Tales of a year of beer and Maskell like sprint to the finish line. It’s all here as Alex kindly shares his running memories and more.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
i.e. where you grew up, family etc.
I spent most of my childhood in Hangleton, with mum and dad, my sister Charlotte, and twin brother Lewis. We’ve always been a pretty active family, with my siblings and I swimming every week for most of our childhood, occasionally in the most absorbent clothes known to man, just in case we ever found ourselves lost at sea in our pyjamas! But I was always considered the sporty one, with my first memories of competition being football as a boy at school and Mile Oak FC. And as spectacularly unsuccessful as I was at footy, probably down to the coaching (sorry dad), I always loved training and playing at weekends, especially if a bit of mud was involved too (sorry mum, and the car seats).
In fact I played just about everything as a kid, so long as a ball was involved, and on starting secondary school at Hove Park I took up rugby. More mud, more balls, excellent (no rest for the car seats though). From that point rugby was my game for the next 11 years or so, and the closest I ever got to any running was the annual cross country at Hove Park. An event I improved in every year to a final year PB of sixth. A memorable day, but running was never going to be for me I thought, after all how can a sport not have any balls!?
Following my time in school sport became more and more the dominant feature in life, as I went on to Varndean College, studying PE at A level and playing rugby for the college and Brighton FC, and then to the University of Chichester to complete a degree in Sports Coaching Science. It was at uni that my running career really took hold, though more of that later. Since then I’ve followed a trail of Hoppers taking up a position with Brighton and Hove AC, both as an athlete and coach, and joined the staff at Chichester Uni’s Institute of Sport.
When did you first start running and what made you start?
My first real attempts at running were in the school cross country, and one appearance in the WSFRL at the world famous Beach Run when I was about 16. However, I started running in earnest during my time at University. Along with my brother, I took on the Brighton Marathon in 2012, which did well in discouraging me from overindulging in typical freshers year activities. However, the bug hadn’t quite taken hold and it wasn’t until my final year in 2013/14 that I was encouraged to get back on the roads by a friend who is now an excellent runner himself. Whilst initially I was simply hoping to gain some of that marathon fitness lost to too much beer and too many pizzas, I soon caught the bug full whack, as my friend and I took on the local Mid-summer 5, run by the Chichester Runners. This was and still is an excellent race, as some of you may have experienced yourself, and with a respectable finish time and the promise of a beer and burger at the end, I was sold on becoming one of these lunatics they call runners.
How many years have you been running for?
Well if you ignore the year of beer between my first marathon and that fateful Mid-summer 5, you might say 8 years since 2012. But I’ve considered myself a runner by trade for the last 6.
When did you join the Hedgehoppers and why/what made you become a regular?
I joined the hoppers properly fairly soon after leaving uni in 2014 as I remember it, though perhaps I joined officially in my final year and ran the mid-summer in the famous blue and white sash. I joined really because my dad was one and it was a way to keep getting to races like Beach Run and the Mid-summer 5. Having caught the bug and seen some success I figured I might as well hang around!
Best thing about being a Hopper?
In my heart of hearts, I’d have to say the cake, and with that a special mention and thank you to Zoe. But I should also mention the great togetherness of the club, it’s always a pleasure to turn up on a race day or a Tuesday and chat and run with you all.
Favourite running memory i.e. that WOW moment?
A very recent memory, this would have to be my finish at this years Chichester 10k. This is a race that my university pals and I have turned into an annual pilgrimage to our home away from home. This year I had set a PB at this race as my main aim before easing off after the Brighton Half, ready for the new WSFRL (oh if only we knew!). Realistically I was looking at a time around 37:30, but was secretly hoping for a time below 37 minutes. On the day, the conditions were spot on, though some wind heading across Goodwood was a little concerning. As we set off I made the first part of the race in good time, reaching the race circuit in about 36 minutes, and as it was the wind gave little to worry about. As I came down the seemingly endless Lavant straight 37 looked to be on, though work had to be done. As I entered the start-finish straight I knew it was going to be tight, and I began to dig deep for a Dave Maskell-style sprint finish. Eyes locked on the clock, as I crossed the line it ticked to 37:00. I’d have jumped for joy…if I could. A final chip time of 36:53 confirmed a job well done, and a roast lunch in the Nags Head and several pints were taken in celebration.
What’s the longest distance you’ve ever run?
That would be the marathon, anyone doing more than that has clearly lost their ability to think critically.
Favourite running event and why?
The Chichester 10k for all of the reasons above and that it is the best run event of its type I’ve attended, and combines my love of motorsport and running.
Do you have a nickname and how did you come by it?
My uni friends call me Rawlo, I’m sure you can work out why!
Please tell us one thing about yourself that people may not know?
Having a Spanish girlfriend, I’m currently learning Spanish, I’m almost conversational! I’ve even taken the hopper vest out to Spain to compete in a traditional New Years Eve race, whilst I got a few odd looks with the strange foreign name on my vest, and couldn’t speak any Spanish at the time, there was the same runner-to-runner camaraderie at the end!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Just that even through this god-forsaken pandemic the Hedgehoppers are doing a top job a keeping the running spirit alive, and I can’t wait to get back out there competing for our spot on top of the WSFRL.