Howdie Road Runners

Yesterday (Sunday) was National ‘Thank You’ day, to thank all the Covid heroes who have helped to keep the country on its feet over the last 18 months (I will leave you to decide whether or not that includes Boris and Matt Hancock. I couldn’t possibly comment…). Barking and Dagenham Council organised a number of events to mark the day. But who, beside the obvious heroes, would you like to thank?  I was telling my workmates that Barking Road Runners has kept me sane since the first lockdown, from spotting clubmates from a distance while out running, or having some banter during the full lockdown, to starting to meet up with others as the rules around outdoor exercise began to relax, to being inspired by some amazing achievements. So, a ‘thank you’ to everyone in BRR – you are my heroes!

Athletics in the News

There was more build up for the Tokyo Olympics, with two Diamond League meetings in the past week.

The League was in Oslo on 1 July, with not many Brits in attendance. Daryll Neita came second in the women’s 100m, finishing in 11:06. Eilish McColgan was 4th in the 5,000m in 14:28.55, a new Personal Best. Jazmin Sawyer was 4th in the long jump, jumping 6.54m.

There were more Brits at the Stockholm meet on Sunday. Keely Hodgkinson came fourth in women’s 800m, becoming the fourth fastest British woman of all time with a time of 1:57.51. Only Kirsty Wade and Kelly Holmes can count themselves quicker than Hodgkinson over 800m. In the 3,000m women’s steeplechase Aimee Pratt finished tenth in 9:39.12 (good to see a Brit doing the steeplechase).

Chris McAlister finished fifth in the 400m hurdles with a personal best, with Holly Bradshaw also just missing out on first place in the pole vault.

Despite jumping 6.57m, Jazmin Sawyers only came fifth in the long jump, while Beth Dobbin was also just outside the top three with her fourth-placed finish in the 200m.  The men’s 100m turned out another great performance from a Brit as Chijindu Ujah snatched third with 10.10.

Team GB’s Elliot Giles was the best of the rest in third place in the men’s 800m, with a personal best of 1:11.05. There is an interesting article abut him in the latest edition of Runners’ World magazine. Apparently he has a very interesting-shaped buttock, after being injured in a motorbike accident. Something to look out for…

The next Diamond League meets will take place on 9 July in Monaco and 13 July in London/Gateshead.

In other news, we pondered last week if it was the end of the road – or should that be track? – for Mo Farah. He appeared to have answered the question in an interview with TalkSPORT on Monday: “At the moment in my career, I feel like I’m not finished yet. I know I can do it and I will not end it like this.

“I want to end it with something massive. Although obviously nothing is going to be as big as the Olympics, I want to come back out and do something great”.

Big talk – let’s see what he can deliver.

Breaking News – Chingford League

Captain Rob and I cycled through wind and rain to the Victoria Park Harriers club house to attend the Chingford League Annual General Meeting.  There will be 18 clubs in the League for the 2021-22 season. The provisional race dates are as follows:

  • 22 or 23 September (evening) – Hog Hill 5k
  • 2 October – Roding Valley XC
  • end Oct/early Nov – Stratford Velopark 5k
  • 27 November – Trent Park XC
  • 22 January – Epping Forest XC
  • 5 February – Victoria Park 5
  • 5 March – relays, Wanstead Flats

BRR in Action

Handicap #05 in the summer 5k series was won by Adrian Davison, smashing his handicap by 58 second. Second and third placed Owen Wainhouse and Mark New also bettered their handicap times, Owen narrowly missing out on going under 20 minutes by a couple of seconds. Jason Li moves to top spot in the overall series with 480 points, followed by Daniel Plawiak, 475, and Micky Ball, 466. Next week could see big changes as runners can start to drop their worst scores.

 Colin Jones completed the Crawley AIM Charity 12-hour track race, covering 20 miles in 2 hours 37 minutes, 40 miles in 6 hours, 58 miles in 9:50 hours and finishing with a very impressive 68 miles in total for 7th place overall.


At the Goodwood Running Festival, Jess Collett competed in the Half Marathon and knocked 9 minutes off her Personal Best finishing in a time of 1:40.59


Daniel Plawiak competed in the Hever Castle Triathlon which could only be described as a mud bath after recent heavy rains. He finished in a combined time of 7:50:27 which included a 1,900m swim, 90k bike ride, and a 21k run. Gabriel Grimaldi was unfortunately unable to complete the event due to an injury. 

Belinda Riches was first over the virtual line at Barking (not)parkrun this week, in 23:43, Emma Botterill finished in 28:40, Alison Fryatt in 33:26 and Greg Adams in 35:54.

Belinda Riches was fourth overall in Virtual Park Run with her time of 23:43. Rory Burr was seventh in 24:35.

Roll up, Roll up! London Marathon Water Station Volunteers Needed

The London Marathon has finally been in touch to ask if we want to provide the Mile 14 water station on 3 October. This is good news, as it means they must be reasonably sure the event will go ahead. The bad news is, they will only be giving us one guaranteed marathon place for 2022. But they will be giving us a free packed lunch each; I think I’d rather have the marathon places but, of course, they have to accommodate all the people who have deferred from 2020 so I guess who can see why they have cut back the places for the volunteers.

We need 100 volunteers to help on the water station, between about 7.00am and 2.00pm. It’s a tough day but also great fun being part of the event and supporting the tens of thousands of participants, not to mention getting a front row seat to see the elite runners go past twice (towards the Isle of Dogs and on the way back again).

Please let us know if you, and all your friends and family, can help. No need to stay for the whole time, though it can be difficult to get to the station once the race starts. The only stipulation, unfortunately, is that volunteers must be over 18.

BRR Diary

7.00pm, Tuesday 6 July – speed development, Jim Peter’s Track. And it will be 2s and 3s. That is: two minutes and three minutes, with one minute recovery in between. Six times!

7.00pm, Thursday 8 July – Handicap #06. Barking Park. Just £1 to enter, and still the chance of winning the tenner, like Adrian did last week. As usual, please arrive before 7.00pm so that Greg can add you to the start list. If you think you are going to be unavoidably delayed, please send a WhatsApp message.

09:30 – 10:30am, Saturday 10 July – Essex Cross Country 10k Series. Thorndon Park this time. Details at:

7.00pm, Thursday 15 July – Handicap #07. Barking Park. The last race of the summer competition.

10.00am, Saturday 17 July – Orion Forest Five #01. Race one in the popular three race series. You can sign up for the series for £18 (EA) or £25 (non-EA).  Otherwise it’s £10/£12 per race.

7.30pm, 28 July – Ilford Athletics Club Newman Hilly 5. A trail 5-miler through Hainault Forest. Note the new date. Details and sign-up at

09:30 – 10:30am, Saturday 14 August – Essex Cross Country 10k Series. At Hadleigh Country Park. Details at:

10.00am, Saturday 21 August – Orion Forest Five #02 (and ELVIS).

9.30am, Sunday 22 August – Clacton 10k/Half. Information and entry at

10.30am, Monday 30 August – Phipps 5k (BRR Bank Holiday 5k). We will need at least 20 volunteers to help on the day.  PLEASE DON’T ENTER THE RACE ON ENTRY CENTRAL. WE ARE DECIDING THE ENTRY ARRANGEMENTS FOR BRR PARTICPANTS.

10.00am, Saturday 4 September – Orion Forest Five #03.

09:30 – 10:30am, Saturday 11 September – Essex Cross Country 10k Series. Weald Country Park. Details at:

8.30am onwards, Sunday 12 September – Havering Mind Half Marathon & 10K. Details at

11.00am, Sunday, 19 September – Stansted 10k. A ‘beautiful, challenging route, across normally inaccessible private land’. £12 in advance/£15 on the day. Details and sign-up at

Dottie Dear’s Almanac: July

Dottie has been having nightmares recently, it seems, and the night before our interview was particularly disturbing for her. In her dream, a large herd of pantomime horses had shuffled through the undergrowth towards her tree, clacking their wooden teeth whilst whinnying in a very spooky way.

They converged at the base of the trunk, swaying and clacking menacingly.  Luckily, however, she had a bucket of pantomime carrots in the tree house, so she went out onto the tree-top platform and started lobbing them out as far as she could. As if by magic, the Thespian herd dispersed outwards, drawn by the irresistible lure of some toothsome snacks, leaving disgusting trails of pantomime drool in their wake.

Dottie had woken with a start, and invigorated by her success with the carrots she wrote down her advice for this month,

  • If in doubt, don’t press SEND.
  • The North does NOT start at Watford Gap.
  • If you give the cat tuna fish when it is expecting cat biscuits, you are at the top of a very slippery slope.
  • You can’t hold your nose and hum at the same time.

Behind you, Dottie!  Behind you!  (Only kidding…)

Running Heroes – Emil Zátopek

He was mentioned in the story of Jim Peters, but Emil Zátopek, the Czech runner named by Runner’s World in 2013 as the greatest runner of all time, deserves a write up all of his own. He certainly had an interesting life.

Zátopek was born 1922, one of eight children. The large family meant money was tight. In 1937, just short of his 15th birthday, he started work in the large Bata shoe factory in Zlin. It was a reasonable job, though very disciplined and somewhat repetitive.

Aged 18, he had no interest in running but on one occasion was picked by his company to join a race. Despite his protestations that he was unfit, he was forced to start the race and ended up coming second out of 100. This began his interest in running, and within four years he was representing Czechoslovakia. The second world war and the German occupation meant he lost some of the best years of his career. But he persevered with his training and made significant improvements.

After the Second World War, he joined the new Czechoslovakia army, who allowed him time to train, on top of his normal duties. In 1948, he became a household name winning the 10 km and placing second in 5k in the London Olympics.

After the 1948 Olympics, Zátopek’s dominance of middle-distance running grew – leading to several world records. By the end of 1953, he held eight world running records—the only man in history to hold so many records at the same time. In total, he set 18 world records.

In Helsinki in 1952, Zátopek achieved one of the greatest Olympic feats of all time. He won gold in the 5km and 10km but then, at the last moment, decided to run his first ever marathon. Despite no previous experience at the distance, he won the race by over two minutes. This was the race where his famous conversation with Jim Peters took place. Having no experience of the marathon distance, during the race he asked Peters if the pace was too fast. Peters, attempting to fool Zátopek, replied: “It isn’t fast enough.” Taking him at his word, Zátopek sped off and won the Gold, leaving Peters trailing behind.

His running style was often criticised for being gangly, inefficient and unattractive, but he ignored his critics and retorted:

“I shall learn to have a better style once they start judging races according to their beauty. So long as it’s a question of speed, then my attention will be directed to seeing how fast I can cover the ground.”

Zátopek was renowned for his hard training routines, arguing that tough training actually made races feel easier. He is said to have done 400m intervals up to 100 times in one training session (don’t tell Captain Rob’s evil twin – it makes our 12 x 400m track session seem lightweight), with short 150m jog intervals in between.  In doing so, he was one of the pioneers of interval training. His philosophy was to develop speed and then be able to repeat this over a long period of time. At the time, this challenged conventional training wisdom. He remarked on the issue of interval training:

“Everyone said, ‘Emil, you are a fool!’ But when I first won the European Championship, they said: ‘Emil, you are a genius!’”

His other training methods have proved less popular: holding his breath until he passed out; eating young birch leaves (in imitation of fast-running deer); eating vast quantities of dandelions and garlic; drinking a mixture of lemon juice and lane-marking chalk to keep up his vitamin C and calcium levels; and training with a child on his back. The latter resulted in a hernia.

As he grew in international stature, Zátopek was used as a spokesperson for the Communist Party, which he supported. However, in the Prague spring of 1968, Zátopek spoke out for the democratic wing of the Party, who were calling for greater change and freedom from the USSR. When the revolution failed, Zátopek was punished. He was expelled from the army and Communist Party and sent to work in a mine. Slowly he was ‘rehabilitated’ and allowed to travel again, and represent Czechoslovakia at international sporting events in the 1970s, but by then his heyday had long passed.

Emil Zátopek

19 September 1922 – 21 November 2000

Cracker Corner – Bob Monkhouse Special

My neighbour asked if he could use my lawnmower. I told him of course he could, so long as he didn’t take it out of my garden.

Yesterday they held the Most Honest Politician of the Year contest…and nobody won.

The last time I went on holiday I got through six Jeffrey Archer novels. I must remember to take enough toilet paper next time.

And finally…

I will leave this week’s ‘and finally’ words to Usain Bolt:

Worrying gets you nowhere. If you turn up worrying about how you’re going to perform, you’ve already lost. Train hard, turn up, run your best and the rest will take care of itself”.

Don’t worry, run happy


BRR Chair


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