A South African blogging acquaintance, a runner called Karien, recently posted an article featuring her five favourite race medals. Quality and design-wise they are each very exotic and far outshine any of those in my collection. In fact, her five least favourite medals - her subject for another posting - also put the majority of mine to shame. Don't believe it Karien when you say that South Africa must be the 'original home of the crappy medal' for I can assure you England produces some pretty cheap and ugly ones. Only a couple of weeks back, a medal I received belatedly, for an MV80 victory in a 1500m track race last September, was so tatty compared to others I'd won the same day that it was only fit for the trash can. Anyhow, a seed was sown so here are some of my personal favourites, not because of their quality or appearance but for the memories they revive. I have many more.
|The 'Peaks' medal - my favourite one of all...|
First: From the day I discovered I could run (June 5th 1987 when I had my first ever win of any description in the Pennine Marathon) my mind became focused on the one race that has always been my favourite in the racing calendar - The Three Peaks of Yorkshire - a fell-running classic over 24 miles with 4,500ft of ascent. I'd watched it from various viewpoints on many occasions and marvelled at the skills and stamina of my super heroes, never dreaming I'd one day be joining their ranks and running alongside them. But in 1993, a week after running sub 3 hour in the London Marathon, and against everyone's advice, I lined up with 447 of Britain's best fell runners and stormed round in a cracking 4:09:27 to finish 193rd overall and easily take the MV60 title. The boxed medal awarded to me, with its image of Horton Church and suitably engraved 'Veteran over 60 Winner' on the reverse, is the one I cherish most in my whole collection. I subsequently won two others in the 'Peaks' but they mean little by comparison to that first one.
Second: I'm a bit reluctant to put it so high in the list but I
suppose London's 1993 marathon was a huge milestone in my racing carreer because it was my first sub three hour. As I said in the paragraph above, it took place only a week before my 'Peaks' triumph but was far less meaningful. I'd been cajoled into running it by a Sikh friend, Ajit Singh, who'd finished second to me in the 1992 Pennine marathon. "You must run London with me" he insisted, "you'll beat them all". Meaning all runners over 60. I eventually gave in to pressure, travelled down to London with Ajit on Saturday morning, stayed with his friends overnight and lined up with all the 'good for age' veterans at the Red start on Sunday morning. Being but a dozen yards from the Start line I was away in seconds and through the first mile in little over 6 minutes. I didn't quite get it right (that would come two years later) and was slowing down towards the finish, but still crossed the line in a creditable 2:54:18 - good enough to take the MV60 title. Ajit was right. However, the winner's medal didn't arrive until some weeks later after they'd checked all the cameras and decided I had in fact gone through all the mile markers! It isn't even engraved and merely a larger version of the one all finishers received. Other than that I got nothing - unlike the previous year's MV60 winner, Derek Turnbull, who'd been flown over from New Zealand and put up in a posh hotel, all expenses paid, and awarded prize money for winning his category. Or so I'm told.
|Cheap London Marathon medal - not even engraved...|
|M70 Fell Championship medal - 2004|
Fourth: I'd been searching the calendar for an interesting race to run on the occasion of my 75th birthday in
2007, preferably one my wonderful partner could run too. We eventually decided upon the Great East Anglia Run, a popular 10K road race with chip timing at King's Lynn in Norfolk - an area that is notoriously FLAT. Never having visited Norfolk before we set off a few days prior to the race and camped along the coast to explore, and run, and maybe do a spot of bird watching. Come race day I'd almost to work myself into a frenzy, knowing that in order to win I'd have to beat all the MV70's. There was no MV75 category. Although flat the course had many twists and turns (not to mention bollards) but I whizzed round in 45:32 to indeed beat all the MV70's and come away with a marvellous glass trophy engraved with the date 6th May, 2007 - my birthday - and 1st male veteran 70+. The medal too has the date inscribed upon it, though it's difficult to see in the picture. To add icing to the cake, my wonderful partner finished second in the LV60 category and also came home with an engraved glass plaque.
|75th birthday medal - 2007|
|M55 10,000m Track Championship - 1990|