Own Goal

Feet back on the ground after an afternoon of very murky, low level approach practise with a new pilot and I’ve been watching a programme on the Munich Olympic tragedy. I was suddenly reminded that those same games were a turning point in my own life too.

I remember the Radio Times carried a special feature on the Soviet sprinter Valeri Borzov; "The fastest man alive" it asked?

That was enough for me as an energetic sixteen year old in urgent need of a hero. I resolved to become the world’s greatest sprinter and although it never quite happened that way, it did help make me pretty much uncatchable as a rugby winger until I gave up on running fast . As I got older, I concentrated first on making a living from tennis and then on running longer and longer endurance races, finishing my career with an attempt at the eighty mile World Trail Running Championships six years ago. To be honest, I collapsed after forty miles of non-stop running, proving conclusively that if you want to travel eighty miles in a single day, it’s better to take a car or a bicycle.

Actually, my advice to anyone taking-up running is keep the distances short and the effort high or risk a very sore middle age. Trying to run across exotic places such as the Sahara Desert is completely daft and one look at the hospital tent during the Marathon Des Sables is evidence enough. There’s a great sequence in a National Geographic documentary ('Running the Distance') of a miserable, exhausted and dirty wretch being interviewed with a saline re-hydration drip hanging from his arm and if you look closely enough, then beneath the stubble of a week's beard growth and layer of dried white perspiration, it’s me.

But without the example of Valeri Borzov, I would never have discovered competitive athletics or achieved some of the things that I’ve done in different sports and it finally taught me that personal goals don’t always have to be reached but we all need them to aim at.

Borzov thrashed the Americans, won 'Sprint Double' Olympic gold medal, married the world's greatest and prettiest gymast and became the Ukranian Minister of Sport so who says that dreams can't come true?


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