The National Running Show (South) : Olympians & one “Worthy” winner

I travelled up to Farnborough twice last weekend to absorb myself in this running community event. We were promised inspirational speakers, the latest kit, cutting edge technology, the best races, coaches, nutritional snacks and all under one roof. In short this had the makings of a truly memorable experience and it lived up to the billing.

On a personal note, the icing on the cake, was when Paula Radcliffe (our GB marathon phenomena) referenced my T shirt and commented, “I run off road too”, naturally, this made my day !! If this blog means too much reading, please skip to section 5 !! It might just change your life.

During the fifty mile drive home I decided to try and cherry pick my standout moments, rather than write an account of the whole event. Our venue, the impressive Farnborough International, set the tone for a first class weekend. Our hosts on the Inspiration Stage were Jo Pavey (5 time Olympian) and adventurer Danny Bent, both of whom seamlessly brought enthusiasm, knowledge and fun to the proceedings. Added to this free parking and concessionary tickets, then its a win – win. The venue and guys are pictured below.

1. Middle Distance running – Steve Cram

First things first, at the age of 61, Olympic gold medalist and presenter Steve Cram looks the picture of health, that combination of a lifetime involved with sport as well as the Sunderland air clearly agrees with him. Steve claimed never to have had a real job but to have been involved in what he loved all his life.

It’s probably worth pointing out at this stage that I arrived early, so as to get great vantage points. Typically there were hundreds of people in the audience behind me even if these photo suggests there were only a handful of us there !!

For the younger readers of this blog you will know Steve Cram as a presenter but for us older runners you will recognise him in the middle of the three guys on the screen off to the right of the stage. Bonus points for who else is pictured on the screen ??

Steve’s talk revolved around, “what running had done for him” and charted his early years when running the streets of Sunderland wasn’t the activity we’d take for granted these days, the use of a multistorey carpark for training, so as to include hills and avoid the weather, and the concept of multi day training, so as to build him into the champion that he became.

Steve was one of our top middle distance runners during the 80’s setting three world records in 19 days during 1985 for the 1,500m, 2,000m and the mile. It was interesting to hear Steve talk about his diet as a youngest that was influenced by his German mother. Steve’s trademark winding the speed up over the last 300 meters was no doubt fed by intense training and a good variety of food. A BBC Sports Personality of the year in 1983 and in 1999, an impressive 2.35 marathon time !!

When Steve talked about his commentating career he recalled his first attempt which could well have been his last as he was unexpectedly called upon to commentate on a race while his co-commentator wasn’t to hand. A combination of not knowing all the runners names or how to use the microphone amounted to a baptism of fire which was then coupled with swear words on the return of his colleague, that also went out on air, as Steve hadn’t turned off his mike. However, he is still a regular voice to this day on all the big athletics nights so practice clearly does make perfect.

2. Long Distance Running – Paula Radcliffe

With three London and New York marathon wins under her belt as well as numerous track and cross country wins on the world and European stage Paula’s greatest achievement was probably the 2003 London marathon time of 2.15.25 that stood as a world record for sixteen years !!

The mornings conversations had an added layer due to, our host, Jo Pavey’s running career chris crossing Paula’s so there were a number of insightful questions around negative splits, preparation and emotions which brought the historical facts to life.

One of Paula’s earliest anecdotes was that she’d attended the London marathon with her father at the age of ten and watched Ingrid Kristiansen which inspired her to become an athlete. Studying at Loughborough University would have meant great facilities for both sport and academic achievements and she certainly didn’t let having asthma slow her down.

Perhaps one of the greatest legacies an athlete can be remembered for is if they use their fame to give back to others. The Families on Track project is a great initiative that Paula has been developing. As well as encouraging her own children to be active and embrace healthy habits this project revolves around a lapped relay format with all the family contributing at different stages. So all ages and levels of fitness add up to an accumulated distance that they can all be proud of. Having fun together and developing their mental and physical fitness sounds like a great family bonding experience.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my blog it was an honor to say hello and have my photo taken. When I created this blog and called it “i run off road” the “i” was always meant to apply to everyone on the trails, not just me. It was a massive thumbs up when Paula immediately picked up on it.

3. Ultra Long Distance Running – Allie Bailey

After briefly introducing myself on Saturday and listening to her along with Dave Hellard and Jody Raynsford on Saturday, as part of the Bay Boy Running group / podcast, I was pleased to catch up early on Sunday to chat a little further with a person who has greatly promoted the recent decades activity of going beyond a marathon.

Allie’s videos, Instagram page and Facebook group (Ultra Awesome) show the infectious enthusiasm she has, as well as offering endless advice in a no nonsense way that means you know she isn’t doing it as a business, it’s coming from the heart.

