Tag Archives: athletics

Run Your Own Race: Lessons in life and running from Mo Farah.

This evening I sat down like many athletics fans to watch Mo Farah go for his second double double in the men’s 5000m at the World Championships. I usually get butterflies before watching Mo race but tonight I felt worse. I felt nauseous and unwell as the field lined up. The feelings of unease continued and didn’t really settke as the race started.

Since his double win in London you just knew that Mo was going to become a marked man. Teams of athletes from around the globe including the dominant East African nations would be watching him, waiting to see what he did. They were ready to pounce on any moves he might make, talking to each other, possibly boxing him in to stop any tactical change in pace by the Olympic champion.

At one point early on in the race tonight one of the Kenyan athletes, I think it was Koech, tried to inject a bit of early pace and I immediately thought that this was how they were going to beat him: throw in some fast laps and run the finish out of him. A lot of the field seemed to panic and go with it. But not Mo. Mo sat back, unphased, doing his own thing. An Ethiopian athlete and South African athlete sat just behind Mo seemed to look at each other perplexed. Why wasn’t Mo Farah going with this injection of pace?

After less than 800m of the faster pace Koech seemed to realise that Mo wasn’t game for it and the pace slowed. And then all of a sudden Mo was at the front. The Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes, running as a team tried to respond, maybe trying to box him in, but every time they tried he drove forward again. He had an answer for everything they tried. They had no come back.

In the final lap I was worried that the athletes around might come back at him. But the hard work that he has done this year, such as fitting in sessions with his training partner Galen Rupp straight after winning the London Anniversary Games, just took him to another level above the pack trying to chase him down in the final straight. It was lesson in hard work and commitment. It was a lesson in running your own race.

The field tonight ended up dancing to Mo Farah’s tune. He didn’t panic, he didn’t get flustered and he stuck with his race plan. He didn’t worry about the form or the training of anyone else. He did what he had to do.

We may not think it but Mo’s race has lessons for even the most amateur of runners. Don’t worry about anyone else’s PB. Don’t worry about how many miles someone has told you they run every week. Care not that someone has run more races than you. On the day it’s all down to you. Run your own race and you will be rewarded for it. Lesson over.

The Baby Faced Destroyer

Earlier this week athletics fans were given a master class in long distance track running. The tactics were perfect, the wind up of pace unrelenting and the blistering final 400m (59.93 secs) wouldn’t have been too out of place in a club level 4 x 400m relay. I sound like I’m describing Mo Farah’s 10000m the other night. Well, I’m not. I’m talking about probably one of the greatest female distance runners, nay, possibly THE greatest ever female distance runner, Tirunesh Dibaba AKA: The Baby Faced Destroyer.

Picture from supersport.com

She has perfect running form. She glides effortlessly and gracefully after 24 laps as she does after 2 laps. Her record is beyond compare with 5 World Championship track titles, 3 Olympic golds and 5 World Cross Country titles. She did the 5000m/10000m double at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a whole Olympiad before Mo succeeded in his attempts. She is dominant and few can challenge her.

Now I don’t want to seem down on Mo (I’m not, I’m a massive fan) but someone on twitter pointed out that during the women’s 10000m the commentators talked about Mo Farah a fair bit without referring to the race that was unfolding before them. Frustrating and a tad disrespectful to the women who were racing their hearts out. After the race they also mentioned the presenters mentioned that they never tend to interview her ‘because she doesn’t speak English’. Hello! Interpreters?!

And lately I’ve also noticed a trend in women’s distance running where we only seem to laud those whose careers are already over, like Joan Benoit and Ingrid Kristiansen. But the men are always talked about in the present and their achievements are raised aloft but not so of Dibaba.

Maybe it’s because we don’t know her story. Maybe Dibaba prefers it that way. Maybe she doesn’t want the fuss and is happy for bigger personlaities like Usain Bolt to take centre stage, but I really think more should be made of this unbelievable distance running legend of our time. This diminutive athlete is one of my running heroes and it is always a pleasure to see her in full flow. Bow down to the Baby Faced Destroyer!

Dear Drug Cheats, I feel like a mug

Dear Dopers and Drug Cheats

I feel like a bit of a mug. I am a huge athletics fan and for many years I’ve proabably been a fan of yours. I’ve probably watched many of your races, cheered you on and all the while not knowing that you’ve been deceiving everyone around you.

