Virtual versatility

Emma Parkin celebrates her Virtual Shakespeare Race.
This week many many thanks are due to both Matt Burdus-Cook and David Smyth for their superb articles on the very first Virtual Shakespeare Race and David’s Virtual Marathon.

In this week’s newsletter the following quotes appear :

“A brilliant idea and another example of how great this sports club is” – Brian Weetman.

“The event was a true reflection of the spirit and comradery that exists within our club. This race demonstrates so well that when we pull on our club vest it, whilst it is sometimes about who we are running against, it is always about who we are running with and what we are running for.” – Matt Burdus-Cook.

“I am a member of a fantastic running club that has some of the most supportive and encouraging members you could wish for.” – David Smyth.

Do I detect a theme ?

Yep. We’re part of an exceptional club – but we knew that already didn’t we ?

Once again, thank you so much Matt and David for your articles.

We also have lots of advice and tips to help us through this crisis, courtesy of Paul Bearman and from Paul Hawkins’s archives I found some fascinating articles on the early days of the club’s triathlon section, as well as a proposal from February 1989 that we have our own track, together with suggested fund raisers.

Now, if anyone has any suggestions for virtual haircuts, I for one will be extremely grateful.

Make the most of the good weather. Stay fit and healthy and take care.

Very Best Wishes

David Jones
Senior members share details and comments of their Virtual Shakespeare Race runs.

April Virtual Shakespeare Race.

Report – Matt Burdus-Cook.

As we entered lockdown, our ability to meet, train and race as a club suddenly stopped.

Whilst this may be a relatively small issue given the backdrop of the reasons why we needed to do this, club activities are an important part of life’s routine for many of us.

Club brings us together socially, supports our physical and mental wellbeing and gives us an avenue to pursue our passion for something that only runners really understand.

And so talk began of how we could do something to allow club members to spend some time focusing on a silver lining in these cloudy times by creating a virtual club race.

E-mail trails ensued. The agreed race format was for athletes to select their own 10k route which they would run at a time to suit in a 2 week period and post their results online for collation.

The distance raced was as close as athletes could run to 10K and was then adjusted if needed to ensure that everyone had a comparable time for exactly 10k.

We did discuss if we could adjust times to account for the hilliness of race routes run. This is complicated to do without an accepted methodology and if we adjusted for hills, then why not wind, terrain, temperature and so on … so we decided to keep things as simple as possible … and it seemed to work with 101 club members rising to the challenge.

Route choice varied wonderfully, both geographically and topographically.

Races were posted from the Lake District to Cornwall as runners raced from their lockdown locations. Some racers chose flat routes, fast net downhill profiles or some chose hilly routes with leg burning climbs.

I for one chose an undulating but net downhill point-to-point route.

As I jogged to my start point, I was surprised to feel the usual nerves and thoughts that go before a race running through my head … “Do I need the toilet?”, “Do I need the other toilet?”, “Who else will be racing?”, “Did that knee hurt before?”, “How fast can I do this?”, “I’m so glad I’m doing this”, “Why am I doing this?”, “Can I let this out without making a noise?”.

Similarly at the virtual start line I adopted my usual semi-agitated pacing and general shuffling around routine as I tried to push my running demons to the back of my mind and bring my race plan and motivators to the fore, while I waited for the starter to call me to the line and start proceedings.

I then remembered I was my own starter, toed the virtual start line and got underway.

My race was tougher than I’d expected, but with my imaginary competitors heels in the distance and breath on my shoulder, I still felt driven to run hard and to my physical limits. I also felt incredibly motivated by the thought of others, donning their club vest and facing their own individual challenges, running with a common purpose in uncommon times.

It is hard to single out individual performances from the virtual race as every competitor made it a success.

Needless to say, the fastest male and female performances were as impressive and inspiring as always.

Richard Shepherd posted a 33:11 run which, for context, was a time that would have won last year’s “Leicester’s Big 10K”, run at the same time in the race calendar.

