Wow! It was great, wasn’t it? The Glasgow Commonwealth Games never made any false promises to be quite as spectacular as the London Olympic Games. But it was still a very special two weeks of competitive sport.
What did you take from the Games? How were you inspired? Were you heartened by the continued brilliance of the Brownlee brothers? Both still look like cheeky schoolboys, yet continue to prove they are among the toughest of men. Or was it Zoe Smith’s youthful exuberance as she won weightlifting gold? In the process, the Londoner showed it is possible to have gargantuan strength and still be girly.
Perhaps it was Scotland’s Lynsey Sharp rising from her sick bed to fulfil the dreams of a nation in claiming 800m silver? Here in these Games, there was something for all of us to grasp on to, something that resonated within. For me, it was the performances of Steve Way and Jo Pavey. Like me, both are 40. Like me, both are runners. Unlike me, both of are very, very good.
Way’s journey from a 16-and-a-half stone smoker addicted to takeaways to international athlete in just seven years is one of the feel-good running stories of recent times. In finishing tenth in the Commonwealth Games marathon in a new British over 40s record of 2:15:16, he added another glorious chapter to an already uplifting tale. He did it all with a huge smile on his face too. Here was a man who had worked hard, very hard to get where he now was. But it had been fun too.
Then there was Jo Pavey. The English runner has won Commonwealth and European medals in the past, but more often than not she has just missed out on the podium to the mighty East Africans. Fifth in the 2004 Olympic 5000m final and fourth in the 2007 World 10,000m final, she was undoubtedly one of the world’s top distance runners. But, competing in the long-distance track events - where medals are arguably the hardest to come by - she found herself competing against running’s equivalent of the All-Blacks rugby team. Only one athlete from outside Africa has taken a women’s Olympic or World 5000m or 10,000m title in the last sixteen global championships.
Unlike some of the other Commonwealth Games athletics, the women’s 5000m is genuinely world-class. Kenyan brought their three leading 5000m runners, including world champion Mercy Cherono.
This time round, a medal was even less likely for Pavey. Now a mum of two, she had only given birth to Emily 10 months prior. So whilst her opponents were preparing at altitude, she was busy squeezing sessions in between nappy changing and breast feeding at home in Devon. Nonetheless, she produced one of the gutsiest runs ever seen from a British athlete. She took the race to the Kenyans and came away with a brave bronze medal to huge acclaim from a roaring Hampden Park crowd.
Very few of us can ever realistically expect to reach the heights of Steve Way or Jo Pavey. But every runner can relate to the pressures of daily life, the commitment needed to train and the courage required in racing. Way and Pavey met those challenges head on and we can too. Even as I write this, I have turned down an invitation for a night on the town. Why? Because it clashes with my club’s training night, where I think I'll tackle the ten mile session. I think Steve Way and Jo Pavey would do the same.