DOUBLE Olympic champion Seb Coe has hailed the hills of Sheffield as a key element of his success.
The 56-year-old grew up in Broomhill, Sheffield, attending Tapton and Abbeydale Grange Schools, after moving to the city from London as a 12-year-old
In his newly-published autobiography, Running My Life, he says meeting athlete John Sherwood – who later taught PE for more than 30 years at Sheffield’s Fir Vale Community Arts College before his retirement in 2006 – inspired him to become more serious about his athletics.
Mr Sherwood visited Tapton in 1968, shortly after he had won bronze in the 400m hurdles at the Mexico City Olympics.
Lord Coe writes: “As we clustered around our new Olympic hero, I remember thinking ‘that could be me’.
“The timing couldn’t have been more propitious. A few weeks later came my first sports day at Tapton. I put my name down for everything in my age group,
Although one of the oldest in my class, I was still a puny little thing with the body of a child, albeit with the legs of a man.
“Even so, to the accompaniment of cheers from my friends – and the incredulity of both parents and staff – I won everything I went in for.
“If I could pinpoint a moment when my father began to sit up and take notice, it was then.”
And he labelled the hills of the city and nearby Peak District as the ‘ultimate endurance training ground’,
He says: “One route I used to take started at a pub called the Yorkshire Bridge on the banks of the Ladybower Reservoir.
“From there a road leads back into Sheffield, 12 miles, uphill all the way, over some of the most exposed country in England.
“In the summer, the colours of the heather are dazzling and you can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else.
“In the winter, it’s like a moonscape when the wind whips in from the east and the cold stabs your face like flying ice.”
The book follows Lord Coe’s journey from his early years in London, via Sheffield, to winning Olympic gold in the 1,500m at Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984.
He also talks about retiring from athletics and pursuing a career in politics as a Conservative MP through to his role in overseeing the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games as chairman of organisers LOCOG.
Lord Coe also mentions his role in the Olympic Torch relay.
“I ran with it in Sheffield – a lovely moment,” he says.
A spokesman for publishers Hodder & Stoughton said: “Running My Life is in turns exhilarating, inspiring, hilarious and extremely moving.
“Everyone knows where Lord Coe ended up. Few people realise how he got there. This is his personal journey.”
n Running My Life, by Seb Coe, is out now, priced £20.