A fine old tradition will be upheld today in the mud at Kilmarnock where the Scottish Masters cross-country championships will be staged.

The veterans are also in action on the boards at the Emirates, for the indoor championships - a clash of fixtures for which the governing body apologises; it was thrust on them because they lost their preferred date to the Davis Cup.

Despite the clash, the cross-country entry tops 400, including more than 100 women - a figure reached only twice in the past 17 years.

This is grass roots sport at its most enthusiastic, with the only pace-makers those implanted in the chests of the occasional die-hard enthusiast. The beauty and recurrent attraction of veteran athletics is rebirth every five years, as one qualifies for a new age group . . . forever young.

Among these hardy stalwarts is Walter Mccaskey, making his first appearance in the over-80 age group for which three men line up.

He began by accident, running the 1982 Edinburgh Marathon to help raise funds for an exercise pool. "I trained for four months," he recalls, "and finished in 4 hours 3 minutes. I didn't think 26 miles sounded a lot, but it was a long way on a wet, cold day, and there was no chance of stopping. You just kept going. But I enjoyed it, and got the bug.

"I have now run more than 50 marathons, but none for the last few years. I was advised not to because of osteo-arthritis in my left knee. I did Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow with just a fortnight between each. It was just about having fun.

"I only started pushing it at 70, started training with a pal. We did the 10k together and had a real tussle. I managed to win the Scottish veterans' championship, and then the British. I'm amazed. I never thought I was any good at running."

His best marathon time was in Glasgow, aged 53 (2:59). "But now I focus on cross-country and shorter stuff." Today he defends the Scottish masters title he won last year at Hawick, and he completed the 12k course of the Scottish national at Falkirk last year (first in his age group) in a very creditable 67:12.

He was sixth in the British and Irish Masters International cross-country at Nottingham in November, second Scot as they won team bronze.

He says he has no sporting pedigree or history. "I played a little football when I was younger, in the street, up the park, and perhaps a wee bit in the army, in Hong Kong."

He tried bowls, but in reversal of the perceived norm, chucked it for running. "I am really hooked on it. I only do about 20 miles a week now, since I have stopped marathons, but I go down to the gym and I swim a bit.

"If anybody tells me I'm getting on a bit, i just ignore it. Obviously you know you're getting older - you're not running as fast, but I don't dwell on the subject. Get on with life, enjoy yourself."

The mud threatens to be difficult today, but having spent a chunk of his life working with bull-dozers and other plant machinery, Walter says he is prepared.

Younger vets may be relieved by the absence of Colin Youngson, winner seven times in four age groups, who appears among the entries. Forres-based Youngson pleaded a few weeks off with a cold.

Winner of the Scottish marathon title three times, with a record 30 appearances from 1966 to '99 in the much-missed Edinburgh-Glasgow road race, he has swept up several Aberdeen club veteran records. The marathon one eludes him, however. It has stood for almost 34 years to Jim Youngson - his father.

For those vets of a track and field persuasion, their indoor championships today precede the national indoor championships tomorrow. Highlight there will be the high jump in which the three Scots selected for the Commonwealth Games last summer are entered: Ray Bobrownicki, David Smith, and Allan Smith - the latter already having jumped 2.24m this winter, in France. Nine other 2014 athletes are also in action.