Heralding from the very early days of the Hedgehoppers, Simon Hodges has been on the run for over 40 years. Here he shares his memories of cinder tracks and more.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Portslade and attended Mile Oak Primary and PCC with a year at Blatchington Mill School. I’m currently living in Keymer, Hassocks.
When did you first start running?
In the 1970’s. I joined Brighton and Hove AC as a 12 year old – the track was Cinder back then (I am sure Roy can remember the Withdean Cinder track) you couldn’t wear any light coloured clothing for training in the winter (it would get ruined) and everyone wore spikes – the changing rooms were under the old stand and the hot water for the showers was a first come, first served basis (as a youngster we only ever got the cold showers !!)
How many years have you been running for?
I have been running for as long as I can remember, so 40 plus years, I always liked the idea of long Distance running even when I was very young and always enjoyed cross country at school.
Back then if you ran along the streets you would very often get verbally abused (not horribly) and the mickey taken out of you with regular shouts of “knees up mother Brown” it really was a different time and when I look back, you only ran if you were good enough – I think the inclusive nature of our sport nowadays with parkruns has opened it up to everybody which has been a very good thing.
When did you join the Hedgehoppers and why/what made you become a regular?
I am an original member of the Hedgehoppers and I used to run on a Wednesday evening and Sunday morning with Dave Wilkins, Tony and Gordon White and the legendary Peter Hills (my inspiration for marathon running) amongst others and when Norman Collingbourne and Peter Hills started the Hedgehoppers we all moved over to Tuesday evenings – so it’s been a few years now.
Best thing about being a Hopper?
This has been said so many times by others but it genuinely is the way the group welcome you, even when I started as a 14 year old, I was welcomed by all the guys and the encouragement they gave me was amazing. As a 17 year old I was quite ill with Glandular Fever and when I returned on a Tuesday night wanting to run but wasn’t supposed to be, Barbara Hills made me run with her for the next two Tuesdays – amazing.
Over the years the club has had some great Volunteers and I can’t do them all justice but Stella and Ian stand out as two great servants of the club, amongst the ever young Roy Taylor of course. And now with the current band of Volunteers organising the virtual series we have had over the last year, the efforts the Club has gone to, with the buddy runs as well, is amazing and really has been a resounding success. – I have introduced two new members recently as a result of this.
So the short answer is that it’s the people behind the scenes and the inclusive nature of every Hopper we have.
Most of you won’t even know me and yet even now when I turn up at a WSFRL with the vest on (it just about fits), someone always make sure I am included and welcomed in the same way it has been for over 40 years.
Favourite running memory i.e. that WOW moment?
Hmm that’s a tough one – there has been many highlights and a few low lights as well in 40 plus years – to pick one is almost impossible.
I have won County Schools titles. Represented Sussex at Cross Country, won WSFRL Fun Runs and have been under three hours for the Marathon and under 80 mins for Half Marathons, and an Iron Man but I think I could narrow down to two races that will stick with me forever and both are Brighton Marathons.
The very first Brighton Marathon had been a dream for all Brighton AC marathon athletes for many years and when it was announced that it could be a possibility, I was carrying a long term back injury. I had been told not to run for three years and three years to the day and only because it was the Brighton Marathon, I started running again (more like a walking hobbling jog type thing to be honest). It was a long road back and I managed to get to a point where I could run 10 miles without any serious pain – so I went for it and completed it. And have been an ever present since.
The second was the last Brighton Marathon (the Virtual one) which I ran with my wife Josie – we were supported with Aid stations by our three children so it really was a family affair – two of our friends joined us towards the end as well – we started at Ditchling Beacon made our way to the seafront out to the Saltean Lido and completed the actual Marathon course from there but finished at the back of the Hove Lagoon. It was amazing feeling running together and seeing Josie complete the distance without any real difficulties. She once said she would never run a Marathon. She is entered for this year now !!
What’s the longest distance you’ve ever run?
The current Three Forts Marathon as everyone knows its longer than 26.2 (I still prefer the original though) but I have also completed an Iron Man.
Favourite running event and why?
Marathon – its always a challenge and it doesn’t matter what level you are at, how fit you are, if you get the first 10 miles wrong by going too fast – it’s the most gruelling of events there is but if you get it right the last 10k /6miles is such a wonderful experience with the crowds. Needless to say I have experienced both ends of this spectrum. It still, even after 57 of them gives me a great feeling when I cross the finish line.
Do you have a nickname and how did you come by it?
Fat Bloke for those of you who know Chris Carter, that’s what he calls me (I can’t think why ???)
Please tell us one thing about yourself that people may not know?
I was a Professional Golfer.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I have a wonderful Family – Josie my wife and our three Children Kieran, Jasmine and Chloe-Rose . I am looking forward to the WSFRL starting again soon??