Sunday 28 August 2022

Glen River parkrun, Cork city

Ongoing injuries have forced me to really cut down on my running but on a recent trip to Cork city for  a family wedding I could not resist checking out a local parkrun.  Cork has a very well established running scene with lots of clubs as evidenced at the 'Running in Cork' blog. It is the home of many great athletes, perhaps most notably Sonia O'Sullivan who in the 1990s won a string of medals at Olympics, Worlds, and European Champs in the 3000m, 5000m and 10000m as well as winning world cross country champs on two occasions.

There are a number of parkruns in the Cork area but the most central is at Glen River park, about a mile north of the city centre. That's a mile of mostly steep ascent, so if your warm up routine involves running to the start line you might want to bear that in mind. 

I accessed the park via the Glen Resource and Sports Centre (where there is car parking) though the way is not obvious - basically go down stairs at side of building and make your way around the all weather football pitches to a gate on to the park. Go down the hill to your left and you will find the parkrun start and finish point.

The park includes a section of the Glen River, more of a stream really (at least on my visit during a very hot summer) and the parkrun course runs mostly along its banks in the river valley - three times in fact along each side of the river within the park. However as an extra twist on two of the three laps there is also a fairly steep hill - straight up and straight back down again.

The course is mostly tarmac/gravel paths, with plenty of shade. 

Glen River parkrun started in 2018 and has an average attendance of around 80. Like most parkruns it is friendly and welcoming - well apart from that hill maybe. More details at Glen River parkrun page

(Looking through previous results I can see that Sonia O'Sullivan has actually run a few times at Glen River parkrun)


Friday 6 November 2020

Getting our Breath Back

Very pleased to have my piece 'Getting our breath back' published in Like the Wind magazine #24, accompanied by a fine illustration by Atul Vinayak and Jakob Owens. It is a short prose meditation on the experience of breathing in running which  started out as a spoken word piece at a 'Footnotes' runners open mic arranged by Vybarr Cregan-Reid a few years ago. In the time of Covid it has assumed a new relevance as we have all grown to appreciate the fragility of our breathing apparatus.

'Picture the start of a race on an icy winter’s morning – runners trying to keep warm, hands clamped under our arms, a few words, misty clouds of breath hanging above us in the air. The gun goes off and so do we. There is no more speaking, our mouths are occupied with taking in air and expelling carbon dioxide. Individually our respiration settles down into a steady pattern, part of a collective bodily polyrhythm of breaths, heartbeats and footsteps....

The French feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray talks of ‘the age of breath’:  breathing is a form of exchange between human, animals and plants, and amongst humans it is a fundamental shared experience that precedes any differences between us. She proposes recognising our breathing together as the basis of being together as an ethical community. To an extent that's what happens when we run together. The race is a mobile community of breath, sharing some moments in time and space, even if we are also competing against each other.'  

You can read the full article in the magazine, along with lots of other interesting reflections on running and Covid, Black Lives Matter and some great running challenges and experiences.

Monday 22 June 2020

Virtual Running in the Time of Covid-19

This weekend I ran on a track for the first time in months. Dulwich College has a 300m track which is currently open to the public so I cycled down to take a look. I wasn't feeling particularly fit, but I enjoyed the feeling of just going round and round...

Dulwich College running track

The track at Ladywell Arena used by my club Kent AC remains closed for now, but as with many tracks across the country plans are being made for how some running could start again within the current Covid-19 restrictions of no more than 6 people taking part in exercise together and 2 metres distancing. I joined an England Athletics webinar a couple of weeks ago all about doing risk assessments for re-opening tracks. Some have already opened based on zoning so that two or three groups can use space at same time - for instance at Milton Keynes Athletic Club's Stantonbury track they have been  experimenting with having one group in lanes 1-4 and another in lanes 5-8, with the in-field area used by throwers.  I would say it's fairly easy to keep a safe distance on track if numbers are low, although a strict 2 metres separation at all times is more or less impossible as people will pass each other.

I also went for a run last week around the Royal/Victoria Dock in East London, including passing the Excel Centre. I usually go there for the  annual London Marathon expo but this April of course it was cancelled and the Excel converted to a temporary Nightingale Hospital. With numbers hospitalised by Covid-19 declining the hospital has been mothballed. Still with at least 42,000 deaths in the UK so far and the pandemic still raging across the world we should be cautious about rushing back to 'business as usual', including in running.

