Thursday, 28 January 2016

Surrey League Cross Country at Mitcham Common

The third match in this season's Surrey League men's cross country took place at Mitcham Common on 16 January 2016, with 196 runners from the nine Division One clubs. It was another victory for Kent AC (my club) - now top of the league having won it for the last three seasons-  with Hercules Wimbledon in 2nd and South London Harriers 3rd on the day. Kent AC's John Gilbert won the race, with a six second lead over Belgrave Harriers' Paskar Owor, followed by Chris Greenwood (Kent AC). 

The course was three laps (5.3 miles) of the eastern part of the Common - once upon a time the home of a number of football pitches, it was landscaped in the 1980s with the creation of some artificial hills which certainly make for a more interesting cross country course. None of the hills was particularly taxing, but they did have a cumulative effect. The ground still had the odd patch of ice before the race, but got wet and muddy in places as it thawed. As a guide to the Common puts it 'Around the foot of the hills, parcels of wetland have survived' and our feet certainly found at least one of those parcels.

Inspecting the Mitcham mountains and iced up Bidders Pond before the race

Changing facilities were at the Mill House Ecology Centre, where race hosts Clapham Chasers put on one of the finest post-race spread of cakes I have come across- Kent AC may have won the race, but the Chasers definitely won the cakes.

There's plenty of running history in this area. The following report describes an epic Boxing Day Hare and Hounds race in December 1868 organised by Surrey Athletic Club. The run, which started at the Greyhound in Streatham, covered around 16 miles including Tooting Common, Wandsworth Common, Wimbledon, Thornton Heath, 'round Mithcham Common to Beddington' and then back for  the 'plain but substantial fare placed before them by the landlord of the Greyhound Hotel'.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Burns Night Running Thoughts

I've had the (vegetarian) haggis and have the bottle of Bruichladdich ready to tuck into for Burns Night. Don't think I'll be doing any running, but pleased to see that in Westbrook, Maine (USA) they held a Robert Burns 10k Road Race  in the snow last night with more than 100 runners, some  kilt clad, raising money for a local school:

'"I like Robert Burns a lot," co-director of the 10k, Ned Swain, said as he explained why he chose to name the race after the late poet. "It's a holiday that doesn't have much associated with it aside from haggis and kilts and his poetry. How can you hate that?" (Runners don kilts for Robert Burns 10k)

Not aware of any Burns running poems as such, but I think these lines are inspirational enough for all those who 'drudge an' drive thro' wet and dry': 

'What tho', like commoners of air, 
We wander out, we know not where, 
But either house or hal', 
Yet nature's charms, the hills and woods, 
The sweeping vales, and foaming floods, 
Are free alike to all. 
In days when daisies deck the ground, 
And blackbirds whistle clear, 
With honest joy our hearts will bound, 
To see the coming year...

Think ye, that sic as you and I,
Wha drudge and drive thro' wet and dry,
Wi' never ceasing toil;
Think ye, are we less blest than they,
Wha scarcely tent us in their way,
As hardly worth their while?'

Bagpipes at the finish line (photo from Robert Burns 10k facebook page)

More running related literature:

Monday, 18 January 2016

NZ women reclaim the streets after runner is killed

A couple of hundred women took part in a 5k run last Saturday in Auckland, New Zealand, following the recent murder of a woman out running in the city. The organisers of the Run for Her event declared it was 'about getting together a crew of girls to reclaim the streets of Auckland. Let's run in honor, let's run with freedom and run because running is a gift that should not be limited by barriers'. Further events are planned. 

41-year-old Jo Pert was apparently stabbed to death while out running on January 7th. A man has been arrested in connection with her death. Jo, who leaves behind two children, had previously lived in London.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Kent County Cross Country at Brands Hatch

Last Saturday was a big day in British cross country. There was the Great Edinburgh International Cross Country in Holyrood Park, with some fine performances including from Alex Yee (a member of my club, Kent AC) who won the junior race for Great Britain. On the same day, various 2016 County championships were taking place across the country. I took part in the Kent Cross Country Championships held at Brands Hatch.

The course was set up in fields next to the famous motor sport racing track, and while the speed might not have have been quite up with the golden age of Barry Sheene and James Hunt, there was some good running.

Start of the women's senior race (photo from extensive gallery at Kent & Sussex Courier)

The men's senior race was won by John Gilbert (Kent AC), with Max Nicholls (Tonbridge AC) in second place and Chris Greenwood (Kent AC) in third. As Max sometimes joins in the training sessions at Kent AC I am taking that as a clean sweep for the Ladywell track crew. In the women's senior race, Ashley Gibson (Tonbridge AC) was the winner, followed by Amy Clements (Kent AC) and Bryony Proctor (Aldershot Farnham & District).

Men's top three: Chris Greenwood, John Gilbert and Max Nicholls

Almost as glamorous, Motorbike champion Barry Sheene and Formula One driver James Hunt at Brands Hatch in the 1970s,  with Sheene's partner Stephanie Mclean

In the men's team competitions there were two trophies up for grab: the '6 to score' (i.e. based on position of first six finishers for each team) and '12 to score'. The results were the same in both - 1. Tonbridge AC; 2. Kent AC; 3. Medway & Maidstone AC.

In the women's team competition, Tonbridge won the 'three to score' followed by Paddock Wood AC and Blackheath & Bromley Harriers, while in the '6 to score' Tonbridge were followed by Blackheath & Bromley with Kent AC in third.  There were also various Junior races - full results here. So well done Tonbridge, a club to beat for the rest of us.

The course

The course was over four laps (for the men) of a grassy/muddy field, at the top of a hill so fairly exposed to the elements. There was a stinging shower just after the start that was one of the most intense I've endured, and it was raining on and off for most of the races. Although there were no spectacular hills, there were a couple of long grinding ascents which took their toll. I finished towards the back but wasn't quite as sluggish as on my previous outing in the South of the Thames.

Anyway everyone has their personal race to run, and on the particularly muddy finishing strait I overtook a Beckenham runner who I had been gaining on, and hearing his efforts behind me to regain position spurred me on to a final sprint overtaking a Dartford Road Runner almost on the line. When I got my breath back I realized that the Beckenham guy was Paul who does the excellent Running Past blog, so it was a bit of a South London running bloggers face off! Of course from reading his blog I know that he would no doubt have beaten me at full fitness, given that he was almost killed when run over last year. Paul has written his own account of the race here

The course was just to the north of the motor racing track

I believe Saturday was the first cross country race to be held at Brands Hatch for some time, but in some ways it was a return to the early days of sport at that location. As Paul mentions at his blog, Brands Hatch started out as a cycling venue in the 1920s and several accounts mention that the first proper race held there was a four mile race between cyclists and cross country runners.  Racing Circuits Info dates this to 1928 and says that 'Rather surprisingly, the runners won, although they did have the advantage of having Australian world champion Jackie Hoobin among their number'. I'm slightly sceptical about this - the only Jack Hoobin I can find is the Australian 1950 cycling world champion

But there's no reason to doubt that a cyclists vs. runners race took part. There's some great Pathe news footage of just such a race in Walsall in 1925. On that occasion the cyclists won, but watching the film it is clear that it wasn't a foregone conclusion as the cyclists had to carry their bikes through some of the muddier patches and over obstacles.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Running on Screen (11): Running to David Bowie

Woke up this morning and shed a tear or ten on hearing the news about the death of David Bowie. Others have spoken very elequently about Bowie today - I particularly liked Robert Elms' contribution when talking to Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London. I often think about Bowie when I'm running around the parts of South London where he lived earlier in his life, in particular in Beckenham (he once lived in Foxgrove Road, near the home of Beckenham Running Club)

I guess his most direct contribution to athletics was in the 2012 London Olympics where Team GB marched in the opening ceremony athletes parade to 'Heroes'. But there are a couple of very memorable running scenes in movies, both set to his 'Modern Love'.

The first is in Leos Carax's 1986 French movie 'Mauvais Sang' (Bad Blood - released in English as 'The Night is Young'), in which there is an amazing acrobatic dance/running sequence featuring Denis Lavant.

Denis Lavant goes for a run in Mauvais Sang

The scene starts with the lovers listening to the radio - Bowie comes in at around 2:28:

Incidentally there is another running sequence at the end of the film with Juliette Binoche sprinting across an airfield.

