Steve Trew returned to his childhood stomping ground – and naturally it made him nostalgic
And so to Victoria Park (Vicky Park to everyone who has ever run there), East London, a stone’s throw from the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. Saturday morning, the Vicky Park 10K run.
Here to watch a couple of my athletes run the 10K. Here also – although I certainly didn’t plan this – to revisit my roots. My stomping ground, where I grew up. Where I ran my best ever time for five miles (25:07 since you ask, and how sad that I remember!). Very proud of that, I was, five-minute miling for an 800-metre runner. And how much better that would have been, had it been 24:59, getting under the magic five-minute miling. I tried, tried hard on that run back in the late 70s, but dropping eight seconds proved impossible.
And have things changed in that 30-plus years? “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” as those people just across the Channel are wont to say. And that was exactly what it was: loads of differences, but equally so many things that seemed exactly the same. Even some of the faces were the same, perhaps a little older, perhaps considerably older actually. Guys in their 50s, 60s and 70s still running. Guys I’d raced against, still racing, although a little slower, but much, much faster than I’d be.
The officials were all ex-athletes, again all guys I’d competed against back in the day when the world was young. And one memorable lady, the great Joyce Smith, original winner of the London Marathon, one of the absolute best distance runners in the world back then. Where did it go? All those years? All that time? What’s that quote? “Tread softly, for you tread upon my dreams.” I like to add, “Tread softly for you tread upon my shadow”.
You almost get the shivers, don’t you, going back to where stuff happened when you were so much younger. All those thoughts crash in. Can I really be this old? Did I really used to run a couple of hours on Sunday morning and think nothing of it? Sure I did. ’Cause it was part of me, it was part of my life. It was rarely, how do I fit training around work today? More, how do I fit work around training? And those long Sunday runs? Never go out without a 20 pence piece in case of dying the death (before mobile phones, natch) and of course the old insurance papers in case of rumbling bowels. “This is who I am, this is what I do.” A cliched quote, but true nevertheless.
And do I regret anything? Actually, no. It really is all part of what I am. All those years of aching legs, all those early mornings, running into work hot, sweaty, smelly and desperately managing a shower before the ‘real’ work started. And then running home again, and doing the same again and again and again. Every day, because I had to. Had to because I wanted to. And then came triathlon.
Additions to the aching legs came in the guise of sore (or rather immovable) arms and shoulders (memories of my swimming days in a different, previous life). Add in a backside that didn’t ever want to sit down again. And I loved it, loved every single hurting moment. Because it was part of me, part of what I am and what I do.
And you know what is so great? Every one of you reading this (and I thank you for that by the way!) knows exactly what I mean: you’re sitting there nodding your heads sagely and going, “Yeah, that’s right, totally understand that”. The memories will probably drift back. One particular run maybe when you were so far out that you were lost. But you did get home… eventually. One swim session when you knew you were going to throw up. And you did! That bike ride perhaps, the one where you rode further than you’d ever done before. And where you just knew, knew beyond doubt that you wouldn’t be able to climb the next hill, wouldn’t be able to finish the ride. Except you did both – climbed the hill and finished the ride.
Part of what I am, what I do. And you grew a little more, grew physically and, more importantly, grew emotionally. We’re lucky guys, me and you and the people we choose to be around. We choose what we do, certainly, but we’re extraordinarily lucky to have that choice. Philosophy lesson over for today. Get out there and carpe that diem. And don’t forget your roots. Don’t forget, ever.