Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Athletics Challenge: The Everyman Olympics Decathlon Day

On the morning of the big day back in September 2010, I rolled into the empty car park of Saffron Lane Stadium in Leicester and waited nervously in my car for the other competitors to arrive for The Decathlon Challenge.

I'd been doing what training I could at Southend Leisure & Tennis Centre and though I was still carrying a lot of weight I had managed to get some training tips from local Decathlon legend, former Olympian and Commonwealth Games Gold medalist, Dean Macey.

Coach Macey: Commonwealth Decathlon Gold Medalist 2006
First to turn up was my girlfriend's father Chris and his lovely wife Elaine, Chris had recently completed an incredibly tough challenge of his own in an impressive time frame; LEJoG - the Land's End to John o'Groats bike ride.

Soon afterwards the other contenders and some much appreciated helping hands arrived so we entered the stadium and met up with Clive, the manager of the facility, who'd very generously given us the opportunity to use the stadium for surely the only amateur Decathlon he'd ever hosted.

We set the track up for the first event and I gathered the athletes together to inform them on how the morning's events would work - we only had 4 and a HALF HOURS to complete the challenges.

With only 8 lanes and more than 10 athletes taking part in most of the events, we would go in heats and scores would be awarded for times and distances so that we avoided having 'mini finals' - this would mean that the best athletes wouldn't have to run/throw/jump in more than one round per event.

10 points would be awarded for the best athlete, then 9 for second place, 8 for third and so on...I'd brought stop watches which Elaine and the girls (& Ryan) would use to time us for the races.

110m Hurdles

After much grumbling from the other competitors that using the hurdles at the correct height would be too tough and dangerous (wussies), we agreed to set them fairly low and off we went...

110 Hurdles Heat 2 gets set to start, I'm the chap in the red tee, middle lane.
Ten athletes competed this event - I blame my having trained on hurdles at near competition height for my downfall here...there's no way I'd have come 9th if the others had shown more grit!

James braves the mini-hurdles en route to 2nd place and his first 9 points
John Santamaria took the field by storm, finishing the first race of the day in a time of 17.75 seconds, over a second ahead of the rest of the field.

Long Jump

'I was having a little look at the long jump (pit) and it didn't quite seem long enough' - Will stakes his claim for supremacy on the sand.

We split into groups and while some tackled Long Jump, others were busy throwing Shot Put.

Will's early comments didn't quite translate to his distance...finishing 5th and off of the podium.

Santa (as John likes to be called) had proven his ability to run and jump hurdles, now he demonstrated his ability to run, then jump - landing himself another 10 points with a distance of 5 metres 11centimetres.

Having been *unable to train for an event which I was hopeless at back at school and hadn't tried since, I demonstrated that fat lads can't fly - managing just 3 metres, I claimed only 2 points.

*The venue for my training - Southend Leisure & Tennis Centre - was excellent for track facilities but due to the sandpits being covered, I was unable to practise Long Jump.

I re-enact a scene from Saving Private Ryan

Will mistakes the sandpit for a swimming pool and opts for the dive bomb technique
Shot Put

Keedy chose this moment to enter the fray - the big man had been watching on the sidelines due to an injury up to this point, now there were 11 contenders...

As a chubby kid that was big for his age I used to throw Shot Put in my senior school days, albeit not very well but I did used to have a go...I kept this quiet because I had no idea if I had retained any knowledge from the sport - due to health & safety madness I had been *unable to train this event either.

*The venue for my training - Southend Tennis & Leisure Centre - was excellent for track facilities but due to insurance cover, I was unable to practise the Shot Put or Javelin or Pole Vault.

Ginger Ward attempts the tricky 'Camp Wave' technique
Santa was a good lad whom most of us had only met that morning when Henry had brought him along, though he wasn't going to make friends by winning everything - he launched the canon ball over 10 metres to claim maximum points...again!


This would be the event to separate the men from the boys, the tension was palpable as fears that poor tactics and application of speed here would damage your chances of truly being a contender.

Again I'd sought some training tips from the top of the sport, via Twitter I'd kindly received some advice from the strikingly-haired owner of the UK 400m record, former Olympian, and European & Commonwealth Games Gold medalist, Iwan Thomas.

Coach Thomas: 400m European & Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist 1998 
Chris would step out of this one having aggravated a hamstring in the hurdles, he'd sit out most of the remaining events - I was gutted for him, not least because this set me firmly at the bottom of the pack.

Finally someone else took the top spot...

400m: Henry beats Santa to the line
Ginger Ward, Tone and myself battled it out for last spot - I won! (Last spot that is...apologies Iwan, my belly and legs let me down).

High Jump

Back in the 60's Amercian Dick Fosbury spent months perfecting a revolutionary technique which would eclipse the straddle method and earn him gold in the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, 10 British lads took 20 minutes coming nowhere near to displaying the required grace and poise to do a Fosbury!

Mike attempts to scare the bar into staying put
Failing to realise that simply edging the bar up 5cms at a time would earn more points, we each went for glory by requesting high bars - Santa once again proved his versatility and bagged the best clearance of the day.

Santa displays mastery of Houdini's Levitation Technique


Henry demonstrated good technique to the group - he would win this event hands down as he actually competed in it for real. So 9 points were up for grabs and we all had our eyes on them.

