Another week and another outside broadcast for CamGlen Radio recorded as we TryBowls.
If you follow my blogs here, at the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine or at Great Run you will know that I like to promote physical activity for all; that I like to run and that I love meeting amazing athletes and participating in exciting events. Every activity I try is fun and every person I meet is inspirational, in their own unique way.
None more so than Libby Clegg. I spent a day with her and Strathmore Water as part of the #DoMore campaign, for which Libby is an Ambassador. A day that has left a lasting impression on me and inspired me to literally do more.
I had returned, after 24 years, to my old school, Hutchesons’ Grammar, to learn this time from Libby Clegg and her team about guided running for the visually impaired. As a runner I appreciated and enjoyed the training session with Lincoln Asquith, Libby’s former guide and step-father to her current guide and fellow gold medalist Mikhail Huggins (watch out Mikail, I’m after your job).
As a former Team GB sprinter and coach, Lincoln’s advice to increase my cadence (speed of my steps) hasn’t been lost on me, although I am more likely to share with my running buddies how he informed the group that I was strong and fast (he didn’t add, for my size!). Maybe, I am a sprinter after all!? He put us through shuttle runs and speed drills, focusing on knee drives and using our forefoot to push and propel ourselves forward..
Wait, sorry, I am possibly losing you and confusing you for my Great Run audience. Simply put, Lincoln provided us with some simple tools that we can use to become faster runners. The same tools that have helped Libby Clegg win Silver at London 2012 , World Championships and Gold at Glasgow 2014 and which give her continued hope of realisng her dream of joining the able bodied sprinters at the next Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast and the Rio Olympics in 2018.
However, here with us, her goal was to share some insight on what it is like to run for those with limited or no sight and to give us an opportunity to experience what it means to be a guide. I’ve watched Libby and Mikail at both the Commonwealth Games and at a British Athletics meeting in Glasgow and marvelled at the synchronicity of both the runners. One of the reasons I run, is because it is simple (once you forget about biometrics). I find it hard to coordinate my own movements, without having to factor in someone else’s.
So I was both honoured and horrified when Libby split the nine attendees into pairs, with the odd man (both psychologically and numerically) me, partnered with Libby, herself!!
The first thing we had to master was walking as a pair. Libby had us use hair bands to tie our hands together and she explained that we would walk as if a mirror was placed between us. Despite my fears, matching stride and arm movements came naturally. After a few practice walks, Libby decided we were ready for blindfolds. Libby is registered blind with Stargardt Mascular Dystrophy leaving only peripheral vision in her left eye , but watching her move around her surrondings, it is easy to forget, so I thought nothing of it when my partner put the blindfold on me. Until, that is, Libby stated that it was the blind leading the blind. Even then I felt confident. We were on a running track with no obstacles and I had every faith in Libby.
Walking with a blindfold on was a strange experience. You lose track (no pun intended) of time, distance and speed. Despite being assured of the contary, by Libby, I didn’t feel like I was walking in a straight line or close to Libby, even though we were connected at the wrist. You don’t feel in control, but with Libby guiding me, I at least never felt in danger. After a few practice walks, we moved on to running. Slowly to start. And a strange thing happened. Running with a blindfold on felt easier and was more enjoyable than walking. I felt that I was more stable and more confident. Libby helped, by keeping me posted on distance and by telling me to stop.
And then we swapped roles and Libby dropped a bombshell.
Other than Mikail and Lincoln, before him, Libby doesn’t let others guide her……but she WOULD let me! I cannot fully convey how this made me feel. Honoured, trusted and just a little nervous. I shouldn’t have. We set off and as our arms pumped and legs strode in unison, running in tandem seemed the most natural thing in the world. I even felt that my form improved. Even as we increased our pace, our movements mirrored each other.
I have went from running solo to running with my friends at Glasgow Nike Run Club and now to running arm in arm with a Paralympian, Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist and World Champion. Of all the experiences I’ve had, this one has been the most special. Not just because Libby was a great host and sport and praised my efforts, but because it has given me a chance to DoMore. It also helped that she uttered the immortal words, that so many Team Scotland members have now proclaimed:
Again, if you’ve read my blog, you’ll know that I used to be morbidely obese and you might also know that I had mobility problems in my childhood, but aged 19, I also lost my eyesight, albeit only for just over one week, with Optic Neuritis .
