Sunday, 29 November 2015

First Aid Training, Running and Resusci Anne

2015 started for me with two consecutive New Year's Day parkruns. I ran 5k at Peckham Rye then made my way to Hilly Fields for another 5k. Quite a few other runners also did the double, including 34-year-old Neil Cole- a regular at Dulwich parkrun with more than 50 parkruns completed. 

After crossing the finish line at Hilly Fields, Neil collapsed and lost consciousness. He was obviously very seriously ill, and to be honest I went home thinking that he had probably died - the ambulance had arrived but hadn't moved him and the police had taped off the area around where he was lying. But in fact Neil, who had had a cardiac arrest, survived and has made a full recovery, returning to run at Dulwich parkrun in August (read his story here). As he says,  Neil 'was incredibly lucky to be quickly surrounded by some amazing people… my fellow parkrunners came to my rescue and went into life-saving mode.  A team of four of them administered CPR for nearly 15 minutes while we waited for an ambulance. They somehow kept my blood (and crucially, oxygen) pumping round my body, which meant that when the ambulance arrived they were able to 'shock' my heart back into a normal rhythm and keep me alive'.

I think New Year's Day made a few of us think much more seriously about first aid and running. Hillyfields parkrun soon secured a defibrillator, which is now kept in the park's cafe. A group of volunteers were trained in its use by London Ambulance Service.  I promised myself that I would get some proper first aid training, and I finally got round to it last week with a three day course with St John's Ambulance. 

Hopefully I will never need to use the skills I learned (including CPR), but the more people learn this stuff the better. I did the course through work, employers have a duty to make sure that they have trained first aid trainers on site so are usually happy for any volunteers to put themselves forward. But if anybody were to be in trouble while I'm out running I hope I would be able to be of some use. It's not that running is particularly dangerous, but in any activity where large numbers of people are moving around there is some risk. 

Resusci Anne

During the course, like millions before me, I practised my CPR on a dummy based on a mannequin developed for this purpose in the 1950s by Asmund Laerdal in Norway - known as 'Resucsi Anne'.  He modelled the face on a cast popular from the late 19th century purporting to be the death mask of an unknown young woman who drowned in the Seine - the face of 'L'inconnue de la Seine' that has featured in the work of Rilke, Aragon, Man Ray and other writers and artists. The trainer repeated the tale of the drowned Parisian last week, but there now seems to be some doubt that the original 'death mask' was actually from a dead woman at all. Contrary to the romantic ideal, people don't generally drown with a smile on their face. But the face mask, and later the CPR dummy, was surely based on an individual who is now dead and there is something poetic about the facial features of the unknown departed being used to teach the kiss of life over a century later.

L'inconnue de la Seine

Resusci Anne

Monday, 23 November 2015

South of the Thames Team Race 2015 - five hilly miles at Polesden Lacey

The venerable South of the Thames Cross Cross Country Association 5 Mile Team Race took place last Saturday at Polesden Lacey, a National Trust estate near Dorking, Surrey. It was a magnificent setting, with the start/finish near to a grand Edwardian house (and of course NT tea shops) and its fine views over a valley on the North Downs. I  say views, though of course the 284 runners from 21 clubs were soon doing more than looking at it...

The finish funnel - I wasn't too bothered by view of the mansion by this point
The course, arranged by Dorking and Mole Valley Athletic Club, was beautiful but very challenging. Recently I've been pining for some real country running - a lot of London area cross country takes place in what are effectively parks. Not dismissing the delights of Wimbledon Common or Hampstead Heath, they are large green areas, complete with woodland and hills. But its not quite the same as running a long single lap in unbounded open country. Of course you have to be careful what you wish for, out in the Surrey Hills the hills are, well, hillier. 

The final hill
In fact I couldn't quite work out how they managed to fit so many hills into a five mile course. Starting with a charge downhill I expected the steep uphill finish, but there seemed to be other hills scattered along the route.  Much of the running was through the woods, so you never quite knew when another slope was sneaking up on you, or you on it. There was also another hazard of a flock of sheep charging towards runners towards the end of the race. Still the day had started with a brief shower of snow, so it was a relief that the race took place in dry if cold conditions. 

Kent AC men's four top scorers - Neil Phillips (8th overall), Alex Yee (1st), Chris Greenwood (3rd), John Gilbert (5th)
It was a great race for my club, Kent AC, with both the men's and women's teams winning their respective competitions and the club's Alex Yee (17 year old World Youth Champs 10,000m finalist) coming in first in 25:24. First woman home was Tonbridge's Lucy Reid in 31:19, followed by Kent's Amy Clements (full individual results here)

Runner 169 - that would be me in navy Kent AC vest at the bottom of one hill and start of another
(photo from Dorking and Mole Valley AC on facebook)

Team results (four to score):


1.Kent AC
2. Belgrave Harriers
3. Tonbridge AC
4. Hercules of Wimbledon
5. Herne Hill Harriers

(Kent AC also won in the men's '8 to score' category, i.e. based on finishing positions of first 8 finishers per club)


1.Kent AC
2. Belgrave Harriers
3. Dulwich Runners
4. South London Harriers
5. Ranelagh Harriers

Individual results:


1. Alex Yee (Kent AC), 25:24.
2. Phil Wicks (Belgrave Harriers), 25:46.
3. Chris Greenwood (Kent AC), 26:07.
4. Max Nicholls (Tonbridge), 26:21
5. John Gilbert (Kent AC), 26:37.


1. Lucy Reid (Tonbridge), 31:19.
2. Amy Clements (Kent AC), 31.28.
3. Samantha Amend (Belgrave Harriers), 31:50.
4. Megan De Silva (Ranelagh),32:35.
5. Zoe Vail Smith (Belgrave Harriers), 33:29.

Team results in 'four to score' - participating clubs included Kent AC, Belgrave Harriers, Dulwich Runners, South London Harriers, Ranelagh Harriers, Thames Hare and Hounds, Tonbridge AC, Wimbledon Windmilers, Guildford and Godalming AC, Epsom and Ewell Harriers, Dorking & Mole Valley AC, Stragglers running club, Hercules Wimbledon, Tadworth AC, Herne Hill Harriers, Aldershot, Farnham & District AC, Cambridge Harriers, Reigate Priory AC, Croydon Striders, City of Portsmouth AC and Epsom Oddballs.

See also:

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Songs about running (4): Runnin' - Naughty Boy with Beyoncé

Sure running's good for your general health, but is it bad for your music taste? All I know is I've developed a soft spot for uplifting pop anthems of the kind that you hear on spotify running playlists, at the gym or the finishing line of fun runs. A classic example would be Naughty Boy's recent Runnin' (Lose it All). Well it's got BeyoncĂ© guesting on vocals, and if that's not classy enough for a boy from Watford the video features underwater running like some crazy Alberto Salazar training session. OK maybe it's slightly faked but hey...

'Runnin', runnin', runnin', runnin'
Runnin', runnin', runnin'
Ain't runnin' from myself no more
Together we'll win it all
I ain't runnin', runnin', runnin', runnin'
Runnin', runnin', runnin'
Ain't runnin' from myself no more
I'm ready to face it all
If I lose myself, I lose it all

I've outrun the fears that chased, they're standing still
I'm running still, I'm running still'

(ok, maybe this is more in the 'songs using running as a metaphor for escape and endurance' category than actually about running as such!)


The song now soundtracks a Chanel advert (August 2017) featuring Kristen Stewart escaping from some pesky fabric and running for freedom.

Got to say Kristen shows some good running form here. She has been spotted out and about running in various places in real life, so she obviously knows the score.

More Songs About Running:

Running Up That Hill - Kate Bush
Fugazi's Long Distance Runner

Record Sleeve Athletics:

Sunday, 15 November 2015

River Runscapes

There's an interesting newish group on facebook called 'Our Runscapes' where people post photographs of where they run as part of 'an exploration of running and the landscape - where we choose to train and run'. 

Lately some of my favourite runscapes have involved meetings with remarkable rivers. When you turn up in a town that has a river running through it, you know there's a strong chance of a great run - after all there will probably be a flattish path alongside and not too many road crossings to worry about. But there's also something about the motion of a river, the steady but powerful flow onwards that every runner aspires too. Here's a few photos taken out running this year.

River Severn in  Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury is surrounded by a loop of the River Severn, with a wide tree lined path along much of its town-side bank. The suspension bridge (above) is by the Quarry, the main park in the town centre where Shrewsbury parkrun takes place every Saturday.

