Local hero MacDonald revels in birthday delight

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Young Scottish hurdler Jack Lawrie celebrated landing a GB and NI vest for the Loughborough International when we went to training with Pitreavie AAC on Monday evening.

And it was a special occasion for his coach, too, as the good news merely added gloss to John MacDonald’s 88th birthday!

It is fully 35 years since MacDonald’s daughter, Linsey, went to the Olympics with GB at the age of 16 and came home with a bronze medal as part of the 4 x 400m relay squad in Moscow in 1980.

Now the athletics wheel has turned full circle again for the Scottish coaching legend, who won a ‘Local Hero’ accolade in the Scottish Sports Award three years ago and also happens to be an angling international.

Lawrie is picked for the 400m Hurdles at Loughborough and will be joined on the trip south by two other members of the scottishahtletics National Academy – Mhairi Hendry in the 800m (where she is leading European U20) and Aberdeen’s Kelsey Stewart, who is with the 4 x 400m squad.

‘Jack heard about his selection on Monday from British Athletics and we discussed it at training and everyone is delighted for him,’ said John. ‘It also happened to be my 88th birthday!

‘I’ve coached him for a number of years now, more than five I think, and he is a great lad who works very hard at his athletics.

‘Jack is working now doing 12-hour shifts as part of an apprenticeship and sometimes he has to do those shifts back to back. I thought it might affect him over the past year or so but it hasn’t.

‘Credit to him, he is still improving and getting quicker so we were hopeful of the GB vest because of the rankings. We do a tough circuits session on a Monday and hills in a public park in Dunfermline on a Tuesday – as well as a lot of track sessions.

‘I believe in cross country as a great endurance base and Jack has done that in the past, too, although not last winter because he was working. He will be up against Scotland’s David Martin on Sunday running for GB and it should be a good race.’

John won’t be in Loughborough this weekend but he is bound for Bedford with Jack for the England Athletics U20s in June and his own dedication to coaching burns as brightly as when helping Linsey’s own career which saw those medals won in Moscow in 1980 and Brisbane in 1982.

‘I don’t feel anything like my age,’ he laughed. ‘Athletics keeps me young and I am down at the track at Pitreavie, or out coaching elsewhere, most nights a week.’
Joyce and Ken Hogg guide Kelsey Stewart’s athletics in a similar way in Aberdeen while Andy Young, who has made such an impact with Laura Muir, coaches Mhairi Hendry in Glasgow.

Local heroes, for certain, and we feel sure they and other coaches will relate fully to John MacDonald’s contribution to Jack Lawrie’s on-going athletics journey…