Juliette Binoche runs at close of Mauvais Sang

Mauvais Sang was presumably an influence on Noah Baumbach's 2012 movie Frances Ha, as the director chose to again use Bowie's Modern Love to soundtrack for an equally joyous run, this time featuring Greta Gerwig on the streets on New York

Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha

David Bowie, Let's Dance
'if you say run, I'll run with you'

Previously in the Running on Screen series:

Saturday, 2 January 2016

New Year Runs & Resolutions: Register as a Blood Stem Cell Donor

I got off to a good start to 2016 with two 5k parkruns under my belt before breakfast. New Year's Day is the only day in the year that it is possible to record two parkruns on the same day, so  by starting out at Peckham Rye at 9 am (as I did) it was possible to go on to join another run elsewhere in South London immediately afterwards - Hilly Fields and Dulwich parkruns were both scheduled to start at 10 am and Southwark Park at 10:30 am.

At Peckham Rye there were 183 runners including more than 70 experienced parkrunners who had never run at that location before, no doubt many of them looking to do the double and perhaps tick off a couple of locations on the parkrun tourist itinerary for those who try and get round to as many parkruns as possible. In fact I noticed that one of the runners was parkrun uber-tourist Chris Cowell, after whom the unofficial parkrun status of 'Cowell Club' was named for those who have run at least 100 different parkruns (Chris was the first to achieve this feat).

New Year's Day parkrun under way at Peckham Rye  - by Brucie_Baby from flickr group

Chris moved on from Peckham to Southwark Park, I went up to Hilly Fields where the 117 finishers including eight who had never run a parkun anywhere before - evidence perhaps of some New Year resolutions kicking in early.

Blood Stem Cell Donation

I got one of my New Year resolutions out of the way early too by starting the process of registering as a potential blood stem cell/bone marrow donor. I was listening to an interview recently on the Marathon Talk podcast with Melissa Fehr, who does the River Runner blog (she lives on a boat moored on the Thames in London so does plenty of running along the River).  To summarise Melissa's story:

'In 2008 I was running 30km a week, eating healthy, keeping slim, and planning my wedding. Within a fortnight I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without losing my breath and in July 2009 I had a bone marrow transplant to cure a rare blood disorder.

Unfortunately, my only brother was not a match for me, so the Anthony Nolan Trust put out a worldwide search to find someone with my specific genetics, and a young man from America donated his stem cells to save my life. After a grueling first 6 months, I was able to return to work and exercise, gradually regaining the fitness I'd had before the illness and chemo... and eventually surpassing "the old me"!

In October 2012 I ran my first full marathon in Amsterdam, finishing in 3:48. I ran my second in Copenhagen in May 2013, and after a severe bout of shingles interrupted my training, I still managed to finish in 3:52. In 2014 I ran the Virgin Money London marathon in 3:30 and the Berlin marathon in 3:46'.

Last September Melissa competed for Team GB in the World Transplant Games held in Argentina, and won five gold medals including setting a transplant athlete world record in 1500m

Naturally Mellisa is keen to encourage people to register as potential stem cell/bone marrow donors, as whether somebody can benefit from this life saving treatment depends entirely on finding somebody who is a genetic match for the patient. There are several routes to becoming a donor:

- the NHS British Bone Marrow Registry is open to donors aged 19-49. You must already be a blood donor, and if you wish to join should discuss it next time you give blood

- if you are aged 16-30 you can join the Anthony Nolan register, maintained by the charity.

- Delete Blood Cancer is an international charity, with a UK branch, which maintains a register open to people aged 18 to 55.

I have signed up via the latter, it only takes a couple of minutes to do so online. Next step is that they send a cheek swab which you return to them from which they obtain DNA details. Of course you only get called upon to actually make a donation if there is a patient in need who matches to you. Nowadays most donations are taken via a non surgical outpatient procedure where blood stem cells are collected from the donor’s blood stream, with only a minority requiring extracting cells from bone marrow via a syringe.

Just do it!

You can listen to Melissa at Marathon talk, her interview starts at about 54 minutes 30 seconds.