Trio of County Referees Run a Marathon

In a guest post on our website, Northamptonshire FA referee Martyn Gospel reveals details of the huge challenge undertaken by he and two fellow…
“I imagine many of you are saying ‘Why on earth did they do that?’ or ‘What has this got to do with refereeing?’  

Well once upon a time I remember one of the ‘Godfathers’ of the county refereeing fraternity saying ‘Be fit to referee, don’t referee to be fit’ and these words have stuck with me.  

Is it possible to perform at your best level if you aren’t in a position to make creditable decisions?  

The training and preparation that goes on in-between games is as important as the officiating we do on the green stuff.  This write up highlights the event that myself, Martyn Gospel, and my fellow Level 3 referee Andy Humphries and Level 4 referee Thomas Cooke undertook this autumn.

How did this all come about?  

Andy and I both enjoy our running and both take part in the 5km Parkrun in Daventry. Just after Christmas, we thought it would be a great idea to sign up for something big in order to motivate us to increase our training to improve our fitness to referee. After a very short discussion we decided a weekend in Amsterdam would be great motivation! We went online to sign up for the race, book flights as well as a nice hotel. This was all fun and exciting but then the hard work of increasing our training began. After football games on a Saturday we would speak to each other on the phone to organise our weeks training itinerary. The challenge was always how we could find the time to complete ‘big runs’. Running 10 miles+ after a full day at work, on dark nights and in the rain was the toughest challenge throughout this whole process. As well as these weekly big runs we also took part in a number of half marathons and were joined by a number of Northamptonshire match officials along the way. Rob Evans and I completed Silverstone, Andy and I ran Coventry, Dave Jarrett joined us both in Nottingham. I completed Rugby half on my own and also went to Germany to run the Cologne Half Marathon too. The Northampton half marathon saw both Dave Jarrett and Tom Cooke taking part in the run. As well as these races we still needed to prepare for the annual referee fitness test (the dreaded Cooper 12min run) in the summer, which we prepared for and duly passed.  

Away from distance runs we were lucky enough to hit the track for speed work with fellow referees Ian Rathbone, Sam Brough and Wayne Chalmers.

After 10 months of training the day of the Amsterdam Marathon arrived and so to the horrific sound of the alarm clock in our Dutch hotel room waking us at 6am. We started the day with porridge before a 3.5mile walk to the start at the Olympic Stadium where we joined by just over 12,000 other marathon runners. As Andy and I stood waiting to start, we both turned to each other laughed and said ‘What on earth have we done!’ We were both nervous and wondered ‘Have we respected the distance?’ ‘Have we done enough training?’

Andy and I ran the course together enjoying the sights as well as the fantastic weather, which saw us bathed in blue sky, sunshine and temperatures that rose to 18 degrees. The course took us through the beautiful Vondelpark, along the Amstel River, through an industrial estate before returning the pretty canals of the city. For me though the highlight of the 42.2km course was running the last 100 metres on the track of the Olympic Stadium with a great friend (that I would have never met if it wasn’t for refereeing) and the sheer joy of crossing the finish line together!”

Thomas Cooke took part in his own big run too by flying to the Hungarian capital in order to run the Budapest Marathon.  Here are Toms thoughts…
“Much of what Martyn has said resonates with my own experience of the Budapest marathon. The biggest challenge I faced was fitting the distance training around refereeing. Marathon training is incomparable to any other type of fitness, especially refereeing where sprint perception is probably the second biggest indicator of fitness alongside your position on the field of play to make a credible decision. That – alongside my excitement off the line which meant I set off far too quickly! – made the experience an exceptionally challenging one where finishing became the priority, not a time.

“The Budapest event itself was attended by almost 30,000 people over the week along a picturesque route through the city and along the Danube. The 80p pints softened the blow of posting a time just over four hours. An incredible experience but now I have a heavy focus on high intensity sprint work to retrain the body for what is expected of a modern referee!”

Martyn concluded: “I once read a quote from a famous distance runner that said ‘If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life run a marathon.’ People who have ran a marathon will understand this quote and I realise that taking part in this kind of event is not for everyone. However, I believe that everyone regardless of what stage you are at in your refereeing career should have a desire to improve your own fitness levels. This is just the story of how the three of us chose to improve our fitness for refereeing. There are many ways you can challenge yourself!  

“It might be a big venture like that undertaken by Luke Scott and former referee/observer Darren Brockwell, who both completed the 106km Isle of Wight Walk, Jog, Run challenge in the summer, or Andy Burston who loves a Triathlon. For you however, it might be joining the gym, getting out on your bike a bit more, finding your trunks to go for a swim, turning up to do your first Parkrun at the Racecourse on a Saturday morning, or even increasing the time you take the dog out for a walk. Whatever it is, it will improve your fitness which will in turn improve your refereeing.

“Good luck to you all for the rest of the season!”

For more information on refereeing football within Northamptonshire, please click here

Related News

View All