HARROW HALF GOES ‘SINGLE USE PLASTIC FREE’
The Harrow Half Marathon on Sunday September 16th will be London’s first ‘Single Use Plastic Water Bottle Free’ event. Runners will be able to refresh and rehydrate themselves at water stations along the course with OOHO. It’s water in a biodegradable sachet, and the sachet is made using a 100% seaweed based membrane. Runners just have to ‘nip and sip’ the sachet. Removing single use plastic bottles and cups from the course is a big step towards achieving our goal of becoming a more sustainable half marathon. We’re grateful to Selfridges and Skipping Rocks Lab for helping to make this happen.
With each of the three water stations on the course being passed twice, runners will have six opportunities to take on water in this ground breaking and environmentally friendly way. At the end of the race, water will be available at the start/finish area thanks to our sponsors AFFINITY WATER, who are again supplying reusable water bottles.
OOHO is a world first. Biodegradable in 4-6 weeks, it aims to challenge the devastating effects of plastic on the oceans and the environment. OOHO has focused on creating edible seaweed-based membranes filled with water and made from an abundant natural resource that disappears as quickly as natural food waste. The material can be treated just like food and disposed of in the food waste, but even if it goes in the general waste and ends up in landfill, it will degrade to its original elements.
OOHO water is filtered water in a biodegradable and edible sachet. Runners will be able to collect them from the volunteers when passing any of the water stations. To drink it, simply bite the corner and suck out the water; ‘nip and sip’. Alternatively, you can swallow the sachets as they are edible or simply throw them away – our volunteers will sweep them up – or they will degrade in a few weeks. The choice is yours.
The Harrow Half Marathon is determined to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable both this year and in the future and we thank you for supporting this initiative.
HARROW HERO TO START HARROW HALF
The official starter of this year’s Harrow Half Marathon, CHRIS FINILL, is someone of whom Harrow can be really proud – a real unsung sporting hero. He was inspired by attending the same school as the late Sir Roger Bannister and is one of only eleven runners who have completed every London Marathon. At 59, he’s the youngest by 8 years. It’s a remarkable achievement, particularly as this year he had to call on all his courage and determination to complete the course. It wasn’t just coping with a very hot day; this was literally a case of running through the pain barrier.
Sunday April 22nd was destined to be one of the most extraordinary days in Chris Finill’s running career. All was well as he left Blackheath but then around the three-mile mark, Chris was clipped from behind and fell heavily to the ground. He’d broken his upper arm below the shoulder joint in four places.
Chris doesn’t blame anyone and is very philosophical about it. “It wasn’t a crime as such, just the hurly burly of a race. I don’t think anyone was trying to muscle past me in a reckless way and take me down. It was just one of those things”. “No amount of anger was going to fix it, best just to get on with the race”.
And that’s exactly what he did, determined to keep his ever-present status. When you have a proud record of running 37 London Marathons and are on the way to your 38th, you don’t give up easily. He sought help from St John’s Ambulance and was underway again within five minutes equipped with a makeshift sling and a couple of paracetamol.
It wasn’t easy. Chris was in a great deal of pain and had difficulty running. He did avoid falling over again but couldn’t escape being jostled again. He recalls being nudged at one point in the Isle of Dogs and “hit the sky with pain”. Nevertheless, he did complete it. Not in the sub 3 hours he was originally hoping for, and in which he’d run all bar one of his London Marathons, but in an exceptionally commendable 3 hours, 54 minutes and 07 seconds. He was still the fastest ever-present by 40 minutes. The day ended in hospital of course but the 2018 London Marathon medal is one he will certainly cherish.
There seems little doubt that Chris Finill’s sporting career was nurtured at an early age. He was born in Whitmore Road on New Year’s Eve 1958, where Sir Roger Bannister had lived and went on to the same school – Vaughan Primary School. In May 2004, Sir Roger Bannister came back to Harrow to receive the Freedom of the Borough to mark fifty years since he ran the first sub four-minute mile. Chris was proud to meet his hero at the celebration event at the Bannister track.
Further inspiration may have come from one of Chris’s early babysitters, Judy Grinham, an Olympic Gold medallist who lived over the road and won the 100m Backstroke title in Melbourne 1956. After a couple of years at Grimsdyke Primary School, Chris went on to Harrow County Grammar School for Boys, where his athletics career really took off. His childhood heroes were David Bedford and Ron Hill and, under the inspirational eye of Geography teacher Mike Green, he became a member of the Cross-Country team and joined what was to become Harrow Athletics Club in 1974. He still runs for the club 44 years later and was proud to be wearing it when he was given the honour of crossing the line first at the London 2012 test event for the Marathon.
Chris ran his first marathon at the age of 20 in the USA before in 1981 being one of the 7000 that tackled the very first London Marathon. Subsequently, he was drawn to longer distance races and progressed from the London to Brighton run to ultra races. He was in the British team for ten years, running 100km and 24 -hour events. Has it been a challenge for the family too? “I always try and sell them the idea I’m a better father because I do it rather than not do it”.
