Is Mark bovvered?

Howdie Road Runners

Oh dear. I’d drafted my introduction during half-time in the England vs Italy game. I’m afraid it needed some redrafting.

On a positive note, Brit Mark Cavendish has won four sprint stages at this year’s Tour de France, equalling Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 Tour stage wins. Very impressive for a 36-year-old who most people thought had competed in his final Tour back in 2018. Reflecting on this, after his first stage win of this year’s Tour, Cavendish said:

‘Don’t give up. If you don’t give up, good things will happen’.

Isn’t that the Three Lions spirit – maintaining belief in the face of adversity? Never mind the Euros – next year, it’s the World Cup!

Athletics in the News

The Diamond League action was in Monaco on 8 July. There were mixed performances from the GB athletes. Elliot Giles (he of the interestingly-shaped buttock) came 5th in the men’s 800m (1:44.07); Chris McAlister was 6th in the men’s 400m hurdles (49.98); Liz Bird was 7th in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase; and Holly Bradshaw was 4th in the pole vault. But the star performances were by Laura Muir and Jemma Reekie, who came 1st (1:56.73) and 2nd (1:56.96) respectively in the women’s 800m.

The next Diamond League meeting will be in London/Gateshead on 13 July.

BRR in Action

Round 3 of the Essex summer cross-country series at Thorndon Country Park on Saturday saw several BRR runners in action. 3k out, 2x2k laps and 3k back made up a tough, hilly, 10k course unless you went the wrong way (mentioning no names) then it became 11k. Martin Page and Joyce Golder both finished in 1:00.48, followed by Mick Davison 1:03.43, Gary Harford 1:05.29, Martin Mason 1:09.09, Chris Anastasi 1:09.35, Dennis Spencer-Perkins 1:10.47, Alison Fryatt 1:12.26 and Rob Courtier 1:26.22. Martin Mason finished 3rd in the M70+ category.

Handicap #06 was won by Jason Li who just managed to edge out Mark New in an exciting sprint finish, with Joyce Golder finishing 3rd. Fastest run on the night was by Jess Collett who finished in 22.12. With one race to go in the overall series Joyce is in 1st place with 487 points, with Jason a close 2nd with 486 points. All to play for in the last race on the 15th.

Rory Burr travelled to Belfast to take part in the Ormeau parkrun, as parkrun has restarted in Ireland. This was Rory’s 55th different parkrun and he finished in a time of 23:22

Several BRR members were out in their Comrades tri suits at the weekend for the Grwys sprint triathlon and aqua bike with a category win for Debbie Coyle and 2nd places for Charlotte Owen, Paul Wyatt and Marcin Dubanowski.

Back in sad old England, where we only have (not)parkrun, BRR had the top three at Barking (not)parkrun this week, with Belinda Riches first over the virtual line in 23:32, Ron Vialls second in 24:16, and Jason Li third in 24:12. Emma Botterill finished in 29:44, Greg Adams in 32:41 and Alison Fryatt in 34:04.

BRR Diary

PLEASE NOTE: there will be no track on Tuesday 20 July due to the clash with the Havering ’90 5-mile ELVIS race. The track will probably still be unlocked if you’re not doing the H90 race want to give it a go, but we couldn’t possibly condone such behaviour

7.00pm, Tuesday 13 July – speed development, Jim Peter’s Track. Debbie will be taking the session, you lucky people!

7.00pm, Thursday 15 July – Handicap #07. Barking Park. The last race of the competition, and it’s still anyone’s to win!

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.

Saturday 17 July – BURPS cycling trip. If you don’t fancy running, we are looking to arrange a BURPS trip. Details to be confirmed.

