Biography of a runner – AndyCoatsworth


I was born with a congenital structural defect, and for four years was in and out of hospital. I

contracted Typhoid at the age of 8, which nearly killed me. As it was I lost a third of my body

weight, missed a year’s schooling, which is why I am very concerned about the current crisis

in our schools, and missed a year’s growth – never to be recovered. Thus I was a weakling

at school, and suffered the humiliation of always being the last one chosen by the captains

for any team sport.

I then committed a minor misdemeanor at school, and the punishment was to run for five

successive days across the fields to the top of a nearby hill, visible from the headmaster’s

office. I had to continue trying until I could do it in the allotted time, and it was four weeks of

running every day before I began to cross off the five required runs. By this time I was

enjoying it, and I have enjoyed running off-road over hilly ground ever since.

In my first year at University I lived near Hyde Park, and in the third near Hampstead Heath.

I have tried to live near an open space suitable for running ever since – initially Windsor

Great Park, then the fringe of the Lake District, and now just outside Tatton Park. On the

Cumbrian coast I looked out of my bedroom window over a sandy beach which stretched for

about 6 miles. You do not have to been entranced by the beach scene in the 1981 film

‘Chariots of Fire’, about two athletes in the 1924 Olympics, to know the joy of running

perhaps barefoot along the moist sand adjacent, or sometimes, amongst the rippling waves.

For twenty years my work took me to many parts of the world, and I have run in some

incredible places. In a fairly lawless part of Pakistan close to the Afghan border I naively

committed an indiscretion by running in shorts, insensitive to the local Muslim community. I

arrived near Johannesburg in South Africa on the plateau at about 6000 feet, where the

client had kindly entered me for a 10k the following day – the altitude hit me bad. I

subsequently went on training runs with the local running club; the first was a near disaster,

as I struggled to keep up on unfamiliar ground amongst the huge waste tips from the gold

mines, unaware both as to how to get home if I lost the pack and that the other runners were

all training for the Comrades – the colossal 90km race between Pietermaritzburg and

Durban. In Hong Kong I ran mainly with the Hash House Harriers, one of the oldest of about

two thousand such clubs around the world, which follow a mid-20 th century version of Hare

and Hounds cross-country running, which flourished in the 19 th century. In 1979 I had

founded the Berkshire Hash House Harriers, one of the earliest chapters in the UK. I still

occasionally run with a local hare and hounds club, which started in Wilmslow in 1872, and

is probably the third oldest running club in the world.

For the subsequent twenty years of my work I averaged two nights a week in a hotel. Adding

basic running kit to one’s travel luggage is so easy, and you do not have to find sport

facilities or fellow sports people in a town distant from home.

When work took me to the Lake District for three years I started fell running, mainly with

Cumberland Fell Runners under its then President, the great Joss Naylor. I was set up as a

race marshall before the Ennerdale Horseshoe Fell Race to instruct Joss, who as a sheep

farmer knew the fells like the back of his hand, that he had to carry a map and compass. I

avoided a repetition the following year by entering the race myself. The Ennerdale

Horseshoe Fell Race, 36.8km with 2290 metres of ascent, remains one of my better

achievements. I much enjoyed two day mountain orienteering events, such as the Saunders


Lakeland Marathon, The Capricorn, and the Karrimor. I would have been doing the

Saunders again this year but for COVID-19.

Injuries from fell running can be more varied than those from road running, and after I took a

tumble over the rocks the nurses at A&E took delight in writing the cause of my bloody knees

and face as “Fell fell running”.

Though an off-road runner at heart, I do enjoy road Half-Marathons, and Wilmslow is my

favourite - so well organized and good crowd support. However, a running training induced

injury, swiftly followed in 2016 by broken limbs cycling in first Germany and in quick

succession France left me thinking my running days were over, until I met Vicky McKinnon

and Clare Dooley on a RunKnutsford stall in the market.

My best running times are behind me, so what does RunKnutsford mean to me? I love

belonging to a community where we applaud the performance of each other, whether a

novice or a county class athlete. Sometimes when the weather is poor or I am feeling a bit

idle, the joy of running together, even virtually as at present, gives me the motivation to go

out. Though conditions may be grim, I still feel good when I get home after a good run.

Technically I have improved through a greater awareness of the role Strength and Core

exercises have both in performance and in reducing susceptibility to running injuries. During

social distancing times of the current COVID-19 pandemic I miss the comradeship and

banter, but Vicky is doing a superb job of keeping me motivated and finding fun in the simple

sport of running. I will emerge lockdown both mentally and physically better because of

RunKnutsford.

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