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One of Britain’s best-known sports personalities, Roger Black MBE enjoyed a glittering career that saw him win a host of medals including two Olympic silvers. Nowadays, however, the former athlete is happiest enjoying family life in the beautiful Surrey countryside.

He may have been one of Britain’s top athletes, winning many major medals during his long career, but Surrey resident Roger Black enjoys a rather more relaxed pace of life these days. Not for him pounding the pavements with a Fitbit or working the weights at the gym. Instead, he prefers a gentle jog in the Surrey Hills, taking in the lovely surroundings, followed by a coffee and a cake.

“Well, now that I’m 51, the main thing is just to keep moving really!” laughs Roger, who lives with Julia and their 11-year-old twins, George and Max, just outside Guildford. “Seriously, though, I’m not able to do the same things I used to, such as playing football for fun, because my knees get quite sore these days. But I do enjoy going for a jog in the Surrey Hills every morning with my wife, just for a couple of miles or so, and as a family we love going for long walks and cycle rides there too. It’s such a beautiful landscape – and, of course, it’s also completely free for everyone to enjoy.”

It’s certainly a world away from the rigorous training schedule he faced as one of the country’s leading sportsmen. For almost 15 years, he represented Great Britain at the highest level in athletics, both as an individual 400m runner and as a member of the 4x400m relay team. During that time, he picked up 15 major championship medals, including
European, Commonwealth and World Championship gold, as well as two Olympic silvers at Atlanta in 1996.

His achievements are all the more remarkable given the many obstacles he had to overcome during his career. Not only was he a relative latecomer to competitive sport, having originally trained to be a doctor, but he also had to fight back from several serious injuries. However, every cloud has a silver lining, as they say, and those challenges helped him to forge what is now his second career as a motivational speaker in the corporate world.

“There are a surprising number of similarities when it comes to high performance in
sport and in business – and particularly in overcoming obstacles,” says Roger. “During my talks, I draw on the experiences of my own journey, from overcoming adversity to winning Olympic medals, and different people take different things from that.

“One piece of advice that I think is relevant to everyone though, regardless of whether it’s sport, business or a personal aim, is being very clear from the outset about what you want to achieve – and why you have chosen that goal. For example, in my case, my aim was to run fast, but it was also important to think about why I wanted to achieve that and what it meant to me – and that’s what gets you through the tough times too.

“For me, in my own career, that was the challenges of injury, which was a constant setback, so it’s about finding a way of pushing forward towards your goal even when times are tough. And also having that self-belief too – the drive, determination and desire to achieve your aims even when others say you can’t.”

Away from his public speaking, he is still involved in the sporting world, helping out at events encouraging youngsters to get active, such as GoFest, and also keeping busy with charity work. Not only is he a passionate supporter of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and British Heart Foundation but locally he is a patron of Surrey Care Trust. Working across the entire county, the charity provides learning, training and mentoring to support young people and adults in improving their chances in life.

“I’ve been a patron of the Surrey Care Trust for a number of years now and their work really is so important,” says Roger. “Here in Surrey, there is an assumption that because we are a very wealthy county, there can’t possibly be any poverty – but that’s absolutely not the case. As a result, their role is even more important, as there isn’t the same level of awareness, and therefore support, as there is in some areas – particularly for younger people. It’s also great to work with a local charity because it means that, logistically, l can be that bit more involved.”

Coming up this month, he is particularly delighted to be supporting their Surrey 5 Peaks Hikeathon and is keen to encourage others to join in too. Taking place on Saturday 16 September, the route will include some of Surrey’s most iconic hilltops, with a choice of a 26-mile route (circular) or 13 miles (linear) plus a five-mile family walk. With a target sponsorship of £150 per person (plus £55 registration), the aim is to raise as much money as possible to support the charity’s vital work.

“It’s going to be a really fantastic day,” says Roger. “The route takes in five of the Surrey peaks, including well-known local beauty spots such as Box Hill, so it’s a great opportunity to enjoy this lovely part of the world. There are so many people who have heard of the Surrey Hills, or even drive through them, but haven’t got around to venturing into them on foot – and yet this really is the most stunning landscape with the most wonderful views. And now there is a chance to enjoy it all for a good cause.”

Very much involved in local life, Roger is also on the board at the Guildford Yvonne Arnaud Theatre where his wife is a director of the youth theatre. With their two boys also at school in Surrey, there’s plenty to keep them occupied there too. So how do they all like to unwind together at the weekend?

“We’re so lucky as there are just so many great things to do locally,” says Roger. “The boys love going to places like Chessington, Thorpe Park or Liquid Leisure, and we’re members of the National Trust too. Sports-wise, we have some fantastic facilities – for example, where I am in Guildford, we have Surrey Sports Park and the Spectrum, but there’s also Sutton Sports Village, with its renowned tennis academy, and Epsom Sports Club, plus plenty of good local swimming pools.

“Then, best of all, there’s all that lovely countryside – perfect for walking, cycling and jogging – and yet we can jump on the train and be in London in about 40 minutes. We really are so fortunate to have all this on our doorstep; I count myself very lucky indeed.”

For more information on Surrey Care Trust and getting involved in their 5 Peaks Hikeathon on Saturday 16 September, pay a visit to their website at www.surreycaretrust.co.uk. For details on Roger Black’s motivational speaking, visit his own website at www.rogerblack.co.uk.

Roger Black OBEBack in his sporting heydayRoger has built a second career as a motivational speakerAt the launch of the Surrey Care Trust 5 Peaks Hikeathon