Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Finish the race.....whatever?

The expression. "It's not the winning, it's the taking part" is frequently heard
or variations of it.  A "quote of the day" came in recently via RW from DAVE SCOTT, US Triathlete saying much the same thing ..........
    "If you set a goal for yourself and  are able to achieve it, you have won your race.  Your goal can be to come in first, to improve your performance or just finish the race. It's up to you". 

  Hard to disagree with that sentiment isn't it?   But what if the race you finished was an event you had previously won and last weekend you finished 1296th ?   Just 6 places from last.  
 The event being the (UK) National Cross Country Championships. The climax of the seasom for UK's top cross country runners. Held this year at Alton Towers, the largest  Theme Park and Fun Resort in England.   But after day's of melting snow and rain the venue's main theme was mud,  mud glorious mud!  I'm informed that after one leg fracture , the race distances were shortened for safety reasons.   Lovely..........not!

  The rearrangement  would surely have been good news for those at the back of the senior mens race,  having to "only" run 10K instead of 12K.   Their number included former European and Commonwealth  marathon champion Dr. RON HILL, finishing with just 6 behind him.
  Ron won the "National" back in 1966 (and 1968).  This old Athletics Weekly  depicts the sprint to the line with fellow Lancastrian  Mike Turner of Liverpool Harriers.
(Liverpool was in Lancashire then!)
  You will note that A.W. was priced at 1/3 (one shilling and 3 pence).   6.25p  today.  It is currently £3.95 !
   It's hard not to admire Ron's longevity, perseverance and tenacity at the age of 73.  But  I must confess that if I had been spectating at the event I would have had mixed feelings about watching a childhood hero of mine toiling in ankle deep mud right at the back in one of the most extremes events on the calendar.
   I think true cross country  which can include mud and ploughed fields is the hardest form of racing at any age and in 50 years I've sampled the lot, I think.   Track, road, trail, long and short fells races. 

 The "National" (typical start pictured above) used to be 9 miles for Senior men,  the ultimate  test of speed endurance including a start  so congested it's like running in a crowded lift for the first mile or so; and it used to be so select that only a club's best 9 were chosen to take part. Nowadays there is no restriction.
                       So, in conclusion, well done Ron.   Can't help but admire your valour.  ( Congrats also to Complete Runner XC league winners Leeds City who were Senior mens champs and the ladies of Bingley H. who picked up silver medals )
  On the other hand,  Ron  could have run the Northern Vets AC XC Champs at Warrington in which 10 over 70s, 6 over 75s and 2 over 80s competed with the ladies over just 5K.   But then again he would have had to have been a member as it's a closed club championship. 
  What do you think?   Happy to still compete when your P.Bs are a distant memory?


  1. It certainly is the taking part that's important for most of us I feel and running with you're own goal in mind is certainly no bad thing. As a realist, I know that I'll never be at the front and "win" a race but to train for and finish in a "realistic" time based on age, experience (or lack of it) and ability can only be a good thing. As for Ron Hill, perhaps the 5K would have been a better race to enter if "position" was his goal, but if all he wanted to do was enjoy it, perhaps for nostalgic reasons, and he's still comfortable running in a longer event, then who can blame him for entering.

  2. I've heard the expression both ways round i.e "it's not the winning, it's the taking part that counts", or "it's the winning, not the taking part that counts". I agree with both and especially the "quote of the day"; How you run your race is up to you. If you set a goal and achieve it you have 'won'. Also, if you have the talent and motivation to win outright then go for it, it's up to you.

    Still happy to compete at 46. I may have to think about trudging round muddy fields as a 73 year old though. Well done to Ron.

    All the best.