On the run, or rather, off and on the run for over 50 year’s. John has his father to thank for his sporting interests. Here John Adam shares his running memories and more.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself? i.e. where you grew up, family etc.
I was born in Guildford in 1959. My Dad worked for the Midland Bank and each time he got a promotion it usually meant a move to another branch and another town. So the geography of my childhood spans Guildford, Broadstairs, Folkestone and finally Maidstone. I was the eldest of six: three boys and three girls, though sadly we’re now down to five. Maggie, the eldest of my three sisters died from MS a couple of years ago.
Though quite a shy and reserved man in many ways, my Dad was very playful, and fiercely competitive – he used to love thrashing me at squash or table tennis until I was old enough to get the better of him. I think it’s to him I owe my love of sporting endeavour as well as walking, especially up hills and mountains! Throughout the 70’s, our annual holidays were always taken in the Lake District. It remains to this day one my favourite places to be.
When did you first start running?
It was either in my last year at primary school or first at secondary that I began my glorious obsession with running. That would make it around 1969/70. We were living in Folkestone then. My best friend at the time, with whom I used to spend weekends cycling around the lanes of Kent and the wilds of Romney Marsh, suggested one evening we go to a track session run by Folkestone Athletic Club. I think the coach was Andy Robbins. He had me run a 400m as fast as I could, to gauge whether I was any good. Thinking more about it, this must have been prompted by me saying that 400m was the distance I was used to running when we did athletics at school. At any rate, he said I had a good stride, which made me feel really chuffed – I’m easily flattered!
What made you start running?
As many runners will testify, there’s something magical about the action of running and not least of all, about running as fast as one can. So this intoxicating sensation coupled with the competitive drive and love of the outdoors inherited from my Dad is what got me going and had me joining Folkestone AC after my 400m try-out.
How many years have you been running for?
On and off, I’ve been running for over 50 years, though to be honest my running life splits into two distinct phases: the first 12 and the last 12 up to the present day, with not much in between when I spent more time keeping fit by cycling to and from work and/or walking on the Downs.
Up until 1975, when we moved to Maidstone, I was a regular with Folkestone AC and got to know the likes of Mike Gratton and Cliff Temple. Though my introduction to the club was on the track, my main focus and love was cross country, both at school and with the club itself. We used to compete in the Kent cross country league and I’ve fond memories of charging through all kinds muddy, boggy, slippery and generally wet terrain on many a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon in the depths of winter.
Once in Maidstone, I joined the Invicta club, which, though based in Canterbury, included several members from across Kent. When I left school, I worked for the Midland Bank (in Maidstone) for a year and one of my work colleagues was with Invicta. That’s probably what prompted me to join. We used to go running together at lunchtimes.
When did you join the Hedgehoppers and why/what made you become a regular?
I joined Hedgehoppers late September/early October 2018. I was well into my second and current running phase by that time, having persuaded myself when I turned 50 that maybe there was still some life and ‘spring’ left in the legs. Of course this second love affair with running brought with it the all too familiar ‘boom and bust’ injury cycle. To my running mind, the years between my early twenties and late forties didn’t exist. It told me I could just pick up where I left off. Doh! The Mrs suggested I join a club and learned to run sensibly, thereby avoiding the injury cycle and physiotherapist bills. Needless to say, though there are many ‘sensible’ Hoppers, I’m still not following their good example!
Being a Hopper regular, before Covid 19 showed up, has given me back the camaraderie I experienced and enjoyed so much when I ran for Folkestone AC and Invicta.
Best thing about being a Hopper?
As everyone says, and I’m sure will continue to say for as long as the club exists, the best thing about Hoppers is the friendliness and welcoming atmosphere fostered by the club. There’s a place for everyone, of any age and ability. It is a real community that supports and encourages its members. I’m very glad to be part of it.
Favourite running memory i.e. that WOW moment?
I have a tie between two, both from late Winter 1980 when I was probably at my best as a runner:
- the first was running with Invicta in the National Cross Country championships that year. There were eight of us, with first six to score in the team competition. Ours featured the likes of Mike Gratton and Nick Brawn. I was ranked seventh but when Mike pulled up part way round with a hamstring injury I suddenly had a vital role to play which became clear as I neared the finish and had Mike screaming at me to give it everything. I came 186th out of around 1600 starters and helped the team come in third behind Tipton and Gateshead beating Staffordshire Moorlands into fourth by just three points – phew!
- the second, less significant but in many ways more exhilarating moment was winning my first and only cross country race. It was a local Devon cross country league event (I was at Exeter Uni at the time). I can’t remember the precise date or location but the sheer joy of coming in first, of realising I was going to actually win, is something special.
What’s the longest distance you’ve ever run?
- in terms of racing, the longest distance is 10 miles;
- in terms of training, I managed 42.9k (so technically an ‘ultra’ 😀) on the Downlink last November and is probably the reason why my patella tendons have been acting up ever since – I’ll never learn…
Favourite running event and why?
At the moment it’s probably 5k parkruns because I can still kid myself I have some speed left in me. Looking forward, I want to be able run marathons and ultras but realistically I’ll need to acquire some of that illusory common sense before I can attempt those distances reliably.
Do you have a nickname and how did you come by it?
I don’t have a nickname now, but when I was in my teens my first proper girlfriend used a call me ‘cowpat’, mainly because I’d trodden in one when we were out walking one time (rather than because she thought I talked bullshit – least I hope so.)
Please tell us one thing about yourself that people may not know?
Throughout the 2000’s I was a member of the New Venture Theatre in Brighton and acted in many plays during that time. The exhilaration from running I mentioned above is equally matched by the buzz I got from playing a lead role as Werner Heisenberg in Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen. It’s a three hander with all three actors on stage for the whole two hour run time. When I think back, I’m amazed at how I was able to learn all the lines and never miss a single one throughout the week’s run. Not sure I could manage that now!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’m missing being able to run with my fellow Hoppers at the moment. That said, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to resume. My wife Jackie is unable to have the Covid vaccine due to her underlying health condition. She is also at higher risk from Covid so we’re in Catch 22 situation. We’ve decided to continue shielding despite the easing of lock-down until there’s more information on the side effect risks associated with her having the vaccine.
For now I’ll keep on enjoying Hopper News and all your wonderful photos of runs. Thanks to everyone for making this a special running club