SHE gave up competitive running 18 years ago – but Lothian Green MSP and former 800 and 1500 metres champion Alison Johnstone has promised to race again if Scotland wins the battle to host the World Masters Games in 2021.
The 47-year-old made the “rash” commitment during a debate in the Scottish Parliament. But she said: “I’ve got eight years to get fit.”
The Masters – veteran athletes’ answer to the Olympics – will be held at Turin in Italy later this summer and Auckland, New Zealand, in 2017.
Ms Johnstone backed a Holyrood motion tabled by SNP MSP Bob Doris urging the Scottish Government to bring the tenth World Masters summer games to Glasgow in 2021. And she told fellow MSPs: “If the bid is successful, I will ensure that I am fit to participate – no pressure there!”
Ms Johnstone is a former East of Scotland champion at 800 and 1500 metres and also has national vests at these distances and cross country.
She said: “If I was fit enough I would have taken part in the Scottish Masters this weekend. I’m actually horribly competitive and I have never competed just for fun.”
She last ran in a competition in 1995. “If I’m going to compete I like to do these things properly.”
But she plans to stick to her “rash pledge”. She said: “In the spirit of the debate I was pleased to give my support to Glasgow’s bid for the youth Olympic games in 2018, I stressed my support for Edinburgh’s bid for the National Performance Centre for Sport. Then I was getting carried away and I said if Glasgow were to hold the World Masters I would get fit to compete in it. I’ve always said I would like to be fit enough to compete properly in Masters athletics. You need a target to aim at. En route to that there are the Scottish Masters, British Masters and European Masters.”
She runs four or five miles three times a week and coaches once a week at Meadowbank.
“As people live longer, a lot of them are staying fit and competitive. As you age, you can you hang onto your endurance. Speed is much harder. But a growing number of people are holding their fitness for longer,” said the politician – whose actions could inspire the middle aged to also get fit.
Mr Doris said the Games offered an “Olympic-style experience” and were good for encouraging participation. “Anyone who meets the minimum age is eligible, regardless of sporting ability. And every time they’ve taken place, the financial benefit of the Games to the host city has risen.”