Interview with Michael Crone on Orientieering

Reflecting back on a very successful weekend for ICXCAC, today we chatted to Orienteering star Michael Crone after his storming performance in Estonia in the World Orienteering Championships:

When did you get into orienteering?
I started orienteering just after high school. We had been invited to events, but they always clashed with other sport so I didn’t ever have a chance to go. When I started university I decided that would try it and I have loved it ever since. I was lucky that one of my brother’s friends ran the university club and so it was not very daunting.

How do you suggest that people get into orienteering?
In the UK it is much easier. Most cities have active orienteering clubs. There are two orienteering clubs in London. I am a part of south London orienteers (SLOW). There are generally events up to three times a week

What is your favourite thing about the sport?
It is both a mental and physical challenge. It doesn’t help to just run fast. It teaches you to make quick decisions under extreme pressure, instantly punishing you for mistakes.
It also takes you to unique places where you know very few people get to go.

What skills do you need to succeed?
Be able to run very fast in any terrain. Think fallen trees, through marshes, over rocky terrain. Have some sense of direction. Overall I think that you just need determination and dedication. As with anything it is quite frustrating when you start because you can run a lot faster than you can navigate.
My perfect races are always when my running speed matches my navigation speed

Tell us about your most enjoyable race.
Orienteering is a sport that is all about making mistakes. Nobody is perfect, everyone makes an error. Some are just measured in seconds rather than minutes. Every race starts off with the goal of minimising those mistakes. To do this you often get into a space of mind that just feels like magic. Bear in mind that every race that you do is somewhere new, the map made by a different mapper. You have no idea if you and the mapper will think in the same way so in the first few minutes of the race your brain adjusts to this. If this happens in a race it suddenly feels like magic. Everything begins to make sense and you can run as fast as you like and not make many mistakes. This is my ultimate goal in a race and I’ve been lucky to achieve it in two world championship races five years apart. First in Lausanne in 2012 and now in Tartu. It’s an extraordinary feeling that only an Orienteer understands. It’s one of the reasons why we are such a tightly knit community.

Tell us about your experience up to and during the World Championships in Estonia.
My build up to world champs wasn’t that great. I was only told in May that I had been invited to take part. I hadn’t been planning on going this year. In Orienteering it is as much about mental as physical preparation. My physical training went really well up to that point and I had also been lucky that I have competed in some international competitions in Denmark and Italy in the lead up to world champs. One aspect where I really felt underprepared though was in preparing for the specific area that I was running in. I had an old map of the area, but usually around 6 months in advance I would have started using street view to get an idea of the area and the various challenges that I faced (you aren’t allowed to enter the competition area until you start your race). I had some people help me do some preparation, but it was definitely less than I would have liked. And I also had a lot going on with my various projects at Imperial so it was difficult to keep up with everything.

This didn’t seem to matter too much in the qualification, races that are notoriously quick and less technically difficult, but it was definitely a problem in the final!
This is my fourth world champs experience. This one was slightly different because I didn’t have anyone else from my own country which can make it slightly more challenging since there are often a lot of thoughts going on in your head!
Every one of them has been very special for me and this one is not really any different
I’m quite glad that I came because I was considering turning down the offer.

I think that a part of me has always thought that I couldn’t replicate my qualification in 2012 where I became the first south African (and first African) to ever qualify for a world orienteering championship final). There’s a part of you that feels like you probably reached your peak and it’s all downhill after that.

Which is a pretty horrible feeling to have to be honest
This year we also saw who was in our heat, so there were even more nerves and it was the first time that I was using this specific version of touch free timing.
We had been training in some of the forest areas so the tapering wasn’t going well at all! I just felt like I hadn’t rested enough.

But suddenly when you pick up your map, turn it over and you feel the magic then there is nothing that will stop you. My race wasn’t mistake free, but I scraped into the final. Placing joint 15th with a Norwegian (Norwegians are very good at orienteering). One second slower and I wouldn’t have made it.


So after that there were suddenly no other expectations… I had already achieved more than I could have ever dreamed.

40th Surrey Hills Race

On Sunday 11th June, 8 elite members of ICXC’s trail inclined cohort headed to the hills. South London Orienteers and Wayfarers (SLOW) were hosting the 40th edition of the Surrey Hills Trail Challenge, with ‘minimum’ race distances of 30 km, 16 km and 10 km.

The distances were given as minimum since this event was an orienteering race, where map reading was an advantage (as many found to their peril). The races required ‘dibbing’ at between a number of checkpoints.

Callum Matthews, Merissa Lim and Henry Hart set off first in the 10 km category, shortly followed by Emma McCracken, Robert Salawa, Fergus Johnson, Jack McKeon and Henry Maynard in the 16 km.


