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And oot o' the east, there came a hard race, a' the way frae Brigton

GREY over Riddrie the clouds piled.

Susan Partridge, who finished sixth, runs past the Greggs queue. Picture: Colin Mearns
Susan Partridge, who finished sixth, runs past the Greggs queue. Picture: Colin Mearns

These words of the great Edwin Morgan were written half a century ago but Glasgow still has the capacity in these times of excitement, even joy, to glower, although mercifully this sombreness is largely restricted to the weather.

It is impossible for some to emerge from Bridgeton station into the new world of 2014 with the skies weeping gently, even traditionally, and not be reminded of Morgan's work, most specifically his poem, King Billy, that brilliantly chronicles a Glasgow of violence and poverty yet has a deeper calling for understanding.

The Commonwealth Games marathon events started and finished in Glasgow Green yesterday and the short walk from Bridgeton station showed how much the city has changed even in the past decade, not just from the 1930s when the Billy Boys and the Norman Conks exchanged blows and inflicted scars in its streets, calling on Morgan subsequently to place it all in astonishing verse.

The marathon serves two purposes for a host nation. It is there to satisfy the demands of the roster with two winners: Michael Shelley of Australia took the gold in a personal best of 2:11:15 and Flomena Cheyech Daniel of Kenya won the women's event in 2:26:45.

The other purpose is to showcase a city. Once this part of the East End would have been quarantined, shunned by those in charge of the city. But the area where Morgan noted that razors were once scuffed down stanks now on a showery Sunday became the starting point for a travelogue of a city that seeks to reinvent itself.

Derek Hawkins, the Scots runner who finished ninth, four minutes behind the winner, may have played to an outdated stereotype by spewing up within sight of the line but he showed his grit by finishing despite all and then coming out with a typically mordant Scottish line to waiting reporters: "I would shake your hand but there is sick on mine."

He almost unwittingly, too, captured the spirit of the Games as he battled round a course that recrossed the Clyde, the river that once sent ships to the world and now hosts a large chunk of it in sporting terms on those modern structures on the north bank.

"The noise was unbelievable, especially when the spectators started banging the boards," he said of his 26-mile plus journey.

It was negotiated in 2hr 14min 15sec, a time just 10 seconds shy of his best. "It was twice as loud as the London marathon," he added.

Susan Partridge, who was raised in Oban but went to university in Glasgow, was buoyed in the wet by the same experience as she finished an excellent sixth in 2:32:18. "When I went by the noise levels went up. It really inspires you," she said. "Normally when I go round the course it's my mum and dad looking out for me but there were loads of people I know on the way round today. Of course, it would have been great to get a medal. But the way it was going it wasn't going to happen today. I've no regrets."

It was a race that had moments that resembled the big slide before the jannie got the sand out. Beata Naigambo of Namibia slipped yet carried on and finished 11th. Abraham Kiplimo of Uganda fell too on a Glesca street before opening time but recovered to take a bronze.

This is a city that revels in the story and there were plenty of them, most poignantly that told by Hayley Haining, a 42-year-old veterinary pathologist in the city, who has run her race, at least at the elite level.

Her coach, Kilbarchan's Derek Parker, died in May and she was carried on a tide of both remembrance and support from the crowd as she finished 13th in 2:40:40.

"I was very emotional coming down the final part of the course. I had to hold myself together, because if I'd started crying, I might not have finished. After losing my coach it was really important for me to finish today," she said.

The scenes around Bridgeton and into Glasgow Green were astonishing. Hundreds emerged from the station as early as 7am and the mass grew to thousands as some tilted towards the hockey and the rest streamed through the park. It was an army of men and women with backpacks, weans with skip hats and anoraks, and the younger footsoldiers consigned to buggies. It was a friendly force but a noisy one.

It was Sunday in the park but a peculiarly Glasgow one as the rituals of picnic were abandoned for roars of encouragement. The cheers, too, came over the slopes from the hockey. "My son Elliot, who is four next week, was here today to watch. He was with all his pals in Pollok Park." said Haining. "It's nice that he could share it with me today, along with my other family and friends, rather than just watch it on the telly or read about it."

It was another memorable day in Glasgow 2014. This is a city that still has its problems, still has its areas that need encouragement that must be measured in cash rather than cheers. But yesterday it was impossible not to be sunny in the rain.

As Morgan, genius and Glaswegian, advised: "Deplore what is to be deplored, and then find out the rest."

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