Almost Perfect Cross Country …

It was almost proper cross country conditions for the third outing in the Kent Cross Country league at Sparrows Den in Hayes on the southern edge of Bromley. There was a strong, blustery wind and very damp conditions underfoot, the rain held off during the race but, sadly, temperatures were nowhere near freezing.image

The course is three laps of around 3000 metres plus a flat 300 metres there and back over some incredibly muddy mole hills – I dread to think of the purgatory for the moles digging through the sodden ground to create them. The main part of the course is an initially rising path alongside playing fields followed by a sharp, slippery descent then continuing along the edge of the rugby pitches. The route then enters some ancient woodland – Spring Park. It’s name comes from water sources rather than the season – The Beck, one of the arms of the River Pool, a tributary of the Ravensbourne has its source in the woods. The paths are unsurprisingly soggy as a result. A couple of winters ago the water table got so high that the playing fields became a lake for a month or two. There is a steep escarpment running through the woods, the race organisers have found the toughest ascent (around 35 metres) and a slightly more benign descent through the trees. All this is repeated twice more.

A weekend ago, I had thought that I wasn’t going to make it. My back, which I have had serious problems with post accident had improved considerably, so much so that I had done some heavy duty gardening during the week before. I hadn’t bargained for it straining again on a much less strenuous activity – plumping up a cushion…. Lots of icing, rest (from running at least) and stretching got me back on track though and I was feeling no aftereffects yesterday.

My race was seemed a bit of a struggle though, particularly the final ascent through the woods when I almost ran myself to a standstill – I might have been quicker walking. It certainly wasn’t the just over 10k advertised, but I suspect that it was more than the 5.5 miles my GPS suggested; my 47:10 (164th from around 190) was about 3 minutes slower than when I ran almost the same course in 2011. The slower time is not surprising, the conditions were a bit tougher, but my body has been through a lot this year and the ageing process sadly continues unabated. I will get a better idea of where my fitness really is in early December as I am planning to run a 10k on a course I have run before in Gravesend.


3 thoughts on “Almost Perfect Cross Country …

  1. Rob Hadgraft

    Hello runner500! The running legend Sydney Wooderson raced in Lee or Lee Green on at least 5 occasions between 1936 and 1947, and I am trying to track down EXACTLY where!
    The first three occasions were all apparently track events at Lee Green (at least one was the ‘Ravensbourne Sports’), while the final two were matches against John Roan School at Lee. Can you help me identify what would have been the exact location of these events? Many thanks!

    1. Paul B Post author

      Hi Rob
      There are lots of playing fields alongside the Quaggy and I think both would have been in a similar area – Ravensbourne Sports, I am assuming may also be referred to as Ravensbourne Athletic Club, has been something on my radar for a while, but I didn’t come up with anything much – certainly not enough for a blog post, and it went onto my ‘back burner’. It was covered in a book of old photos of Lewisham, despite being in Greenwich, and the book author being head of Lewisham’s archives. They had a large residential clubhouse built in 1913/14, which was converted into flats in the 1950s – 130 to 144 Eltham Road, but backing onto what is now Ravens Way. My guess is that the track would be now in what is now Weigall Road Playing Field, but could be the one further to the west.

      John Roan School is on the Greenwich/Blackheath borders but their playing fields are on the corner of Eltham Road and Kidbrooke Park Road. I am not sure how long they have been there but one of the pavilions would certainly be from the 1930s or before. My children used to play football there so I know it quite well. In last 20 years or so, at least, they marked out a 400 m track around the cricket pitch on the photo I tweeted.

      Both would have been grass tracks – I have tweeted you Google maps pictures of where I think both are.

      There is a nearby running track in Sutcliffe Park, home of Cambridge Harriers, the Park itself dates from the late 1930s I am not sure about the track though and the club seem vague about their history. That side of the road gets referred to as Eltham rather than Lee.

      Hope this helps – would be interested to read when you have finished your work.


  2. Rob Hadgraft

    Many thanks Paul. That is v.helpful. This is all in connection with a blog being launched in a fortnight in tandem with a proposed book on Sydney Wooderson. I will certainly ensure you see the stuff I do relating to your neck of the woods!


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