No, not the BRR coalmining division, it’s the LOSS 10K!

Happy New Year Road Runners!

Poor old Bing will have to keep on dreaming: it definitely wasn’t a White Christmas, or New Year for that matter. I can’t remember a warmer (or wetter) festive period. Somehow, it’s more difficult to summon the motivation to go out and run in the drizzly weather than when it is cool and crisp and bright. So I was glad that we were able to hold our usual track session between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and I also appreciated Ilford Athletics Club asking us to join their sessions on Tuesday and Friday morning. Indoors, those of us who participated in Debbie’s Core and Abs challenge will now have stronger tummies, which can only help when running – thanks Debbie for taking the sessions (if you missed them, just sign up to the ComradesinCoaching Instagram page, and you can do them at your leisure).

Onwards to 2022!

Hainault Forest Update

Fancy going a-wassailing? This ancient English tradition, which is held to celebrate orchards, awaken the fruit trees, and encourage a good future harvest, will be celebrated in Hainault Forest on the afternoon of Saturday 15 January. You can expect singing, a tree care workshop, kids crafting activities, a Wassail parade, hot mulled apple juice and cider, and mince pies (yum yum!). You need to book in advance if you want to take part in the crafting activities. Details here:

Talking of the Forest, what has our friend Dottie been up to?

Dottie Dear’s Almanac for January: Culture

Another New Year and Dottie was all mince-pied out, so she decided to channel her inner Picasso and enrol in an art class.

She had ordered a shedload of kit from Amazon:  a set of watercolour paints (Artists’ Quality), some pastels, a fine tin of pencils (2H to 9B) and an amazing electric pencil sharpener which made a satisfyingly grindy noise when you stuck the pencil into the top of it.  Shoving it all into a Sainsbury’s Bag for Life and wearing a beret at a very jaunty, Parisian Left Bank sort of angle, she set off through the Forest to catch the 247 bus to the community centre.

There was a bus missing so she arrived just a tad late.  Her fellow students were already setting themselves up at their easels as she picked her way over a tangle of cables (Health and Safety a bit slack, she thought) to the last vacant place in the circle. She started to unpack her gear (a bit hard to do quietly) and the tutor gave her a withering look, but she ignored this and started to look around for the project they would be working on – perhaps a tasteful arrangement of crockery, or a lovely bunch of flowers in a chinoiserie vase.   There was a rather fit young man in a dressing gown in the middle of the circle which Dottie thought was a bit odd, but you couldn’t be sure with these arty types. However, to her horror (and too late to back out) as the dressing gown floated to the floor Dottie realised that this was a life-drawing class. The model (whose name was Brett) proceeded to drape himself over a chaise longue, leaving nothing to the imagination.

Dottie began to feel uncomfortable, and she was sure that the lordly Brett had picked up on this because she could have sworn that he was smirking at her.  To make matters worse, they were working in charcoal (supplied by the tutor) – a medium she had never used before and which turned out to be even messier than she had imagined.

Nothing else for it but to plough on.  Ignoring the tutor’s advice (get your proportions right before working on the detail) she decided to approach Brett from both ends simultaneously.  She sketched out the head and shoulders, working downwards to his belly button.  Then she started on his feet and legs working upwards and stopping just above the knees, thus postponing any decision about what to do with Brett’s Crown Jewels.

In the nick of time, the silence was broken by the noisy arrival of a Channel 4 Film crew returning from their tea break (hence the cables on the floor).  Apparently, they were making a documentary about grass-roots art during the pandemic.  They had with them a rather supercilious Expert (wearing a purple jump suit) whose job it was to comment on each student’s work. The Expert started to work his way around the easels, damning them with faint praise as he went (you have Brett’s big toe just right, darling; that background is perfect my dear, it’s just the figure that needs a bit more work).

Dottie took a critical look at her own drawing. To her dismay, she could see that Brett’s top half was far too big for his lower half, and no way was the piece going to show a properly proportioned human body – leaving aside the issue of Brett’s Best Bits, which she hadn’t yet had the heart to tackle.   Alas, his top and bottom halves were floating separately across the paper, with no middle to speak of.