Chris casually launches his stick out of the stadium
Keedy chose his moment to step up to the plate, sending his spear 30 metres - just 6 behind the full trained Henry.

Keedy opts to launch his first throw at a passing crow
I finished 7th of 11, having gained some tips from 2 times Olympic Silver Medalist and former World Record holder Steve Backley (via Twitter) I was gutted that I hadn't been able to benefit from the practice of these tips before the main event.

Coach Backley: 2 Olympic Silver Medals (1996, 2000), 1 Olympic Bronze Medal (1992), 4 World Championships Gold Medals (1990, 1994, 1998, 2002), 3 Commonwealth Games Gold Medals (1990, 1994, 2002), 1 Commonwealth Games Silver Medal (1998), 3 World Records...OK maybe he's over qualified to give me tips.  

The Everyman Olympian - not quite Steve Backley


I think some of us may have missed our calling...or perhaps having 5 makeshift stewards turned time keepers with a stopwatch each to time 2 heats of lads having a go at running the glamour event of track & field for the first time since they'd left school was always going to bring about some unlikely results...because 8 of us clocked times of less than 11 seconds!!

Henry crossed the line first overall, in an astonishing 10.15 seconds - if that's accurate timing then I'm expecting him to be called into the GB squad for London 2012.

The runners were so quick we couldn't capture them on film.

Everybody seemed to be having a top time despite the events coming in quick succession.

'This is brilliant! I'd do this every weekend...this is better than most things' - Ginger Ward


Possibly invented by over enthusiastic guests at a Greek wedding, Discus is the perfect example of a sport that looks miles easier than it is. Each of us had 2 attempts to master throwing what looked like an early example of a plate made in a kiln...badly.

Tones had to be caged for our safety
Christmas may well have a slightly sour edge to it when Santa's name gets mentioned from now...yes, you've guessed it, the man named after the fat lad with an odd sense of celebrating Christ's birthday won yet again!

Discus: Big Dave gets in 'the zone' ahead of his throw

Pole Vault

Well I'll be honest, this was the event that I was looking forward to the least, and I think most of the lads would have bottled it had I been able to get the loan of a pole, but the truth is Saffron Lane have everything you need for Pole Vault, bar a pole. And they're not cheap - I search around to see if I could buy one but £300 would have been needed and at that value I couldn't justify the purchase or find someone to loan one from.

To be fair, our injuries list was pretty short (just Chris and his hamstring on it so far) and I'd guess that this wouldn't have remained the case had we found a donor.

So in effect this actually is the tale of The Everyman Olympics Nonathlon, we now move on to the ninth and final event...


When we used to play Daley Thompson's Decathlon on a mates Atari back in the 80's, this was the one event where the players would sustain injuries - played out in real time kids would get sore thumbs, bruised fingers and wrist strains from keeping the joystick in constant motion for the 3+ minutes it took Daley to run three and three quarter laps around the track. Great days.

As with at the real Olympics, we each now knew where we stood in the event's overall rankings, meaning we each had a clear picture of who we needed to beat in order to rise up the leader board.

The man with the close links to 25th December had done enough to fall over in his weakest event and still claim Gold (Well done Santa!!0, but other positions on the podium were still up for grabs:

Henry, James, Keedy & Will were all in contention for medals.

Tones, Ginger Ward, Dave and Mike formed the next group, giving them each a personal goal.

Chris was glad to be resting his hamstring.

I was in a battle with myself to complete the challenge and was chuffed as punch at having all my pals around and could see the delight The Everyman Olympics had brought.

A running commentary of the final event would have been ace but I spent my last lung-busting efforts focused solely on making it over the line.

All I can really recall is that at one stage a few of us were lapped by Will the Whippet with Mike (my bro) hot on his heals like he was being pulled along on a lead.

The Winners Podium: Santa (Gold), Henry (Silver), James (Bronze),  Will (Pearls), Keedy (Silk), Tones (Leather Goods),  Big Dave (Novelty Hat), Mike (X Factor Audience Tickets), Ginger Ward (Cuddly Toy), The Everyman Olympian (Half A Packet Of Peanuts), Chris (Dinner...well he is the missus Dad!)
Huge THANKS go out to all of those who took part AND the wonderful team of helpers who made this event possible:

Elaine, Jess, Vicky, Katie, Kate, Liz & Ryan - you're All Champions!!!

The Everyman Olympics Decathlon Team (minus Liz and Vicky behind the camera!)
If you'd like to get involved in any of the events for The Everyman Olympics please contact me.


  1. Great blog post. Don't worry about not doing the pole vault, those high hurdles probably made up for the lack of a vertical challenge ;-)

    Well done everyone.

  2. I even attempted running the 100m with Liz, she flat outran me though - i was in boots with heels, whereas hers where just Topshop flats.

    Loved that day... followed by a good game of lazerquest

    J x

  3. Brilliant day. Everyone should do a nonathlon!

  4. I can't believe that someone captured the perfect shot of me crossing the finishing line just behind Henry Brooks in the 400! He's going to have that blown up and never let me forget it! All the other wins are worthless now, 400 was the one I wanted, ha ha.

    Good job on the write up Boris and good job on completing your challenge! That was a great day, when is the next Decathlon?