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Twelve of the Best with... Simon Collingridge

Background

Simon joined Ranelagh as an 18 year old in 1976 having moved to the area from East Anglia. His first outing for the club was on the road in the Hanwell ‘5’ and his first trip over the country in the blue vest was in the SLH mob match later that year. He won the club junior championship in 1977 but his best run as a junior probably came with a top ten finish in the Southerns at Parliament Hill in 1978. Simon was part of a particularly strong Ranelagh squad during that period including the likes of Hugh Jones, Tim Woods, Dave Wright and Steve Pautard. He twice picked up the Wynne Cup as club champion in 1983 and 1994, the former in his fastest time for the old 7 ˝ m course of 39:39. He was awarded Club Honours in 1979 for finishing 45th in the senior Southern. In that year he also won the Roffey Salver as the first Ranelagh finisher in the National, a feat he repeated in 1983.

Simon was a regular performer on the roads, eventually scoring personal bests of 24:09, 30:46, 50:11 and 68:19 for the 5m, 10k, 10m and Half Marathon, the latter recorded when winning the Ranelagh Half (then held at Effingham) in 1986. In the club’s all-time ranking lists he is placed 4th over 10km, 11th over 10 miles and 8th over the Half Marathon. He won the Callis Cup club 10 miles road race three times between 1983 and 1986, and in 1986 also took the JF Williams Cup club Half Marathon championship. Perhaps his quickest run came in a 35:45 12km.

On the track Simon represented Twickenham AC and then Polytechnic Harriers (later Kingston & Poly) with best times of 14:35 and 30:11 for 5k and 10k. In 1984 he utilised his Welsh ancestry to enter the Welsh 10k track championship, finishing runner-up in 30:56. Simon drifted away from competitive running during the latter half of the 1990s but has recently found some rekindled enthusiasm and is occasionally to be spotted plodding round the odd mob match or parkrun.

1. How did you get involved with Ranelagh?

When I moved to the area I joined Twickenham AC as it was the nearest club to my home. There I met Jim Forrest who told me of the joys of Ranelagh. My first outing for the club was the Hanwell Carnival 5 in June 1976 and then it was Hobble Gobble all the way!

2. Years active and when did you peak?

That depends on your definition of active? My first race was in 1972 when the school bully made me run in the inter house cross-country and I came in third ( so fear of being stabbed with a pair of dividers behind the gym launched my running career) and I still toe the line for the occasional race these days. But in terms of competitively active for Ranelagh, it was probably 1976 to 1994. My 'peak' years were '81 to '86.

3. What is your favourite race and distance?

I liked 5k on the track though regret that I only ever ran a handful of 10,000ms as that was a distance that suited me better. With a few more, I'd like to think I'd have gone under 30. I enjoyed all road races with perhaps 10k my favourite. I probably should have done more longer races. Looking back, I was surprised to see I only ever ran four half marathons, the slowest in 69:18 and the quickest 68:19, so I probably would have benefited from doing a few more. I don't really know why I never ran a marathon, particularly when you look at the great runners we had over that distance at the time - Hugh, Malcolm East, Steve Pautard, Dave Wright and the others. On the country I liked anything that wasn't too muddy. I will leave Wrighty to recall our little exchange as I slid and he glided around the mud of Epping Forest ( and glided right past me I should add).

4. Favourite Ranelagh course?

The Thomas Cup course as 'pace' played more of a part (not that I'm suggesting I had much). The Callis & Coad Cup races on a warm summer's evening take some beating too.

5. Running heroes and inspirations?

Brendan Foster. I wrote to him when I first started running at school and he sent me back a very encouraging card - which I still have somewhere. I used to read loads of running biographies - Ron Clarke's & Jim Ryun's stand out. I was, of course, very fortunate to have been running at the same time as Hugh Jones - a great runner and delightful bloke. Probably the most naturally gifted runner in all my time at Ranelagh was Malcolm East. When I was in my 20's I used to think it remarkable that Bill Harvey could run so quick at such an advanced age (though 'hero' might be stretching it a bit there).

