Well- with the Eastleigh results published it looks like the cat is out of the bag as someone has picked up on it on Eightlane...
Early February I moved to London. I now work ~3 miles from the Terence McMillan Stadium. Newham consistently manage to get good teams out to events and not just A-teams but B and C teams as well which was a big part of my decision. Obviously their strength is a big part of it but generally faster runners move to a club for a reason and Beagles were the best choice for me which was why I approached Bob and enquired about joining.
They were the dominant club I knew (also the first I ever heard of!) as I grew up (in my local area Ben Hellmers who was the superstar a few years above me at school and Richard Mead who was the unbeatable guy at districts (4:30 1500 seemed very fast)) as well as Noel Thatcher who for the past 2-3 years I've regularly been training with. Seeing how it has helped propel guys like Kev Skinner who I've known for years to greater things makes it an easy choice.
Appreciate I'm going to be a marginal player at best- but I've done the whole big fish in a small pond thing and whilst it's great for the ego it's not much of a challenge and as I want to improve I need that hierarchy to try and move up through. That means taking my lumps as a weaker athlete and trying to push up to the faster guys (though it can be taken for read that Farah and Geele will always be a fair bit quicker!).
I've also done the thing where I hope that the athletes from the juniors will come through whilst at Herts Phoenix as the few seniors we had gradually drifted away. Herts Phoenix was a fantastic experience I will treasure for the rest of my life but it is near exclusively a junior club. The hard work of legends like Adrian Newman and Richard Bloom together with racing with guys like Lee Reynolds, Matt Carlisle, Chris Saville, Michael and Richard Tarpey, Paul Greaves and more recently Ed Shepherd, Adam Frith, Dave Wilson and Steve Prosser created a great atmosphere but it meant we struggled to be competitive at events even as small as the Southern 6 stage with adminstrative rules preventing us from fielding stronger teams (Prosser and Frith both running for small clubs that would never enter and Shepherd and Wilson usually ineligible due to age). The club was brilliant in a lot of ways but it is very junior centred with little focus on senior athletics and endurance in particular sometimes seemed like the forgotten child which for a club with roots in Verlea is a tragedy. It helped bring me through and for the last few years it's been okay whilst at uni but the lack of having a full team at events has been a real heartbreak at times.
At Beagles I'll get the odd race for the A-team and frequent run-outs in the B-team with committed and talented guys (okay- maybe I'll have to be in the C team then!). There were obviously some other options I looked at - in particular Serpentine who are coming on leaps and bounds and I get on very well with the faster guys there (despite what you might have heard!) and also Thames Hare and Hounds with the obvious Oxford connection where I would be competitive but still with room to move up- in the end though I decided this was the best chance to improve as an athlete.
If anyone has any questions I'm happy to answer them either below or by email. I have applied for a ban exemption but have no idea what the length of the ban will be. As far as I understand it I am able to compete in any road races, open meets etc. but not "Open Team Competition" which is Track and Field Leagues, Road Relays and XC Championships until my ban is over. Herts Phoenix have supported/not opposed my application.
On a more trivial/personal note- the Beagles are also close to where my family came from. My paternal grandparents were originally from Greenwich just south of the river (hence why I'm a Charlton supporter and have been from birth) and have gradually moved north with my dad working in Ilford early in his life. My maternal grandparents live near Telford and seeing as I look much better in yellow and black than in the confused mess that is the Telford vest it was an easy choice!