Editor’s Intro – Embarking on new pursuits and embracing challenges

Revelling in the feel of muddy shoes after my first cross country race.

Some evolutionary biologists argue that one of the traits that sets humans apart from other animals and makes us such a successful species is our compulsion to explore and try new things even when the outcome is uncertain. We have the ability to imagine ourselves doing something and then we act on that inspiration and try to achieve our dream. Sport is an arena where we see this trait exhibited regularly. We attempt athletic feats simply to see if we can. Often these initial attempts don’t turn out the way we hoped, but we still persist. Little by little, we build on these efforts and before we know it we find ourselves doing things we never would have anticipated, be it conquering the hills on the Isle of Wight, swimming with the masses in the Great North Swim, or even braving the mud of a cross country course.

My own story with Serpentine started in September 2012. It was a crisp, cloudless Saturday morning when I first opened that heavy door to the Seymour Centre and made my way downstairs to the Serpentine club room. I’d just moved to London, didn’t know a soul, and was more than a little nervous as I took a seat in one of the now familiar blue chairs to wait for the organised morning run to start.  Little did I know, almost six years later the club would be a fundamental part of my life, introducing me to an incredible network of friends, challenging me to embark on an array of running and swimming events, and encouraging me to put pen to paper for Serpentimes.

And now, yet again, I find myself embracing a new challenge by acting as editor of Serpentimes Issue 6, a role which I have taken on while James Edgar readies for a new experience of his own: the arrival of his first child. This issue of Serpentimes is chock-a-block full of articles that will motivate you to push your boundaries and take your athletic activities in a new direction. If you need some guidance about trying a new discipline, look no further than James Edgar’s article about fell running, Catharine Sowerby’s guide to open water swimming, and Sarah Pemberton’s column on coaching.

We have a plethora of first-hand accounts by Serpies plunging into new pursuits or trying old pursuits in unfamiliar locations. Michelle Homden reports on the challenging Mugello Trail Run, Paul Ogden battles with snowshoes at the Rovaniemi 150 Arctic ultramarathon in Finland, and Camilla Allwood throws herself completely into her first cross country season.

After all the hills, snow, and mud of the previous articles, perhaps you need a little light-hearted encouragement to try something new. Check out Maureen Seguin’s article on racing in fancy dress and Fliss Berridge’s ode to the delectable post-race cake at Summer League.

Further inspiration can be found in Juliet Collins’s republished interview with the late John Walker, Kirsty Mansfield’s profile of Last Friday of the Month 5k organiser Malcolm French, Karen Hancock’s article on exercise and old age, and Kim Nicholson’s feature on the firefighters who ran the 2018 London Marathon to raise money for those impacted by the Grenfell Tower fire. Finally, Raoul Mansukhani, Coralie Frost, and I bring you a collection of book and movie reviews to keep you galvanised on your rest days.

I hope you enjoy reading Issue 6 as much as I enjoyed acting as editor. Putting this issue together was quite an adventure and I want to give enormous thanks to everyone who worked on it with me. I’d especially like to thank James Edgar for gladly answering all my editing questions and formatting the photographs for this issue. The authors all get their own credits, but I have to express gratitude to the dedicated sub-editors:  Tom Bartlett, Natalia Delfino, Victoria Edgar, Daisy Gladstone, Michelle Homden, Kirsty Mansfield, Luke Parker, Anoushka der Sarkissian, and John Stoneman. Derry Lozano-Hoyland manages the technical aspect of the site. Grace Sim does our illustrations; please do check out her website. Thank you also to those who contributed photographs. They really help our stories come alive.

And now for your reading pleasure, I present to you Serpentimes Issue 6.

Diana Valk has been a card carrying Serpie since she moved to London from the U.S in 2012. When she is not running she is thinking about archaeology, forensic anthropology, or the next book on her reading list.