2012? In the words of Jonnie Peacock, f#@king get IN!

A glorious year seen through a caffeine haze
A glorious year seen through a caffeine haze

Today I raced against an Olympian. Well, by that I mean that I was in the same event as triathalon bronze medallist Johnny Brownlee. The fact that he’d finished, changed and was back home tucking into turkey leftovers by the time I crossed the line, was neither here nor there. Nevertheless, he and I, along with 1000 other runners, had enjoyed the mudfest that was the Chevin Chase. Seven miles of mud and hills in God’s Own Country – Yorkshire.

And that’s the story of 2012 for me. The London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics were the absolute highlight that have brought me more tears of joy, thrills, pride and inspiration than I can ever remember. Whether it’s the Olympic anthem, or soundbites from the many winners and nearly-winners on radio and TV, I have loved every minute of it and never grow tired of experiencing it again and again.

They inspired me, all of them. From the arrival of the flame and its journey around the country to the 007-inspired opening ceremony with Her Majesty parachuting into the arena with not a hair out of place, how DID she do that? Then the games themselves, the first medals, Super Saturday, 4 August when we, Team GB, wupped the asses of all the other nations to win gold after gold after gold, I thought I was going to burst with pride. if truth be told, I still do.

Their triumph was my inspiration. My rather mediocre running achievements would never be competitive, but I was definitely stuck in a rut and wanted to do better. And do you know what? I did, personal best after personal best, then my first, but certainly not my last, half marathon.

It has indeed been a most wonderful year, best summed by by the inspirational paralympian Jonnie Peacock who won gold in the 100 metres sprint. I’m no lipreader, but as the 19-year-old sizzled past the finish, he clenched his fists in triumph, exclaiming, “F#@king get in!!’ 2012? Jonnie, I’m with you, f#@king get IN!!

Along with the pure joy of the Olympics, I have had a wonderful year of coffee, it’s three years since I have started a coffee diary, my days in coffee, I do drink an awful lot of it.  The photo above is just a few of them from this year, but each one tells a story. What will 2013 bring?

Local sport for local people

The Brownlee brothers face the media pack at the Leeds parkrun

The excitement of the London 2012 Olympics may have died down a little, but not a lot. The Join In Local Sport campaign is encouraging us to all to get off our backsides and join in something sporty. Not that we need much encouragement here in the Independent Kingdom of Yorkshire, we ARE sport.

Just in case you’ve been on Mars with the Curiosity Rover, whose cameras were pointing at the Olympics to see all the action, Yorkshire did well in the medals table. Very well indeed, in fact, we finished 12th, with seven golds, three silver and two bronze, which was above Spain, Jamaica, South Africa and Brazil. Not that we’re counting or showing off or anything, noooo, not us.

Two of our medal winners joined in the Joined In campaign, turning up at the Leeds Hyde Park parkrun, one of the best examples of local sport for local people ever invented. It’s a weekly timed 5k run – and it’s free, we Tykes like that. The Brownlee brothers, who won gold and bronze in the triathlon, started us off then, to the relief of anyone wanting a personal best and those of us who don’t want to be lapped twice, they peeled off and set off to Sheffield in the pink Join In bus.

The bus had also brought BBC presenter John Inverdale and former Olympian Sharon Davies, along with the lovely David Moorcroft, former world record holder for the 5000 metres (or parkrun distance as we like to call it in our house) and a keen parkrunner. He hung around and applauded us all as we finished our first lap, I was touched, I’ve never been applauded by a champion before!

The idea of Join In is to join an established club or to start something up so others can take part. Here in our village, there’s no excuse, all the local sports are listed in the Creative Calverley site. Well, it’s only four years to the Olympics in Rio…….

Please let the Olympics never end!

Cheering on Team GB, even though they weren’t playing

The Olympics just get better and better. I’m not sure whether I’ve just cried once, and it’s lasted since the flame was lit, or blubbed a hundred times as our boys and girls do their very best in front of proudly partisan supporters.

The Independent Kingdom of Yorkshire is doing very well in the medals table, better than Australia, there’s even talk of us hosting our own Olympics on Ilkley Moor (without a hat of course). All I can say is, bring it on! I’ll volunteer – hey, I’ll compete, I’m so happy I could jump over the moon!

