Howdie Road Runners,

Hope you all enjoyed the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Even if you are not a royalist, I’m sure you enjoyed the long weekend and found plenty to do to occupy yourselves or, conversely, just had a well-deserved rest, despite the gloomy weather on Sunday. A lot of us had planned to run the Thames Chase 10k and were disappointed when it was postponed, then annoyed when it was rearranged for 25 September with no offer of refunds, especially as it clashes with the last race in the ELVIS competition. The organisers have now agreed to give refunds to our members who want them, and will be submitting the list of names in a day or so. If you haven’t already done so, please let me know if you’d like a refund asap.

In the meantime, enjoy this week’s blog.

Running in the News

The world’s oldest continuously held fell race – Yorkshire’s Hallam Chase – celebrated its 160th anniversary on 31 May this year.

‘Fell’ is a Northern word for hill. The simplest description of fell running is running and racing off road with a significant gradient being climbed. In the case of the Chase, the course is only 3.25 miles (5.2km), but involves the equivalent of climbing an average domestic staircase around 100 times (see the course profile, below). The race starts at the Hallam FC football ground. It then pounds down sheer rock faces into the Rivelin Valley before a gruelling climb up to Stannington Church. Runners then have to turn round and do the whole thing back again.

The handicapped event started in 1862 as a way of advertising Hallam FC’s upcoming season. Like our own handicap races, the idea is that everyone finishes around the same time and the winner is not always be the fastest, with different start times being given to runners when they arrive on race day. This year the winner finished in 29.07, but the actual fastest time was 24.43. The course record is 19 minutes and 42 seconds, which was set in 1968 by Trevor Wright.

At the height of its popularity in the ‘20s and ‘30s, the race would attract up to 20,000 spectators, with many placing bets on who would win. To stand a better chance of winning, elite runners would pretend to be slower to be given a smaller handicap (don’t get any ideas for our own handicap races). Bookmakers would hire ‘nobblers’ to trip up the faster runners at stiles, close gates, and generally get in the way.

“People trained in secret, tried to get a better handicap and had big money placed on them,” Keith Whitelam, Hallamshire Harriers coach told the BBC. “With the professional runners, they would run their previous races not particularly well to get a good handicap and then turn up in disguise.” (definitely don’t get any ideas for our handicap races!)

On one occasion, identical twins took part, one running half the course before the other twin took over at the turnaround point on the other side of the valley. They were caught and, after that, competitors would be splashed with dye at the turnaround so everyone knew if they’d gone to the halfway point and back to finish the course fair and square.

Although the popularity of the race has lessened in more recent decades as the popularity of other sports has grown, the race has remained a ‘rite of passage’ for many athletes living in Yorkshire and has attracted a number of top-ranking runners over the years, including Sebastian Coe. Despite admitting that the course was pretty brutal, Coe said ‘”It was incredibly hilly but running across terrain like that had such a big impact on the future direction of my career. If you can deal with the physical challenge of that when you are 14, then there’s nothing you can’t handle running on the track”.

If you feel like tackling a fell race slightly closer to home, why not give the Orion Harrier’s John Clark Memorial Fell Race in Epping Forest on 17 June a go? Details in the BRR Diary, below. Better get practising on those stairs…

Hainault Forest Restoration Project Update: June

The Forge barn is nearing completion, including a space to house the new Woodland Trust visitor centre.

A new path which leads from the barns to the lake is being built, linking the barns with the landscape. Redbridge Council is also very excited as they have been successful in a bid for government funding to install a Changing Places toilet facility! This is a super-large toilet that can cater for people with all sorts of disabilities. Nice to see the Forest being made accessible for everyone to enjoy.

Also, at the end of May, the Forest won the “Tree and Woodland Planting” category at the Forestry Commission’s London Tree Awards. Also known as the “Tree Oscars”, the Awards recognise tree and woodland planting on publicly accessible land. Hainault won the award for the planting of more than 10,000 new trees, which some of us witnessed over the winter months.

