Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Whatever happened to...? (written for UK Athletics 08/08).

Ever wondered what the former greats of endurance running have been up to since retiring from their glory days in professional athletics? RUN BRITAIN editor NICOLA BAMFORD did some investigative work and unearthed some intriguing facts on the current lives of some of Britain’s best distance-running living legends.....

Wendy Sly – 1984 Olympic 3000m silver, 1983 World 1500m 5th-place, Number 3 on the British all-time 10,000m road list.

An athlete with immense talent over a variation of distances, Sly was forced to retire through injury in 1990 – aged just 30. Following her departure from international athletics, Sly went into advertising sales for the popular magazine, “Athletics Today” then took the role of Publishing Manager before going into newspaper distribution; a career spanning 15-years in the publishing industry in total. Sly additionally worked as Director of Magazine Marketing for “Reader’s Digest”.

The 48 year-old now runs a sports consultancy and has small-share holdings for sport-related businesses. “I’m back to what I love- sport,” Sly explains, “I have a reasonably flexible working life so I can also work as a Norwich Union mentor with the UK Endurance Initiative and I was also the senior women’s team manager for 2007 European and 2008 World cross-country Championships.”

Sly has one son; Max and has been married for 12-years – she frequently attends the gym for weights and core stability sessions and typically runs 5-times per week.
Alison Wyeth – 1994 Commonwealth 3000m bronze, two-time Olympic and three-time World Championship middle-distance runner.

Another talented female British endurance runner, Wyeth ended her international racing days in 1997 but continued to compete until the year 2000, after giving birth to her first of two children; running a couple of marathons and the odd road and cross-country race.

In 1999, Wyeth took a part-time role with England Athletics as a sports development officer in Burnley. Following this, she worked as a Sports Development Officer at Preston Sports College for a year before becoming the AAA of England Regional Development Co-Ordinator in Preston; working with clubs and grass-roots athletics from the year 2000. In 2003, Wyeth then became the Head of Development at the AAA of England then combined two jobs in 2006; whilst undertaking the England Athletics East Midlands Regional Manager and Performance Manager for the England track and field teams roles.

Now, at aged 44, Wyeth is – and has been since late 2007 – the director for the UK Athletics High Performance Centre (HiPAC) in Birmingham. “It’s a great jo,” Wyeth explains, “I plan meetings with athletes and coaches, work with English Institute of Sport staff and we do a weekly meeting with practionners to make sure everything moves forward with the athletes. I also occasionally go out to watch them train.” Wyeth works with 15 athletes and 5 Paralympic athletes in the West Midlands area.

Married to John Nuthall; a Performance coach for Endurance at the Loughborough HIPAC centre, Wyeth is mother to Hannah 11, Luke 6 and still runs four 50-minute runs per week.

Mike McLeod – 1984 Olympic 10,000m silver, multiple winner of the BUPA Great North Run and number three on the British all-time 5,000m road list.
Arguably one of Britain’s greatest long-distance runners of the 1980’s, McLeod continued to impress well into his forties, when taking the World M40 10,000m road Championship title. Although he now admits “the only racing I do now is to the dinner table!” McLeod still keeps fit with the odd run and tip on his mountain bike – “It’s nice to steady run with people nowadays,” claims the 56 year-old who is also an occasional skin-diver.

McLeod started Abacus Printers; a family-run printing company with wife of 32years, Josephine in 1986 - where they make leaflets, books, letterheads and brochures amongst other things– based in Pelaw, Gateshead. His son, Mark runs recreationally and his younger son, Ryan is a former Great Britain u23 international.

Nick Rose – Set a British 10,000m road record of 27:34 in New Orleans, USA in 1984.
After retiring from professional athletics, Rose spent 12 years in the USA before settling back in Bristol in 1984. He then continued to race professionally on the Veterans circuit before finally calling it a day in 1995. After going back to college to gain a PGCE in Primary education, he has been teaching in the state sector ever since.

Still heavily involved with the sport, Rose is a level 2 distance coach and has been a member of Bristol AC/ Bristol and West for 42 years, “ I still try to run 35-45 a week and I also own a running shop called up and running,” he explains. “I have a wonderful family including my dear wife Christine and children Edward and Alice.”

On his successful time in athletics over the years, Rose continues, “I feel very privileged to have been around during the golden years of British athletics. To have been in the same team as guys like Jonesy, Bedford, Foster, Mcleod, Black, Ford, Goater, Stewart, Spedding, Coe, Ovett, Cram, Moorcroft, Wells, Thompson - I could go on and on. It does sadden me to see the state of British athletics, especially distance running, although the women's side is much healthier. I always look forward to seeing these guys at national events as well as many other acquaintances such as coaches and fans of yesteryear - great memories!!!”

