Southend-on-Sea Athletic Club celebrated their Diamond Jubilee of racing on the Pier on Boxing Day.

Once a year two local historic institutions come together: the World famous Southend Pier [originally built in 1837] and Southend-on-Sea Athletic Club [founded 1905 as Southend Harriers]

The dip in temperature first thing on Boxing Day morning caused a slight delay to proceedings as Pier Officials inspected the viewing platform for ice but once declared safe, the event proceeded smoothly.  The cold deterred no-one and all 46 entrants – one of the largest fields in recent years - made it to the start-line of the Club’s Diamond Anniversary Pier Race. Three of their children – the Under 11s – took part in the “Mini” race over 1000m.

SIXTY YEARS – The event first took place 60 years ago in 1954 after Race Founder and Life Member John Tyler, a former 400m runner, thought the springy boardwalk would make an ideal racing surface.  

The start of the Boxing Day race was, in fact, a running track in Budapest which had been laid down as a bedding of birch wood, resulting in a lovely springy track which athletes just loved to run on because it produced fast times – and for the distance runners, their legs didn’t get so tired.   One day Life Member John Tyler was running along the Pier and thought “this must be how it feels to run on the track in Budapest – why not have a race on this Pier?”  Various clubs had Boxing Day runs, including football players and swimmers.  In particular, the former Hadleigh Olympiads had a Boxing Day run in Hadleigh.  John thought “why not have a Boxing Day race on the Pier?”

It is run along the World’s Longest Pier over a distance of approximately two miles – one mile out and one mile back.

John has been a very long-serving and dedicated member of the Club and has supported the Club, not least the Men’s team who’ve had the distinction of being in the National League for the past 10 years, in many ways as well as turning out to judge all day at the Open/Club Championships.   And he’s now in his 80s!


Race Founder, John Tyler fittingly winning the Inaugural Pier Handicap Race in 1954Race Founder, John Tyler fittingly winning the Inaugural Pier Handicap Race in 1954


Results: the nature of the Handicap Race means that one athlete each year who wouldn’t normally expect to achieve any hardware [ie trophies or medals] almost always finds themselves the winner of the “First Home” trophy.   This year it was David Miller [whose handicap in 2015 will increase considerably next year as a result!]     Fastest Male went to Rhys Gillard and Fastest Female to Claire Cornwell.  Trophies will be re-presented along with commemorative medals to all in attendance at a special Presentation when the Club House is finished.

Since it was a prestigious race in our History, I felt a similarly prestigious icon should adorn the heading of the report – what better than something from the Crown Jewels with a history of its own:  the world famous Koh-i-Noor diamond?

