Sunday, 8 July 2018

That Summer Feeling - 'when you run for love, not because you oughtta'

On one of the hottest nights of the year a couple of hundred people meet up to run round a sun baked patch of ground in north London. It's the Assembly League race on Tottenham marshes - 'marsh' may conjure up images of moisture and soft ground but this is more like the dry grasslands of the tropical savannah. To add to the discomfort most of us do not realise until the last lap that what was supposed to be a roughly 5K race is actually an extra 800m long. A finish line of lungs gasping for breath and dry throats in urgent need of water or something stronger, the sting of our own salt in our eyes. Still once the immediate pain recedes we remember that we are happy to be here, a pleasant stroll back along the canal and somewhere a pub is calling… ah that summer feeling.


Jonathan Richman's song of that name reminds us of some of the joys of summer – ‘the cool of the pond, the smell of the lawn', sun, water, ripening fields, desire… yes and running not as a duty but as a pleasure: “when you run for love not because you oughta”. OK not everybody enjoys running in the heat, but compared with dragging yourself out of bed on a cold, wet morning for a training run there's no contest is there?

But he also reminds us that that summer feeling can include a strong current of melancholy. Summers don’t last for ever, holidays end, passionate moments can be fleeting. We will always be drawn back to the memories of summers past and Richman suggests that even in the midst of these pleasures we are aware that one day we will be looking back on them with longing: "that summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life".

Nostalgia plays tricks with us too, the summer glow can make us misremember, even terrible school days can seem okay: “Some things look good before and some things never were... You pick these things apart, they're not that appealing”.

There’s nothing wrong with that summer feeling. It’s one of life’s great pleasures but it can become pathological if we are not careful. If we don’t want our summer reminiscences to be tortured by regret we need to seize the moment – “if you wait until you’re older, a sad resentment will smolder one-day“. So run while you can, even if it means a long journey to the other side of the city for a poor time, summer's always almost gone!


The best version of 'That Summer Feeling' is on the 1992 Jonathan Richman album, 'I, Jonathan' (unfortunately currently unavailable on Spotify) 


Assembly League, Tottenham Marshes, 5 July 2018: The race was won by Adam Kirk-Smith (Eton Manor) for the men and Amy Clements (Kent AC) for the women. Around 30 of us made the journey from SE London to run for Kent AC and won both the men's and women's team races (based on four to score).

Previous Go Feet music-related running posts\;

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Westminster Mile 2018

The Vitality Westminster Mile last month (27 May 2018) was apparently the biggest ever timed mile event,  with a total of 8,048  runners in 39 waves taking part compared to the previous record of 7,664 set at the New York Fifth Avenue Mile last year. It was a pretty diverse crowd, more so even than your average parkrun - maybe runnng a mile is less daunting than 5k.


The race took place on a course around London's St James's Park, starting at approximately the point where the London Marathon ends, and finishing in front of Buckingham Palace.





There were various waves including for parkrunners and Masters, I obviously messed up  booking my place online as I ended up in one of the family waves.  Still it was started by Mo Farah which was cool enough, and once I'd squeezed past the toddlers and parents I had quite a race against some fast teenagers. Coming back from injury I was way off my PB but 6:11 is still top 40 for age on power of 10 so whatevs.




Running down Birdcage Walk was a strange experience, my previous efforts along there being in the last few hundred metres of the Marathon. I wasn't quite so exhausted, but running flat out for a mile brings a different kind of pain.



A fast and flat enough course with a well organised operation, my only criticism was that the combination of mass race and major tourist destination in current security climate made it quite difficult for spectators. I really wanted to get to Birdcage Walk to cheer on some of my clubmates in the  final stretch, but I ended up in a huge bottleneck of people trying to get in/out of the area in front of Buckingham Palace.




Wandering around Green Park afterwards, who should I see but Seb Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Associations. Maybe not somebody I would always see eye to eye with politically, but nobody can deny that he cares about the sport and obviously he is a running legend.




After commenting on my Kent AC vest ('great old club') we had a brief chat about the previous week's Night of 10,000m PBs at Highgate, which we had both attended. Always a good night out, this year featured the added excitement of clubmate Alex Yee winning the British 10,000m Champs, cheered on by a Kent AC contingent on the final bend chanting 'Yee, Yee, Yee'.




Up on Parliament Hill I had a go at running round the cross country course, famed for its cold muddy challenge during National and Southern champs. It was much easier going on a sunny afternoon, but I got very lost in the woods and ended up, as you do on Hampstead Heath, next to some random pond or other. 

Women's A Race at Night of 10,000m PBs

Monday, 28 May 2018

Stadium Crimes (1): Fenway Park in The Handmaid's Tale & the history of stadium atrocities

Some of the most memorable, joyous and life affirming moments are to be had in sports stadiums - the concentration of the crowd on the action unfolding in front of it, the noise, the physical proximity, the energy and emotions...

Watching the new second series of The Handmaid's Tale got me thinking though about the flipside of this.  As I'm sure you will know the premise of the series, and Margaret Atwood's novel that inspired it, is that in a near future USA power has been seized by a religious fundamentalist/fascist/patriarchal elite. In Gilead, as the new republic terms itself, women are excluded from public life and  subject to all kinds of horrors. [Spoiler Alert] At the start of series two a group of women are being punished for refusing orders to stone one of their friends to death. They are taken to an empty stadium where mass gallows have been set up, and we see from the signage that it is in fact Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. The baseball diamond is overgrown,  it is now a field of nightmares rather than dreams.


Of course this is fiction, but mass executions and other atrocities have taken place in sports stadiums across the world. The use of the Paris Velodrome in the rounding up of Jews in 1942; Estadio Nacional, the Chilean national football stadium where many were tortured and killed during the 1973 military coup;  the football stadium in Bratunac where Bosnian Muslims were held during the 1992 masscares; the mass killing at the Cyangugu football stadium during the 1994 Rwandan genocide...

If sports stadiums have lent them themselves to bloody repression as well as collective joy it is because of their design. The architectural form of the modern stadium has been developed to serve two purposes. Firstly to be able to concentrate as many people as possible into a limited space in sight of the playing surface, secondly to restrict access so that only those paying an entrance can get in. It is not difficult to see how these same features can be readily utilised for incarceration  - the concentration camp as the malignant twin of the sports stadium.

I see from Malcolm MacLean on Twitter that there were some papers related to this theme at the North American Society for Sports History conference this week (May 2018), will be interesting to see some of this research.

See previously at this blog: Running in the Handmaid's Tale


Saturday, 28 April 2018

First Catford parkrun in Mountsfield Park

The inaugural Catford parkrun took place in Mountsfield Park this morning, with just over 200 runners taking part. Joe Hartley (Kent AC) set the men's course record of 17:43, no doubt he could go faster when he's properly over the London Marathon where he ran a 2:41 PB. Vicky Boyle set the women's course record of 21:26.  

Joe Hartley, first finisher (photo from @freyathlon)

It's an interesting course, undulating rather than hilly, with a psychological plus point that it feels like there's more down hill than up. Unlike many London parkruns much of it is on grass/trail rather than tarmac and with my ongoing achilles issues I certainly welcomed the softer surfaces. My run was slow and a bit sore, but hey I am currently the V55 course record holder with 23:45! Yes this time last year I could still occasionally manage a sub-20 5k, whether I will get back to that or nor I've accepted that it is a privilege just to be able to keep running. 


 The start and finish points are by the park's bandstand, and the three lap course also features a circuit of a field in park that has the distinction of briefly being  the home of Charlton Athletic FC in the 1920s as well as the long defunct Catford Southend FC (see more at Running Past on this).




don't worry, you don't have to run up these steps...

watch out for the cat -  the start of Mountsfield parkrun is a 15 minute
walk from the centre of Catford

This is the third parkrun in a Lewisham park, the others being at Beckenham Place and at Hilly Fields, my home parkrun. I went along there last week for its 300th event. As it was also the day before the London Marathon there were a lot of tourists in town, so Hilly Fields had its second largest ever attendance of 341. As numbers grow, the new Catford event should take some of the pressure off it. 

