Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 seasons on the run - reviewing my running year

2017 is drawing to a close and once again my personal running calendar has been largely synchronised with the seasons of British athletics club culture. The weekly cycle of Tuesday club session, Saturday race, Sunday long run inserted in the larger annual cycles of Winter cross country, Spring road running/marathon, Summer track and back around to the start of cross country again in the Autumn. This would be largely familiar to the runners of a century ago, probably the only significant change in the last ten years has been the addition of a weekly parkrun into many's Saturday routines, and annual parkrun landmarks over the midwinter holiday period.

So like many others my 2017 started off with a double parkrun on New Year's Day (in my case Peckham Rye followed by Hilly Fields) and has come to an end with a Christmas Day parkrun at Hilly Fields, my home parkrun in Lewisham and recently ranked in a Run Britain analysis as the joint 7th toughest parkrun course out of 300 in the UK.

elf on my shoulder at Hilly Fields parkrun, Christmas Day 2017
In between highlights have included:

- January - Surrey League XC at Mitcham Common;  Southern Cross Country Champs at Parliament Hill (me pictured below at end of 1st lap in Southerns).

- February - English National Cross Country Champs in Nottingham; final race of 2016/17 Surrey League XC at Wimbledon Common.
- April - London Marathon; Paddock Wood Half Marathon; start of Assembly League at Beckenham Place Park.
- May - Assembly League at Victoria Park.
- June - Kent AC 800m and 3000m club champs; Assembly League in Battersea Park.

800m champs

Some of the Kent AC crew at Battersea Park for Assembly League

- July - Assembly League at Victoria Park; Bewl 15, Dulwich Runners Midsummer Relays.
- September - Southern Road Relays at Crystal Palace; Assembly League finale at Beckenham Place Park; Ladywell 10,000m; Kent AC 5000m champs; Marsha Phoenix 10k relays.

Marsha Phoenix 10k relay, Hilly Fields - low key charity fundraiser,
our two teams came 2nd and 3rd and won free fish and chips at Brockley Rock!
- October - Start of cross country season with Surrey League Division One race at Reigate Priory.
- November - Surrey League Cross Country at Mitcham Common.
- December - Kent Vets Cross Country at Dartford.

In terms of my own running it has definitely been a year of two halves. The first half of the year saw some of my hardest ever training rewarded with  PBs in the half marathon (1:34 at Paddock Wood) and in the London Marathon (3:34), as well as in 800m and 3000m in club champs.. For a little while after my good form was sustained, but by the summer it felt like the wheels had fallen off. Maybe the heavy winter/spring mileage eventually took its toll, but I've had a tender achilles/ankle for most of the second half of the year, with various other aches and pains. Not enough to stop me running altogether but certainly enough to slow me down significantly. Low point was Kent AC 10,000m champs where I could feel myself limping and struggling to get round.

Athletics is a mercilessly exact sport in confirming exactly how far we have fallen - I know for instance that my Kent Vets time this month was two minutes and 12 seconds slower over the same 5 mile course than a year earlier. My 5k parkrun time is also about 90 seconds down. It's a bit demoralising but I guess I have been fortunate as a V50 runner to have previously had four years of injury free improvement. It does make you focus on why you run - good for age times and PBs can't be everything and even on some of my poorer days I have really enjoyed running in new places. I loved running down through the woods in Reigate cross country for instance and round Bewl reservoir in the sun. Also enjoyed checking out some different parkruns, including doing a couple in the middle of long Marathon training runs across London. Not to mention exploring Lisbon.

Mile End parkrun, February 2017

Fulham parkrun, March 2017

Of course even when you're not running well yourself you can still enjoy watching others run. As an athletics spectator the highlight for me was a night at the World Championships at the ex-Olympics Stadium on August. It was great to see some of my favourite athletes up close in action, including Laura Muir, Faith Kipyegon, Jenny Simpson, Sifan Hassan (all in womens 1500m final), Allyson Felix (in 200m heats pictured below), Jack Green, Karsten Warholm and Sophie Hitchon. Most enjoyable moment was the men's 110m hurdles final, won by Jamaica's Omar McLeod. I was sitting two seats behind his mum so it was pretty joyful.

Night of 10,000m PBs (view below from beer tent) at Highgate gets better every year, 2017 incorporating the British trials for the World Champs.  Our Kent AC contingent gave some fairly rowdy support as Beth Potter won the fantastic women's race and Andy Vernon the men's.

I was proud too of my club's Ladywell 10,000m champs in September. Even if my personal race wasn't great, the event was a big step forward for the club with beer, music and some very competitive fields. It was great to see Katrina Wooton (pictured) run the fastest UK women's 10,000m this year (31.45) - and become the 11th fastest UK woman of all time - on my home track.

