Legacy – An Addendum!

Since I wrote my blog post last week, I’ve come across a few things which have strengthened my belief that there is an Olympic Legacy.  And you’ll be pleased to know that this post is much, much shorter!

Firstly, one of my clients hails from Dorset and I asked whether the facilities at Weymouth were being utilised.  She told me that sailing is now on the school curriculum and that the Olympic facilities are indeed being used on a regular basis.  If sailing is now on the local school curriculum, surely at least one of those pupils is going to represent Great Britain at some point in their life!

Then at the weekend, I met a woman who once a week interrupts her commute home to go swimming for an hour and a half at the Aquatics Centre.  Okay, she’s not planning to represent us at Rio but it is part of her decision to overhaul her lifestyle and improve her fitness.  And I can’t help but think that some of that is influenced by the facilities now available to her.  And as an aside, tonight is her first running coaching session – with me!

Lastly, and although this is not London 2012 related, it still shows that it’s never too late to try to improve your lifestyle.  On Sunday Steve Way came 10th in the Commonwealth Games Men’s Marathon.  Not only was he the first English finisher and not only did he get a personal best in the process (2 hours 15 mins 16 secs), he also beat Ron Hill’s 1979 British record for runners aged 40 or over (2 hours 15 mins 46 secs).  Yes, that’s right, Mr Way is 40!  In 2007 he was an overweight smoker but now he is being asked whether he has any plans for Rio!  Even if Rio is not in his sights, how can such a person not be an inspiration to others?  Surely his quest to “inspire couch potatoes everywhere” will now have an added impetus?

Yah boo sucks to you ITV!  You just jumped to conclusions on the basis of two events and skewed them to meet your agenda.

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Legacy

This weekend I took part in the National Lottery’s Anniversary Run (or #runthepark as it was known) at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford.  I intended to just blog about the run itself but the evening’s media coverage irked me so much I felt I had to also comment on the question of the country’s waning, or otherwise, Olympic legacy.  This will be a longer blog post than normal – I apologize in advance but hopefully it has some merit!

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But first, the run itself.  I took part in last year’s event and the big attractions then were the finish in the Olympic Stadium and the fact that two friends/family members could come in and see me and thousands of others cross the finish line.  Such was the interest that the initial run entry closed very quickly and I left it too late.  Then subsequently there was a ballot for additional places and I was lucky enough to get in.  After missing out in the ballot for Olympic tickets in 2012, this was a wonderful opportunity to see the Park which had been so spectacularly shown off by television coverage.

This year’s run took a different route with no big Stadium finish.  We were, however, guaranteed priority entry for next year’s run when the plan is to have the finish again in the revamped Stadium.    After I secured my place in this year’s run, social media promotions indicated that there were still a few places left.  It was obvious that the run was not quite so popular this year.  I will return to this subject later!

On my journey to Stratford, an American tourist on the station platform and a woman I sat next to on the train both asked what run I was taking part in.  I was probably the only runner at Ebbsfleet International not wearing the official top but it was way too hot for a t-shirt, technical/wicking properties notwithstanding!  (Now if I had been in normal dress, would either have struck up conversation with me?)  Both of them were runners, indeed the female and I had a conversation about parkrun.  Running (and probably other sports) seems to break down barriers and open up conversations like nothing else.

On arrival at the Park I made my way over to the start area and en route was able to see firsthand some of the new landscaping around the venue.  Once at the assembly area I made myself “comfortable”, settled down on the grass to admire the view, take some photos and massage my leg/ankle.  After around a quarter of an hour, I looked up and turned around.  OMG!  Snaking behind me was possibly the longest toilet queue I’ve ever seen!  How had that happened in such a short space of time?  I would have taken a photo but I don’t think it would have done the line justice.  There were still people queuing as we were given our final calls to starting pens.

It's behind you!!

It’s behind you!!

Sir Chris Hoy returned to start the run (he wants to be careful or we might expect him back every year!).  The four different waves went off with well organised efficiency.  This year’s course was indeed different.  We headed out towards the former Athletes Village but which is now a local residential area.  Then we ran back into the Park to circumnavigate the Velodrome (at least this year I knew that’s what it was and not some random cafe in the middle of the park).  We strode past the former Media City and the Copperbox which was recently re-opened as a local sporting and entertainment venue.  We then came back towards the Stadium/Orbital Tower via the Aquatics Centre.  There were plenty of opportunities to see how the area is evolving.

Le "warm up"

Le “warm up”

I have to say that despite the sun fortunately not showing its face until after I had finished, it was very hot and humid.  We were constantly advised to keep hydrated during the run and warned this was not the occasion to try for PBs.  The misting shower between miles 3 and 4 was very welcome and I did have to resort to sharing some of my drinking water with my head.  The man with his hand held water spray just passed the finish line was very welcome too if somewhat novel.  I’m assuming he was there officially!