The judging panel were said to be impressed with the scale of the newly-created woodland on greenbelt land, attached to the existing 113-hectare ancient woodland, which will result in improved access for the community as well as expanding wildlife habitat in the capital and helping to fight climate change.

I’m sure our friend Dottie is equally impressed by the new trees. Talking of which, Dee Spencer-Perkins has managed to track Dottie down again…

Dottie Dear’s Almanac June 2022 – Puzzled

Dottie enjoys nothing more than doing a good crossword (usually the quick times2), and on the lovely June day of our visit she had done all her housework, and was sitting on her tree house balcony working away at that morning’s puzzle. She was ever keen to enhance her word power, mainly so that she could say things like flange or sesquicentenary and really know what she was talking about. Doing a daily crossword therefore seemed to her like a jolly good way of keeping her brain cells in trim. As you might expect from a forest dweller, she was pretty good at things like Trees of the World (Californian Redwood, 7 letters,  _ _ Q _ _ I _) or, because she liked reading, words to do with language and literature (a humorous imitation, 6 letters,  _ A _ O _ Y).

However, she was totally rubbish at scientific things like inert gas ( 5 letters, _R_ _ N), or astronomical distance (6 letters,     _ A _ S _  _).

After about half an hour of puzzling, she had got a bit stuck on the last clue: bird of the Columbidae family (6 letters,        _ _ G _ O _) and decided that a nice cup of Nescafe instant Cappuccino (only 60 calories) and a couple of Jaffa Cakes (these don’t count) would help considerably.

As she went indoors she had the immediate sensation that she was not alone. Her skin prickled, and she looked around in alarm.  She had never had an intruder before, and the feeling was not pleasant. Nothing on the window ledge, nothing behind the settee but what a shock! On turning to inspect the bookcase she came eyeball to eyeball with a super-large and rather malevolent looking pigeon.  We won’t say it was as big as something out of Jurassic Park (that would be just silly), but it did look a bit chunky, like it had been on the avian version of anabolic steroids. To make matters worse, it had managed to poop all over the floor.

The pigeon fixed her with a Paddington Bear-like stare: silent, withering and uncompromising.  This was not a bird to be messed with.  What to do?

She began with some vigorous arm-flapping and shooing, but it just shuffled further away from her, wedging itself more firmly between Northanger Abbey and The Observer’s Book of Birds.  Another strategy was called for.

Dottie felt it might be good to try luring the creature towards the window with some tempting titbits. A quick check on Wikipedia revealed that pigeons eat mainly seeds and fruit, so leaving a trail of Jaffa Cake chunks between the bookcase and the window to tempt it from its perch was never going to work. The answer might thus be to tease it down from the shelf with some sunflower seeds, which she had in the kitchen store cupboard.

Off she went to the kitchen, and had to pull a lot of jars out before finding what she wanted.  This took a bit of time, during which some strange noises could be heard from the living space: the pigeon was no longer silent, but seemed to be moving about and was cooing loudly.  Cautiously, she peeped round the door, only to discover that Ponzo (yes, he now had a name) had somehow found Dottie’s Platinum Jubilee corgi draught excluder (Clarence) and was nestling up to it fondly.  Clarence had been temporarily placed on the window ledge for the summer months, so Ponzo was now out of the bookcase and right next to the open window. A stroke of luck!

Whilst she was waiting for Ponzo to sort himself out and fly off, Dottie jotted down her wisdom for this month which, understandably, was all about words, as follows:

  • Jaffa Cake: not a biscuit
  • Pigeon: a bird of the Columbidae family (she had managed to Google this one)
  • Cruciverbalist: obsessive, compulsive puzzler
  • Lexicographer: a writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge (Samuel Johnson, Dictionary of the English Language, 1755)

By this time there had been Serious Developments on the window ledge. Dottie’s relief had been short-lived as Ponzo had suddenly become a tad too friendly with Clarence and it was starting to get a bit embarrassing (to put it politely). Furthermore, as a result of Ponzo’s amorous pecking, one of Clarence’s seams had got ripped, and Dottie’s newly-swept floor was in imminent danger of becoming swamped by a snowstorm of stuffing and feathers.