Running with Libby has triggered a desire to learn more about guide running, in the hope that I can encourage and support blind runners. I’ve made contact with Visibility and Scottish Disability Sports and you can too.
Let’s Do More to enable more to Do More!
It seems so long ago. A time, when the sun was shining, people were smiling, our train journeys were filled with cheers and our streets were filled with Clydes. How quickly have we returned to our normal lives? How much do we miss high-fiving police officers and giving standing ovations to both winners and the guys and girls, who came last, regardless of what country they represented? Glasgow 2014 was special, in so many ways. Record crowds at events. Record medal hauls. Records broken and tales of heroes and heroines breaking through barriers to record magnificent performances. Amateur athletes, many of whom hold down jobs, just like you and I, were made to feel like superstars.
Even HRM Prince Imran stated, for the record, that it was the best ever Games and Pure Dead Brilliant. And so it was, by the way.
Everyone played their part and none more than the 15,000 strong army of volunteers. The Frontrunners, Baton Bearers and, of course, the Clydesiders. I’ll miss their banter with the crowds, their green hands and their energy and passion. These were a group of people who had travelled from near and far, who had given their time and their hearts to Glasgow. They fulfilled a multitude of duties and without them, Glasgow 2014 would not have been the same.
These are the people who made Glasgow 2014 (well, some of them).
I’m Hazel Barton and I am Glaswegian through and through. I worked in Athlete Services with badminton at the Emirates. I have so many highlights, but I guess being involved in some of the medal ceremonies on the final day was a golden moment for me. My hopes….well that the legacy comes to fruition…. that this pride, optimism and enthusiastic energy carries forward in our dear green place.
Right now, Glasgow is proudly hosting the Commonwealth Games (you may have noticed). Some of those talented enough to participate will leave with medals, the glory and tales to regale, while others will leave with broken dreams. The volunteers will take away the experience of contributing to a great Games and Glasgow will hopefully be left with increased exposure, fantastic facilities and opportunities for many of its residents. Everyone will have memories, there will be selfies galore and enough Clyde soft toys will be sold to make him rival a Hollywood A Lister in popularity. How big will his head be then?
In addition to buying Clyde, everyone can pick up an array of Games related merchandise from t-shirts, towels and trinkets to Glasgow 2014 Haggis (specially bred and hunted in the East End of Glasgow). The range of goods is almost as long as many of our journeys to work and the queues at Central Station during the Games (small price, surely?) and you can buy them all Here
However, I wanted to draw your attention to three souvenirs that I especially like.
We couldn’t all be at the Opening Ceremony, be a Baton Bearer or get access to the Press Box, but we can all get a picture of ourselves, as if we were. This magic (it must be magic) is proved by the mages at Glasgow 2014 Photographs.
It’s a great and fun way to capture your own special moment in special Green Screens located in the George Square and the Athletes Village retail stores. You can even upload your own photograph, give it a Games touch and instantly send it, as a postcard. All direct from your phone. As a self-confessed selfie fan, this is one App I might enjoy a little too much and you can find out more at Glasgow 2014 Photographs
From the simplicity of a selfie, we move on to the perfection of a Papercut. No, not those annoying, bloody and inexplicably painful little cuts we get, but beautifully crafted and limited edition Glasgow 2014 pieces of intricate decorative art that encapsulate the spirit, venues, sports and landmarks of host city Glasgow. At the first time of seeing this I was instantly taken by the creativity and artistry required to produce such an eye catching work of art.
As a self confessed running geek who adores his running chic, what better way to sport up my life, than to acquire a pair of the unicef shoe laces. Not only do I get to support the work of this charity, that provides humanitarian support to children and mothers, but I get to customise my shoes and add a little extra colour to my life. Glasgow 2014 has shown tremendous support to unicef and you can too, at UNICEF-Putting Children First
Whatever you pick up at Glasgow 2014, I hope you leave with smiles.
With just under one week of Glasgow 2014 left, it’s time to start picking up some mementos. What has caught your eye and what has been your fondest memory of Glasgow 2014 that you will take away with you?
If I get twenty original responses, I’ll compile them in a Team14 Blog AND donate £10 to unicef. If I get forty, I’ll donate £25 (well seen I get paid on Thursday).
Old men in blazers with old fashioned views. A place where you go for funerals and 40th – 60th birthday parties. A place with drink prices and attitudes stuck in the past. If I’m honest, that’s how I perceived bowling clubs. Not a place that an, ahem , young hip and progressive person like me would go.
