annick Water.

I was surprised to see parents helping their kids down the steps, until I realised that I had caught up with the 3k fun run, which was aimed at under 16 year olds. The River Annick was on my right hand side, as I made my way through the 3k runners and walkers on the narrow path. A young woman caught up with me and I asked those in front to let us pass. I used my experience to out sprint her and crossed the line in a time of 24:13.

I congratulated her and then noticed the only women to have overtaken me, Gill Irvine, finish her race too. She explained that she had taken a wrong turn, which meant that ‘the young woman’ Shona Oldham (27) had won Gold.

I then looked around to see, race favourite, Keith Haining, with his head bandaged up! Taking a page out of my book of running in Chaing Mai, he had run into a branch and cut his head. He had still won the race and the first aiders had attended him before I crossed the line. I congratulated Keith and then suggested that he visit the local A&E. Killie Striders’ Coach, Gavin Hogarth placed second and a young local lad, of 10 years of age, placed third, he could have a great future in front of him. That could have been me 46 years ago…….

It was great not only to meet up with so many running buddies and old school friends, including Sandra Hunter and Brian McGaw, but also some other weel kent faces now active in the Bonnet Guild, not least of all this year’s President John Elliot and David Hewitt, my old barber.

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