When sprinter Jim Smith lined up for his first ever track race he was facing rivals nearly 50 years younger than him.
Now, 10 months later, he is celebrating winning medals in a national athletics championship at the ripe old age of 69.
He and his training partner, Alan Robertson, a mere youngster at 37, have paid tribute to the junior members of Motherwell AC who are driving them on to success.
Smith had been a keen squash player but had no athletics experience until he ‘took a notion’ to join the harriers in February last year.
His first race was the 100 metres in the West District Championships at Kilmarnock three months later.
Smith recalled: “There I was lining up with all these guys in their 20s. Not surprisingly I was last. My time was 16.5 seconds, but I’ve since brought that down and last week ran my fastest ever, 14.95 seconds.
“For 200m I’ve brought my time down from 32.5 seconds to 30.8 and the aim is to break 30 seconds.”
Smith competed in the recent Scottish Indoor Masters Championships at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena. He took silver in the 60m and bronze in the 200m in the 65 years plus age group.
Club colleague Robertson repeated his feat of last year when he won the 35 years plus 60m, 200m and long jump at the masters event.
Robertson showed promise as a sprinter at school but never followed it up. When he joined Motherwell AC in 2011 it was to train with the road runners as he felt he was too old for track and field.
He said: “I competed in some track events and then plucked up the courage to train with the sprint group who were all about half my age!”
Since then Robertson has won a string of national titles, bringing his 100m time down from 12.3 seconds to 11.57 seconds. His best moment so far was taking bronze in the British Masters 100m in Birmingham last year.
Both sprinters are quick to thank their coaches, father and son Bob and Chris McCrum, and their young colleagues.
Robertson said: “I take inspiration from all the athletes here. I’m hoping the progress Jim and I have made will encourage other older athletes to give the sport a try.”
Smith added: “I’m 70 in June, but the kids treat me like one of them and are a great encouragement.
“People might think because they’re older joining a club is not for them, but it’s great fun and it’s amazing how much you can improve. Everyone talks about PBs, even if it’s only 0.1 of a second. It’s a great incentive to keep going.
“I’ll never be Usain Bolt, but that’s not the point as it’s all about making the most of your life.”
Also at the Indoor Masters, Phyllis Hands (W55) won gold (3,000m), Benny Hands (M50) took silver (800m) and bronze (1,500m) and William Martin (M55) won bronze (60m hurdles and 400m).