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:
Hove

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.