A Brief Club History

 

 

 

 Forres Harriers were founded in the post war years of the late 1940’s and although a small club in comparison to many, we have had more than our fair share of success regionally and nationally throughout the history of the club.123

     Due to the limited facilities for training, Forres Harriers are predominantly a Cross Country and Road Running Club, however we have had a few field athletes competing in the red vest of Forres; perhaps the best known of these, was former Scottish Amateur Highland Games Heavyweight Champion Kenny MacDonald, who competed with great distinction throughout the Sixties and Seventies.  Kenny is still actively involved with the Highland Games circuit and is the Senior Heavyweight Judge in the North.  

    A name synonymous with Forres Harriers is that of MacKenzie.  Since the Harriers were founded some sixty years ago, there has always been at least one member of the MacKenzie Clan involved with the Club.  Forbes MacKenzie was one of the initial leading stars.  He was an exceptional athlete and won every distance title in the North of Scotland.  Such was Forbes' Athletic prowess he was selected to represent Scotland at Cross Country in 1953 in Birmingham, where he was the Scottish Team’s third counter in 27th place, the very first Forres Harrier to gain National recognition and by no means the last.  He was just the first of 3 outstanding athletic siblings to have a long association with Forres Harriers.

     Forbes was instrumental in the development of younger brother Ian MacKenzie's running career.  As Ian’s running career blossomed so did the fortunes of the Club, as they became one of the most predominant winners of individual and team titles in the North.  Ian along with Don Ritchie, Donnie MacLean and Mike Scott were the backbone of this successful team.

    Ian is still actively involved with the club and is the current Club President and also coaches the younger athletes of the club along with Howard Mitchell, both who have been instrumental in the development of Catherine Simpson, Neil Cameron, Kyle Greig and Mark Mitchell into junior National athletes over the years. 

    Not to be out done by his brothers, Alan MacKenzie was also a very prominent member of the Forres Harriers, although he probably realised that Ian and Forbes were a tough act to follow at distance running.  Alan chose to specialise at the shorter distances.  Alan was a prolific sprinter and still holds the Club Senior Records for 100M, 200M and 400M; the first of these records was set in 1975.

 

                                            

                                                     

 Don Ritchie

 

 

 Perhaps the most famous Harrier of all is Ultra legend Don Ritchie, Don held 14 World Best Times for distances ranging from 50Km right up to 200Km.  Although a prolific International runner, Don always loved to compete for the Harriers in the North District Cross Country races.  He has also raised a considerable amount of money throughout the years for Cancer Charities, and in one of his sponsored events he ran from John O’Groats to Lands End, a distance of 846.4 miles, in 10 Days 15 Hours and 25 Minutes.

     A truly phenomenal achievement of which Don says “ I was supported by a strong Crew, including my wife Isobel, but this proved to be a very tough time for us all.  I developed a feverish cold soon after the start and then faced vicious head winds and sleet.  The cold soon developed into Bronchitis and this together with the stomach pains, intestinal blood loss, a sore mouth, regular nose bleeds, chest pains and torrential rains, led me to feel very relieved when I finally reached Lands End!”

     As I have said, Don loved to compete for the Harriers in the North District Cross Country races.  On one occasion at the Cross Country Relays in Fort William, the guys went for a jog around the course (along the river and up on to the slopes of the Ben).  After completing a warm up lap, there were many unhappy athletes, as they thought the course was too dangerous.  However Mike Scott was not to be deterred, and he stated that he was going to run the first stage and there had better be someone to hand over to, or he was resigning from the club.

 

With many athletes still unhappy, the first stage runners set off, as the race was in progress and a few injuries later, the organisers decided to abandon the race.  Totally unaware of the current situation Mike stormed into the change over area and was desperately looking for a team-mate to hand over to, at first he was none too pleased, but soon realised what was happening and refrained from resigning, which is just as well as he was the treasurer at the time.

    The Forres team of this era was selected to compete in the now sadly defunct Edinburgh-Glasgow Road Relay (which was the Blue Riband event of Scottish Athletics).  It was decided that the team would leave in the early hours of Sunday Morning, instead of travelling down the evening before.  As they set off it was pouring with rain, approaching the Dava moor the rain turned to sleet and eventually snow.  Half way across the Dava the cars got stuck and the team had to turn back to Forres.  So on their return to Forres, all the lads decided to go out for a run in the locality, it is alleged that this run eventually turned into a frantic race as all the guys frustration at being unable to compete came to the fore.

