Commonwealth Games: Alder won after losing his way

Jim Alder shows off his marathon gold and six miles bronze. Picture: Allan Milligan
Jim Alder shows off his marathon gold and six miles bronze. Picture: Allan Milligan
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SCOTLAND only won one gold medal at the British Empire & Commonwealth Games of 1966, held in the Jamaican capital of Kingston, but it was effectively won twice over.

Jim Alder, already a bronze medallist in the six miles on the track, had taken what he thought was a decisive lead in the marathon. In the punishing Caribbean climate, he could have done without adding any greater distance to the customary 26 miles, 385 yards but, as he approached the stadium, he veered off the route and into the car park, as the officials charged with keeping the athletes on course had gone inside to see the Duke of Edinburgh.

By the time a Scottish official was able to usher Alder back on the right track, Bill Adcocks of England was inside the arena with a lead of more than 50 yards. With less than a lap of the track to go, it was a situation which would have demoralised many lesser men, but Alder responded magnificently and began to close on his rival.

He overtook Adcocks in the closing straight, and later revealed that, as he did so, he shouted out “Geronimo!” in triumph.

It was a remarkable recovery, but then Alder’s was a remarkable career. Two years before the Kingston Games he set a world track record for distance run in two hours. From that year, 1964, to 1972 he set five other Scottish records.

Perhaps the most memorable for a home audience was the Scottish native record for the marathon he set in 1970, when he came close to retaining his Commonwealth title in Edinburgh but, in the end, had to settle for silver behind Ron Hill of England. Alder’s greatest race, however, was surely the one four years earlier when he had to beat the field once, then defeat Adcocks all over again.