The Stubborn Scotsman - Don Ritchie: World Record Holding Ultra Distance Runner Paperback – 14 Nov 2016
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About the Author
Born in Aberdeenshire in 1944, Don began his 48 years running career in 1962 with Aberdeen Amateur Athletic Club as a 440 yards runner. Following graduation from Aberdeen University he moved to Birmingham for employment, where he ran for Birchfield Harriers. On returning to Aberdeen, Don qualified as a physics teacher.
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What does come across is that Don took extreme training and racing to a level that while successful in many ways was also detrimental to many performances and ultimately his health. He clearly damaged his immune system and his excessive carbohydrate diet over decades led, by his own admission, to him developing diabetes.
The book leaves you little wiser to what drove this gentle, quiet, unassuming man. Obviously from his involvement with Sri Chimnoy and his travels to India to visit the guru Sai Baba he had a strong spiritual side, but Don gives little away. Maybe the lack of self comment in the book was a very spiritual thing to do, but I wonder if, whether he was aware of it or not, he was drawn to the transcendental quality of sustained exercise. I now realise that my own distance running had a strong aspect of what I would call ‘physical meditation’. Intensive labour or exercise is said by some to raise your consciousness and I would agree with that.
There is a little input in the book from its editor and Don’s good friend Colin Youngson, a fine distance runner in his own right, and perhaps Colin could have given us greater insight into Donald the man and shed some light on what made him tick. That biography of one of ultra running’s greatest pioneers remains to be written.
A worthwhile read nonetheless for those who rubbed shoulders with Don on a start line or for those caught up in today’s trend for extreme challenges and want to learn from someone who has most certainly been there and done it.
During his fantastic racing career, Donald could be described as follows. Quiet, modest, calm, charitable, friendly but private. Self-motivated, determined, dedicated, ambitious. Stoical, masochistic, amazingly tolerant of pain, resilient. Obsessed, addicted to training and racing. Seldom allowing time for rest or recovery. Secretly passionate, foolishly optimistic, occasionally crazy.
To fight through extreme difficulties and win must be tremendously satisfying. Donald Ritchie M.B.E. broke world records for distances including: 50 km, 40 miles, 50 miles, 100 km, 150 km, 100 miles, 200 km and 24 Hours Indoor, and also set many new age-group standards. He won most of the classic ultra races in Britain and Europe.
Donald's autobiography covers, in considerable detail, his early life, running apprenticeship, peak performances and veteran highlights (he was still racing for Great Britain senior teams until over 50 years of age). Blood, sweat, pain and triumph, but no tears from this most uncomplaining of Scotsmen. Buy a copy now - and marvel!