Being a dedicated marathon runner, sport in general and running in particular have helped me to establish contact with people in most of the places where I have been, and to bring me to many of these places. My work in 2010 and 2011 as a coach of a group of distance athletes in Laos (and an Australian runner and vet that joined the squad there) have ended by bringing me to Darwin, in Australia. But the true is that at this moment I live here, where I work as a development officer of Athletics Northern Territory. Of course Australia is not what many would denominate a ‘developing country’ and the situation here is obviously very different to that where I have worked in the past. But given the relative low amount of people doing athletics in the territory, and the isolation in which many rural communities live in this part of the world, this job has many similitude with previous jobs in the development sector. And at the end of the day, sport is one of the most powerful tools to boost personal and community development, isn’t it?
The Athletics NT Development Program for which I am responsible aims to provide athletes from entry level to the age of 23 with the tools they need to advance their outcomes and realize their aspirations in athletics. Two key pillars form the backbone of Athletics NT’s Programme:
- Athletics Play and Active After School Activities designed to teach of the skills of running, jumping and throwing through organised play and game based experiences and aiming to bring excitement into playing athletics.
- The Development and Academy Squads, which are designed to recognise and select athletes with talent and potential in the sport and to support them and their coaches in their future development in athletics by organizing activities that include specific coaching clinics, workshops, training camps and assistance in the participation at Athletic events such as Australian All School Track & Field Championships, Australian Junior Track & Field Championships and Australian under 23 Track & Field Championships.
Sounds professional, doesn’t it? Well, my real deep motivation is to introduce kids in the territory to athletics, that they enjoy it and that it contributes positively to their personal development. The Northern Territory is huge (1,349,129 square kilometers), and getting to the different sites with associated clubs or where to implement this program is not easy. The vibrant capital city of Darwin, which has been hand-picked by Lonely Planet as one of the world’s top 10 cities to visit in 2012 is closer to Asia than any other capital city in Australia. And, Alice Springs, which has two club in the association, is on a 2 hour plane ride from Darwin. Other places that I will have to visit are Kathrine (just three hours ride from home) and Arnhem Land, which is located in the north-eastern corner of the territory and is around 500 km from Darwin. During my time in Peru, some young runners I trained with gave the nickname of ‘padrino rapido’ (fast godfather). But given the legend of the Flying Dutchman (a ghost ship that can never make port) looks like the story of my life (I also seem doomed to sail over the oceans forever) and that I may need to fly to do part of my job, I think soon I will get the nickname of flying coach-man (the name of Arnhem Land comes from how the explorer Matthew Flinders named the region after the Dutch ship Arnhem). By the way, and three weeks already after the Marathon of Amsterdam, I do not feel rapido or flying at all!!
Alex and Noel after finishing the Amsterdam marathon (picture by Erki.nl)
Read Full Post »
Lao Team about to go out for pre-race dinner (left to right) – Emma Zalcman (coach), Mr. Sengkeo Sengsuritoa, Mr. Bountom Glorkham, Ms. Souvanhy Phengthijack, Ms. Souksavanh Malivanh, Ms. Touly Phengphalung, Ms. Khout Keo MuenKot, Mr. Sysavath Thammavongchit, Mr Alex Van De Meer (Coach)
When Ya (19) and Souk (19) travelled to Siem Reap last Friday they had no intention of winning the 15th Angkor Wat International 10 Km running race. But after running 32’12” and 38’26” respectively, they did not only win one of the most popular races in the South Asian running calendar, they also set new course records in both the men and the women category. Starting at 6.40 AM last Sunday 5 December 2010 in front of Angkor Wat temple, both Lao runners dominated their respective races in a course that offers fantastic views of historical temples and lush jungle.
Angkor Podium 10 Km 2010 1st - Ms. Souksavanh Malivanh 2nd – Ms Koh Leng Leng (Singapore) 3rd - Ms. Touly Phengphalung
Souk’s victory is a new 10 Km national record and provides additional motivation during her preparation for the upcoming SEA student Games in Chiang Mai, where she will represent Lao PDR in the Womens 1500m. Toly (15) accompanied Souk on the podium after she ran in 40’17”, to finish 3rd. Toly is the current national champion in the 800 meters. In this same race Khout (15) and Souvanhy (15) ended impressively to come 5th and 7th respectively.
Ya, who represented Laos last year during the SEA Games in Vientiane, and about whom I wrote some posts ago, improved his personal best by more than 2 minutes in Angkor Wat International 10 Km. In the same race Tom (23) ran 34’15”, taking him to the 4th position. In the half marathon race Seng (24), who holds the national record in the marathon (and about whom I already wrote in a previous post) had injury concerns after the 14th Km when he was still running in the 4th position. Despite the problems during the race, and a difficult preparation towards Angkor (Seng suffered from Malaria – thanks doctor Cecile for your help), Seng ran the half marathon in a strong 1h. 25’.