Finish Line

Finish Line

Last year I blew up around mile 4 and it would have been very easy for that to happen again this year.  But I was determined to keep going and once I saw the “300m to go” sign, I knew I couldn’t give in.  I crossed the finish line in 44’ 30” which yes, is a PB for me but then I’ve only done that distance once before (last year) and it wouldn’t have taken very much to beat that time!  Still I was quicker than I expected so I was a happy bunny!

Proof of my PB

Proof of my PB

As I made my way back towards Stratford International a little while later, I passed many families making their way towards the start area in preparation for the Family Run.  There were many small people proudly wearing their run numbers and enthusiastically “warming up”!  It was also very pleasing to see that a large number of people were using the Park as just that, a venue for a family day out and there was plenty going on without the run.

As well as taking part in the Anniversary Run, last year I was also extremely lucky to go to the Anniversary Games.  This year, the Run and the Games were taking place on the same day.  As a previous attendee of the latter, I was given priority access to tickets.  The problem, however, was the venue was at Horse Guards Parade.  As much as I would love to have gone, I already had my place in the Run and I wasn’t too sure of the logistics of finishing the Run, getting home and making myself presentable and travelling back up to that part of London again.  And once I’d seen the price of the tickets, my decision was easy.  The cheapest was £50 and at the time there was no clear timetable of what or who you would see.  Regretfully, I decided not to go and had my fingers crossed that there would be some television coverage.

Well, what a sensible decision!  During the pre-amble at the Run we were advised on several occasions that if we took our run number along to Admiralty Arch later in the day, we would get four free tickets for the evening session of the Games!  I had already surmised that, as with the Run, the tickets for the Games had obviously not sold as well as last year and indeed had received several emails regarding ticket promotions.  But if every one of the 7,000 runners had turned up with their numbers, would there have been 28,000 seats available?  Just a little bit risky on behalf of the organisers!

Anyway, I was home in time to watch the coverage of the afternoon session and I did notice empty seats around the arena.  Then later in the evening, I caught the local news coverage on both the BBC and ITV.  What a difference!  Whilst the BBC coverage was positive about both events and highlighted the free run places offered to Newham residents in an attempt to increase local activity levels and sports participation, ITV decided to be the voice of doom and gloom, reporting that only half the number of runners took part in this year’s run compared to last year and that visitors to London were more interested in watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace rather than the sporting events going on in The Mall.  Their suggestion was that the Olympic Legacy had significantly diminished.

I’m not so sure the reduced number of runners and empty seats had anything to do with a diminishing Legacy.  Judging from the reaction in my starting pen when mention was made of the free places afforded to Newham residents, many had taken up the opportunity.  I believe the Stadium finish last year was a massive draw and will be again next year.    

As far as the Anniversary Games themselves are concerned, I feel the price would have been a big stumbling block.  For £50 last year, I had a seat overlooking the finish line whereas this year, it would have seen me sitting at the opposite end of the arena to the finish line.  Although it would have had a brilliant view of the pole vaulting event, at the time of the initial ticket application there was no definitive running programme so I could have been looking at an unused area.

In addition to the events happening in the Parade, there were also a few races going on in The Mall and these were free to watch.  The television coverage I saw showed plenty of people enjoying the spectacle.  Perhaps the ITV cameras were filming at a time when there were no events happening, and to be honest the Palace always has visitors hovering outside the gates whatever’s going on in the Mall as evidenced whenever I’ve taken part in the BUPA London 10000m.  That doesn’t mean there’s any less interest in athletics and other sporting events!

Could the poor ticket sales have perhaps been down not just to the prices but also to the open nature of the venue and the unpredictable nature of the British summer weather (or should that really be predictable)?  At least a stadium event offers some form of shelter, whether from rain or sun, at some point during proceedings.  And the weather was something which crossed my mind when deciding whether or not to go.

When researching the meaning of legacy, I came across a couple of explanations which I thought appropriate, one global and one more personal.  The global definition is “something we inherit from past generations and pass to our future generations”.  The more personal is “what we remember about a person” and I shall come back to that at the end.

The London 2012 Olympic Legacy has economic, regeneration, social and volunteering aspirations as well as sporting goals.  This latter has been further defined as “continuing elite success, development of more sports facilities and encouraging participation in school sports and wider”.  When you think about the redevelopment of the different sporting venues, not just the ones I’ve already mentioned but also the Lee Valley Watersports Centre and presumably further afield in Weymouth; and from a purely running perspective, the success of the Anniversary Family Run, together with the continuing expansion of parkrun and junior parkrun, how can ITV claim that the legacy is waning?  I don’t personally think the desire to take part has waned.  Maybe some of you will disagree?

