ANYONE who manages to break three world records in the space of 19 days has to be worth listening to.

That’s precisely what Steve Cram did in the summer of 1985 when he ran the fastest times in history in the mile, 1,500 metres, and 2,000 metres. The fact that he was a lad from the North-East – The Jarrow Arrow – makes it an extra-special memory.

It was a pleasure to spend a day in Steve’s company last week when he visited Darlington to give two motivational speeches, the first to pupils at Hummersknott Academy, and then to the staff of Darlington Building Society at their annual conference.

Steve explained that he hadn’t set out to be an athlete. His ambition as a youngster was to play football for Sunderland but his talent for running was spotted and he was persuaded to join Jarrow and Hebburn Athletics Club in South Tyneside.

At first, he wasn’t winning but it gradually dawned on him that the harder he trained, the better his results became. “The more I put into it, the more I got out,” he told the youngsters. “And that applies to whatever you decide to do in life – it’s about having the discipline to be the best you possibly can.”

Steve went on to say that he took part in his first formal athletics meeting at Gypsy Green Stadium in South Shields in an under-15s mile race. He came second to earn a set of cuff-links and an ornamental cannon.

And, as if that wasn’t enough encouragement, his name was read out at school assembly and he got a mention in his local paper, the Shields Gazette.

“That little bit of encouragement was all I needed to want more,” he said.

Strange to think that one of the greatest British sporting careers was fired out of an ornamental cannon with a pair of cuff-links thrown in for good measure.

THESE days, Cram is the voice of athletics on the BBC and one of his best remembered commentaries came at the London Olympics in 2012 as Mo Farah won gold in the 5,000 metres...

“Mo Farah, gritting his teeth now…the arms have got to pump…the knees have got to come up high…he’s got to find something extra…he’s got to kick hard…come on Mo Farah…Gebremeskel is coming...but I think he’s going to get there…Farah is going to make it two gold medals for Great Britain…BEAUTIFUL!”

Cram revealed at the Darlington Building Society staff conference how he’d come perilously close to breaching BBC rules on swearing during that historic commentary. As Farah crossed the line, Cram actually wanted to shout “Bloody fantastic” but, having started the “B”, the only word that came to mind was “Beautiful”.

Steve Cram has lived a life determined by split seconds.

FROM athletics to agriculture and farmers are the perfect example of Steve Cram’s “you reap what you sow” message.

It was an interesting night at the Northern Farmer Awards in Harrogate last week for a celebration of all that’s good about agriculture across the north of England.

The Northern Farmer of the Year award went to the Young Farmer of the Year, Henry Knowles, in recognition of his dedication to diversification on his farm near Kendal. Selling duck eggs is just one of many revenue streams he’s developed.

After he’d received the main award of the night, Henry, below, was given the perfect opportunity by host Wendy Gibson to pay a romantic tribute to his partner Hannah Storton.

“Is there anything you’d like to say to her?” asked Wendy.

“Aye, just keep grafting,” came the reply.

I think he may well have had to duck when he got back to his table.

FARMERS are certainly a passionate bunch...Keith Stones, who has a huge flock of sheep at Marrick, in Richmondshire, was a finalist in the Sheep Farmer of the Year category and inspired more laughter from the audience when he admitted: “I can tell you anything you want to know about every single sheep but I couldn’t tell you my children’s birthdays.”

THAT presented the perfect opportunity for the newly-crowned Beef Farmer of the Year, Will Chrystal, from Wingate, County Durham, to earn a few brownie points from his wife Sophie.

“So, do you know your kids’ birthdays?” he was asked by Wendy Gibson.

“Yes, replied Will, with a confid nod…before proceeding to get them completely wrong.

FINALLY, from agriculture to education, and it was joy to end my week by hosting the Mayor’s Primary Schools Musical Theatre Song Contest in Darlington on Friday night.

Pupils from 23 primary schools entertained an audience that filled the Dolphin Centre sports hall with beautiful renditions of classic songs from musical theatre.

The event, sponsored for the fourth year by Darlington Building Society, was won by the Federation of Mowden Schools, below, with a stirring version of A Spoonful of Sugar from Mary Poppins.

With beautiful solos, stunning harmonies, and clever choreography, the pupils and teachers had clearly put in a huge amount of work, and it paid off.

Mary Poppins might even have described their efforts as “practically perfect in every way”.