We were regretting not bidding for tickets,  so when we got the chance to see the semi finals of the men’s footie at Old Trafford we jumped at it, especially when it was pretty much a nailed-on certainty that Team GB would trounce South Korea and would face Brazil, what a prospect! We had the flags, tattoos and everything ready to cheer on our lads, Noel drew the line at vuvuzelas. But then the Team GB game went to penalties, the rest is the continuation of football history. Though this is not a time for criticism, it’s the Olympics and Team G really can do no wrong – we did our best, we lost and Noel and I got to see Brazil play South Korea.

Just short of 70,000 people cheered on one or both teams and became expert Mexican wavers. Brazil won 3-0, it could have been more, we could have had more Mexican waves. Another fabulous day in these most wonderful Olympics. Oooo I wish it would never end!

Outbreak of spontaneous hugging

One minute I was in the camping chair, mini union jack in one hand, the next I was hugging a total stranger. It couldn’t be helped, Team GB had just won their second silver medal at the London Olympics and all of us around the big screen in Bradford city centre were very pleased indeed.

It was a bit parky for late July, but a few folk were milling around City Park where sponsors had set out rows of camping chairs and giant bean bags, that’s giant bags of beans rather than bags of giant beans. Cadbury’s were handing out chocolate medals for feats of athletic ability. I got one for throwing a ball through a hoop not once, but twice, it was emotional.

But that was just a prelude to the real excitement, we were all willing Team GB to beat the Kiwis to silver in the equestrian event, knowing gold was beyond our grasp. And we did it, so what else was there to do but hug a total stranger to celebrate?. Oooo I love the Olympics – gold’s the next goal, possibly tomorrow….please!

Silver for Team GB - the scene before the hugging!

Let the blubbing begin…..

Ringing in the tears. Photo copyright AP as published in the Washington Post

It started at 8.12am, Friday 27 July.  Anyone who had a bell or could say ‘ting-a-ling’ rang it or sang it to start the 12-hour countdown to the official opening of the London Olympics. Dame Kelly Holmes, a guest on BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans show, rang hers so hard it broke the clapper. A scallywag friend rang the neighbour’s doorbell and, in the spirit of stronger, faster, higher, ran away, breaking the world record for that particular sport, it may feature in the Rio games.

The mass ringing brought on minor blubbing, I found it all very moving, as I had when the Olympic torch travelled through the our city and indeed any city. Though tears turned to massive sobs when soldier Ben Parkinsonseverely injured in Afghanistan, balanced on his prosthetic legs to carry the torch through Doncaster.

By the time of the opening ceremony, I was still snivelling after tuning in throughout the day via the interweb  to see the torch make its way through the capital. Noel is a bigger softie than me, so as soon as the celebrations started we were crying into the glasses we were using to toast the success of Danny Boyle, architect of the opening ceremony.

The whole thing was a celebration of Britishness, our history, our literature, our music, our television, our film, our diversity, our multiculturalness (I just made that word up), our National Health Service, our sense of humour, our pageantry and our Queen. Danny (Slumdog Millionaire) Boyle did us proud, directing thousands of volunteers. The Twittersphere was gushing with praise, apart from a certain Tory MP who thought there was too much of that multi-cultural stuff and couldn’t we just get on with beating Johnny Foreigner…At the time of writing he still has a job. Pity.

For me the best bit by far was the Queen parachuting into the stadium from a helicopter with James Bond. It was a wonderful piece of bet-you-never-expected-that film when 007, flanked by royal corgis, entered the Queen’s drawing room, her majesty was writing what looked like her shopping list, back to the camera. We all thought it was a looky-likey, it wasn’t, oh my goodness how her grandchildren must have loved that moment when, with a twinkle in her eye, she said, ‘shall we go, Mr Bond?’.

The big question then was, who would light the Olympic cauldron? The secret had been well-guarded, though smart money was on Steve Redgrave, multiple gold medal winner and our greatest living Olympian. He did take the flame, but handed it to seven youngsters who will be our next generation of athletes. Oh pass the hankies again!

Two more weeks of this, I just wonder if my tear ducts will stand it!