In the 16 km, the Imperial pack of Robert, Fergus and Jack were having a storming first half, just off the lead, until they discovered they had fallen foul of the race’s nature to deceive and soon found themselves a little off track. This resulted in a 3 km detour, leading them to finish the race behind slower runners whom they might have beaten. However, they did not win the prize (unofficial) for the longest race of the day. That accolade went to Emma who clocked 23 km at the finish having got within a kilometer of the line efficiently, only to run in circles to find the last checkpoint and finish line! Despite this, Emma still managed to bring home some beer for being the fastest U23 Woman! Henry Maynard only got slightly lost and so came in as the first Imperial runner in the 16 km race with an impressive 13th overall.

In the 10 km race, Callum and Merissa had a solid race with few mishaps to finish 14th and 15th. As the Imperial pack in the 16 km course demonstrated, trying to navigate this course for the first time alone is risky. The author decided to run with a fast local, before kicking to win by 1 second.

It was a successful outing for ICXC, running some excellent trails above Dorking. We look forward to going back next year. In addition, we look to make trips out to the hilly surroundings of London more regular; Box Hill and Lewknor will feature heavily. Like ICXCAC’s Facebook page for relevant updates!

Interview With Imperial Speed Demon Chris Olley

Despite being on a year abroad, Chris Olley still is making time to show off his Imperial vest. This weekend he ran in the U23 European 5k trials up in Manchester and after a smashing race came home in 4th with an incredible time of 14minutes 3seconds – only 8 seconds off the qualifying time! See here to watch the race for yourself!

We wanted to find out what was behind Chris’ ongoing success having made waves across the running scene ever since coming to Imperial three years ago…

18700202_1698978780404505_3786494175142612626_nWhat started you off in running?
I actually started running to train for a completely different sport, ice-hockey! This is while I lived in Finland, everyone in the team was given a cross-training schedule for the off-season to stay fit, and that’s when I started going on (very short) runs with my dad. I was about 9 or 10 at the time.

What is your favourite thing about running?
I think one of my favourite things about running is that its so minimalist, compared to other sports. I mean this in the sense that no matter where you are, usually all you need to train to the best of your ability is a pair of trainers, and the surrounding environment becomes your training ground. I think this is one of the things that attracted me to running in the first place as its possible to improve to a good standard without requiring lots of equipment or lessons.

So you’ve been at Imperial quite a few years now – what has been your highlight of competing for ICXCAC?
So far I have to say my individual highlight is coming second at the BUCS indoor 3k this year. However, I also really enjoy any event where there is a big ICXCAC turn out, like BUCS XC, as there’s always such a fun atmosphere.

How has your running been affected by doing a year abroad?
Its certainly been a big change, as I’ve had to find a new group out here and it’s not always easy to find someone to train with. However the team I’ve been involved with out here (LAC Freiburg) have been very supportive in fitting my sessions into their programme and have helped me to find races here in Germany.

Talk us through a typical training week.
In the summer I usually run around 80 miles in a non racing week, with 2-3 hard sessions and a long run of 13-15 miles. The track sessions vary between 1500 target sessions and longer distance 5k sessions, and I usually do some faster work off the track at least once a week too. In the winter its pretty similar but with longer sessions, more often off road, and up to 100 miles a week for a non-racing week.

What do you reckon is the key to your success over the last few years?
I think I’ve managed to build up my mileage well over the last years without getting injured, and that consistency certainly helps. Having my coach Mark Hookway to advise me and give me sessions that are in line with my aims is also obviously a massive help. Also just not taking things too seriously and running for the enjoyment of racing fast as opposed to putting too much pressure on yourself.

What was your pre-race meal?
My proper pre race meal is usually breakfast, followed by sandwiches or something light for lunch if racing in the afternoon or evening. Last time I raced I had a full English with pancakes as my race wasn’t until 9pm! If my race is in the morning I usually eat quite a lot the night before as I don’t want to be eating too much on the day.

Do you have any pre-race superstitions?
Not really, I find its important to be open to changes in your routine otherwise its quite easy to be put off if something doesn’t go to plan. I think its difficult to always have the same build up to a race as they are all so different.

