Race against time

Mr Peaple Running

Believe it or not (and I can understand a resounding 'not'!), the first runner in this photo is me.

It's February 1980. The last 100m of the Southern Boys Cross Country Championship at Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath; widely acknowledged as the toughest course in country, if not the world. My lack of any finish is about to be ruthlessly exposed by that year's English Schools and AAA 800m champion, David Hoinville from Highgate Harriers. Having stumbled on this old photo amongst hundreds hidden in the loft in a weekend clear-out more than 35 years later, I still remember his name and his club. Bitter, Moi? Never mind.

Great times.

A couple of weeks after that photograph was taken The Jam went straight to Number 1 with their brilliant  'Going Underground'.

That never happened then, as it does today. It was an event. It was special.

How times change. Every song seems to do that, these days. I really must be getting old to be troubled by such things.

Going out running as a teenager was a bit unique then, too.

Here's my Blog on that experience from a few months ago...


But lots of physical activity as a young person wasn't.

We were forever up the rec or kicking a ball around in the street in impromptu games when a mate called round. Never stopped. Break and lunch times at school, too.

A range of societal factors - and technological change - now seem conspire against such activity. Stranger danger, fast food culture, the digital revolution, social media...

It strikes me as something of a paradox. Running has never been more popular as an adult leisure pass time... at the same as childhood  inactivity and obesity grow at alarming levels. A health time-bomb waiting to explode as the next generation reach their 20s and 30s. We're in another race against time.

This has recently led me to think about much more deeply about the potential relationship between motivation of computer gaming and a boost to physical activity. Rather than battling against the tide, why not try to harness it's energy and swim with it?  

So I'm really excited about some potential research and development work with Ntegra, our IT partners, and others about how we actually use young people's apparently insatiable appetite for digital. For example...

What about if the power rating of your virtual character could be increased if it was somehow linked to some means of tracking how you had increased your own strength through physical exercise!?

How can wearables and social networking 'inspire a generation' to take part in more physical activity?

That blog from last June was, as you will have noted, entitled 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner'. An implication that it was, at the time, a sport for introverts. Interestingly, schools of the 70s and 80s were also also very inward looking then. I can't remember much ever really being done for charity. I don't recall a non-uniform day; a cake sale.

I was therefore so proud this week of our Year 7s and others who so spontaneously organised a range of fund-raising activities in support of the Nepal earthquake appeal...

Year 7 Nepal fundraiser
Nepal fundraiser
Nepal Cake Sale

Their initiative. Their community spirit.

How, again, times change.

In the wake of their brilliant efforts, I read this disquieting article on the BBC website about the educational and emotional traumas of almost a million Nepalese children who are now without schooling...


Nepalese school reduced to rubble

And in so many ways, this too is so obviously - and critically - a real race against time...