Georgie Campbell showed the strength within the junior camp, and her own individual brilliance with a time of 38:49.

There were also a number of 10k PBs recorded, which is a brilliant achievement on any solo effort.

What, as it transpired, made the event extra special was the way in which the individual results came in gradually over the 2-week race period. We were able to review, recognise and reflect upon every individual effort, as athletes shared their own race times, and the efforts and challenges that went into them.

As someone who has been socially distancing through choice rather than necessity for the past 20 years or so, even I enjoyed the daily excitement as Facebook based contact and conversations ensued as results were posted and as the results table grew and evolved.

The event turned into the largest Shakespeare race field on record. Among the 101 runners posting a result were individuals who had dusted off their racing shoes for the first time in months or years, those who upped their usual run distance to meet the 10k distance, or those who ran when the current circumstances made it an achievement to have just been able to “get out there”.

We will continue to organise and host the virtual event in line with the distancing guidelines for as long as we need to and for as long as the demand and the impact remains as overwhelming positive as it currently is.

The event was a true reflection of the spirit and comradery that exists within our club. This race demonstrates so well that when we pull on our club vest it, whilst it is sometimes about who we are running against, it is always about who we are running with and what we are running for.

For those of you who haven’t seen the results please follow this link :

Useful Tips and Information.

For senior members, junior members, coaches and aspiring coaches.

Paul Bearman.

Sarah Connors has been to several Olympics for UKA and is my recommended “go to” physio for the athletes I coach. I met Sarah when she treated Andrew Pozzi about 10 years ago and has treated many of our young athletes over the years getting them back to fitness. In fact she’s currently helping Rory Dwyer back to fitness after a long layoff.

Sarah has produced a series of blogs and they are full of good common sense activities that can help with fitness, mobility, flexibility i.e. injury prevention.

While we’re away from the track it’s a good time to do some research and studying to develop and refine your knowledge. Even after 27 years coaching I’m keen to find anything new or different that will help our athletes.

I have attached some documents and links …see below…. for info you may find useful and I still go back to some excellent stuff on

Core Sessions from Physio Kinetic

Nutrition Ideas

See screen shots below

Mobilisation ; Myofascial release

Coach Resources

UK Coaching have released 10 subscription learning resources which are available by registering on the Learning and Development platform. They have been specifically selected based on the Coach Learning Framework to provide a variety of formats for coaches to engage and learn. You can access them all by hitting the link and registering

EA Webinars

England Athletics have launched a programme of online coaching webinars. The sessions are presented in a really engaging manner by knowledgeable coaches and provided a wealth of tips to fine tune individual coaching techniques. With a little lateral thinking there are also lessons to be learnt for coaches of all disciplines.

You can access free webinars by clicking the link below and not to worry if you have missed any of the previous webinars they will be uploaded to listen to again. They are all free and currently running until mid-June. You only need an email address to access this training so it’s open to all.

Thursday 23 April 17:30 – Throws – Coaching the back of the discus circle with Q&A
Hosted by Garry Power

Monday 27 April 18:00 – Endurance – Video Analysis (part 2) followed by Q&A
Hosted by Helen Clitheroe

Tuesday 28 April 18:30 – Interview with Donna Fraser – training for championship performance
Hosted by Donna Fraser

Tuesday 28 April 20:00 – High Jump and High Jump Training
Hosted by Fuzz Caan

Wednesday 29 April 17:30 – Endurance – Hamstrings should we be stretching them (part 2)
Hosted by Mark Brace

Wednesday 29 April 18:00 – Speed – Front-side or back-side mechanics?
Hosted by Graham Pilkington (Regional Coach Lead – North)

Thursday 30 April 19:30 – Throws – Adapted training sessions for javelin
Hosted by Mark Bradford

Tuesday 5 May 19:30 – Pole Vault – Take-off efficiency
Hosted by Darren Ritchie/ Scott Simpson

Tuesday 6 May 18:30 – Speed – Working the energy systems – how much of each?
Hosted by Mike Leonard (Regional Coach Lead – South East)

