For a bit of fun, instead of writing about racing I will showcase a little of the group I train with and am a proud member of. It’s a bit too informal to include in Athletics Weekly!
So the Rod Squad: aptly named because our coach is called Rod and, um, it’s a squad, which rhymes. But you probably knew all that already. People probably don’t know all the members though which is why I thought I would write this piece. In no particular order I will talk about them.
Let’s start with Rod. He’s been our coach and mentor for so many years now, and has selflessly put his all into the group to make it what it is. I have been with him for 6 years now and couldn’t honestly say I’d rather be coached by anyone else. The same applies to training with the group but we’ll get to that. His knowledge, passion and enthusiasm for every athlete in the group is a key part to our success. Of course the Rod Squad has existed longer than my time and has had some notably talented athletes in the past, just as it does now.
Matt Hibberd is the “secretary” for the group if it requires a label. He’s essentially the glue that keeps everyone working together in harmony, even when tempers fray. He is incredibly passionate about the sport and group but it also a successful athlete himself, recently winning the indoor 3k age-group Southern champs. He’s looking to run close to 4 minutes for 1500 this season which for a V35 would be some achievement!
Jonny Roberts has been in the group as long as I have, give or take (we both joined Southampton uni in 2012), and we have both since changed our allegiance to Southampton AC. By his own admission he hates any kind of mud but is rapid over 800 and 1500 (leaves me for dead on 200m reps!), and is all but sure to make his second consecutive outing at the prestigious British champs later this season, a great achievement when he, like myself, never went to an English schools track champs as a junior. It’s what happens when you stick at it!
Speaking of British Champs, we are soon to have a third member to go! Laura Brenton will make her debut there this year after making the qualifying standard over 5k, following a 36 second PB yesterday. Laura joined the Rod Squad a few years ago now and hasn’t looked back, having found consistency she hadn’t experienced previously.
Matt Revier has enjoyed a real resurgence in form recently, running his second fastest time over 5k yesterday, with his fastest set in 2015! This season has all the makings of a great one for him, with qualification for British champs a definite possibility this year. In training he sits in with Jonny and myself which is a huge benefit for the three of us.
Ben Brewster joined us a couple of years ago and has integrated really well with the group. An injury has sidelined him in recent months but he is back running and will soon return to group training again. Ben is a prominent force in the Police, winning numerous national titles and representing the GB Police team.
Isaac Farnworth is one of our most recent recruits, having joined Solent uni this year. Training with the group has helped him enormously and has seen him flourish on the Cross, finishing 18th in the UK U20 champs among other good results. A freak bicycle accident and subsequent injury have kept him out for a few weeks now but I’m sure he will be back soon. I swear teenagers are made out of rubber?
Matt Bennett is one of our longest-standing group members, and whilst has had brief periods where the sport has not been at the forefront of his mind (as we can all appreciate!), remains an active and friendly addition to the team. Not to mention being a great athlete over a range of distances, although specialising in the longer events.
Paul Johnson, Jon Hannan, Stu Hicks and Jim Bennett (not drawing age-comparisons here, promise!) are four of our vet category athletes, and have made fantastic progress this year, already showing PB form this track season. If only the latter two raced more often!
We also have a few members we see less regularly but are still very much part of the squad. Rachael Phelps has joined only very recently but we hope will feature more and more in the coming months. Paul Laslett was once a stunning 800m man, running 1:47 and has since resumed training with us. Matt Emery, Steve Underwood, Jack Gregory Martin Johnson and Gareth Klepacz live away from Southampton but communicate with the group and train whenever they are around, David Coak (Southampton Mar 2017 winner) trains in Southampton and trains with different groups including our own.
Then there’s myself of course, but I’m not going to highlight my achievements. What that highlights is that we have a vibrant, diverse group of talented athletes and people. We share a common goal in performing at the best of our ability but that’s not just what we’re about. We have developed some lasting friendships that will go on for years to come, and as testimony to that we still communicate and welcome past members that live thousands of miles away, such as Matt Emery in Dubai! We motivate and inspire each other, and undoubtably perform better as a result. As they say, a happy athlete is a successful one and we showcase that really well. That point is especially true this weekend, where four of our members (myself, Jonny, Rev and Laura) went to Manchester for one of the BMC fixtures, renowned for achieving fast times. It is however, far from a guarantee to run fast; a lot has to come from the athlete. Through supporting each other we came away with 3 Seasons Bests (2nd fastest ever times in fact), a PB and a British qualifying standard, which typically ranks an athlete within the top 25 in the country over that discipline. I don’t think we’d have performed as well if it weren’t for the fact we all went up together, stayed overnight in Stoke (at the mighty Birds Nest Cabin) and generally supported each over over the trip. And the same is true for all members of the Rod Squad I’m sure.
So hopefully I’ve given an insight into this fantastic group I train in and am very proud to be a part of. It’s been difficult at times; always will be in a group of such driven individuals, but together we’re stronger and it’s made my athletics career in this time that bit more fun! #RodSquadTtT
P.s. TtT stands for “Trust the Triangle”, the hallowed turf we train on during the Winter months.