What do you think about your Strava titles?
I think they’re pretty good…although I haven’t been very good at writing them recently. Its quite difficult of thinking of new ones during a stretch where you’re not doing anything special!
(Follow Chris on Strava here)

How do you maintain your mileage without getting ill or injured?
I think a lot of it is down to being really cautious and backing off straight away if I feel something isn’t right. It’s a difficult balance as you have to be disciplined to get the consistent training but also not be too rigid so that you can allow yourself to take time off if necessary. I try to make sure I eat well and sleep as much as possible. Sleep is a pretty massive factor I think too, I would definitely do it more if I could! In terms of direct prevention, I’ve also been trying to stretch a lot more recently as this has a big impact on preventing niggles.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Running wise, hopefully competing for national titles at a senior level, and qualifying for major international championships. Career/other parts of life wise no idea!

Tell us about the most entertaining moment of your running career.
I think the time I forgot a suitcase containing all my race kit on a train heading to Scotland while travelling for the Euro cross championships qualifier race in Liverpool this year was pretty bad…I ended up being able to replace most of the kit and still have a good race though so goes to show how important it is to be able to adapt!


Finally tell me about the race in Manchester this weekend and in particular the incredible burn up at the end.
I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go as training hasn’t been brilliant these last few weeks, so it was a bit of unknown territory going out at sub 14 minute pace for 5k. Inevitably, as it was a trial race, the pace slowed a bit in the middle and I was still just about hanging on to the lead pack coming into the last lap. I made a bit of a move with 300 to go and positioned myself quite well but then two others made a massive surge at 200, which I just couldn’t really cover! I was still happy to finish 4th in a pb considering it was only my 2nd race of the season and with a less than ideal build up. I would like to do a couple of 15s next as I think it’s important to work on your speed frequently too. #Sport Imperial

Thanks to Mark Hookway for the photos.

LUCA This Girl Can (Neon Rave Run!)

Huge shout out to all the ladies who ran the 2016 This Girl Can Neon Run last Thursday!

It was great fun, with a fantastic turn out from Imperial (Imperial ratio, say what?), and we all looked amazing/slightly ridiculous in our funkiest clothes, glow sticks, neon face paint… I just hope you all remembered to wash your faces before Friday AM lectures!

The Imperial Girls team at large
The Imperial Girls team at large

It was a nice and easy 6km loop around the Thames, with 3 stops for group exercises/dancing/selfies. It’s safe to say there were lots of confused looks from strangers, as well as many star jumps and sit ups (the fun kind), but not even the rain at the end stopped us from smiling.

I think all the girls will agree with me when I say there’s no better feeling than jogging past the London Eye at night in a stampede of ~150 girls, all looking like aliens, and singing ABBA at the top of their voices. This is why we go to uni in London, right?

Casual Team Selfie
Casual Team Selfie

And even if making it to the Slug and Lettuce was just one of our Wildest Dreams, some us of certainly made sure to Shake it Off in Style with a Mean Taylor Swift sing-along in the minibus back to campus.

Can’t wait to see you all next year and remember, there is no such things a bad runner! Only someone who has never ever tried!

Charlotte #imperialgirlscan 

Trail Taster Session Weekend 2016!

What a weekend of great weather, fun trails and smiley faces. I think its fair to say that everyone who came down to Surrey Hills on Saturday and Sunday for the two trail taster sessions had a great time.  14608877_10154582649293698_8463389585325554469_o

On Saturday, 11 of us ran a 12km loop up and down the mountainbike trails and public bridleways around Box Hill. While it was still a bit chilly in the morning, we only needed the first steep uphill to get properly warmed up. After a few more ups and downs, we eventually managed to get the group split up in two – that is three of us were not lost while everyone took the “first left”, so they said 😛 Two phone calls later we were all reunited and continued our way to the next downhill. This is were Malte learned a special trail running lesson: trees don’t move, even if you are running at them with speed. But we’ll work on avoiding trees at the next trail weekend, promise. At the last steep uphill of the day, the motivation to get back to the train station in time for a train in 30 minutes (as compared to 1 hour 30 minutes) got the last energy reserves going. The last challenge of the day was to sprint to the train while balancing a marshmallow cream hot chocolate, nothing that proved to be a serious problem.


On Sunday we had blue sunny sky and anything but to go to Box Hill would have been silly really. Again we were 11 and took a slightly different route today t total 20km by the end of the day. The first 4km flew by, cutting across fields, zig-zagging through tight forest bends and descending fast downhills. As is always the case when you head down to Surrey Hills, you recognise some key features, but the fun lies in finding the best hidden trails. Today we were lucky and found loads. While we were never ‘lost’, there were times when we just followed the path hoping it would lead us to the next good path. 14706978_1517300621617344_2853407053919956254_o
Today’s trail lesson was another classic – how to do the perfect face plant on easy terrain after completing a technical downhill. After Charlie had aced that (I should add no trail runners were harmed), the other’s thought there was no point in trying and we moved on to lesson two – eating cake at the top of box hill to finish a perfect day out.
Thank you guys for coming along on both days and I hope to see you all out on the trails again.