Too late, the Expert had now arrived at Dottie’s easel.  The tension mounted. The tutor gasped and bit his lip.  Brett’s microbladed right eyebrow shot up into his glossy bobbed hair.  Dottie wished she could just disappear. …and then the unthinkable happened.

“We are in the presence of greatness!” intoned the Expert.  “This piece moves beyond mere representation. What we have here is a classic example of surreal automatism, which nevertheless expresses something of the dichotomy in which we currently find ourselves.  Clearly, as the top half is too big for the bottom half, this drawing expresses the struggle between our animal instincts and the pull towards a more cerebral world viewpoint, as delineated by the size of Brett’s head. Well done, my dear!”

The tutor looked a bit stunned, and Brett’s lovely eyes were now as big as saucers. Nobody really understood what had just happened, and as Dottie went home on the bus she decided that it had all been a load of old baubles anyway.

This led her to the following nuggets of wisdom:

  • Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder
  • Ars longa vita brevis
  • All colours will agree in the dark
  • Failure is a comma, not a full-stop

When she got back home to the Tree House, she decided that her next class would be poetry appreciation.

Athletics in the News

On 28 December Athletics Weekly, in collaboration with Athletics International, published its 2021 World Merit rankings for athletics. How did Britain fare? Surprisingly, after a poor showing at the Tokyo Olympics, the answer is ‘not that bad, relatively’, with 15 men and women making the top ten for their respective disciplines in 2021 compared to only 11 in 2019 (the stats weren’t produced for 2020).

Josh Kerr, at 1500m, was the only British male to win an individual medal at the Olympic Games and he and Elliot Giles (he of the interestingly shaped buttock) at 800m were the highest ranked at 5th in their respective events. Four more British male athletes were included across track and field: Nick Miller (7th, hammer), Andrew Pozzi (9th, 110m hurdles), Lawrence Okoye (9th, discus) and Daniel Rowden (10th, 800m).

British women fared better with nine ranked (two at two events). They were headed by Keely Hodgkinson (2nd, 800m), then Laura Muir (3rd, 1500m and 7th, at 800m), Holly Bradshaw (3rd, pole vault), Jemma Reekie (4th, 800m), Dina Asher-Smith (6th, 100m and 7th, 200m), and 9th places for Daryll Neita (100m), Jodie Williams (400m), Cindy Sember (100m hurdles) and Jazmin Sawyers (long jump).

The merit rankings differ from normal rankings in that they are not simply based on who has run fastest or jumped the highest, for example, but also take into account performances in major competitions and win-loss ratios against fellow competitors. So, someone may have broken a world record in a single race, but could be ranked lower than another athlete who has performed consistently across the year.

BRR in Action

(Courtesy of Greg ‘the newshound’ Adams)

Several Barking Road Runners members took part in the Leigh on Sea striders night time 10k. Headtorches were needed by the runners especially whilst running through the nature reserve.

The course started by the station and then looped around the Two tree island nature reserve before heading back through old Leigh and finishing near the cockle sheds.   First finisher for BRR was Joyce Golder with a time of 54:26 followed by Jon Furlong 57:36, Gary Harford 1:02:37, Robert Courtier 1:07:54, Alison Fryatt 1:10:28 and Micky Ball 1:23:42.

New Year’s Day parkrunners

Barking Park

Adrian Davison 23:47, James Lowndes 23:52 (100th parkrun), John Lang 29:07, Martin Mason 30:21, Martin Brooks 33:08, Robert Courtier 36:11 (started late), Kirsten Hiller 36:14, Nikki Cranmer 36:15, Dawn Blake 36:16, Les Jay 37:11, Micky Ball 38:44, Jenni Birch 39:56 and Alan Murphy 49:52.

Chalkwell Beach 

Antony Leckerman 20:47.


Rory Burr 25:12 and Stuart Burr 26:45.

