Lachie Stewart, Athlete

Joseph Laughlin Stewart - “Lachie” to one and all from his earliest days - was born in the Vale in June 1943, and is the Vale's most successful athlete of the 20th century. He is, of course, best known for winning the 10,000 metres race at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in a thrilling finish against World record holder Ron Clarke of Australia (who won silver) and Dick Taylor, who took the bronze. The closing stages of the race can be seen on www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/sportsscotland/asportingnation by selecting the 1970 Commonwealth Games and then Media Player.

Although that was the peak of Lachie's career, there was a lot more to it than one race. He was very much a naturally gifted athlete who added to the gift by dedicated hard work. Lachie was brought up in the Dalmonach Estate and as a young man his training routine was either cross country running on the hills above the Golf Course, running up and down the hill that is Auchincarroch Road, or going down to Millburn Park to join his fellow harriers in interval training. There were some useful sprinters and middle distance men at Millburn at the time, but Lachie's 440 yard laps in his interval training were faster than them all - and he could keep them up all evening.

He was training to be a dental mechanic in Glasgow, and eventually left the Vale to live in Glasgow, as a result of which he joined Shettleston Harriers. In the 1960's he built a solid reputation in distance running, winning 13 Scottish titles in 7 years over a variety of distances from the 2 miles, to the 3,000 metres steeplechase, to the 10 miles. Away from the track, Lachie was 4th in the World Cross-Country Championships in 1967, and he appeared regularly at top class track meetings in the UK and Europe.

At his peak, Lachie's best time for the 100 yards was 10.8 - the Scottish Championship was being won in about 10.1, so his time was pretty respectable over the sprint distance. In fact, his sprint finish was considered one of his assets, and both Taylor and Clarke were aware of it in the Meadowbank race. However, he was considered to be a bronze medal prospect at best, with Clarke the favourite, but Taylor not far away. Things turned out just a little differently on the final lap. Lachie's sprint finish took care of Taylor on the back straight, and he motored on past Clarke to finish a clear winner in front of an ecstatic Meadowbank crowd in a time of 28 minutes 11.8 seconds on the scoreboard, 28.11.7.1 officially - 20 seconds faster than his previous fastest time for the 10K.

Lachie competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics for GB, and in other international meetings without ever quite recapturing that form.

He is back living in Bonhill where apart from his daily run, his hobby is building model airplanes. For many years he coached his son, Glen, who was also a GB international runner, but Glen has also now retired from top-class athletics. Lachie is certainly not forgotten by the sport he graced for many years. In March 2007 he was deservedly inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame at the National Museum in Edinburgh.

 

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