Click your way to a better day

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Geoff Wightman and Gavin Lightwood representing the #clickyourclock project, were named winners of the 10th European Athletics Innovation Award in Funchal, Portugal. They were presented the award by European Athletics Vice-President Jean Gracia, in charge of Member Federation Development.

Picture the scene.

You have spent a week preparing the final touches to your big 5km run, but on the day you have started badly. The weather has been rotten, the course was hillier than you expected and the personal best time you were desperate to break just never happened.

But then, with a few taps of the keyboard on to the '#clickyourclock weekly competition', you discover that you have actually made an improvement…

“It’s like a school report," says Geoff Wightman. "You are reading about yourself. How did I do? Click and find out.”

It is a time of celebration for both Wightman and Gavin Lightwood from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, who on Saturday night in Funchal became the winners of the 10th European Athletics Innovation Award at Golden Tracks European Athlete of the Year ceremony.

The award was created to encourage research and the sharing of new ideas leading to the promotion and development of the sport of athletics and #clickyourclock just does that.

It is a weekly competition, run in conjunction with runbritain/UK Athletics, to bring a whole new perspective to a runners’ individual journey in a mass sport.

Juts like golf, a handicap score is given and you can compare yourself with others. But so many factors are brought in.

Wightman, the former chief executive of Scottish Athletics and Lightwood, Runbritain’s road race co-ordinator, have worked together to produce this new insight for the athlete.

“Last year we were on about five million performances from UKA licensed races,” says Wightman. “This year it will be closer to six million.”

The increase is based on the marathons and 10kms which are rising and one of the big drivers are the 5km ‘parkrun’ events.

Wightman adds of #clickyourclock: “I always felt there was something you can say that would compare a 5km runner with a marathon runner and an out-and-out road runner with a track and cross country runner. It has made that comparison.

“The next evolution of that is that you have a score, let’s see if you improve better than someone else that weekend.

“We factor in a degree of difficulty for windy, hilly or just hard racing conditions.

“You might not have won a race, you might not have set a personal best, but you if you click your clock, you might have improved your score by more than anyone else in your locality or even nationally.”

The lowest handicapped runner at the moment is multiple Olympic champion and the newly-crowned male European Athlete of the Year, Mo Farah with -7.2 and though anyone can run well in a race, by clicking your clock, you can find out the complete level of your improvement.

A polar heart monitor is the prize for the weekly winner and it can also bring runners together.

Such is the level of comparison, that if an athlete from a particular borough is, say, fifth in his area, they can find out who the four are above them and then, being on a similar level, there is training they can share.

And equally if you are competing in an event abroad that you will know will count, you can self-declare a performance, with a cut off each week of Wednesday lunchtime before the results are produced.

“Just because you did not run a personal best, it does not mean you did not improve. The system factors all of that in and that is an incredibly clever piece of work by Tim Grose (of athletics data),” says Wightman.

“For that week, if you are the most improved runner, locally or nationally, that is a very big motivational thing. It is intended to make you feel you are progressing in the sport and feel good about doing so.”

It has the possibility of also being developed with any federation who compile results, along with the growing number of people who run and the increase in driving more people into the sport.

“I was very pleased with the award as it chimes with what European Athletics is looking to do,” says Wightman. “And if any individual federation is looking to compile results from road races, this is a logical step of making it more attractive for individual runners.”

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The annual European Athletics Coaching Awards were also presented to the coaches having made important contributions to the sport of athletics in 2016.

Anabela Leite (right), Paulo Murta (centre) and José Uva (left), of Portugal, received their European Athletics Coaching Awards from Vice-President Jean Gracia in charge of Member Federation Development.
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Anabela Leite (right), Paulo Murta (centre) and José Uva (left), of Portugal, received their European Athletics Coaching Awards from Vice-President Jean Gracia in charge of Member Federation Development.

The coach of each senior European champion from athlete is automatically nominated for the award and all European Athletics Member Federations had been invited to nominate one additional male coach and one additional female coach per year based on the criteria “excellence in coaching”.

Ms Anabela Leite, Mr Paulo Murta, Mr José Uva of Portugal, were invited to the Golden Tracks awards evening in Funchal to be the first to collect their awards on behalf of all the winners.

This year a total of 60 coaches representing 31 Member Federations will receive the award.

The remainder of the awards will be presented at national ceremonies.