Dottie finally had to admit that although words are wonderful, sometimes actions speak louder.  After just one swift and decisive bonk on the beak with her rolled up Times, Ponzo was out of the window and away into the tree canopy, dropping a last defiant poop as he went.

Perhaps you should have done this in the first place, Dottie?

BRR in Action

(with thanks to Greg Adams)

Well done to everyone who took part in the Mile Time Trail for May. Here are the results; hope you can read them. There have been some good improvements across the last year, and also some consistent performances.

With the cancellation of the Thames Chase 10k due to it being the jubilee weekend a few Barking Road Runners competed in the Hatfield Broad oak 10k instead. Adrian Davison 46:40, Martin Mason 59:51 and Alison Fryatt 1:05:39 tackled the figure-of-eight course through rolling Hertfordshire countryside.

Louise Chappell ran in the first race of the Orion Forest 5 mile series in Epping Forest finishing in a time of 48:28.

Daniel Plawiak ran in the 10k at the Queen Elizabeth park organised by Runthrough in a time of 52:30.

Debbie Coyle, Paul Wyatt and Daniel Plawiak took part in the Cotswold 113 and Grafman middle distance triathlons respectively. Debbie finished 2nd in her category in a combined time of 5:11:11:2 but, unfortunately for Paul, a calf injury forced him to withdraw. At the Grafman event the cycling distance was halved due to the inclement weather conditions and Daniel finished in a combined time of 4:33:10.

BRR parkrunners 

Barking Park – Owen Wainhouse 21:56, Adrian Davison 22:50, Joyce Golder 24:59, Stuart Burr 25:27, John Lang 26:27, Belinda Riches 26:29, Sally Bridge 26:37, Emma Paisley 29:33, Martin Brooks 29:48, Les Jay 31:15, Greg Adams 35:34, Dawn Blake 36:17, Nikki Cranmer 36:17, Nigel Swaby 37:01, Micky Ball 43:30, Alan Murphy 50:12 and Rosie Fforde (tailwalker) 59:14.

Chalkwell Beach – Antony Leckerman 22:36.

Gunnersbury Park – Rory Burr 24:03.

Southend – Ron Vialls 24.07.

Valentines Park – Paul Withyman 19:37 and Kevin Wotton 22:25.

Worthing – Martin O’Toole 28:00.

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 7 June – Speed Development. Jim Peter’s Stadium. As we prepare for two ELVIS races in the next few weeks, we have a 5k race simulation session, where you start quite fast, settle into a steady pace in the middle, then speed up at the end for a strong finish:

  • (4 x 70 secs) at 3-5k pace with 60 secs recovery between reps;
  • (4 x 3 mins) at 5k pace with 90 secs recovery between reps; and
  • (4 x 70 secs) at 3k pace with 60 secs recovery between reps.

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. . Not sure how many BRR members will attend, as the next day we have…

7.00pm, Thursday 9 June – Summer Handicap 03. Third race in the seven-race series, run on the Barking parkrun course. Trophies for first, second and third across the competition as a whole, based on each participant’s best five results, so you still have a chance to be in with a shout, if you haven’t participated yet.

7.30pm, Tuesday 14 June – Havering ’90 Joggers Midweek 5 (ELVIS 02). Raphael’s Park, Romford, RM2 5PA. Second race in the East London FiVes Interclub Series competition. More information and sign up at . Not many places left so don’t delay, sign up today. 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.

10.00am, 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.