Wednesday 7 May 19:30 – Throws – the Discus technical framework explained
Hosted by Mark Chapman

Tuesday 12 May 19:30 – Planning considerations in coaching Combined Events
Hosted by Darren Ritchie/ Vern Gambetta

Thursday 14 May 19:30 – Throws – Javelin Technique with Q&A
Hosted by David Turner

Tuesday 19 May 19:30 – Debates in warming up – Training Focus
Hosted by Darren Ritchie/ Jamie French

Thursday 21 May 19:30 – Throws – Hammer Technique with Q&A
Hosted by Gary Herrington

Tuesday 26 May 19:30 – Pole Vault – Pole stiffness
Hosted by Darren Ritchie/ Scott Simpson

Thursday 28 May 19:30 – Throws – Choosing your Shot Put technique with Q&A
Hosted by Stuart Carlaw

Tuesday 2 June 19:30 – Effective use of running drills – a personal perspective
Hosted by Darren Ritchie/ Vern Gambetta

Thursday 4 June 19:30 – Throws – Rotational Shot Put presention
Hosted by Paul Wilson

Tuesday 9 June 19:30 – Debates in warming up – Competition Focus
Hosted by Darren Ritchie/ Jamie French

Tuesday 16 June 19:30 – Pole Vault – on pole technique
Hosted by Darren Ritchie/ Scott Simpson

In addition England Athletics’ are pumping out information and ideas and they have allowed free access to the Athletics 365 XL bundle for the next 12 months (until 31 March 2021) for coaches who hold a licensed Leader in Running Fitness or Coaching Assistant, or higher qualification, with a current DBS. England athletics – Links to whole site

Other links

Athletics at home – Supporting 11 year olds to keep active athletics – 365 athlete handbooks

Funetics activity videos 4 -11 year olds

We would like to capture what training webinars and or development work you are currently accessing whilst we are not able to be together at the track. Please keep a record and send it to Nikki Hillard

Hopefully we will be at the track again sometime over the summer and squeeze in some competitions but in the meantime stay safe and let Nikki know what you’ve been up to and the learning points/tips.

If you need any help/advice please call or email


While sorting through some of the Paul Hawkins Archive I came across these results from the 3rd Club Triathlon some 30 years ago. Here was me thinking that Triathlons were a relatively new phenomenon. What do I know ?

The two names at the top of the table have a particular relevance to my late blossoming running career.

Graham Shand accompanied myself and Matt Sims on many of my first runs some 13 years ago. I remember him seeming to float up the Welcome Hills, which seemed so unfair at the times. It still does. Graham gave me plenty of advice and encouragement in those early days..

It was outside Ray Ziel’s gym in Western Road, a gym that I am still a member of, on Saturday mornings, that my running life resumed after a 40 year break.

It was Ray who coached, trained and encouraged me as I competed in my first marathon 12 years ago on 13th April 2008. I can still remember fondly his text of congratulations when I told him I’d completed it in 3:56.07. ” It’s one hell of an achievement to complete your first marathon in under 4 hours” is what it said.

Ray’s untimely death, while out running on the Welcome Hills, was a massive loss to so many people who had been members of Healthworks, as well, of course, to his family and many friends.

His wife Sue, who is still a friend and who I forewarded this to, remembered that it was one of her first Triathlons as she’d started doing them in her 40th year.

It’s safe to say that without Matt, Graham and Ray and the other members of those Saturday running groups, that I wouldn’t be sat here typing this newsletter.

More details of the club’s Triathlon Section, taken from the April 1989 edition of Fast Feet, the club’s newsletter of the day.
Above: Ready for the off. Below: Job done.
My Virtual Marathon.

Report – David Smyth.
This Spring I decided to come out of Marathon retirement. I had not run a marathon since running London in 2012 but this year was special.

Firstly I wanted to support my wife Hazel, who was going to be doing her first ever marathon in memory of a good friend’s daughter (Lottie Rousell) who sadly died in April last year of a brain tumour.

