Paul Rawlinson

This week’s Friday Feature is Paul Rawlinson. After being told to take the high jump at an early age, Paul ran off to the Merchant Navy. Running though, had featured from his school days but it was a chat with a friend which resulted in him well and truly catching the running bug. Paul has kindly shared his life and running memories with us.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself ?

I was born and bred in Brighton, 62 years ago, and attended Carden Primary School and Varndean Grammar School for Boys. Growing up mainly involved street football, street cricket and hanging about with the rest of the local kids.

Being tall, I was introduced to the high jump at Junior school, where we would practice the Fosbury flop into a sand pit! I recall my first visit to Withdean for the Brighton school sports and was amazed to see the inflatable high jump bed. I seem to recall that the track was still cinders then (1969).

I joined the Scouts in 1968 and when at Varndean, this became the focus of my evenings. I played in the band, which meant one evening scouts and two evenings band practice. The band later split away from the Scout movement, but I stayed involved up until 1990.

I left school at 16 and ran away to join the Merchant Navy (Shell Tankers), training to be a Marine Engineer, but it was at the time that oil tankers were being laid up in the Norwegian fjords and new pipelines were stretching between continents, so the prospects were bleak. I left and returned to Varndean to take A levels. I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do after school, and the girl that I sat with in Economics lessons mentioned that she was going to be a Quantity Surveyor. That sounded ok to me, so my destiny was decided. Apart from two spells lasting a total of seven years, I have worked for the same company, here in Brighton, going back to them for my current stint in 1994. The projects I have worked on have taken me all around the UK and indeed abroad to Nigeria. I have worked for the likes of The BBC, the Prison Service, the Highways Agency and many many very rich private clients.

At the age of 30 along came marriage, my daughter Charlotte and the twins Alex and Lewis. My wife often recalls my look of horror and fear when she told me she was expecting them. I recall taking the boys for a run when they were 17, on a loop up Applesham Way. I had to turn round and shout at them to keep up! The rest is history!

When did first start running?

Well being a kid of the late 50’s and 60’s life was generally about running, it was literally our mode of transport to and from school and with all the sports we played I was always pretty fit. It was however in 1973 that I entered the Scouts 400 metres and to my surprise won both my heat and the final. With high jumping also on the cards, athletics took over from cricket as my summer sport, at school and at Withdean on Sunday mornings. Slowly however my interest faded, and I only ever made it to the Sussex Schools competition.

What made you start running?

My brother, who is a few years older than me, had been running since university and one day in 1983, he called me to say that he had run a 2hr 29’ marathon in Birmingham and was expecting to get an elite entry into the London. Something clicked and that evening I went home, pulled on a tee shirt and my Bukta nylon football shorts and grabbed my Green Flash plimsoles and ran from home near Brighton College on a four mile loop. That was it, I was hooked again. London 85 was my first marathon, followed by a multitude of races all around Sussex. I remember religiously going to see Sam at the Jog shop to pick up the race notices that he had lined up in the shop window to find out what was coming up. No internet in those days and postal entries with a cheque only.

How many years have you been running for?

So, 1983 until 2020 – what’s that, err . . . 17 years? 😉

When did you join the Hedgehoppers and why/what made you become a regular? 

I lived for a while in North Road, Portslade, back in 1986 – 88 and would often pass a group of runners on a Tuesday night up on the Downs. One day I saw them set off from the Sports Centre and stopped and asked a young chap (Ian Kent) who they were etc. He invited me along and that was the start of it. I suffered a serious injury in the early 2000’s which kept me away for a few years, but returned to find most of the old faces and plenty of new ones. 

Best thing about being a Hopper?

Generally speaking the team spirit and camaraderie at WSFRL events, but Zoe’s cakes and my friendship with Richard Fitzpatrick who was there when I first joined, are major hits as well.

Favourite running memory i.e. that WOW moment? 

Not sure about a WOW moment, but two things stand out. First being in the Varndean athletics team with Steve Ovett, 1974 Brighton school sports and I was standing near the start of the 1500 metres. Steve lined up, but took no notice of the gun, just watching the field disappear round the bend after 100 metres. The starter was shouting at him and eventually Steve set off. I wandered back towards the high jump area where I was competing and with 200m to go Steve had only one guy from Stringer in front of him. As he passed me, he cruised onto the guys shoulder and said something like he would see him at the end. Steve sprinted the final 200 and won by the length of the straight. I knew then that I had seen something special.

My second seems rather pathetic, but many years ago Richard Fitzpatrick and I finished one behind the other at the Steepdown Challenge and then several years later, in fact the next time we both run it, we did exactly the same. We joked about how it was like our last effort. When I compared the results however, we were over 5 minutes slower – reality set in!

What’s the longest distance you’ve every run?

Only ever done up to marathon. You have to understand that I hate running. If you came up to me during a run and asked if I was enjoying it, there would only be one answer every time. Do I look like I’m enjoying it? No, but there is something that makes be do it and I have never really understood what it is.

Favourite running event and why?

Kings Head Canter. 5k along quiet roads with a beer, included in the entry fee, at the end.

Do you have a nickname and how did you come by it?

Rolo. Passed down from my brother.

Please tell us one thing about yourself that people may not know? 

I have a GCSE grade A in French. Having failed GCE ‘O level at school, I took evening classes at Portslade college about ten years ago. 

Is there anything else that you would like to tell us ?

Only that getting up one Saturday morning a year or so ago, and going to parkrun with my wife, my daughter and the two boys, all together, was a wonderful moment. 10 years ago, I was the only person running in the house and suddenly they are all with me. Sadly, nowadays mostly in front of me.