33rd challenge completed – Basketball

Marathon running over for a bit and onto the next Olympic challenge. I joined one of the Go Mammoth basketball leagues (Saturdays in Wimbledon) and had my first game of Basketball, for over 18 years, this weekend.

My Basketball experience is pretty limited, I played a bit during PE at school and due to the team needing 10 players to make a squad, I made it into the school team by default. Unfortunately, my basketball ‘career’ ended with a broken figure ahead of the regional county finals!

I was slightly apprehensive ahead of the first game as I realised that I would be playing alongside people that play regularly. Luckily I had a bit of time to practice and I surprised myself in my ability to dribble and shoot, which is definitely a skill that I didn’t have before.

2 halves of 17 minutes – should be easy considering my last sporting activity lasted over 3 hours. How wrong I was – running fit yes, but the short sharp bursts of basketball was taking it out of me. In truth I was working too hard. After 5 minutes, one of the players spoke to me about zonal-defense. The team isn’t the fittest, so they opted to play zonal rather than man-to-man marking. This was much easier and having spent the first few minutes running around like a headless chicken I was starting to get into the game. Firstly, with a few key interceptions, a couple of assists and then out of the blue, my first 2 points.

The team we were playing were more organised then us and we were 15 points down at half-time, but our team were slowly clawing our way back into the game. Second half was much better as we continued to gel. I added 2 more points, a couple more assists and plenty of turnovers. We ended up around 12 points down, but the strong finish has given us optimism for the next few weeks.

Ultimately, this is the challenge completed as I’ve taken part in a competitive game. I’m documenting it now to focus myself on moving onto the next challenge, but I’ll continue playing the next 8 games in the league and will have some photos in due course.

Week 2

The game this week was played at a much quicker pace than last week and as a result I found it much harder to get into the game. A managed a couple of interceptions and assists, but unfortunately no points this week. Nevertheless the team were on fire and we comfortably won 39-18 to move the second in the table.

Week 3

More success from the team with a solid 40-22 win. Again a quick paced game with little time to settle on the ball. Need to be calmer in possession. Got a couple more assists but still no goals since the first week. Defence seems to be my strength. First picture below of the ‘Dream’ team.

Basketball 'Dream' teamWeek 4

I couldn’t play this week but the team secured a solid week to move to the top of the table.

Week 5

We consolidated our position at the top of the league with a 45-25 win against the only team that has beaten us this year. Probably my best performance so far. Was a lot calmer is possession and set up a few baskets as well as making plenty of interceptions in defence.

Week 6

Couldn’t play this week but the team won a low scoring match 26-19

Week 7

The final group game of the year and after our rivals at the top of the table won, we had to follow suit to finish top of the regular season. Despite a pretty scrappy first half we were up by 10 points at half time and extended this after the break to win 42-20. I played a pretty solid game, finally ending my scoring drought and adding a few assists into the mix. Unfortunately my game ended about 5 minutes from time as I took a stray elbow right on the side of the noise and spent the next 10 minutes mobbing up the blood in the toilet. Nevertheless I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to the semi-finals next weekend.

Week 8

Semi-final time. Having beaten Twickenham Tigers comfortably in the group whilst also finishing 2 places above them in the league, on paper this should have been a comfortable win. What transpired was a fast paced, end to end, slightly chaotic game with the lead changing multiple times. With just over a minute to go, they scored a 3 pointer to lead by 5. We would have to score at least twice to get back into the game. 2 points converted from a foul brought us within 3 and this was followed up with a quick 3-pointer. With 15 seconds to go we had 3 more points with a 2 pointer and one from the free throw line. We comfortably held them out during the last few seconds for a remarkable comeback and a place in the final verses the reds!

Week 9

Today was finals day. Could my basketball experience end on a high?

The reds are regular victors of the Saturday league and had played together for a while so it was going to be a tough match. Despite our key points scorer not being available we started the game well and led after the first few minutes. Unfortunately for us, that was as good as it got and the Reds slowly pulled ahead and despite the game being competitive throughout they kept a decent lead throughout and ran out 43-27 winners.

From a personal perspective I had a decent game and made my first 3-pointer, so was a good way to go out.

It’s been a fun experience, with a good teammates and I’m happy to have played a significant number of matches to understand a few new intricacies of the game and improve my game. Not sure I’ll play in the league again to could be tempted with the odd match.

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The plan for 2015

I started 2015 in a way that sums up the new me. Instead of the usual going out on new year’s eve, we stayed in as I prepared for the Serpentine NYE 10k run. In fairness we had spent a week on the road over the festive period and we’d run out of energy come the 31st. My early night was rewarded as I bagged myself a new 10k PB of 43.51.


The first 3 months of 2015 will largely be dedicated to training for the Greater Manchester Marathon and my goal of sub-3.30, although I have found time to schedule the volleyball and rugby challenges.

So this leaves an additional 13 and certainly not the easiest of 13.

The two aquatic sports of synchronised swimming and water polo will prove a challenge. Sychro is not a male sport in the Olympics and water polo is often played at a very competitive level.

Next is basketball, there are plenty of social leagues around London so it should be just a case of finding the time to take part in one.

Boxing, well I’m not particularly looking forward to this one and decided against anything that involves me getting punched. I’ll arrange a training session at some point.

Then comes the three equestrian sports of dressage, eventing and jumping. I’m still not exactly sure how this will be achieved but some sort of course or series of private lessons is probably on the cards.

Gymnastics is another sport split into three; artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline. We have a couple of friends that are coaches so the plan will be to spend a day learning various routines. Hoping to rope in a few others as well.

Hockey in a similar way to basketball has a number of social leagues in London so it should just be a matter of time before I can find a date in 2015 to play.

Modern pentathlon is a combination of:

  • Fencing (completed 23rd Aug, 2013)
  • Swimming (completed 23rd Mar, 2013)
  • Pistol Shooting (completed 2nd Dec, 2012)
  • Cross-Country Run (completed 26th Oct, 2014)
  • Show jumping

Once I’ve completed jumping as part of the equestrian sports this will be complete.

Taekwondo is available in a number of places across London but it would be good to find a proper beginners course and really get into one of the martial art disciplines.

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The Team Sports

For these sports I will be required to take part in a organised competitive match. The challenge for these events will be to persuade the relevant local team to allow me to play for them. I have played beach volleyball and water polo on holiday and I played hockey, indoor volleyball and basketball on the odd occasion at school. Rugby and handball are completely new sports for me, although I am a keen rugby fan.

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