Thursday, 26 February 2015

Like the Wind Birthday Party

I really enjoyed the Like the Wind party in London last week. The event at Blackall Gallery in Shoreditch was held to mark the 1st birthday of the magazine, and launch its 4th issue. There was beer, curry and good running chat.

Cover design for Like the Wind #4 by Fergus McHugh
 When I first started this blog, I mused on twitter about whether anybody had thought about a running equivalent of high end cycling magazines like Rouleur. Of course there's lots of other running magazines - I love Athletics Weekly for its coverage of the sport side of running, and Runners World etc. cover all the fitness and kit angles. But there didn't seem to be anything that was focused on writing/photography/art about running. Someone soon told me about the plans for Like the Wind, launched by Simon Freeman and Jullie Freeman Kummer with the strapline 'it's not how we run, it's why we run'.

A year after its launch, the magazine is well loved and established, getting support and contributions from a range of runners, bloggers/writers and illustrators, including articles from US ultra-marathon legends Dean Karnazes and Scott Jurek.

Email from Dean Karnazes proudly displayed at Blackall Gallery last week

I was proud to have an article and photographs published in the new issue, based on my run round the track last year at the wonderful Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, a site steeped in history as the place where the first modern Olympic Marathon finished in 1896. I won't say more because you can read the article!

Contents of Like the Wind #4
You can order copies of the magazine online, but there are a few specialist shops that stock it, including The Running Works in London.

On the podium in Athens
(not one of the photos used in the magazine)

Friday, 20 February 2015

Friday photos (19): National Cross Country Championships 1965

More than 8700 runners are registered to take part in the English National Cross Country Championships tomorrow afternoon, taking place for the 15th time at Parliament Hill  since the race was first held there in 1957. I plan to be among them, joining the thousands on that famous charge up the hill that marks the start of the course.

These images are from a British Pathé newsreel featuring the 1965 Nationals there, described by the commentator as 'nine miles of snow, ice, mud and slush'. The race was won for the second year running by Mel Batty (Thurrock Harriers), who also set a world ten mile record in 1964. His old club have established a Mel Batty 10k road race in memory of their lifelong member, who died in 2011.

Mel Batty

Mel Batty crosses the finishing line - the 1965 Nationals were sponsored by News of the World

New Zealand runners at the start of the race

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Art of Athletics (6): John Cale - Dreaming in Vertigo

John Cale is probably best known as a founder member of the Velvet Underground, as well as a solo musician. Born in Wales, he went to Goldsmiths College in New Cross before moving to New York in the 1960s.

In 2009, Cale was commissioned to represent Wales at the Venice Biennale art exhibition, making an audio-visual installation called 'Dyddiau Du/Dark Days' which draws on his childhood experiences in Wales. One of the film sections, entitled Dreaming in Vertigo, features Cale running/walking/climbing the twelve hundred or so steps at Dinorwic Quarry in Llanberis, a slate quarry.

'Dreaming in Vertigo'
In an interview about the piece, Cale comments: ' 'I used to love running across the Black Mountains and I would do it from school and I would do it from the house. There's this benefit I join every year for the Lung Association and what they do is climb stairs, they climb 75 floors, and that's what I started doing, and I discovered by doing that that I have vertigo'.

(He's presumably referring here to the American Lung Association's Fight for Air Climbs, 'vertical road races' involving climbing multiple steps in skyscrapers and other tall buildings).

John Cale talking in front of 'Dreaming in Vertigo'
See also in the Art of Athletics series:

Friday, 13 February 2015

Surrey Cross Country League - last match of 2014-15 season in Richmond Park

Last weekend (Saturday 7 February) saw the last of the four races in this season's 2XU Surrey Men's Cross Country League Division One, hosted by Ranelagh Harriers in Richmond Park. Kent A.C went into the match as a more or less dead cert to win the championship, having won all three previous races. And indeed they went on to hold on to the trophy for the third year in a row, even though on the day they were pushed into second place by Thames Hare and Hounds.

The match was an uncanny rerun of the same fixture last year, also won by Thames H&H at Richmond Park, with Kent A.C. second but winning the League. And in both 2014 and 2015 the individual race was won by Paskar Owor of Belgrave Harriers with a 17 second gap between him and second finisher John Gilbert (Kent AC). The first five of 174 finishers last week were:
   1. Paskar Owor (Belgrave Harriers)  
   2. John Gilbert (Kent AC)  
   3. Chris Greenwood (Kent AC)   
   4. Kevin Quinn (South London Harriers)
5. Ryan Evans (South London Harriers)

Paskar Owor (in hat) on his way to his third victory in Surrey League this season.
The course was over two laps, 5.65 miles in total, at the Petersham end of Richmond Park. After some of the muddy hills of previous fixtures, it was a bit of a breeze with a nice long descent to start with along a track known as the Queen's Ride. If anything I could have done without spikes as parts of the course were quite gravelly underfoot.

I ran for Kent, although I didn't come close to scoring in my three outings in the League it was great to be on the fringes of a winning team. As well as winning the senior men's League, the club's Alex Yee won all four races in the under-17s races and will be one to watch when he moves up to run in senior competitions next year. The women's team also had a good start in their first season in the League, with some strong performances.

Surrey League trophy 
After tea and cake in the Ranelagh Harriers clubhouse in Petersham, we retired to the White Cross, a fine riverside pub in Richmond, to celebrate.

Kent AC celebrate League victory in the White Cross

1947:  French cross country runners get lost in Richmond Park

Ranelagh Harriers did a good job of organising the race last week with enough marshals to make sure there was no repeat of this incident from 1947: 'Three members of the Paris University team took a wrong turning in a six-mile cross country race with London University in Richmond Park'. They were found two hours later having run eleven and a half miles!

See previously:

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Herbert Cowper Scard (1865-1931): Lewisham and Blackheath Cross Country Champion

Today sees the final races of the 2014-15 Surrey Cross Country League, sore foot permitting I hope to run at Richmond Park in a Kent A.C. vest later. So as part of my continuing research into the history of running in my part of South London, I thought I would write about a previous cross country champion and founder of my club - Herbert Cowper Scard. An obituary notice from 1931 sets the scene:

'Sportsman Solicitor: Death of Former Athletic Champion

Mr Herbert Cowper Scard, a solicitor who had practiced at Greenwich and Woolwich police courts for many years, died at the age of 65. In the late eighties and nineties Mr Scard was regarded as one of the finest cross-country runners of his day. He was champion of the Lewisham Hare and Hounds in 1888-89-90-92-95, and 96, and also held the Order of Merit of the Blackheath Harriers as their champion in 1889, and possessed scores of other trophies. Mr Scard was also associated with the Kent Athletic Club' (Straits Times, Singapore, 29 May 1931)

According to, Scard was born on July 8 1865 in Enfield and died April 9 1931 at 23 Blackheath Road, Greenwich.

Scard seems to have started out running for Blackheath Harriers. In 1888, he 'ran grandly and did the fastest time' in the club's Four and Three-Quarter Miles Members' Race at Blackheath (Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, 18 November 1888), and he ran for the club in the National Cross Country Championship at Kempton Park Racecourse in 1889 (Manchester Courier, 4 March 1889).  Between 1888 and 1892 he won the Blackheath Harriers Cross-Country Challenge Cup four times.

In 1892, 'A Members' Two Mile Handicap produced a splendid struggle between two men, H C Scard 50 yds start, beating F Stephens 230 yds, by half a yard in 9 min 53 1/5 sec' at Blackheath Harriers' annual athletic meeting. This took place at Catford Bridge with 'a large and fashionable attendance' (York Herald, 18 July 1892). The following year he is reported to have run for Blackheath Harriers in the One Mile handicap in the the Spartan Harriers athletics and cycling meeting at Invicta Athletic grounds, Plumstead: 

Scard also seems to have run with Lewisham Hare and Hounds from its foundation, judging by the obituary reference to him being their champion in 1888, the year the club was founded. In 1895 he came joint first in a Lewisham Hare and Hounds 'paper-chase over eight miles of stiff country' with 30 other runners: 

See also mention of London races organised by Southwark Harriers (at Wimbledon), Allenbury's A.C. (at Lower Clapton), Polytechnic Harriers (at Pinner), Earlsfield Harriers, Columbia Harriers (at Walthamstow) and Herne Hill Harriers (at Streatham).