There have been many athletes testing positive for banned substances all over the world of late and I could name them individually but what I do want to is tell you, the dopers and drug cheats, is how I feel.

I feel totally mugged off. Every time an athlete tests positive a little bit of my love and respect for the sport that I love gets eroded. Athletes who cheat obviously have no respect for their fellow athletes, their federations and governing body and least of all I’m guessing their fans. Which is ridiculous because we’re the ones who pay you via ticket fees. Athletes who have been cheating will have signed autographs, posed for pictures with children and accepted accolades and dedications from admiring peers all the while knowing that they are deceiving everyone around them. It’s really rather sickening.

If it’s a first time offence you serve a two year ban and come back with no real consequences. Some athletes seem quite happy to chest bump and parade around like they’re super heroes. Athletes like them show no remorse, they’re just sorry that they didn’t get caught. It’s arrogant and seedy and it makes me angry. If you don’t think you’re good enough then why not work harder? Why not put in a little bit extra? Why risk your health and well being just in case it gives you a few hundredths of a second?

When an athlete I’ve been a fan of tests positive I always feel embarrassed. I don’t know why I’m embarrassed, it’s not like I would have known this was going to happen, but still I do. It means I got you wrong and I have to defend my love of athletics to people who already think athletics is a complete joke. So thank you for that doper/drug cheat. I hope you enjoy your ban and let’s face it, you’ll be back after 2 years like nothing happened. But us fans will remember and we won’t be cheering you on any more.



Athletics Makes Me Cry

I never thought I would ever be able to say that Sean Connery and I have something in common but apparently we do: athletics makes us cry. In an interview which you can read described here, Sir Sean is asked what makes him cry and after a pause he gives his reply. Athletics. I first read that he had said this in Running With The Kenyans. I got to this sentence in the book and I re-read it a couple of times knowing exactly what he meant.

I basically cried throughout the entire athletics programme, Olympics and Paralympics during London 2012. There was a permanent lump in my throat and more often than not tears flowed. Maybe it’s because I’ve always tried to follow athletics so I’ve read personal interviews about injury heartache, lost opportunities and devastating losses. So when I watch these people do well at the event that they’ve poured their body and soul into and you can see the delight and relief all at once, it makes my spine tingle and my eyes water.

Of course there are iconic moments in athletics and it is almost impossible to pick one moment over another. They are all special for different reasons: Kelly Holmes winning double gold after all her injury problems. Cathy Freeman winning in Sydney with 100,000 people screaming her name, Jonny Peacock punching the air after winning the 100m. All of these videos can make me emotional. There is one video though that never fails to make me cry and it is this one:

What’s the athletics or indeed sporting moment that leaves you with a lump in your throat?

Reliving Olympic Fever At The London Anniversary Games

I am stunned. Some how I have managed to buy tickets for the Sainsbury’s London Anniversary Games in July. I am even more thrilled that I was able to buy enough tickets for the whole family to go. I can’t wait to take the boys to the Olympic Stadium. No doubt we’ll be up in the rafters but I’m guessing the boys will love that even more. Usain Bolt will be the size of an ant but we will be there to see some breath taking elite athletics. I only wish it had been this easy to buy Olympic tickets!

We are attending the Friday evening session. Events on the schedule include the men’s 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, discus and high jump. For the women it’s the 800m, 1500m, 5000m, 400m hurdles, pole vault and triple jump. I am itching with excitement as I think of the athletes who will be on the start lists for these events. A fantastic opportunity to see Olympic champions and competitors back in London.

Right now I keep looking back at the confirmation email because I’m convinced it’s a trick. When I told my husband that four of us would be going for under £75 he was astounded. Apparently that’s cheaper than a ticket for the Six Nations at the Millenium Stadium these days!

P1000572I think I might do a little kitchen disco to celebrate my tickets and a return to running and training this week. My body is still aching and sore from my Monday session of shoulder to overheads, front squats and squats and step ups with a 10kg weight. However I’ve managed to do two runs this week with no heel or achilles pain. I’ve kept it short and sweet to avoid ‘poking the bear’ too much. So let’s have a little bounce around the kitchen to this. If I carried an iPod while I went running I’d be tempted to add this to the playlist. Plus I think the video is a bit unusual as music videos go.





Running and A Massive Rambling Rant.

There were two pieces doing the rounds recently regarding marathon running and the detrimental effects that charity running have had for ‘serious’ runners. These pieces were written in relation to the larger races such as the London Marathon which is just around the corner. What frustrated me as someone who has been around athletics and running since the age of eleven was the cynicism and the ‘serious runners vs recreational runner’ implication of the articles.

Big commercial races no doubt become victims of their own success. They become gigantic beasts which in the end become money making machines. Who knows whether Hugh Brasher and John Disley envisaged that thousands of people would clamour to enter this race each year. Today it is on the World Marathon Majors list and a bucket list race for many people. Along the way though it became about the money. And I’m afraid it’s this that has lead to so many places being given to charity. The London Marathon charges thousands per guaranteed charity place. Subsequently the charities have to claw that money back somehow. They therefore have to ask their charity runners to raise unbelievable amounts of money to justify their place. It is not unusual for a charity to ask someone to raise in excess of £1500 but I really think it is unfair to blame charities or indeed charity runners for the fact that you can’t run the London Marathon.

As someone who has applied to the ballot many times and never been successful I understand the frustration of not getting in. But when you think that they take 180,000 names into the ballot it’s hardly surprising. So I ask you, why does it have to be the London Marathon? 26.2 miles in Tewkesbury is the same achievement as running 26.2 in a famous race. In 2012 I wanted to run a marathon. I didn’t get in through the ballot for London so I entered Edinburgh. A lower profile race, in a great city location, with great organisation. It was still measured as 26.2 and it still counted even though it wasn’t London. I got a phallus shaped medal and shared chips with an elderly German runner. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I did happen to raise a small amount of money for Macmillan along the way, and do you know what it felt good. I had set myself a running goal and I achieved it without being swayed by more commercial races.

So I ran a marathon and yet I’m still cross. Well as Uncle Bryn in Gavin and Stacey says ‘I’ll tell you for why’. There has been a change in running since I started all those years ago *cough 22 years cough*. People don’t use athletics clubs any more. They don’t use running groups. However running has become uber popular and has become really trendy and cool. But instead of joining clubs or supporting the sport, people are signing up to races run by huge brands owned by multi-national companies who offer great goody bags and a catalogue with their latest gear. All of a sudden people believe that this is the only way to run or race and it breaks my heart for the sport I love. The way running has gone lately has made me cynical about it. People shout about what was in the goody bag and I feel for the folks who organise the smaller races who can’t offer medals or t-shirts, just the thrill of having run a PB or completing a race for the first time. Running clubs that aren’t lucky enough to have an attachment to a sports brand are suffering and I really do think it will be do the detriment of the sport and the Olympic Legacy.

Over the weekend I learnt that Belgrave Harriers, at one time one of the most successful clubs in the UK, the home club of Dwain Chambers, are stepping down from the British League. The man who is resigning as team manager stated that the sport isn’t seeing any of the Olympic Legacy and that they are not seeing the elite athletes coming through like they used to. Elite athletes can help prop up athletics clubs. As does organising your own races. Many clubs run their own races for a pittance of an entry fee compared with large races. These clubs do this because they are passionate about the sport, wish to support it’s existence and the access to tracks that we take for granted and hope to provide a place for the next generation of athletes. But people prefer the big races and the kudos that apparently goes with the big name, commercial races and I feel as a result the athletics and running scene at club level will suffer.

So runners what are you going to do? You want to run a 10k/half marathon/marathon. You can’t get into the big fancy, glow stick race you want to do. You may as well not bother ‘eh because they’re the only races worth doing right? Wrong. On the weekend West 4 Harriers ran a Thames Towpath 10. Ealing Eagles are running a 10k for the paltry price of £12 (compare that to the £50 that is asked of entrants to one of the larger 10k races). Turn to the back of Runner’s World and you will find a plethora of races that have plenty of places available for runners. Join a club and get the low down on races that you would otherwise be unaware of. If you have the means set up your own local race and be a bigger part of the running community. Because if you really want to run that race, that distance, smash that goal you will. You won’t just wait around for the one race that all us runners have been brainwashed into thinking is the only one worth doing. If we don’t start supporting our sport rather than blindly paying money and expecting the earth in a goody bag there won’t be a legacy left at all.