Statue of Hercules by the River Severn in Shrewsbury

River Cam

Staying in Cambridge for a wedding in July, I went out for a ten mile run on a Sunday morning. The River Cam has the added inspiration of serious rowing clubs out on the water from early in the morning. I ran along the south bank from Jesus Green out to Stourbridge Common, on the way back coming across people getting ready for Race for Life, where thousands of pink-clad runners traced a similar route as part of their 10k raising funds for cancer research.

ponies by the River Cam

River Lym

In Lyme Regis over the summer we were lucky to be staying in a house right next to the River Lym, and there is some great running to be had along the river and out of town to the old mill and beyond

River Ravensbourne

The River Ravensbourne runs through much of my South East London heartland, including close to my club's track, so I always seem to be running along or near to it. I will do it justice in a post of its own another time, but here it is glimpsed through the trees in Ladywell.


River Lea

The River Lea rises in Luton, where I was born and grew up. Earlier in the year on separate days I ran both its first few miles and its last, to where it joins the River Thames in East London.

The River Lea in Luton (stretch by Birdsfoot Lane)

River Thames

 Which brings us to the great River Thames itself. I guess most London runners have spent a lot of time running along, over and even under it - the latter through the Greenwich foot tunnel. The photo below was taken at the end of a long run to where the River Lea flows into the Thames by Trinity Buoy Wharf. Across the river where the cable car lands is where I ran  in the Assembly League on the Greenwich peninsula. A few miles to the West the Embankment where I ran along the river on in the closing miles of the London Marathon.  Many other memories floating off downstream.


Friday, 13 November 2015

Running on Screen (9): London Spy

As noted here before, BBC thrillers now invariably feature a running sub plot, most recently Ann Marie-Duff as the triathlete ex-cop in From Darkness. Latest is London Spy which started this week. Danny Holt (played by Ben Whishaw) is the worse for wear after a night out clubbing in Vauxhall when he encounters Alex (Edward Holcroft) who is out for an early morning run over Lambeth Bridge. Danny is so taken by him that he even tries running himself in a bit to engineer a further meeting. Eventually they get together, love blossoms, but Alex's secret life as an MI6 spy gets him into trouble... OK spoiler alert, but if you haven't guessed from the start that he's going to be dead by the end of Episode One you haven't been paying attention. Great cast also includes Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling, looking forward to more. But I'm not sure there will be much more jogging on the South Bank.

South bank of the River Thames heading west towards Lambeth Bridge

Alex crosses Lambeth Bridge

Danny (Ben Whishaw) runs in search of love.... careful what you wish for

Previously in this series:

Thursday, 12 November 2015

The Running Stitch - running as landscape embroidery? (Robert Macfarlane)

I am really enjoying Robert Macfarlane's 'The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot' (2012), with its evocative descriptions of walks and other journeys, as well as reflections on the act of following a path.

One thing he dwells upon is the relationship between writing and walking (and by implication running too), both of which trace lines and consist of a kind of up/down motion while moving forward:

'As the pen rises from the page between words, so the walker's feet rise and fall between paces, and as the deer continues to run as it bounds from the earth, and the dolphin continues to swim even as it leaps again and again from the sea, so writing and wayfaring are continuous activities, a running stitch, a persistence of the same seam or stream' (p.105 in the Penguin edition).

Of course he is not referring here to the kind of stitch you get in your side when running, but the running stitch in embroidery worked by the needle going in and out of the fabric just like my runner's feet going in and out of the mud in cross country this week. I am quite taken with the notion of running as a kind of landscape embroidery, stitching lines across the earth. On tarmac or track these mostly leave no trace, but in muddier conditions the running stitch is a visible line.

Monday, 9 November 2015

'I enjoy running, jumping, shouting'

In Fordham Park, New Cross there's a long steel plaque on the ground with some words on it from children at the local Childeric Primary School. The full text is 'I enjoy running, jumping, shouting and singing in an open space'. I do too! I've often run round or through that park. I may have sang in several nearby pubs, but not in the park itself, though I have certainly danced there in some of the wild ravey free festivals there in the 1990s.

When I first moved round here nearly 20 years ago there was actually a (now vanished) running track at the edge of the park. Anyone remember it?

Friday, 6 November 2015

Friday photos: Kent AC and other 1960s athletics

Following the photo I posted earlier this week of a group of Kent AC athletes from the 1950s, Roy Candy (who ran for the Lewisham-based club from 1960 to 1966) has been in touch and sent through some great photographs from the 1960s.

