Elite or just one of the guys?

Posted on 1st March by John Hampshire

John Graham winning the Rotterdam MarathonIt has been an interesting few weeks, Christine has passed her advanced remedial massage exams and now tells me she can adjust various body parts to get the same effect as an osteopath but without the cracking phase. This is a slightly slower process but reduces the muscle trauma sometimes associated with the more vigorous dynamic movements, all things have good and bad points.

I have done some sports psychology and it has been rewarding how a chat with a friend in a cafe resulted in my suggestions for prerace routines having a significant impact. I hope to do more with this athlete to help them realise what the coach and others think is a tremendous potential.

I had a day at British Cycling with Karen Darke, I was privileged enough to be invited to some meetings to discuss an aspect of technical strategy for London 2012 - it was a very interesting day and I hope to be involved as detailed plans and options are developed into the future.

I have also been pondering what makes good, great and mediocre athletes and if I were pinned down to say what one thing the best athletes have in common, I would say it is the willingness to have a go. I went to see a talk by Alistair and Jonny Brownlee a couple of weeks ago and the striking thing was their willingness to keep trying in the face of uncertainty; just trying to stay in the group or maintain the lead until the next corner, taking everything one step at a time. An attitude, ‘have a go’, that was perhaps put into more direct terms by the climber and personal friend, Andy Kirkpatrick, in one of his talks “...if you do something stupid, you will achieve something amazing or die… ” in his case the die bit is quite literal but for most of us, it is just metaphorical and the consequences of failure are only short term disappointment, a chance to rethink and hopefully come back stronger.

My first exposure to the real elite was training with a chap called John Graham, he once related a story of running the New York Marathon, going through 10 miles in 48 minutes or something and thinking that it was only 5 seconds slower than his best ‘10’, he was prepared to give it a go, sometimes he succeeded and sometimes not but he was a great athlete and friend who ran 2 hours 9 minutes 28 seconds to win the 1981 Rotterdam marathon, breaking the Scottish record, that time has still only been bettered by one Scot and only by two seconds when Alistair Hutton won the London Marathon in 2:9:26. Aside from athletics John was always just a down to earth chap who had time for everyone and never stopped talking.

Finally, we went out for a run in the hills yesterday - and it really came home to me what sort of environment we are living and working in. I am certainly not the runner I used to be but a 1 hour run saw me overtaken by a couple of runners who breezed past me chatting away, I kept up for a few minutes but had to let them go, a bit depressing, these two athletes were Mary Wilkinson and Alan Buckley, both GB internationals or maybe a personal friend and my brother-in-law. At the cafe we bumped into Alistair and Jonny Brownlee eating cakes in the middle of their bike ride with friends or one could say elite development squad - just normal guys shooting the breeze about their ‘theories’ on nutrition. I overheard one of the crowd state the best source of antioxidants to be a Mars bar and another that the best source of fish oils is fish and chips. It would be easy to get over awed and think how can we associate with people like this but why - may as well give it a go and see where we get.

Fit for Purpose is already doing amazing things and it can only get better…. these people are just normal guys who are willing to give it a go, stick at it and see what happens - anyone can do that, can’t they?

Why not you - you might do something amazing! I bet you won’t die…

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