Coming back finally (hurrah I hear) to the personal definition of legacy – “what we remember about a person”.   When I was younger, my Dad used to watch athletics and I could never quite understand the attraction, I used to think how boring.  Now if I’m around when there’s a Diamond League event or some other form of athletics meeting on the television, I’m stuck in front of the box.  The distraction of the Olympics in 2012 was bad enough – nothing got done.  Heaven help me now we have the Commonwealth Games starting this week.  Television bum sores ahoy!  I only wish my Dad was here to see the change in his daughter and that we could watch together!

Reunited

This weekend I’m glad to say I got my fix.  After a week of very little running and an on occasions painful sports massage, I turned up at Shorne Woods parkrun on Saturday morning planning to just see how it went.  I had smothered my ankle with Ibuleve (other anti-inflammatories are available!) and massaged my calf muscle with some ageing massage lotion before leaving home.

During the run I felt a couple of twinges but on the whole the run was relatively pain-free – well, the ankle was relatively pain-free!  There were a couple of moments when I thought perhaps I should slow down a bit but I persevered.  I think the weather helped, it was a bit muggy but cloudy with some refreshing moisture in the air.

I did clock my times at the 1, 2 and 3k markers and knew I was reasonably on schedule but expected to slow down a bit during the remainder of the run.  Then, when I was about 200m from the finish area, I checked my watch again and thought, oooh, good time possible here.  So I emerged from the trees and headed for home.

And can I just say the “come on Hilary” at the start of the finish funnel put an extra spring in my step.  Never underestimate the power of a parkrun volunteer, or indeed any run supporter.  I would always recommend participating in a run with your name emblazoned across your chest if possible.  Even a complete stranger calling out your name can boost you physically and psychologically, especially towards the end of a tiring run.

My watch confirmed I’d done one of my better times, not a PB but pretty close and once I got my official result I discovered it was in fact my third best parkrun time since starting last August.  Yes, there is a record of my achievements.  In fact, to make it a bit easier to check I’m thinking of feeding my results into a spreadsheet.   Am I a bit obsessive or just very sad?!

I will be back next week.  I’m down to be the Tail Runner, my first time in this volunteer role and I’m really looking forward to this opportunity.  Hopefully I will help motivate the runners at the back of the pack but more importantly prevent anyone on my watch getting lost!

 

I’m An Addict!

It’s official.  After nearly a year it appears that I can’t function on a Saturday unless I’ve had my fix – my parkrun fix of course 😉

My Fix

My Fix

The only things which have kept me from turning up at 9.00am on a Saturday morning, be it to run or volunteer, have been work or “social” commitments – until today.  And the culprit was a niggling ankle which has been the bane of my week.

On Monday I went out for my “long” run and about 3/4k in I started to notice a bit of a niggle down the lower left hand side of my leg but being a runner and, remembering Sakyong Mipham’s words that pain is temporary, I carried on and the pain was indeed temporary.  It wore off and the rest of the run and day passed without incident.

The next morning, however, I was reduced to going downstairs one step at a time, hanging on to the wall for balance.  Not a good sign!  I’m used to my legs being a bit stiff in the mornings nowadays but this was a bit extreme, and the stiffness does usually wear off pretty quickly.  Not this time though.

So the ancient pack of frozen vegetables and the Jointace Gel have been in constant use ever since and although the discomfort has receded a little, there’s still a niggle.  Then yesterday I had a brainwave and decided to dig out the Skins compression socks I’d used a few years ago to overcome sore calf muscles.  So I’ve been wandering around the house and garden with socks on.  Yes, socks plural, but both on one leg – double compression for a speedier recovery, surely!?  So sad am I that last night I even went to bed with the socks on.

I had fully intended to turn up for parkrun this morning, even if it meant hobbling around the course but the overnight rain left me envisaging tragedy on the back of the course where there’s a steep downhill uneven but fast bit of track.  I imagined slipping on a bit of stone and doing untold damage to my foot which would lead to the end of my running “career” (you all know how night time exaggerates your imagination!!).  Although to my defence I do know another parkrunner who’s come a cropper on that stretch so it wasn’t totally beyond the bounds of possibility.

So I decided to be sensible and put my run on hold.  I did think about just turning up and hoping for a bit of marshalling duty but the self same rain put paid to that!  And that decision made, I’ve been feeling very sorry for myself ever since – I have in fact felt bereft!   My Saturday morning routine has been out of kilter – parkrun, home, shower, coffee, reward croissant, Saturday Kitchen – gone!  Okay, from “shower” onwards remained intact but there was no calorie burning in the bag to work off that croissant!

In an attempt to alleviate the leg situation I have been to the gym to use the grid foam roller and the power plate and so far, so good, only the odd twinge.  I shall keep off the running probably now until mid week and then re-evaluate the situation but if anybody has any ideas as to what it might be, I would welcome any feedback!  My self diagnosis at the moment is tendonitis!!

In the meantime, I’m hoping I’m in tiptop condition for next week’s parkrun fix– I have my eye on a 50 t-shirt but I still have 14 runs to go!

The Ultimate T-Shirt

The Ultimate T-Shirt