05/08/2019

How Not To Hurdle!


It’s the summer and the season of athletics, the sport people can’t seem to get worked up about however enthusiastically we are told we should. As it goes my most embarrassing public moment occurred on an athletics track many, many years ago. It’s not what you’re thinking- and no, it wasn’t that either. Once upon a time I found myself in the school sports day. This in itself was something of a miracle, maybe everyone else was on holiday or something. The event was held on the university’s playing fields which had an actual stand on one side meaning potentially hundreds of people might be there. Sports Day in fact was very well attended as it was held the same weekend as Founder’s Day. Yes, it was that sort of school that even had us in at the weekend (ok only once a year) though we didn’t have a school swan as you’ll know if you’re a regular reader. Anyhow I was in the sprint relay team which was fine because I could sprint 100 metres and that was basically it, I was out of energy by then. Then, on the actual day, in the actual changing room I was informed that due to some detail I can’t recall now I was also running in the 100m hurdles. OMFG!!!
Hurdles. What is the actual point???!!!


As I would have texted then had smartphones and texting been invented. I probably just said it. I’d never hurdled in my short life, never once leapt like a salmon over those metal fences that someone must have thought were a good idea. I mean, why have them? They just get in the way. Hurdling, the Internet informs me today, is a great sport that requires “good fitness, flexibility, upper body strength, and, most of all, perseverance and determination”. Well I was a teenager so I probably had some of those, the last two though? Well nah. Not that I had the chance to persevere or be determined.
So with no time to practice and absolutely no tuition or tips there I was in front of a stand with probably several hundred people watching. Oh and guess which lane I was in? Yep the one closest to the stands. Even now it makes me cringe. Clearly the only way I was going to get through this was to stare straight ahead – well with all those metal barriers in the way that was probably a good idea anyway- ignore the crowd and just get through it. 

Now I don’t know if you’ve ever casually hurdled in your life but there’s a technique to having the right number of steps between each hurdle so you continue to gain ground while getting over them without stopping the momentum of your stride. The crucial thing is actually not to slow down before a hurdle but stride over it like a graceful gazelle. Then you have to drag the trailing leg over the object. Nobody told me this.
All I knew then was how to jump over things which involved taking a run up and essentially hanging in the air while moving over the hurdle. This is absolutely the wrong technique which might work for leaping over a pile of boxes or a body but not for hurdles. So that was what I did. Luckily no evidence of this exists and I am probably the only one who remembers it because it was such an embarrassing moment. Imagine if we’d had smartphones then; it’d still be somewhere online to this day as the worst ever example of hurdling. Ever. I could be like the grumpy cat or something! BTW I never hurdled again. In fact even jumping over something makes me have flashbacks to that afternoon. We did ok in the relay but somehow I’ve forgotten all that.


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