e-book review of London Calling: an athletics story

"London Calling" brings amazing and sometimes surprising stories of the lives, personalities, incidents and accidents involved in delivering a cutting edge World Championship event.

Former runbritain MD, Geoff Wightman, who is both a commentator and coach in high performance athletics and was part of the organising group for the 2017 London World Championships, has published his reflective narrative that spans 18 months before and during the Championships. His diary provides insight into the fast-paced thinking and action required to make such an event run like clockwork and also to deliver the seamless commentary that the audience expect and are entitled to for an enhanced spectator experience. Additionally, it provides sharp observations that are often hilarious, but also revealing of the athletes that are interviewed from the present day icons to those from years past.

Intertwined are frank coaching reflections that make interesting reading for other coaches around the intricacies of the coach-athlete relationship, forming important relationships with other experts and striving for more learning and knowledge. Geoff is coach and father to one of Britain's most exciting middle distance talents, Jake Wightman (handicap -6.2). In tandem with serious reflections, you are provided with interjections that will make you giggle. Jake Wightman won both the Oslo dream mile and the Emsley Car Mile in 2017. Geoff takes delight in pointing out that the Emsley Car Mile is one of the few top races fellow commentator, Steve Cram, never won! He also laughs about Jake’s attempt at signing his name after this big win:

"Jake is left-handed, has slightly messy writing and was full of lactic acid when he signed on camera, which I mentioned.”

Incidentally, Jake also referenced this when he tweeted, “When people look back to the handwriting for 2017 they will realise it was won by a five-year-old!”

Along with good natured ‘digs’ at his fellow-commentator and athlete, he had me chuckling with his observations on himself.

"I celebrated with a haircut in Guildford. “Has anyone ever mentioned that you look like Dustin Hoffman?” asked my new barber mid-clip. Not this week they haven’t, mate, but Dustin Hoffman has played a wide range of characters including in Tootsie, Papillon and Mr Magorium. He is now 79 years old. What exactly are you saying? Besides, when I looked in his mirror while I was awaiting my turn, it was chuffing Ned Flanders from The Simpsons who I could see squinting back from where my reflection should be. "

This is Geoff’s third published book. Those who have read his second book, “Funny Running Shorts”, written in conjunction with former London Marathon MD, Dave Bedford, will be familiar with Geoff’s appreciation of irony. “London Calling” demonstrates that this outlook on life is a positive trait when working in an environment where logistics and infrastructures are subject to change by those with less enthusiasm than the organisers and the consequential complications and ramifications that have to be dealt with. Geoff’s description of dealings with a cruise liner that needed Tower Bridge closed on Marathon day is particularly entertaining as are his comments on the marathon course in 2016:

"... if a senior member of the Royal Family should pass away next summer, God forbid, then The Mall could not be used for events for at least seven days.  We need to insure for cancellation against this and find a 2k lap near the stadium in Olympic Park, as a back-up. "

"London Calling" is worth a read for a variety of reasons. It will give you great insight into the preparation and delivery of a commentator’s work along with the amount of detail organisers must plan for, to pull off a World Class event like The 2017 World Athletics Championships in London. But most of all it will have you chuckling at the comical reflections and ramblings of Geoff Wightman a successful family man who happens to have an entry in the Guinness Book of Records and at least two family members who are further up the UK all time ranking lists than he ever achieved in track and field athletics!

The e-book is out on kindle and can be found here.