Victoria Dock
In the mean time many of us have got used to different kinds of virtual running, including combining our solo efforts online through OpenTrack, Strava etc in a semblance of racing and social running.

On the day that the London Marathon was due to take place, 26 April 2020, I took part in the 2.6 Challenge. The idea was to do some 2.6 themed activity and then donate to one of the charities who had lost out on fundraising due to the Marathon not taking place. For my challenge I ran up and over the hill in Nunhead Cemetery 26 times. I also did a  2.23 mile run in the same place in May as part of 'I Run with Maud'. Runners across the world took part in honour of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery,  killed in an apparent racist murder while running in Brunswick, Georgia on 23rd February (hence 2.23).

Kent AC has arranged and been involved in a number of virtual races. At the end of May there was a competition between some of the clubs from the Surrey League and Met League cross country competitions, involving club members running five miles each with the team result based on top 12 scorers. I knew I wasn't going to be anywhere near the scorers, so I decided to run a proper undulating cross country course rather than worry too much about the time.  I did my five miles around one of my favourite places - Ashridge on the Herts/Bucks border near to Berkhamsted. This is a large National Trust woodland estate where I once worked on an archaeology project, famous for its bluebells and deer among other things. Definitely recommended for a run if you are ever in the area.

A couple of weeks previously there was 'Kent does Comrades'. Basically loosely seeded teams of  eight had to each complete the 55 mile distance of the iconic South African ultra-marathon. Around 120 people from Kent AC took part, my modest contribution being a 3 mile leg around Burgess Park following the parkrun course. Other virtual races in the club have included a UTMB challenge,  with teams having to reach 32,939 feet of elevation - but mostly on the hills of South London rather than Mont Blanc (Hilly Fields, Greenwich Park and the infamous Canonbie Road in Forest Hill were popular destinations, and my friend Adrian Dracup did 50k around Blythe Hill Fields as his contribution). I missed that one.

I also did a 5k in Peckham Rye in a Louise Michel Sports Club virtual race at the beginning of May.

Of course in all this virtual racing, the running is as real as ever. The virtual racing element does make a real difference though, it's amazing how knowing that your time is contributing to a team - albeit scattered far and wide in time and space - makes you push that bit harder. It's like having somebody at your shoulder encouraging you on. Running in a physical crowd of a couple of hundred bodies, as I usually do every Saturday morning, seems unimaginable right now. But hopefully it won't be too long in coming back.

Sunday 12 April 2020

'A Monstre Cycling Social' - Blackheath 1886

Continuing my research on SE London sporting history, I came across this report of  'A Monstre Cycling Social'  held at the Green Man Hotel in December 1886. The Green Man stood at the top of Blackheath Hill (left hand side if you are going up it) for three hundred years before being demolished in 1970. It played an important social and cultural role, being at various times the HQ of England's oldest golf club (Royal Blackheath) and a significant folk, jazz and R&B in the 1960s (Paul Simon and Manfred Mann among the performers).

Green Man in 1880s - image from pubmywiki
There are a few interesting points to note about this 'large attendance of cyclists and their friends'. The lists of cycling clubs represented gives an idea of the popularity of the sport in this part of London at this early point in its history. South London clubs mentioned include New Cross, Argus (who were based in Deptford), Brockley, Dulwich, Brixton Ramblers, Norwood Safety, Peckham Rovers, Pelham (Sydenham), Clapham Park, Croydon, Anerley etc. 

Present too were a few running clubs - at this period there was quite an overlap between the two. One such club was Blackheath Harriers (today Blackheath & Bromley Harriers AC), also based at the Green Man, which had moved to the area in 1878 due to urbanisation around its former Peckham home (they had previously been known as Peckham Hare and Hounds, formed in 1869). Other running clubs mentioned including South London Harriers, Brockley Harriers and Lewisham Hare and Hounds. 

As discussed in a previous post here, Catford CC itself had only been founded in April 1886, and grew out of Lewisham Hare and Hounds. The Cycling Club is still going today, and Lewisham Hare and Hounds became part of Kent Athletic Club, founded in 1898 and still running hard at Ladywell track.