Winter Virtual Handicap Series

A reminder that the first week of the winter virtual handicap competition starts on Saturday 8 January. Dennis has promised some prizes but the biggest prize is the kudos. The competition will consist of seven 5k runs, one to be completed every other week until w/c 2 April. Your best five results will count towards the final score. Your handicap will be based on your performance in the last handicap competition, your parkrun time, or another recent verified 5k performance.

You can run your 5k on the course of your choice any time between the Saturday and the following Friday, submitting your result to Dennis, via the results WhatsApp group, by Midnight on Friday. LATE ENTRIES WILL NOT BE COUNTED!!!!

You can submit your parkrun time if you wish, in which case you don’t need further evidence of distance. If you run at any other time, please send a photo of your time on your watch, Strava, Garmin Connect etc.

BRR Diary

You can find further information about all Club events on the BRR TeamUp app. Just install the TeamUp app onto your phone, then enter the calendar key for Barking Road Runners when asked: ks67p21gt8p5gzdo66.

7.00pm, Tuesday 4 January – Speed Development, Jim Peter’s Stadium. This week we will be doing Laura Muir 200s – one of Laura’s favourite sessions. After a warm-up, we will walk to the 200m mark, then it’s: (200m run at your mile pace, 200m walked recovery) for 30 minutes, ending at the finish line. The walked recovery allows you to run the 200m efforts at a harder effort than you would normally so it is vitally important that you are adequately warmed up before you start.

7.00pm, Thursday 6 January – road run from Jo Richardson School/Castle Green Centre. Usually around 5 miles.

7.30pm, Friday 7 January – Club meal. The Greyhound Harvester, High Road, Romford. Fingers crossed that covid rules allow. Let Nikki know if you are interested.

Saturday 8 January to Friday 14 January – Virtual Handicap #01. Remember to submit your 5k time by Midnight on the Friday.

10.00am, Sunday 9 January 2022 – BRR XC 03. Hainault Forest. Starting at the car park near the Global Café in Fox Burrow Road, we will follow the two-lap course used for the Ilford AC ELVIS race last summer.

Alison’s top tips if you haven’t run cross-country before (or not since school):

  1. Invest in some trail shoes. They don’t have to be expensive (I’ve got a couple of pairs from Decathlon which are fine). The lugs on the bottom will improve your grip if the course is muddy (it was on Sunday), and the tops are usually a bit more enclosed than road shoes which stops annoying gravel getting inside.
  2. Bring a change of shoes and socks – and running bottoms too if possible – to change into when you finish. Nothing worse than sitting around with wet feet.
  3. Do clean your shoes afterwards but DON’T PUT THEM IN THE WASHING MACHINE! Probably not good for the machine and definitely not good for your shoes; it will loosen the glue and may make them shrink. Instead, use an old scrubbing brush or similar to dislodge the mud, under running water if necessary. Stuff them with newspaper and allow to dry naturally, changing the paper as it gets saturated.
  4. Most of all, have fun! The mud, tree roots and inclines are all part of the enjoyment. Don’t expect to run as fast as you would on the road, go with the flow and be ready to have a good old chat about it afterwards.

10.00am, Sunday 16 January – Benfleet 15. Hadleigh Country Park, Chapel Lane, Hadleigh, Essex, SS7 2PP. For those of us lucky enough to have entered (ahem).

11.00am, Saturday 22 January – Chingford League 05/BRR XC 04. Epping Forest. Details TBC.

Training Plans

Most of us will have followed a training plan at some time in our running career, maybe the Couch to 5k when first starting out or perhaps when preparing for a big race like a first half marathon or marathon. Some of you will say that you have never followed a training plan, though in truth you probably follow an unwritten plan in your head when deciding which runs to do each week.

Elite athletes will always follow a detailed plan for their running, which may stretch for years into the future to encompass major competitions like the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. We may not need to plan that far ahead, but thinking about what we want to achieve over the coming year, and how we will do it, can help to add structure and purpose to your running and, who knows, might help you to get better results too!

The first thing to do is to consider what you want to achieve over the coming year. Is it to run faster? Is it to run for a longer distance? You can then build a plan to help you do that whilst making the experience as enjoyable as possible.

