The boys at Roding Valley

Howdie Road Runners

Well, the weather has really started to turn now – winter is coming. At least we are not getting bitten by mozzies at track anymore! Luckily it was drier on Sunday morning than it was last week, as some of us reconnoitred a course at Hornchurch Country Park for our internal cross-country competition. Gary had come up with a nice single-loop course that takes in the Ingrebourne Hill (thanks, Gazza) which we’ll definitely go over and run, but we’ve decided to stick with a two-lap course this time, to make it easier for marking/marshalling, and more entertaining for volunteers/marshals. Can’t wait until Sunday 19th December, when the race takes place! In the meantime, Gazza still hasn’t managed to shift that rock…

Athletics in the news

After the drama of the Tokyo Olympics, it was back to home soil at the weekend for Laura Muir and Andy Butchart, and they were certainly greeted by proper Scottish weather (i.e. cold, biting winds and horizontal rain) at the Lindsays Scottish Athletics Short Course Cross Country Championships.

The Lanark Race Course was firm underfoot at the start of the Championships but soon became a mud bath. This didn’t faze either runner, however.

After an early lead, Muir followed her usual track practice of hanging back until the time was right for a decisive move to the front, where she won the 4k in 13:09, nine seconds ahead of her nearest rival, and securing her fifth title at the event.

“It was hard. It was really windy so I tried to tuck in on the first lap and then stretch the legs a bit on the second,” said Muir. “That’s cross country at its best – wet, windy and very muddy…My first GB vest came at cross country and that’s where my whole running journey started so it’s been so nice to come back and to race against so many friends who I’ve known for so long.”

Andy Butchart led from the start in the men’s race and managed to hold off his rivals to win his fourth consecutive title at the event, in a time of 11:47.

“It’s a flat course, so it suits some better than others, but I think the conditions made it an honest course,” said Butchart. “If you’re not going for it then what’s the point? I like to run hard and that’s what I did today.”

Out of interest, the last person in the men’s race finished in 23:36 and the last woman finished in 25:45.

Hot weather running tip

It definitely won’t have been an issue at the Scottish Cross Country Championships but if, like Captain Rob, you are lucky enough to be travelling abroad to a warm weather race but won’t have time to acclimatise to the hotter climate, apparently taking two or three long, hot, baths if the days leading up to the event can help. Worth a try. I’ll see if the same works in reverse and have a few cold sowers before the Benfleet 15!

Caffeine and running

Can caffeine make you run faster and, if so, how? A number of studies have shown significant performance increases in various endurance disciplines, including running, following caffeine ingestion. Caffeine works by masking fatigue, reducing perceived effort, and aiding the body to convert fat to energy, all allowing athletes to work harder for longer.  In one study, elite runners improved their time in a treadmill run to exhaustion by 1.9 percent with caffeine.

The International Olympic Committee added caffeine to its list of banned substances in 1984 and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) followed suit in 2000. The ban only applied if caffeine concentration in urine was above what would be expected from normal coffee drinking. Both bodies reversed the ban in 2004, but WADA is still monitoring the impact of caffeine on athletes.

So should we all guzzle loads of caffeine, in coffee, tea or cola, before a race? Not necessarily. Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause a stress response and prevent sleep. It can also cause stomach upset. None of this is helpful when you’re racing! Some sources suggest that excessive caffeine can affect bone density and the absorption of vitamins and minerals, which can have a particularly negative impact on women. As for all things, you need to balance the possible positives with the possible negatives and make an individual choice. In any event, there is no evidence that higher amounts of caffeine produce proportionately higher benefits, so there is no need to knock back the double espressos. A 2011 study found that three out of four elite athletes had consumed caffeine before or during sports competition, with those in endurance sports showing the highest levels. However, almost all were within the former IOC/WADA legal limit.

Charlotte Purdue is currently promoting Revvies: caffeine strips that dissolve on the tongue and are claimed not to cause stomach upset. You can try them for £8 (£1.50 off the RRP) this month at by entering code WRTRY£8 at the checkout. No idea if they work but I’ve ordered some to check them out – I’ll let you know my verdict.

BRR in Action

(Courtesy of Greg ‘the newshound’ Adams)

Half marathons were the preferred race distance for (most) BRR members over the weekend with runners at Roding Valley and Reading.

Colin Jones and Andy Hiller competed in the Roding Valley Half marathon finishing in times of respectively 1:39:21 and 2:08:38. Kresh Veerasamy ran in the Reading Half marathon finishing in a time of 2:43:48

Ron Vialls took part in the Billericay 10k finishing with a time of 51:34. The results were gun time rather than chip so Ron’s actual time was a little bit quicker in 51:23.

Also at this race BRR’s Jack Nixon’s dad, Gerard, finished 1st in the over 70s category with a time of 49:47.

This week’s parkrunners

Barking Park

Adrian Davison 21:42, Belinda Riches 24:47, Joyce Golder 25:22, John Lang 26:14, Sally Bridge 26:44, Daniel Plawiak 26:45, Isobel Pinedo Borobio 27:24, Nikki Cranmer 34:51, Dawn Blake 34:51, Micky Ball 38:56, Jason Li 40:13 and Alan Murphy 52:01.

Chalkwell Beach 

Antony Leckerman 23:41.

Chelmsford Central

Vicki Groves 31:15.

Clacton Seafront

Barry Culling 26:53.

Lymington Woodside

Joe Stacey 18:01.

Pegwell Bay 

Rob Courtier 28:42.

