Wednesday, 16 May 2012

'This Land is Our Land!'

Home ground for Tiptree Road Runners!

NOTHING gets in the way of Tiptree Road Runners. Developers can lay tarmac, build new homes, they can even pave paradise and put up a parking lot. We will not be stopped.

Our ‘Summer Race Series’ started this week (Summer? Now there’s a misnomer if ever I heard one). The first contest started and finished in a certain spot that used to be the top end of a footpath/bridleway heading out of the village into the wilds of Essex beyond. However, in the years since we first used this area for training and racing, a big chunk of it  has disappeared under a cul-de-sac full of new homes. 

The developers named it Park Drive and created a sort of mews community for young professionals who drive Nissan Qashqais and can afford £400,000 homes.

But were we runners frightened away by these wheels of progress?   Not likely.  After all, we were here first!

Runners are nothing if not creatures of habit, and we showed up again in Park Drive this week in our dozens, full of the joys of spring, chattering animatedly and wearing our brightest and most eye-catching training outfits. This year we even brought with us a tall plastic bollard to use as a finishing post.

Our arrival seemed to signal an instant curfew.  Residents disappeared inside their homes, blinds were closed and curtains drawn. TVs were no doubt turned up a notch to drown out the voices of the rabble outside. Some may have wondered why we would choose their little corner of Essex as our ‘race HQ’ for the evening?  A fair question, but, as I said earlier, we were here first!

Who knows, perhaps some of the residents were fascinated enough to listen in to the demented chatter that echoed around the mews ?  Topics included Graeme’s salt tablet intake and his chip-timing dispute at his most recent marathon, Malcolm expressing horror at the mistaken impression Colchester United had sold a star defender, Simon and myself discussing the merits of Ronnie O’Sullivan as  a runner, and Marcos’ horrendous story of colliding with a deer on a nearby main road.  Not forgetting, of course, the gory details of Anthony’s latest hardcore ‘challenge race’ (last week it involved barbed wire, walking the plank and underwater tunneling, all pretty routine these days for intrepid Mrs and Mrs Knight - apart from the fact that Vicky ended this particular adventure in the care of a local hospital!)

A couple of new members accompanied us this week and seemed surprised at the level of chat that goes on during a typical training spin. Of course, the talking tended to die out during the actual 2.3-mile race itself, but that lull was only temporary. Race over, there was still bowling nights and Wendy’s pub runs to discuss, and new injuries and ailments to be compared and analysed.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was the participation of so many who have only recently been competing in marathons.  Several of our number have run more than one 26.2-mile in recent weeks, and managed PBs into the bargain, yet still they come to training for more punishment.

When you’re a Clapped-Out Runner like me, you often treat Tuesday training with caution as it seems dangerously close to the previous Sunday’s race.  60 hours between them, to be precise. Is that enough time to recover between hard runs?  We must listen to our body in these matters, according to our chairman.  

Over the years, after a hard Sunday run, I have often felt stiffer and wearier on a Tuesday than I did on the intervening Monday. I asked former London Marathon winner Mike Gratton about this phenomenon and he confirmed it was quite common and remembers  always feeling more sore on the Tuesday after his own Sunday marathons than on the Monday. He had a name for it – DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

Said Mike: “It's a strange thing - but you know it is only going to get better from then onwards. I used to have to roll out of bed onto my knees on a Tuesday morning and then slowly stand up and walk backwards down the stairs.”

It’s comforting to know that even the elite runners suffer such comical scenarios.  But one local runner who clearly has little trouble recovering between races is the Colchester Harrier Allen Smalls.

Allen won the Halstead Marathon last weekend by a massive 12-minute margin, this stunning result coming just a week after he won the very rugged and waterlogged Heritage Coast half-marathon in Suffolk by another hefty margin. And a mere seven days before that he smashed the unofficial world veteran’s record at a six-hour track run at Crawley. This involved running 217 continuous laps (54 miles!) on a wet and windy 400 metres track. He did each lap in roughly 78 seconds over the six-hour period.  Good grief!

* Check out Rob Hadgraft’s published books on running at

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