I’m not known for my sportiness, being much more at home in the kitchen than I am on the racetrack, but I couldn’t resist taking part in AGA Rangemaster’s send off for the Birchfield Harriers athletes who have qualified for the Olympics.
Not only did I have the chance to run round the hallowed track at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, but I also got to meet 4 x 100m star Mark Lewis-Francis and world T20 3000m indoor record holder Andrew Kaar.
AGA Rangemaster employees, their friends and family and members of the Birchfield Harriers ran in four 35-mile relay races, with each finishing at the stadium.
AGA Rangemaster has sponsored the Birchfield Harriers since 1984 – the longest sponsorship in their history – and the AGA Academy helps children into sport and is the training ground for future world-class athletes.
Mark Lewis-Francis put what the academy does into perspective for me. He said: “For me, it [the AGA Academy] is what it’s all about. It’s about the kids, it’s about the future, it’s about grass roots and preparing the next generation of Olympians.
“The support of AGA Rangemaster is amazing. It gives kids the opportunity to experience what I’ve experienced and for their parents to come down and embrace what the children are doing. It takes them to the next level. For me that’s very important. The relationship that AGA Rangemaster has with the club is amazing.”
Mark has two more races left this season – Crystal Palace and a competition in Europe – before he goes to the Olympic holding camp in Portugal. Waiting to hear if he had been selected was, he says, a nerve-racking experience.
It felt like a big relief when I qualified. Initially I wanted to go to the Olympics for the 100 metres, but I picked up an injury just before the trials, so it was virtually impossible. And then I was just waiting to see if I made the team for the relay spot. When I got the call I was like, ‘I made it!’
“Now I can watch the adverts and enjoy the Olympic moments rather than flicking the channel when anything about the Olympics came on the TV just in case I didn’t make the team. Now I can embrace it and look forward to the games.”
One man who knows how difficult the wait can be is Andrew Kaar who won’t hear until Tuesday if he has qualified for the Paralympics. He said: “I feel really nervous. I can’t sleep. I’ll know by Tuesday, as that’s when they put it on the internet, but I might get a call on Monday.
“It will be really great if I qualify. A lot of my mates have got tickets to watch me run, so hopefully it will work out.”
I will be rooting for Andrew – who broke a world record this season – and wish him and the rest of the Birchfield Harriers athletes the very best of luck in London this summer.