Raphaels Park 

Martin Brooks 27:03 and Gary Harford 28:35.


Kresh Veerasamy 34:19.

Valentines Park

Kevin Wotton 23:03.


Jess Collett 22:42.

BRR Diary

7.00pm, Tuesday 09 November – Speed Development, Jim Peter’s Stadium. This week we have a nice, simple(ish), time-based session: 7 x (2 mins run, 1 min recovery, 1 min run, 1 min recovery).

6.30pm, Thursday 11 November – Road run from Jo Richardson School, Gale Street. About an hour.

2.30pm, Saturday 27 November – Chingford League Cross-Country 5 miler, Trent Park (EN4 0JZ). Free for BRR members. Bring your existing bib number, if you already have one. Remember to let me know by Midnight on 24 November if you don’t already have a bib number but want to take part. This is also BRR XC01 in our own winter XC competition. race

9.30am, Sunday 5 December – BRR Xmas parks run. Meeting at Matthew Parker Street (nearest tube Westminster/St. James’s Park). A social run of around six miles through St. James’s Park, Green Park and Hyde Park, with refreshments afterwards.

Various times, Sunday 12 December – Sikhs in the City 10k/HM/Marathon/Ultra. Woodford. Distances over 10k start at sunrise (8:04) and ultrarunners can keep going until sunset (15:45) if they feel like it.

10.00am, Sunday 19 December – BRR XC 02. Hornchurch Country Park, starting next to the car park near the Squadron’s Approach entrance. £2 entry fee that will go towards the refreshments/trophies at the end of the series.

11.00am, Sunday 26 December – Crown to Crown 5k – Westley Heights Country Park, 1 Dry St, Langdon Hills, Basildon SS16 5LT. Still waiting for this race to be confirmed.

10.00am – Sunday 16 January – Benfleet 15. At Hadleigh Country Park. SOLD OUT!!!

Running Hero – Allyson Felix

The US athlete Allyson Felix was born in Los Angeles in 1985. She had the unfortunate nickname “Chicken Legs” at high school because of her long, skinny legs. However, she was also strong, and was able to deadlift more than twice her weight. This no doubt helped with her in her development as a sprint athlete.

Felix’s racing repertoire spans from 100m to 400m. From 2003 to 2013, she specialised in the 200m sprint, winning her first Olympics medal (a silver) in 2004 at the age of 18 in Athens, followed by another silver in 2008 and peaking with a gold at the London Olympics in 2012. She also won the World Championships at this distance on three occasions. Later in her career she moved to the 400m, becoming world silver medallist in 2011 before becoming world champion in 2015. She has also won Olympic silver and bronze over this distance.

Felix has had even more success as part of the US women’s relay teams, winning six Olympic gold medals: four consecutive medals at 4 × 400m (2008, 2012, 2016, and 2020), and two at 4 × 100m (2012 and 2016). With these six golds from team relays and one from an individual event, Felix became the first female track and field athlete to ever win seven Olympic gold medals. She is also the most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history and the most decorated American track and field athlete in Olympic history, having earned 11 total medals from five consecutive Olympic Games. Felix currently holds the title of the most decorated athlete, male or female, in World Athletics Championship history with 18 career medals, 7 from individual events and 11 from team relays.

Off the track, Felix stood up against her sponsor, Nike, for greater maternity rights for female athletes. After suffering a life-threatening emergency while pregnant in 2018, Felix revealed publicly that Nike had threatened to cut her pay if her performance dropped during or after pregnancy. Following the resulting outcry, Nike altered its maternal policy in August 2019, promising not to apply any performance-related salary reductions for 18 consecutive months, starting eight months before the due date. During this period, the sportswear company would also not float the possibility of termination if the athlete chose not race due to pregnancy – shocking that they would even suggest such a thing in the first place.

Allyson Felix’s training regime

Felix trains for around 4.5 hours a day, 6 days a week. Each day she spends some time on the track and some in the weight training room. Usually the morning session will be track time, working on fitness, speed and core skills. Then after lunch she hits the gym and the weights room.

A favourite track session is sprinting along the straights and walking on the curves i.e. sprint approximately 100m, walk 100m, then repeat. In the gym, Felix (like our own Debbie Coyle!) is a big fan of the Russian Twist to build core strength. For those who don’t know, you perform Russian Twists by getting into a crunch position with your feet just off the floor and your knees bent. Then clasp your hands in front of your chest and twist your upper body until your elbow touches the floor. Return to the middle and repeat on the other side, keeping the movement fluid and the body straight. The exercise can be made easier by keeping your feet on the floor, or harder by holding some sort of weight, like a kettle bell or dumbbell. You’ll be sprinting like Allyson Felix in no time!

Cracker Corner – the pub edition

A bear walks into a bar and says to the barman, “I’ll have a………… pint of beer please.” The barman asks, “Why the big pause?” The bear replies, “Well, I’ve always had em!”

I went to Oktoberfest and ordered a large stein of beer and a German sausage. It took them 20 minutes just to get me the beer. I’m afraid the wurst has yet to come.

It’s a 5-minute walk from my house to the pub. It’s a 30-minute walk from the pub to my house. The difference is staggering.


And finally…

Advance warning that next week’s blog may be delayed. I’m going to see Soft Cell at the Hammersmith Apollo on Monday evening, so the blog may be late unless I get a chance to sneakily post it while at work. Those of you at track the next day can look forward to me saying hello and waving goodbye as you run past. If you weren’t around in the 80s you won’t have a clue what I’m talking about…

Happy Running



BRR Chair








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