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Brownlee success tastes sweet in Haworth
The man who first introduced Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee to competitive running has revealed the inspiration which put them on the path to Olympic triathlon gold and bronze – chocolate!
Fell race organiser Dave Woodhead, of Keighley, remembers the brothers first taking part in his Wooden Tops ‘bunny runs’ on Penistone Hill as 11 and 12-year-olds, with chocolate Easter eggs on offer as prizes.
And there was more chocolate up for grabs on Tuesday as more than 200 runners competed in a Brownlee Olympic Gold Run before watching the Bingley Harr-iers from near Otley swim, cycle and run to glory on televison at the Old Sun Hotel at Haworth.
Woodhead, who was nominated by the brothers as an Unsung Hero for last year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, said: “They first started in the bunny runs and have continued to take part in them just about every year since. Alistair became hooked on the idea of our chocolate throw-outs.
“To get kids out from their computers, you have to entice them and we find the chocolate prize-giving really helps.”
Woodhead added: “Jonny is one of the worst for eating chocolate. We gave him 4kg of Quality Street at the Auld Lang Syne Race at the end of last year and he’d eaten them all by January 5! They train so hard though, that they just burn it off.”
Since witnessing Alistair being crowned a Yorkshire under-14 running champion on Penistone Hill, the 53-year-old has watched him and his brother rise up through the ranks.
Woodhead, who runs Wood-en Tops along with his wife Eileen, said: “As England (fell running) team managers and selectors, we encouraged them to compete in other races and to get Yorkshire vests.
“I don’t think we did that much but ask Ali and Jonny and they say we did.”
The Brownlee Olympic Gold Run saw participants, including 130 children, complete a 2.7km race on the bunny run relay lap. Runners wore numbers signed by the Brownlees and some donned Alistair and Jonny face masks. Keighley and Craven Athletics Club members were present, while 15 members of Craven Energy even added a swim and cycle on to create their own triathlon.
Woodhead said: “We had 220 and thought we might get about 30 or 40. There were people from Retford and Birmingham – places from where it was probably easier to get to London than Haworth – but they said that’s where they knew Ali and Jonny from.
“When Ali crossed the line the atmosphere in the pub was just awesome. The shouts and cheers were unbelievable.
“Afterwards, we dialled their mobile numbers and the whole pub gave them three cheers.”
Woodhead said gold for Alistair was a long-held ambition, while Jonny would still be thrilled with a bronze, despite being penalised by 15 seconds for a technical infringement mounting his bike at the first transition.
He said: “We once asked the kids to write an article saying what their ambition was and Ali said it was to win the Olympics. It’s just a shame I never put a bet on him to do it!
“I heard someone on the radio say Jonny would be disappointed with bronze but that won’t be the case. He’ll be so chuffed for Ali. They work together, live together and there is no animosity between them. If it had been the other way round, Ali would be just as pleased for Jonny.”
Despite Olympic gold, Alistair still has something he has yet to achieve, as Woodhead explained.
He said: “Alistair has yet to win a bunny run and has vowed to win one next year or will give me £50! You’ve not really made it until you’ve won a bunny run!”