His favourite hobbies now include ‘a good pint of real ale and a bit of the old gardening!!!’

Rob Denmark – 1994 Commonwealth 5,000m gold, 1994 European 5,000m silver, 7th in the 1992 Olympic 5,000m, 1991 World indoor 3000m bronze and set the British 5km road record of 13:30 in Dublin, 1996.

Denmark decided to retire in 2002 after being lapped for the first time in his career in the Commonwealth 10,000m trials at aged 33 but continued to race in smaller competitions until 2005. “I’d reached the end of my shelf life and it was a good place to finish, as it was the same year my dad – who was also my coach – died, it was the right time,” Denmark explains, “I suddenly thought what the hell do I do now?! – I was always interested in landscape gardening so I started my own business and took to it and it did well – it was very different to before but I was used to being my own boss as an athlete. Then I had an itch to get back into athletics so I coached from 2005 and thought I had more to offer the sport ( I’d been in it for 12years – with massive highs and some lows) so applied for the Talent Manager job with UKA. I’d had no interview since aged20 but got it.”

The 39 year-old is now based at the Lee Valley athletics centre in London, where he manages the 12 best u20/u23 athletes in the region to help them fulfil their talent as seniors; claiming it to be a “great job – hard work but very rewarding.” Denmark manages the overview of whole talent programme and co-ordinates the support team; “I bring the athletic glue to it,” he reveals.
Now a new father, Denmark claims he is the “complete opposite to his past” doing “barely any exercise now!”

Charlie Spedding – 1984 London Marathon winner, 1984 Olympic Marathon bronze.
One of Britain’s best ever marathoners, Spedding made his international bow in the 1988 Olympic marathon, where he finished sixth in 2:12.19.

Retiring in 1990, Spedding reveals, “I knew I’d reached my peak and I had lack of desire after 16years in the sport.” He worked for sports company, Nike during his international running days for the promotions team; “The flexible hours helped my training,” he explains.
The 56 year-old now runs a pharmacy in Newcastle – he dabbled with this industry before his athletic career took off– and works 6-days per week. Spedding now enjoys mountain biking and running a couple of times per week.

Ron Hill –European and Commonwealth marathon gold-medallist, three-time Olympic marathoner, 1970 Boston marathon winner.

The epitome of an obsessive – and highly talented runner in his day – Hill has not missed a day of running since December 1964! He started his determined challenge when becoming an established world-class runner and continues today at aged 69 -though he now defines a 'run' somewhat loosely, a source of contention in the loose knit community of running streak enthusiasts; he has established baseline criteria of only one mile 'run', at any pace. Nevertheless, Hill's streak is a benchmark that other such streaks are usually compared against. In his streak, Hill can include workouts after a car crash in 1993 when he broke his sternum, and after bunion surgery, after which he used a crutch for one mile in 27 minutes the next day.

Hill is also the founder of Ron Hill and Hilly clothing company for sports apparel.

Eamonn Martin – 1990 Commonwealth 10,000m Gold; UK Record holder 10,000m 1988-98 27m23.06s; 1993 London marathon winner; 1995 Chicago marathon winner.
Since his retirement, Martin went into Masters Athletics and ran 2:17 in the 1999 London Marathon, as well as running a British over-40 5-miles road record of 23:35 then retired in 2000.
Since then he has worked in a few honorary roles as a Great Britain selector for cross country for 4-years, between 2000 and 2004 and has been England senior men's cross country team manager for the last 7-years, which involves taking a team to about 5 venues around Europe each winter.

Martin continues his honorary career path; “I became Chairman of Basildon Athletic Club in 2005 and still am to date, and I am trying to drive the club forward with 2012 approaching. I also get regular requests to talk at athletics clubs or other associations on a fairly regular basis. I have also done some Eurosport commentaries on London and this year Paris, also.”

Having coached to national and international standard since the late 1990’s, Martin is also due to marry for the second time this September. “My fiancĂ©e, Joanne and I are going to Beijing to watch the Olympics this year and we have tickets for all the athletics. I will also celebrate my 50th Birthday in October this year,” Martin explains. “I have 3 Children - two daughters age Lydia 22 and Rosie 19 and a son Eamonn age 15.”

On his current state of fitness, Martin reveals, “I have tried to stay active but had a had a hip resurfacing operation in July this year as it had been deteriorating for the last 3 years or so and prevented me doing so much. I still like to keep fit, run, cycle and I play a lot of tennis.”

Also an avid Tottenham Hotspur supporter and season ticket supporter and cooking enthusiast, Martin – who worked for the Ford Motor Company throughout his running career as a Senior test engineer up until 2001 – currently works for MIRA ltd; an engineering company based in the midlands but with a satellite test facility in Basildon where he lives. Employed at MIRA since 2001, Martin was last year promoted to Faculty Manager.

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