Sunday, 4 December 2016

Sri Chinmoy 10k in Battersea Park

I ran in the Sri Chinmoy 10k in Battersea Park last week (November 26th 2016).  The series of races organised there by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team and associated Run and Become shop have a deserved good reputation for being friendly and well organised, and also for attracting some good club runners as well as those making their first steps at this distance. The Battersea Park course is fast and flat, and the conditions last week were perfect for speed - cold and dry, but not icy.

214 runners took part, and the first 24 were all under 35 minutes headed by Tony Payne of Wesley Harrierse in 31.47. Lisa Rooney of Collingwood AC was the first woman in 39.11 (full results here)

the start of the race - from Sri Chinmoy photo gallery
Sri Chinmoy on running

Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007) was an Indian spiritual teacher and keen runner, who advocated running and physical exercise as part of spiritual practice: 

"Running offers us the message of transcendence. In our running, every day we are aiming at a new goal... every day we are running towards a goal, but when we reach that goal, we want to go still farther. Either we want to improve our timing or increase our distance. There is no end. Running means continual transcendence, and that is also the message of our inner life."

“These long distance races remind me of our Eternity’s race. Along Eternity’s Shore we are running, running, running. We are running and running with our birthless and deathless hopes. We are running and running with the ever-transcending Beyond"

“Run and become.
Become and run.
Run to succeed in the outer world.
Become to proceed in the inner world.”

(As mentioned here before, Carlos Santana was associated with Sri Chinmoy for a while, hence his Marathon album).

You don't have to worry about being preached at on these runs though - the message is there if you want it, but the organisers are focused on putting on a good race.

As for me, I'm not sure I quite transcended my self, but judging by this picture I was fairly flying at the finish line and did get a big PB - 41:06.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

New parkrun in Beckenham

Yesterday saw 193 people taking part in the inaugural Beckenham Place parkrun in SE London. Andy Bond from Dulwich Runners set the opening men's course record in 17:34, with his club mate Selma Benattia establishing the women's record of 19:51. 

The two lap figure of eight course is pretty flat (certainly no hills), much of it on grass and the remainder on gravel. On the long lap it's certainly a relief to turn back at the furthest point and begin the run towards home, just under half a mile along the path by the River Ravensbourne, concealed among the trees. Yesterday the grass was still frosted over at the start after a cold night, so it was a little slippery. It was beginning to get muddy in places by the end, so you might want to consider trail shoes over the winter if you are really chasing a fast time. 

My main tip would be to take notice of the course directions before you get there. I know parts of Beckenham Place Park very well, with Assembly League races finishing by the mansion. I rocked up at the car park there thinking I would be bound to see some sign of the parkrun but couldn't see any trace at all. I bumped into a couple of similarly confused visitors in town from Perth and we headed off on a long run to try and find the start. The parkrun  actually starts at the Summerhouse playing fields on the other side of the railway at the East of the park. You are best coming to it from the Ravensbourne Avenue entrance, and by public transport to Ravensbourne station. There is car parking at the Old Bromley Road entrance to the park, which while not quite as near is on the right side of the railway line.

Facilities are limited at present. You can leave a bag on the grass at the start (at your own risk as per usual at parkrun), and I believe that the only public toilets are back at the old mansion/cafe/ex-golf club HQ. 

This is a good addition to the SE London parkrun circuit and should take some pressure off Bromley parkrun a couple of miles away, which regularly attracts more than 600 runners. There is a strong athletics infrastructure in the area with Beckenham Running Club based not far away (though of course if you're more in the Lewisham direction, come on down to Kent AC!) .

I will be returning to the park next month when the South of the Thames senior cross country race takes places there - though on a different, and much hillier course.

Thanks as always to all the volunteers, and for Lewisham Council in supporting the parkrun getting started.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Silence at Surrey League

I ran yesterday in the Surrey League Cross Country men's Division One at Farthing Downs outside of Coulsdon (home to South London Harriers). Before the race started there was a minute's silence to remember Lucy Pygott and Stacey Burrows, the two young runners killed this week while training with Aldershot Farnham and District AC. The driver of the car that killed them has been arrested.

