Alastair Dunlop has enjoyed, even by his own lofty athletic standards, a stellar 2016 year on the track.
Proudly on his sideboard at home in Ness are five different Scottish national titles. Dunlop, who turns 63 this month, picked up the Scottish Athletics National Masters Championships for 800m 1500m, 3000m, 5000m and 10000m for athletes over 60 as he continues to defy Father Time with his continually blistering race pace and honours.
“When you are over 60 there aren’t so many,” he says modestly. I haven’t lost to any 60-years yet but I will.”
Alastair’s sporting CV makes remarkable reading. Since taking up running after packing in local football he has claimed a series of world records and world titles and although he admits he is slowing down – he is continuing to impress both on home soil and abroad.
“My world records have all been beaten now but they were wonderful to have even briefly,” he said.
“You have to accept you are getting slower as I get older. Sometimes I play football but you have to accept you’re rubbish at it now and I used to be quite good at football.
“When I was really good in my 40’s and 50’s I expected to win so I would try to make my way to the front immediately. Nearly always now doing 5K and 10K runs you are with younger ones so you approach it differently and let the younger ones go ahead.”
Having won all the Scottish titles he threw his sporting hat into the ring for a change of scenery with cross country – an unfamiliar territory for the veteran.
“Every year there is an international home countries international involving Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales of course. It was in Glasgow in November and I wanted to try it as I’d never been particularly good in cross country. Like in horse racing when the going’s good I’m ok but when it’s muddy I flounder a bit.”
Like all top level athletes who compete on the world stage, there are peaks and troughs. For every unforgettable world title or international triumph, they can be followed by the thudding down-to-earth reality of a painful disappointment or regret.
“Last year I went to Lyon for the World Championships,” recalled Dunlop.
“I reached the finals there but in the 1500m final I normally do well. But in the semi-final, from which the two heat winners and the six fastest runners-up qualify for the final.
“I thought it’d be a doddle and I’d easily qualify but I was 13th fastest loser. It was easily the worst running decision of my life and I was so annoyed with myself. If I had been struggling it’d have been fine but I just jogged around and missed out by half a second and it was a stupid mistake.”
Alastair might be turning 63 this month but at this rate he will making and breaking records for many years to come.