Martin Hyman writes:
“I think myself very lucky to have competed in an amateur era, when we all trained most days and competed most weekends, for the sheer joy of it. No cash prizes, no £20,000 grants, so no incentive to cheat. If we were beaten, it was by a better runner, not by a cleverer chemist. Athletics was a recreation that enhanced our lives. Our serious business was with our working career and bringing up our families.
How things have changed with professional athletics! In my day British Athletics was run by a single administrator with one office assistant. There were 4 professional coaches for the whole of the UK. Nowadays Scottish Athletics alone employs over 20 full-time staff and Sport Scotland over 100 – yet amazingly our distance running standards have declined! In my day, the backbone of the sport was the large number of amateurs who willingly gave their time to organise events and serve their clubs. Now much of their work is done by professional organisers, putting on expensive events. Entrepreneurs sell us running shoes for £100 or more. There is also a vast industry based on selling gadgets and sports drinks.
This is fine for well-off families, but large numbers of talented young athletes from working class families are priced out of our sport. I could not have afforded fancy entry fees when I was a young athlete, and I was self-coached. So when runners started asking me for coaching advice I gladly gave it for free. Later, when I was made a National Event Coach, or had to give lectures, I was determined that this should be a hobby and not my job, so I put the fees in a “Support Fund”. Other like-minded folk have chipped in also.
So I have been able to help out keen athletes, of any standard, with payments towards the cost of their entry fees, travel or running kit. I would be glad to hear from anyone who may need this sort of help.
Another use of the fund is for subsidising training get-togethers. I have organised hundreds in my time, from 3 week alpine altitude training, to local running weekends. Always self-catering, with unlimited, simple, good quality food. They can be a great stimulus for running and team spirit. A favourite venue was the Wanlockhead Outdoor Centre. Excellent catering facilities and separate male and female showers / toilets. On the Southern Upland Way with open land in all directions to run where you like. Sleeps up to 24 on mattresses. (No beds). Hire costs £40 per night.
If any group or individual wants to have a go at organising such an event, I would be happy to underwrite the cost and to help travel costs for those who need it and to offer advice and contact details.
Anyone is welcome to apply to me for support.”
To contact Martin, you can email him directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: 01506 412322. Alternatively speak to a club official, who can help to get in touch.