Similar commemorations were held at races around the country yesterday, with many runners also wearing black ribbons. Although many of the runners would not have personally known 17-year-old Lucy and 16-year-old Stacey (left and right below), they were promising young runners who had already taken part in some of the big events of English athletics such as the national cross country championships at Castle Donington this year and the southern and national road relays.

The race started as soon as the silence finished, with 193 runners heading off on the two lap course. Kent AC (my club) won the race, regaining their place at the top of the league.  I was way towards the back in my first proper run since falling a couple of weeks ago, but did finish quicker than last time I ran that course a couple of years ago.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Gilles Peterson - PB at New York Marathon

I love Gilles Peterson as a DJ, I know if I listen to one of his mixes or radio shows that there will be lots of great music that I have never heard before - in short I trust him, he has even helped persuade me that jazz is OK, at least at the funkier end of its spectrum!

Gilles ran New York City Marathon last Sunday in a PB of 4:19:40. He ran his first marathon (London) in 2011 in 4:43:09, of which he wrote:

'Running around the streets of London yesterday made me appreciate this great city and its people – I love it here. The crowd was so encouraging – amazing… and it was funny how it changed from Greenwich to Deptford to the Isle Of Dogs – posh to chavvy – classic… the bands playing along were great – a lot of jazz funnily enough… more thoughts of Steve Reid!… and a brilliant bit about 21 miles in just before Tower Bridge on the Highway – massive sound playing – Rhythm Is Rhythm – ‘Strings of Life’… I thought I was on one in a rave on the Lee Bridge Road in ’88… I was properly tripping by then – that was my existential moment of the marathon!'

Since then he has run London Marathon three more times (2012, 2013, and 2014).  Gilles was running in New York to raise funds for the Steve Reid Foundation, a charity he helped set up a few years ago to help musicians in crisis (Steve Reid was a jazz drummer who died in 2010, unable to afford the medical treatments he needed).  After running 26.2 miles on Sunday, Peterson went on to another marathon DJ set at a fundraiser in New York at Le Bain, along with Francois K, Louie Vega and others. The flyer promised that 'his DJ set will be the length of his marathon run' and apparently he put in the full four hours.

He's already raised more than £5000 from the run, but there's still time to donate at

See previously:

Musicians in Motion -

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

River Thames Half Marathon 2016

Running conditions were good for the River Thames Half Marathon on Sunday October 30th 2016, dry and cool but not cold as the mist lifted from the river at the start by Walton Bridge. The race, organised by Roy Reeder's River Thames Running, featured a field of more than 1700 runners on a course centred around the river at Walton-on-Thames, in Surrey just to the west of London.

The first two miles of the course are on road/pavement in surrounding streets, before joining up with the river path and heading east. Opposite Bushy Park/Hampton Court across the Thames, the course turns back and follows the river bank west for a good five mile stretch before a final loop brings you back to the start/finish.  

So more than half of the route is directly on the river towpath, a mixture of tarmac and gravel, quite narrow in places which can make overtaking a challenge - or on the positive side make it harder to be overtaken. It's a nice stretch of the river, with locks, boats and lots of rowing (the route passes directly in front of Molesey Boat Club). Best of all the course is more or less completely flat, unless you count a couple of bridges.

Seven ran from my club, Kent AC, with Che Compton winning first vet prize with his 11th overall position. At least five of us got good PBs I believe, I was pleased to take more than a minute off mine, finishing in 1.37.10.

Some of the Kent AC runners at the finish

Overall winner was Bedford's James Hoad in 1.10.16, while first woman was Becky Atkinson of Clapham Chasers in  1.20.11. Both set course records, in this the third year of the event (full results here)

It would have been a perfect race but for taking a tumble at the end. I was given it my all on a final dash to the finish when I tripped and landed with a thump on the hard gravel only about ten metres from the line. I got up and finished, but with cuts/grazes to head, shoulder, knee and hand. Nothing too serious, but quite painful and enough blood to be told not to come into the ambulance as I would make too much mess!