I have come across reports of Scard winning the One Mile Handicap at Colfe's Grammar School Sports in Catford (Lloyds Weekly Newspaper, 19 April 1896), and the same distance race at Stamford Bridge at a London Athletic Club event (London Daily News, 13 April 1896). Shortly after, in another London Athletic Club Spring Meeting at Stamford Bridge, he came second in the 1.5 Miles handicap. He was listed as running for 'Lewisham H.H', showing that the latter was not just a cross country club but was now taking part in track athletics events (Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 18 May 1896). In 1897, he ran in the first Inter-County Cross Country race at Wembley Park: 

Scard was also for a time Vice-Captain of the Goldsmiths Institute Athletic Club. He is listed as such as in 'A Handbook to the Goldsmiths Company's Technical and Recreative Institute 1896-87',  with the team Captain being Alec Nelson - later a notable athletics coach as discussed here previously.

In 1898, Scard won the Lewisham Hare and Hounds Four and a Quarter Miles handicap at Ladywell, followed by W.W.Lamb and H. Larkins (Lloyds Weekly Newspaper, 27 February 1898). Later that same year, Lewisham Hare and Hounds merged with West Kent Harriers to form Kent Athletic Club, which remains based in the Lewisham area at Ladywell track to this day. Scard must have been actively involved in the merger, as according to club historian Len Reilly, he was Kent A.C.'s first treasurer. 

In 1900, Scard ran for Kent A.C. in the Printing and Allied Trade Sports meeting 'held at Herne Hill grounds in the presence of about 3,000 spectators'.This was at what is now known as the Herne Hill Velodrome - as was often in the case at that period, cycling and running races were held as part of the same event. Scard came 2nd in the One Mile Handicap behind A.H. Lye (Herne Hill Harriers) and ahead of Kent A.C.'s A.E. Godsall:

Scard continued to be involved in the club after he had passed his peak as a runner. A 1908 notice for Kent Athletic Club advises that:

'The next evening meeting will be held at the Ladywell recreation grounds on Tuesday next, 26th inst., commencing 7.30 p m. The following events are down for decision - 109-yards and 1 mile handicaps and entries with fees, close on Saturday next... Members may train any evening at above grounds... and intending members may obtain full particulars from Mr. H. C. Scard, 30, Blackheath road, and Mr. A.J. Jennings, 19, Blythe vale, Catford who attend at Ladywell on Tuesday and Thursday evenings' (Kentish Mail Greenwich And Deptford Observer, 22 May 1908).

Over a hundred years later, Kent A.C. are still to be found at Ladywell on Tuesday nights, and not doing too badly in cross country either.

[updated 19 June 2015, with information about Goldsmiths link]

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Running on Screen (5): Walford Half Marathon

London's biggest race of the year so far - albeit fictional - was today's Walford Half Marathon on Eastenders (BBC TV).

After weeks of flirty training storylines, the 13.1 mile race started and finished in the soap's Albert Square.

Peter and Kush stop for a chat a the water station and wonder why they got overtaken
(training tip - practice drinking and running at the same time)

Shabnam Masood holds her lead in the market finishing funnel...

...before toasting victory over Kush with a well-deserved bottle of water

Kush does the decent thing and gives (prospective father in law?) Masood some help to the finish line
Later Lauren proposed marriage to Peter - but will the post-run euphoria last much longer?
Or will the killer of Lucy Beale (Peter's sister) soon be revealed?
Boom - Boom -
Boom- Boom - Boom - Boom - Boom - Boom

Still no sign of the result at power of 10 - come on British Athletics!

Watch the episode here until end of February 2015