Jonny Foreigner: Glenn Hughes

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Mark Hookway: Tonbridge medal collective
May 20, 2016
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Tim Hutchings: Cross country and me
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Jonny Foreigner: Glenn Hughes

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Sporting the famous red and yellow vest of Serpentine Running Club, Glenn Hughes has quickly become a familiar figure to the London distance running community

A member of the silver medal winning team at the South of England Cross Country Championships last month, the Met League regular looks at home in the sticky mud of Horsenden Hill or gliding seamlessly up Ally Pally.

Glenn has become ‘part of the woodwork’ at the central London-based club – but he hasn’t always been found grinding out gruesome sessions in Battersea Park on a Tuesday night.

After leaving his New Zealand home in 2013 to go travelling, Glenn eventually wound up in London, taking on a bar job in Putney and staying with friends.

Though working behind a bar wore thin after two months, the thirty-two year old has now settled in the capital and works as an engineering geologist, testing ground conditions to inform the design of new buildings, bridges and roads. Fitting training in between site work and office work, however, isn’t without its challenges.

‘Glenn has become “part of the woodwork” at the central London-based club – but he hasn’t always been found grinding out gruesome sessions in Battersea Park on a Tuesday night’

‘Each week I generally alternate hard and easy runs, doing my easy runs either at lunchtimes or to and from work. My time is often split between site work and the office, so when I’m on site it can be hard to fit in training.

‘Most of the drillers I work with are used to me turning up or leaving in running gear though and I enjoy travelling to new parts of London or the UK, squeezing in a run after work in new surroundings.’

Glenn returned to his first-love of cross country soon after settling in the UK. His first appearance in the southern racing scene was on a particularly grim day at Alexandra Palace in 2013.

Having been recommended the club by a fellow New Zealander, the newest Serpie found the size of the Met League field the most striking difference to what he was used to back in New Zealand.

‘With the large numbers comes more tactical racing, especially in cross country. You generally have to start fast or you will get swamped. I was 21st as I didn’t have the right tactic.

‘Last year the New Zealand Cross Country Champs had 30 starters, whereas the English Nationals had over 2,000 senior men competing. There’s also a different mentality. Over here, athletes are not so worried about targeting certain races, they race everything, even the top athletes.

‘Club running in the UK has allowed a serious move away from track, affording countless opportunities to compete on the mud and road.’

‘Last year the New Zealand Cross Country Champs had 30 starters, whereas the English Nationals had over 2,000 senior men competing’

Glenn’s passion for the sport started while at high school in Tauranga. Though not from a traditionally sporty family – in fact, as competitive motor racing fanatics, most of Glenn’s family are more comfortable moving quickly on four wheels than two legs – after making the school cross country team, Glenn began to take running more seriously, training six days a week and competing regularly for his school.

‘I moved to Wellington for University in 2000 and joined the Wellington Scottish Club, where I stayed until 2013. In Wellington, I became known for running well up hills and quickly found myself being referred to as ‘that hill runner’, which seems to have followed me to London!’

Luckily, the Windy City’s weather didn’t follow Glenn to London.

‘Most of my running routes in Wellington were dictated by wind direction, either from a northerly or southerly direction, with average speeds of around 40mph and often over 60mph with heavy rain!’

One thing he does miss, though, is the accessibility of the great outdoors, which, in Wellington, was a five minute run from where he worked.

‘Most of my running routes in Wellington were dictated by wind direction, with average speeds of around 40mph and often over 60mph with heavy rain’

‘On Thursdays I used to do an 80min off-road hill run at lunchtimes that got up to 500m elevation.

‘But despite this, I don’t miss home at all. There is so much to see and do in the UK, and Europe is readily accessible. The running in London is still a challenge and you can actually cover more miles when not having to tackle hills all the time.’

With the end of the cross country season approaching, the pull of the track remains tempting, with a return to 10,000m on the cards. But for now, Glenn is happy to stick to softer ground.

‘The main cross country goal for the season is a good finish at the English Champs and, longer term, to race for Great Britain at the World Mountain Running Champs, maybe this year – although I need some advice on eligibility!’

Words by Hannah Viner
This article appears in the first edition of Left Spike from March 2016