6. Typical training for the summer and winter? (what races were you training for?)

The winter from October to December would pretty much just be racking up the miles - maybe 15 to 18 miles on Sunday, a 10 and a 12 during the week interspersed with a couple of 8's, easy 4 or 5 most mornings maybe some long reps ( 5x 1 mile, say) and a race, XC or road, every couple of weeks. I did the occasional 100 mile week but 70 or 80 would be more typical. January onwards would add a track session ( 12 x 400, 6 x 800, pyramids etc) and hills. Summer would have a couple of track sessions, one longer reps, say,4 x 1000 @ sub 5k pace, and one shorter, 12 x 400 @ 1500m pace, 8 x 300 @ 800m pace etc. I used to enjoy sessions like 12 x 2 minutes, 1 minute jog. A staple throughout the year, of course, was the Wednesday blast around the park ( 'handing round the Mars Bars at the back' for the first half then 'balls to the wall' for the second).

7. Favourite session?

Probably 12 x 400 or a hard 10 mile 'wind up' starting steady and building to really pushing the last two or three miles. I always seemed to end up feeling much quicker and stronger in the last couple of miles of a wind up run than any other.

8. What were your training paces?

Most steady running was probably around 6 minute miles; mile reps 5 min pace or a bit quicker; track pace wasn't the sharpest - maybe between 62 and 66 for 400 intervals, 2:45/2:55 for 1k reps.

9. What strength work did you do?

If you mean weights etc, virtually none. I'd go through phases of using the weight machines but never too scientifically or systematically. Weights and mobility work are aspects of training which I wish I'd done much more consistently.

10. Favourite running memory?

Hopefully not sounding too corny, it would be some of the club runs on a warm summer evening in Richmond Park when there was a bunch of us in great shape, flying along and chatting away before really winding up over the last couple of miles (followed, of course, by the obligatory beers). From a Ranelagh perspective, winning the Club Championships the first time stands out as does winning the Club half-marathon. The races which I remember most fondly were two of the odder ones - The Coutainville Enduro des Sables in which I probably had one of my best race and some great memories, and the 100km Koppeloop in Barendrecht. For those who never had the pleasure, this was a 100km relay on the track with a team of four each effectively running 62 x 400m averaging sub 70 secs with a short recovery spent lying in a tent being brought cups of water while your three team mates took their turns. A number of random 'sprints for prizes' were thrown in but, as these were shouted out in Dutch, you had no idea what was at stake until after the event (though, if I recall, they tended to range in glamour and value from a set of spanners to an oven ready chicken). We managed to win the race most years, and probably held the world record as few others on the planet would have been mad enough to stage such an event let alone take part. Completely bonkers looking back on it but great memories. A pretty tough, relentless personal battle to keep getting back up and pushing yourself, combined with great camaraderie, team spirit and unique shared experience - not to mention some fairly memorable post event shennanigans.

11. Best piece of running advice?

The advice I wished I'd followed more would have been to allow better recovery - both after hard sessions and before races. I think pretty much every race I did -though I didn't recognize it at the time - I did 'tired'. There probably wasn't enough easy running mixed in to allow decent recovery from hard sessions and certainly not enough easy stuff in the lead up to races. As a result, the hard sessions weren't as quick as they could have been and the racing likely suffered too. So "do the hard stuff hard and the easy stuff easy". I also think that the increasing emphasis there is now on running form, drills, core strength etc, would have been a real benefit, reducing injuries, improving performances and helping running longevity.

12. What changes have you seen in the sport?

It feels like running is far more the norm these days than it used to be with most people doing some on a regular basis, though most of those I would guess see running as a fitness activity as opposed to a competitive sport and end in itself. Athletics and cross country don't seem to get the TV and press coverage they used to which is a shame and I was lucky to have been running during the period that saw the likes of Foster, Pascoe, Thompson, Coe, Ovett and Cram as real sporting superstars. The joy and simplicity of running will never change though. It remains the sport where the cliche is most true that you get out what you put in and hard work is rewarded. Certainly on my rare but hopefully increasing visits to Ranelagh, the spirit, sense of fun and plain love of running that I remember is still there in abundance.