Peter Stevens had a rich personal history with Wellington Scottish and a track record of outstanding results. What brought him to his long-term coaching relationship? He tells his story and explores the many benefits of connecting with the right coach.
I’ve had a long history of running at Scottish – my first real run being as a 9-year-old in what was called the ‘Old Timer’s Trophy’ (under 13) around Prince of Wales Park.
Robert (my brother), Peter, Grandpop (=Alf Stevens and sometime Scottish Patron), Alan Stevens, Todd.
I ran and raced intensively through my teenage years for Scottish and Hutt Valley High School. Although the junior boys and colts teams were very much supported by our very own Don Dalgleish, I personally did not ever have formal coaching. Despite getting I’m sure ‘pointers’ from my Dad (Graeme), Uncle (Alan) and Grandpop (Alf Stevens) – all very accomplished runners on a national and international stage – my training was very unstructured and somewhat haphazard. A typical run was conning the PE teacher to let the cross country team get out of rugby and soccer skills development and to let us out of the school grounds for an ‘adventure run’. These inevitably involved us either getting lost exploring new off-road parts of the Hutt Valley or having kamikaze time-trial races down tracks, through streams & across bridges in Belmont Regional Park. Great fun!
My running ‘career’ was terminated quite abruptly by severe ankle ligament damage incurred while playing a practical joke on Waikanae Beach Golf Club members (ask me for the story!). Thereafter I moved to Auckland for studies and only rarely ran in fun runs. No Scottish club was a factor (a Stevens cannot run for any other club!), but intensive studies, house DIY and getting married and youngsters were my other excuses.
An unexpected move back to Wellington, and then a daughter wanting to run for Scottish motivated me to get back involved with the club.
For Juliet’s first pack run, I stayed back at the clubrooms and poured the tea, before remembering that I had quite enjoyed running. Next thing, I was running (and struggling) in the ‘slow pack’. In time muscle memory and fitness came back, leading to enjoyment and racing success.
To be fair, despite success, my training was still quite haphazard, and I’ve always prioritised other stuff (work, volunteer work, DIY, family life, beach house etc) over running.
Good results came quite easily … until I was ‘conned’ into entering my first marathon. I died. And doing a shit marathon was not the ‘gig’ for a person who has Todd as his beloved cousin!
So, to redeem myself in the eyes of Todd and Alan, I was again conned into a marathon – this time the ‘50+ Scottish entrants for the 50th Rotorua’ event. I knew I needed support and structure. I turned to cousin Todd for advice – and got it. Structure, distance and pace eventually led to a pleasing result (2.46.55, 1st MM50) at Rotorua. I even didn’t do many dumb things under Todd’s tuition – except running in my racing flats, which, being a shorter/faster type of guy, I had always done without socks. On the start line folks were a little concerned to see no socks. They were right … though the pool of blood in my shoe I discovered after crossing the finishing line made a great pic!
I might be a slow learner, but my success with Toddie led in 2016 to a discussion with then Scottish Coaching co-ordinator Simon Keller about getting a coach. After discussions, Simon introduced me to the wonders of working with Chris and Anne Hare. I had known Anne since I was at school, so this was a great re-connect after her Olympian greatness; Chris, I felt I immediately connected with and have grown to admire immensely. Having an athlete who was older, was a bit fragile at times, has a full-on life outside running and prioritises running with (and in support of) his mates must be a challenge. [Can you imagine having an athlete who wants to run, and has the potential to do well, at the World Athletics Champs, but risks injury by treating the cross country season and being part of a Road Relay Team as a ’non- negotiable?’ Yes – I know you told me so Chris!].
However, Chris and Anne have understood what makes me tick, recognised that my goals might not be completely logical or consistent, and worked to straighten out of the worst of my idiosyncrasies to get the best out of me. Most of all, the structure Chris has given me – with flexibility around immovable objects – has been invaluable. Having to front up and be accountable mentally to ‘my coach’ has also benefited me.
There are other benefits: Chris and I enjoy getting together to have a ‘strategy session’ over a Garage Project or Pan Head SuperCharger. The four of us (Chris and Anne, my wife Michelle and I) also get together to share a home-cooked dinner accompanied by nice wine and only the odd conversation about running.
Isn’t this what it’s all about? Camaraderie, competition, friendship, wine and food, with good results a bonus. But it certainly took me a long time (till I was in MM50s) to get a coach. I can thoroughly recommend making the decision earlier…