I’m an average runner with a below average body at the moment: life has undoubtedly got in the way this past year, with my sinuses playing up and my cake-to-mouth ratio being far too high to maintain any sort of manageable running weight; coupled with a certain (but undiagnosed) broken bone in my left foot. I managed a race and a half in 2017, by some way my poorest attempt to remain competitive since I began running in 2005. Frustration levels have been high but I’m not the first runner to fall into the ‘injured and ill’ category and I will not by any stretch of the imagination be the last.
I’m bored, sat at home on a Sunday morning with nothing to do. I’m bored, so I’ll go for a walk into town. It’s a nice warm day, so why not head out for a bit? I start walking down the hill towards Hanley when suddenly a runner flies past down the road, sweaty and breathy, hot and clammy! Then it goes quiet and much to my surprise two folk stood at their door started to cheer me on. Now I’m no runner but out of sheer embarrassment I picked up my walking pace, smiled and said thanks. Once out of sight I slowed back down to my steady plod and walked through Central Forest Park towards Hanley and off the race route, which by now I realise must be the local half marathon. Now it may have been the sunny weather, but I had a strange idea that I should now run this race in 2008. I was so embarrassed to have people clap me and think of me as a runner.
I always warmed up at the gym with ten minutes on the treadmill so in the voice of the former Top Gear presenter “How hard can it be?” I got to Hanley and realised the place was full of runners and there was no chance of a quiet pint. So, I headed home to mull over this new idea to run.
The weeks became months and the summer gave way to autumn and I’d all but forgotten about that day in June. I was bored (again) so I flicked the TV on. It was wet and a tad windy. Typical September weather. As the TV came on and flashed into life I was greeted by an aerial shot of some sort of race. It showed the people competing flooding over the Tyne bridge. I sat there transfixed by this race and then remembered the Potters ‘Arf and my somewhat strange idea to run the following year’s race! It was September now and so I figured I had time to train.
I picked up a pair of running shoes that week and on the Sunday after watching the Great North Run I ventured out into the world and plugged in my MP3 player, we didn’t have iPods back then – or I didn’t. I’m not sure how far I went, but it was a start and each Sunday then became my running time, what I later got to know as the ‘long Sunday run’, though for about four or five months I stuck to a 10k route and I ran that same route each Sunday and that became my routine which became my habit. I’d always say to anyone who is starting out on a new thing, be that running or not, is to make it a routine which in time becomes a habit.
Come February 2008 I was running up to 8 miles and then I slipped over, turned my knee and was out of action for much of 2008 with a torn ligament in my left knee. Months of hard graft with the physio and in the gym and I was resolved to run in 2009. My Potters ‘Arf time was 2:12 in 2009 and I was also lucky enough to run the Great North Run the following year in 2010. I’ve ran the GNR six times so far and ran in Spain, Ireland and the USA, as well as most parts of England. I owe those two people who cheered me on as I walked into town that day in June 2007!
My running journey began in 1996, when aged thirty-four I decided to go for a short run. Little did I know that, like Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days, my journey would take me the equivalent of round the world in miles. Exactly where the final mile of the 24,901 miles I covered I can’t be sure, but it was somewhere in or near Stoke-on-Trent.
Running has never come naturally to me, despite my will to try. My attempts started as a kid during Primary School, where I had a go at joining the after school cross country club. I turned up, nervous, in my little black pumps, shiny blue shorts and White t shirt. I felt ready. Cross country was slower than sprinting, so surely I'd be ok at this. How wrong could I be?! It seemed all the sporty people were also good at this and I immediately fell to the back of the group. I was embarrassed and made to feel upset and rubbish at all the other kids jibes at the 'fat kid having a go'. I never went back!
Sporting Stories writes: Don Shelley's running career in North Staffordshire is worthy of a book in itself, starting as it did in 1954 when he won an inter-schools cross-country race and ending in 2010 when he finally retired from active sports administration. In between Don ran for the RAF, was secretary for the Michelin Sports & Social Club, founded the British Marathon Runners Club and the North Staffs Road Runners Association. In 1980 he became the first National Marathon Coach.
When I read Cheryl Strayed's book "Wild" (now also a film with Reese Witherspoon), I was very much inspired by her story of walking the Pacific Crest Trail, up the west coast of the USA. The sheer scale of the endeavour, with most of her time spent on her own just walking with one foot in front of the other, was mind blowing. I'm not sure it made me want to walk hundreds of solitary miles, but it did make me wonder what was possible and what I'm capable of doing.
Changing our attitude to helping people change will change lives. It will create lives. It will change attitudes.
It will create a city to be prouder of. It will create a city to aspire to.
Do it now. Plan, inspire, develop, play, cheer, encourage, motivate.
My three words to describe our home; Concentrated undiscovered potential.
Sporting Stories writes: Ken Rushton is a much-respected and honoured member of the sports community in North Staffordshire and beyond. Ken continues to contribute a huge amount to the local running scene, not least as the race director of the iconic Potters ‘Arf half marathon, held on the second Sunday in June each year.
You stand once again at the starting line
Waiting for the games to commence
You’ve been here many times before
Yet you must race again and again
Sporting Stories writes: Tom Brennan is a former Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent and was instrumental in developing sports facilities in the city. He also founded the city’s Sports Personality of the Year awards. At 82 he’s still active in championing sport in the city. We’re grateful to Anthony Bunn for capturing in this piece some of what makes Tom such a powerful advocate for Stoke-on-Trent.
I moved to Stoke on Trent in 2009 (I married a local) and found that life in my new home was enjoyable but not really conducive to my health and wellbeing. I was much more sedentary than I'd been whilst living in London, doing very little exercise and gaining weight. I couldn't even run for a bus and the 10 minute walk from my house to the shops became an ever growing challenge. By November 2010 I knew it was time for a change... Working on the mantra of eat less, exercise more, I changed my diet, switched to a smaller dinner plate and started using the exercise bike that had been gathering dust in my garage.
Male and female
Young and old
Small and large
They all run
Sporting Stories ‘pick’ – this is a great little story about a mountain race in Scotland, by fell runner Phil Hodgson. Phil is a long-time member of Todmorden Harriers, an athletics clubs based around Todmorden and Calderdale in West Yorkshire.
The third Saturday in January saw me do my very first parkrun. parkrun (no capitalisation apparently) is a brilliant concept: simple, inclusive and global in its reach. Its simplicity is its great strength – you register online on the parkrun site to get a unique barcode, turn up at 9.00 am on a Saturday at a location which has a parkrun (nearly 800 worldwide – Hanley is currently the only one in Stoke-on-Trent) and run a timed 5k.
Emma Jackson is one of Stoke on Trent’s outstanding athletes, who has represented England at 800m in every age group. She was the fastest junior in the world in 2007 and in that year also won a silver medal at the European Junior Championships. In 2011 she reached the semi-finals of the World Championships and after a spell out with injury has recently represented England again at an international meet.