Instead of hurrying back to London from Ireland, I did more of a slither down England and encountered some awesome new faces and places along the way.
Stop #1: Manchester
I stayed with my good pal Daren, who has officially assumed brother status, and caught a few of Manchester’s neat running scenes. We spent one afternoon at Sportcity, the training and performance center for many of GB’s best athletes, with Michael Rimmer. He’s a 2-time Olympian in the 800 who you might recognize by the white long-sleeve shirt he always wears under his singlet. He was soft-spoken and humble, and impressed me with his honesty- he never trained more than 3 days a week until he was 20, yet has set every British age category record in the 800 that exists: under-15, under-17, under-19, and senior. He attributes his success to natural talent and “managing his chimp”- a term his sports psychologist gave to switching off emotions to achieve maximal performance. The technique can be applied to any area of life and is fully explained in a book called “The Chimp Paradox.” Check it out!
Daren also drove me to nearby Leigh to watch the annual Northern 6 & 4 Stage Road Relays, which attracts hundreds of club runners from all over England. The senior women were on teams of 4 that each ran a 4k loop, while the senior men had 6 to a team and each ran a 6k. The starts, finishes, and exchanges were on the track, and closely monitored by officials. This was the first race back for most runners after the track season, and it seemed like the perfect, stress-free re-introduction to racing.
Stop #2: Nottingham
On my way out of Manchester, I took a day trip to Nottingham to see where my Mom studied abroad for a year in college. I had a blast rooting around her old dorm, Derby Hall, and seeing a few of her regular spots. My absolute favorite was Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, England’s oldest pub that dates back to 1189 AD. It was nuzzled in the base of the Nottingham Castle, and was basically a snug, renovated cave with a bar and a fireplace. Admittedly, part of the appeal was imagining college-aged Suzi throwing back a few pints inside those same walls (but only on special occasions like birthdays and perfect exam results, and never more than one in a single night, right?).
Stop #3: Cambridge
For my last week in England, I’ve been living with a few members of the Cambridge University Cross Country Club, the Hare & Hounds. James, who is now a triathlon and heart surgeon-in-training, invited me to crash in the house that he shares with Stu and Miranda. Interestingly enough, the place is owned by Tim Johnston, who was eighth in the 1968 Mexico Olympic Marathon. Between his old running pictures and library of running books that are mostly out of print, I haven’t had to search too hard for interesting running material.
I also met up for a few runs with the club, and was filled with Cambridge running lore. I knew from my visit to Oxford that the rivalry between the two was old and heated, but this video took it to a whole different level:
1930 Inter-Varsity Cross-Country Match
On my last night, I got to participate in one of the Cambridge H&H “tea runs”- an easy jog followed by tea and desserts, hosted by a different club member each week. The tradition originated to facilitate friendship between the faster and slower guys who didn’t normally train together, and has become a weekly highlight for many in the club (and visitors too!). The tea run brought back great memories of Maureen’s “banana runs,” when we would scurry through the neighborhoods behind Ursuline trying to hunt down the bananas and oranges that she had written inspirational quotes on and hidden in the grass.
Well, my time in the UK is almost complete. After a quick trip to London to grab a bag and hang with my girl Bianca, I’m heading to Switzerland for the month of October. I’m anxious to see another beautiful part of the world, and to gain some experiences that I can compare with everything I did and learned in the past 10 weeks.