I was recently invited to my old school – Bradford Grammar School – to give a lecture on economics.
It was very interesting to return after a gap of one quarter of a century. (And it feels wonderful when you can start counting your life in decades rather than years.) In terms of my all round education, I have to say the school was probably as good as it gets, and am grateful for my time there, even if I don’t think about it too much these days. It was a formative time in my life, especially the sixth form where my outlook on life began to mature, change and develop.
I think my lecture on the economics of austerity was well received, in that I just about managed to keep the students awake and stave off any pre-lunch rebellion. As part of my invitation and introduction, the school had dug into its archive of old cross country races to find the results of a certain young Mr Pettinger. They proudly pointed out I used to beat a certain boy (now the Deputy Head) before the tables were turned and he started beating me. After that date I disappeared from the archive results, never to return.
I found that amusing because I remember that race very well – a defining moment in my sporting life because I actually came dead last and vowed never to do competitive sport again. I reasoned if you come last and got beaten by the likes of Mr Darcy (now deputy head), you obviously don’t have the genes for competitive sport. I slinked away from running through muddy fields and put my trainers in the cupboard.
However, that was not quite the end of the story. A few years later with school memories very much receding into the background, I found my Guru and running enthusiast Sri Chinmoy had very different ideas. Retirement at the age of 16 was definitely not for Sri Chinmoy’s Path!
I retook to running with the enthusiasm and evangelism of a true believer. In fact, so much enthusiasm I picked up a bad knee injury. I remember well spending my first two celebrations hobbling around with a bad knee. So much for inspiring running stories.
But, as we know, every cloud can have a silver lining. The experience of the knee injury encouraged me to gently pick up cycling and give that a go instead. That turned out much better than expected and suggested my theories of genetic failings were limited to say the least.
It just show you should be careful what you assume when 16 years of age.
And what about those days of cross-country? I remember well being encouraged by the immortal Selby Brock and Tony Kingham to transcend the slothful impetus of a typical teenager.
It may sound cliche but – if I didn’t always appreciate their enthusiasm for running as a teenager – I look on it with a different light now.