7.30pm, Tuesday 20 July – Havering ’90 Joggers Midweek 5 – ELVIS #3. Raphael’s Park, at the back near the tennis courts. Remember it’s 5 miles not 5k! More details and entry at

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. If you really want a challenging hill session, this is the race to do. I expect we will find somewhere for tea and chat afterwards. Details at:

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

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

10.30am, 30 August – Phipps 5k (BRR August Bank Holiday) 5K. We’ll need some runners to make up our male and female teams, but we’ll also need lots of volunteers (from 9.15am) to make the race a success – we need to show that our marshals can be as friendly and supportive as EERR!

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 carry-over from the 2020 Grand Prix season that was not to be. The race starts in Stansted Mountfichet and is described as having a ‘beautiful, challenging route, across normally inaccessible private land’. Sounds fun. £12 in advance/£15 on the day. Details and sign-up at

11.00, Sunday 12 September – Ingatestone 5. Some of you may have had entries carried over from last year. If not, this is a lovely race to do, usually with quite a small field so chances of trophies if you are speedy. Details and sign-up at

Running Hero – Steve Ovett

There were the Beatles versus the Rolling Stones, Oasis versus Blur, and Take That versus East 17 (and we all know who won that one). But those of us who were around in the late 70s and early 80s will remember the athletics rivalry that was all over the newspapers and television at the time: Steve Ovett versus Sebastian Coe. The pair’s struggle for supremacy over the middle distance kept us on the edge of our seats.

Steve Ovett was born in Brighton in 1955 and became a member of Brighton and Hove AC in his youth. His coach/mentor, Harry Wilson, used a combination of training methods gleaned from some of the world’s top coaches to tailor an athlete-centred regime suited to Ovett (see for more details). His unique blend of speed and endurance saw him win national titles from 400m to over six miles of cross-country as a junior. He first attracted international attention when he won the 800m at the 1973 European junior championships in Duisburg, West Germany, his first major title. He first competed against Coe in Prague in 1978, beating him but finishing second in the 800-metre race; in that same year he set a world record of 8:13.51 in the two-mile run. His first-place victory over pre-race favourite Coe in the 800-metre run at the 1980 Moscow Olympics came as a surprise. Coe turned the tables in the 1,500m, winning the race while Ovett finished in third place.

The British press encouraged the rivalry between Ovett, who was seen as the rough diamond, and the more reserved ‘posh’ Coe, although in their best years the two seldom raced against each other. The one-mile world record (3:48.8) that Ovett had set in 1980 was bested by Coe in 1981; in August Ovett set another world record by running the mile in 3:48.4, only to have Coe defeat that record two days later. In 1983, a week after his world record in the 1,500 metres had been broken, Ovett mustered a strong finish to set a new world record of 3:30.77.

From 1977 to the Moscow Olympics in 1980 he won 46 consecutive races at 1500m and mile and, though he lost in Moscow, he went on to win a staggering number of races at the longer distances until 1986, setting six world records along the way. Steve Ovett is uniquely the only athlete to win major championship golds at 800m (Olympics), 1500m (Europeans) and 5000m (Commonwealth). He was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1982 and an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 2000. He now lives in Australia and is still involved in athletics as a commentator.

But what about his infamous rivalry with Coe? Asked in an interview in 2012 if he really hated Coe, Ovett said:

Look, our rivalry was a great thing for the sport, but it was largely a media invention. Do we swap Christmas cards? Actually, yes we do – and nor were we sworn enemies off the track. The reality is that it suited both of us to be cast as ­arch-rivals.

He was portrayed as the posh boy and I was supposedly the rough diamond, but when you stripped away the lacquers that were layered over the truth, we were, and are, very similar characters.

Seb’s route to achieving things was different to mine – his background was in indoor racing, mine was in ­cross-country, he became a peer of the realm while I ended up living in Australia, and you can’t live another man’s life.

But, hey, you couldn’t have written the script better. We were two guys from totally different backgrounds, from the same country, in the same era, chasing the same dreams”.

Training Theory – Marginal Gains

The doctrine of marginal gains is all about small incremental improvements in any process adding up to a significant improvement when they are all added together. Probably the most high-profile exponent of marginal gains in sport is Sir Dave Brailsford. Brailsford explained marginal gains in 2012, when he became performance director of British Cycling:

“The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.

