29 Jun In the Spotlight – Andrew Palmer
Previously, when asked to write about myself, I have written – short, fat, bald, one legged bloke and that accurately sums me up in just six words, so to be asked to write 2000 scared me a bit, but here goes.
When did running begin for you?
Running started for me some time in 1999. I had been doing a lot of cycling and an old work friend of mine, Allan Duggan, who used to run for the T.A.’s (under Graham Finlayson) said he would take me out for a 3 mile jog. After that first run, I couldn’t walk for a week, my glutes ceased up and it felt like I had been given a good kick up the backside. I later found out they were three runners’ miles that were more likely to be 4.5 miles. I learnt a lot from Allan over my first couple of years of running, mainly don’t believe him when he says it’ll be a short run. As anyone who has trained with me will tell you, I never run around puddles, I go straight through them. Blame Allan for that. As I was tip-toeing around the edge of a puddle, he would tell me off saying ‘’You don’t do that in a race mind, you run straight through them’’.
Racing, who was he trying to kid?
Why do you run?
I started because I would get out of breath running for the bus and 15 years later I was would still get out of breath running for the bus, but now I always caught it. The thing is, running never gets any easier – you just get faster, but the effort (and pain) are a constant. That is what makes it a challenge. You are always fighting against your mind and body. When your head is telling you to give up and your legs are screaming at you, it is only the stubbornness and sheer bloody mindedness that keep you going. I’m sure a lot of people would agree it is an addiction. As Allan used to say ‘’Running is for life’’, and it becomes your way of life.
What race or moment in your running career holds the most significance and why?
Wow that’s a difficult one. Is it the first race I won a trophy in, the Penarth 10k That Wasn’t? I cycled into Cardiff did the Barnardo’s 40 mile bike ride to Bridgend and back, then cycled back to Penarth and ran the Penarth 10k route. I was 1st Senior male to finish but might have been the only senior male to run that morning. No, that wasn’t my significant race.
Was it the time I represented Wales in the Paralympic Games at Alexander Stadium when I won a Bronze for the 400m and a Gold for the 5k? In my Bronze medal race I came 3rd out of 3 and in my Gold medal race, I was the only amputee runner, being the only athlete in my T44 class, they awarded me the gold?? There is a pattern forming here. No, they were hardly significant races.
I suppose my most significant race(s) were around 2009 when I started to get quite good at running. I ran the Flora London Marathon in 3:07 with a really painful injury similar to the problem that has kept me from running for the last 30mths. I came 3rd in my age category at the Cheddar Half in 1:22 and finished 8th overall. Later that year I finished 93rd in the Cardiff Half in a time of 1:21.
These were the most significant in my memory.
Who is your running inspiration?
Before I started running, I was never interested in athletics, so I don’t have a running inspiration as such. My inspiration came from my coach Clive James. He took me on in the summer of 2002. I had just run my first marathon (London 3:53) and had arranged to meet up with another club member down the old Leckwith Stadium for some speedwork. He stood me up so I went on the track and saw Keith Lowther who used to train with P&D now and again so I asked if I could join their group. That session hurt so much I knew it must be good, so I asked if I could go again the following week. That was the start of a longstanding friendship not just with Clive but the rest of the group including Cath Tailby who went on to become my longest lasting running partner, in fact she outlasted me!
The first night I met Clive, I asked if I should pay him for the evening and he said ‘’No, as long as you show commitment and dedication that is payment enough for me’’. He turned up week in, week out, no matter what the elements threw at him just to watch us run round in circles. His dedication to us would be a huge debt to repay. I had a ropey start with the group, within a few months – after a poor track session Clive sent me an email asking why I had an 18m run on the Sunday, a speed session with club on Monday, ran home from work on Tuesday (7m) then turned upto track on Wednesday not fit to do the session (he kicked me off the track half way through because of my poor lap times). He went on to write ‘’You are not Superman. Think! What would Clarke Kent do?’’. That made me laugh even though he was putting me in my place. Clive didn’t suffer fools gladly; he spoke his mind. He asked why did I bother running cross country when I was rubbish at it. I was risking injury just to finish in the bottom 20 in the results. I said it was character building and if I could show half as much character on the roads then I would do alright. He said I would have to stop as I wasn’t competitive, the people I was finishing with were 5 or 6 minutes slower than me on tarmac. That was the temporary end to my off road running. Another time after a track session he said ‘’Right, that’s it. You are all done, you can warm down now’’ and I replied “That’s it? I was just getting warmed up!” to which he responded “I train race horses here Mr Palmer, if you want to run like a donkey then bugger off back to Penarth and Dinas”.
