05 Apr In the Spotlight – ABYD QUINN AZIZ

Thank you Abyd for taking up the challenge that is “In the Spotlight”…..loved the name-dropping, I have a few Steve Ovett stories that I can share if I get nominated!

WHEN DID RUNNING START FOR YOU?

I ran my first race when I was 8, coming 5th in the Junior Mile at an American school in Zaire (now DR Congo), while my brother won the Seniors. We then moved to the UK and I didn’t really run apart from PE, initially hockey or football training until Mr. Bowman (PE teacher and Football Coach) sent the first team out to race two laps of the football pitch, as we didn’t have any middle-distance runners in the school team. I seemed in my element and was selected for the 800m.

There was an intense rivalry between my school and another local school (where Raheem Stirling went decades later and won the Brent 1500 m) and between us, we had the sprints sewn up in the County and did quite well in the Nationals. My running buddy Paul (Whitmarsh) will tell you I’m a terrible name-dropper and a run never goes by without me regaling him with tales of who I’d met in the previous week.

That was the start of my racing and I won some 800m (Borough and County), 1500m and local cross country (Borough) races and ran for Queen’s Park Harriers in the National League.  My best memories were when my parents came to watch me run one race each (my brother came often).  My father came to watch me win the 800 at the Borough championships and we gave Alan Lerwill (Commonwealth Long Jump gold 1974) a lift home.  My mother and sister’s one race saw me race the GLC 800m at the West London Stadium (home of Thames Valley Harriers) where I came second.  Adding to the excitement was that Pete Browne (UK champion 1971, GB runner, Commonwealth medalist and member of QPH) lent me his, custom made spikes that weighed nothing.  At medal time, Pete came and got me to go up to the rostrum and when my family asked who that was, I was able to tell them it was the bloke I’d been telling them all about off the telly! I also ran at Cwmbran which was one of the first tartan tracks in the UK.

I suppose running and football kept me off the mean streets of Wembley, where I grew up on a 1000-household, concrete, high rise council estate and most of my friends spent much of their time battling skinheads (and being hassled by the police). Also, begin Asian, at that time, we hadn’t yet grown the confidence to stand up for ourselves.  Through school and my first degree I only played football with one Asian and there was only one other in the County Athletics Championships, a very elegant Chinese 400m runner.  I remember watching the Olympics decades ago and my pb was 23 seconds faster than India’s 800 metres runner!

I had a coach and my school PE teacher was a good influence, even sticking up for me when I’d not done some homework, by explaining to the Biology teacher what I’d run over the weekend.  Someone else who took an interest in my running, smoothing the way for me to go to Borough Road College to become a PE teacher, and introducing me to a young kid called Daley Thompson (I’d recently beaten Dave Kidner, UK Decathlon champion at 400 metres).

I chose to go to Portsmouth to study biology but also because they had a strong National League running club, but unfortunately their track closed down and with my brand new bank account, full of a student grant and freedom, I discovered sex and drugs and rock n’roll, which made me not bother training. I did run in the British Universities Cross Country Championships up in Stirling and won the British Polytechnics Sports Association 800m, but was far more famous at college as part of the champion beer drinking team (I could down a pint in easily under three seconds).

I carried on playing football, getting more and more unfit and once played against my old school’s old boys’ team, refereed by Mr. Bowman, hearing him proudly telling his team how he’d taught me how to take corners!

HOW DID YOU COME TO JOIN P&D?

Three decades later, my son Samir was born and I thought I should get a little fitter so that I could run around with him. I began jogging around Penarth, where I had a two and a three mile loop.  I came to a club session having seen a note on the board at the Leisure Centre, scared of all the young, fit, speedsters and on the jog to the session ran with Bill Fear who told me all about his 3.15 marathon! Despite this, and perhaps due to Janice and Clem’s welcoming nature, and Andrew making me run marathons, I came back and apart from a couple of years hiccup, am a regular.

WHY DO YOU RUN?

The sociable and friendly nature of the club is special and hit home to me over the last couple of years through some family difficulties and Paul and Mandy (Barrington) especially helped keep my head together by getting me out and just listening patiently to all my stuff!

In terms of running, it’s such a great way to stay in touch with my body and a way of emptying my mind from all that clutter, but also in recognition of how lucky I am that I can run, which I remind myself of when I’m puffed and being overtaken! As I’m getting fitter, I’m also getting back to that lovely feeling of striding along (not yet gliding) with a bunch of mates who’ve seen me crash, dance, pulled toenails off me and shown real care in sticking with me.  That puts the world into some context.

WHO IS YOUR RUNNING INSPIRATION?

My first hero was easily Steve Ovett, with his long hair, so much more than (in my view) the boring, careerist Seb Coe, both of whom I had the pleasure of racing.  Coe at the Serpentine Relays and Ovett at the Cosford (indoor) games where I came second to him.

WHAT EVENT, PAST OR PRESENT, WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE PART IN AND WHY?

I’d have loved to have been at the Mexico Olympics when Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised black gloved fists during the Star-Spangled banner or at Munich when Hitler had to watch Jesse Owen smash the ‘master race’.

WHAT’S NEXT?

An ambition is to run the Palestine Half Marathon, after supporting the team that came over to do the Castles Relay, but probably to just keep running as long as I can and we’re allowed.

Abyd getting “hot and bothered” at the Edinburgh Marathon…..

WHAT GOLDEN PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER RUNNERS?

Make sure it’s fun, set yourself targets to motivate yourself as that works for me, wear ID running alone and remember to have fun!

ANY RUNNING SUPERSTITIONS?

No running ones but I didn’t wash my Liverpool shirt for the whole of the 2000-01 season!

FAVOURITE DISTANCE?

Back in the day it was 800m; was my serious race, but having two GB internationals in our club meant I often ran 400m Hurdles or Steeplechase for fun and points. These days I really don’t know, as I’ve not raced properly for a few years….possibly anything between 400-10km.

WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO NOMINATE?

Simon ‘Cyril’ Grant

5 Comments
  • Clem
    Posted at 23:08h, 05 April Reply

    Good read. Thank you Abyd. I think you forgot to mention Usain Bolt but just about everyone else was in there

  • Anna Helsing
    Posted at 06:59h, 06 April Reply

    Great read Abyd…so many names to drop! I had no idea!

  • Bashyr Aziz
    Posted at 07:23h, 06 April Reply

    Your piece helped me discover so much I didn’t know about you, my brother. I remain grateful that when you learned that I had signed up to run my first (London) marathon almost a decade ago, you immediately signed up too, just so you could keep an eye on me.

  • Tricia Cottnam
    Posted at 17:50h, 06 April Reply

    wow Abyd, why didn’t you go pro???

  • Janice
    Posted at 09:59h, 07 April Reply

    You’re still a rock n’ roller Abyd! I feel most honoured that I’m in amongst all those celebrities! x

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