South of the River – Olympic Legacy?

I don’t know about you, but I loved the Olympics and the Paralympics. I wasn’t really interested in Team GB, but each individual athlete was an inspiration.

Did the events leave a legacy? Well looking at the still closed South Leeds Sports Centre it doesn’t seem likely. But then again, on a personal level I’ve started running again.

Now, I’ve never been what you might call “svelte”. I was always one of the last to be picked for lunchtime footie at school, but I liked to try and keep reasonably fit.

Being good at maths I worked out that whilst I still came last in the 1500m, I was not as far behind proportionately as in the 100m. So I fooled myself into expending a lot more energy by going in for the longer races to boost my self-esteem, I reasoned that stamina was more important than speed.

I walked up mountains, cycled and occasionally ran on and off for the next twenty years.

I didn’t really have a mid-life crisis and I certainly didn’t buy a motorbike, but I did challenge myself to run a half marathon in my fortieth year. I first thought of a marathon, but have you seen the number of hours you’ve got to put into training runs? The challenge was important to me, but I wasn’t prepared to give up the rest of my life to achieve it.

I completed the Leeds Half Marathon in 2000 and was very pleased with myself, yes I still have got the t-shirt. As well as the race I really enjoyed the training. I think this was when I really got to know Middleton Park. You see so much when you’re running that you miss driving around South Leeds. Whether it’s interesting paths and ginnels, or just the incrementally changing seasons. I love spring when the bluebells come up and flower before the trees come into leave above them and provide too much shade. Nature is beautifully choreographed.

Since that first race I’ve run half a dozen half marathons and quite a few 10Ks, but I stopped due to pressure of work and a minor but niggling injury.

So to the Olympic year of 2012. My daughter said she wanted to start running, but she wasn’t confident to go out on her own, especially on dark evenings. “Aha” I thought, a bit of father-daughter bonding and she’ll make sure I don’t try to run too far, too fast and injure myself again.

The months dragged by, the evenings got lighter and still we didn’t make a start. But then came the Olympics and we got off the sofa and into Cross Flatts Park.

My daughter had found a brilliant podcast called “Couch to 5K” produced by the NHS. It takes you gently from 20 minutes of alternating 60 seconds running with 90 second walking through to a solid 30 minute run over nine weeks. I’ve just finished the programme and towards the end graduated to Middleton Park – there’s only so many laps of Cross Flatts Park one man can stand.

OK, here’s the point where I jinx myself. My target is to run the 2013 Leeds Half Marathon. There I’ve said it, no doubt I’ll now pull a muscle climbing the stairs or turning over in bed. But hopefully not, and if I manage it, that will be my Olympic legacy – what will yours be?

Tune in next Friday for more views from South of the River with Jeremy Morton.

One Reply to “South of the River – Olympic Legacy?”

  1. This has nearly got me to think about starting to run again and I must look up the podcast as it’s difficult to object to the staring regime you describe. Your mistake was, of course, not to buy a motorbike, as that is the path to wisdom and true maturity. it is also healthier than driving a car as apparently it uses up more calories miles for mile!

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