29 August - Rio.......and Stretford

I thoroughly enjoyed Rio. I’ll try to find something vaguely original and not too gushing about the action. Given how much has been written already, I won’t have much to offer:

-          I used to work for UK Sport/Sport England on these Lottery funded World Class Programmes for some years in their early stages and whilst it was always clear that the only way was up after the feeble GB results from Atlanta in 1996 that actually triggered this step change in funding and planning, I don’t think anyone would have foreseen that within 20 years the UK would actually place second in the medals table. So, setting aside any political views (and the era spans three different Governments each of which has consolidated the position it has inherited on elite sport funding)  or indeed the possibly questionable ethics of even supporting elite sport in this way, it’s been a massively successful programme in terms of achievements vs objectives

-          It shows – in a lesson that can be applied to an individual level – that persistence and perseverance can pay off however ambitious the goals may seem at the start. In the early days, the prospects of the UK piling up Olympic medals – and GOLD medals too -  in gymnastics and women’s hockey, and achieving a medal in women’s hammer throwing seemed extremely remote. But they have all happened this year

-          Focusing just on the endurance running, the UK team had a notably high number of Scottish runners and by and large they all had tremendous results – Callum Hawkins, Andrew Butchart and Laura Muir in particular. In addition Eilish McColgan, Laura Whittle and Chris O Hare performed well. What is particularly noticeable and encouraging is that the first three of these runners have all been with their home town coaches for several years, and none of these coaches was a former elite athlete. Both Hawkins and Butchart were at some stage of their respective races at marathon and 5k actually leading the Olympic final and trust me, that is not something their coaches had ever got near to doing in their own less exalted running days.   Hopefully there will be some learning from the Scottish coaches that can be shared across the UK (before any future referendum may make this logistically a cross border project!)  

-          Maybe paradoxically given how much the media loves to dig around in drugs stories, I believe these Olympics, in track and field at least and probably in all the other more physiologically demanding sports (cycling, rowing, triathlon, canoeing) have actually been less drug-riddled than recent Games. This actually helps GB – and any other nation which has an almost totally drug free elite sport culture. I won’t mention names of athletes or countries (apart from Russia which is already somewhat publicised) but in certain athletics events the absence or decline of certain nations who have fairly gruesome doping profiles certainly was a factor in GB athletes being in the medal zone.

 

And back in the real daily world of my August coaching………very few longer distance runners have August target races so for most it has been about training for autumn marathon and half marathons and the weather has rarely been ideal for longer races anyway.  Hopefully the numerous runners doing the Berlin marathon in late September wil reap the adapatation benefits of doing their longest runs in some warmer weather, either at home or on holiday.  But one racing highlight was at the recent British Milers Club meeting in Stretford. The BMC is the national/sub-elite middle to long distance track system that covers the summer season so it was great to have four coachees taking part in the latest meeting and even better that it was all streamed live. Particular standout was the big PB, by almost a minute, by Jack P in the 10,000 metres, clocking a tremendously even paced 30.15 and after being in a ‘no man’s land’ between the three groups of runners that formed early in the race, sticking doggedly to the agreed target pace and eventually placing second in the field, headed only by GB International Adam Hickey.