On 27 November 2013 In Running News

BRATs in Ethiopia

Last week saw the lucky BRAT Birmingham Half Marathon club challenge winners travel to Ethiopia for their once-in-a-lifetime adventure.  The international athletes representing the club were: Daniel Robinson, Chris Ashford, Karl Welborn, Nick Lewis, Mark Lawlor, Michael Dymond, Yaz Chaudhri, Jen Coxon, Tona Walder, Eloise Lee, Becky Hair, Hannah Irvine and Sam Rose.

The train delegation was first to arrive at the airport; the London Underground portion of the journey proving a particular challenge to public transport-phobic Karl. Chris, the top triathlete of the trip, made a swift decision to swim across from Belfast and then cycle the latter portion of the commute to Heathrow, due to a broken down taxi and delayed connecting flight. Controversially the remainder of the elite athletes arrived at the airport in something called a car.

We had a civilised and carbohydrate laden dinner at an Italian chain restaurant before boarding. The older members of the group wouldn't allow token U23 Yasmin to have a cocktail, unaware that although a number of decades younger than some of the vets, she is over the legal drinking age (physically, if not mentally).

We arrived in Addis after a relaxing 8-hour flight, to be greeted by Rob Walker and his film crew. Sam and Nick leapt in front of the cameras attempting to ensure that they will be the stars of an upcoming Channel 4 programme about the event. The editors may well have other plans.

The bus ride each day was to be a 45-90 minute journey to Yaya Village (depending on mechanical mishap and military stop and strip search). Breakfast was up when we arrived; pancakes, scrambled eggs, roast veg and porridge. Then it was time to get stuck into some exercise. Or in the case of several of the more prudent, get some sleep. Karl, Nick and Mark blasted out a tempo session, despite oxygen saturation readings that would normally denote life-threatening hypoxia. In the afternoon the whole group had a training session at the track with Keninisa Bekele. Given his pedigree on that surface, just the 3 Olympic and 5 world championship gold medals not to mention world records, this was a terrifying prospect. Luckily after a few sedate laps he decided that a bit of cross country was a better bet - only the 11 world titles to worry about in that discipline so the group set off with some confidence. As the pace picked up, the number of BRATs hanging on to Bekele dwindled quickly - it was each man (or woman) for himself; as long as we were back before dark when the hyenas came out... the man himself was entirely unperturbed, chatting away at 6 minute mile pace on his recovery run, apparently too relaxed to actually breath. Luckily the entire group made it back with no one unaccounted for and the bar had been set very high from the outset. Dan was disappointed with only managing a measly 13 miles on Day 1 at 2700m altitude.

On the Friday we were up late for a 6am run with Richard Nerurkar (reigning British 10 mile record holder), and Priscah Jeptoo. Priscah was suitably apprehensive about her form after a disappointing season where she only won the London and New York Marathons and the Great North run in 2013. With that sort of background she was lucky the BRAT ladies took pity on her and fell respectfully in step to avoid any awkwardness during the post run photo call. We then went to the Great Ethiopian Run press conference led by Richard. The Nova lunch was at an art gallery, where ferocious carb-loading continued. We then went to the Ornithological museum at the university and St George's Cathedral. Those with excess testosterone squeezed in another training session, while the girls went for the nap option. We then went for a traditional Ethiopian banquet, with music and dancing. Elite runner Dan stayed firmly on the soft drinks, while the mass-runners had a cheeky bevvie or two.  The wild members of the team boogied on down into Addis until the early hours of the morning and have since been in touch to ensure that both innocent and guilty are spared by certain details being kept on tour.

The lads plus Yaz were up at sunrise on Saturday for another morning leg-loosener, before finding out the children's races we were going to watch at 9am had been cancelled. Becky-"I'm an F'ing Geordie"-Hair amazingly made it out of bed in time for our bus trip to the gift shop. We managed to haggle our way through most of the tat. Nick was very pleased with his bargain "Abibs" (much higher quality than the cheap imitation Adidas brand) football shirt. We were back for lunch and then an England vs Ethiopia football match unusually long at two hours and incredibly won by the pasty and unfit, and yet another run. Eloise and Yaz went for a gentle stroll into the village where they were mobbed by hoards of children and Yaz ran home in terror while Eloise photographed the onslaught. In the evening we once again joined Haile  for further excessive fuelling at the pasta party.

Sunday morning was the big event. Breakfast (for those who had escaped the food poisoning; query source) was at 06:45, with the bus into Addis at 07:15. We were dropped off by the security guards, who searched us and took our water, one of the more surreal approaches to a mass participation event in blazing heat. We then walked through the sea of enthusiastic local participants towards the start. It was impossible not to be energised and a clichéd "electric atmosphere" description couldn't even begin to convey the excitement levels.

