Monday morning was, as ever, a struggle. Fresh back from a wonderful holiday in Cornwall, I was unaware what 7am felt like... The alarm goes, I crawl out of bed and stumble into the shower. Ten minutes later I emerge and drag my trousers on. A few moments later and we're outside and heading to breakfast on our bikes. Once at breakfast I noticed a small figure walking towards KH with Mr Middleton. It clicks into my head that this is our coach for the next week, who goes, unsurprisingly, by the name 'Coach'. I was introduced to him by Mr Middleton and had a short conversation with him before leaving KH to prepare for the day ahead.
The school day started with an assembly in the morning before school started. I was perched on the front row, ready to collect the Hector Rosebowl, which is awarded for the winner of the Tucks race (Ed is pictured here, on his way to Tucks victory). The House Singing prizes were also awarded at the same time.
Lessons sped by and after Lunch it was almost time for Coach's first training session. Just enough time beforehand though, during Societies Hour, to pop into chemistry and ask a few questions in preparation for an interview on Wednesday.
We turned up to Benjies fresh and ready to sprint around the 2.3 km course. Mr Middleton introduced Coach to the Hunt before handing over to him and we were all raring to impress. We were taken aback, however, when the warm-up started and Coach had us walking then jogging and swinging our arms. This lasted for over fifteen minutes. He was also insistent that training happened in silence, which was a shock to the system of many of the Hunt runners who see running as a social event. But even the Blue Baron eventually learnt to stay quiet.
But when we lined up alongside the Darwin statue ready to set off we were all feeling fresh. After starting the run with the Huntsman's cry, we set off and it seemed that Coach's warm-up had worked a treat, with Seb Blake and I tapping out an easy 7.44. But instead of taking a break afterwards it was straight into the warm down and another ten minutes of walking and jogging ensured that the muscles stayed relaxed.
It was then back to the House for a quick shower before afternoon lessons which flew past as I was still excited for what tomorrow's training held...
Work followed a bite to eat before heading off to bed. Assuring myself I could manage another 7.00 wake up tomorrow, I set the alarm.
7 o’clock came and went and I remained in bed. After being woken by one of my peers, I did eventually get up and head towards the dining hall for my first meal of the day.
At 8.30 am I left Severn Hill for the second time, today in search of a biochemist to help me with the concept of Cyanide inhibition. I found Mrs Matthews in Biology and arranged a meeting for lunchtime. The first three lessons passed and at 11.10 it was time to head over to the Alington Hall for the Senior Maths Challenge.
As always, the first few questions build an air of confidence and a bubble of invincibility and belief that the maths is possible before this is burst by the later questions...
Oh well. By one o'clock the worst was behind me and I had just a meeting with Mrs Matthews and a postor meeting before Coach's second session. But on arrival at KH I was told that BBC Midland had arrived early and I would have to cut short my first meeting and excuse myself from the second completely. I was introduced to the presenter then rushed off to Severn Hill to change before Seb and I headed over to the Stott Pavilion for a few cheesy shots before running.
Coach took us down to the river bank to warm up in the same way as yesterday before starting the session, which involved running up the hill from the boathouse towards chapel. We concentrated on getting our knees high and our heels also high on different reps. This lead to a very technical session devised to improve technique rather than endurance and stamina. I was called over afterwards by Mr Middleton and Seb and I were both interviewed by the BBC Midlands team for the show tomorrow night.
The session ended and I ran off back to Severn Hill for a quick shower before my train down to London, where I stayed the night before my interview.
I woke up naturally about two hours before my alarm, which I will blame on the pre-interview nerves. I was, however comforted by the fact that I wasn’t the only one up. The rest of the Hunt runners were involved in an early morning training session before school, sprinting around a football pitch at 6am, another method that Coach introduced from Bekoji. After catching the train from Slough to South Kensington I found myself situated in the main chemistry building at Imperial College for the remainder of the day, with tours and talks filling the time before my interview at 2.30.
Once the interview finished, an experience I would like to forget about, I had one sole aim left for the day. I knew that the TV piece shot yesterday would be on at 6.30 and so would aim to get back at that time. I rushed across London and jumped aboard the 15.44 to Birmingham. At Birmingham I then caught my connection, which was due to arrive at 18.20 into Shrewsbury. It didn't... At 18.27 I burst onto Platform 3 and sprinted through town and to Quod in time for 18.33. The piece, however, was not on until 18.50 and I gladly saw the whole of the article. The news was followed by a showing of 'Town of Runners', which is based on Bekoji, the town where Coach is usually based. The film follows two young athletes in their pursuit of stardom. It showed the difficult challenges facing young athletes including the poor facilities in certain areas. There was also time for a question and answer session with Coach before heading off to bed.
Thursdays are always my relaxing day of the week with only two lessons and an easy run in the afternoon. Coach was doing hill-reps with the juniors and girls and so the Hunt returned to its usual self and headed out for a slow run around the town. The pace was nice and I’ve always been fond of running in the dark and so the end product was an enjoyable run. After the run it was down to the mundane task of Top Schools before heading off to bed.
Lessons sped by as always and I soon found myself facing up to my only double sport session of the week, a mix of football and running. I pulled on my house shirt, joined my team-mates and prepared for another tricky first leagues match, this time against Oldham’s. Our team on paper was probably one of the best in the league. However our form failed to prove this, with just one win so far all season we were dangerously close to the bottom of the table, a position Severn Hill are not used to. And so we battled away against second place Oldham’s and for the first time all season we seemed to be passing the ball as we all knew we were capable of doing. Mitchell to Carver, Carver to Cross, Cross to Holroyd with a Barcelona-esque style the team clicked. The goals began to fly in, and soon we were home and dry. It ended with a 4–2 victory for the Hill.
Celebrations were cut short as I ran off to join the Hunt for my second hour of sport. I changed out of the football kit and pulled on my vest. Coach was back with the seniors and teaching us about the importance of flexibility in cross country races, something we had previously not considered working on. He had asked Mr Middleton to find a place on school site similar to what he would have trained on in Ethiopia. We ended up swerving in and out of trees near Emma Darwin Hall. The training was tiring and the muscles ached. The training was longer than we expected meaning we finished at 4.15 leaving just half an hour to get to lessons.
After lessons it was over to the back of KH to catch a minibus to the Tucks slay, this is the annual meal to which the first ten students in the Tucks are invited. The meal as ever was amazing, with the steak and chips quenching the appetite built up by Coach’s hard work earlier. There was just enough time to thank Coach for the week’s activity before he heads off to Ethiopia tomorrow. Malcolm was also present, without whom the Hunt would have not been able to bring over such a talented coach; it was through Malcolm’s charity “Running across Borders” that the link was created. If my interview on Wednesday did go as badly as I thought it did, I will happily take a gap year and travel to Ethiopia for a few weeks to train with the athletes over there.
The experience of having a coach of this calibre over for a week has shown me the passion that many athletes around the world have for this sport and has given me an insight into what it is possible to do if you do give your life to something. The Hunt has experienced a week that shall live long in the memory and we are so grateful that this opportunity has been given to us. Mr Middleton and Mr Haworth have no doubt taken on the tips that Coach was giving and I’m sure we will see changes in the way we train in the future. I would very much like to visit Coach in Bekoji in a few years’ time and train as an Ethiopian would. Having experienced his training for just a week it is easy to see how he has produced so many Olympic stars, and I’m sure there will be many more to come.