Tag Archives: Assembly League

A Race of Two Hemispheres

The last Assembly League race of the year is always a marker of change – the end of the summer, a bit like the last Test at the Oval used to be. For me though, this week’s race was a different sort of milestone – my first race post almost life-ending accident.

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Not only was it my first race back, it was my first trip back to the Beckenham Cricket Club, the home of my running club, a place I had avoided quite deliberately. I knew that I staying positive and focussing on the things I was able to do was key to my recovery and the running club would just make me remember the things I couldn’t do.

It all got a bit emotional as I picked up my number, so I escaped to the outfield and warmed up in the gloom for a lot longer than I needed, trying not to be spotted by people I knew. My HRM knew something was amiss – my heart was pounding at a rate that I would expect when doing 400 metre ‘intervals’; it took an age to calm down – I jogged nearly as far on laps around the boundary as I was about to race.

The three miles of the race skirt around the eastern edge of Beckenham Place Park, with a tough hill to start with, and then ends in front of the decaying ‘Place’ at the top of the same ridge.

I wasn’t sure how my body would react to racing, so I deliberately started at the back of the pack, right at the back, but within a few metres I was in race mode, albeit rather slower than 9 months ago, and gradually passing a few runners.

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By the time I was over the first hill and crossing the prime meridian into the eastern hemisphere I was into a rhythm, although I was a little wary as I bisected it again as I was crossing Calmont Road (I am still very circumspect traversing tarmac).

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I had left something in the tank for the final mile from the former Garden Gate pub, now a McDonalds Drive-Thru’, and was able to pass a few runners although that last hill seemed to go on for ever as a gloomy dusk descended.

I was exhausted; the time, pace and position weren’t great (23:18, 7:52, 205/238) but that didn’t matter at all, I was elated – I was racing again and my body coped with what I had put it through. A fellow club member joked that I would be running a sub 40 minute 10k by Christmas, I somehow doubt that, I haven’t run one of those since 2007, but maybe I will be at least able to race that far by then.

I jogged back to the cricket club with a friend I hadn’t seen for a while – we shared our 2015s – neither had been great, her partner is seriously ill. We hugged by the clubhouse, my life is getting much better, her’s really isn’t.

I stayed under the dark Satanic skies and warmed down with some more laps of the cricket pitch outfield, I needed to get my emotions under control before I headed home. I called it a day as the rain that had been threatening for three hours finally started.

War and Peace (and getting back to racing)

Battersea Park is a busy park always lots going on – in addition to the normal mixture of runners, cyclists, skaters, skateboarders, walkers and people with their personal trainers, Wednesday evening saw organised games of cricket, a 5 a side football match and a 5 kilometre race as part of the inter-club Assembly League. The latter was my reason for being there.

Battersea also has some quieter, more peaceful places, away from the hustle of the rest of the Park – just off the main path that traverses the centre of the park are a series of war memorials – the one pictured, is a World War One commemorating the 24th London Division who fought at the Somme and Ypres, by Eric Kennington who was better known as an official war artist.

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A couple of hundred metres away is the strikingly beautiful Peace Pagoda. The Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order has been constructing Peace Pagodas, as a spiritual focus for peace, since just after WW2 and there are about 80 around the world.

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The agreement to build a Peace Pagoda at Battersea was part of the 1984 Greater London Council (GLC) Peace Year. It was held against a backdrop of a worsening of the Cold War with the deployment of American Pershing nuclear missiles in Europe, SS20s in the Soviet Bloc countries and the British replacement of the ageing Polaris nuclear armed submarines with Trident. There had been a resurgence of CND and massive anti nuclear demonstrations opposing this rearmament. 1983 had seen 300,000 demonstrate in London, with 3 million on the streets across Europe.

The Park holds fond running memories for me – it was the location for my 10K and 5 mile PBs (personal bests to the non runners), although both are now more years ago than I care to remember.

Battersea’s wide, flat roads and paths were a perfect place to test my fitness for the first time since I strained my lateral collateral ligament at the London Marathon. My plan was to aim for 22 minutes for the 5K and after starting nearer the back of the field I got into a rhythm within 400m and while the last 1.5 km were hard going, I stopped my watch at 21:54. While it was almost 45 seconds slower than the equivalent race last year, it was a time I was pleased with and will have sometime to target in 3 weeks when I next race.

As for the rest of the week’s running, most of my mileage was a bit slower than normal in preparation for, and recovery from, Wednesday’s race. Sunday’s run included following one of The Quaggy’s smaller tributaries from its source in Hither Green Cemetery – more on that next month.

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