Overly ambitious and soon to be veteran runner, Dan Robinson, fresh from a "horrendous" (33minute) 10k performance at sea level was meanwhile limbering up to join 400 world class locals, born and trained at altitude in the elite start. He at least had the sense to make his way to the back of that group only to be met by a Canadian international who casually mentioned that he "only" ran 30 minutes for 10k and was concerned that 8 weeks hadn't been long enough to acclimatise. With Robinson suitably boosted in confidence, the race got underway with a surprise start and within 30 seconds the entire women's elite field seemed to ease past from behind. Despite practically chanting out loud a "hold back until halfway" mantra, the first km was passed in 3:10 with the front of the race well out of sight. The inevitable followed and after climbing what Haile had described as slight inclines (MOUNTAINS! - Dan's Central Governor) in the second half he was duly unable to stand up in the changing afterwards, mumbling incoherently about not coming last as he lay prostrate being repeatedly photographed by a sympathetic Eloise.

Meanwhile, the BRAT A team (Chris, Mark, Nick, Karl, Yaz, Eloise, Tona & Hannah) joined the mass start after the initial front-of-the-pack riot squad had passed. The group danced their way round the (debatably) 10km course, with a number of pit-stops for regrouping, vomiting, photo opportunities and admirer-collecting. The team had a strong finish in 53 minutes; only 10-20 minutes off PB times. The BRAT D&V (Becky, Sam, Jen & Michael) team took an even more leisurely pace, but still all managed a staggering sub-2 hour time.

Buzzing with adrenaline after undoubtedly the most exhilarating "race" any of us had experienced, it was back to Yaya for a nap or gym session, for those who didn't push quite hard enough in the race (turboman-Chris, camel-goat-Karl, elite-Robinson and baby-Yasmin).

Having recovered from the legal high of the race the group were whisked off to Haile's hilltop mansion where the man himself greeted us, with incredible warmth. He was the perfect host, offering a cocktail of unidentified painkillers and Johnnie Walker Black Label to the more delicate in the party and chatting openly and enthusiastically. Haile single handedly disproves the theory that you should never meet your heroes. Having finally proven his worthiness he was allowed to be pictured in a BRAT vest with the team before we pretended to be impressed by his meagre medal collection. With everyone left pinching themselves at what we had just had the honour of experiencing, we made our way back down the hill to reflect on a day that had delivered so much more than we could have expected.

Thank you to everyone involved in the organization of this incredible experience. We really do feel so privelidged to have been given this opportunity, which we will never forget. We were so proud to represent BRAT in this way.

By Yaz Chaudhri (supervised by Dan Robinson)

Photo by Dan Vernon

Some quotes from the team:

Tona Walder: "The Great Ethiopian Run itself was the most awe inspiring event i have ever been involved in. The Ethiopian charm, enthusiasm, and sense of fun was overwhelming evident through out the whole race. It was a special occasion that i was proud to experience with my BRAT Team mates, and will never forget."

Karl Welborn: "My highlights are vast, in fact since my short time back in the UK I have been bombarded with the question "what was it like" my answer "I can't actually describe it in words" I have spouted words amazing, phenomenal, unreal etc... But this doesn't scratch the surface of what your senses experience when you are actually there in real time.... The race is totally breath taking, full of colour, music, smiles and fun. I consider myself so lucky to have been involved and mostly I am proud to be a BRAT - we started this adventure together when we won and it was a proud moment to finish it together when we all crossed the finish line arms around each other in union."

Don't miss: The Great Ethiopian Run on Channel 4 Saturday 7 December.
Rob Walker presents highlights of the Africa's biggest road race, with commentary from Stuart Storey. Over 38,000 entrants race through Addis Ababa in a unique spectacle. And this year featuring the BRAT Club.

