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Letters from London - Mitchell Garner’s Blog from London #7

Dining Out in London

London, England - August 1, 2012

“If you want to eat well in England, eat three breakfasts.” - W. Somerset Maugham

The English breakfast that I enjoy here at the New Cavendish Club every morning is bountiful.  You have your choice of cereal, sausage, bacon, hashed brown potatoes, vegetables, fruits, fruit juices, and yogurt.  This bountiful feast gives me great sustenance for my day, but I am not accustomed to eating such a heavy breakfast.

Today I attended a canoe slalom session at the Lee Valley White Water Centre in Hertfordshire, just outside London, with Gary Morgan.  At the Olympics, every sport has its own followers, and canoe slalom is no exception.  Prior to the start of the afternoon session, I encountered some Slovenian athletes who had come to the slalom centre to support their Slovenian kayakers.  They were dressed beautifully in Slovenian team garb, and we took a picture together.

The kayaking venue consists of a manmade water rapids course.  The athletes start at the top of the course and pass through over 20 gates en route to the finish line.  Some of the gates require that the kayakers paddle against or across the strong current.  If a kayaker misses a gate, he or she is assessed a penalty of 50 seconds.  Basically, if you miss a gate, you are dead.  You cannot win a competition at the Olympic level if you miss a gate.  The competitions are usually won by a margin of one or two seconds.

Wednesday’s compeiton was won by an Italian kayaker who had won the world kayak championship as recently as 2010.  As he received his gold medal, he was very exhuberant, and he lifted his arms in the air to acknowledge the cheers from the crowd.  Then he posed for photographers with his gold medal in his mouth, pretending to bite the medal to see if it was pure gold.  Afterward he invited the silver and bronze medalists to come to the top of the podium with him and pose for a group photo of the three medal winners.  The Italian fans were “over the moon” in celebration of their athlete’s gold medal performance.

On Wednesday evening, I met two Londoners, Fiona and Michelle Kennedy, for dinner at the Mall Tavern, a traditional English pub.  They are the daughters of an elite American masters runner, Christine Kennedy, who lives in Los Gatos, California.  In 2011, Christine received the Masters Athlete of the Year Award from the United States Track and Field Association for being the outstanding masters athlete among male and female athletes in the United States in 2011.

Christine’s journey to this award is very interesting.  She was born and raised in Galway, Ireland.  Some years ago, as she was at home in Galway watching the finish of the Dublin Marathon on the television, she was inspired to take up running and told her family that someday she was going to win the Dublin Marathon.  Her family was initially skeptical, but years later she made good on her statement and won the Dublin Marathon, not once but twice.  Later she came to the United States and continued to have success as a masters runner.  Eventually she became an American citizen and is now a part owner of a running store in the Bay Area in California.

In 2007, Christine was the top female masters finisher at the Chicago Marathon.  Last year, she was first in her age category in the marathon at the World Masters Athletics Championships in Sacramento, California and thus became a world champion at the masters level.  Just this past April she ran the Boston Marathon and finished first in her age category, crossing the finish line about 27 minutes ahead of the next runner in her age category.  I later told her that she could have stopped during the race to have a coffee at Starbuck’s and do the New York Times crossword puzzle and, notwithstanding her stop, could have still won her age division.

I met Christine through a mutual friend on our Ann Arbor Track Club men’s masters 60+ team.  When I told Christine that I would be going to London for the Olympics, she invited me to get together for dinner with her daughters, who live on the other side of Hyde Park on the west side of London.

I met Michelle and Fiona at the Mall Tavern at 8:00 P.M.  The pub is located in a trendy area of London just west of Kensington Gardens.  The atmosphere was very lively.  Most of the patrons were having a pint or two of their favorite brew and watching the Olympics on the pub’s television.  Michelle is a physician and is doing a rotation at a local hospital as part of her post-medical school training.  Fiona works for the Bank of Ireland here in London.  They like living in London.  The food and conversation were wonderful.  My entree consisted of roasted chicken with mashed potatoes.  For dessert, I had raspberry cheesecake.  Of course, I enjoyed a pint of English beer with my meal.

Who said that you can’t eat well in England?

Keep climbing that mountain and have faith.
Mitch “Iron Bulldog” Garner

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