Thursday, 30 October 2014

Record Sleeve Athletics (10): Olympic Rap by 4-Play (1984)

Released to mark the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, 'Olympic Rap' by 4-Play is an electro gem that, in my humble opinion, stands head and shoulders above some of the overblown Olympic anthems featured in this series previously. Admittedly it's only direct references athletics in its opening mention of the LA games and in samples of athletic stadium crowd noises, but that's enough for me.

(thanks to DJ Controlled Weirdness for spotting this one a while ago)

Previously in this series:

Monday, 27 October 2014

Running into the Prime Minister

So you're going for a lunchtime run down to the gym and you spot David Cameron looming up on the pavement in front of you. What ya gonna do? Maybe charge into him and then say it was an accident, though we'll have to take Dean Farley's word for it when he says that he didn't know it was the Tory Prime Minister when he ran into him in Leeds today  (see film here at BBC website).

According to the BBC, 'A member of the public who caused a security alert when he bumped into David Cameron in Leeds has said he had "no idea" it was the prime minister. Dean Farley said he was only aware that he had collided with Mr Cameron an hour after he had been arrested by police. He insisted he was "not particularly political" and was just going out on his daily lunchtime jog to the gym when he ran into a "bunch of men in suits"'.

'Guess who I ran into the other day?'
Must admit when I heard about it I was slightly disappointed that no ex-members of the once Leeds-based band Chumbawamba seem to have been involved, as some of them have both the radical track record and running skills needed for such an audacious piece of street theatre/direct action. Danbert Nobacon from the band famously tipped an ice bucket over Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott at the 1998 BRIT Awards, and has also run in fell races for Pudsey and Bramley Athletic Club along with Chumba co-founder Boff Whalley (author of Run Wild)

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Running on Screen (4): Race strategy from The Office - run fast at the start, middle and end

Finally got round to watching the last episode of The (American) Office. I loved this programme in both its UK and US versions, and the latter also included one of the funniest treatments of running on TV. In 'Fun Run' (Series 4, Episode 1, 2007), hapless boss Michael Scott organises a charity 5k: 'Michael Scott's Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for the Cure'. All the staff at the paper firm are instructed to take part and kitted out in specially printed T-shirts.

Michael ends up in hospital with dehydration after carbo-loading on fettuccine just before running and declining water. He comments 'and while I eventualy puked my guts out, I never puked my heart out. And I'm very, very proud of that'

In this episode too, the will they/won't they romance of Jim and Pam (pictured below) is finally confirmed, and the two discuss race tactics:

Jim: 'So what's your strategy for this race?'

Pam: 'Well I'm gonna start fast, then I'm going to run fast in the middle, then I'm gonna end fast'

Jim: 'Why won't more people do that?'

Pam 'Because they're stupid'.

(although the series is set in Scranton, PA, the race was filmed in the streets of Los Angeles - Chandler Boulevard near Tujunga, north of Magnolia Blvd, to be precise)

Other posts in the 'Running on Screen' series:

Top of the Lake and The Fall
The Running Man (1987)
Muybridge's Runner, 1887

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Forward to Farthing Downs: start of the Surrey Cross-Country League

As discussed here before, cross-country is where it all began as far as modern organised athletics is concerned, with many of today's running clubs starting out in the 19th century to chase across fields in 'hare and hounds' races.

With the conditions now beginning to get suitably cold and wet, the English cross-country season got underway again last week - and I ran my first organised cross country race since leaving school.  Over the summer I joined my local Kent Athletic Club (based in Lewisham), and I was one of 27 wearing the blue vest of Kent - and  one of 176 runners in total -  in the opening men's match of the 2014-15 2XU Surrey Cross-Country League at Farthing Downs in Coulsdon.

Entrance to the South London Harriers HQ in Brighton Road, Coulsdon
 The race was hosted by South London Harriers, who have been based in the area and running over Farthing Downs since at least 1913 (their origins go back further to a pub in Peckham Rye in 1871, but that's another story). The Surrey Cross-Country League is slightly less venerable, but is still older than me, having started in 1962. The top flight of the event, Division One,  was dominated by two teams in the ten years between 2001 and 2011, with Herne Hill Harriers winning six times and Thames Hare and Hounds winning four times. But in the last two years, it has been won by Kent AC following a rapid progression from the 4th to 1st division after the club joined the league in 2007-8.

The animals of Farthing Downs
Coulsdon is within the London Borough of Croydon, but the area is as proper countryside as you can find within the M25. Yes cows had to be moved out of the way before the race could start. When you see the word 'Downs' you know it really means 'Ups' and the 5.4 mile course (over two laps) started with a long uphill grassland stretch before descending through woodland on a path with enough stones and tree roots to stop the mind from wandering.

The route
The race was won by Jon Pepper, running for Ranelagh Harriers, followed by Kent AC's John Gilbert and Paskar Owor (Belgrave Harriers).  The team competition was won by Kent though, who took five of the top 13 positions. Team points are calculated on the basis of the top ten finishers for each club - the winner gets 1 point, 2nd place two points etc. with the team with the lowest number of points across its first ten finishers being the winner overall. Kent are definitely now the team everyone wants to beat, so plenty to run for in the remaining three matches at Lloyd Park, Streatham Common and Richmond Park (full results here)

John Gilbert (Kent AC) and Paskar Owor (Belgrave Harriers, and a former Olympic athlete for Uganda)
- photo from Surrey Cross-Country League facebook page
Going straight into a highly competitive Division One match was daunting for me, and I can't say I contributed to the outcome. But I did achieve my modest race goals of 1. not falling over; 2. not getting lapped; 3. not walking; and 4. not coming last. I strongly recommend you try and run in a cross-country race over autumn/winter if you get the chance, I certainly intend to do some more.

The match was preceded by the Young Athletes race (under-17s), won by Kent's Alex Yee. In fact it's been a good couple of weeks for Kent AC runners, the next day the club's Amy Clements won the women's race in the Royal Parks Half Marathon, while the weekend before Cath Stibbs won the women's race at the Chester Marathon. Kent's women's team also made their debut in the Surrey Cross-Country League  'Senior Ladies' Division 2.

After the race runners retired to the South London Harriers clubhouse bar, a place steeped in running history and lore with  vintage photos, medals and indeed its very own blue plaque outside.

Plaque outside the SLH HQ commemorating Gordon Pirie (1931-1991).
5000m silver medallist at 1956 Melbourne Olympics

'this is no normal race. This is among the best racing amateur athletics can offer. I once ran a race called Hellrunner on an army camp in Hampshire. It is part of a breed of modern races that are pitched as masochistic and ‘tough’. The ground was frozen. The hills were modest. We waded through the Bog of Doom, a contrived trench of neck-deep water. It was cold, but provides the runner with a rest – a convenient break from what you came here to do. I finish fifth. They give you what is called a ‘survivor’s medal’ if you get round. Hellrunner? I have run in hell. It’s a place near Bourton-on-the-Water. It is Richmond Park when you are in 76th place a week after winning a marathon. It is the second lap of Farthing Downs'.

See also on South London club running:

Friday, 3 October 2014

Friday Photos (14): 1930s Athletics

Some vintage athletics photos found from spending too much time on Ebay and elsewhere... lets call it digital rescue archaelogy.

These two are from Sunbeam Photo Ltd, Margate, Kent in 1936:

'Erik Sjvall, Norway's 100 yards Sprint Champion, training at White City, London' Issued by the Makers of Wayfarer Tailored Clothes, around 1937.

Photo from B & W Fisk-Moore Canterbury, Kent - date unknown, the firm was going from around 1913 until late 1960s , I would guess this was very early on in that period.