Runner Profile: Richard Smith
It was September 2010 and there I stood resplendent in my new FRR running vest ready (well not really) for my first race, it was the Alton Water 10k, I was cowering under a rather small tree along with a number of other Road Runners, the heavy rain was being carried by the wind horizontally across the whole reservoir and onto the dam at the end where the start took place and frankly I wondered what on earth I was doing there and what a baptism of fire it was !
I had not been over sporty at school, there had been a bit of cross country, rugby, football etc but nothing really that I was interested in and I left at 16 (one could in those days) and had started to study at Ipswich College and pretty much at the same time took up playing both squash and badminton which I played quite regularly. Then off to Uni I went and carried on playing the two sports pretty much side by side, even representing the University at Badminton (a Sussex Blue?) and then when I left Uni and back home again I played these two sports for many years meeting David Lampard along the way. I was probably at this time playing sport 3 or 4 times a week, Dave and I had many a tussle on the singles court and also some success on the doubles court in the interclub leagues, and much the same with the squash where I was playing in the inter club leagues
I was in my late 30’s and was a bit bored with the Badminton so started playing hockey at the town ground for the Vets’ side at Felixstowe Hockey club, again in the inter club leagues all over Suffolk and Essex. I really loved the thrash about on a Saturday afternoon but I was it has to be said pretty useless at it, I played for around 8/10 years I think (not continuously) but the Vets team was, after a number of years, disbanded and I didn’t like the astro (rather than grass) pitches I then had to play on so really started to look for something else
About this time Dave who had been an enduring friend had been doing some running and had a crack at the Great North Run – I well remember after he had a crack for the second time that I was less than polite about what I thought was a slow time, joshing with another mutual friend that he must have stopped for lunch halfway round! If you know Dave he is a real Mr Nice Guy and so I was a tad astounded when out at Bombay Nights one evening, when I had once again suggested (with tongue firmly in cheek and slightly under the influence!) his time was a bit slow and he rounded on me and challenged me to put my money (or legs) where my mouth was! Oh dear me and my mouth!
So somewhere around August 2010 I found myself out on a Tuesday night with Dave and FRR, training first for the Felixstowe Half (via the Alton Water 10k as above) with the VLM being the aspirational goal.
The 2010 half went ok, I made a rookie error of trying to keep up with a faster runner for the first loop (a certain Tim Emery) and then struggled with the last half of the second lap, one highlight was chasing or avoiding the sea of paper cups having been discarded by runners before me at the drinks station there being blown towards the dock down Grange Rd. The finish on the sea front though was a bit underwhelming with most of the day trippers not having a clue of what was going on!
As Dave mentioned in his piece I missed out on the VLM in 2011 but did go and watch. Do not miss this spectacle people, the noise, the people, the sights and sounds is always on a massive scale. I was watching at a point where you could see the runners going both ways just after Tower Bridge, one could hear the lead runners coming for miles as a wave of cacophony slowly got closer before eventually washing over you in what just seemed a small moment as the front runners came into sight from around the corner and stormed past. Great atmosphere.
But in 2012 I did go on to run VLM, I got a place via the club draw along with Adrian Hine and Pauline Barr and well remember siting in the holding pens with them deciding tactics. The amount of portaloo’s there was staggering only surpassed by the humongous amount of people in the queue to use them. The amount of discarded clothes on the railings as we set of is also a lasting memory. I set off really slowly, high fiving the locals as we walked over the start line. Halfway came up in 2 hrs or so and then on through Docklands but at 18 miles or so I started to get cramp. The atmosphere through that part of the run was magical, the course weaves in and out of the offices with bands playing on most corners and it being a hot day it was really warm and the spectators had spilled onto the course and narrowed it, at one point being only 4/5 runners wide and after each of the drinking stations there was a deadly sea of discarded water bottles. The last half of the race (well the last 6 miles or so!) was agony, I had as advised by many had my name printed on my FRR vest and every agonising step I took was accompanied by many supportive comments from those watching, but frankly such was the discomfort I could have punched most of their lights out! I finished in a reasonable time for a beginner but learnt some valuable lessons along the way
At this point I have decided to digress a bit. As mentioned above I have played sports since I was 16 and I have to say I have found the running fraternity to be the nicest bunch ever, they are supportive and accepting of all comers offering support and advice to those that need it. So whilst not being a people person I have to admit I have met some really nice folk.
I pay tribute to Mike Todd and Richard Bennett who tragically left us too early and are no longer with us – both really nice guys who were very supportive, did a lot for the club and are a great loss
To those that have in past helped my training including Dave and Marion (only a little!) and two guys I miss in David Fox and Fred Boggis
I have also met several lovely people from other clubs, this is not unique but one gets friendly with those one normally find you’re running against, there are too many nice people to mention
I feel it also right to mention Robin Harper and Dave Solomon – In many ways I feel the success of the club in the past 5 years or so can be traced back to two things – these guys arriving on one hand and parkrun on the other. Unconsciously Robin and Dave I think were the spark that engendered such a spirit and comradery within the club, fostering an environment of mutual support that led not surprisingly to why we have done so well in the Team GP event, the club needs to bottle this!
I would also like to thank those that helped me when I managed the FRR attempt at Round Norfolk Relay and those that helped whilst I was Race Director of the Martlesham 10k
Martlesham 10k – RD!
