Footballer is in the fast lane

Pic Lisa McPhillips 21/05/2013'Grant Plenderleith - FVH athlete, Scottish record holder and former Stenhousemuir footballer
Pic Lisa McPhillips 21/05/2013'Grant Plenderleith - FVH athlete, Scottish record holder and former Stenhousemuir footballer

His starts are probably the weakest points of his sprints, but Grant Plenderleith thinks he has the ideal starting point to develop his athletics career out of the blocks, writes David Oliver.

Clocking a time just outside 11 seconds in the 100m is a fairly decent time for most sprinters, but particularly so for one who hadn’t run
competitively for six

“I was nervous,” the 22-year-old told The Falkirk Herald. “It was my first time being with the international team.

“The time was 11.04 - it was alright for a guest leg and got me a third-placed finish, but I wanted to break 11 seconds.

“It’s a good starting point to work from coming in from the blue though.”

Representing Scotland at Loughborough last month was an important step for Plenderleith and confirmation his move from football, where he’d most recently played for Sauchie Juniors, to athletics with Falkirk Victoria Harriers was a positive one. Indeed it was through football, and his frustrations at a lack of opportunity that turned him back to athletics years
after he’d last run competitively.

Plenderleith earned £10,000 for Stenhousemuir’s youth development scheme by being the fastest sprinter in the Scottish Football League for season 2011/12 in a publicity stunt race for Challenge Cup sponsors Ramsdens.

“I was the fastest in the SFL and it rekindled the idea of going back to running, I won the team competition at Stenny then the final at Livingston, and I thought I’ll give it a go. I ran an open graded event myself and got a not bad time and thought that’s coax me back into it and a coach got me back
into it - from when I was younger.

“I was at Stenny, on loan at Bo’ness, then was released and went to Sauchie and the training kind of allowed me to do both. I could still train athletics and play at a decent level.

“Its good to get back with the Harriers, I’ve been back there since August, training a couple nights a week, but I was still playing football with Sauchie. A couple of months ago we had three games left but the gaffer was okay to let me go so I took my training with the Harriers up to three or four times a week. It’s helping.

That’s where the focus is now - away from football and onto athletics.”

Plenderleith’s dad, Keith, is a coach at the Harriers, where sister Emma in an athlete. “She’s not specialised in anything yet, she’s all-round and just enjoying it at the moment,” he said. “But sprinting is what I think I should be focussing on.”

He added: “I want to do sprinting but it’s looking more like 200m or 400m because my starts arent particularly fast, once I’m up to speed I can go so it’s longer sprints that I think I’ll be best at... it’s just deciding on which one. “I have the AAA under-23 championships in Bedford this weekend and I’m stepping up into the 400m, I’ll be giving that a bash.

“I did it for the first time ever a few weeks ago and I felt alright.”

At Loughborough, Plenderleith was also in the relay team that finished “second or third,” he doesn’t know because the team was disqualified for a baton changeover outside the permitted zone. “It wasn’t me, I was the last so by the time it got to me it didn’t matter. I still took it as part of my development though and went for it. It would’ve been a good result ahd it not been for that mistake - but these things happen.”

That and his 100m give plenty of reasons to be cheerful. The 200m sprint time is just as impressive as his speed over half that distance, indeed, even after so long off the track, Plenderleith has returned with a 200m run just outside the Commonwealth Games qualifying time. However he’ll try to divert conversation from the idea he could qualify for Glasgow next year and keep it low-key, despite the statistics pointing to plenty of reason to be hopeful.

“Of course, the Commonwealth is an inspiration for anyone,” he admits. “With hard work you never know. Just being new to it there’s plenty to work on and sharpen up.

“Right now the time’s just out a second of the 200m time, so there’s a possibility there to better that time. If I’d have been doing it for years then there’d be a thought, maybe not. But I’ve got time to work on my stride and fitness and we’ve a bit of work to do to see what happens. There’s a good starting point to work from regardless.”