Podium Angkor 2010 10 Km Men 1st - Mr. Sysavath Thammavongchit, 2nd – Alex 3rd – Mr Leroy Vial (Expatriate friend residing in Vientiane)
The team was accompanied by Emma a group of expatriate running enthusiasts living in Vientiane who offered considerable financial support to the athletes and myself. Financial assistance was also provided by Joma, The Laos Elephants Football Club and Athletics Essendon (an Australian Athletics Club).
All runners of the Lao middle and long distance squad will participate in the Lao-Singapore Charity Run, which will be held next Saturday in Vientiane. This race is the only opportunity that these runners have this year to compete in a road race in their own country. This forces them to look for competitions overseas to keep developing their sport careers.
Laos Team warming up. From Left to Right - Mr. Bountom Glorkham, Ms. Souksavanh Malivanh, Ms. Touly Phengphalung, Ms. Khout Keo MuenKot, Mr. Sengkeo Sengsuritoa
Read Full Post »
Posted in marathon, tagged Sonia Bejarano on April 20, 2010|
Leave a Comment »
Conoce a la atleta de fondo Sonia Bejarano a través del reportaje realizado por el programa de televisión Campeonísimos.
Read Full Post »
Posted in marathon, tagged marathon on April 17, 2010|
2 Comments »
Marjolein Stegeman was really sharp while taking pictures during the marathon of Rotterdam last Sunday. The picture above has been selected for the “caption contest” that the Dutch website http://www.losseveter.nl organizes every week. Click on the picture and participate!
My caption is: “por mucho que corra se me sigue viendo los cuernos”.
Read Full Post »
Last December, Laos hosted a major international event, the SEA Games, which bring together the 11 countries in the region for a biannual sporting event. I was among the many skeptics who believed that the price that Laos had to pay to host this event was much too high. Many rumors circulated at that time about tracts of forest being cut down to make way for rubber plantations, hydroelectric power, development, mineral extraction, all as exchange value for the support of foreign donors (read China and Vietnam) to Laos to prepare for this event. But the SEA Games also brought lots of pride and enthusiasm to the Laotian. The attention to sports was on a high and, may be because of this, or because Laotian athletes had never trained that hard before, the truth is that Laos never won medals like during the 25th SEA Games before, and representatives of the most deprived strata in Lao society suddenly became national heroes!
Weeks later, billboard-sized posters of the SEA Games, flags with mascots Champi and Champa and stickers on many 4×4 cars driving through Vientiane are still signs of the sport fever that this country experienced. As many worry about the future for new national stadium and the athletes village, both constructed for the Games and now with no visitors except the daily Sun, my attention goes to a group of young runners that represented Laos during the SEA Games. Boys and girls between 15 and 22 years old that followed strict regimes of training and discipline aimed to fuel the country’s willingness to be not only a friendly but also a competitive host. The fuel of the flame of the games is finished, the lights of the stadium are switched off and the objectives of the cameras focus elsewhere. Even the Thai trainer, who was contracted to coach them before the SEA Games, is gone. Yet, they all maintain the passion and desire to become every day better, run every day faster, go always further. Even when they have to work harder now at school – to cover the gap they got for having to quite school for months to prepare themselves for the Games -, or when someone decides to cancel the only race in Laos they could train for in the coming months; they keep on training. With Sirivanh Ketavong, who competed in the marathon at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, as main inspiration and what Tonnie Dirks and Jeroen Zeinstra have taught me as back up to write their programs, after the SEA Games some of us still believe in Laos Su Su!!
We push each other to go further…
…and help each other to stand up
Lao runing squad (2010)
…because above all, it is fun!
Read Full Post »
Posted in marathon, tagged marathon on April 29, 2009|
Leave a Comment »
Yesterday, I was one of the 20,000 athletes and hand-bikes from 85 nations who took part in the annual marathon around Hamburg’s city centre. Together with friend and runningmate Marc Roig, I was the pacemaker for Alessandra Aguilar just more than 40km. Few times an amateur runner like me has the chance to experience such a race close to professional runners. The fact that Alessandra is a friend of mine made it even nicer. In fact, this was the fourth time time I make the pace in an international marathon for a friend. In the past I did it as well for Noel Keijsers in Eindhoven (twice) and for Claartje Maase in Amsterdam. Every time has been very special. Running for a friend is perhaps nicer than doing it for yourself. But the fact that Alessandra tried to qualify for the World Chmaps in Berlin this year, made the job quite tense. Luckly everything went fine, as you can see in the picture below.
Read Full Post »