Presidential Profile (11/10/2017)

The 2017/18 season of the Birmingham & District Invitation Cross Country League will see Martin Smith of Droitwich A.C. of Worcestershire take over the role of League President. Through the summer we caught up with Martin and he gave us his background and thoughts.

2017 2018 Martin Smith

"I felt privileged and honoured when I was approached by Carolyn to become President for the ensuing year. I have been Treasurer of Droitwich AC for many years and our club has hosted a Cross County fixture every year for, probably 20 years.

I joined Droitwich AC soon after its inception in 1978. Aged 32, I made my come back into athletics having not run since leaving school. The club was formed by Daphne Arden and had a thriving junior section and I was probably one of the oldest in the club. I recollect participating in a relay practice and our team won several times. One lad piped up, ‘It ain’t fair, you’ve got all the best runners in your team.’ One of my team quickly responded ‘ No we ain’t, we’ve got an old man in our team!’ Finding myself slightly out of place, I probably remained a member for only a year or two when other family commitments took over.

Several years later, as I lived opposite the running track in Droitwich, I could see the people training on the track. By this time I could see there were now older people training there so I re-joined the club for my second comeback. By this time Droitwich had a cross country team which was quite successful as they had a couple of Triathlon athletes who had been selected for the England team. So, for my first race in years, I went into the loft and dug out my old spikes. However, being 25 years old, they disintegrated in the mud and I finished running with bare feet.

My subsequent attempts at Cross County fell far short of my success at school. I went to Holly Lodge Grammar School in Smethwick. Twice a year we would have a Cross Country which took us round Victoria Park and back. I was not a natural cross country runner but more of a sprinter. However, every year, for several years, I won every race purely by the fact I would hang in there and could out sprint the leaders at the end. I was more at home doing 400m and represented Staffordshire, ran for West Midland against Wales and was selected for England school boys.

At a later stage, I also joined Smethwick Harriers when Frank Cull was Chairman. I remember going along to the AGM and, when he asked for volunteers for Secretary, there was a long silence. Being a naïve 17 year old, I stuck my hand up, a bad habit I have been doing ever since. While I was Secretary, Smethwick Harriers merged into Oldbury Harriers and it was at this point I found I didn’t have time for running and stopped to pursue a career in Accountancy.

This bad habit of volunteering occurred again at the Droitwich AGM when Noel Wonfor decided he couldn’t do everything in the club so once again I volunteered as Treasurer and others were duly elected to the other roles. However, it wasn’t long before virtually all the other committee members couldn’t carry on and yours truly was left doing everything. More often than not, we struggled to put out a cross country team and over the years we had to be re-elected to the League several times. I am pleased to say we were always re-elected otherwise that would have meant one less venue for the League to go too.

I am also heavily involved in the Heart of England League. This came about, once again, at an AGM when they wanted someone to setup a Results Spreadsheet. ‘I can do that!’ I volunteered and with that I set about designing a result package which then landed me with job of Results Coordinator for the League. Oh, and I forgot to mention, I volunteered to be Treasurer at the same meeting.

More recently, I have also become Treasure of Worcestershire County Athletic Association.

In between times, for the past 6 years, I have organised the Droitwich Half Marathon in March and in July we have our annual 10k which is part of the Summer Midweek Series.

Droitwich Athletics Club and I are delighted to have been able to participate in the Birmingham Cross Country League over the years. In my brief time attending the Executive Committee meetings it became clear to me that the League’s committee members have a wealth of experience between them. Their commitment and dedication to the League will ensure that it will continue to prosper in the future. However, to ensure the continuity for the future, it would be beneficial to see younger people coming forward to take up the roles.

Finally, I hope all the Clubs in the League have an enjoyable forthcoming season and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible."