Thursday, 29 January 2015

Streatham Common Cross Country

The third of this season's 2XU Surrey Cross Country League Men's Division One fixtures took place on Streatham Common on 10 January, with 177 runners from the nine competing clubs completing the (approximately) five mile race.

photo by Rayond O'Donoghue
Paskar Owor (Belgrave Harriers) finished first, followed by Chris Greenwood (Kent Athletic Club) and Ralph Street (Ranelagh Harriers). But in the team results, based on scores of first ten finishers for each club, Kent AC were victorious ahead of South London Harriers and Herne Hill Harriers. Kent now have a strong lead in the League and have a good chance of winning the title for the third year in a row with one race remaining, at Richmond Park on 7th February.

I was one of 27 in the Kent vest, finishing well behind the scorers on a deceptively challenging course. I guess I associate Streatham Common with leisurely walks and summer festivals, but running three times around it in gradually deepening mud was another story. The course started with a charge down hill and around the big open space on the west side of the common, coming back up the edge of that then plunging down a slope again before climbing through the woods.  There was no real flat section.

Streatham Common cross country course (approximate, drawn by me from memory)

By the end of it I could have done with some of the healing waters of Streatham Spa's mineral springs that attracted people to the common in their thousands in the early 18th century. Sadly they are no more. The common itself was once used by local people as a place to gather wood and graze animals, and like many such places was the scene of an ongoing conflict with landowners who wanted to enclose the common land (see Down with the Fences: Battles For the Commons In South London) - in 1794 'six men dressed in black' demolished an enclosure fenced off by the Lord of the Manor. A century later the common was secured for public access when it was purchased for use as a public open space under the powers of the Metropolitan Commons Act 1878. 

There's a long history of running in the area, as shown by this newspaper cutting from October 1880:
South London Harriers annual Ten Mile Championship and Mr J Gibbs' Challenge Cup
from the Greyhound, Streatham Common, won by G.E. Liddiard, followed by H. Burrows
(the Greyhound pub, originally a coaching inn on London-Brighton road, is still there)

See previously:

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