I went to Turi in 1971 as a seven year old and left in 1976 to go to boarding school in England.

The starting point at a fairly recent athletics event at Turi

I was never one of the top sportsmen at Turi – the extracurricular activities of acting in school plays (The Mikado, Jonah and the whale spring to mind…) and the Boy Scouts were very much my interests. However as well as playing Rugby and hockey we always had sports day organised, I believe by Mr Tyers. The system of house points at athletics in the days leading up to Sports Day meant we all had the opportunity to try our hand at all events – high jump over a string weighted by sandbags at each end, and landing in a pit of sawdust meant that the Fosbury flop technique was not allowed! We threw a cricket ball rather than putting the shot, and the longest distance run was 400 metres and only allowed to the boys in final year. The track was marked out on the rugby pitch (middle field if I recall rightly) and it was a 300 m track so we had to run a lap and a quarter more or less. Sports day was a wonderful event with all the parents coming and it was more like end of term than anything else.

My memories are of being more or less in the leading pack in the days leading up to the big one on sports day – however the challenge offered by Godfrey Ofumbi and Ken Kitariko was a big one, they were by some way the fastest in the school. Godfrey was favourite for the 100, so it was a shame when we discovered on the day that he was injured and would not run. I recall little of the race over 100 metres, only that I just managed to squeeze into the lead in the last few metres – quite unexpectedly. The 400 was to come, but before that the kitchen staff had their race over 800 metres – the sight of these fully grown men sprinting what seemed to be lap after lap at unbelievable speeds will remain imprinted on my mind for a long time – and being able to summon a final acceleration to the finish line.

Then came the 400, and I recall myself, Ken, Mark Riddelsdell, Mike Williams, Chris Carr all being in the line up. The first lap unfolded with Ken and me at the front and by the time we reached the last 100 metres, it was not so much the pain of the lactic acid but actually the fear that Ken would overtake me that remains most vivid. I have pictures in my mind of us being stride for stride to the finish – in the end they gave it to me and for a 13 year old boy the feeling to have won something that difficult was a significant boost to what was a very limited self confidence.

The upshot was that when I reached boarding school in England, I knew that all the English boys and girls were way ahead of me in class, (they had even studied Greek) and I was really quite backward in my knowledge of all relevant things like pop music, radio stations, TV programmes – but I couldn’t wait for the summer term to come when I knew I could actually hold my own. And so it turned out – after first year where we were forced to play cricket, at which I was really terrible, in second year my self confidence gained from that race in Turi allowed me to test myself against the fastest in the school, and with some success. 1500 m and 800 metres were my distances then and having seen the grown men in Turi run, I simply copied them – and developed a finishing spurt. The self confidence however was the key, and that is what I took from Turi sports day – self belief for the first time in my life.

Secondary school led to University at Oxford and by then I was running 400m – and was lucky enough to win 2 of my 3 races vs Cambridge I went on to represent Wales over 400 metres as well. My career after university took me to Salzburg, Austria where I live now – and I also ran there, joining the local club. I have worked for the last 25 years for the sports brand Puma and my love for running has formed part of my career and has led to some great friendships, of course leading back to Kenya with the great athletes who we sponsored. I was very privileged to be able to offer a job to an all time great, Wilson Kipketer in my time at Puma, and we have agreed one day to come back to Kenya and run again either at Turi or at Kaptagat where he comes from – even if he runs backwards, I have no chance!!

But the final chapter is not yet written – I still run in the Masters 400 and 800 metres, and a 5th place in the 400m Final of the European championships in 2014 together with a few Austrian titles are added to the win at Turi Sports Day! I now am an athletics coach as well, and I intend to return to East Africa to coach once I am fully qualified – and also to keep me busy in my retirement.

If I ever get the chance to come and spend a few weeks coaching athletics at Turi, I would jump at the chance to relive some childhood memories – and hopefully take the most talented pupils a stage further. But most importantly to give them also what I gained – the self belief, that you CAN actually take on those who reputedly are better than you, and hold your own. This is a lesson learned from Sports Day at Turi, which I would never have learned had it not been for Godfrey and Ken and others who set the bar so high – and the lesson applies in all strands of life. Sometimes to beat others, the most difficult opponent is beating your own self doubt.

Martyn Bowen at the Prep School Terrace last week

As a coach, this is the greatest skill of all, and it is one I learnt not in any management training, not in my coaching certificate, but one day on middle field at Turi – the memory is not so much of the pain or the win, but of the huge fear that Ken would overtake me – and defeating the fear was the biggest win. PS, I am now after 30 years back in touch with Ken, visited him in Kampala as well – he will always be part of my story – and has become a very good friend again.