Smashed by my Old Man

So on Saturday, as part of the weekend excursion back home to Sheffield, I tackled the Graves Parkrun 5km.  I had warned my dad that I wasn’t particularly fit but I was disappointed to see him disappear into the distance as we ran down the first hill towards the ponds.  He got about 20 seconds ahead and I never got close.

It doesn’t say much about my physical condition that I was easily beaten by a 64 year old*.   However, I think it says a lot more about my dad’s supreme fitness and dedication.  To continue to be able to run 5km in 24 minutes is no mean feat once the years start ticking by.  Dad trains several times a week and is an example to all of us.

To say I’m proud of him is a bit of an understatement.  Not many people can say their dad is an Olympian, but he is so much more than that.  He has dedicated his life to helping children and young people achieve their potential – whether it is coaching athletics, teaching or putting on kids clubs for children or for young people, often from disadvantaged backgrounds – he is even more committed to serving the community than he is to his own fitness.


Not sure where this picture is from but this is dad back in the day.


* I was also soundly beaten by the latest superstar from my dad’s coaching squad – 12 year old Ana Garcia who ran the tough 5km course in just 20 minutes!  She was 6th in the whole field and first female finisher!


9 reasons that I loved Don Valley

It was decided today that Don Valley Stadium is going to close, be demolished, and save Sheffield City Council £50,000,000.  Here are 9 reasons why I love(d) Don Valley.

  1. Opened in 1990 Don Valley was built on the old steelworks and was paving the way for a new Sheffield that was leaving behind the pain of 80s.  Sheffield is a thriving city and as a child I always looked at Don Valley as something modern and hopeful.
  2. I loved race walking and there was no better feeling than stepping onto the track in a big stadium, and best of all when it’s in your home town.  I’ve got some great and some painful memories from racing on the track and on the paths and roads in and around the stadium.  I got disqualified in the national road championships there in 1998 😦  But won the English Schools there in 1999 🙂
  3. Quite often on school holidays we’d go to the Star Track athletics holiday clubs.  I used to love getting coaching in all the different events.  I especially remember being intimidated and inspired by Tony Minichello (Jessica Ennis’ coach).
  4. In 1991 Don Valley hosted the World Student Games – it was a fantastic spectacle but the most memorable moment was Britain’s first astronaut, Helen Sharman, tripping over on the red carpet whilst carrying the torch!
  5. Dad managed to persuade school to let us have a couple of days off for the World Student Games, it is my best memory of athletics as a spectator.  We were there especially to watch the decathlon and I can remember avidly adding all the scores up working out who was winning.
  6. Don Valley has hosted loads of other world class athletics events.  It was crazy seeing Jan Zelezny throw the javelin over 93m – breaking the world record and nearly hitting the TV commentators who were interviewing nearby.  We were also there when Kelly Holmes had her homecoming after her Athens double gold and the atmosphere was amazing.
  7. Don Valley hosted loads of big names in music – Def Leppard, Michael Jackson and I remember one of our best teachers ever, Mr Marsden, getting so excited about Tina Turner coming to town.
  8. I love Don Valley for the little details.  I loved the smell of the high jump bed and the way you could just catch a glimpse of the Supertram through a gap in the stand (back when trams were a cause for excitement!).  I remember at the World Student Games the ‘click, click, click’ of the string on the flag poles, and then every time you’re resting between a training rep, or the silence before a race starts, there’s the clicking again – like the familiar ticking of clock on the mantelpiece at home.
  9. Which brings me to my last point – I haven’t been back for ages but Don Valley always felt like home.  I just found it special, magical and inspiring.

It’s really sad.  Obviously it has sentimental value for me, but since the council also closed Woodbourne Road track a few years ago there isn’t a stadium left in Sheffield.  England’s fourth biggest city, the city that produced the mastermind and the symbol of the Olympic legacy and it won’t have an athletics stadium.  I hear that Woodbourne Road might be re-developed but the fact that City of Sheffield AC currently use a track at a village in Derbyshire for their home fixtures says a lot for how Don Valley was being used!


I’m really gutted that Dad hasn’t been selected to be part of the Olympic Torch Relay next year.  I think the organisers have really missed a trick here.  If it comes to ranking people of this nation who are most appropriate and deserving to carry the torch surely Dad should have come somewhere near the top – he has that perfect mix of being a former Olympian and having devoted his life to helping, supporting and encouraging children and young people.

Does a day go by without Dad taking a coaching session, or teaching the kids from church, or running a community group, or spending ALL his spare time planning these things and reading up how to do them better?  No!  And that doesn’t even include the day job.

I think it would have been fitting for Dad to carry the torch but it wasn’t to be so I just thought I’d indulge myself and honour him on my blog instead.

A Very Proud Son.

London Marathon

I often find sport inspiring – human beings pushing themselves to the limits physically and mentally.  Awe-inspiring stuff.  Usually it’s the elite super stars but there are occasions when it’s the everyday man and woman who blow me away.  The London Marathon is one such occasion. 37,000 people pushing their bodies to the edge for that sense of self achievement.  They have overcome, they have done it!  Congratulations!

But what is even more inspiring than the achievement is the money raised for great causes and the stories that lie behind all of the competitors.  The grassroots truly outshine the elite on London Marathon day.  What makes it so inspiring is that if these men and women can achieve this amazing feat then any of us can set our sights on a goal….put in the work and achieve it….and do it for noble motives too.  Sometimes it gets cheesy but these runners make me feel good about mankind.

Shouts out to finishers Jonathan Lawrie and Blind Dave and to the West Brom Ten Sing group singing the masses on!

Get your inspiration

I’m not really looking forward to going back to work tomorrow.  Got some tough stuff to do.

Sport inspires me like nothing else.

I just read Bleachers by John Grisham.  It’s about a fallen American Football hero and a crazy great coach who’s about to die.  It has lines in it like, “pick yourself up, set a goal, work harder than everybody else, stick to the basics, and never, never quit.”

Then I’ve been watching the World Championship Athletics from Berlin.  Now that is inspiring.  The feats that can be achieved by humans.  Usain Bolt was awesome but I’ll take my inspiration from a closer to home performance – Jessica Ennis, from my own athletics club, demolished a world class field to become Heptathlon World Champion at just 23 years old!  Did any of you see the way she tackled that 800m!?

Books…sport…books about sport – they’re all very well, but they count for nothing.  It’s the everyday things that matter and that make a difference.  Whatever you have to tackle try applying that quote from Bleachers and mix in a bit of emotion from something that gets you going (I’ll take sport) and you’ll be able to achieve more than you could imagine.

Pick yourself up, set a goal, work harder than everybody else, stick to the basics, and never, never quit.

“On your marks!”

I no longer race.  This is usually fine but in this moment I miss it so much the muscles in my legs are getting restless, my heart quickened and my breathing shortened.  I just had a flashback.

There was something about the few seconds before a race started that terrified me.  I would have this pre-race routine I wanted to go through in order to prepare myself mentally and physically.  Then, before my routine was complete, there would be this whistle and the competitors must approach the line.  The whistle brought fear and doubt.  Had I trained enough?  Had I rested enough?  Had I drunk enough?  Had I drunk too much?  Were my laces tight enough?  Were they too tight?  Had I…

“On your marks!” interrupted the Starter.

“Aaaagh!”  I thought.  It’s too late.  I can’t do anything about it…the training, the drinking, my laces.  I step up confidently, on the outside, and surgically place my toes behind the curved white line.  My innards have evaporated.  My quads are like wartery party jelly.  I can’t breathe.  My colon ready to give up the ghost.  “Ground…swallow me up…please!”


The shot instantly brings me to my senses and I break away from the startline.  I am in heaven.  With the release comes the ultimate relaxation.  I comfortably make it to the inside of the track first and I’m cruising.  Cruising.  My mind is detached yet clarity reigns.

A dream come true

Do you ever have those moments in life when something incredible actually happens to you and you are so happy.  That happened to me.  I won the Great North Run* despite going the wrong way at the finish, was given a prize of £10,000 and beat Steve Ovett, Seb Coe, Liz McColgan and Yvonne Murray in the process.  My Grandad was there and said, “this makes all the years I spent in athletics worthwhile.”

Then I woke up.  I was devastated!

*Not that I ever had any aspirations to win the Great North Run I would much rather have won the Olympics for no prize money – but it didn’t half feel good!