Run Free

Think of it like this: imagine running starting again, every race beginning from scratch. How would we want the sport to be? Ian Campbell has a vision: ‘The revolution won’t have an online entry fee, plastic medal or pointless goodie bag.’ Lewis Breen has been running for 23-and-a-half hours. He would like to stop, but…

The Grand National: England’s greatest cross country race

The year is 1876. Queen Victoria is ruling an empire; Benjamin Disraeli is her Prime Minister; Thomas Edison is seeking a patent for the telephone. At Buckhurst Hill in Epping Forest, 32 men gather at a pub, The Bald-Faced Stag, for the All England Cross Country Championship. It is mid-November and it is raining. South…

Coming to a muddy field or park near you, cross country is back

It is New Year’s Day. I am trudging across an open field, decorated with wind-harassed red and white tape. The ground has slid away; the floor is a molten conveyor belt of liquidised mud. It writhes beneath the slap of ineffectual spikes. I am 15. I think I am in love. Love has brought me…

Keith

Mr Hamflett was a tall, angular man. He was old and bald. I would never be as old as him. I would never be bald. He had the look of a runner: lean, lithe and long-limbed. If he could run a mile in under four minutes or a marathon in two-and-a-half hours, I would not…

Running with the horses: Man v Horse 2014

Humans have been running for centuries, devising a variety of odd and generally painful forms of leg-moving activity to keep us active and amused. When running was no longer a necessity for survival, it became a sport. Cross country evolved. We started to run around tracks. On roads. Up mountains. Over fells. Along trails. We…

‘I was there…’ Marking 125 years of Herne Hill Harriers

The year is 1889, a time before television, tea bags and Twitter. Queen Victoria is the monarch; Jack the Ripper is stalking the East End; Britain rules a third of the globe. In Milkwood Road, Herne Hill, an institution is born: an athletics club called Herne Hill Harriers. There was war and peace, Bing Crosby…

A silver lining at the Surrey cross country championship

I am not going to romanticise cross country. It would be easy, though. Cross country is real running, the pursuit of the running purist, the preserve of the tough. I will stop there because the romantic idea of cross country at the quagmire of Denbies Vineyard lasted about three minutes yesterday. However, In these three…

Ruts stop running: the Southerns are off!

I hear some good excuses in my line of work. I heard a superb one today. And it wasn’t from a child. The South of England Cross Country Championships, due to be held at Parliament Hill on Saturday, have been cancelled. Why? The ‘state of the ground’. Adverse weather strikes again! Athletics Weekly report that…

Deakin to Muir: 105 years of Herne Hill running

In 1907 Joe Deakin won the inaugural Herne Hill Harriers’ 10-mile cross country championship. In 2012 I won the 105th Herne Hill Harriers’ 10-mile cross country championship. The prize then and now is the same: the gigantic and heavy Dewar Shield (pictured below), presented by whisky man Sir Thomas Dewar. In 1908 Joe Deakin won…

Pirie 10

This impressive piece of silverware is (soon to be) in my possession. Such are the glittering rewards for running laps of muddy fields. The latest muddy fields I ran around were actually frozen ones on Farthing Down in Coulsdon. Whenever I think of Farthing Down, I remember the children’s book, The Baby and Fly Pie,…

The rough and tumble of the Surrey League

This time last week I was bathing in the glory of being able to say: ‘I actually won something.’ Much can change in a week. It is no disrespect to the Broadway Tower Marathon to say Surrey League cross-country races are running on an utterly different level. They are not as muddy, hilly or long;…