“There’s fitness and conditioning, of course, but there are other things that might seem on the periphery, like sleeping in the right position, having the same pillow when you are away and training in different places.

“Do you really know how to clean your hands? Without leaving the bits between your fingers? If you do things like that properly, you will get ill a little bit less. [This was eight years before Covid!]

“They’re tiny things but if you clump them together it makes a big difference.”

How do marginal gains translate to running? It probably goes without saying that good running form/training will always have the biggest impact on your running performance, but are you missing out on other opportunities to reap the benefits of marginal gains? Here are a few things to think about:

  • Nutrition – there are many different theories about the best diets for endurance athletes like runners, but the standard approach is to include enough of the right nutrients to provide sufficient energy for the physical demands whilst maintaining a healthy body fat ratio, providing satiety (i.e. making you feel full) and helping build muscle mass without adding excess body fat. This means having a balance of protein for muscle repair; good fats for vitamin absorption; and complex carbs for energy. So, having a good diet can contribute to improved performance. And no, chocolate hob nobs are not the perfect combination of protein, fat, and carbs.
  • Sleep – apparently, Paula Radcliffe used to sleep nine hours at night and have a further two-hour nap in the afternoon. Hormone growth hormone is secreted around twenty minutes after you fall asleep so the theory was that, by having two periods of sleep, she was getting a double-dose of the hormone, helping to rebuild her stressed and damaged muscles faster. Most of us can’t get away with an afternoon nap, so getting enough sleep will definitely pay dividends.
  • Dehydration – research has shown that even mild dehydration of 1 per cent of body weight during intense exercise can cause weakness and fatigue, leading to a 2 per cent drop in performance. A study back in the 1980s found that runners slowed nearly 80 seconds during a 5k and lost 2 minutes and 40 seconds over a 10k due to dehydration. Of course, the accompanying loss of electrolytes might also have had an impact.
  • Shoe weight – According to scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder, the weight of your running shoes greatly affects your speed. Their studies show that the lighter the running shoes, the faster one can run. Those wearing shoes that are 100 grams lighter than the normal ones can shave up to a minute off a marathon time. There was less benefit over shorter race distances, which suggested that the faster you run, the less the weight of your shoes matters, so perhaps the slow folks like me have the most need for the state-of-the-art shoes. However, lighter weight shoes may mean you lose the benefits of cushioning, which research by the same University has shown can improve running economy by as much as 3-4 percent, so you need to strike a balance.

Perhaps the most important marginal gain is self-belief: if you believe that you are doing everything you can to achieve you best, then maybe you will!

Travelling abroad?

If you’ve been brave enough to risk booking a holiday abroad, did you now that you can still get a health insurance card for free or reduced cost state-provided healthcare in the EU and some non-EU European countries?  They’re now called Global Health Insurance Cards or GHIC. If you still have your old European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) you can still use it until it expires, or you can replace it with a GHIC if it’s within six months of expiry. It doesn’t replace the need for travel insurance, but it is probably a darn-sight easier to use if you need some emergency treatment while away. Just make sure you apply for your GHIC via the official website ( as there are lots of scam sites that will try and charge you for something that’s free. Public service announcement over!

Cracker Corner 

Have you noticed that not many people are called Lance these days? In medieval times they used to be called Lance a lot.

Police arrested two men in Barking. One was drinking battery acid, the other was eating fireworks. They charged one and let the other one off.

I used to think sticks and stones could break my bones but words could never hurt me – until I fell into a printing press.

And finally…

Taking part in the Thorndon 10k cross-country on Saturday I ran past a father and daughter. The little girl said ‘Daddy, why are they running?’ and he replied ‘to keep fit’. I could see her looking at me as I staggered past, almost doubled over and gasping for breath, and thinking ‘if that’s fit…’.

Happy Running



BRR Chair



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