Andrew Strauss: 'It is absolutely right the London Marathon goes ahead. It's about solidarity'
The former England Test captain tells Richard Rae he first agreed to run the London race 'to stop me getting fat and lazy' but has now been given added motivation by Boston bombs
Tuesday 16 April 2013
There were already several reasons why Andrew Strauss is running the London Marathon on Sunday. What happened in Boston two days ago adds another, deeper and more significant.
"I think everybody who's running on Sunday will be thinking about the killed and injured in Boston," said the former England Test captain. "But it is absolutely right and I think very, very important for London to go ahead. It's a matter of solidarity, and of showing people doing good things, raising millions for charity, won't be beaten. It was always going to be emotional, but it will be even more so now."
Strauss sounds and admits to being genuinely excited about running on Sunday, and remembering the calm, careful, and sometimes slightly anodyne press conferences of his England captaincy, it's rather endearing. There must have been days when, beneath the solemnity imposed by the responsibility, he felt this way walking out to open the innings for England at Lord's. Not allowed or inclined to reveal it then, he can now. Running to raise money for the Lord's Taverners, a commitment he readily admits to have originally been made in part "to stop me getting fat and lazy", it is an occasion he is anticipating with nervous relish.
In part that is because he has prepared with characteristic thoroughness. He and wife Ruth, who is also running the world's greatest race, have trained hard throughout the winter and, says Strauss, enjoyed doing so.
"We really thought about it and wanted to give ourselves at least a five-month training programme, building up slowly, hopefully staying injury-free, and touch wood, it's worked out. Now we're almost there the novelty value has worn off a bit, but by and large, it's been a really enjoyable process."
The pleasure of being at home with his family throughout the English winter has helped, he admits, albeit with an Australian sojourn thrown in, from which they returned last week. Having announced his retirement from all forms of the game just a week after the end of the Test series against South Africa last August, a few months of quiet readjustment was always part of his plans for the future.
"I wanted to take time to assess my options, do some planning. I've been doing bits and pieces – a couple of corporate net sessions, that sort of thing – and writing my autobiography, which has taken up a lot of time, but mainly I've been talking to people.
"I know the roads I'll be going down now. There'll be media work [Strauss will be part of the Sky commentary team for the two forthcoming Ashes' series] but it will mainly be building a business based on leadership and management consultancy, because as England captain you learn a lot about management and motivation. I honestly feel I can help people in all sorts of fields.
"I'm also keen to get involved in cricket administration. Retiring was about not wanting to drop down a level, I didn't believe I would be properly motivated to keep playing for Middlesex. It didn't mean I had stopped being passionate about cricket. If anything, seeing what is happening to the sport, I feel even more strongly than ever."
Strauss, who already sits on the International Cricket Council's cricket committee, intends to make his views known and if possible, effect change.
"The most pressing issue is the future of Test cricket, because if the administrators keep forcing it to compete with T20 – which is what they are doing – they are sowing the seeds for its downfall.
"At the moment players still see Test cricket as the ultimate, the way in which in the end they are judged. But the more T20 is promoted because it's a big money-spinner, the more prominence it is given, there is a danger that perspective – of players and supporters – will start to change.
"It's about scheduling. We've seen how T20 competitions are starting to impinge on Test cricket – look at the IPL [Indian Premier League] – and the sport needs to come together and create agreed windows for international short-form cricket which leave proper time for Test series.
"That will be very difficult. I know some countries' cricket boards have to approach the problem from a financial point of view because they don't have the resources of others. I don't blame them and it has to be taken into account. But because something is difficult doesn't mean it shouldn't be attempted."
Still in occasional contact with England coach Andy Flower, mainly to talk marathons – Flower, under-prepared, ran London last year in 4 hours 45 minutes – Strauss watched England's progress in New Zealand earlier this year with detached interest.
"It felt a little strange in the early days but sport moves on very quickly, and it already feels like another time. I was massively impressed with the way they came back in India before Christmas, and by the way they knuckled down to save the New Zealand series."
Having just returned from Australia, Strauss confirms there appears to be genuine concern in the country about the side which will take on England in the forthcoming Ashes series.
"They're clearly worried, though I'm inclined not to read too much into it. Anyone who doesn't think they'll be tough to beat is kidding themselves."
The Strausses have already achieved one of their marathon objectives, which was to raise at least £15,000 for the Lord's Taverners.
"It's a charity most people have heard about but I'm not sure they realise how much important work it does helping disadvantaged and disabled kids, so it's a fantastic motivation for us.
"As a cricketer I used to spend a fair amount of time in the gym, but with all the running I don't think I've been in a gym for months, so I've changed shape a bit, lost a fair bit of weight – in fact I feel a bit weak, to be honest! But I'm really looking forward to it."
Andrew and Ruth Strauss's fund-raising page is: www.virginmoneygiving.com/AndrewRuthStrauss
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