But maybe it’s my Presbyterian roots, but something about the discipline, tradition and the seeming simplicity of Lawn Bowls had always intrigued me
So, when Woodend Bowling Club and Bowls Scotland invited myself and some other Team14 members (including women and children!!) along to help promote the sport ahead of the Commonwealth Games, I thought, hell, I am now the wrong side of 40. It’s about time I took up a sport more befitting my age (I’ll hopefully be running well into my seventies, health permitting)
But, it wasn’t only that. Woodend Bowling Club were tweeting. They were funny, engaging and had pictures of kids having fun. This was not a Bowling Club like any I had visited before. And the introduction to bowling was more fun than I would ever have imagined.
We were met by Tom, who introduced us to our coach Ron of Team Scotland. We were given quick and concise instructions on how to hold and then release the bowl. To my horror, my week of practising lunges was in vain, as Tom explained how bowling required only small and controlled movements.
We were then let loose on the Crazy Bowling course, a range of fun obstacles, designed to develop skills and which had introduced bowls to over 1,000 children in the area. Was this REALLY a bowling club? Even little 4 year old Reese was having a ball, or should that be bowl?
Once we had honed our skills, it was match time. Now, some might say I’m a tad competitive, so when it came to picking teams, I quickly partnered with Paula, who has taken part in 17 Commonwealth Games sports. She would make up for my general sporting ineptitude. However, I forgot why Paula had set herself the challenge of trying the sports of Glasgow 2014. She’s as bad at sports as I am!
Thankfully, we had Louise, a 14 year old super kid, come to our rescue and we trounced (maybe a little exaggeration) Louise’s dad and @glasgowdaybyday and @buteifulbute in the last end. Bowling may have modernised, but I am not sure if my subsequent victory dance, fist pumping and hollering are now part of everyday matches.
It was a great night and as it progressed, I really felt I was improving. It’s a relatively quick game to learn the basics. I was obviously not alone, in thinking I had potential, as Ron had some inspiring words.
Bowling really is a sport that almost all can try and as a physical activity advocate, I noted that we were too busy having fun and focusing on the game, to notice that we were constantly moving, bending and lifting. Bowls Scotland are launching a Try Bowls campaign, and as a try athlete, I’d urge you to seek out your local club, take along your kids and find out just why, all these years, old smart men in blazers, were trying to keep it to themselves.
I can’t really swim and if asked I don’t really want to, but when invited to swim with a Commonwealth Champion, it was time to get my Speedos on (ok, there’s never a time to get Speedos on).
There’s a reason why I like runing. There are, in fact, several reasons why I like running, but one is that it is a simple case of putting one foot in front of the other and then repeating. Yes, some of my running friends and my Garmin might go on about about cadence and vertical oscillation, but we really were born to run.
Swimming is a sport that I know is great for getting fit and strong (see pictures of Robbie Renwick) and I know it is an excellent activity for the obese and overweight. As Robbie (more about him later) explained, when asked about injuries, it is a relatively low impact sport (he’s obviously never seen me dive-bombing). However, for many obese people swimming pools are uncharted waters. When you despise how you look, the walk of shame from changing rooms to pool can strip you of your dignity, regardless of whether anyone is even looking at you.
And then there is the synchronised swimming. No, not some artistic moves but simply using my arms and legs while trying to remember to breathe (while my head is OUT of the water).
So, when I was invited by Strathmore Water to join Commonwealth Gold Medallist and British 200m Freestyle record holding Robbie Renwick and to find out more about their Do More campaign, I put aside my worries about drowning in a sea of embarrassment and took one for Team14.
I was joined by six other wonderful bloggers (including my Team14 pal Paula McGuire) and the shared apprehension seemed to ease our collective fears. Fears that we incidently didn’t need to have.
Robbie, despite only being weeks away from a wee event in Glasgow and Sunday being his day off, was a fantastic coach. Over the course of an hour he took us through various swimming drills. We focused on streamlining (don’t think I’ll ever resemble a streamline), techniques and endurance training.
Thankfully the most we had to swim was about 400 metres and the chance for me to fully embarrass myself was limited.
Or so I thought!!