9.15am, Sunday 3 July – GP05: Ware 10. GlaxoSmithKline Cricket Ground, Park Road, Ware, SG12 0DP. A new race for BRR. The race is being held in support of Essex and Herts Air Ambulance. There is also a kids’ fun run.

Ware is just off the A10, which itself joins the M25 at junction 25. You can also walk from Ware train station (about 15 minutes) which links to Broxbourne, Tottenham Hale and Liverpool Street stations. Entry is £21.20 for EA registered or £23.22 for non-registered athletes. Make sure you sign up for the 10 miler NOT the 10K! Enter at:–HANNcCxiDM

It’s Just a Question of Time…

When the ancient Greeks took part in the first Olympic games, what mattered most was who won. They didn’t worry about timing, which was a good thing as clocks hadn’t been invented!

It wasn’t until 1721, when George Graham added a third needle to clocks so that they could count the seconds, as well as hours and minutes, that precision timing became viable. But the first race timing wasn’t wasted on humans; it was used for horse races in England from 1731.

Human races first began to be timed at Oxford University in 1850, taking times with a resolution of a ½ second, using the chronometer model invented by Abraham-Louis Breguet. Races would not be timed with resolutions as high as ⅕ of a second until 1862. For many years, official race times continued to be recorded in fifths of a second in spite of the fact that the technology existed to time athletics events counting tenths of a second.

The first electronic timekeeping models that counted hundredths of a second appeared in 1902. But it was Heuer in 1916 that patented a chronometer with an accuracy of 1/50 of a second, and as a result this company was commissioned to time Olympic Games events from 1920 to 1928. They were replaced by Longines who manufactured a pocket stopwatch that could measure with a precision of 1/100 of a second.

In spite of the precision that had been achieved by this time in sports race timing, it was not without its controversy. Clock timing alone may be good enough for longer distances like marathons, where it is rare for two athletes to reach the finish line together. But shorter track races require a higher level of precision and, as they are very fast races, two athletes can reach the finish line at almost the same time. In several events the same time was recorded for both first and second place. At this point photographic cameras came into use, to capture which athlete’s chest hit the line first. This ‘belt and braces’ approach is still used today. It is not 100% foolproof but provides a level of accuracy that our ancient Greeks forerunners would have been stunned by.

But, the big question is, with the accuracy of race timing that is now available, why do races tend to use gun time (i.e. the time between the start gun and runners crossing the finish line) rather than chip timing to decide who will win trophies?

Generally, for official race placings, gun times are always used. So, if Eliud Kipchoge turned up late for a marathon, he might get the fastest chip time but it would be the person who crossed the finish line first who would get the win. You can think of it as chips for accurate times, and the gun for positions.

Normally, for those who finish in the top places, it doesn’t make much difference; they start on the front row together so the chip and gun times are virtually the same. The argument is that gun times need to be used for a proper ‘race’, otherwise it is a time trial and nobody knows who they are actually competing against. But I know it can seem unfair if – like me – you’ve started towards the back of the pack and lose out because it takes you a few minutes (sometimes much longer) to cross the start line. I guess the answer is, if you think you are in with a chance of a trophy, get as close to the start line as you can. For club competitions, we use chip times, where available, so slower-paced runners aren’t tempted to start further forward than is necessary or safe (to avoid the risk of being trampled in the stampede).

Cracker Corner

Bad news ahead of the summer holidays: the price of beach balls is going up due to inflation.

I tried to get into a new nightclub on Saturday night but the bouncer refused me entry because I’d had one too many. I assured him I hadn’t drunk a drop and he replied ‘no, one too many birthdays’.

I was so tired last night I fell asleep by the kitchen sink. I was totally drained this morning.

Boom! Boom!

And finally…

I was typing up this week’s track session in Microsoft Word when I got a mysterious message on screen saying ‘other people are editing this document’. So, if you like the session, it is all my own work. If you hate the session, you can blame the evillest hackers of all time. Mwah-hah-hah…

Happy Running




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