Early in 2013 I became aware that the Martlesham 10k was likely not to be staged anymore as the Woodbridge Lions could not find a Race Director to organise the event. With the blessing of the FRR committee I set about trying to secure the franchise for us, to be honest the Lions’ only really had us or Jaffa to hand it over to and the latter was not really interested so long as someone managed it. So for 3 years I led the organising committee made of me and the Lions’. I really enjoyed the time, the Lions were a nice bunch of people to deal with and we made a profit to add to the club’s funds as well as providing funds for the Lions to do good works with in and around Woodbridge, it will be such a shame if we lose it
Until recently when I moved I had my running medals hanging up (sad aren’t I!), there are 106 medals, I have also counted 166 running bibs I have kept (yep sad again) so I have a few races to pick as favorites – go on, indulge me, they are as follows
My partner and I drove to Wesel to join up with a number of FRR’s who had flown out and we had a cracking few days. The drive out was seen as an adventure but gave us an opportunity to take in the European scenery, through France, Belgium and into Germany one could see the change from the romantic patriotic French laissez-faire through to the comparative rigour of the Germanic order. At that time of course one could look at the Germans as fellow Europeans (sadly no longer) but they were very welcoming, completely perplexed about Brexit (no more political stuff I promise!) and I was blown away by what they had laid on for us. Fortunately my partner and I declined the “small” bike ride on the Saturday, the others got sucked in though and as far as I could understand with a couple of our hosts leading the way they nearly did a cycle tour of Europe that day! The race on the Sunday ran along the banks of the Rhine and through fairly archetypal Germanic (not surprising being in Germany) black forest type forest, pretty damn gorgeous. The race for me went okay, the terrain was pretty flat and though there was a bit of a head wind I got home in my normal nominal 2 hours. Good times.
I have had a bit of a love affair with the Round Norfolk Relay, oddly I ran this for the first 5 years in the dark, only on my 6th outing did I have the benefit of daylight but by that time had already fallen in love with the wacky nature of this underrated and under loved event. 3 years on the trot I had breakfast with Tim Emery and Fred Boggis in Kings Lynn waiting for fellow FRR’s to bring the batten home, we are unlikely ever to be good enough as a team to win the event but the fun makes up for all that. Yes it has to be said each runner has to be far more independent than any other race, yes because it is over 24hours each team member may never appreciate what part they play in the event and may even feel lonely and dejected as we welcome them over the line, thank them for their efforts and zoom off to the next check point but despite all of that it is a crazy event I will not miss if given the opportunity. Organising it was a headache but I would like to thank all those that ran it and those left “holding” the baby overnight and into Sunday morning to get us home. In many ways it was summed up by one runner who at her finish burst into tears at the significance of her efforts “not wanting to let the team down” , the lady in question, new to the event having been a late substitute had fitted the run into a busy schedule, found her way to start point without a hitch and ran her heart out, did not get lost and played a real team part in us getting round – what more can any organiser or club ask of one of our runners!
I had helped out on the SVP 100 playing grim reaper in the pick up bus for runners who could not continue for a few years and my ears pricked up when they inferred one year that an SVP50 was coming along. As I had been a helper I got free entry to the race. I was nervous of the distance but the mitigation was I could proportionately take much longer at it, walk the hills and have a good day out. I arrived at the start line in Sudbury having only done 18 miles in training so was a bit nervous whether I had the distance in my legs but my partner was to meet me at the feed stations (yes you can scoff along the way!!) so if I collapsed or could not continue I did have an easy low key way out! As it happened I had a ball, the day was great for running, cool and dry with little wind and although I have to say the first drink station stressed me a little (being sooo busy) I carried on. I had learnt the lesson of VLM in relation of cramp and just carefully picked off the miles. I had bought a Tom Tom GPS watch which kept me on course as getting lost was not what I wanted as I find it quite a downer. I recall going under the A12 at Stratford and out into the open classic “Constable” countryside on my way to Flatford, it was still, cool, late afternoon and an idyllic picture to behold. From there the run down to Brantham is pretty flat and mainly downhill, through a deserted Flatford Mill where the pond was everything a still millpond should be, it was just plain lovely – there are some stunning views around the world but for me Suffolk does it every time. I got home in time to miss by some margin the cut off time with many FRR’s there at the finish line to welcome and congratulate me, all in all a magic day out with some running thrown in! Oh BTW thanks to Sally for the support and I will forgive you for the one time you were not there to meet me!
If you get a chance to be on a team and run relay legs over 24 hours have a go, I have done 3 or 4 of these events and they are good fun, completely shattering (suggest do not try to drive far afterwards!) but nonetheless a real team effort. At the local ones FRR has had a huge turnout and it gives one opportunity to get to know your club mates and quietly talk and chat something the club nights do not afford. Running at night can be disorientating, surreal and even dangerous but picking your way through a 3/5 mile route at sunrise is just something else, with the sun just rising, the cool and quiet surrounding it is a special time and at these runs one normally runs through the camp site that is eerily quiet – great fun. I was staggered leaving Thunder Run one year to see the sea of tents around the central hub, it was a scene I would imagine similar to a music festival with tents and vans and caravan as far as the eye could see.
I think parkrun has had a huge effect on running in general and on FRR in particular. Who would think a weekly 5k run would be so compelling, yet it never gets any easier. What it has done is created a nursery environment where no one is judged but which can be used as a spring board into more formal running clubs such as FRR. When I started running it in Ipswich it finished in front of Christchurch mansion, I think it took me around 3 years to better my time of that first run! But have now done 168 of them and counting. We are lucky in the area to have 3 to choose from and I hope that will continue
Lets hear about it all from Stuart Mason then shall we !!