When Seb Coe revealed that the motto of the London 2012 Olympics was to be “Inspire a Generation”, I’m not sure I was exactly the kind of person he had in mind. For a start, at 29 I’m a bit old to become an elite athlete.
I spent my adolescence confounding both science and P.E. teachers, who must have been frightfully concerned about my reproductive future, such was my anatomical makeup that the “time of the month” could last, well, a month. Even as long as a whole term if swimming was involved. In my mythical world, cats could eat trainers and mothers failed to spell the names of rudimentary ailments with any accuracy or consistency. The P.E. teachers obviously didn’t know this, but in reality, my Mum is VERY partial to a crossword.
Going into adult life, if Danny Boyle had creatively envisaged my own personal Olympic opening ceremony, the tale would have been of a diet of Ginsters Chicken and Mushroom slices and all the Strongbow in the world, set against the haze of 9000 Malboro Lights. Consequently, I suspect the NHS could’ve kept its starring role, though Kenneth Brannagh probably wouldn’t have been involved.
But I have to come clean. Whilst what I make up for in uncharacteristic enthusiasm, I lack in actual athletic capability, I’m not a complete novice. As a kid I was quite into horse riding, I even won a trophy at summer camp once. The trophy was for “Perseverance”. With hindsight, I think this means I wasn’t a natural. Big up Harwich Horse Rangers – we had some fun times. Until I realised spending my Saturdays in a field, picking up horseshit with rubber gloved hands is just absolutely rank, and I’d rather be hanging out with boys in Woolworths.
I used to cycle a bit. Ironically, with a mother who couldn’t drive and a father who spent almost every second of the day at work, I was an independent woman from a young age. It was up to me, myself and my hand me down BMX to get me to Fiona’s house in Little Oakley, which was really far when I was 10, before I was old enough to think I was “too cool” to cycle. Which was also ironic, given that I wasn’t cool in any way, shape or form.
There’s also some evidence of my having participated in netball on some sort of competitive level, which I still dabble in a bit now, you know, recreationally. I’m still crap at it and it’s not even an Olympic sport, much to my disappointment. The list therefore remains almost untouched in terms of recent activity.
Though in 2009 I “ran” the London marathon. I use the verb “ran” in its loosest possible sense. Training was minimal and I have sources that can confirm I spent the Friday night, 9 days before the marathon, face first in a bottle of vodka. As a direct result, I completed the marathon in 6 hours and 5 minutes. This means I can’t really show off about it, but I did comfortably beat Jordan, which is of some comfort, though I did walk with a limp for 3 months afterwards.
These days, I try to maintain a level of activity that facilitates my consumption of cake. I am, as previously discussed – and believe me, this theme is going to run and run – staring down a barrel of a gun, emblazoned with “you’re nearly thirty and everything’s going to slow down”.
As well as this recent participation in sport, I have latterly found myself able to use sport as a sort of commentary on, like, actual society. Occasionally I have meaningful thoughts like “isn’t the success of Team GB at cycling a victory for progression towards a decarbonised transport system” and “how heartening it is, in a world where women aren’t allowed to wear more than a pair of pants in music videos, that the country values Jess Ennis’ gold medal as much as Mo Farrah’s”.
I’ve also been thinking a bit about legacy, which is sort of why I’m bothering with all this. What happens now and do we continue on this awesome trajectory? In a heinous society where everyone values short term fame and glamour (as epitomised by Ashley Cole in his dodgy grey briefs on the front page of The Sun, poor Chez), isn’t it amazing that kids are seeing all these people who actually promote hard work and dedication? But also, how do you inspire a generation that thinks it’s already too old and unfit to get involved?
So I might occasionally bore you with some of this chin stroking, but mostly, this is going to be a bit like Run, Fat Boy, Run. But with less Simon Pegg and Thandie Newton, who we can agree are smug and charmless, respectively. And more me, who is far less in need of nutrients.
© Inspire a Jen, 2013.