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Learning 2012

Expectations which arise from impressive performance or a spell of great training, can result in an athlete’s target race going either one way or the other. Team GB and Kenyan performances from London 2012 provide plenty examples of how some athletes thrive under extreme pressure and others, for whatever reason, are unable to produce the goods when it matters. Despite not yet being at that level of competition, I am able to relate to and draw comparisons between the London 2012 Olympics and my own season.

Firstly, what an incredible Olympics it was – certainly the best I have witnessed in my 23 years on the planet. From organisation to determination and the inspirational to the spectacular, London 2012 had it all and was undoubtedly a resounding success. The added bonus for me is that I have a gut feeling that the Paralympics will inspire me further more.

Sir Steve Redgrave kicks off London 2012 by passing on the Olympic flame to stars of the future

As always with positive and successful events in life, there are always going to be negative people clutching at straws to find faults and criticisms. Thankfully these straws were the small kind you get with Ribena packs and the pessimists were drowned out by the billions of people who have been thrilled, inspired and motivated by the performance which London put on for the world. The stage was well and truly taken and I believe a generation has been inspired.

Whilst trying not to sound hypocritical, the only negative area which I will touch upon is that thankfully drugs cheats grabbed much less of the headlines than in previous years, however they were still there. It amazes me how Nadzeya Ostapchuk could have been naive enough to think that she would not get caught doping in this day and age. It baffles me equally as much that she could take satisfaction from winning a tainted medal and therefore deny other athletes their reward for years of hard work and sacrifice. Articles are going to be about the only ceremony Gong Lijiao of China will receive after she was bumped up from 4th to the Bronze medal position as a result of the Belarusian’s cheating in the women’s Shot Put competition. Valerie Adams of New Zealand was rightly promoted to Olympic Champion and Evgeniia Kolodko of Russia was moved up from bronze to silver.

Ostapchuk (centre) with her tainted medal

Anyway enough of the negative. What was most inspiring for me was that at one point during the Games, the north-east of Scotland would have been sitting 10th in the medal table had they been a nation. The reason this provides me with increased motivation is not because of some misguided pro-Scottish feeling, but because living in Kenya has showed me that when your neighbours achieve great things, this automatically raises the bar and sets the standard for others to go and at least match.

For whatever individual reasons, the Kenyan team did not enjoy the success they had hoped for and which they have become accustomed to. It was lovely to see that the message coming out of Olympic Marathon favourite (but finished 4th), Mary Keitany’s camp was along the lines of “win or lose, it will always be together.” Another example was in the men’s Marathon where pre race favourite, Wilson Kipsang (bronze medallist) said afterwards: “some days you win and some days you don’t.” We can learn a great deal from the Kenyan attitude despite their relative lack of success in London 2012, as I am sure it has played a huge role in their past triumphs.

My summer track season started promisingly after returning in late May from 3 months of altitude training in Kenya. I enjoyed 5-6 weeks of personal bests and winning performances but unfortunately suffered from chest infections and bugs for the best part of a month after that. Now back fully fit and training well I felt disappointed after relatively good performances in the Division 1 British Athletics League match on Saturday just past in Windsor. Having had a few days to reflect and take on board advice from my Dad/co-coach, Mel Edwards and my other coach, Grant Smith I have realised that you cannot expect personal bests in every race just because you are feeling in great shape. With 2 races left this season (BMC 800 metres tonight in Watford and BMC 1500 metres in Bedford on Saturday) I aim to relax, stay positive but not overly optimistic and just go out there and enjoy my racing and hopefully a personal best or two might come in tandem.

Maybe, and I hope, one day there will be no need for me to draw these comparisons between the world’s best and my own.

David Rudisha leads home the fastest 800m race in history in what was ‘only’ one of two gold medals for the Kenyan team in London

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Braveheart Becky aims to follow in the footsteps of her mother

Written by Myles Edwards in Iten, Kenya.

The first in a series of in depth interviews with Aberdeen Athletic Club members features under 17 middle distance star, Becky Cheyne.  Cheyne chats to Myles Edwards about her aspirations for the coming years and what it is that drives her to succeed in the sport.

Born in Aberdeen in 1997, Becky tells us how she first got involved in athletics:

“My first ever race was a Primary Schools event at Chris Anderson Stadium (now Aberdeen Sports Village).  I was in Primary 5 and managed to come 4th in the 800m.  Although I missed out on a medal, I was very proud of myself because my only other races had been at school sports days.”

This race planted a seed within Becky which continues to spur her on today as she then went on to compete in all Active Schools events from 2007-2010 and scooped 1st age group place in every Race for Life from 2007 through to 2009.  She hopes to return to the Race for Life event this year as she has missed the past few due to other commitments.

Now coached by the legendary Grant Smith, Becky has won ‘Athlete of the Week’ three times since the introduction of the award in November 2011.  Becky says:

“I am proud of this achievement because it shows that I am improving and heading in the right direction.  I think the introduction of this award means that secretly we all strive to do better and that our performances are recognised.”

Coached by Grant Smith since 27th June, 2011, she goes on to describe the influence that Grant has on her progress and that of others in the group:

“Grant is a good coach for many reasons.  He emails our workouts to us beforehand so that we know what times we have to improve on.  He also emails us our times following the session so that we can write them in our diaries and make comparisons with similar sessions from the past.

“He also gives us little tips on how to improve our running styles and techniques. He is always happy to help and never pushes us too far, he just goes with our abilities instead of pushing us to breaking point. He’s always happy, encouraging and positive.”

With personal bests of 2.49.1 and 5.56.2 for 800 and 1500 metres respectively, Becky aims to improve on both of these marks this season off the back of some great training over the winter months.

