Inverness high jumper Rachael Mackenzie at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (photo by Bobby Gavin)
Inverness Harriers life member Charles Bannerman was so overcome by a surprise gathering of athletes he had coached across almost 50 years that he has now published a book about his life in the sport since the 1960s in the North and throughout Scotland.
‘A Running Jump’ takes readers through a competitive career that soon gave way to coaching a wide range of events, plus membership of club and national committees, team management and athletics journalism.
‘That gathering was a complete surprise so, after an enforced off the cuff speech, I kept remembering things I’d missed and it quickly dawned that there was a book there,’ said Charles,
‘But there’s more. I’m pretty well the only person left now who remembers the huge changes of the mid-1970s where North athletics became part of the sport nationally rather than an obscure outpost.
‘The effects were goundbreaking and this needed recording for posterity. I was therefore very pleased when an early book order came from Arnold Black, the Historian for scottishathletics.’
Charles still isn’t sure whether his proudest achievements have been in coaching, including senior athletes at Scotland or GB level in five different disciplines – high jump, hurdles, long jump, 400m and road running – or the modernisation of athletics in the North which began with these revolutionary changes.
‘The joy of seeing an athlete win a national title or gain international selection, or indeed running a great leg in a school relay, is enormous.
‘But to have participated in the evolution of North athletics from little more than half a dozen local Highland Games and a cross country race to the current integral role at all levels in Scotland and beyond is a real privilege.’
‘A Running Jump’ relates the North’s breakthrough into selections for the 1986 Commonwealth Games, including two of the author’s own athletes.
He therefore quickly glosses over turning down an invitation to be an equipment steward in the tunnel below Meadowbank!
There are further tales such as how four Inverness athletes and a coach arrived at a Scottish championship in a chauffeur driven Reliant Robin, why there was an extra lap in a half mile race on the Black Isle, and the athlete who tried to swim the Caledonian Canal to win a cross country championship.
He also gives special credit to three early mentors.
‘I picked up a vast amount from Frank Dick, our National Coach in the 70s, and from the legendary Bill Walker whose grand-daughter has already bought him a copy for Christmas.
‘And then there were decades of encouragement and guidance from the late Walter Banks, Past President of the Scottish Cross Country Union and a long-standing family friend.’
Watch out also for a surprise final chapter where fiction intervenes to change athletics history.
Charles’s previous books include the official histories of Inverness Harriers and the controversial merger that formed Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC.
“A Running Jump”, price £10+ Pand P, runs to 150 A5 pages and can be obtaned by emailing – firstname.lastname@example.org
Kirsty Law in action at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (photo by Bobby Gavin)