End of an era as Donnie bids farwell to the track
There was no fairytale ending for Donnie Macleod in the 4x400m relay.
He took the baton for the final leg and as he thrust his famous kick of pace into overdrive he quickly swept past the fourth place runner to train his eyes on third in the distance.
The 30-year-old has seen it all and won most of it in a stellar athletics career and Donnie is one of the Western Isles most successful and greatest athletes.
This time though he ran out of track before he could reel in third place and snatch a dramatic podium.
Minutes later and Donnie was out of his spikes – forever – as he left them at Visby’s Gutavallen Stadium. He had vowed 2017 would be his last Island Games as part of the athletics squad and he looks true to his word after leaving his running spikes behind after the relay.
“I am finished now,” said Donnie.
“This is it. I pretty much quit after Jersey and I took a full year out with no athletics training after that. But I came back to my training last summer to have one last go here in Gotland but that’s what it was – one last go.”
Donnie Macleod has long become the man to beat, and catch him if you can, at 800m level. In Bermuda 2013 and Jersey 2015 he sprinted to golden glory in the Men’s 800m with his typical turbo jetted turn of pace which left his rivals trailing helplessly in his wake.
These double gold’s followed back to back silver medals in 2009 (400m) and 2011 (800m) before the Stornoway speedster Macleod rose to the surface as the best of the best over two laps.
But a glorious hat-trick of gold gongs proved too much but he admits he thought a third place at the top of the podium was pretty unlikely given his run into the Games.
“It’s been ups and downs all weeks,” admitted Donnie with a smile.
“I had come here to Gotland hoping to win a medal but I knew I wasn’t in as good shape as I have been in the past. But at the same time I knew the field wasn’t as strong as previous years so I thought I’d give it a go but it wasn’t to be.
“I’ve not been training as hard as I used to and other things have taken priority,” he confessed.
“I’m in decent shape and I was happy to make the 800m final. I knew I wasn’t in top race shape before the 800m final. On paper I was third or fourth on this season times and to win I needed to have a great run and hope someone else had a poor run.
“You never want to walk off the track thinking you haven’t given it your all and I did give it my best in the 800m race but maybe.”
For now Donnie has switched his turn of pace and Duracell energy to the football field where he aims to turn out for Glasgow Island again on a weekly basis and perhaps in the future for the Western Isles.
“I love football and when I am training for athletics I really miss being able to play. I play for Glasgow Island so I will be going back to them now,” he continued.
Looking back to Bermuda 2013 and Donnie’s first Island Games gold Donnie recalled to the Gazette how he used the first lap to work his way to the front of the pack before tactically slowing his pace which had a domino effect on the other athletes who followed his lead and slowed into a paceyrhythm. And when the race settled into the normal hectic jostling for position which can make the sport seem like chess with va-va-voom and entered the final bend, Macleod put the pedal to the metal,cranked up through the gears to hit full pelt pace once again. By the time his rivals realised what was happening it was too late. Speaking to the Gazette at the time he said: “Standing on the podium having won the gold with the Western Isles flag draped around me and with the Bays of Harris playing on the tannoy was a very special moment,” “When I started the race the guy in the lane outside me was the guy I knew I would have to beat to win gold. So I made my way to the front to make sure I got in front of him then slowed down so it would be difficult for him to get round me,”he explained. “He seemed to be satisfied with a slower pace and for the first 600m all the athletes were together in what was a bit of a procession. Every single athlete had the chance to win iti n the final 200m but then I went for it. “The other guys played into my hands as I was the fastest sprinter in the field. I think most had the same idea as me and were going to go for it in the final 200m but I went for it around 230m to catch them off guard and I was five or ten metres away from the field by the time they realised what I was doing and they had to try and catch me then. “When someone goes at that pace, that late there is not a lot anyone can do. As I was sprinting clear I knew I had timed it right and I was confident then I would win the gold.” It was a race strategy which served him well and one he repeated in Jersey to rack up a second straight gold. But now with his spikes left behind in Sweden it really is the end of the track for our Donnie who leaves with a neck full of medals, a head full of memories and a heart bursting with pride at having run for the Western Isles at seven Island Games.
He added: “I have a lot of friends here and a lot of happy memories from the Island Games, absolutely. Looking back my gold in Jersey was probably the best race I’ve ever run so I look back on that fondly.
“The field there in Jersey was also stronger than the field in Bermuda which is another reason and I think it’s fair to say that it is harder to defend a title than to win it in the first place as after winning it people are looking out to beat you.”