Howdie Road Runners,

Another week with loads going on – was it always this busy before Covid, or are we still catching up with the backlog? Cycling, marathons and triathlons, not to forget the great turnout at the first ELVIS race of the year at Central Park, Dagenham. The debate on WhatsApp about chip timing versus gun timing was very interesting; I think they’ll be more about that in a future blog.    

Running in the News

There were a couple of stand-out performances by GB athletes at the Diamond League meet in Oregon, USA on 28, boding well for the World Championships in a few weeks’ time.

Keely Hodkinson won the women’s 800m in 1:57.72. For the men, Matthew Hudson-Smith broke Iwan Thomas’ long-standing GB 800m record – by one 100th of a second! – to finish in 44.35, earning him third place overall. Hudson-Smith was lucky not to be disqualified after he wobbled in his starting blocks.

Dina Asher-Smith continued her comeback to fitness with fourth place in the women’s 100m, in a time of 10.98. But it was less good news for Laura Muir, who could only manage 11th place in the women’s 1500m, in 4:04.45.

Of course, if any of you want something to aim for in the May timed mile, you could look to Jakob Ingebrigtsen for inspiration: he won the Bowerman Mile event in 3:49.76. Wow…

BRR in Action

(with thanks to Greg Adams)

The first race in the East London fiVes Interclub Series (ELVIS) was hosted by Dagenham 88 this week at Central Park. Barking Road Runners entered a large team but, unfortunately, they only had five female runners leaving them one short of a full women’s team. 

First finishers in the men’s and women’s races for BRR were Paul Withyman 31:45 and Debbie Coyle 34:02 who finished 3rd female overall. In addition Ron Vialls won his age category with a time of 39:43.

Other BRR runners were Adrian Davison 35:27, James Hutton 35:30, Antony Leckerman 36:00, Colin Jones 36:04, Martin Page 36:10, Rory Burr 37:35, John George 38:12, , Nehal Patel 41:22, Belinda Riches 42:48, Martin O’Toole 42:48, Stuart Burr 44:04, Isobel Pinedo Borobio 44:24, Jason Li 44:43, Louise Chappell 46:26, Emma Paisley 48:16, Martin Mason 48:34 and Les Jay 53:42. With finishing positions being decided by gun times, runners who started too far back were tangled up in the pack costing a them few places at the finish.

Peter Jackson, Paul Withyman and Jack Nixon were in Edinburgh competing in the marathon and half marathon finishing in times of 3:02:42, 3:24:29 and 1:10:09 respectively. The trio relaxed with a well-earned pint after their efforts. 

Owen Wainhouse competed in the Luxembourg Marathon finishing in a time of 3:33:22. Owen’s dad took part in the Half marathon finishing with a time of 2:32:20.

Jess Collett took part in her first triathlon at Bleinham Palace competing in the sprint event and finishing in a time of 1:40:22.

Several BRR members took part in the 100-mile London/Essex cycle event on Sunday namely Cristina Cooper 6:29:13, Trevor Cooper 5:40:26, Gabriele Grimaldi 4:41:43 and Nabeel Akram 8:00:07.  Competitors faced various hold-ups along the way including a 30-minute stoppage for the air ambulance.

Alison Fryatt, Ken Summerfield, and Jason Li and his family took part in the ride London freecycle event on the same day around the closed streets of London.

BRR parkrunners 

Barking Park – Jagbir Bassi 20:17, Adrian Davison 21:45, Ron Vialls 24:00, Mark New 24:07, Stuart Burr 24:48, Belinda Riches 25:43, John Lang 26:02, Rabea Begum 27:20, Emma Paisley 28:44, Martin Mason 28:59, Les Jay 31:48, Veronica Barikor 33:50, Nikki Cranmer 35:41, Dawn Blake 35:42, Micky Ball 39:05, Ken Summerfield 40:42, Trevor Cooper 45:58 and Alan Murphy 48:20.

Melksham – Rob Courtier 33:54.

Sandall Park – James Lowndes 20:19.

Southall – Rory Burr 22:59.

Valentines Park – Kevin Wotton 22:03.

BRR Diary

Download the TeamUp app onto your phone, then enter the calendar key for Barking Road Runners when asked: ks67p21gt8p5gzdo66 to see all of BRR’s agreed fixtures for the year.

7.00pm, Tuesday 31 May – Speed Development. Jim Peter’s Stadium.  It’s the last Tuesday in the month, which can mean only one thing: timed mile time! Followed by 300m reps with 100m recovery.

10.00am, Saturday 4 June – Orion Forest Five race series. Race HQ Orion Harriers Club House, Jubilee Retreat, Bury Road, London E4 7QJ. A three-race series with the second race on 2 July and third race on 6 August. The August race is also part of the ELVIS series. You can sign up for all three races at a discounted price at or just the ELVIS race at

7.00pm, Wednesday 8 June – Crown to Crown 5k. Westley Heights Country Park, behind the Miller & Carter (Crown) Public House, Langdon Hills. A popular trail race on a rather hilly course. Entry is only £2.50 affiliated/£4.50 non-affiliated.

7.00pm, Thursday 9 June – Summer Handicap 03. Third race in the seven-race series, run on the Barking parkrun course. The entry cost is £1 per race, with a tenner to the winner of each race and trophies for first, second and third across the competition as a whole, based on each participant’s best five results.

7.30pm, Tuesday 14 June – Havering ’90 Joggers Midweek 5 (ELVIS 02). Raphael’s Park, Romford. Second race in the East London FiVes Interclub Series competition. More information and sign-up at . REMINDER – THERE WILL BE NO TRACK SESSION ON THE 14th.