The group photo was taken at a training weekend at Timsbury Manor, Hampshire in 1965. It features members of Kent AC (back left row), Cambridge Harriers and London Olympiades, including for the latter the great Lilian Board and Mary Bignal Rand. Kent AC runners featured include Tina Ash (nee Darby), Nigel Porter, Cheryl Miller, Beverley Franklin (nee Panter), Dave Franklin, and Roy himself.

The next couple of pictures are from the Eton Manor to Southend Road Relay (c.1964) and show Kent AC runners Peter Brenchley, Roy Candy and John Oliver.

At Kent AC's Ladywell track in 1965, Lewisham Half-Mile Champs won by Roy Candy in 2m 1.4s from Mike Field and Richard Selby.

Another training weekend, possibly Camber Sands 1963. Among those featured are Avril Usher (later Avril Bowring), who ran for Kent AC at the time and later competed in the 1970 Commonwealth Games in the 400m.

As always, any more names or memories very welcome in comments.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Kent Athletic Club: 1950s Photo

One of the threads at this blog is the history of athletics in South East London, including my club the Lewisham-based Kent Athletic Club. Larry Garnham, who is researching Kent AC history, has found this club photo from the 1950s. He has provisionally identified many of the faces, but has quite a few unknowns.

If you recognise any of the faces, or have any memories of the club and its runners in this period (or at other times), do let us know in the comments and we will pass on to Larry.




(Dennis Millgate, in the middle row, went on to be Secretary of Kent County Athletics Association from 1965-1974 and 1978 to 1985).

(John Whall, born 25/6/1934 is on the UK all-time lists for a 7:52 long jump at Erith in April 1960; he also won the triple jump at the 1959 AAA British Athletics Championships)

(Fred Lane features in another 1950s photo featured here previously, acting as a starter at Kent AC's Ladywell track, see:

See previously on Kent AC history:

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

Notes on the history of Kent Athletics (1908) 

AJ Lock, 1920s Kent AC Miler 

Monday, 2 November 2015

Do the Right Thing: Spike Lee, Alicia Keys & New York City Marathon

I caught the New York City Marathon on TV yesterday, featuring film director Spike Lee as Grand Marshal cruising along in a fine 1969 Chrysler. 

Spike Lee in the week before the race with last year's winners Mary Keitany and Tatyana McFadden (who won again this year in women's and women's wheelchair races), Wilson Kipsang and Kurt Fearnley.
Among his many achievements, Spike Lee is responsible for what I and many others believe to be the greatest opening credits in movie history, as well as the finest fitness/boxing/dance routine in cinema: the first few minutes of 'Do the Right Thing' with Rosie Perez and Public Enemy's Fight the Power. Pure energy and joie de vivre, makes me want to go and run round a track as fast as I can.

Rosie Perez in Do the Right Thing

This year's NYC Marathon also featured Alicia Keys, who also of course wrote one of the four best songs about New York of the century so far and sang on one of the others (that would be her own 'Empire State of Mind, Part II' and Jay Z's 'Empire State of Mind' - the others being LCD Soundsystem's 'New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down' and SBTRKT 'New Dorp. New York' in my humble opinion). 

(from Alicia Keys on Instagram)
Alicia Keys previously ran a Marathon in Greece in 2007. In a blog describing her New York training this year, she says 'every morning, I get on my running swag, put the baby in the running stroller, and put on my headphones' and listen to audiobooks including Toni Morrison and Malcolm Gladwell.

She was running for her HIV charity Keep a Child Alive: 'This is what inspires me when my body begins to tire. My training is nothing compared to the challenging journey these families face every day. We may not be able to walk a mile in their shoes, but we can certainly run a mile (or 26.2) for their lives and for the forward motion of all the young people who are creating a whole new Africa'.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

1000 miles on the Day of the Dead

OK I didn't actually run 1000 miles on Halloween, but I did my run my 1000th mile of 2015 during Halloween, all faithfully recorded on my fetcheveryone training log.

The occasion was my regular Hilly Fields parkrun in SE London, this week with a record 203 runners taking part. Some runners and marshals got into the Halloween mood - there were a couple of zombies and a mummy among other characters.

The course was decorated with some pumpkin route markers and a giant spider hanging from a branch:

I ran with a skull mask on my forehead, after a bit of pre-run reading:

As for the 1000 miles - 100 miles per month - I know that's not up there with some of the more dedicated and faster runners at my club, but it's a lot more than I've done in previous years. My endurance has definitely benefited, not sure yet if it has had a consistent effect on my speed.