Sorry, it's been a while since I last wrote, but life doesn't seem to get much quieter even though the children are growing up and not always at home.
A while back I promised to write about our enjoyment of the Olympics, but that all seems so long ago now. Our village and nearby towns celebrated the success of our local athletes and paralympians with an open top bus tour a couple of weekends ago. We were lucky with the weather and crowds turned out to cheer – it brought back the feeling of everyone pulling together towards a common aim – something that I think the summer of 2012 was memorable for.
As a family we were lucky to secure tickets for a few events – Bex and I saw Zara Phillips compete in the dressage phase of the eventing at Greenwich Park, and we walked around the cross country course which enhanced our enjoyment of the TV coverage the following day.
We all saw the Beach volleyball in the incredible arena at Horseguards' Parade (see picture above) – it was more like a festival than the Olympics with fanfare music for every point scored and Mexican waves every few seconds. Great fun, but I'm a bit of a purist and I'm not convinced the sport should be in the Olympic programme.
We had the chance to get into the main Olympic Park on the last Saturday to watch the men's hockey final, and we went early to soak up the atmosphere in the park. We saw Mo Farrah win his second gold medal on the big screen in the park – what an occasion! Everyone was shouting and screaming as he crossed the line.
My brother Pete had managed to get a ticket for me to attend the women's modern pentathlon event on the final day of the Games, which was wonderful for me as that was the sport that I competed in all those years ago.
It has changed in format since my day, although the five events are the same – show jumping, fencing, swimming, shooting and cross country running. We took four days to complete it, with the fence alone lasting up to 15 hours, but to make it more 21st century spectator and media friendly, it is now condensed into one day. Exhausting!
As I watched the first the event – fencing in the Copperbox arena – I felt nostalgic and slightly envious – in my day we only ever had a few spectators and no one really knew much about the sport unless they were involved in it.
It was an Olympic event for men – in fact the founder of the modern Olympic, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, devised the sport to find the Victor Ludorum of the Games – 'the most all round athlete of mind and body.' He decided on the disciplines a King's messenger needed to complete his task during times of war, carrying his message on horseback until it could go no further, when he should run the rest of the way, swimming across rivers and fighting all-comers with his pistol and sword!
Until Sydney 2000. women's modern pentathlon was not part of the Olympic programme so the highest we could go was to win the World Title, which I did in 1979. Nowadays, many more people take part and the standard is much higher (although I was pleased to see I'd have been in the top ten swimmers with my best time!)
It is gruelling for the athletes – after fencing and swimming they had to travel to Greenwich to ride a horse they've never seen before over a course of 15 jumps, and then don running kit to race the final 2000 metres, stopping three times to shoot a laser pistol. The more you are puffing for breath and the faster your heart is beating, the harder it is to hit the target, but until five shots have done exactly that you can't continue the run, so valuable time is lost. It was such an exciting finish, with British pentathlete Samantha Murray shooting and running brilliantly to overtake two opponents and take the silver medal. The stadium was full – everyone was standing, cheering and waving – I wasn't alone in shedding an excited and emotional tear or two!
It was a fantastic way to end the Olympics for me, but as a family, we always seem to have some sporting exploit to look forward to. Bex decided earlier this year to run a marathon! She's never really been a runner, but once she puts her mind to something she seems to be able to do pretty much anything! Her choice was the New Forest Marathon, a beautiful course in good weather, but the day for the race was predicted to have heavy rain and high winds!
It rained solidly all day but around 1000 brave (mad?) people battled the elements to complete the 26.2 mile route, some of which was along muddy forest tracks. At one point a herd of New Forest ponies trotted down the lane in front of some runners!
Bex was delighted to finish, exhausted, in her target of under four hours – her time was 3 hours 59 minutes and a few seconds!! A fantastic effort for her first ever marathon. We drove to various points of the course and managed to cheer her on in seven different places, getting absolutely soaked in the process. Olley asked me if I wished I were doing it myself – I'd expected to feel that I did, but this time, funnily enough, I really didn't!
Talk to you again soon…