Mar 13 2011

Chertsey, 20 March 2011

A year ago this week…

On an unremarkable Sunday morning in March of last year, amid the first emblems of spring and the dying embers of New Labour, a discreet but determined pack of Barnes Runners left Rose House under the aegis of Sam Allpass (headmaster 2009-2010)… not for Wimbledon or Putney Bridge or Richmond Park… but for Chertsey.

Our route took us out of London along the Thames in a westerly direction and was approximately 36km long. Although a number of seasoned runners figured among our numbers (Brent Davis, Simon Itkin, Sebastian Parris, Sam Allpass), the group also included a fair selection of marathon neophytes (Sue Kumbledon, Celeste Biever and Josh Ord-Hume), whose combined inexperience was matched only by their brazen audacity.

For God’s sake, why?

The rationale behind the endeavour? Our motivation was to be the psychological boost from observing first-hand the stark geological, demographic and anthropological differences between Barnes and Chertsey and the distinctive ways in which the two places had evolved over the centuries (most lawnmowers in Barnes are “rotary” mowers, while the inhabitants of Chertsey favour “cylinder” or “reel”-based systems; )… and for us to take on board and allow ourselves to feel proud of the fact that the physical distance between these two dramatically contrasted locations had been bridged by our own means – that magical cocktail of flesh, muscle, water, porridge and effort.. catalysed by a generous dose of tenacity and showmanship (and gels).

Note the difference in design between level crossings in Chertsey and level crossings in Barnes

Under Sam’s leadership, we accomplished something which engendered a tremendous sense of achievement in us. When we stood, penned up at the start lines of our respective marathons a cluster of weeks later, vaselined up, muscles twitching in the spring sunshine, we were buoyed and encouraged by the fact that the hard work was behind us. In other words, the Chertsey run had constituted a vital component of our marathon training.

Let’s do it again

I should like to suggest that we repeat the Chertsey experience on Sunday 20 March. It is only 4 km longer than the runs we have been doing over the last couple of weeks, and is the ideal peak from which to descend gently towards optimum marathon fitness.


A point-to-point run, however, is not without its logistical challenges. Those who undertook it last year will remember that one particular (unfortunate) corollary to running long distances in one direction is that one finds oneself having to get back. There is a direct rail service from Chertsey to Barnes (one train an hour at seven minutes past the hour), and I suggest that we take full advantage of that service. But it should be remembered that we will be wearing damp, possibly muddy, thin layers of clothing that are not necessarily designed for keeping the mid-March cold out and our much-prized body heat in. Rob Katschmaryk (headmaster 2010-2011) has therefore offered to help. On Sunday mornings he is usually on dog watch, but once he has dutifully acquitted himself of his canine perambulation obligations, he will drive to Chertsey with sets of dry, warm clothes for those who elect to run, so that they might be able to travel back to Barnes by rail without catching cold. I have said that I will pay for Rob’s fuel costs and offset his carbon emissions.

If we are all to (comfortably) make the 12h07, I would recommend a gentle 8h00 departure from Rose House. A 9h00 departure to make the 13h07 is also – needless to say – an option.

Why Chertsey?

A multiplicity of reasons. Its centre – assuming the River Thames is followed for most of the way – lies precisely 36 km from Rose House. Its location on the Thames and a number of its tributary rivers means that elevation is low: 14 metres above sea level on the High Street and only 11 metres on the River by the boathouse. The town also boasts a plethora of both literary and popular connections. Ruth Brimacombe will be quick to point out that Charles Dickens visited Chertsey to make notes for Oliver Twist (1838) in which Oliver is forced by the character Bill Sikes to take part in the attempted burglary of a house in Chertsey. The poetry aficionados among us will delight in visiting the town in which Abraham Cowley, the 17th-century poet, lived after his return from exile (the Abraham Cowley Mental Health Unit of St Peter’s Hospital was named in his honour). Pete Woodroffe will froth and foam in (heterosexual) ecstasy as he tells us that Vince Clarke of pop bands Yazoo, Depeche Mode and Erasure lived in Chertsey and recorded much of the Erasure material in the studio adjacent to his home. Or that Justin Hawkins, former lead singer of The Darkness (a rock group) was born in Chertsey in 1975.  Celeste Biever might appreciate knowing that in H.G Wells‘s book “The War of the Worlds”, Chertsey was destroyed by attacking Martian fighting-machines in the early afternoon of 8 June 1902. Simon Itkin will doubtless be pleased to visit one of the oldest towns in England: founded in 666 A.D by Eorcenwald, Bishop of London, it appears in the Domesday Book as Certesi.

The point is… there is something for everyone in Chertsey.

Say yes

We have all been running faster of late. PBs are being broken on an almost weekly basis, and any doubt with regard to physical ability in the minds of this year’s novice marathonians has long since dissipated into the firmament. But no matter how fast we run, time is the one thing that will always catch up with us. The Brighton marathon is now under a month away, and its flatter, more lumbering brother, the London marathon, a mere week behind it, hot-ish on is heels. I should like to urge you all – if you can – to be part of this final long run before we are tried and tested on the tarmacs and asphalts of London and Brighton.

Could I ask you to let me know if you would be interested in being part of this odyssey? Further information will follow later in the week.

Josh Ord-Hume

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