Do you have key or ‘A’ races that you want to focus on and, if so, when are they? Pop them in your plan, along with any other races you have signed up for, or regular runs/training that you always do (e.g. parkrun, track nights).

Next, your training plan should also take account of real life’; if you have a holiday, work commitments or other events which you know will prevent you from training, add them to your plan too.

A lot of your running will be ‘base training’ to maintain your overall fitness, but leading up to your key event(s) – even if your plan is simply to get a new parkrun PB – you will need to build up your activity and apply the principle of progressive overload that we have spoken about previously, so that you’re as confident as you can be that you will perform at your best. Your plan should reflect how long, realistically, it will take you to be ready to achieve your goal, bearing in mind that – particularly for longer events – you don’t need to run the full distance, or the exact time, in training (save that for the race).

It is often recommended to only increase one parameter at a time e.g. speed, distance, time, and by no more than 10% each. This is a rather crude rule of thumb but the principle is sound; the main thing is not to build up too quickly and risk injuring yourself because your body isn’t ready for it. Your body needs time to assimilate the new level of activity and get stronger, which it does while it recovers between efforts. For the same reason, you should avoid doing strenuous sessions on consecutive days. A lot of training plans these days include a cut-back week, every four weeks or so, where you reduce your efforts, again to take the stress off your body and allow it to recover. Elite athletes may train every day of the week, but they have whole teams around them to keep them going and are probably better than us at taking rest in between racing seasons (and they still get quite a few injuries, anyway!).

I hope this has given you a few things to think about when planning your year but, the final thing to remember is that life happens. A training plan should never be set in stone and you should always be prepared to flex it when unavoidable things get in the way. This doesn’t mean looking for any excuse not to go for a run (you’re building towards your goal, so why would you do that?) but being realistic and getting your priorities right. Alienating all your family because you want to run and they want to go to Peppa Pig Land probably isn’t a good idea. And running if you are getting a niggle or are very tired or ill is likely to end badly. If you can, run on a different day or do a shorter session but be realistic and take the time off if you need to; if you have been training well, a short break shouldn’t significantly impact on your preparation. If you need to take a longer break, have a look at your goals and decide if they remain realistic. If not, adjust or change your plan; for example, an ‘A’ race might become a training run for another event, or you might need to take the tough but sensible decision to pull out altogether: be optimistic and think ‘there will always be another opportunity to achieve my goals’. At the other end of the spectrum, always leave room to be spontaneous; if all your mates have signed up for a particular challenge, it would be a shame to miss out just because it doesn’t fit in with your plan – just make sure it’s not a case of FOMO!

Cracker Corner – New Year Edition

New Year? I just got used to the last one!

What’s the problem with running on New Year’s Eve? The ice falls out of your drink.

I was going to quit all my bad habits for the new year … but then I remembered that nobody likes a quitter.

I bought a new calendar for 2022 but the fifth month was missing – I was dismayed.

My New Year’s resolution is to stop procrastinating…but I’ll wait until tomorrow to start.

Boom! Boom!

And finally…

Most people celebrate the New Year with fireworks, friends and often, champagne. But in Yaroslavl, north-east of Moscow, residents took part in a novel holiday run on New Year’s Day. Run organiser Alexey Gorokhov said “The goal of the event is to popularise an active and sobre lifestyle”.

Runners didn’t compete on speed but enjoyed traditional Russian games after the run (this seemed to consist mainly of pushing each other over in the snow). One participant, Maria Vrzhesinskaya, said:

“It’s the first time when I decided to spend the New Year in a new way. Of course, we had couple of champagne glasses to celebrate the outgoing year. However, I decided to support the health of the nation”.

Russia has had historically high levels of alcoholism and alcohol-related deaths, which affects not only people’s general health, but has also led to life expectancy being lower than in other European nations. Due to government campaigns against high levels of alcohol deaths, mortality dropped by 43% between 2003 and 2016 according to the World Health Organisation.

I think we may have more trouble persuading some BRR members to lay off the prosecco…

Happy 2022 Running


BRR Chair









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