THE age gap and the absence of star man David Millar proved just too much for Irvine Athletic Club's golden oldies runners at the Scottish Veteran Harriers Road Relays at Strathclyde Park on Sunday.
Traditionally this has been a happy event for the Irvine club, with victories in 2008 and 2011, and second and third places in 2009 and 2010.
However the race is open to all runners aged over 35 and with Irvine's current best quartet averaging over 40 it was always going to be a very difficult task to maintain that standard.
And the Marress Men's challenge was further hindered by the late withdrawal of Millar who recorded the fastest time in the race last year.
Nevertheless it was hoped that a team of Alex Allardyce, Mark Livingstone, Tony McKnight and Billy Richardson would be good enough to be among the medals in a race run on the 3.8-mile path which loops its way round the loch and, on the first leg, Allardyce kept Irvine's hopes alive with a great fourth place in 19 minutes 44 seconds, just behind Carnegie, Cambuslang and Kilmarnock.
On the second leg Livingstone had a solid run of 21.17 but dropped one place to fifth with Cambuslang, Carnegie, Shettleston and a strong Cambuslang B team now filling the first four places, and Kilmarnock drifting down the field.
Third leg runner McKnight showed his comeback from injury is on track as he brought Irvine to within 20 seconds of the fourth placed team with a fine run of 20.51, leaving it all down to Richardson on the last lap. However, although their anchor man ran a terrific 19.09 for the sixth fastest time of the day and closed the gap on Cambuslang B to seven seconds, Irvine had to settle for fifth place out of the 45 men's teams which took part in the race.
Meanwhile Irvine's B team finished in a creditable 25th place with Joe McNamee (22.18), Gordon Thomson (23.49), Jim Sneddon (22.42) and Jim White (25.15) all posting good times.
The next big event for the Irvine club is the Scottish Masters Cross Country Championships at Kilmarnock on Saturday, February 4.