I was interesting to hear what Allie had to say when I mentioned I hadn’t raced for some time and there was absolutely no judgement, choose you path and follow your own journey were typical of the generous spirit she offers everyone.

4. Running Exhibitors – My favorite three

There must have been one hundred names on the “who’s here” board so naturally over the two days I made my way around a large proportion of them and here’s a snippet of the best ones that I interacted with. The Club LaSanta Lanzarote complex has a world wide reputation and the photos looked fantastic with a 400m track, 50m pool, amazing scenery and the promise of activities from sunrise to sunset. The caption “Disneyland for Runners” made me smile but at the same time it looked quite accurate.

The Forestry England guys were kindred spirits and I had a great chat with them. Check out their Forest Runner 5K & 10K series from September 22 onwards. We talked forest bathing, I’ve previously blogged about this (just type it in the search bar) and I particularly like their marketing slogan of – Seek adventure, make memories and find your escape. I truly believe you don’t escape “from” your day to day life you escape “to” the countryside.

My third stall choice was a tie between meeting up with Umberto from Absolute 360 running and trying the Pulse Roll vibration technology. The Pulse Roll increases blood circulation, improves mobility and reduces muscle soreness, I guess you could say it was a massage gun to help in your recovery. I certainly felt the benefit on my calves !! Umberto is one of life’s boundlessly enthusiastic runners who I chat to on twitter so it was great to meet him in person.

5. Adventurous Running – Jay Worthy

Before attending the show Jay was probably the person I knew least about and for that reason I’d say he had the most impact. Jay Worthy is the host of a podcast called 28 Summers. Now, I like the idea of podcasts but I wouldn’t say I’ve embraced them yet. However, I’m now hooked on this fantastic resource of adventure, human endeavor and positivity. I don’t run with headphones but I’ve started to use then when I walk, so, these episodes will play an increasing part in my future motivation.

After an adventurous childhood, Jay described his journey on working his way up the corporate ladder to becoming a CEO with a high profile Chicago fitness equipment company, but, to achieve this he’d put his own wellbeing on hold and as he put it his adventurous side had gone into hibernation. The phrase all work and no play meant even with all the financial trappings, he wasn’t happy.

This is when the 28 Summers analogy turned his life around. Jay recalled listening to a motivational speaker who stated than the average American male lived until 78 and that speaker was 50 when he’d contemplated this, consequently this meant there were potentially 28 years left to fulfill any dreams he was harboring.

Naturally more can be achieved in the Summer, especially with your children, hence the name of the podcast. Jay took this onboard and now try’s to really “live” his life. After all, working for a future that you might not want is quite a revaluation. This concept of clocking up experiences and memories rather than counting down your remaining years puts a completely different spin on your outlook, no matter what your age, but more so if you are older.

To compound this he talked about how while trying to reclaim his mornings with exercise his life changed for the worst with no longer holding the position he’d worked for. Depression soon took over and he needed to try and find a way out. Jay talked about the perspective of looking down from a tall building or the top of a hill, the fast paced life at ground level can be viewed differently with an elevated view.

Focusing on health, family and asking himself “what makes my heart sing” has taken him full circle back to his childhood by searching out adventures endeavors. I also like the fact that as well as challenging his own thoughts he also challenges his children to think outside their comfort zones. I’m 60 at the end of May and this really struck me that at a time when people are considering pensions, savings and grey hair why not turn those negatives into positives. Trail running has already started me on this journey, I just needed this added focus to channel making the most of it.

I especially like the comment “No zero days” i.e. no matter how small the thought or action we can make a positive impact on our lives each day and if that sounds too much then “win your week” i.e. have more days in it with these stepping stones towards your goals, than not. These aspirations may sound quite grand initially and how could we achieve them on our own but if there’s one thing being part of the running community teaches you it’s that there’s so many like minded people who are looking for the same kind of adventure. Jay’s comment “find your tribe” summed this up in three words ­čÖé

Adventure might not solve all your circumstances, or the prospect of getting older, but the buzz of the outdoors with its vitamin D sunshine can only help. You don’t have to row the Atlantic, start small and build up. Jay mentioned his favorite T.S. Eliot quote, “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are”. I love this, until you start to find your limits you’ll never know what they are and by this it could also mean the limits of your enjoyment as well as physical capability.

As Bruce Springsteen famously once said “You can’t start a fire without a spark” and I believe listening to Jay has been the spark I needed to build on what I’ve started with trail running.

In summary

If you get the chance to attend future Running Shows there’s something for everyone.

Thanks for reading

Roger