On 25 November 2013 In Running News
The word 'dominate' is often overused in athletic triumphs, but that is exactly what the BRAT club did with its exemplary turnout and podium-placing performance at the renowned annual Suicide Six off-road race race at Baggeridge Country Park on Sunday 24th November. 
With a mass start reminiscent of the ancient Greeks charging into action against the Persians at the original Battle of Marathon, a frenzied pack of over 550 hardy Midlands runners charged directly uphill from the muddy start line and head-long into what would be an unforgiving six miles that would test every athlete's personal limits, on a course voted by Runners World Magazine as one of the toughest in the country.
From the very outset, it was the phenomenal Jack Gray who set the pace at the front, immediately putting a considerable distance between himself and the chasing pack after less than one mile. He proved untouchable, finishing in a time of 34:37 - only around 30 seconds off the course record. A masterful victory from such a talented young runner. 
Fellow BRATs, Tom Anderton and Steve Brooks also picked up second and third place prizes with times of 36:36 and 36:48, respectively. And Mr Gray senior picked up the First Male Vets award with an expertly timed run of exactly 40:00. 
Birthday girl Daisy Wilson received a special gift with her prize for First Main Lady, and third lady overall, with a time of 45:38. Melanie James reminded everyone of her unstoppable form by being both the First Female Vet and the fastest female overall with a time of 43:29. And Anne Kenchington scooped the prize for the Fastest Lady Under 20 with a time of 45:32.
In fact, half of the Top 10 placings were BRATs, as were half of the Top 20 - and with over 50 BRATs competing, and with such podium acknowledgements, this was both an outstanding club performance and a commendable display of club support for one of the West Midland's most popular off-road races.
The day's achievements were then celebrated with a muddy medley of over 60 hungry BRAT runners and supporters descending upon one of Tipton's best-known eateries, to tuck into its famous local Cow Pies, with completion certificates being awarded to only the most voracious.
It is easy to see why this race has become so popular with the BRAT club and should remain a strong club tradition for the future.
Be sure to put the Suicide Six in your calendar for next year. 


By Rhys Pippard

On 16 November 2013 In Running News
BRAT has been awarded three places for the London Marathon on Sunday 13th April 2014

Please note that these are guaranteed entries - not free entries - so you will still need to pay the entry fee. Entry will be via an on-line registration system.

As we expect demand to exceed supply, certain criteria will be applied to applicants with preference given to those who meet the criteria most fully.

If you would like to be considered for a place please e-mail me with your details before 30th November at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-weight: normal;">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The decision will be made shortly after this. Please use the same e-mail address that you wish to use for the registration process if you are successful.

Criteria will include:

  • Be a paid up member of BRAT club at 01 November 2013
  • England Athletics Registered
  • Have applied for the race but been rejected (you may be asked to show your rejection slip)
  • Support BRAT club - this could be by competing in club events, helping at club events, coaching or other services to the club.
  • Members who have previously benefited from a club place can still apply but some preference will be given to applicants who have not.

Good Luck.
On 15 November 2013 In Running News

Geoff Mann, Women's XC Team Manager

Hi all you avid x country readers! Just a few words on the season's first league race at Leamington.

16 BRAT girls turned up to run at the testing Newbold Comyn full of enthusiasm for the coming season of cold, rain, snow, mud and fun! 290 runners finished the race, which I think is a record turnout. BRAT ladies finished 7th and the BRAT masters finished 11th. Scoring were Yaz, Jen Coxon and Jen Dale; masters counters were Tona (recent upgrade to masters!)  Margaret and Ann-Marie.

Big well done also to Bea, Lizi, Sarah, Rachael, Joanna, Claire, Tanya, Dannielle, Cat and Eloise who all played a big part.Once again thanks to all who ran. Next race is at Wolverhampton on December 7th.Bring it on I hear you all say!

Results are here.

On 13 November 2013 In Running News

Martin Ludford, Men's XC Team Manager

The season is under way at last and the BRAT men’s team had a great start over a testing course at Leamington including the famous ditch. There were 29 BRAT finishers in a monster race of over 750 runners which included 50 clubs from all 3 divisions of the League for this opening fixture.

Led home by Jack Gray in 6th place, the BRAT A team finished 8th in Division 1 which is a superb performance when you consider who we are competing against. Most of the teams above us are some of the top Universities and Clubs in the country. Tim Carter 53, Dan Robinson 56 and Chris Ashford 62 packed well and new boy Tom Anderton surprised a few people to finish in 80th place despite not wearing spikes. For the next race he says he will invest in some, so there should be more surprises. The ever reliable Mark Lawlor in 111th place closed the A team to give a total score of 368.

Not to be outdone, the B team, took 5th place in the B team competition, led home by young Richard Gray 125, well supported by another new boy Eliot Ward 131, Nick Lewis 134, Thanos Tsolakis 151, Dave Smithers 164 and Chris Grimley 183. Total score for the B team was 888 which is a solid start to the season.

