President’s Reflections-January 2021

I had hoped, like all of us, that we’d be starting this new decade with a more positive situation for our sport.  Alas, we are back in a lockdown and are unable to convene group training sessions or competitions, beyond maybe one or two elite events. 

This period has been tougher for many of us due to the tragic loss of Club members Idris Ojuriye and Geoff Fisher, and more recently Doug Cosh.  Tributes for Idris and Geoff are on the Club’s www site, and many of us will have posted memories of Idris on his extensive memorial page.  Our deepest condolences are with their families.   

The one major plus point during this third lockdown is that we continue to be able to exercise outside, meeting up with one other person where we can do to help keep us fit, physically and mentally.  I have found, for myself, it most helpful to have some routine, around the working day.  Coming into 2021 I set myself a weekly running target of 80km/50 miles, and have built in a weekly 5km effort on the grass to keep me focussed.  None of what I’m doing is especially fast, but it gives me something to aim at and a sense of focus in the absence of competitions. 

This would normally be a time of year, for distance athletes, where County Championships are quickly followed by ‘the Southerns’ and ‘the National’, great events that are part of the folklore of our sport.  Those targeting the London Marathon would be starting to ramp up their training.  Equally, for our track and field athletes, many would be focussing on the local, regional and national competitions, as well as the open events at the indoor arenas, Sutton, Lee Valley etc. 

In addition to the sense of purpose we get from our training, there is plenty of evidence to underline the benefits to our mental and physical health of getting outside during daylight hours, helping to establish our circadian rhythms, improving our energy levels and hopefully contributing some vitamin D.  Where we are locked into screens all day, an hour or two outside provides much needed respite.   

Although much of our ‘normal’ athletics activity has ceased, we continue to meet as a Club Executive on a monthly basis and are also pursuing a number of initiatives.  I am delighted to inform you that one of our members and coaches, Mohammed Ismail, has secured a grant, ‘Healthy Walks for Somali Parents’, a three year award which will engage females and then males in twice weekly walks, and should give us further insights to community perceptions of physical activity.  Do contact Mohammed for further information. 

Similarly, congratulations to Gilbert Anderson, an Executive member who is also heavily engaged with our Diversity and Inclusion Group.  Gilbert, with input from Anthony Soalla-Bell, successfully secured funding from Sport England under the ‘Covid 19 Return to Play’ scheme, to provide a wide range of new throwing implements, starting blocks, hurdles etc.   

On the critical issue of the track resurfacing, we have had constructive discussions with Wandsworth Council and England Athletics.  We appear to have garnered significant support amongst these bodies, albeit the real test is of course ensuring the funds are provided to resurface the track as soon as is possible.  The current funding climate, during which the main third party funding streams are in abeyance, makes things more challenging, but we remain optimistic based on the discussions we have had that we can secure a successful outcome.   

The Club’s magazine, Red and Black, will be published shortly.  In the absence of current competition photos, the editors have asked that we dig out ‘your most ridiculous competition photos…we want to feature your best pain faces, faces of sheer grit and determination, to faces covered in mud or tears..’  Please forward photos to with a short caption by 29th January.   

Keep well and safe during these coming weeks.  With the vaccine now being widely administered we can look forward to better times.  Please do also keep in touch with your clubmates and, importantly, coaches, all of whom will be missing the sessions as much as our athletes. 

Keith Newton, President, Herne Hill Harriers