Monthly Archives: July 2017

Arena 80 Club History – Part 1 – In the beginning…

So here it is! After much research and talking to past club members, we have put together the history of the club. There are 5 parts to this so we will put one part up each day for the next 5 days. I hope it gives you a sense of pride in the club, from where we came from to where we are today. We’ll also have a special ‘Get to know…’ over the next 5 says with some of our longer serving Arena members.

Arena Club History – Part 1

In the beginning…

The club was formed by a man named Ron Grover and started in 1981 and not 1980, as seems to be the perception. The club name came from the training sessions that took place at, what was then known as, the Withdean Arena Stadium however the idea of Arena AC was first thought about in 1980 hence the name Arena 80, pure genius.

Ron had a furniture shop in Boundary Road selling much of what he made however he also sold running kit and shoes in the shop under the name of “South Coast Runner”. Ron was a generous man and very often gave away Brooks trainers to Arena 80 members as well as offering them good discounts on running clothes as well. Ron himself was a very good sprinter back in the 1960’s.

To promote the running side of the business, Ron organised a race from his shop in Boundary Road to the Hove Town Hall which was probably his first foray into running races and later on, in his coaching career, he went on to help set up the Sussex Grand Prix races as well as the WSFRL races. Ron was also instrumental in helping to set up the Brighton Half Marathon under the then banner of the Sussex Beacon.

The club came to be as there was no club that catered for the average ‘Joe Jogger’ on the street who wanted to run, as the only other club locally was Brighton & Hove AC. It was Ron’s frustration with B&H, who were very ‘Track and Field’ elitist, and were never interested in ‘Joe Jogger’. Little did they know that Joe Jogger could become a Caroline Hoyte under the banner of Arena and produced nationally impressive times!     

Arena’s first training night consisted of 11 women and it took a while for the numbers to grow as running, back in the day, was not as popular as it is today. Runners back then were classed as either slightly odd or a bit geeky (#washmymouthout). The numbers gradually grew as the ladies boyfriends starting to come along for the training sessions as well.

The training sessions back in the 80’s would have consisted of a couple of loops of the track and then out on the road, up to the Devils Dyke then back around Withdean and back into the stadium. The Wednesday night training sessions would be a 10 mile run from the King Alfred to the Marina and back. The return leg got a bit competitive (sound familiar) and Ron would be standing at the King Alfred with his stop watch. The guys would be completing the 10 miles in 51-52 minutes and instead of feeling elated they felt deflated as Ron would say “that’s not very good boys”, Ron was cruel but fair.

Did you know that in the early days, Arena once had a junior section. This however made a move over to Phoenix which was very successfully integrated. We can still see today that with some fine coaching bringing the junior section on, that this has been hugely successful.

Did you know that once Arena 80 had a race walking team and entered about 12 races a year for the club. Chris Rawlins, Maggies Rawlins and David Funnell all represented Arena 80 for walking.

Did you know that Arena 80 has an ex-international walker at the club. She goes by the name of Julie Drake ( you may have seen her at some races running with her dog on a lead). Julie represented Great Britain at the World Championships in Tokyo in 1991 and at the European Championships in Split in 1990. She did both of these in the 10km walk. Her time for the 10k in Tokyo was 49.47 (wow faster than many runners) and her time in the Europeans was 49.26. Julie also did the World and European Junior Championships in the 5km walk, and World Indoor Championships in the 3000m walk.

An early photograph taken at Withdean stadium probably around 1996. Top row left to right: Jane Gardner, Peter King, Ziggie Harris, John Mason, Rangvi Robson. Bottom Row left to right: can you name two on the far left? Answers given in tomorrow’s post. Middle Ron Grover, Carol Wilson, Bill Mulholland. This is like a who’s who of Arena 80.

A rare picture found of a younger Julie Drake probably running for Brighton and Hove AC in those days.

Get to know…Jo Peckham

For this weeks chosen club member we are joined by the lovely and gentle Jo Peckham. A girl with a lovely smile and although she may seem placid there is a very adventurous side to Jo. It’s been wonderful to watch Jo’s progression with her time at Arena and she has a very unique style to her running but it’s also very effective. Jo is lovely company to hang with and a pleasure to have on board. So lets find out a little about what floats Jo’s boat.

Name: Jo Peckham

1. When and why did you join Arena:
Last Autumn – to keep me on the straight and narrow!

2. How long have you been running:
About a year and a half.

3. Where did you grow up:

4. What was your first thought when you woke up this morning: 
Who’s making tea!? Then….it’s sunny! Let’s get outside!

5. What do you do for fun:
Eat, drink and travel – I love an adventure! Especially if it involves a bit of wild swimming.

6. If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be:
Anything Italian – pizza, pasta, ice cream.

7. Who is your sporting hero:
my dad – he’s an intrepid explorer and recently back from tracking through the off-grid depths of Nepal at the age of 70!