Cheyne goes on to tell us why athletics is the sport which she most enjoys:

“Athletics is my favourite sport because nobody judges you, every member of Aberdeen AAC is very friendly and welcoming. The sport itself is very enjoyable – you can run from anywhere, for whatever distance and for whatever reason. You can also use it to take your frustrations out on really well.  If I’m annoyed, I simply think – ‘I will show them’ – and therefore run better because of it.

“I prefer athletics to team sports purely because my hand-eye co-ordination is a bit skew-whiff! However, I do still consider athletics to be a team sport as everyone is in the same club.  Also, in relays we are a team – even if you’re not picked to be in the squad of 4 you will still get a buzz from cheering everyone else on.”

Keen to find out what drives Becky to train harder and harder week in, week out, I ask who it is that inspires her:

“My Mum, Denise is without a doubt the person who inspires me most as it was not so long ago that she ran for Scotland.  Kelly Holmes is someone who I also greatly admire.  She didn’t have the best start to life and didn’t even like running to begin with.  Despite this, she never gave up and in the end her hard work produced two gold medals in the same Olympics and also got her a knighthood.

“I admire the attitudes of athletes such as Derek Redmond who battle through severe pain to get to the finishing line.” (Redmond famously pulled a hamstring during the 400m semi final at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and had to hobble and be carried by his father for almost 200m to cross the finish line)

Becky goes on to say that she ‘holds athletes in high regard who, despite their talents continue to be modest and support younger athletes’ like herself.’

Next we move on to what Becky feels she can achieve within the sport of athletics:

“I am not certain of exactly what I can achieve but if I keep training well and getting personal best times then I will in myself feel that I have achieved an awful lot.

“I think it would be brilliant to run for Scotland one day, or compete in the Olympic or Commonwealth Games.  However, that is not a necessity for me to be satisfied. As long as I know that I can run for as long in life as I want to and that I am a lot fitter and more active than my peers at school, then I will be a happy chappy.”

The next interview will be with middle distance maestro, James Joy as he looks to improve on his 800m personal best of 1.53 from last year.

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Returning to my home from home: Iten, Kenya

By Myles Edwards

Twitter – MylesEdwards

At 6pm last night I returned to my home from home.  Not that I needed any extra enthusiasm towards my return to Iten, Kenya but a phone call from Cambridge athletics legend, Mike Turner on the eve of my arrival sent my excitement and determination levels through the roof.

A hero of mine and close friend and inspiration of my father’s, the former English Cross Country Captain and GB Team Manager at the 1988 Soul Olympics has sadly experienced some ill health in recent months.  However, his granite-like grit and trademark resolve are shining through more than ever as he embarks on the recovery process.  To hear a double British Universities and double Inter-Counties Cross Country champion say – “Myles, you’ve never lacked ambition and have all the attributes to be a top athlete” – has given me an incredible buzz and increased determination to make this 3 month spell of altitude training as successful as possible.

The journey from London to Nairobi consisted of sleep, sleep and more sleep.  A hectic week with work and catching up with friends followed by the English National Cross Country 7.5 mile race on Saturday had clearly taken its toll as for the first time in my 23 year career, I declined a meal.

With only 2 flights leaving Nairobi to Eldoret each day I had missed the first one and was not hanging around Eldoret Airport all day until evening.  This left me one option – a 500 mile journey by matatu. For those of you who are not familiar with the matatu, count yourself lucky.  Packed in like sardines is an understatement.  The 14-seater mini bus at one point had 22 passengers and this was including my two 20kg bags taking up two of the ‘seats’.  Safe to say my backside and I were relieved and jubilant when the ordeal finally came to an end.

As soon as I set foot on the famous red dirt roads of Iten, I felt at home.  Within seconds a couple of locals, whom myself and training partner Dan Mulhare had made friends with on our previous trip, recognised me and came running over to greet me.  Local children refused to take no for an answer as they fought to be the one to carry my bags for the 5 minute walk to our place, secretly hoping that they would be full of goodies from the UK.

I write this after waking up on my first morning back in our compound owned by Moses and Linet Masai.  It has been absolutely fantastic to see everyone again.  Either Linet has transformed into a very annoying Rooster who seems hell-bent on disrupting my sleep or the feathered creature awaits her as a gift to mark her return from a fantastic 3rd place finish in Puerto Rico’s World’s Best 10km.

I cannot wait to get stuck into some serious training over the coming weeks but plan to be careful in the next few days to acclimatise and not risk injury.  As many of you know my previous trip to Kenya, whilst being truly inspirational, was unfortunately marred by a shin injury which stopped me doing almost any running.  Thanks to Aberdeen-based Physiotherapist, Ron Coutts, I am confident that I have the tools to manage the injury this time around and make this trip a springboard to future success in the sport.  I am hugely grateful for the unwavering loyalty, support and enthusiasm from my parents.  My father, Mel Edwards, has been an inspiration throughout my life and in particular during the times I have spent on the sidelines due to injury.  Grant Smith’s guidance, advice and coaching played a huge role in my success last season and solid training over the last 3 months and I look forward to carrying out his sessions in Kenya.   The trip would also not have been possible without the support of Body Helix, Fugro Subsea Services, Petrofac and in particular Paradigm Flow Services who have shown great faith in me as an athlete – something which makes me all the more determined to achieve my goals and repay their loyalty.

In half an hour or so I will be heading out for my first run of the trip and hopefully my first pain free run on African soil, with the words of Mike Turner ringing in my ears.  Iten is a truly magical place where you can witness athletes achieving their dreams all around you.  Who knows, I may even be on the shoulder of World 800metres champion, David Rudisha in years to come. Sorry, it seems the altitude has gone to my head already.

Kwa heri for now and thanks for reading.

Myles

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