A couple of weeks ago I wrote a scathing piece condemning the state-sponsored approach towards systematic doping taken by the Russian Olympics & Paralympics Federations and contrasting it with that of our own. Broadly speaking, my argument was based upon our two very different, but somehow strangely similar, approaches to the quest for international sporting recognition: ours was to spank the cash, there’s was to inject the dope. However, as it’s recently transpired, perhaps our two systems are even more similar than I alluded to.
Whilst waiting for the swimming pool to open, my conspiracy-theorist pal asked whether I had seen the helmet-cam-cycling footage of future national-treasure, Jeremy Vine? Obviously, not being part of today’s social media revolution I hadn’t, so he very kindly downloaded it onto his picture-phone. WTF.
At the risk of incurring the wrath of the great-unwashed, I have to admit the Olympics leave me a little cold. As a lifetime sports participant it frustrates me that precious little funding appears to filter down to either the young or those involved at grass-roots level, and believe me, I’ve tried & tried to unlock some of that national cash, but to no avail. Admittedly, it probably doesn’t help my mood that, as a squash player, our Olympic involvement has been poo-pooed by all manner of ‘sports’ including beach volleyball, Greco wrestling and wall-climbing.
As a cyclist of sorts, doping scandals and the institutionalised acceptance of the bleedin’ obvious are nothing new to me. Yet even the actions of old disgraces pale into virtual insignificance beside the recent revelations of Russia’s state-sanctioned doping programme. Yes, we all knew that many of its athletes, across many sports, had illegally enhanced their performances but to find out the true extent of cheating is nothing short of mind-boggling: between 2012 and 2015, Russian sports officials covered up, or interfered with, 312 positive drugs tests in 28 different sports.
Dark storm clouds are gathering. Rain peppers the window panes of South-West London. A mood of despondency & resignation descends upon the nation. Forecasts predict gloom for the foreseeable, and it’s universally predicted economic-output is immediately going to fall. It can only mean one thing. The fall-out from the shocking Brexit decision? Nah, don’t be silly, it’s Wimbledon again and time for us all to go the tennis equivalent of snooker-loopy!
At the time of conception the idea seemed perfectly feasible and relatively sane – to cycle from Whitehaven on the west coast (the Irish Sea) to Whitley Bay on the east coast (the North Sea), a distance of approximately 160 miles in three days. Broadly speaking, the first day would take in the Lake District, the second would see off the Pennines and the third the North York’s Moors/Northumberland. Game on. Ah, but doesn’t that go over some hilly ground? Beer has soooo much to answer for.
Back in the day, when some men with a bit of disposable income reached a certain age, or a certain position in life, they did some strange things. The grind of the office and humdrum home life convinced many that the answer to an expanding midriff lay in a pair of expensive designer jeans, a third-hand guards red 911 and brand new Suzuki Gixer thou. At least many of us drew the line at another pony-tail. Nonetheless, teenage daughters ran screaming from the scene and sons were left bereft of convincing role models.
Swimming is the new squash! Having only recently dipped a toe in this particular activity I must say I’ve taken to it like the proverbial duck to…er…water. Not in terms of technique and ability but certainly in terms of enthusiasm. It really is a tremendous sport even though you end up smelling of chlorine and develop permanent lines around your eyes from the goggles. Nonetheless, it’s all worthwhile and no doubt you’ll end up open-water swimming at some point in time which at least means you get to avoid chlorine.
As several of you are probably aware there’s two races within this two-loop course around Kingston and Hampton Court, an eight miler and a 16 miler. I’d had a crack at the shorter distance a couple of years ago and completed it in a pretty respectable 58.04 but with the Ironman fast approaching I thought I’d give the longer one a go and try and put some miles in the ol’ bank as they say.
I’m not a natural runner; my legs are too short and, having only taken it up when I was 40, I was over-the-hill before I even started. I truly hated every step for several years. It was initially a necessary evil as the adventure races I was competing in were ‘topped and tailed’ a run but I have to admit that it did eventually click and it’s proved to be exercise that I’ve grown to quite enjoy.