Paradise Beach runner Les Williams continued to prove that age is just a number, after the 67-year-old returned to Australia from Scotland after a standout performance at the 2022 Highland Games.
The Highland Games are one of, if not the most popular, events in Scotland, with a deep cultural history dating back hundreds of years.
The annual games consist of a wide variety of events ranging from athletics, tug of war and caber throwing to highland dancing and bagpipes, which take place from Cowal to Tomintoul and all points in between , from May to September. .
The Scottish Highland Games attract hundreds of thousands of competitors and spectators from across the country and around the world each year.
Williams was one of thousands who traveled to compete.
By competing in the Highland Games, he finally fulfilled one of his lifelong racing dreams, as the Scottish event returned from a COVID-induced hiatus.
But before Williams could cross the seas, he made a quick stopover in Perth for the 2022 Australian Masters Games.
“Because of COVID, all of my event dates have been changed,” Willams said.
“The Australian Masters Games, which take place every four years, were due to take place earlier in the year, but due to COVID they have been moved to two weeks after Easter.
“So I went to Perth, and my next goal (after the Australian Masters Games) was to represent Australia at the World Masters Games in Finland, like I did in 2016, where I finished sixth in the world in the 800 meters.
“But the opportunity finally came, which I’ve wanted all my life, to compete in the Highland Games.”
Running in the 65-69 age group at the 2022 Australian Masters Games, Williams placed second in the 800m, first in the 8,000m and first in the mile.
After arriving in Scotland, a land of verdant forests, towering mountains and vast lakes, Williams wasted no time heading straight to her first Highland Games event in Blackford.
It wasn’t the race that took Williams’ breath away at the Blackford Games, but the huge crowd.
“The crowd, I couldn’t believe it,” he exclaimed.
“It was the 150th Blackford Games, and there would have been 25,000 to 35,000 people watching us race.”
“At one event, the crowd was so big that they called in the police and the army!”
Although he raced professionally from the age of 16, took it across the country and around the world, and competed in events like the Sale Park Run in his last years, Williams was surprised by the unfamiliar conditions of the Scottish tracks.
“I was running in terrain I wouldn’t normally run on, going up hills and down ravines,” Williams said expressively.
“The tracks were rocky as there was cow dung everywhere, definitely not what I’m used to.”
Williams came out on top in the open age group races at the Highland Games, placing sixth in the 1600m and fourth in the 800m.
Next stop: Helensburgh and Lomond Highland Games.
In a deja vu turn of events, Williams ran sixth in the 1600m and fourth in the 800m in Helensburgh.
“As soon as I finished in Helensburgh, I jumped in the car and drove two hours to the Markinch Highland Games, which was the next day,” William said.
“Everyone I raced with at the first event in Blackmore was going to the Markinch Games, and the crowds were just impossible; if you wanted to get food you would line up and wait for hours. It was crazy.
Williams was fifth in the 800m and seventh in the 400m.
“After Markinch I went to Strathmore for the Strathmore Highland Games the following weekend,” he said.
“When I got to Strathmore I started running even better.”
Williams ran fourth in the 800m and third in the mile.
“I should have won the mile,” exclaimed Williams.
“The young Scotswoman who beat me to second place, Angela, is one of the best 800m runners in Scotland.”
Seizing the opportunity to participate in the Border Games, Williams decided to “skip” the Border Games before returning home to Australia for some much-needed rest.
“The tracks were amazing,” Williams said.
“There were a lot of guys I know who came to race in Australia over the years there, huge trophies!”
Williams ran fourth in the 800m at the Border Games, ending her Highland Games adventure in style.