We were therefore both going to run the Paris Marathon to raise money for the Myton Hospice where Lottie spent her final few days.

This would have been my 9th ever marathon so, not wanting to end my marathon career on an odd number, I decided that I’d also train for another marathon to attempt a PB and break the 3:30 barrier that I’d not managed to achieve in my previous 8 marathons.

I therefore entered the not very exciting nor very picturesque Bedford Autodrome marathon, which is literally a marathon around a race track – 8 x 5km laps to be precise. My thirst for a PB knows no bounds!! This was all about the time!

However, as we all know to our detriment, races started to get cancelled from early March as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, with the large city marathons the first to go. So Paris is now on the backburner until October.

The Bedford Autodrome marathon soon followed so I decided not to allow my hard winter training plan (kindly put together by Sarah Bland) to go to waste. Therefore on the 22nd March, the day my official marathon in Bedford should have been, I decided to run my own ‘virtual’ marathon to try and get a PB.

The organisers of the Bedford event had encouraged everyone who had entered the event to try and do this if they could. They even set up an online virtual leaderboard to log all finishers (once proof of your time was sent to them), and agreed to send out ‘finisher’s packs’ to everyone that completed their race.

Completing a virtual race – as we now all know following the recent virtual April Shakespeare race – is quite an ordeal, but I was very fortunate in two ways. Firstly, the date of my virtual race was the last weekend before the lockdown started, so I would not have been able to have run a race of this length after that date. Secondly, I am a member of a fantastic running club that has some of the most supportive and encouraging members you could wish for.

I put out a call via a WhatsApp group for anyone who may want to join me for some part of my race route in the hope that 1 or 2 people might come out for a mile or two to help relieve the boredom of running over 26 miles alone.

How wrong I was! Very quickly a number of fellow club runners volunteered their services.

So at 9am on the 22nd March I headed off from home – making sure that the right social distancing was being enforced – with Adam Evans, Alex Hill and Sarah Bland (on her bike) as my ‘first half’ support team.

It was an ‘official’ start as Tony Jackson was on hand to see us off.

We made very good and slightly quick time for the first 4 miles, arriving at the Milcote crossing where Peter Sugden joined the group.

From here we passed through Long Marston and picked up Chris Cond and Simon Hanagarth. We were also joined by Rebecca Pridham on her bike as we got closer to Pebworth via Broad Marston!

With no feeding stations on the route I was being well looked after by Sarah who fed me gels and I also had great support from my wife Hazel and daughter Tara in the car, who were keeping me hydrated and motivated with sounds from the 80’s!!

Just before half way, Peter left us to continue his normal Sunday run and we were then joined by Seth Turner who had agreed to pace me all the way from there to the end.

The time through the half-marathon mark was 1:34 so we were well up on time – if a little too quick.

After passing through Dorsington and into Welford (for the first time) we then went on what I would now label as the ‘loop of doom’ – Welford – Milcote – Rummer Hill and back into Welford.

Chris and Simon left us just prior to Rummer hill, so from that point on it was just Sarah Bland, Seth and I for the final 6 miles. It was also at this point that my mile pacing did start to drift, an expected result from having gone off a little too enthusiastically at the start.

However, my objective to be inside 3:30 was still on target.

Seth and Sarah were fantastic and managed to keep me going through some very bleak moments in the final few miles through Welford and Luddington.

Their help and encouragement meant that I finally crossed the finish line outside my house in a time of 3:17:58 which is an (unofficial PB) by over 18 minutes. It also put me in 19th position overall on the virtual leaderboard and 1st in my V50 age category!

I am eternally grateful to everyone from Stratford upon Avon AC that helped to make this happen, especially Sarah Bland and the rest of the support crew and runners that day. I couldn’t have done it without you – Thank you!
Here’s something else of interest I came across from Paul’s archives. This was taken from the club’s earlier newsletter “Fast Feet” ( more of which in the next few weeks ). It was from the February 1989 edition. A track of our own – that was a good idea.