Club stalwart, former president, and long-time committee member Glen Wallis explains the importance and the attraction of our Scottish club races.

Club handicap races function as a link to and a celebration of our past, and they are the building blocks of our future.

Each winter season the club holds five club handicap races. In each of these events, trophies are awarded to the winners on handicap. All the trophies themselves have strong links to the club’s past, with each representing their own slice of history. Some trophies were donated as memorials, and others by prominent members, and some, like the Galashiels Shield and Centennial Cup, owe their origins to significant milestones in the club. By keeping these races going we honor the past and the values that make Scottish such a great club to run or walk with.

Handicap races are first and foremost fun social events where members get the opportunity to gather, develop some friendly rivalries, try and outfox the handicapper, and bag an elusive club trophy. Winners of handicap races can be anyone, of any ability in the club, but as winners for the afternoon they will be good-naturedly ribbed as “burglars”. Most of us might get to enjoy this attention once a decade, but a review of the names engraved on the trophies shows that we have some highly skilled members who have been able to pull the wool over the eyes of several handicappers over several years. 

Post-race over a cup of tea and then a beer, there is always a lot of banter about what the handicapper was thinking. Does he not know you haven’t run anywhere near your estimated time for years? Doesn’t he know about your current niggle? And what is his problem with predicting the future? The consensus, excluding the winner of course, is that the handicapper got it wrong. Fortunately, our current handicapper, James Turner, is as thick-skinned as his predecessors, and he in fact thrives on this feedback. After all, he always has the next handicap to have the last laugh.

The club races are also a great opportunity to replace a tempo session and practice your race craft. They are spaced out over the year and are a great way to test your fitness, or try different tactics prior to a major event. In a low-key event like these you can answer your internal question: Does going out hard and trying to hold on works for me, or do I get a better result slowly building up my speed, or am I better at surging during a race? You can also gauge your fitness against others and develop markers on how well you are performing in the bigger races. Some dress rehearsing in these events will lead to better race results in the bigger events.

My favorite handicap events is the Baudinet Cup from the Titahi Bay Surf club, with a challenging course mixing road, tracks and sand. Several seasons ago, it also provided one of the most memorable and unusual events that I have experience in over 45 years of racing. The race was unfolding as it normally would, until about halfway around the course when we were all stopped by the long arm of the law who with their dogs were searching for a couple of burglars. Our offers to help run down the perpetrator or escort the very nervous young man they had captured back to the station were not accepted by the police. So we had no option but to turn back and return to the clubhouse, where more than one competitor felt that they had been robbed of the trophy that day. We eventually ran the race a few weeks later.

It would be great to see more members participating in these events, and the Management Committee is always open to suggestions as to any changes that will make them a more attractive Saturday option for our members.