Sunday, 26 June 2016

City of London Mile 2016

The third Amba Hotels City of London Mile took place on 19 June 2016, with more than 2800 runners taking part in 16 races ranging from family waves to elite men's and women's fields. The free event is organised with the fine The Running Works shop, and takes in an iconic route starting by St Pauls Cathedral and running round the Bank of England before finishing on Cheapside.

The race organisers had listened to feedback from last year and made some improvements on what was already a good event. The start, for instance, had been moved on to a wider section of road to avoid the early congestion some found last year. 

It was my second year of taking part, and in fact only my second mile race, and I was pleased enough to take 14 seconds of last year's time and finish with a PB of 5:42.  Top 20 Power of 10/Run Britain for my age for the distance on road,  I'll take it! At the front of the field, Australian Rio hopeful Luke Matthews set a course record to win in 4.03 (full results here)

well this might be the first and last time I make top 20 in GB rankings (for age), so you'll just have to forgive me for posting

I strongly recommend taking part next year if you get the chance - registration usually opens in February. Nice technical t-shirt too (not included in the free registration)

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Ireland 1 Italy 0... 1994

Ireland 1 Italy 0... no not last night, in June 1994 I was in Paros, Greece watching the same result in a bar - celebrations all round after Ray Houghton's 11th minute goal. With no England, Scotland, Wales or NI in the World Cup, Jack Charlton's Ireland were the team of choice even for many Brits. I went so far as to have a Jack Charlton 'Tiocfaidh ar la' t-shirt from my then local, the George Canning in Brixton (now Hootananny) - probably a little over enthusiastic! I might add that while my mum was born a Kelly, my Irish ancestors on her side of the family left County Cork for the Forest of Dean in the 19th century so I could not really claim to be entitled to support the team, but as a third claim for me after England or Scotland (who I could represent in sports if I was any good) I felt it was OK.

Loughinisland Massacre 1994

On what was a night of joyous celebrations for Ireland supporters around the world there was also an infamous massacre. At the Heights Bar in Loughinisland, County Down, people were watching the match on TV when Ulster Volunteer Force gunmen walked in and opened fire with assault rifles, killing six people. The dead were Adrian Rogan (34), Malcolm Jenkinson (52), Barney Greene (87), Daniel McCreanor (59), Patrick O'Hare (35) and Eamon Byrne (39) - pictured below. A report published by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland earlier this month concluded that there had been collusion between police officers and the killers.  

There were many terrible killings on all sides during that period, but the slaughter of people just enjoying a football match in a bar has not been forgotten. When Ireland played Italy at Euro 2012, 18 years to the day since the massacre, Ireland players wore black armbands. And on the night of this week's Ireland v Italy match, relatives gathered once again in the Heights Bar.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Muhammad Ali: I am the Greatest at O2

'I’m so fast, man,
I can run through a hurricane and don't get wet'

I've been meaning to go to the Muhammad Ali 'I am the Greatest' exhibition at the 02 in London since it opened, finally getting round to it in the week after he died which obviously made it very poignant. 

Essentially its an exhibition that seeks to tell the story of his life through artifacts from his boxing career. Some of them are directly associated with Ali and his immediate entourage - such as gloves worn in his famous 1966 fight with Henry Cooper. Others are from the period, such as posters and magazine covers. There's also film footage with lots of Ali interviews as well as fight footage of course. It doesn't neglect his political activism either, with a room covering his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War. This act led to him being banned from boxing for three years at the height of his career - in turn it could be argued that this led to an increased risk to his health as he later fought longer than might have been good for him -  though the evidence of a link between boxing and the Parkinson's disease that disabled and ultimately killed him is contentious.

Some of the photos of Ali running I have featured here before are included, as well as interview filmed with him while going for a run. 

Posters from the 1974 Ali vs. Foreman 'rumble in the jungle':

1960 Rome Olympics memorabilia, including torches and participation medals:

'Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee' jacket made by Everlast:

Ali vs. Superman:

Ali as Saint Sebastian:

Ali lights the flame at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta:

Inevitable photo in front of posters/covers wall:

Monday, 6 June 2016

How to get in the football team - just run!

The more I have got into running the more I have come to appreciate its critical role in so many other sports. In some ways it is the ur-sport, the original contest that underlies all the rest. Humans have always run, and the game of who can run furthest or fastest must have existed long before most other sports were codified. More than that the ability to run fast, and sustain that speed over a long game (even if only in short bursts) is a key skill in everything from football to tennis: the ability to run after a ball or away from an opponent. In cricket points are even labelled 'runs' and a 'home run' is a high point of baseball. That is one of the reasons why many suspect that doping is probably as widespread in some of these sports as in track & field, it just hasn't been tested for so extensively.

Anyway in  'A Death in the Family' by Karl Ove Knausgaard, the first volume of his epic fictionalised autobiography 'My Struggle', the Norwegian author recalls how his recognition of all this helped him impress his school football coach and get promoted to the senior team:

'Many people could not understand why I was playing with them. I was no good, after all. There were at least six, perhaps even seven or eight players in the junior team who were better than me... I understood why...

All that autumn I had run a lot and was in such good shape that I had been selected to represent the school in the 1500 meters even though I had never done any track or field events before. So when it was my turn to train with the seniors on the snow-covered shale pitch near Kjota, I knew I had to run. It was my only chance. I ran and ran. In every sprint up the pitch I came first. I gave everything I had every time. When we started to play it was the same: I ran and ran, ran for everything all the time. I ran like someone possessed, and after three sessions of that I knew that I was promoted and I was not surprised. But the others in the junior team were. Whenever I failed to control the ball, whenever I made a bad pass, they let me know, what the hell are you doing in the seniors? Why did they pick you?

I knew why, it because I ran. You just had to run'.

More running related literature: