Thursday, 10 March 2011

Going the Extra Mile


Alfa Romeo Cuore Sportivo (Sporting Heart) Coach Award – Peter Meredith.

In the series profiling winners of recent awards, Nicola Bamford spoke to the 2010 Alfa Romeo coaching award winner – Peter Meredith.

Selected from over 14,000 athletics coaches nationwide, 68-year-old Meredith not only won the prestigious honour but also a years’ use of a brand new Alfa MiTo in recognition of his commitment and dedication to the sport in forty-five years of service.

In an impressive collection of roles spanning the past five decades, Meredith’s latest recognition is well-deserved in light of both the sacrifices and achievements in his coaching history.

Travelling over one hundred and fifty miles each week to coach a forty-strong group of young middle-distance runners in Cornwall, Meredith revealed:

“I have to say I was really excited at getting the UK Athletics/Alfa Romeo award.

The car is great and I enjoy retelling the story of how I won it! I'm really pleased for all my athletes and fellow coaches and officials at Cornwall AC.

I travel twice a week to Carn Brea (which is a seventy-five mile round trip) to coach, and much further afield at weekends for local and national events - I once kept a separate log of my miles done for athletics and it came out at 14,028 in a year! - But I love every minute of it.”

A member and coach at the club since 1994, Meredith prides his athletes’ success as based on the ‘fun factor’ – even organising the occasional relay in funny hats and costumes, with a Mars Bar for a baton:

“My first requisite is that they enjoy themselves,” Meredith explained.

“I firmly believe that if they have talent and, above all, enjoy what they are doing, they will succeed.”

Previously a member of Reading AC, Tipton AC and Dudley and Stourbridge, Meredith has to date guided six England or English schools junior internationals and among his group of young athletes, can boast:

Jordon West, the 14-year-old who won the English Schools 800m and in so, doing set an all-time British age best ahead of Coe, Cram and Ovett, Connor Robinson, winner of the County, South West, English and British Schools Cross-Country Championships, all in his first year of competition and currently ranked first over five-miles and 10k and Helen Glover, a former England junior international who recently won silver at the World Rowing Championships.

In previous years, Meredith enjoyed coaching relationships with Olympic marathoner Liz Yelling, European 3,000m steeplechase fourth-placer Hatti Dean and former internationals Juliet Doyle, Heidi Hoskin and Helen Pearson.

Sixth himself in the European over-fifty 10km road championships in the mid-nineties, Meredith also had a hand in the careers of Michaela Breeze, a former 800-metre runner who represented Wales and GB at the Olympics at weightlifting and Annie Vernon, who gave up long-jumping to pursue rowing and is a current World Champion and Olympic silver-medallist.

But his coaching expertise and talents were not only reserved for elite athletes.

He began his foray into athletics back in 1965 as part of his first teaching job in Berkshire at a small boarding school, where he ran the athletics clubs twice a week and provided half the county intermediate boys team, despite a class of only twelve in his first year on the job.

Evidently with a knack for growing talent, Meredith’s teaching and coaching careers suffered a setback in 1973 when he was suddenly diagnosed with a detached retina:

“One minute I was in school, the next in hospital with a subsequent eight- hour operation,” he revealed.

“Thankfully, everything went well but I had convinced myself that I wouldn't be able to run again and then helped found Bridgnorth AC. Luckily, I did get back to running, and have done ever since.”

From 1978 after joining another school in Cornwall, Meredith’s coaching had become less of a hobby and more of a second job:

“I was on the Cornwall Schools Athletic Association board for many years, several as Chairman, did a short stint on the ESAA, and have helped stage both the Schools cross-country International and the British veteran’s International,” Meredith explained.

Having retired from teaching in 1994, Meredith still runs regularly but hasn't raced for a couple of years:

“I twice missed the England veteran’s cross-country team by just two places, so still have ambitions - roll on seventy!”

It is this very drive and passion for the sport which has helped this popular coach, quite literally, go that extra mile.

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