South of the Thames – Beckenham Place Park


With Christmas almost upon us, 12 harriers ventured up to the picturesque and hilly park of Beckenham, last visited for the summer relay series. From Tunbridge Wells to the park the only thing missing was Sigourney Weaver and a few gorillas with the fog cascading off of the towering peaks of the north downs. Thankfully our unseasonably mild temperatures held like a more autumnal race.

The HQ was at the local cricket/rugby/tennis/air hockey/lacrosse/underwater crochet club, a few got there early with the usual lack of any idea who might show. To our surprise, ‘George’ and Carol turned up despite being at a work Christmas party the night before and visibly (and fragrantly) high in spirits. There was some debate if Carol actually wanted to race, given she was entering on the day and I’d already pulled out due to the feeble excuse of a winter cold.

The course covered 2 large laps of around 3.5 miles, with some quite technical ground but with only a couple large hills to worry about. Most of it crossed the various fairways and greens of the golf course in the park, I wouldn’t want to be the groundskeeper. A little damp, it was pretty firm compared to what the January races will likely have on offer.

I doubled as chief supporter and photographer, giving me a good view of the absurd competition always present at this 120+ year old event and the waiting line at the first forest choke point. There were some good battles throughout for the harriers but the front runner took an early lead and held for the entire race, averaging just over 5 minute miles.

Alex Jeffries was first harrier home (51st), followed by Tom Wooley (85th) in a great finish. Matt Clements (105th) was chased down by ‘George Harris’ (108th), followed by Terry Everest (123rd) and Nick Reynolds (140th) making up the 6 to score by outsprinting a lady not in his race. Kent AC easily took the 6 to score prize with a remarkable 72 points and we finished a respectable 13th out of the 21 teams present. Plus if we’d won, we wouldn’t have dropped the 40 year old trophy onto the HQ floor at the prize-giving amid gasps and shocked faces.

In the ladies race (held at the same time), Jillian Holford (37th) again held off Cathy Gill (39th) due to the lack of downhill and despite us yelling ‘Come on Cathy’ on the finish straight while Jillian was at least 40m ahead. Sadly we didn’t have enough ladies to score!

We decamped to the famous Jolly Woodman, a fantastic gem of a pub just off the main road in Beckenham (and next to a typical chic gastro-crap monstrosity) with a wood fire and someone playing a crossword on the largest table for us to crowd round. Thanks to taking the train up, many beers were enjoyed.

Photos here

198 men, 89 ladies

1 Phil Wicks Belg 36:19
51 Alex Jeffries TWH 42:35
85 Tom Wooley TWH 45:16
105 Matt Clements M40 TWH 47:38
108 ‘George Harris’ M40 ** TWH 47:53
123 Terry Everest TWH 49:13
140 Nicholas Reynolds TWH 50:32
157 Simon Holford M40 TWH 51:52
183 Michael Russell M50 TWH 57:38
188 Nick Pierce M60 TWH 59:34
W1 Amy Clements Kent 43:02
W37 Jillian Holford W45 TWH 52:35
W39 Cathy Gill TWH 52:42
W83 Carol Tsang TWH 67:12

** Simon Howden