7.30pm, Friday 17 June – John Clark Memorial Fell Race. Meet 7.00pm at the Orion Harriers Club House, Jubilee Retreat, Bury Road, London E4 7QJ. The only category A fell race in Essex or within the M25. Three miles and nearly 1,000 feet of climb – a race that separates the men and women from the boys and girls! £3 entry includes a free beer for all finishers. Entry on the night only. Great training for the last cross-country race – who’s up for it?

7.30pm, Tuesday 21 June – East End Road Runners’ Mid-Summer 5k (ELVIS 03). Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, near the Velodrome. Enter at . REMINDER – THERE WILL BE NO TRACK SESSION ON THE 21st.

10.00, Sunday 26 June – Cross Country #05. A return to Hadleigh Country Park for the last race in this year’s competition. We may have already won promotion but let’s put out a big team and finish the season in style, with the biggest cheer so far as we collect our Division Two winners’ trophy.

The Future of Gels?

These days, we all know the importance of fuelling properly before and – just as importantly – during an endurance run, even if we don’t always put it into practice. Sure, you can race without taking on fuel but, if you’re running for longer than an hour, the chances are you won’t perform to the best of your ability if you do so. As far back as the 1960s, scientists realized that drinking carbohydrate solutions during exercise improved performance. 

Gels are the most popular form of race fuelling; as well as carbs for energy they also contain electrolytes like sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate, and magnesium, to keep your body functioning properly. The trouble is, gels are not very stomach friendly. Our stomachs don’t cope well with high concentrations of sugar which can result in gastro-intestinal distress: the last thing you need during a race.

The new kids on the block are hydrogels, with Maurten being the most well-known. Th science bit: a hydrogel is a biopolymer- and water-based structure with very small pores. As a three-dimensional network with the ability to hold water, it looks and behaves a bit like a sponge, which makes it an ideal carrier for carbs in sports gels.  

The Maurten hydrogel is made out of alginate – extracted from the cell walls of brown algae, and pectin – found in apples, lemons, carrots and tomatoes. Doesn’t sound very appetising, particularly the algae bit, but apparently these ingredients have been used in food manufacture for years and Maurten claim encapsulating carbs in the hydrogel makes them more digestible.

Early research found no better results for hydrogels than other sports nutrition products. However, these studies focused on cyclists and cross-country skiers. A more recent study by Joshua Rowe and colleagues from Leeds Beckett, and reported in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that runners who consumed hydrogels after a two-hour run were then able to complete a 5K time trial 7.6 percent faster than those who didn’t consume the gel, and more than 2 percent faster than runners who drank a traditional sports drink. Running is more likely to jostle your stomach than other sports, so perhaps the more stable formulation comes into its own. Rowes’s study only tested on men, so we don’t know if the results would have been the same for women.

Lots of elite athletes, including Eliud Kipchoge, use hydrogel products but, of course, they are probably sponsored by the manufacturers to promote them. But it might be worth giving hydrogels a go if you can’t find an ordinary sports gel that works for you. Of course, always follow the golden rule: test in training anything that you plan to use in an important race.

What do you use to fuel a race?

Thomas Test

If you took advantage of Adrian’s kind offer of a sports massage at last week’s track session, he may have put you through a modified version of the Thomas Test.

The Thomas Test is used to check if you have tight hip flexors. Your hip flexor muscles help to drive you forward – pretty important when running! If your hip flexors are tight, your range of motion will be restricted and you will be less able to drive your legs back and your knees up, slowing you down and increasing the risk of injury, including to your back.

The Thomas Test, named after British orthopaedic surgeon Hugh Owen Thomas, tests if you suffer from psoas syndrome (overuse of the hip flexors) or hip flexion contractures (permanent shortening of the hip flexors). It’s very simple to perform the test.

How to perform the Thomas Test

Lie on your back on the edge of your bed or a firm table, with your lower legs hanging off the end. Bring both knees up towards your chest so your back lies flat against the bed. While holding one knee close to your chest, slowly straighten your other leg and let it hang off the edge.

You passed the test if your back and the back of your lowered thigh is flat against the bed, and your hanging knee is bent at a 90-degree angle off the surface.

If your lowered leg extends out straight instead of bending at the knee, your rectus femoris is tight. If your lowered knee is bent, but the back of your thigh is elevated off the bed, then it’s your iliopsoas (the most frequent problem for distance runners). If your lowered leg is bent at the knee and your thigh is resting on the bed, but your leg hangs slightly out to the side, then your tensor fascia latae is tight.

How to improve your hip flexor flexibility

The Thomas Stretch: In the same position you used for the test, pull one knee into your chest, making sure to maintain a flat back and thigh and keep your lowered knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Hold that stretch for 30 seconds to a minute.

Kneeling Lunge Stretch: Get into a kneeling lunge position, with one foot forward. Lean forward as you squeeze your glutes, engage your core, and straighten your spine. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to a minute.

Hip Flexor Massage: Lying on your stomach, place a massage ball (or any firm ball) under your hip flexor (upper thigh/pelvis). Move up and down and side to side using your arms and legs, allowing the ball to massage the hip flexor muscles. Continue to massage for 15-90 seconds providing it is comfortable and pain free. If one spot is particularly tight, hold the ball in the same position for 15-60 seconds or until the muscle relaxes. Remember to keep breathing.

Cracker Corner

I dreamed last night that I was preparing vegetables with the grim reaper. I was dicing with death.

I was sacked from my job in a travelling circus. I’m suing them for funfair dismissal.

Did you know: before the crowbar was invented, crows used to drink at home?

Boom! Boom!

And finally…

I knew it was a mistake when they installed ‘write-on’ walls in my office. I think the intention was that they should be used when brainstorming brilliant new government policy (I’m a civil servant, for those who don’t know). I don’t think the powers that be ever thought they would be used for singing the praises of West Ham United…

Happy Running






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