Full results are here

Thanet 10M : Steve Hockett, V60 finished an impressive 32nd, well up in the finishers and earned silver positioning in the V60 category, much to his delight - along with the fact that his time was exceptional considering this is his first race for half a decade.
Southend Parkrun : David Smale, SM, in only his second attack on the Shoebury course, he claimed his first scalp with a convincing win at 17.10m - although not yet back to his best, he is clearly in better shape than he thinks since this is his first Parkrun outing for a couple of years, his inaugural run taking him 17 minutes flat.
Essex Cross Country League 2014-2015, 3rd round, Braintree       Three of the younger groups shone at Cambridge at the weekend, the stars shining most brightly being the BU15 and GU15 squads.   Cambridge & Coleridge were the first team to close but the Southenders were the first Essex squad to finish, beating Havering by 11 points.    It was a very close race: just 60 seconds separated the first 18 through the finish line.   First home for the Seasiders was Toby Wright, a determined 4th, followed by Sam Norris  claiming an impressive 7th place; completing the scoring side were Tom Stuttle [12th] and Matt Norris [21st]: a continually improving fearsome foursome.    There was almost a second team courtesy of fine efforts by Craig Wheeler [27th], new signing Harry Smith [30th] and Mitchell Lawrence who closed the line up in 32nd leaving 15 others to trail in behind him.
Boys Under 15 TeamBoys Under 15 Team
It was tables turned in the GU15 race, where Havering got the 1-2 edge on Southend.  Yet again the first home for the Seasiders was 4th [Joanna Rimmington] and she was ably supported by Meghan Samuels [12th] and Juliette Le Mare [23rd].   Iona Doyle and Natasha Walter staged their own personal event-within-an-event, Walter eventually ceding [a slight] defeat to Doyle [24th and 25th and just 2 seconds apart].   Welcome support was provided by Mia Slesser and Chloe West.
A continually improving side in the shape of the BU13 finished a promising 3rd team following the best efforts of: Joseph Hudson [10th], Sam Wheatley [16th], George Hey in his first season [41st] and Ethan Stoner [44th].   The "B" team comprised Max Stapleton [45th], Nathan Thornton [46th]  with newcomers Leslie Anaglavi and Taylor Jones completing the line-up.
At one time it was the Southend U17 Men who were virtually untouchable; fortunes change [it now seems to be Basildon's turn], and from a regular squad of six or seven, the Seasiders' team now consists of just two, so despite their best efforts, nothing could give them a team positioning.  Adam Jordan running consistently at the sharp end of the race finished 6th place in a mix of 10 who funnelled in the short space of one-and-a-half minutes..  The next 19 finishing with just over a minute between them included Michael Hodges who is gradually moving up the leader board.   The U17/U20 Women were similarly short-changed, again with just of their number toeing the start line, with Annabel Matthews-Smith [U20] and Natasha May [U17] finishing 16th and 21st respectively.   And the twosomes continued - the GU13 category could also only produce two starters so despite Felicity Galbally's useful 11th place and ably supported by 33rd in, Sophie Anderson, there was to be no team.
The Senior/Vet Women, on the other hand, turned out most of their stars and finished 4th team courtesy of nippy efforts by  15th placed Holly Gillard; 19th Sarah Jeffery [both Senior Women]; Anne Jenkinson and Natasha Lagden [both V35] in 23rd and 33rd places. Although not making the scoring cut on this occasion, Debbielyn Hallam and Sally Newman-Russell lent their support with 57th and 73rd finishes.
157 men started the Senior race.  The first six Southend men equalled the Women's 4th place: Rhys Gillard, 11th; Ashley Capel 13th; Joe Ray 29th; Lee Taylor [V35], 38th; Ben Franklin 39th; Dominic Le Mare 55th.   An error in the recording shows Southend finishing only two Vets; however the Vets' squad finished in the middle orders by the combined efforts of Alec Kyriakides [V40 - 63rd], Peter Binns [V60 - 103rd], Mathew Gillard [V45 - 131st] and Ron Dawson [V70, without a doubt creating his own Southend AC Club Record as being [a] the most senior Vet ever to race over the mud and [b] the only Vet known to have competed every season at the Essex League!   Beat that!!

Rhys GillardRhys Gillard

Ron DawsonRon Dawson

Alec Kyriakides [V40]               63rd;
Peter Binns [V65]                     103rd
Mathew Gillard [V45]              131st     
Ron Dawson [V70]                    155th  
Mick Hodges [V50 - not scoring for the team] 156th.              
putting them 10th of the 18 teams of Veterans [which, in the case of the League covers athletes only from the age of 40
June Cork; Andrew Green; Mary Green; Ron Dawson; Pam Dawson, Keith Palmer, Marion Bullock; Derek Woods; Susan Crompton [the Fund Raiser]; Brian Cox, Ray Pearce; Tony Bullock; Russell Woollard [SL&TC]; Kate Trueman and Kevin Read [both SBC]June Cork; Andrew Green; Mary Green; Ron Dawson; Pam Dawson, Keith Palmer, Marion Bullock; Derek Woods; Susan Crompton [the Fund Raiser]; Brian Cox, Ray Pearce; Tony Bullock; Russell Woollard [SL&TC]; Kate Trueman and Kevin Read [both SBC]
Photograph courtesy of the Evening Echo - photo by Luan