He knew his athletes down to a tee. If he predicted your race time would be say, 39:12 for a 10k then the athlete would usually end up running that time give or take a few seconds, so I used his knowledge of us as my inspiration. He was so clinical in his judgement and correct all the time that I would try my hardest to beat his predicted times by as much as possible just to prove him wrong. That made me happy and it gave him the returns he wanted too. He turned me from the fastest one legged bloke in Britain (a big fish in a small pond at the time) to being one of the fastest one legged distance runners in the world. I remember reading an article on Jake Ball in Runners World Online, he had just broken the world record for a single leg amputee 10k. He had run 37:37 and in his interview said that the world record for a Half Marathon was 1:21:46….I ran 1:21:00 in Cardiff that year. All of these achievements were down to Clive’s dedication and belief in me.
What event, past or present, would you like to take part in and why?
I have a lot of fond memories of races I would love to do again. Most of these memories come from the off-road races, probably because I was out of my depth but the stories we all told after the race always made us laugh. Like Man v Horse, I knew I wasn’t capable of doing the whole race so I agreed to do the last leg (10miles). It was absolute murder and left me in a state of shock for a bit after the race. It got so bad that as I was staggering along the top edge of this steep slope I considered throwing myself over the edge. I could say I tripped and then I could pull out without letting my team mates down. Then three young ladies ran past me, they told me how great and inspirational they thought I was.
It was that classic love story. Middle-aged man meets three young ladies, middle-aged man falls in love with three young ladies. Stupid old fool tries to keep up with young ladies but only lasts about half a mile then has to walk and they run off into the distance never to be seen again. Ah well, it’s better to have loved and lost…
I think one of my favourite off-road races I would love to do again would be the L’Oréal 9m race in Llantrisant. It cost about £7 to enter and they gave you a goody bag with about £15 worth of hair care products at the finish. My bald head felt bouncy and natural for months after. It was a great race running around the forestry behind the Fire Station, with a downhill finish on tarmac.
What golden piece of advice would you give to other runners?
Some people I travelled to races with used to get so worked-up about racing. I used to treat them as just another training run or a mere inconvenience. I would be on the starting line saying ‘’here goes another 90 minutes of pain. Sound the horn and let’s get it over with’’. I wouldn’t put pressure on myself until the hooter went off and then I would shoot off and run myself into the ground (usually that worked for 10 miles, then I would hang on in there for the last 3.1). Ok, so my methodology was a bit rubbish but it makes sense to treat pre race the same as pre Sunday morning run then, as the hooter goes off and the adrenaline kicks in, you forget about nerves and it is all about you and your ability. If you have done the training, there is nothing to fear.
Since being temporarily (I hope) prevented from running I have learnt to swim. I was training for the Paralympic 100m doggy paddle, but then I found out it doesn’t exist so I am blissfully enjoying it and building my strength up until they sort out the neuroma in my stump. If they can treat it effectively then I will return to running. That has been my goal and I have managed to stay overweight rather than plunging into obesity ready for my return.
Who would you like to nominate?
Since my last training session with Club some time in 2017, many of the people I know have left and many more I don’t know have joined, so I have picked at random Jan Frost to write the next profile.
Hope to see/meet you all soon at a Club get together or even a training run once this Covid-19 madness has come to an end.
Stay safe everyone and enjoy your running.