Hilly Fields parkrun 300 cake

the end of Hilly Fields parkrun 300

'welcome to the 300th Hilly Fields parkrun'

Friday, 30 March 2018

Running London: Wembley Stadium

I am continuing my effort to run in all 33 London boroughs (only 3 left to do) and today ticked off the London Borough of Brent with a run round one of the city's most iconic sporting venues - Wembley Stadium. OK I wasn't running around the pitch, but there's a good flat circuit around the outside of the Stadium that is perfect for laps of just under 1 km.


The current version of the Stadium only dates back to 2007 of course, replacing the 1920s Stadium that was demolished in 2003. But the location has nearly 100 years of sporting history, including athletics as the main venue for the 1948 Olympic Games. Obviously it is most associated with football, and most football fans will have their good and bad memories.

Me and Bobby Moore  - there's a Bobby 2 Bobby Wembley Strava segment
The high point for me was the April 1988 League Cup Final, when Luton beat Arsenal 3-2 - I can't believe that was thirty years ago next month. I can honestly say that was one of the happiest days of my life - the game had everything, Luton going ahead, then Arsenal scoring twice to take the lead, Luton keeper Andy Dibble saving a penaly and then another Luton goal before Brian Stein scored the winner in the last minute. It was pure joy in the crowd (amongst the Luton supporters anyway!), I remember me, my dad and my friend Paul just jumping around for ages. That feeling stayed with me for days afterwards, in fact I can still summon it up when I remember it. 


Low point was going to Wembley as a child with my dad in 1975 for the England/Scotland match. My dad bought a fold up wooden stool for me to stand on so that I could see the action from the terraces. Unfortunately as a Scotland supporter it wasn't a pretty sight - England won 5-1 (I could also  mention seeing Luton lose 4-1 to Reading in the 1988 Simod Cup Final but in my mind that has been recorded over by the victory over Arsenal a few weeks later).


Saturday, 17 March 2018

Hilly Fields snow run

There seemed to be a lot of people walking around by London Bridge yesterday wearing T-shirts and the occasional crop top in the sun. I was finding it hard to believe the forecast for the next day's snow. But true enough when I woke up this morning to get ready for Hilly Fields parkrun the snow was coming down heavily in South East London.

When I got to the park it was clear that the weather didn’t seem to have discouraged anybody. I suspect that many, like me, were relishing the rare opportunity to run in the snow, especially as during the snowfall a couple of weeks ago many races and park runs were cancelled .


So about 250 runners in multiple layers made their weekly three circuits of the park, joined this time by members of local triathlon clubs (including Brixton Windrush, Greenwich Tritons, Westcroft and Crystal Palace tri clubs). staging their own 'mob match' race within the parkun.


At the top of the hill the wind was blowing the snow across more or less horizontally but other than that it wasn’t too bad. I was certainly warmer running than watching others run in the cold, as I did at the Big Half and cross country nationals recently. I have been out of action with injury with last week's Peckham parkrun my first 5K effort since early January. I still can’t go too far or fast but it was great to be out in the elements with this friendly as usual crowd. I know its customary to thank the volunteers and marshals, on this occasion they certainly earned it.

runners footsteps up the big hill in Hilly Fields
ready for snow action

Friday, 23 February 2018

Running on Screen: Big Little Lies

Running along the beach and elsewhere in the Monterey area is a feature of the HBO series 'Big Little Lies' (2017). This includes one episode where the three main female characters - played by Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Reese Witherspoon - are briefly seen jogging around town together (yes it has a great cast, Laura Dern  and Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd also feature).

But it is Woodley's Jane character who does the most running. A lot of people use running as a kind of therapy, turning over their problems in their heads. Jane has a particularly turbulent inner life, fantasising about suicide and revenge as she runs along the sand and the cliff tops, and trying to recover memories of previous traumas. To say more would be to spoil it...




Previously in the Running on Screen series: