Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Leisureworks Sport and Physical Activity Awards

I was asked way back in January to give a talk at the Leisureworks Sport and Physical Activity Awards. The challenge was to talk about the run across the USA in just my 20 allotted minutes. I now have an outline for an entertaining speech and I just leave it until the final delivery to ad-lib a bit and slot in various bits of humour. I actually won an award when I was 12 for public speaking. Who knew that one day I'd be doing it in front of so many people.

The awards night was held at The Empire Theatre in Consett.  It's a venue that has had investment over recent years and is full of character. Also full of character was the lovely Anna Foster (pictured below) from Metro Radio who was the compere for the evening. She is so down to earth and I really enjoyed listening to her banter on stage.

The evening started with entertainment from the brilliant dancers instructed by Leisureworks' Community Dance Instructor Kristin Abbott. This was followed by an impressive demonstration of Shikkari Karate Kai. It was like a mini variety show right in the middle of Consett. Brilliant stuff!

Those guys were a tough act to follow and when Anna introduced me onto the stage I knew I had to be on my game.

I really enjoyed talking about the run across the USA and all of the challenges that it brought. I even managed to get a few laughs here and there, much to my surprise. The crowd were great and I finished off my set with a 3 minute video which summed up perfectly what I'd been talking about. After a lovely round of applause I introduced a Zumba demonstration, led by Zoe Price. I just about managed to vacate the stage before the act started. This had been my biggest concern of the whole evening. Although, with the adrenalin still pumping after my speech I could have quite fancied a bit of Zumba on stage with the girls!

I spent the interval talking to some lovely people who were very interested in the run and had lots of questions to ask. One such person was Wayne Abbott (pictured below) who had a running background himself.

After the interval, it was down to business. There were 13 awards categories and it was brilliant to see so many worthy winners receiving their trophy. The whole process went very smoothly with Anna Foster pulling the strings on stage and various people presenting the trophies. I bet the Oscars don't run that smoothly!

Imagine my utter shock when, during the Physical Activity Achievement of the Year award sponsored by Northumbria Water, I saw my name on the screen with the other nominees. It is no word of a lie that my first thought was "What a coincidence. There's another Mark Allison here tonight.". When my name was read out as the winner, I even paused for a few seconds just to make sure that the other Mark Allison didn't get up to receive the award. 

I was absolutely gobsmacked and delighted when I got up on stage to receive the award; a nice glass trophy. It was just one more unbelievable thing that has happened to me since finishing the run across the USA. My name was actually in the programme as a nominee. I'd read the thing from cover to cover before the event started. I didn't even see my name, so the whole thing was such a surprise. I'm so sorry for pipping the other 5 nominees to the post. I'm sure we were all worthy winners in our own way.

Other than the public speaking trophy that I won 28 years ago, I've never won a thing. The little beauty pictured below is going to take pride of place in Run Geordie Run HQ. It means a massive amount to me as did the actual nomination, as did the reception I received at the end of my speech.

Without taking the award into account, I had a fantastic night at the awards ceremony. There's a lot of talent in Derwentside. 

The icing on the cake was the fact that Shotley Bridge and Benfieldside Tennis Club won the Sports Club of the Year. It's not only my local tennis club but the man who should have been there to accept the award, Phil Atess (pictured below), played a huge part in my run across the USA. Unfortunately, Phil was actually playing in a tennis tournament and couldn't be there on the night.

Phil ran from John O'Groats to Lands End in 1992 raising over £10,000 for charity. Phil coached me at Shotley Bridge and Benfieldside Tennis Club. He was responsible for proving to me that a person can run considerable distances with the right amount of training and preparation. His own experiences in running have influenced me greatly. It is for that reason that I dedicate my Physical Activity Achievement of the Year award to Phil Atess.