As regular readers will know, the Running and Endurance Sports Performance of the Year awards were born out of my own personal frustration with the BBCs Sports Personality of the Year awards shortlist. You can read why I was so annoyed and how the RESPYs nominations poured in here.
Little did I imagine however, that my solitary rant into the keyboard, from my flat in north London, would attract such attention, generating passion and inspiration and leaving me, at times, reading such great nominations with tears of pride and amazement in my eyes. So first of all, to everyone that bothered to contact me – either by email or twitter or through comments on the blog – thank you! Thank you for showing me that there is still deep passion in this country for endurance sports and for the athletes who test themselves, very often for little or no reward, week after week. These are people constantly striving to be the best runners and endurance athletes they can be and by doing that they show the rest of us the way.
I was also deeply moved by the depth of knowledge that so many responders to my request for nominations showed about the people they wanted to win the award. So often I think, sport is blighted by partisanship whereby athletes or players are either lauded or vilified, not for their skill or devotion or dedication, but for their affiliation or the colour of the shirt they wear. Throughout the RESPYs process, none of that came across. The nominees were suggested and voted for because they were recognised as having done something amazing in 2011 – a running or endurance sports performance (or performances in some cases) worthy of recognition.
Awards are for awarding
However as with all endurance events, whilst taking part is a phenomenal achievement in itself, there must always be a winner – in the case of the RESPYs two winners: one male and one female.
I must admit now that the process for picking the winner possibly lacked complete rigour. I counted up the nominations and votes for the individuals who had been mentioned, I spoke to some experts in endurance sports that I know and I read what I could about the most nominated/voted for individuals. And then I chose…
And the winners are…
Chrissie Wellington for the women’s award for her phenomenal performance in Kona in 2011, where she won an amazing 4th world championship despite an extremely nasty crash on the bike only weeks before the race. I do not have the words to describe how tough a competitor Chrissie is and at the same time what an amazing ambassador she is for her sport and her passions, especially helping those less fortunate in the world. I truly believe that Chrissie Wellington should have won the BBC SPotY (as well as a myriad other awards) for her increadible dedication to the sport and her unbelievable determination to the the best that she can possibly be. Which, it turns out, is rather good indeed. Chrissie, you are a most deserved winner.
Scott Overall for the men’s award for his massively impressive 5th place and Olympic marathon qualification with 2:10:55 in his debut race over 26.2 miles in Berlin 2011. Scott is not an overnight phenomenon, having raced at shorter distances very successfully for many, many
years. But without fanfare and knowing that he had no opportunity to try the distance out before having a crack at Olympic qualification, Scott simply ran his own race in Berlin and showed endurance runners throughout the UK that the era of global marathon dominance by men from the UK might be over for now, there is no reason why we cannot start to see a return to the ‘good old days’ that so many commentators lament is over. And more than just the fact that Scott ran such a great time in Berlin, he is also at the heart of a group of runners who are now looking to emulate what he has done – even to the extent that he will be pacing other GB runners in the London marathon who are looking for the elusive sub-2:12 time to get them on the team. So for just going out there and pushing back the barriers that many thought were insurmountable, and at the same time making sure that there will be at least one GB vest to yell for on marathon day in the London Games in August, we salute Scott Overall and wish you all the best for a great race in 2012.
The Future for the RESPYs?
So what is next, I hear you ask? Well the RESPYs really showed me that there is passion and knowledge amongst the readers of this blog. So at the very least there will be another RESPYs for performances in 2012. Beyond that, I am still keen to acknowledge and highlight runners who might not be at the very front of the pack in major races, but who show us all that we can achieve more than we ever thought possible, so I will work on a way to develop the Runners At The Sharp-end and showcase those sorts of people. And I think that some way to doff our collective caps to all the people who work tirelessly, often voluntarily, to help keep running, erm… running should be created. So please all get your thinking caps on and if you want to nominate for the RESPYs 2012 throughout the year then please do – I am sure there is a small, low-key athletics meeting happening in London this summer which might throw up a few suggestions!