We lived in three homes during the ten years of Alison’s athletics’ career. Two were on the edge of Windsor Great Park. The first in Sunningdale, on the south side of the Park and then in Windsor on the north.

Very different from the manicured order of southern England, our third home was in the central Scottish village of Auchterarder. You probably know Auchterarder better as Gleneagles Golf Course.

Finding a place for Alison to run was vital to the choice of each home. Fortunately, the three houses had two geographical advantages. The first two bordered the 3000 acres of Windsor Great Park and the third was a couple of fences away from Gleneagles Golf Course.

This was before the days of GPS. Of course, driving through Windsor Park or Gleneagles was not allowed and so finding Alison three training tracks involved some careful study. Maps were bought and three pieces of string were cut to scale, five miles long, eight miles long and ten miles long. Oh, you didn’t need to do all that I hear you say. You could have just run anywhere for time. Yes, I know that is true. Both Arch Jelley and Arthur Lydiard have told me the same thing. However, I could never escape the imperative of knowing Alison’s weekly mileage.

After all, hadn’t Jeff Julian run the Waitakere Ranges twice one Sunday to get his weekly distance up to 100 miles, not some ten or eleven hours? I’ve heard John Walker and Peter Snell were more relaxed about their number of weekly miles. But I just had to know.

And so, with my three pieces of string I sat for hours plotting five, eight and ten mile runs around Windsor Great Park and Gleneagles Golf Course. Why those three distances, you may be asking? Well, the five was Alison’s normal shortest run in the build-up, usually run at lunch times and evenings during the ten build-up weeks. The eight was her six days a week morning run. And the ten formed the basis of her Sunday run.

The ten took a lot of planning. You see I was forever trying to find a Waitakere equivalent – gentle undulations at the beginning, then a steep climb to the highest point, some more undulations along the top and then some gentle slopes down to home. Finding that in Windsor Great Park was difficult. I doubt anyone could find a Waitakere climb anywhere in the Queen’s 3000 acres. The highest point is only 650 feet above sea level compared to the Waitakeres 1550 feet. The best you could call the Windsor Park ten was undulating.

It began with a 2.5 mile straight run up the Long Walk to the Copper Horse statue of George 3rd, then turned right, passed the Village School and up the hill to the Game Keeper’s Lodge, where the Queen’s Corgis lived. Then across the big dip, through a grove of trees and onto Smith’s Lawn, where the Guard’s Polo Club do their thing. Believe it or not Alison and I were members there one season. It was our reward for supplying the Park gamekeeper with a weekly leg of New Zealand lamb (with thanks to my employer, Borthwicks). Then about two miles around the picturesque Virginia Water. Our black Labrador, Tweed, was expert at stealing sandwiches from fisherman’s lunches as she galloped by. In the Valley Gardens at the Totem Pole (a gift from Canada) a right turn took us up Rhododendron Walk. Through the gate at the top, always an excuse for Alison to have a short walk, and past the Royal Lodge, now home to Prince Andrew but in our day, the better-behaved Queen Mother, and 400 meters around to the water trough, for Tweed to cool-off. Back down the Long Walk towards Windsor Castle, through our back fence and we were home. Ten miles done in what is the best kept, traffic free, picturesque, and historic run in the world.

In Scotland Alison did her shorter runs on Gleneagles Golf Course. Gleneagles is actually three golf courses, the Kings, the Queens and the PGA. They are not as manicured or as pretty as Windsor Great Park but are as stunningly beautiful and well kept, in a Scottish Highlands sort of way. Best of all the hills on Gleneagles are real hills. The Waitakeres would recognise them immediately. You can imagine my joy when I found these well-kept hills for Alison to climb. By the end of our time in Scotland she knew Gleneagles as well as any Scottish golfer. I am sure the fact she was representing Scotland and Great Britain had a lot to do with the authorities ignoring her presence on one of the world’s leading golf courses.                       

In Scotland, I found a smaller copy of Arch and Arthur’s Waitakere’s run. An undulating few miles at the beginning. Followed by a climb. Oh, what a climb, indeed. I swear it was steeper than the last section, up to the TV tower, at the top of the Waitakeres. Good God this was almost as steep as the Hillary Step on Mt. Everest. I traveled the world looking for a hill like this and here it was, on our backdoor step. But best of all it was followed by a gate and then another climb, not quite as steep, across paddocks, past grazing sheep, and up to the top of Borland Glenn. Through the Glen and down long, winding paths to the run’s ten-mile end.

It was a stunning run. The English poet, Wordsworth, wrote about London but could just as truthfully have been talking about the Borland Glenn run. He said.

Dull would he be of soul who could pass by a sight so touching in its majesty.

At the top of Borland Glenn in mid-winter, it could also be bitterly cold. Another poet, this time Scotland’s Robbie Burns, described Borland Glenn in these moments.

Cauld blaws the wind frae east to west,
The drift is driving sairly;
Sae loud and shrill’s I hear the blast,
I’m sure it’s winter fairly.

With places like this to run, no wonder Alison became an NZ/UK representative and UK indoor 1500-metre champion. The surroundings helped. But 100 miles is never easy. Neither is the climb to the top of Borland Glenn.

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