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Making a difference
Posted by: Steve Trew
Posted on: Thursday 10th May 2007


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More than a few things have happened since I last added to my blog; in no particular order, I’ve been to Melbourne and back, given a presentation in Paris in my real professional job, and did the PA and finish line commentary at the London Marathon.

Yes, I know, it’s a tough life… I say this not to impress you – how could I do that to all the toughened triathletes out there - but rather to say how I was impressed by some things that I saw, some people I spoke to, and some thoughts that I had (and even that sounds too flash, being impressed with my own thoughts…).

I went to Oz with Veronica my wife, and my two kids who are aged 11 and 13 years old. Now, sitting in the old 747 for 24 hours can be a little claustrophobic so we pre-booked the seats at the back, you know where the outside row goes down from three abreast to just two? That’s the ones! A tiny bit more leg room and separate the kids to stop them niggling with each other. And it pretty much worked; peace and calm in the Trew household.

So what do you do on long-haul flights? Kids drink too much Cola, grown-ups (just squeeze into that category now) drink too much wine and we all watch movies. Which is a roundabout way of getting to the first point. I watched a film called Freedom Writers. It’s almost the old cliché of a gifted, young, enthusiastic teacher making a difference to the kids he/she teaches. Been there, done that, seen it all before. I used to be a teacher, nineteen years altogether; inner City, tough kids.

So I was killing time, drinking my wine, ready to drift off to sleep.

Except, except, except, it got to me. The film really got to me. First, because it was true. Second, because she, the teacher, did make a difference.

One of the central themes was not talking or looking down on kids who were perceived to be of low ability because of they way they looked, spoke, acted. The teacher treated them as responsible, intelligent human beings –lots of confrontations along the way, of course!- and introduced them to literature in its original form rather than the “dumbed down” cartoon version. And, of course, the kids responded. The story of Ann Frank was the metaphor which symbolized change for the pupils and the inspiration of the writer to get many of them to College.

OK, a good -I’d say great- film, but then who am I?

It got me thinking about another film that I adore, Coach Carter. It tells the story of Ken Carter, an inspirational basketball coach who returns to his old high school and insists on standards of excellence in his athletes and players as well as supreme fitness to play the game of basketball. So, I’m a coach and I identified with Ken Carter.

So is that what it’s all about? Coaching and teaching? Making a difference? I guess in a lot of ways, yes it is. To make a difference to people’s lives, to inspire them, to lift them up, to make them believe in themselves.

To make a difference; not a bad old epitaph, eh?

And so to the London marathon… My brief is to be at the secondary finish line, after runners have collected their baggage that has been transported/trucked up from the start; and then to talk, interview, chat to them about their race. Was it good? Did you run for charity? How much did you raise? All that sort of stuff. It’s great fun, I meet a lot of old friends, old athletes, and hear some fantastic stories. I worked with a guy named Dave Thomas this year and we enjoyed the day. We look for the guys dressed in drag, the rhinos, the Elvis impersonators, you know the sort of stuff.

So this guy came up to us, “You should talk to the guy in the blue shorts and vest”.

“OK, why?”

“He’s done so many marathons”.

“How many?”

“Loads, hundreds!”

Yeah, right…

So… “Hi Jeff, someone told me that you’ve run a lot of marathons?”

“Well, yeah, a few”

“How many exactly?”

“Today was the seventy second”

Oh my God! How can you run 72 marathons!? We introduced Jeff to the crowds, he was a little embarrassed, but a good job done.

“Excuse me?” A big guy is standing there, wearing kit in the colour of the flag, “Heard you talking to that guy… It was my one hundred and seventeenth marathon today”

Now this is getting silly, 117 marathons. So we talked, we laughed and he went off to rapturous applause. I started talking to the crowd about the Comrades marathon, you know the one, Durban to Pietermaritzburg , around 56 miles uphill and then every other year, you run down from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. The runner I’d just interviewed turned around, “I’ve done Comrades twenty two times”, he said, “but I only count it as one marathon!”

Suitably chastened and humbled, Dave and I turned back to face the incoming finishers. An older guy was standing right by the bag check, pretty old… Even older than I am, so that’s saying something.

“Excuse me, I just heard you talking to that guy from South Africa; hundred and seventeen marathons, that’s good”. We made the expected noises…

“Well, I’ve just finished this one as well”, our hands went to out to shake, “Congratulations, that’s a real achievement”,

“Yeah, well, it was actually my three hundredth marathon.”

Now it was getting silly; three hundred!

“And what’s your best and worst times?”

“Just under three hours the best, six twenty two the slowest but it was a cross-country marathon”

“Six twenty two, when was that?”

“Oh, last weekend…”

"And when’s your next one?”

“Um, next weekend, Stratford on Avon.”

And that was it, pretty much; from seventy two to a hundred and seventeen to three hundred. Athletes are funny old people aren’t they? But you know what, athletes and coaches alike, we can make a difference.

I’ll say it again, not a bad epitaph to have.

“People will forget what you said.
People will forget what you did.
But people will never forget how you made them feel”


Steve Trew About the Author

Steve Trew has decided that it is OK to play the “IF” game in one particular area; that of age. However, everyone knows that triathletes are like good wine; the older the better. Steve can be reached for coaching and for training camps on trew@personalbest.demon.co.uk He is still taking his chances, still coaching, still writing and still commentating. We think it’s about time he got a real job.


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