Another 17 BRATs battled it out not far behind and contributed to BRAT success by pushing opposition scorers further down the field (Telford A team’s sixth counter finished in 207th place, and B teams were counting scorers down as far as 236th position). Well done to Andy Kenchington 185, Dan Burwood 191, Owen Doherty 203, Martin Ludford 205, Steve Titmarsh 206, Abayomi Adedimeji 211, James Kay 219, Martin Cleaver 223, Selvin Mills 225, Steve Thompson 229, Phil Fishwick 232, Rob Shipp 242, Rhys Pippard 250, Ciaran Williams 252, Ben Beaumont 254, Mark Torrance 265, and Tom Keenan 281. There were 295 finishers in Div 1.

Full results and times are available here. Have a look at Eloise's photos and Ed's photos.

Many thanks to Richard Carney for help with organising the BRAT team and for officiating at the finish funnel. Thanks also to the many supporters around the course.

Next race 7th December – Northampton, so get those spikes cleaned up and let’s keep it going! The next 3 League races will be Division1 only, so nowhere near as crowded.

On 03 November 2013 In Running News

Cross country is officially back. The first league fixture in both the men's and women's leagues is at Leamington next Saturday.

Instructions for this week:

1. Find your spikes.

2. Clean them.

3. Make sure you have decent length spikes screwed in (9,12 or 15mm).

4. Look at the XC dates on the homepage and put them in your diary.

5. Enjoy the mud.

On 27 October 2013 In Running News

Ultra-marathon enthusiasts Cass Chisholm and Rhys Pippard ran the popular Rowbotham's Round Rotherham 50 mile off-road race on Saturday 20 October 2014.

At the pre-dawn start, with several hundred fellow long-distance runners raring to go, the pair had initially said that they were only running to complete the course, with no particular finish time in mind. But their goals then changed mid-race...

"At the 31 mile checkpoint, a time-keeper mentioned that we looked surprisingly fresh and could potentially get a coveted sub-10hr finish time if we went for it", Cass explained. "From that point onwards everything changed, and we decided to pick up the pace!"

"We now had a time limit and everything to play for", Rhys said. "For the next two hours we began pushing hard over the difficult terrain, and every runner that we saw ahead of us absolutely had to be overtaken. There was little margin for error, and we were executing our new game plan with precision with each checkpoint split.

"We arrived at the 47 mile checkpoint with just three miles to go, and 38 minutes to run it. This would usually sound easy, but not with nine hours and almost 50 miles in our legs! Those final three miles were nail-biters, as our GPS watches had already run out of power and we were continually unsure of exactly how far we were from the finish.

"The tiredness was hitting us both in waves, so we each took it in turns on the front, digging deep and willing each other on - 'There's more in you!'"

The pair crossed the finish line in a total time of 9:53, having run the last three miles in 31 minutes. "I have never been so pleased with running a 10 minute mile!", Cass reflected.

Having now obtained qualifying times for a range of even more challenging long-distance events, the pair have already since signed up for a 100 mile ultra-marathon in 2014. Watch this space...

On 27 October 2013 In Running News

Starting in April, this year’s WRRL has been fought out over the summer months culminating with the recent Rugby 10 mile race. As a Warwickshire club we are automatically entered in this race series. There are team and individual awards to be won. Team placings for the series depend on the number and position of clubs’ finishers, with clubs counting their best 9 results out of the ten races. Individuals’ series placings are based on their best 6 results of the ten races.

BRAT involvement in the series this year has been fairly sporadic, many people did the odd one or two races, but there were three notable exceptions: Eloise Lee, Rob Dowse and the BRAT 5k race.

Eloise flew the flag for the BRAT women, doing most of the ten races and was rewarded by winning the Senior women’s title for the series and placing fifth woman overall which is a great achievement against some strong competition dominated by some very good masters women. Well done Eloise.

Rob completed 6 races which was sufficient to give him 13th place in the Senior men’s competition and 46th overall (those masters are good as well!). Rob was the only BRAT man to complete sufficient races for a meaningful final placing, though Nick Seagrave ran 4 races and finished 27th senior and 109th overall.

Our own BRAT Rowheath 5k was one of the ten designated races in the series and not surprisingly in this race for once we had a good BRAT turnout and some great results. Thirty three BRATs completed the race out of 190 finishers and as a club we took first place in the men’s race and fourth place in the women’s race.

The final team standings for the League have now been published and show that BRAT finished 11th out of 18 teams in both the men’s and the women’s tables. Winners of the women’s team competition were Knowle & Dorridge while Kenilworth took the men’s title.

Next year let’s try to get more BRAT’s out there and see if we can get up amongst the top few teams, so if you plan to do some road races next summer why not target this series. Details of next year’s races will be published in the new year,

For information and results see http://www.warwickshirecountyaa.co.uk/

Martin Ludford