Robbie Simpson battled his way to a bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games marathon in a race overshadowed by the collapse of his team-mate Callum Hawkins.
The Banchory runner took the fifth Team Scotland athletics medal and their final, 44th medal overall in Gold Coast on Sunday. It was Scotland’s first in the men’s marathon since a silver for Jim Alder in Edinburgh in 1970.
But rarely in the history of athletics in Scotland can the agony and ecstasy of sport have been played out in such dramatic fashion.
Robbie had been 12th at halfway and while he had hoped to work his way through the field, he admitted he never entertained the prospect of the podium until very late in the race – he was still looking round when entering the finishing straight in front of packed stands, including his mother and father Anna and Graeme, and his French girl-friend Ginie.
“I’m absolutely delighted to get the bronze but I’m disappointed for Callum, who couldn’t make it to the end because he was going so well,” said Robbie.
“I’ve spent the last four weeks with Callum and he’s been great for me for giving me confidence and showing me how the best guys prepare.”
Callum had been a long-time leader of the race in conditions akin to a furnace, but then collapsed less than 2.5km from the finish line with a lead of just over two minutes from Aussie favourite Michael Shelley, who ultimately took gold to successfully defend the title he won at Glasgow 2014.
Across the globe spectators and TV viewers watched in horror as Callum recovered from a first fall to carry on running before then hitting the tarmac again.
It soon became clear that he could not continue and questions remain about the speed of the medical service supplied by the race organisers. In fact, team-mates Steph Twell and Lynsey Sharp were among the very first people to reach Callum and assist him.
Shelley and Uganda’s Solomon Mutai pushed on for gold and silver in 2hr 16min 46sec and 2:19.03 respectively before Robbie came home for a superb third under all the circumstances in 2:19.36.
“I really felt bad passing Callum lying on the ground like that,” Robbie added. “I wanted to help him but there was assistance with him at the time and I don’t think there is anything I could have done – I wasn’t feeling great myself.
“It was a case of thinking ‘I need to get to the line before the same thing happens’ and try and hold on to a medal.
“I just had to make sure I finished myself and as I neared the end, with everyone cheering me on, and seeing all the Scottish flags, I got a second wind and it’s great to get third.
“I just tried to run a smart race and come through and in the end I managed to do it, but it was really tough.
“It makes the past six months worthwhile and I’ve put in thousands of miles for this – up at 118 and 115 for some weeks back in the winter. When I came out here first I really struggled with the conditions and it was only in the last fortnight or so I felt better about it.
“I did think all along that it would not be won in a fast time – it is just not possible when it is close to 30 degrees.”
Robbie thus added Commonwealth bronze to the bronze he won in the World Mountain Running Championships in Wales three years ago.