Tuesday, 27 November 2012


This week’s blog follow’s on from last week to further emphasise the benefits of team work. There are people who like to think they don’t need help to achieve their goals, sometimes I think I’m one of them, but the reality is that we all need a helping hand along the way, to a lesser or greater extent. The reality is that with a team around you, you have a greater chance of obtaining goals you wouldn’t even consider as an individual.

That’s not just in sport but something that’s also relevant to your working life. Within sport even the likes of Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe have a team around them to help them obtain their goals. When it comes to using the gym a lot of gym users turn up, do their own thing and leave. But their routines may be more effective and interesting if they work out with a friend, though it can cause disruption if you’re not well matched, plus there may be times when you need a spotter. Actually I am a bit of a loner when I’m doing my gym work, when I turn up at the gym I know exactly what I want to do and why I’m doing it and, as I’m usually short on time I get on with it and get gone.

When it comes to running, although I do most of my training alone, I’ve always been a team man. At first I was rubbish so having a team to aim to break into gave me an incentive to train hard. As I became better the incentive was to break into the top team of my club and then the county, area and national teams. I’ve been reasonably successful as an individual athlete, winning quite a few medals at major championships, but I’ve gained about as many again as a member of a team. But it’s not just about winning things, I really enjoy being part of a team, I find it motivates me to get fit because I want to help that team to achieve success, and if we don’t we can always have a laugh together.

Of course it doesn’t always work out and there are many times in the past when the team I was representing turned up one runner short of a full team, and that can be pretty disheartening. Mind you, in 2008, I turned up for the East District Cross Country Championships as the runner short of a set of spikes, I’d left them in my hallway as I rushed out to pick up various other Edinburgh AC athletes. Luckily the ground was frozen hard and I managed to run ok in my trainers, and, surprisingly, I still managed to help Edinburgh AC win the Masters title.  

There was a time, when I was a member of Belgrave Harriers, when we had some fantastic runners in the club, but they would never all turn out at the same event, so for a number of years we would languish in lowly positions in major championships, instead of challenging for medals. My coach at the time would often talk to me about it, his thinking was that they were good individual runners but not the best in the country, however, if they all turned out together they could make Belgrave the best team in the country and then they would become a National Champion themselves, something they probably would not achieve as an individual. That always stuck in my mind, I’ve been a decent athlete, but never the best, so I have my best chance of becoming a National Champion as part of a team. Admittedly I have actually been a National Champion as an individual but that’s been a bonus. Yes it does mean a great deal to become an individual winner, in fact it’s very satisfying, but it’s also extremely satisfying to be surrounded by your team mates, knowing that each one of you contributed to the team becoming winners. Speaking of which here’s a picture of me with the Salford M45 team who came 2nd in the National Cross Country Relays, I have to say not only do we look happy but we don’t look bad for our age, particularly Paul Birkett who looks about 26.

Incidentally if anyone has been waiting to read the official Salford write up on the BMAF Cross Country Relays, it’s finished but looks like it will be published on the Salford Harriers website over the next weekend, along with pictures of some old men. That’s www.salfordharriers.co.uk

Moving on to more domestic matters, I’ve been feeling a little lack lustre, some might say indifferent, in my training over the last week. I’m not entirely sure why, maybe it’s the Olympic effect, I focussed on the BMAF relays as my event for this stage of the year and now it’s over I find it hard to get going again, maybe it’s the cold I had about 5 weeks ago, which seems to be lingering, or maybe it’s just the rapid approach of my 48th birthday (remember: running gear or single malt whisky). Whatever the reason it wasn’t a good week of training. I finished the week off with a hill session with another Cheshire athlete, Rob Tudor. He’s been injured and not run as much lately so I promised to go gentle on him. I was still promising that as I followed him up the first hill, and the 2nd and the 3rd. By the 6th I’d realised the hill was too short, naturally Rob, a 1:50 800m runner was going to feel more comfortable up a short hill than me, a 1:59 800m runner (note these times were posted more than 20 years ago but serve as a useful comparison), so I suggested we head across the river and do a longer hill. After following Rob up these longer hills a couple of times we decided to move on to a more steady run through the woodlands and chat instead. I was still feeling a bit lacklustre yesterday, when I started my training session with Lee, but I perked up as we progressed through the session and we finished with a rep at 5 min mile pace. That was a good way to finish Lee’s last really hard session before he attacks the 10k world record with his 40lb pack. This morning I was out at 07:30, running a hill session. It went alright, I felt good and seem to have found my mojo again, or perhaps it was just that I didn’t have Rob Tudor running in front of me.

Speaking of Rob Tudor, he’s an England Master’s representative, National Champion and is someone who has yet to finish behind me in a race, therefore he’s on the list of those athletes I must beat before I retire. It’s a large list and growing all the time.  

Ray was out on Saturday, running his first cross country race, ever, at Sefton Park. I think he found it tough, it was quite a big race with some top runners entered, including a team from my old club, Belgrave Harriers. So he’s had his baptism of fire, and will no doubt be back for more.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a parkrun, now that I have a team to run for I have other races to do and I don’t like to race every week, but I do miss the atmosphere at Pennington Flash. They’re a friendly lot and it’s always a challenging run, which are two good reasons for going along. Hopefully I’ll be along to one soon, but I’m getting calls from other directions so I don’t know when. While we’re talking parkruns, I’m led to believe there will be new ones starting shortly at Delamere Forest and Congleton.

Because I’m a travelling PT, rather than basing myself in one gym, I always carry a book around with me, it gives me something to do if I turn up early for a client. I have my preferences as to type of book, but I’ll pretty much read anything. I’ve just finished ‘Over The Edge’ by Jonathan Kellerman, which is a really enjoyable read, I’ve just started ‘On The Road’ by Jack Kerouac, which has now been made into a movie. I’ve been interested in reading some of the books from American authors, of that era, but couldn’t seem to find them, now thanks to the movie this one is back in print. Another book I’ve always wanted to read is ‘Don Quixote’ and I managed to find that on one of my random searches through my kindle, but boy it’s a tedious read. Well actually there are sections that are tedious and sections that flow along really well. I’m about 77% the way through it and I’ve hit a tedious bit, but I’m desperate to get to the end so I’ll keep plodding along. Whilst on the subject of books, my friend Gabrielle Collison’s book, about British Marathon Running Legends of the 1980s, is now on Amazon, might be worth a punt as a Xmas present for a running friend who doesn’t need any more kit, it’s getting some good reviews.  

Written by Roger Alsop

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