Dom Howson's Sheffield Wednesday column: My race to forget in Portugal
Something rather surreal happened to me at work this week.
Somehow I got roped into taking part in Sheffield Wednesday's annual staff race.
After observing the second session of the Owls' training camp in Portugal on Wednesday evening, I was told in no uncertain terms by several senior players that I had to be involved in the run. One member of the squad, who shall remain nameless, was even talking about boycotting The Star unless I joined in.
So I thought I would be a good sport and reluctantly headed to the starting line. It was, after all, a little bit of fun at the end of another demanding session in the sweltering Algarve heat for the players.
The good news from my point of view was that we only had to run a very short distance - it was probably a 60 metre dash.
But I knew I was in big trouble as soon as I glanced around and checked out the rest of the field. Whereas I am an overweight sports writer in my early 30s carrying at least two stone more than I should be doing, most of Wednesday's support staff are a fit, athletic bunch. A lean, mean, well-oiled machine.
Unsurprisingly, I wasn't looking forward to it in the slightest.
I knew it would not end well for me so I made sure I got my excuses in nice and early.
Firstly I blamed the conditions. The sprinklers were turned on earlier in the session, leaving the training pitch very slippery underfoot (I know, a very lame excuse!).
I also knew I would be unable to run at full tilt because I have a dodgy left ankle. It is a long-standing injury and two surgeries and two pain-killing injections has not fixed the problem.
Not only that, but I had to run barefoot while everybody else from the medical staff, masseurs, media, analysts, and sports science teams wore proper footwear (I didn't think flip-flops would cut it on a wet, greasy surface).
Nonetheless, I thought I would try my best and give it a go.
Sprinting has never been my forte but I was slow out of the block and near the back of the race. I was on course to finish third from last only for Andy Kalinins, the club's popular and well-respected performance director, to nudge me out of the way as I was about to cross the finishing line!
I was just relieved to not finish last or I would never have heard the end of it!
The players certainly enjoyed the race. It was a welcome distraction from the cross-country treks and double training sessions they have been subjected to this week.
But spirits are high in the camp and there is a strong camaraderie within the group as they shake off the summer rust.
'Don't forget to rate your performance in The Star, Dom,' shouted Barry Bannan as we walked back to the team hotel.
I have Bazza. Four out of 10 - must do better!