Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Off the Cuff

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Off the Cuff

Article excerpt

Byline: By Richard Ord

A week off work gave me a chance to follow the fortunes of Marathon runner Paula Radcliffe and others in the Olympics.

And it was refreshing to see that our Greek cousins have stood firm in refusing to rename the Marathon the Snicker. Good for them.

It reminded me of my short-lived athletics career.

Determined to emulate the Olympic stars of the 70s (Mary Peters was the main man, and what a man she was) I joined the school athletics team.

In junior school I ran in the 4x100 metres relay. I was baton-passer number three.

On a glorious summer's day (windy and overcast) inside what appeared to be a packed Gypsies Green Stadium, in South Shields, I represented the school in the finals.

When the baton was passed to me I was lying fourth. My plimsolls fair flew across the state-of-the-art track, a leg-sapping mix of asphalt, chalk and gravel. It was like running on marbles.

I can remember inching my way back into the race and was possibly a nose ahead at baton change (and with my nose like mine that's a fair lead to be taking into the final stretch, I can tell you)

Anyway, a nose in front, all I had to do was pass on the baton to Derek Ridley and he could sprint to glory. But could I spot him among the other grasping hands waiting for the baton? Could I heck as like.

The other runners raced off towards the finishing line with me trailing in their wake, my baton raised aloft. I was a skinny Statue of Liberty. As the others pulled away, I was left a bit like Frank Sinatra trying to jump on the train at the end of Von Ryan's Express. The crowd were willing me on, but there were simply no takers for my baton. The cloud of dust and flapping plimsolls raced off to the finish line and I was left stranded.

I crossed the line last. Sitting on the grass verge was Derek, or Decka as he was known (Dereks were Decka, Darrens were Dazza, Garys were Gazza, etc. Just as today the de Nero-Roccos are Rocca and the Chelsea-Lees are Chezza). …

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