    For all his achievements within the sport and his work for Cancer Charities Don was awarded a richly deserved MBE in the Nineties and was also recognized by his peers, when he was awarded the George Dallas Memorial Trophy for his dedication to Scottish Athletics.

 

With two Royal Air Force Stations located within close proximity to Forres, many Servicemen have been members of the Club whilst stationed in this part of Scotland. Former Scottish Marathon Champion George Reynolds, Welsh runner Bruce Chinnick who was Welsh 10KM Champion in 1995 with a time of 30:49:50, former Great Britain and now Australian Ultra legend Mick Francis and Ben Livesey have all competed in the red of Forres Harriers.

     The Harriers have always had a great rapport with the Local Service Community and have assisted with the organisation of many of their race meetings.  Many Ex-Serviceman are still currently members of the club and keep in regular contact with us, long may this association continue.

 

Our next generation of talented youngsters; Grant Cameron, Eleanor Duncan and Matthew Hester are all beginning to flourish and are re-writing the club’s record books, indeed Matthew has just gained his first National Vest and will be representing Scotland at the 2005 Celtic Games which are being staged in Wales.

 

 

 

In the current senior squad we have hill specialist Graeme Bartlett and former Great Britain Marathon Internationalist Doug Cowie competing.  Graeme is a former winner of the Ben Nevis Race and was a member of the medal winning Scottish hill running team, at the World Championships which took place in Edinburgh during the Nineties.  Super Veteran athlete Doug Cowie has represented Scotland at the Marathon and Scottish Veterans at Cross Country for a number of years.  He was also selected to escort the Olympic flame around the globe prior to the opening ceremony at Athens in Olympic year.


 

As a club we organise 11 races annually, with the aim of promoting running in the North, we firmly believe that to attract people to compete in our sport we have to host well organised events at reasonable cost.  Our entry fees for races are some of the lowest you will find in Scotland and we also try to provide a good selection of post race refreshments at no added cost. This year saw entries in our races reach new record levels, which in turn allows us to keep our annual membership fees at a minimum, which are currently set at 15 for seniors and 5 for the juniors.  The club pays the SAL membership fees and entry fees to all the cross-country races in the North, great value for money! 

     One of our proudest moments, was the hosting of the Scottish Veterans Cross Country Championships in 2003.  This was a fantastic day for the club and it was great to see so many North Athletes competing in a National event.  All our efforts on that day were once again recognised by Scottish Athletics, when Forres Harriers once again hosted the Veteran's Cross Country in 2006.

    2006 proved to be a landmark year for the club, with return of RAF runner Ben Livesey and Simon Pride (Ex World 100KM Champion and former Commonwealth Games Marathoner)  both regularly turning out in the red vest of Forres.  The first major success of the year was Simon winning the Scottish Veteran's Cross Country Championships and Paul Rogan picking up the Bronze in the V35 category.  Later in the year Simon also won the Scottish Marathon Championships at the Loch Ness Marathon, whilst Ben won the North District 10K Road Race Championships and the North District Cross Country Championships.

    Meanwhile as a team, the Forres Men went onto win the North District Cross Country Relays and Cross Country Championships and perhaps the most satisfying of all the Great Glen Relay.  After a period of  11 years the event record by Inverness Harriers was finally consigned to the history books when the Forres Harriers team:  Ben Livesey, Andy Ross, Kyle Greig, Simon Pride, Paul Rogan and Graeme Bartlett set the new course record time of 5:57:13.

 


 

Finally Under 17 athlete Grant Cameron proudly wore the blue vest of Scotland at the British Junior Hill Running Championships at Belfast.

     The Club is currently going from strength to strength, we have a membership of around 80 members of all ages and abilities and new members are always welcome.  Our hard working Committee, under the tutelage of our ever-present Secretary Hamish Cameron, has to take great credit for the smooth running on all aspects of the club’s functions. To some this is more than just a running club it’s a lifestyle.

 

 

If you can add to or elaborate on any of our 'Illustrious' History, then please contact us at our E-mail address: root@forresharriers.org.uk