Kent AC continues to grow and get stronger. Although I only occasionally score for the club in vets events I enjoy being part of the big squad we manage to turn out in races. This year the club has won the men's Surrey cross country league, the men's and women's Assembly League, and in the English Marathon championships the women won team gold and the men silver - thanks to more than 50 taking part in the London Marathon, 29 finishing in less than three hours. I've got a bit more involved in the organisational side of the club, taking on the joint role of child welfare officer (taking my work home maybe as I work in children's services) as well as editing the sporadic newsletter.

So after 1400+ miles this year, on to 2018. I don't have any running goals as yet other than seeing a physio and getting back to some kind of form if I can. I do have a place in the first Big Half in March, the new London 13 miler organised by the London Marathon team. Although I have a good for age qualifying time for this race, I don't expect to do much more than jog round with current fitness but still hope to take part in what should be an iconic event.

Happy New Year and good luck with your running in 2018!

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Running on Screen- The A Word and Atypical

The A Word

I mentioned here before that in the BBC's autism-themed drama The A Word, Christopher Eccleston plays  a keen fell runner. In Series Two, first broadcast in November 2017, the producers created a fictional 'High Tarn Fell Race' as the scene for a personal crisis. The 'race' was staged at Thirlmere in the Lake District, and features members of Keswick AC and other local running clubs as extras.

Eccleston enjoys running in the hills in real life and it shows. He has also run marathons - including London Marathon 2012 in 4:17:43 - and the 2005 Great North Run half in a creditable 1:27:19

Previous three photos - The 'High Tarn Fell Race' in the A-Word Series 2, Epsode 4
(including last two location shots from Times and Star)

Christopher Eccleston in London Marathon
(not sure what year)


Coincidentally running is also a significant thread in the equally excellent  2017 Netflix series Atypical, which like the A-word explores the impact of autism on a family, this time in a US setting. Brigette Lundy-Paine plays Casey, a keen track and field competitor, whose brother has autism. She is offered an elite school place after setting a 400m track record, but her relationship with her father and sometime coach is put under strain when he misses her performance while distracted by her brother.

Previously in the Running on Screen series:

Monday, 18 December 2017

#metoo shakes Swedish Athletics

The #metoo movement of women disclosing and challenging sexual harassment and abuse is currently shaking the world of Swedish athletics.

Moa Hjelmer - who won 400m gold at the 2012 European Championships - revealed last month that in 2011 she was raped by an older athlete at the Finnkampfen - the annual athletics competition between Sweden and Finland.

Moa Hjelmer's announcement on instagram

Since then several other women have come forward and made similar disclosures, and there is a growing tide of support from women across Swedish sports.  Among those expressing their solidarity with Hjelmer has been sprint hurdler Susanna Kallur (world indoor record holder for 60m hurdles) who posted this picture on Instagram with the message 'the patriarchy falls within your lifetime'.

Susanna Kallur's message on instagram

(first heard about this via B9ace on twitter)

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Crystal Palace sports facilties still under threat

The future of sports facilities in  Crystal Palace park remain uncertain, with the Mayor of London/Greater London Authority still considering plans that would demolish the current athletics stadium and indoor running track and reduce other indoor and outdoor sporting facilities at the National Sports Centre, which also include a 50m pool, diving and training pools.

The Crystal Palace Sports Partnership (CPSP) is co-ordinating the campaign to keep facilities at a similar level. Nearly 6000 people have already signed their petition to 'Save athletics - and  sports - at Crystal Palace'. Everyone accepts that there will be change of some kind, but the CPSP is arguing 'for a mixed-use sports and leisure centre at Crystal Palace - a sustainable facility that is shared by the local community, schools, clubs and aspiring athletes at all levels. It should be a resource that caters for the needs of recreational users as much as it provides for and supports the development of the next generation of Olympic athletes'.

The latest development is that the GLA has appointed Neil Allen Associates consultants to evaluate the demands and needs for sports facilities at Crystal Palace NSC. They are due to report back before the end of February 2018.

Start of senior women's race in South of England Road Relays at Crystal Palace, September 2017

I had the pleasure of running at Crystal Palace in the Southern 6/4/3 Stage Road Relays back in September. The course started in the stadium before heading round the park and back into the stadium for a final stretch on the track to the handover. While there were some issues with the organisation of the event, and some facilities definitely need investment (starting with the toilets), it's a great venue for athletics and of course as a runner it was a privilege to be able to run on the iconic track graced by everyone from Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett and Paula Radcliffe to Usain Bolt and Mo Farah.

See previously

Save Crystal Palace for Athletics... and Popular Culture
Save Athletics at Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace Dinosaur Dash
Gentlemen vs Amateurs at Crystal Palace, 1872