In the autumn of 2011, he set himself the mega challenge of running across the USA from California to New York. With running partner Steve Pope, and the support of his wife Julia and a friend, he ran 40 miles a day and completed the 3100 miles in 79 days and 22 hours. Fifteen hours later, he ran the New York marathon in 3 hours 38 minutes! “At times during the journey, I felt like giving up. But when one has committed as much as I had, I realised I couldn’t live with myself if I simply jacked it in”. “It was very, very tough” but he was also able to raise £14000 for Help the Heroes.
It’s no surprise that the next London Marathon – Sunday April 28th 2019 – is the next target for Chris. The family are fully supportive but he admits his recovery is “not great”. “When your right arm isn’t swinging properly, I’m a bit reluctant to run long distances” but he did run 8 miles in training recently. He’ll be 60 when he runs London Marathon number 39 but still wants to achieve more. “if I manage to make 50 London Marathons, I hope to run them in an average of under three hours”. You wouldn’t bet against him achieving his ambition.
Mara Yamauchi’s Harrow Half-marathon training tips
- Running the distance: if you can, try to run the half-marathon distance in training at least once.
That will give you the confidence of knowing you can complete the race.
- Speed-work: to improve your PB, at some point speed training is essential. For the half-marathon, longer intervals are the top priority to build your speed endurance.
- Ready for the weather? Mid-September in the UK could be hot, cool, dry, raining, windy – you name it, the weather could do it! Think through how you can prepare best for these different scenarios.
- Run the course: being familiar with a course in advance helps enormously on race day. If practical, run the course before race day, or at least have a good look at the course map on the race website or on a map.
- Race day logistics: think through everything you’ll do on race day – what time to have breakfast, getting to the start, what you’ll wear, drinks, how you’ll get home afterwards, etc. If you’re well-organised, that’s less to worry about on race day.
- Practice eating & drinking: whatever you eat on race day before, during and after the race, is very individual. What suits one runner will be different to others. Practising is essential, so you know if it helps you to run well or not.
- Have a race plan: having a goal for the race is essential – it could be a certain time, to run the whole way, or just to complete it. When things start to get tough, your goal will motivate you to keep working hard and stay positive.
- Recovery afterwards: it’s easy to think only as far as the finish line on race day. But if you can plan your recovery – drinks, food, icing sore muscles, getting a good sleep, gentle exercise etc, your body will thank you for it later.
- Rest up for race day: in the final few days, you will not get any faster by doing more training. You need to toe the start line feeling physically and mentally fresh. So give yourself enough rest before the race to ensure this happens.
- Enjoy it! At the end of the day, running has to be enjoyable – if it isn’t, motivating yourself will be tough. So make the most of an exciting, challenging day, even if it involves some pain.
Harrow HM – Blog by Laura Turner-Alleyne
It was a regular Harrow AC committee meeting in April, Keith (our Chairman and Harrow HM organiser) was telling us excitedly about the plans to host the Harrow HM. As I listened, my imagination started to run away with me; thoughts of me triumphantly running through the town I grew up in, supporting the club I have been a member of for 25 years, wearing my Harrow AC vest once again with pride. YES, I AM GOING TO RUN THE HARROW HALF MARATHON.
This decision doesn’t seem like a big deal, loads of people run half marathons all the time, why all the fuss. Well, I had retired from a ten-year international sprinting career 3 years ago and since had an operation to hold my foot together with 3 metal pins. I was unable to do any form of running for 6 months post-surgery but had managed my target of running a 10km 12 months after the op. There was still life in the old (34 years old) dog yet!
I wrote myself a training plan, as all good coaches do. I had 20 weeks of training to prepare myself for 13.1 miles, no problem. Or so I thought. My training consisted of 3 running sessions and 2-3 gym sessions a week, plus I would usually get to Hot Yoga once a week. Initially I did not have a time target in my head, I just wanted to finish without walking. That was until I found out my Mum had run a Harrow Half Marathon when I was 4 years old (after having 2 children). My new time target was now 2 hours 13 mins (Mum’s time was 2 hours 14 mins!)
In June I ran the London 10-mile race around Richmond Park. A client I coach was doing it so I thought might as well run too. Who knew Richmond Park was so hilly? I made it round slower than I had hoped but without walking and my foot didn’t fall off, result. This gave me confidence that I would actually make it round the HM, I now focused on how fast I would run it.
I introduced some race pace runs to my training plan, I found these to be really helpful. Starting at short runs of 3 miles, I built up to 7 miles at race pace. I was enjoying training and finding the new challenge very enjoyable, I was now aiming for sub 2 hours (9:09 /mile). This got harder and harder the further I ran, I shifted my goal to 2 hours 10mins (9:55 /mile – still quicker than Mum).
The last few weeks of training got really tough, I was out running for anything between 90 mins to 115 mins. I have to admit I did start to lose the enjoyment a little. I would run in the morning and be wiped out for the rest of the day. My body was in complete shock at what I was pushing it to do. The gym sessions became really important, I made sure my legs and trunk were well conditioned to handle the demands of a HM. I also made sure to get treatment in the form of sports massage and Osteopathy.
