A few days ago I did something that I promised myself I’d never ever do. I joined Facebook.
It was really strange to see so many faces from the past. It also brought back a lot of memories from my school days. I must confess that it made me rather emotional to see all those folks from long ago looking so much older and wiser. A really bizarre experience. I suppose I must look a lot older too.
When I bump into old school buddies I often find myself being asked, “Are you still running?”
It’s a slightly awkward and embarrassing question for me because, as you may have gathered, I did not win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Heck, I never even got an Olympic medal! Sounds like I’ve got some explaining to do. Has my life been a failure?
Anyone who never knew me during the mid nineties won’t have a clue what I’m talking about. So, for anyone who cares the upshot is that I used to be a runner – a long distance runner. At the time it meant a lot to me and when I left school I took a year out to focus on athletics. I ran one or two good times for a person under 20 and I was tipped to do well. At one time I think I was the fastest 18 year old in the UK for 5,000m. Looking at me now you’d never believe it!
Anyway, I can tell you that I had a really good crack of the whip. 1994 was a really good year for me and I even did a bit of travelling with my running. I got to see all sorts of interesting places that I otherwise wouldn’t have got near – places like Poland, Italy… and Grangemouth. However, by the time I hit 19 I started to realise that I wasn’t fast enough to be world class. The truth of the matter is, I never was a very naturally gifted runner in the first place. I just don’t think I’m physically cut out for it. What I did have, however, was tonnes of ruthless determination and three people who gave me a tidal wave of support and encouragement – my mum, my PE teacher (George Cowan) and a really good coach called Bill Scally.
Sadly, by mid 1995 I seemed to be struggling with my running. Running fast times seemed to be getting more and more difficult. People who were younger than me started to beat me in races. I wasn’t improving as quickly as I needed to. I also had two major distractions appear in my life which really scuppered any chance of me being able to focus on athletics – university and a hopeless rock band that I joined (I played guitar).
In the end my running career just seemed to fade away in a rather boring and uneventful manner.
So, for those who might ask if I’m still running the answer is a resounding yes! I think I’ll always be doing some kind of running as long as I’m physically able to. The thing is, I’m not competitive. I like to think that I still have one or two good races still in me and I really love the thought of running a personal best some day. However, being 34 years old and around 50lb heavier than when I was racing I’m very realistic about my chances.
One thing I can tell you for sure is that running was really good for me. Even though I was never famous or even well known, I really learned a lot from the world of running. Above all, I think I learned about the value of hard work and perseverance. I hope I can say that without sounding like some phoney Miss World Contestant or worst still, an American politician.
I hope that those people who knew me from the past don’t think of me as being a failed runner. I’d much rather have people thinking of me as being a kick ass internet marketer. It’s what I do for a living these days and I’m fanatical about it. I like to think I’m one of the best. To some people it probably sounds boring but to me it’s exciting and it matters. What could be more exciting that seeing someone go from being flat broke and on the dole to being super wealthy and not having to work for a living? I’ve had the pleasure of seeing that happening to some of the people who have hired me and it makes me feel good.
So, running was just one chapter of my life. Even though I may not have made it as a runner I absolutely insist that I’m not dead yet.
Does that answer the question?