id107-The Art of Coarse Athletics

Written by Anon   


Those of a certain age and appropriate persuasion will, perhaps, recall some humorous ramblings entitled ?The Art of Coarse Rugby? by Michael Green . The book fell off my book shelf recently and I reflected on the contributions I had come across over time in Coarse Athletics.

Yes,it does exist,though not being a physical contact sport ,the Coarse Athlete has to wage more of a psychological battle with the opposition. And do not think it does not happen! The Coarse Athlete does also have a considerable disadvantage compared with the Coarse Rugby player insofar as athletes as a general rule - though there are notable exceptions! - tend not to repair to the bar after matches,where by 9 pm,the athletic equivalent would have Yuriy Sedykh?s World Hammer record surpassed by several metres,even if the perpetrator might admit to a few irregularities.

No,the Coarse Athlete has to be substantially more subtle and cunning - deliberate coughing or sneezing as you go to your blocks can unsettle opponents as can loud and pointed discussions with your A/B string lauding a particularly accomplished training session only two nights before.A rare but confirmed instance of a mobile phone ringing as the athletes went to their blocks occurred at an SML match at Dartford in 2005,though,sadly,it has to be said that this was hardly tactical since the athlete was 'on call' for the weekend - pity since it would have been a prime example of coarse athletics,even if mobile phones are,strictly,banned from arenas.The aim is to unsettle your fellow runners,but stopping short of personal comments and without straining one?s harmonious relationship with the marksman. This tactic is sometimes employed by professional cricketers(more often Australians),and is called 'sledging', but they are an altogether different bunch who resort to nasty,vile suggestions,something to which a Coarse Athlete would never lower himself!

Another ploy is to wear loud apparel which may be both childish and silly,but may well distract the opponent by forcing him to smile or wince,which all helps to break his concentration.

In the field events,slyly kicking your opponents' check marks or substituting a 700g implement for an 800g one can also create an advantage for the coarse athlete.

Choosing one of the less popular events where there are fewer likely starters can be worth a try at coarse athletics level,since this does enable you to get into club ranking lists by default,this being one of the prime traits of the coarse athlete - get noticed without necessarily being an elite athlete. Talking of the elite,they,too,practise a version of coarse athletics but it is all too professional and the people tend to be regarded by the true coarse athlete as a little bit arrogant and to be prima donnas.

Veterans/Masters tend to be good examples of the Coarse Athlete,particularly as they get older when the ?choosing the appropriate event? ploy works best and it is,indeed, a mark of a true master of the art when the athlete crosses the line,turns to congratulate his sole opponent and still has time to put on his tracksuit before doing so - and that?s only in the sprints!

One excellent wheeze,used to good effect by Polytechnic Harriers in the 1970s/1980s,involved the use of a massive international rugby player. The plan required a useful A string ,usually in the 400m hurdles,and then the team manager unveiled this extra large but intensely-affable personage for the B string who was as big as all the other poor runners put together and who struggled to stay out of both lanes either side of him. The idea was that the A string looked(or was supposed to look) very good,helping to put off all the B string opponents who would presume they were running for 2nd place or worse in their race,and then the B string completely overawed those in his race whether he was better than them or not - most of them were either team managers or unwilling volunteers anyway!I confirm this did work! Unfortunately,the large rugby player became a serious performer,as he was at many sports,and soon ousted the A string runners into the B races,so fresh tactics had to be devised.

Turning up at the start lathered in an especially potent variety of Elliman?s Rub or some rurally-produced horse liniment has also been used effectively.

Officials can contribute to coarse athletics by applying to join ACROBAT.(This is a secret organisation not unlike the freemasons and details can be obtained by sending a stamped addressed envelope).

There are outlets,too,for team managers at junior levels to become versed in the art of coarse athletics,but this may incur the wrath of the UKA Police so I shall end this LIGHT-HEARTED,and intentionally irreverent, article now before I am banned for what little remains of my active athletic life!

PS Further anecdotes most welcome.


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