The big day finally arrived. I had tapered for the last week of training, making sure I felt rested going into the race. I had also made sure I was well fuelled the few days before the race, plenty of good carbohydrates in my meals. My strategy during the race was to take an energy gel every 20mins, something I had practised during my training runs. I had gels in the pocket of my shorts and shoved down my sports bra.
Arriving at Harrow School for the start was daunting but exciting at the same time. Lots of familiar faces helped me stay relaxed, although I was very nervous. I just had enough time for my 10th loo break (at least) and we were off. I tried really hard to start very slowly and feel comfortable. It was great to see so many Harrow AC members on the course, they kept my spirits up, gave me water, waved and high fived as I ran (jogged/plodded) my way through a trip down memory lane. The route took us past Yates’; a pub I spent many nights in as a teenager (over 18 of course); past my old high school (Hatch End) where my Dad and sister were cheering me on; past many of my friends’ houses; and finished up running through Harrow town centre by which point I was hanging on for dear life hoping no one I knew spotted me.
As I ran down the final hill towards the finish, I saw Keith (chairman) who gave me a high five. I was cursing him inside, it was his fault I was putting myself through this! I entered the final straight with a flurry of emotions, drowned out by the sound of name being announced (oh the shame) as I did my best sprint finish (would’ve been rude not to). I finished in 2 hours 4 minutes 49 secs (YES, I beat Mum!)
I got home and had an ice bath; old habits die hard. Then did not move from the sofa for the rest of the day. I was exhausted but so immensely proud that I, a former 100m sprinter with metal pins holding my foot together, finished a HM.
I have no plans to run another HM or indeed a full marathon, as many people keep suggesting. Completing the Harrow HM is one of my proudest achievements; it truly tested my commitment, focus, drive, endurance and mental toughness. I knew I had these attributes from my years as a sprinter, the challenge of the HM reinforced my belief that you are capable of anything you put your mind too.
I will leave you with this, my advice to anyone who is planning on running the Harrow HM (or indeed taking on any challenge)
Be prepared – training plan, race strategy, nutrition strategy. Being prepared will help you feel more in control and less daunted by the task in front of you
Keep it simple – one of my most important coaching points is to do the basic things well. Fancy watches and shiny trainers are lovely but can you run comfortably with sound technique?
Conditioning – make sure you follow a good gym/conditioning plan to make sure your body can handle the demands of training and minimise injury. Key areas are calfs, hamstrings, glutes and core.
HAVE FUN – this is the most important point. You should enjoy the challenge, thrive on the pressure, let your mind switch off from your busy life while you do something for yourself
I hope you all enjoy Harrow HM as much as I did.
SIR ROGER BANNISTER 1929-2018
The time of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds is legendary not only in Britain but throughout the sporting world. It was the time Sir Roger Bannister recorded when famously he became the first person to break the four-minute mile barrier in the late afternoon at Iffley Road Sports Ground in Oxford on 6th May 1954. It was simply one of the great global sporting achievements of the twentieth century that went far beyond Athletics.
It’s no wonder that Lord Sebastian Coe, who later went on to break the world mile record himself, said, “This is a day of intense sadness both for our nation and for all of us in athletics…There is not a single athlete of my generation who was not inspired by Roger and his achievements both on and off the track.”
Along with the whole world of Athletics, everyone connected with Harrow Athletics Club and the Harrow Half Marathon, mourns his death at the age of 88. We treasure the connections he had with Harrow and how his achievements encouraged and motivated runners of all ages.
Sir Roger was born in Harrow in 1929, lived in Butler Road and was a pupil at Vaughan Primary School. Sir Roger was a member of the school running team and that athletics and sporting tradition goes on. Vaughan is a lead school for PE in Harrow and every year has its annual sports day at the Bannister track in Hatch End. Later on, he lived in Whitmore Road, overlooking the grounds of Harrow School, and trained locally.
He went on to study medicine at Oxford and saw running as something to be done in his spare time. Nevertheless, he was selected for the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki where he came fourth in the 1500 metres, breaking the British record.
He then focused on becoming the first person to break the four-minute mile. After coming close several times, he finally achieved that goal in May 1954 with the help of another two Athletics legends – Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway.
The Australian John Landy broke his record in June that year and they went on to race each other in early August at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver in what was dubbed ‘The Miracle Mile’. It was an epic contest with Bannister narrowly beating his rival to take the gold medal. Later that month, he won ‘the Metric Mile’ at the European Championships in Bern. By the end of that year, he’d retired to concentrate on his medical career and he later became a consultant neurologist.
In 2011, he was diagnosed with the neurological disorder Parkinson’s disease. He subsequently told the BBC: “I have seen, and looked after, patients with so many neurological and other disorders that I am not surprised I have acquired an illness…It’s in the nature of things, there’s a gentle irony to it.”
I rang him last year as we were planning the Harrow Half Marathon. We wanted him to lend his name to the Family Mile we were staging alongside the main race and spoke briefly. He sounded frail but said, “I can’t stop you” with what I sensed was a twinkle in his voice. I think he was pleased that another generation would benefit from his sporting legacy and that the foundations of a stellar athletics career that were laid over eighty years ago had not been forgotten.
March 4th 2018