I was born and raised in a city called Melbourne in Australia. Melbourne could easily be characterised as one of the most sport-crazy cities in the world, and from my experience of living in a couple of places – that is not far off the mark. I used to joke that greetings in Melbourne went “What is your name?” first, and then “What team do you support?” second. It wasn’t even a question of sport – it had to be Australian Rules Football – or ‘footy’ as we called it. It was just a natural thing; we needed to know what team you followed in order to categorise you immediately – to put you in a bucket. If you said ‘Collingwood’, I could marvel that you actually had your full set of teeth and rapidly put my hand on my wallet for security reasons. If you said ‘Footscray’, I could pass comment that I wondered what class of drug you were currently high on. If you said ‘Sydney’, I could immediately infer that you had only followed the sport leisurely and had no fucking idea what you were talking about. You get the idea.
So then I moved to London, and I wanted that kind of tribal loyalty again – though I knew that it would have to be, in a way, manufactured. You can’t replicate a lifetime (years 1993-1996 excepted) of support for a single team by simply dropping in. But how do you choose? How do you choose your loyalty with little frame of reference to pick from? I decided I needed a system, I needed a completely objective process. So I said – wherever home is when I first get to London; the team closest to that will be my team. Fair enough right? Here’s the problem – the first place I lived was Kensington. So QPR, Fulham or Chelsea could lay claim. I decided Fulham. But I had a problem – no-one cared. People would ask who I supported, and I’d say Fulham, and they’d kinda shrug. That wasn’t what I was looking for! So I hit reset and said -the next place I move to; that will be it. And I moved to Caledonian Road in North London. On match days, when the wind was blowing the right way, I could hear the sounds from the Emirates Stadium bellowing out. When I told people that I supported Arsenal, they would sneer. I had found my team – though trying to get passionate about them was sometimes trying, because I didn’t necessarily have that conditioned feeling for it that I have for my Australian Rules (footy) team, Melbourne. But I tried to get into it.
It hasn’t been great being an Arsenal ‘supporter’, but it hasn’t been completely rubbish. A couple of trophies, and a couple of embarrassing walks to work after European floggings – but all in all, they’ve been great to follow. Much the same like Melbourne really; ever disappointing and with fans accused of being fairweather at best. My kind of team. But then I did this:
And now I had something on the line. I had a real reason to dislike Spurs, and not just because I was supposed to. Because I hate losing – I hate losing at almost everything. I have to swallow a small part of my pride whenever I let my 5-year old daughter win a running race. I am 95% sure I will lose a Fantasy Football league I am in this year, and I’m furious with myself! One of my driving motivators for getting better at triathlon and running is because I am competitive enough that I want to be at the pointy end – not stuck in the middle. I am a competitive person, even though I try my hardest to suppress that as much as I can.
But in making this bet with Joanna – I lost, and I lost huge. It wasn’t even close. Arsenal have been abject to watch this year, and Spurs have been…well…they’ve been…good. They’ve been good to watch, a good professional football team. Arsenal haven’t been – and now I have to do a ParkRun (thank god its not a marathon!) in a Spurs shirt courtesy of Joanna. Time to take your medicine boy – you made your bed, now you have to run in it.
It’s all in great fun though, isn’t it? This is the kind of stuff that I was looking for, this kind of feeling, this kind of rivalry. It’s great. Though I won’t enjoy running in the shirt.
And it’s actually come at a rather good time, as my running is on the upswing at the moment. I’m not setting myself any targets, just running. Trying to get that mojo back and build myself up to being as fast as I know I can be. I did a track session with Chasers on Tuesday night, and I loved it, even if it did make me feel glacially slow and inferior compared to all of these amazingly fast people (and their bodies – my goodness – chiselled gods in all directions; I bet they don’t eat Pizza Hut for dinner!). But I really pushed myself because I was surrounded by all these fast people, which was exactly what I was looking for. I’ll be back.
So I’m running well, in that I am running. I’m reminding myself that this is supposed to be run focused triathlon training, as I still have designs on returning to triathlon to do 70.3s in the future. I know my end-goal targets (under 0:30 swim, 2:30 bike and 1:30 run) that are incredibly optimistic for someone of my standard, but something I want to push for somehow. I have to believe I can do it – and I have to work for it. Spending this year focusing on the run is a good way to start that, while I still pursue my other pieces that are ongoing (which are going well – past the halfway word count on my PhD draft!!).
Lots of work to do on the roads of West London. Sadly, some of it in a Spurs shirt. Go Gunners!
Listening To: ‘The Captain’ by Biffy Clyro