i remember the day when i wasn't a contender
lumbering was a word that could be used to describe me when i was at school, to be fair it could still be used i am not the most elegant of people. back in school i was good at two sports: rugby and shot put (i thought it was putt but the bbc says it is put and they know their stuff).
while i had p.e. teachers who encouraged me i can't really say that northolt high school was really a place of sporting excellence. there may have been a large sports field in the school and there may have been two gyms in reality they looked better than they were.
it seemed i had my growth spurt early and so for a period of time i was one of the biggest kids around this made both my chosen sports relatively easy for me. i would go out and practice the shot put. doing that little backward skip before the explosive turn and throw. skip, turn, throw, skip, turn throw and again, and again. practice, practice, practice. that is the thing about sport (like so many other things in life) is quite often you just have to keep doing the same old thing time after time after time. working on your technique getting it perfect, making it second nature – no thought the body just does.
in the case of shot put – enter the throwing circle, settle yourself, calm, explosive glide across the circle, launch the put and watch it lands a large distance away. all the hard yards you had done in training coming together for those few moments of wonderment and achievement. it is all common sense really – the reverse of systems people's shit in shit out theory.
as far as the school was concerned i was the best at shot put.
so off to the district champsionships. they took place in a field in greenford. the thing about throwing is no one really cares – maybe they get excited about the javelin but the rest not really. scale that back to a small school meet in the middle of nowhere and you imagine just how many people were watching: only those who had to be there. i win. yay me. i win it again. yay me again. i win it again.
not sure why but this win gets me an invite to the county championships. big time.
to be fair i enjoyed sports to the extent i had fun with them. i have never been a big student of the game. never really followed other people and their results, never really compared myself with them. i never sweated the small details. i was a big picture guy. i admit that i had dreams of following heroes such as geoff capes and fran cotton pulling on the jersey and representing my country.
the county championship was the first step on the way to that.
i turn up at crystal palace and raring to go.
loads of people there to compete. loads of people there to watch the loads of people there to compete. no one there for me. boo hoo.
well not so boo hoo as it turned out.
from the start it was overwhelming – just trying to find the people i needed to find in order to get my number, in order to find out what time the event was starting and in order to find out where it was.
all that done i head off to start the event.
i am met with manchildren – i thought i was big – but these guys have muscle on their muscles. ok this is a whole new level. i've got on a pair of dunlop green flash – these guys have proper throwing shoes. these guys have real warm up routines, they have coaches with them. no worries i have this covered. i can do this.
first round and every one is throwing well. my first throw is poor. second round they have worked out the kinks and throwing further. i am not. oh dear. as there were not enough competitors for some to be knocked out my misery drags on for six rounds. i see guys throw 5 or 6 meters further than me and be so upset with it that they foul the throw. i see guys throw double my distance and look disappointed.
am i downhearted? am i despondent? do i wish i was somewhere else?
of course i am and of course i do. only problem is i still have couple more throws. a couple more attempts at staving off sporting humiliation – my own eddie the eagle moment. needless to say the skies did not part, there was no divine intervention, i was unable to call up my inner superhero, i didn't hulk up and i threw a couple more pathetic (hey i was consistently bad so i played to form) attempts.
i came last by a country mile – or more accurately several meters from the next worst thrower.
it wasn't the first time that i had failed at something that was important to me, and it surely wouldn't be the last. it was, however, an incredibly public failure. there were no real important lessons to be learnt other than there are times when you are just out of your depth – and all you can hope to is reach the shallow end. there is no shame in losing.
importantly i didn't give up and sometimes that is all you can ask of yourself: keep going, keep trying.