An Armchair Fan

I have always been a sports fan.  I’ll watch and enjoy pretty much any sport on TV with the possible exception of ice skating and motor racing.  Oh, and fencing as well, which is unfortunate as my employer is the main sponsor of the British fencing team.

The fencers I have met through work are all humble and lovely people, but unfortunately for them their sport is just about impossible to televise in a meaningful way.  It is just too fast.

As a boy, I couldn’t wait for Saturdays so that I could turn on my medium wave transistor radio at five o’clock and listen to the reading of the football results on Sports Report. I would then plead with my father to let me stay up to watch Match of the Day, even though they used to show highlights from only two matches. It was the highlight of a ten year old’s week.

I still watch the occasional football match, but now it means virtually nothing.  I simply don’t care which billionaire-oligarch owned club beats which other billionaire-oligarch owned club. The players are undoubtedly supreme athletes, but they are also terrible examples as sportsmen and human beings.  I see far too much petulance, disrespect and blatant cheating for me to have any semblance of respect for modern footballers.

The reason for this change is money – the huge obscene torrent of money that has engulfed our National game and turned it from an honest working class sport into a corporate opiate to subdue and stultify the masses. It’s a colossal shame.


On Saturday there were two major national athletics events in Britain – the Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham and the National Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill Fields in London. Only one was televised.

The Indoor Grand Prix culminated in Mo Farah breaking Kenese Bekele’s World indoor two mile record. It was a great run from a great athlete, but somehow after the awful childish spat on Twitter this week between Mo Farah and Andy Vernon, it left me feeling slightly hollow.

I would have felt differently if Farah was slogging it out in the mud running against the best club athletes in the Country, rather than running in a race set up for TV against hand-picked competitors (probably selected by his main sponsor).  That would have been a massive encouragement to young athletes all over the country and a wonderful gift by a World Class athlete.

But although Farah has run in the Nationals before, he almost certainly never will again.  There is no money in it and his sponsor probably wouldn’t let him.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I like Mo Farah, he is a phenomenal athlete and I think he is probably a very nice man. However, it is a shame that success in sport these days means that one seemingly has to sell one’s soul to an American corporate sponsor. Farah is not the only victim.

Andy Vernon should not have sent his first tweet.  It was terrible – churlish, childish and a bit pathetic, but for two days later to seem him castigated as somehow racist seems incredibly unfair.  I hope he gets over it and in future decides to keeps his fingers still and his mouth shut.

I thought James Fairbourn wrote a brilliant article on Eight Lane News about the whole affair:

My running week has been a little subdued, I’ve managed only 45 miles and haven’t exactly had enthusiasm coursing through me.  The mileage was down because I did neither a long run commute nor a long slow run this week, due mainly to work stuff and niggles but hopefully I’ll put that right next week.

The main focus for the week was the Snake Lane 10 mile race today. The weather forecast a few days ahead of the race was for 25 mile an hour winds and driving rain.  Thankfully, we just about dodged that bullet, but the wind was still up making the second half of the race today extremely tough.

After a poor effort at Roundhay parkrun on Saturday, I feared that I might not even beat my time of 62:30 from last year, but soon after the race started I felt OK, I  locked on to 6 minute mile pace and was controlling my breathing pretty evenly.

I reached half way in 30:04 and then we turned and hit a block headwind.  Luckily I was in a small group of four and without any words being said we formed into a cycling style paceline for about a mile, each of us taking a few seconds of wind at the front in turn.

However, the pace was slowing to around 6:20 per mile.  I felt that it was too slow, as did another runner, a lad from York Knavesmire.  We pulled away from the other two in the group and I said to him “Let’s take turns, 30 seconds each”.  To his credit, he stuck to his side of the bargain and we kept up this 30 second rotation for the next three miles into the wind, allowing us to gain gradually on the runners ahead of us.

The last two miles were undulating and along a busier road. All of a sudden I couldn’t force myself in front of him to take my turn at the front.  He pressed on, but I managed to keep him in range as we ran the final two miles back to Pocklington.

I finished in a chip time of 1 hour 1 minute and 48 seconds, about 40 seconds faster than last year, though I don’t think the wind was quite as strong this time around.  My time was OK, probably about as good as I could have run in the conditions, I was suffering aplenty in the last two miles.

So my sub 1 hour goal remains elusive. I was about 11 seconds per mile off that today, which in honesty is a lot.  I need to find some dramatic improvement if I am to beat the hour at Thirsk in a month’s time…

CM -14 weeks
Weight 11st 5.2lb
45 Miles
parkrun – Roundhay 19:31 (8th)


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