Kentish Mercury - Friday 10 December 1886
 Another interesting feature of this report is that it mentions that the event included a 'Mile Open' race on a 'Home trainer' bike. I had no idea that stationary indoor bicycle trainers existed at this point, but seemingly designs based on riding on rollers or with one wheel were already being marketed. Would be interested if anybody had come across an earlier example of a competitive use of a home trainer/exercise back than this one from 1886.

The following example made by Longford Wire Iron and Steel Co of Warrington dates to 1897:

image sourced from Grace's Guide

Friday 27 March 2020

Run fast comrade, the old world is behind you

Interesting to see that a 'Louise Michel Sports Club' has been established in South East London, a radical group based around 'solidarity through fitness' with an initial focus on running, self-defence and hiking. They are named after the famous Paris Commune revolutionary who lived in SE London later in her life (a while ago I promised to organise a walk around her old haunts, maybe it could be a radical history run some time). Anyway I am dying to get my hands on one of their forthcoming t-shirts which they previewed on their twitter feed earlier (@louisemichelsc): 

Anyway that reminds me of another idea I had for a radical running t-shirt, based around a slogan written on the walls of Paris during May 1968 - 'cours, camarade, le vieux-monde est derriere toi' (run, comrade, the old world is behind you)

or in another variation 'cours vite...' (run fast...)

Would love to reproduce one of the above on a running top some day, technical fabric of course.

Saturday 7 March 2020

Courir ou mourir? (run or die?) - Portrait of a Lady on Fire

There is a scene in Céline Sciamma's 2019 film 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire' where Héloïse, one of the two central characters runs towards the edge of a cliff from which her sister is believed to have jumped and killed herself. As Marianne, her companion and soon to be lover, catches up with her she tells her that she has been dreaming of doing this for years. 'Dying?' asks Marianne. 'Running' replies Héloïse (Mourir? 'Courir' in the French original).

In another scene, Héloïse expresses her determination to get in the sea. 'Can you swim?' asks Marianne. 'I don't know' she responds before getting in and trying. Earlier we see Marianne plunging into the waves from a boat to rescue the tools of her trade as a portrait painter.

Héloïse has recently left a convent and is about to be married off to a man she has never met. In the brief interlude of freedom in between, running, swimming and sex represent an escape from the restraints on the female body, in this case in 18th century France. This liberty is acted out in what the director describes as a short term utopia of 'sorority', an 'all women world' of mutual support away from the male gaze - the film is set on a remote island in Brittany where for the duration of the story at least men are more or less absent.

Previous posts on Running on Screen:

Saturday 29 February 2020

The Sporting Landscape of New Cross

Update 16/3/2020: Unfortunately this event has been postponed. The Telegraph Hill Festival has been cancelled as a result of Covid-19. We hope to rearrange once things have calmed down.

Very excited to announce this event taking place in the 2020 Telegraph Hill Festival:

The Sporting Landscape of New Cross

Tuesday 31 March 2020, 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Council Chamber, Deptford Town Hall, New Cross Road, New Cross, SE14 6AF

'Which internationally-known wrestler was said to be 'the most popular man in New Cross' in the late 19th century? Where was the country's first stock car race held? Which Goldsmiths athlete went on to coach the British Olympics team?  Which local school's playing fields were once graced by England’s greatest cricketer?

This event will include three talks on the sporting history of the New Cross area told through some of the places used to play, compete and spectate. The New Cross Stadium, the Den, wrestling and boxing gyms, horse racing and running tracks, cycling, roller skating, the New Cross Public Hall, Laurie Grove Baths, Fordham Park and more. As well as sporting venues (many now vanished) these places have been important centres of social and cultural life. 

Speakers include:

Sarah Elizabeth Cox  (Grappling with History) researching Victorian wrestling and trainee Lucha Libre wrestler

Prof. Les Back (Goldsmiths), sociologist including co-author of  'The Changing Face of Football: racism, identity and multiculture in the English game'

Neil Gordon-Orr (Go Feet), local historian and member of  Lewisham's finest Kent Athletic Club