Running and Fitness – The First 56 Years

Steve Woods

I started running at an early age, I would have been about five, the first run being a straight sprint down the street to the sweet shop with a three penny bit in my hand. There wasn’t another 5 year old in Lower Wortley as fast as me, within a week I was doing 3 fifty yard dashes a day, cost my Granddad a fortune in food, having said that at least I was getting my carbs. My Granddad would love walking and took me every morning for at least a three mile walk around lower Wortley, up by Wortley rec then down Gelderd Road, it wasn’t till recently that I realized it was so I’d sleep all afternoon so he could read the papers.


Even though I must have ate my body weight in sweets every day I worked it off by running and walking, day in, day out!


At school (Ingram Road) there was always an emphasis on sports such as athletics and football! I was fortunate enough to have a legend of a sports teacher Mr Jones (Taffy Jones to most who knew him) he would stop behind with us most nights to coach us indoor athletics, triple jump and high jump – we were all as fit as butchers dogs, When you get a good grounding at an early age for running and fitness you tend to want to keep it going, or at least I did.


Also, I think good genetics played a part, my dad was also a half decent runner having won running competitions in the Army – this only fuelled my desire to want to be a good runner too.


Through school we raced, my strength was certainly not 100 metres 200m or 400m but 800m I was pretty good, and 1500m I was unbeatable. My first school race, two of us raced 1500m against another school, of course I was nervous, we set off at a pace, no blood in my veins that day just pure adrenalin – I swear they made Forest Gump based on my running exploits that day, the teacher kept shouting at me slow down your going too fast (just like Ewan Mitchell does now on our runs 50yrs later) and a bit like with Ewan I didn’t listen to my teacher and ended up winning by a full 200 metres!


The dye had been cast. Needless to say the school entered me for the Leeds trials only for the teacher weeks later to tell us he’d made a mistake and got the wrong date so the whole school missed the trials, I was totally gutted of the thought what might have been. The opportunity not arising again as I discovered girls and truancy at the same time. 


Through my teenage years I always ran to a destination, avoiding the walk, I found it was always quicker, fitness has always been my thing, this probably being due to the fact my Mum had COPD from the age of 33 this through smoking and struggled to breathe most of her life, this was never going to be my future.


So fast forward the next forty years and here I am back running parkrun and numerous races with a burning desire to be the best in my age category in every race I run, tall order I hear you say, but one I will always pursue until the day my trainers are hung up!


I can’t say that I have ever been the best at training, but pin a number to my chest and I turn into a different animal. Very recently I have been lucky enough to be introduced to a runner who is at the top of the tree as far as running goes – I’ve quickly learnt from him how much I need to up my game to achieve my goals. I’m hoping this year to move to the next level, if I don’t it won’t be from the lack of trying!




Want to keep up to date with everything Run Leeds? Sign up now to stay in the loop!