8. What makes you happy: 
Being by a beach, climbing a mountain, reading a good book, the wilderness in Scotland.

9. What was the last film you watched:
Mustang – a fab film about girls fighting against the patriarchy in Turkey.

10. What type of music do you like most:
current to tunes on Spotify include Grimes, Lorde, Little Dragon Young Fathers – also enjoy a bit of old school soul and 90s R&B!

11. What’s something we don’t know about you:
I almost didn’t get to go on my honeymoon as I typed in the wrong name when booking flights!

12. What would be your perfect evening be:
Something spontaneous – leading to more spontaneity!

13. What was the first song you ever purchased:
Probably a Nirvana album.

14. What was the last thing you bought:
A Topic chocolate bar.

15. What’s the best thing about living in Brighton:
The weather! After enduring the drizzle in Glasgow.

Our biggest thanks to Jo for her Q&A’s this week and we hope that you feel that you have now got to know Jo  a little better.

Next week is a week long special as part of our history of the club week. We will have a Q&A from 5 of our long standing members so make sure you check in on Monday for the first of these.


Get to know…Roger Ockenden

Todays ‘Get to know’ from our old school members series comes from the man who is probably one of the most consistent points scorers for Arena 80 than other member in the WSFRL. You can’t miss this man as he is so distinctive for Arena with a permanent tan it seems, the tanned bald head, the glasses and his towering figure, well there can only be one Roger Ockenden. Roger has been with Arena for as long as anyone can remember. Roger is keen on cricket as well being a very keen and good photographer who kindly supplied admin with some of the photos that have been used in the history of the club. The photo above is Roger with David Cameron who asked if he could join Roger when he was on the train. they spoke a lot about running apparently.

Name: Roger Ockenden

1. When and why did you join Arena 80:
1981.   Ron Grover, the club founder, had a carpentry shop in Boundary Road, Hove very close to where I lived. From the shop he also sold athletic gear under the name of “South Coast Runner”. To promote this side of the business Ron organised a race from his shop to Hove Town Hall. After I ran this race Ron persuaded me to join his newly formed running club. Ron had previously been very involved with Brighton & Hove Athletic Club & for the next few years there was a poor relationship between the two clubs.

2. How long have you been running:
37 years. During that time I have run over 2800 races in the Arena 80 colours. Until the last 3 years I had been very lucky with injuries & illness.

3. Where did you grow up:

4. What was it like running around Brighton in the earlier days: 
More enjoyable than today! In the 80’s there were a lot less cars, so crossing the Old Shoreham Road or the seafront area was not as dangerous as it is today.

5. Where is your favourite place to eat:
My three favourite restaurants in the Brighton area:
1 Thatched Inn at Keymer
2 Coggins, Dyke Road, Brighton
3 Old Tollgate, Bramber

6. What were the early days of Arena 80 like:
There were not as many members as there are today, but the standard throughout was very high. Two years in a row in the 80’s, both the men’s & women’s senior/vets teams were Sussex Grand Prix Champions.

7. How do you see Arena 80 as it is today:
Like most clubs, Arena 80 now has a very large membership. The club is also blessed to have so many people prepared to spend their spare time working for & promoting the club.

8. If you could go back to one moment in your life, what would it be: 
When I was 16 I played every sport going, at a reasonable standard – cricket, football, ten-pin-bowling, free-style wrestling, tennis etc. My true love was cricket, & I had the talent to be successful at the game. Unfortunately I wasted the opportunity I had at the time, & I now regret having let so many people down.

9. Who is your sporting hero:
Ian Botham

10 What is the greatest ever sporting moment in history: 
A boxing event – even though I hate boxing! In 1974 George Foreman fought Muhammad Ali in Zaire. It was billed as “The Rumble in the Jungle”

11. What was your greatest ever running achievement:
My PB for 5k is 17 mins 1sec. I achieved this at one of our Hove Park races. The reason why this is so special for me is that I’d had no sleep the night before the race, as I had spent all Saturday – day & night – helping our club runners doing the South Downs 80. I drove back from Eastbourne to Hove on Sunday morning, straight to the race!

12. What makes you happy:  
A warm sunny day.

13. Where is your favourite place to run:
I have 4…..

  • In 4th place – Glendalough, Southern Ireland. I have run round this beautiful place at least 10 times
  • In 3rd place – sandy beaches on the Gold Coast, Barbados
  • In 2nd place – the South West coast path from Looe to Polperro. I must have done this over 100 times, but these days the whole area is suffering from severe erosion.
  • In 1st place – my absolute favourite is Dubai. I have been to this amazing place 9 times, & every evening at sunset I will run round a parade ground for about 20 minutes. The temperature even at that time of day is over 90°. There are always many informal cricket matches taking place at the parade ground, mostly involving the local Asian workforce. At dusk the “call for prayers” is heard from the many tannoys & the cricket matches come to an abrupt halt! The cricketers disappear to one of the many nearby Mosques. By this time all the amazing skyscrapers – including the Burj Khalifa – are illuminated. A truly amazing sight.