The Olympics: Ones to Watch


Craig Wheadon’s guide to the 2016 Olympic track and field events!

The jewel in the Olympic crown may have been tarnished recently by a James Bond-esque doping scandal involving the Russian FSB and accusations of corruption at the highest level but come Rio it will sparkle once more with (most of) the world’s best athletes competing in 10 days of exhilarating and fast-paced action. The starting gun fires on 12th with the women’s Heptathlon so to get you up to speed here is my brief(ish) guide to Athletics at the Rio 2016 Olympics!
Men: (Brits: James Dasaolu, James Ellington, Chijindu Ujah)
The blue ribbon event as always will be the 100m with Usain Bolt looking to make history with a third consecutive gold. Despite a recent injury keeping him out of the Jamaican trials he looks in good form running a 9.88s this season and (apart from a false start in the final of the 2011 World Champs in Daegu) he has an excellent record in major championships setting multiple World records on his way to 2 Olympic and 3 World titles. But it won’t be easy for him with many lining up to take the title of “World’s fastest man” away from him. Some of his stiffest competition will come from Justin “I’m not on drugs” Gatlin who, in spite of his two drugs bans, being entirely unrepentant, and being coached by a former drugs cheat, is inexplicably still allowed to compete at the highest level. Even though he is in his thirties and well past the prime of a normal sprinter he is running faster than he did in his undeniably drug fueled twenties. If ever there was a pantomime villain of sport Gatlin would be it. There are also many others looking to steal Bolt’s thunder including Trayvon Bromell, and Marvin Bracy of the USA, team mates Nickel Ashmeade, Yohan Blake, and Jevaughn Minzie, the 21 year old Andre De Grasse from Canada, and so so many more. Lasting less than 10 seconds the 100m final is the most condensed excitement of any sporting event in the world so you have no excuse for missing it!

Time/s London 2012 Results Time/s
World record: Usain Bolt 9.58 Gold Usain Bolt 9.63
World Lead: Justin Gatlin 9.80 Silver Yohan Blake 9.75
Diamond Leader Justin Gatlin Bronze Justin Gatlin 9.79

Women: (Brits: Asha Philip, Desiree Henry, Daryll Neita)

In the women’s race Shelly-Ann Faser-Pryce is also looking to win her 3rd Gold on the bounce but a toe injury has hampered her this year meaning the rest of the field will be confident they can stop her in her tracks. As with the men competition will come from her team mates including the young Elaine Thompson who, after winning silver in the 200m at her first World Championship in Beijing, has set the pace this year. The USA is also strong with English Gardiner leading their charge as the second fastest woman so far this year while World long jump champion Tianna Bartoletta will be looking to show her range by clinching a medal she just missed out on in London. But the Europeans will be hoping the Dutch Woman Dafne Schippers will be able to spoil the party if she can get a good start transfer her 200m form to the shorter distance. Also look out for the Ivory Coast’s Murielle Ahoure (third fastest this year), Nigerian champion Blessing Okagbare, and the third string Jamaican Christania Williams.

Time/s London 2012 Results Time/s
World record: Florence Griffith-Joyner 10.49 Gold Shelly-Ann Faser-Pryce 10.75
World Lead: Elaine Thompson 10.70 Silver Carmelita Jeter 10.78
Diamond Leader Dafne Schippers Bronze Verconica Campbell-Brown 10.81


Men: (Brits: Adam Gemili, Danny Talbot, Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake)

Moving up to the 200m Bolt will again be the centre of attention with the Jamaicans looking to repeat their clean sweep at London 2012. Having only been beaten once over 200m since 2007 and braking Michael Johnson’s old World record by 0.13s at the world Championships in 2009 he has every right to be supremely confident. The main concern will be his lack of races this year having only run the distance once this year at the London Anniversary Games he will be looking to run himself into form through the rounds. The only other man to even come close to Bolt at his best is compatriot and training partner Yohan Blake who was also the last man to beat him. But the Jamaicans won’t have it all their own way with the three fastest men this year being the Americans Ameer Webb, Justin “pinky promise I’m not a cheat” Gatlin, and the 400m specialist LaShawn Merritt who will be hoping his strength from the longer distance will be enough to power him to victory. While he might not be the fastest man this year the Panamanian Alonso Edwards is certainly one of the most consistent as his place at the top of the Diamond League table proves and he will be looking to go at least one better than his 4th place finish at the World Champs last year. Also worth looking out for are Miguel Francis of Antigua and Barbuda, and the Canadians Brendon Rodney, and Aaron Brown.

