HEARTS legend Colin Cameron has rolled back the years during a punishing training schedule for Sunday’s Edinburgh Marathon.
However, he admits the toughest part of his preparation will be shunning the celebrations if the Jambos lift the Scottish Cup at Hampden.
Cameron, 46, has rediscovered his competitive spirit in recent weeks as he prepares to tackle the 26.2-mile route around the capital and, despite a few niggling calf complaints, is well on course to smash the four-hour mark.
It will be a first ever marathon for Cameron, whose father suffers from dementia, as he supports the Alzheimers Scotland charity.
Displaying the same professionalism that characterised his playing career, it means he will forego the champagne even if Hearts emerge victorious today.
“I’ve had to turn down the invitation to a couple of Hearts-based events because I’m actually running the Edinburgh Marathon,” explained the former Scotland international.
“The biggest fear is Hearts win the Scottish Cup on Saturday and I get caught up in the celebrations – then I might struggle to finish the 26 miles the following day! So I’ll take that temptation out of the equation and watch it at home.
“My wife’s friend ran it last year and we went along to support her. We were in the charity area at the end and I spoke to the girl at Alzheimers Scotland. My dad has dementia and has been in a home for a little over a year and I just thought: ‘I definitely need to do this’.
“It’s a totally different type of fitness to what I was used to as a player and, at 46, I’m not getting any younger.
“I’ve had a couple of wee niggles but my competitive edge has kicked right back in. Initially, I was happy to have fun and target anything under four hours. Now, I’m thinking: ‘Maybe, I can do a bit better.’
“Seeing all the spectators there will be a big help to get over the line and, if there are any Jambos around the city – hopefully still celebrating – then I’ll take any support they can give.”
One suspects he will not be short of backing on the streets of the capital.
Cameron wrote his name into Hearts history when he rattled his penalty kick into the roof of the net to open the scoring in 1998’s iconic final.
Of that spot-kick, he recalls: “The fans were maybe nervous – but I wasn’t. I was just pumped up and ready for the game. My only thought was: ‘This is the perfect start’. I was fresh and confident. It might have been a different story if it had been the last minute!”
It set the tone. Jim Jefferies’ men went on to claim a 2-1 victory over a star-studded Rangers side, ending the club’s 36-year trophy drought.
The achievement has echoed through the decades since, with many Hearts fans citing that victory as their favourite triumph of modern times – even topping the 5-1 demolition of Hibernian in the final of 2012.
“I didn’t understand the magnitude of what we had achieved. You just don’t know,” Cameron continues. “I couldn’t imagine just what it has meant to Hearts supporters ever since.
“I have a lot of Jambo mates and they still tell me that, of the three Scottish Cup wins [1998, 2006, 2012], that was the pinnacle, even eclipsing beating Hibs 5-1. That says a lot.
“The fact that it had been so long since Hearts had won a trophy, and with the quality of that Rangers side, it all added to the enormity of the achievement.”
Cameron believes the fearlessness shown by Jefferies charges against the likes of Brian Laudrup, Rino Gattuso and Lorenzo Amoruso is what the current generation of Jambos must replicate on Saturday.
And he reckons Hearts could take advantage of the suffocating pressure on Celtic to complete the treble treble.
Cameron added: “No-one gave us a chance in 1998 and it has been the same story this time.
“There’s a lot of expectation on Celtic with the treble treble on the line. There’s a lot at stake for them. They have dealt with that pressure in recent years, but this is cranking it up – the final leg of something that has never been done before.
“Hearts can take advantage of that, but every single man in maroon will need to be at their very best and have no fear.
“The last few months of form are totally irrelevant. Craig [Levein] will be saying: ‘This is a clean slate and we can beat Celtic – go and make yourself heroes.’”