14. How is the running scene today, compared to when you started out:
Today as many women run as men. Certainly in the 80’s & 90’s only a handful of women raced, but they were of a very high standard.

15. Tell us something we don’t know about you:
I have always enjoyed a challenge in life.

  • I was one of the first people to join the “92 Club” – seeing a league match on all of the 92 Football League Grounds. On 77 of the grounds (out of the 92) I watched the Seagulls.
  • I have also watched cricket on over 100 different County grounds.
  • Two of my slightly “odder” achievements in the 80’s-90’s was visiting every pier, & bowling at every ten-pin-bowling alley in England! I won’t tell you what my wife thought!!
  • I have been lucky enough to have walked the whole length of many of the long distance pathways in England. The South Downs Way is still my favourite.
  • At the moment I am about 300 miles short of travelling on every British Rail line.

Well, you did ask!!

16. Apart from running what else do you do with your free time:
Eating out, walking, going to the beach, cricket, travelling, and photography.

17. Who in your opinion is the greatest ever athlete: 
Usain Bolt

18. Did you ever run the London marathon:  
Yes! Just the once in 1986, my time was 3 hours 37 mins. I ran over 30 marathons & did not run a “good” time. I always hit the dreaded wall at 20 miles.

19. What advice would you give anyone just starting out running:
When you first start running, whatever the cost, make sure your running shoes are the right ones for you & that you clothes are comfortable to run in. Expect to take some time before you reach your peak, then you can go for your PBs over the next few years

20. What do you miss from your early running days:
Sensible entry fees! The cost of races was never over £5, & the West Sussex Fun League was only £1.

Our biggest thanks to Roger for his Q&A’s today and we hope that you feel that you have now got to know Roger a little better. Check back tomorrow as we bring you another old school club member with another set of Q&A’s. 

Get to know…David Gifford

For this weeks chosen club member we are joined by the man who is a quiet mannered man but has a lot of interesting stories. Since joining the club his running has gone from strength to strength and can always be relied on to give his 100% best. In the Arena team events he can be relied on to give the team a points boost. He is an absolute pleasure to hang with and very easy to chat to. So please raise a glass to Mr David Gifford. 

Name: David Gifford 

1. When and why did you join Arena: 
Off an on since 2012 (mostly off!) but made an effort last year to become more consistent.

2. How long have you been running:
XC club at School then off and on with clubs since University.

3. Where did you grow up:
Hertfordshire, in a little town called Letchworth.

4. How many pairs of trainers do you have: 
Six (currently in use). Mostly Mizuno at the moment.

5. Name 3 people that you would have round for dinner (living or deceased).
A Chef, a Sommelier and my beautiful Wife.

6. Tell us about something you would happily do again:
Join the British Army, one of the best decisions I ever made.

7. If you had one word to describe yourself, what would you choose:

8. Have you got any running rituals you do before a race:
No, maybe I should……

9. Who are your sporting hero:
The Brownlee brothers. I like the banter & respect between them, plus the way they push themselves to the edge, and over it sometimes.

10. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can, what can you touch:
A pillow, from our ‘pillow shelves’ we sometimes also sit on.

11. What is your one weakness:
Currently a sub 18min 5k then hopefully a 17:30 5k! Out side of running a good Steak but my wife would say chocolate.

12. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear:
The baby monitor.

13. If money was no object, where would you most like to visit: 
113 Park Ln, Mayfair, London, W1K 7AJ. (It’s the address of the Aston Martin show room in Mayfair).

14. What type of music do you like to listen to: 
90’s Indie, Shed Seven, Ocean Colour Scene, Oasis etc, but have a healthy mix on the ITunes.

15. What’s something we don’t know about you:
I have drifted in the Pacific off the coast of Ecuador, after the propeller on the boat I was in fell off.  Taught me for paying a local in some random village $10 to see whales, saw some though so got what I paid for I guess.

16. What were you like at School.
Not as academic as my Parents and Teachers would have liked.

17. What’s the furthest you have ridden on your bike:
I’ve forgotten, it’s been so long! I did do a Half Ironman (70.3) once, so a couple of miles but not into three digits. Prefer to swim for a bit of cross training.

18. Would you prefer to go bungee jumping or sky diving and have you done either or are you going to at some point:
Jumped out of one once, intentionally, but on a static line if that counts. Prefer my landings to match my takeoffs, so I guess a bungee jump would be fun.

19. What was the last photo you took on your phone:
My 11 month old daughter doing something amazing, again…….

20. Where are you happiest when you are out running:
I like running out in the countryside, there are some great routes around my village and out onto the Down’s, when I get the chance.

Our biggest thanks to David for his Q&A’s this week and we hope that you feel that you have now got to know David a little better. Check back next Wednesday for another set of Q&A’s with our chosen club member.