Time/s London 2012 Results Time/s
World record: Usain Bolt 19.19 Gold Usain Bolt 19.32
World Lead: LaShawn Merritt 19.74 Silver Yohan Blake 19.44
Diamond Leader Alonso Edwards Bronze Warren Weir 19.84


Women: (Brits: Dina Asher-Smith, Jodie Williams)

The flying Dutch woman, Dafne Schippers, will be looking become the first Dutch woman to win the 200m since ‘The Flying Housewife’ Fanny Blankers-Koen who won the events first running at the 1948 Games in London. As the World Leader this year and the defending World Champion she will be the firm favorite but the former heptathlete will be chased down by Tori Bowie: the second fastest woman this year and the only one to have beaten Schippers. As ever the Jamaicans are sending a strong team with Verconica Campbell-Brown looking to claim her third Olympic title at this distance having previously won in 2004 and 2008 but her team mate Elaine Thompson might be the bigger threat after finishing second at last year’s World Champs.  Also competing will be Dina Asher-Smith of team GB and Kings who was fifth in that race and claimed the European title earlier this year. Other names to look out for include Trinidad and Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ahye, Murielle Ahoure of Ivory Coast, and Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas. One name that will be missing from the starting lists will be American Allyson Felix who is denied the chance to defend her title after missing out through injury at the American trials.

Time/s London 2012 Results Time/s
World record: Florence Griffith-Joyner 21.34 Gold Allyson Felix 21.88
World Lead: Dafne Schippers 21.93 Silver Shelly-Ann Faser-Pryce 22.09
Diamond Leader Dafne Schippers Bronze Carmelita Jeter 22.14


Men: (Brits: Martyn Rooney, Matthew Hudson-Smith, Rabah Yousif)

In the 400m it is all about the “big three”: the South African Wayde van Niekerk recently became the first man ever to go sub 10/20/44 (in the 100m, 200m, and 400m respectively) but he will probably have to go that fast again to usurp the defending champion Grenadian Kirani James, and the fastest man this year American LaShawn Merritt. Last year’s World Championship saw all three dip under 44s with the South African flag bearer taking the spoils that time around. This event has traditionally been dominated by the Americans but in London they had no one on the podium for the first time since 1988 (or 1920 if you do not count their boycott of the Moscow Games) with James’ win last time out broking a streak of American Champions going back to 1988 (or 1984 again if you ignore Moscow) including the great Michael Johnson and LaShawn Merritt himself in 2008. If anyone is going to challenge these three it will be the young Trinidad and Tobago athlete  Machel Cedenio or the even younger Botswanan Baboloki Thebe.

Time/s London 2012 Results Time/s
World record: Michael Johnson 43.18 Gold Kirani James 43.94
World Lead: LaShawn Merritt 43.97 Silver Luguelin Santos 44.46
Diamond Leader LaShawn Merritt Bronze Lalonde Gordon 44.52


Women: (Brits: Christine Ohuruogu, Emily Diamond, Seren Bundy-Davies)

While she may have missed out on qualifying for the 200m Allyson Felix did make it to Rio in the 400m and will be looking to add this title to the four she already has. While historically they do not dominate this event like their men do the American woman have four of the top five fastest runners this year with Phyllis Francis and Natasha Hastings joining Felix in Rio while Courtney Okolo and Quanera Heys miss out. The only spot the Americans don’t have is the top spot which is held by the Bahamian Shaunae Miller who is in the form of her life having set her PB in London just three weeks ago. Far from being a blip she has five wins from five this season including three Diamond League wins which puts her top of the table and on course to win the $40,000 prize but she would surely give that up for the Olympic title. The other Diamond races this year have been won by Jamaicans with Stephenie-Ann McPherson and Novlene Williams-Mills each winning one but the latter has not made the team for the individual event with Christine Day and Shericka Jackson instead taking the places in part due to their faster times this year. Outside shots at a medal include Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu who, despite being a little out of form this year, is a specialist at pulling fast times out of the bag at big events. The European Champion Libania Grenot from Italy will also be looking to get on the podium as will France’s Floria Guei and Zambia’s African gold medalist Mupopo Kabange.

Time/s London 2012 Results Time/s
World record: Marita Koch 47.60 Gold Sanya Richards-Ross 49.55
World Lead: Shaunae Miller 49.55 Silver Christine Ohuruogu 49.70
Diamond Leader Shaunae Miller Bronze DeeDee Trotter 49.72 LUCA Discount

As part of LUCA (London Universities and Colleges Athletics), the umbrella organisation that organises all the LCLs and LUCA Athletics competitions, club members recieve a discount at  the online retailer

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