Robbie was keen to help us improve every aspect of our swimming and like David Carry, who I had listened to at a Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow conference earlier in the week, he spoke at length about how making small changes and improvements to aspects of our swimming can shave seconds off times. Seconds that can mean the difference between podiums and doldrums.
One way of finishing faster is turning faster. Very seldom (IE never) do you see swimmers replicating my approach of reaching the end, stopping, turning around and starting again. Instead, they perform tumble turns. And Robbie wanted us to perform them. It is testament to his professionalism that he kept a straight face as I tumbled and turned. On my first attempt I ended up turning 90 degrees and in the lane next to mine.
However, it was in my second attempt that I invented a new style of turning.
Somehow, as I turned and pushed my legs, with all my might, I ended up with my feet out the water and ON the edge of the pool. As I lay there with only my upper body submerged, I was literally choking with laughter
Grin When You Are Swimming
Robbie, to his credit, took my incompetence in good spirit and was obviously really impressed by the progress that I made during the training session. Despite having some excellent swimmers in our group, it was quite clear that my unique style had left a lasting impression on him and his praise was totally unexpected.
After the relay race (we’ll not dwell too much on that, other than to say that the losing team had to then swim two further gruelling lengths using the fly technique that left me gasping for breath) we headed upstairs for a Q and A
I asked him about setting milestones and goals and I asked if he worked backwards. He confirmed that Rio 16 is his goal with Glasgow 2014 and the World Championships (update: he is a World Champion) his milestones. Throughout the questioning it became clear that Robbie was dedicated, determined and disciplined. Yes, he enjoys cakes (who doesn’t) but he also swims for over 30 hours every week and has strength coaches, sports psychologists and physiotherapists in his corner. Competing in Glasgow is a great honour, but he will not let that pressure affect him. He has been training for four years, in preparation for defending his Commonwealth crown. On any given day Robbie gets up at 5 am, swims 7000 metres, goes to the gym for 2.5 hours before heading back to the pool.
At the Q and A afterwards, the question I wanted to dive in with was: “Robbie, just what is your problem?”
Instead, we spoke about something we both are passionate about. Getting people to Do More. Robbie Renwick is one of three inspiring athletes who belong to Team Strathmore. Together, they are encouraging more people to get into the sporting spirit and to take small steps. To try new sports and activities. Although sharing my concerns about the accessibility of swimming to young children, he did feel that pools like Tollcross International Swimming Centre were encouraging more and more to swim.
And guess what? He’s inspired me. I’ve harboured (last water related pun) a desire to become a triathlete but felt anchored (sorry) by my lack of swimming skills. Using the training tips he imparted upon us, I am going to wade back into the pool and I will practice. Then I will participate in the Great Swim. A one mile swim of Loch Lomond.
Can’t Swim, Will Swim.
Huge thanks to Robbie Renwick and Strathmore for a fantastic experience and to Jeff, the photographer, for not filming any of my really embarrassing moments.
Let’s think about what we hope to see the Commonwealth Games deliver and leave behind for Glasgow and indeed Scotland.
Everyone feeling excited, engaged and empowered to get more active.
However, as a physical activity champion, it seems appropriate that I focus on how the Commonwealth Games present a fantastic opportunity to excite, enthuse and encourage more to get active, to try and take up sports and to leave a legacy for our next generations. It is an opportunity to address some of the damning statistics that blight our city and our nation.
So, how can Glasgow 2014 reverse years of declining health statistics and affect behavioural change in our population? I have argued, in my role as a Lay Adviser to the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, that a wide and varied approach is required. That we need to ensure that physical activity is available to all and viewed as part of our daily lives. With the latest reports showing that over 96% of primary schools are now meeting the recommended target of 2 hours of physical activity each week, there is hope that our next generations can be our most active. We then only need to look at some of the other plans that are in place to get Glasgow and Scotland more active to see that there is a genuine and strategic plan to get more of us moving.