Blood, sweat and beer - nice medal doubling up as a bottle opener, I needed a drink after that.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Walking Beinn Bheigier: Islay's highest point

Beinn Bheigier (pronounced Ben Vicar) is the highest hill on the Isle of Islay. With a height of 491m it falls short of the 600m that would make it a mountain (at least by the official UK government definition), but it is a fair height and its summit is suitably remote.

Our starting point was at the pebbley Claggan Bay, reached by following the single lane road that heads north east up country beyond Ardbeg until the road almost runs out. Just past the little road bridge that crosses the Claiggan river, there is a track on the left heading up towards Beinn Bheigier.

The Claiggan from the road bridge

The track heads from Claggan Bay - through the gate and straight on

You can follow this vehicle track as it loops around, first to the left, then to the right, going through a deer gate until it stops. Or you can take a bit of short cut across the loop - shortly after the track turns to the left, there is a gate on the other side of a ditch after which if you head north west will bring you at the same place - the deer gate in the fence before the last section of vehicle track (we went up this way, and came back on the longer but easier full track loop)

take this gate for the short cut across the vehicle track loop
The lower slope of the hill is hard work, with tussocky grass and lots of heather. You never quite know whether you are stepping on firm ground or into a bog. 

You will hopefully find a path to follow, a faintly visible track of trampled dry heather, but if not the thing to remember is that you are heading to the south east shoulder of the hill (i.e the left hand side as you going towards it).

There is a cairn at the top of this slope but that's not the top. From here there is a stony ridge and a mostly more gentle slope which heads north west for about a mile upwards to the summit.

There is a trig point at the highest point surrounded by a dry stone wall for shelter on what can be a windy exposed spot with good views across the sea to Ireland and the Mull of Kintyre.

There is an account of 'dubious veracity' of a battle between MacLeans and McDonalds at Beinn Bheigier in the late 16th/early 17th century, described by Islay historian David Caldwell as 'an unlikely place for a battle' ('Islay: the Land of the Lordship', 2008, p.93). It certainly would have been hard work fighting up here, but it's just possible I suppose that there could have been a look out point worth fighting over.

The area is used for deer stalking, and a sign back in Claggan Bay gives advice on this - essentially walkers are welcome, but look where you're going in the main stag stalking season (mid-August to mid-October). Seeing deer up on the hill, including right at the top, is one of the highlights of the walk. Of course we have plenty of deer in some London and SE England parks - stags were bellowing as we ran in the Surrey League cross country in Richmond only last week - but you don't see them in full motion in quite the same way. At the top of Beinn Bheigier we watched a young deer charge off down a steep slope like it was almost flying, It put me in mind of Nan Shepherd's observation in her great book on the Cairngorms, 'The Living Mountain': 'Bird, animal and reptile - there is something of them all in the deer. Its flight is fluid as a bird's... They seem to float; yet their motion is in a way more wonderful even than flight, for each of these gleaming hooves does touch the ground'.

As always hill walking in such areas, be prepared for changes in the weather. You can start off in bright sunshine at the bottom, and find yourself cold and lost in the clouds on the top.

it was windy up there!
The walk was just over seven miles there and back, taking us three hours. My strava route is here, I found the Walk Highlands reports useful in planning the walk - you can download a GPX file to help.

See also-

Islay running posts:

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Running on Screen (16): Fleabag

BBC's excellent (tragi)comedy 'Fleabag' features Phoebe Waller-Bridge's character running around a a cemetery in Episode 3- I think it may be Kensal Rise cemetery in West London. 

Her sister tells her 'it's really inappropriate to jog around a graveyard... flaunting your life'. That's something that I once pondered in relation to Nunhead Cemetery, but decided it was OK as long as the recently bereaved aren't wandering around. What do you think?

Previously in the Running on Screen series: