It was a week of epic battles.  Celtic V Rangers.  Corbyn V Johnson.  Joshua V Ruiz.  Maryhill Harriers V A crippling list of injuries and illnesses not seen since the Somme.   James Prior V Grammar.  However the daddy of them all, the Maryhill Harriers Xmas Handicap took place today.

An impressive turnout of 20 harriers assembled outside John Paul Academy for the start of the race.  Craig then proceeded to pass round the eagerly anticipated handicaps.  As usual this took place with a minimal of fuss and no moans and groans, especially from Mick.  Chortle.  I was disappointed to see Alisdair given a start on me.  If Summer Alisdair turned up I was doomed.  Fortunately Christmas Night Out Alisdair showed up.  He looked as if he had used up all his speed getting to the dancefloor for the slosh the previous night. 

Margaret lead us all off.  I set off in pursuit of Alisdair a little faster than usual.  I managed to overtake Alisdair just after the Acre path.  I then caught a glimpse of Acre resident Mad Dog McClumpherty.  The last time I encountered McClumpherty was in 1987 when he lead the Acre Fleeto in pursuit of me shouting “get back to Summerston ya Toff”.  I channelled the pace of a petrified 11 year old James Prior from then on in.

By the end of the first lap I had managed to catch up with the usual battle between Chris and Kenny H.  Half way along Acre path I managed to overtake Cat and then set my sights on catching Linda and Heather.  After overtaking Linda and Heather I then managed to overtake and give a fright to Susan who nearly jumped out her skin.  I could see Margaret in the distance and set off to try and catch her before the turn up Caldercuilt Road.   I managed this and then set off as best I could on the home straight.  I wasn’t sure who was behind me and the ghosts of Christmas Handicaps past entered my mind when I had been overtaken by Alan R and Gianluca with glory in sight.

As I approached the finish line I could see a familiar figure cheering me on.  The cheers inspired me as I managed to finish first in 21:23 beating my previous best from 2017 of 22:08 by a distance and claiming my first and last Harriers trophy.  Margaret came in not long after in second and first lady.  As I stood bent over struggling for breath I felt a reassuring pat on the back.  I looked up.  It was McClumpherty.  I froze.  Oh no he’s finally caught up with me.  He said “James I remember that day back in 1987.  I remember thinking at the time one day that boy will win the Maryhill Harriers Christmas Handicap.  I was right.  Let me shake your hand.”  We shook hands.  Then I head-butted him.  Boom.

Thanks to Caroline and Fletcher for the cheers and for logging the finish positions and times and also the Riding School where we had tea and coffee afterwards. Thanks to everyone who brought home baking and cakes.

Results: Shown are finish time (clock started when first runner started) then actual race time by each harrier

  1. James Prior (26.35/21.23) 
  2. Margaret Peebles (27.21/27.21)
  3. Susan Gunn (27.36/25.13) PB
  4. Scott Coulter (27.38/20.03) 
  5. Chris Hever (27.43/23.34)
  6. Natalie Somerville (27.47/20.39)
  7. Catriona Nisbet (27.57/24.06)
  8. Willie McGill (28.00/22.12)
  9. Ryan Gilhooley (28.04/20.54) 
  10. Finn Boyd (28.05/19.00) 
  11. Linda Sinclair (28.06/26.04)
  12. Kenny Henderson (28.33/24.27)
  13. Lynsey McLaughlin (28.39/21.58) 
  14. Andrew Stevenson (28.42/21.13)
  15. Mick McCartney (28.45/22.37)
  16. Alisdair Kinniburgh (29.05/24.12)
  17. Craig Perrie (29.06/19.28) 
  18. Heather Stevenson (29.16/27.14)
  19. Kenny Stevenson (31.16/29.38)
  20. Rory Clark (31.40/21.02) 

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