I am an Ambassador for the Scottish Government’s Fit In 14 campaign, which is aimed at Scottish businesses to encourage their staff to take small, simple steps towards a more active lifestyle which will have a positive impact on their mental and physical health and well-being. Sedentary behaviour is a leading contributor to several life limiting conditions and with many of us spending considerable time at our desks, workplace initiatives can be highly effective and fun. Yesterday marked the end of my latest workplace walking challenge that attracted nearly 300 participants. By 2016, it is hoped that, across Scotland, we will have at least 150 Community Sports Hubs, where local communities can gather to take part in new activities. These will hopefully bring local communities together and provide more support to grass route sports, activities and the volunteers that deliver them. Having looked at the current Hubs in Glasgow I have concerns that they are mainly located in Glasgow’s leafier suburbs. I would hope that many more will be rolled out across the city to ensure that physical activity is available to all. Community led initiatives are also at the heart of the Big 2014 Communities Programme and Active Places Fund with £10 million set aside to fund local programmes to get more people, more active. Later this year I’ll be launching one such scheme, to get more people running. Running is a major part of my life and it is a fun and challenging way to get fit and achieve personal goals. These programmes, when combined with the momentum of the actual Games, have the potential to make a positive impact on our perceptions of sport and physical activity. To make them more accessible, inclusive and fun. To make them part of our active lives again. To take us from spectators to participants. The key is public engagement. People make Glasgow and for all of the above to succeed, it will require the people of Glasgow and Scotland buying into the programmes, being excited by the opportunities and retaining an interest long after the athletes and officials have moved on to start their preparations for the World Championships and Rio 2016. With one month to go, what are you doing to ensure that your community benefits from the legacy of the Games?
It’s Bike Week and as a member of Team14 and as an Active Travel Champion and spokesman (I do like a pun) for both Sustrans and Paths For All, I thought I’d take a break from running (albeit for only 24 hours) and wheel out my bike and my thoughts..
My decision to get back in the saddle was partly inspired by a recent trip to Copenhagen, where I ran a marathon (there are possibly Amazon tribes who still haven’t heard this). Not only do the Danes love running (1 in 3 run), but everywhere you look, people are going to work, school and even to evening parties on bikes.
It’s not surprising then that Copenhagen is probably the happiest and best place to live in the world.
So while some people are complaining about lane and road closures in Glasgow during the Commonwealth Games, I am excited that this will be an Active Games. I make no secret that walking and then running to and from work were instrumental in transforming my life. I also discovered, to my surprise, that I didn’t melt in the rain. If we can continue improving our routes to the Games venues, we can encourage more to get to them by foot and bike. The challenge then will be to continue this progress and build on the great work by organisations such as the Bike Station who today, in partnership with Glasgow City Council, launched their Nextbike Hire Scheme. For the next three years residents and visitors to Glasgow can hire bikes, a la Boris style, to get about our wonderful city.
Bike Station were also present at the Pollok Park Cycle Fair on Saturday, 14th June, and in addition to getting my bike security stamped by the Police, I took the opportunity to sample some other forms of cycling. They say two heads are better than one and surely four legs peddling is even better, but sitting behind, with no control felt just a little uneasy, even though I was in capable hands. Rather than cycling in tandem, I felt like a spare part, simply responding (usually belatedly) to instructions from my main steer.
I needed to feel in control. So, launching myself and my bike off a ramp and onto a huge airbag made perfect sense. Even the warning sign and the attendant’s admission that yes, I could get hurt, only made me want to do it more. As I’ve grown fitter and stronger, I’ve also seemingly become invincible. I had the Men’s 10K the following day, but what could go wrong? After a few minutes warming up I was adjudged to be confident and competent enough on the special stunt bikes to tackle the ramp. I readied myself and powered my way towards new heights of awesomeness.
I’d like to report that I flew into the air, with birds scrambling out of my way, but in reality, I was reliable informed, I simply flopped over the side, with the now evident bruising (and earlier swelling) on my knees paying testimony to my ungainly landing. Unlike young Gregor Robb, from Hamilton, who seemed to hang in the air for an eternity before landing perfectly. My evaluation of my lack of elevation was simply that I was too big and heavy. Gravity does not lie. However, I was not to be beaten and buoyed by my new stunt rider status, I decided to test my cycling skills further. For in Pollok Park, where I spent much of my childhood, there is a new reason for me to head into the woods.
“a first step into steep terrain, varied surfaces and a chance to get your wheels off the ground.The Blue route requires skill and concentration to get the best out of yourself and your bike.”
And yes, my wheels DID leave the ground. I narrowly avoided several trees and my heart was racing, not only from the the exertion of climbing the inclines, but from the exhilaration of the descents. It was brilliant fun and I can now understand why several of my friends regularly go mountain biking.
Bike Week lasts from 14th-22nd June with activities across the country, from organised group bike rides to bike surgeries, where you can give your bike some much needed tlc.