Sunday 19th November was the date of Imperial College Cross Country & Athletics Club’s first road race of the year: the Brighton 10k.
With a meeting time of 6am at London Bridge Station, by the early hours 50 students were already rising groggily from their beds, eyes blearily checking their phones for the quickest route Citymapper could find to transport them across Central London at such an unearthly hour on a Sunday morning.
Impressively, despite attendees using a myriad of different routes to get to the station by the Shard, almost everyone made it onto the train in time.
Upon arrival on the south coast, the team invaded the local Wetherspoons; not for any pre-race drinks – our athletes are far too disciplined for that – but to make full use of the toilets in order to avoid the notorious queues that inevitably awaited them for the loos beside the race start.
The air was rather chilly, and many members attempted to keep as many layers on as possible for as long as possible before they headed to the start line in just a vest and criminally short shorts. With 1300 competitors in the race the starting funnel was packed, but chip timing allowed some runners to tactically start nearer the back to give themselves the psychological boost of overtaking people during their race.
The race was set underway promptly at 9:30 and they were off! Crowds of spectators lined the first few hundred metres but the sounds of cheering and support soon gave way to the rumble of racing feet pounding the Brighton roads and rush of heavy breathing. The course was simple – 3km out along the road beside the promenade before returning along the same 3km straight and continuing 2km past the start/finish before a final 180 degree turn (pi radians if you must) and a 2km surge to the finish line. The ideal race conditions that greeted the runners were a far cry from the 2016 edition which saw the race cancelled just hours before the scheduled start time due to the high winds of Storm Angus. Clear blue skies watched over this year’s event for the duration, yet the shining sun offered little warmth. Fortunately, the exothermic nature of respiration in the mitochondria of the athletes’ cells soon warmed them up and spurred them on. Being along the seafront, there was an inevitable breeze on the course. Nevertheless, with Imperial’s athletes tactically forming groups to ease the stretch into the wind this had a negligible impact on their performance.
IXCAC also provided much entertainment for the locals with the commentator at the finish at one point remarking: “Another Imperial runner! And a dab! And ANOTHER dab by yet another runner from that fine London university”.
First home in a navy and red vest was Fergus Johnson in a new personal best of 35:30, closely followed by Sarah Johnson in 35:38, who came 2nd lady overall to win a number of prizes. Imperial’s top 5 was rounded out by Men’s Captain Lewis Jackson’s PB of 35:57, Matt Douthwaite in an impressive 36:23, and Jack McKeon breaking 37 minutes for the first time with 36:54. Georgia Curry (38:02), Anna Lawson (40:38), Alex Stuart-Smith (42:10), and Stephanie Hewitt (42:15) filled out the top 5 places for Imperial’s girls.
Post-race, the squad celebrated with the usual cake ritual and headed back to the drinking establishment they had previously utilised for its bathroom facilities. However, to their dismay, the institution had already been invaded by a rival Imperial society: ICSM Light Opera (see last week’s centrefold for a profile of the culprits). After a few frantic calls to numerous pubs in the local area (“yes, we’d like to seat fifTY, not fifTEEN”) the runners found a suitable place back near the start line with picturesque views of the famous Brighton Pier and the gentle breaking waves of the English Channel.
After ample refuelling and a visit to view the questionable “tic-tac” machine in the gents, the post-race celebrations continued with a trip to the beach accompanied by a few more refreshing beverages to “rehydrate” after the day’s exertion. A few brave members opted for some shallow paddling, and two madmen decided they quite fancied a (very brief) swim in the refreshing (i.e. ice-cold) waters.
Finally, to end the day the weary athletes returned to where their visit to Brighton began and toasted the absence of ISCM Light Opera before the train journey back to the capital.
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