It has, at last, started!    The long, long-awaited build of the Club's brand new Club House is now underway.
The Club was created 109 years ago in 1905 by George Hogsflesh, Tom Dainty and E Stanley Chalk among others.   George was not only our founding Secretary but was also Secretary of the AAA at one point, so totally committed to his Athletics.    He and his early day Club mates would have been astonished to see how athletes train and compete today: no hastily chalked lines in grass wherever they could find the space.    And despite Committee Meetings being held in The Blue Boar, the Minutes were very sober!
Twenty years ago, in the summer of 1994, Southend-on-Sea Athletic Club bade farewell to their Southchurch Park [formerly the Coronation Track] which had been their base since the early '50s.
It was a sad occasion for many of the older members for whom the track near the seaside had been their 'home' since joining the Club.   They were sad too because they were also saying 'farewell' to the Club House which they'd been able to enjoy for just six years.
Twenty years is a long time to be without a Club House.
However, today, several of those members from the early days, now the Club's Elder Statesmen - all Life Members unsurprisingly, gathered to celebrate the beginning of their new Club House at the Garon Park arena.
The President and former Olympian, Mary Green [nee Tagg] addressed the Assembly explaining how much work had gone into arriving at this moment - the research, the form filling, the meetings - and now, the Golden Shovel, the symbolic turning of the first sod to announce that the build is finally under way.   Funding Officer Sue Crompton and the Club's Secretary Pam Dawson complete with the essentials of hi-viz jacket and hard-hat, 
It is anticipated that the building work will be brought to completion in early February next year.
This has, of course, all been made possible by the absolutely tireless efforts of our Funding Officer Sue Crompton who has persuaded two impressive athletic bodies to step up to the plate with substantial offers - England Athletics and Sport England.

Parkrun, Shoebury, 19th April 2014

Michael Hodges, U15, continues his relentless pursuit both of a win and the sub-18 minute mark by reducing his best yet again at last weekend’s Parkrun.  He started his career in this event at the beginning of 2013 with 26 minutes and has subsequently racked up a series of personal bests – no fewer than five since Christmas – his best time now stands at 18.43.  Beyond that Michael earned his highest finish to date – 3rd.   That’s another Seasider for Havering’s Ian Anthony to watch out for.

Behind Michael three other “regulars” gained personal bests: Seniors Natalie Woodhouse, 24.15 and Lisa Allix 29.03 and U20 Alexandra Morgan 25.03.

Danny Mullane Open Meeting, Chelmsford 19th April 2014

The Hammer just keeps travelling on – and on – and on …………

Since Billy Praim-Singh blasted holes in the Club’s Age 14 Records for both the Shot (13.00m) and Hammer (54.41) at last week’s meeting at St Albans, he’s topped it again in the Hammer by an improvement agonisingly close to 55m, with a new best of 54.99.  He finished 2nd to his current nemesis George Marvell of Stevenage who produced a stunning 62.30m.  Levi Causton finished 3rd (54.54) and Basildon’s Alexander Reynolds produced 52.29 for 4th.   What a competition!

Unfortunately no-one could watch the one really class event of the day because all the throws, Javelin apart, were despatched to the outside of the arena in order to protect the infield for the Easter Monday football match.

Praim-Singh would now consider his 12.80m in the Shot to be slightly under-par; none-the-less, it was a demonstrable win for him on this occasion.

The combination of Round 1 of this season’s Southern Athletic League, the Easter holiday and poor support generally - and not helped by the somewhat indifferent weather, the Danny Mullane Open Meeting at Chelmsford  was reduced to a shadow of its former self; nonetheless there were some useful early season performances from the handful of Seasiders:

GU15 1500m –     Joanne Rimmington 5,10.72 pb NG4, 5th – ¼ minute improvement; 

GU15 100m/200m –           Eloise Lewis, 13.78/27.9pb NG4;

Brogan Ravenall 13.86/29.2; 

BU15 800m –                        Mitchell Lawrence 2,31.39;

WU17 800m -                       Lucy Kidwell 2nd, 2,28.89; Natasha May 2,39.2.

That was it!   The meeting produced just 27 track result sheets, from a timetable covering twelve age groups from Under 11 to Senior.   Chelmsford AC was represented by very few particularly seniors.    Chelmsford Council (who organise this meeting) are going to have to look carefully at their forward planning, ie study the Athletic Fixture Lists and make their event a late pre-season Open meeting.