As the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun, and I think that can certainly be said for our USA training and racing camp! Seven weeks flew by (twelve for Ross)! Yes, we worked hard along the way, but we made sure to enjoy ourselves too.

We arrived back to a sunny Manchester earlier in the week and we’ve spent the past few days getting back into our routines, and back into the British time zone. Normally we’re all fairly early risers, but with jet lag, I think I speak for most of us in saying that it feels more like 4am when our alarms go off at around 8am, but come 10pm, we’re all wide awake!

After the BAA 5km we were looking for somewhere to base ourselves for two weeks before we headed out to California to race at the Payton Jordan Invite. Concord seemed like an ideal location for several reasons. There was a plentiful supply of off-road trails to run on, good access to tracks and gyms, and it was close to the New Balance Headquarters in Boston and our American NB teammates at Team New Balance Boston.

Map Concord

The quaint and historic town of Concord, Massachusetts sits around 20 miles North West of Boston City Centre. Despite being so close to a major city, it had quite a relaxed, country feel, and we felt a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Boston. For those interested in British-American history, Concord might ring a bell with regards to the American Revolutionary War. Concord was the site of the Battle of Concord and Lexington. The first battle in the American Revolutionary War. On April 19th 1775 a troop of British Army soldiers marched from Boston to Concord to capture some American military supplies that were reportedly stored in the town. This ended in battle between American and British forces and it marked the outbreak of open armed conflict between Great Britain and the United States. Despite the battles between the UK and USA centuries earlier, any animosity towards us has long gone and we could not have been more warmly welcomed as Brits in Concord! Everyone we met went out of their way to help us and I think we’ll remember the town as a very warm and welcoming place! We were fortunate to use the amazing track and gym facilities at the local schools; Concord-Carlisle, and Lincoln-Sudbury High schools. We were as thrilled to be using their facilities as they were to have us training at their school. There was a infectious enthusiasm off all the teachers and pupils towards athletics, so it’s no surprise that track and field is one of the most participated sports in America!

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Q & A with the track team at Concord – Carlisle High School

Along with the High School tracks for our sessions, we had some great places to run for our long runs and easier days. We did quite a lot on Battle road, a 5 mile long trail which is so named because it is represents the path of the of the British and American soldiers during the Battle of Concord and Lexington.

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Team NB Boston and Team NB Manchester on Battle Road

One of our favourite spots was a place called Great Meadows, not only because it had some great trails to run on, but because it was also a prime location for wildlife spotting – our favourite non-sporting leisure activity! We bumped into a few snakes, spotted some beavers, saw every colour bird possible, and witnesses Steve catch a rather large Carp with his hands! There were also endless trails in the forests, although we had to re-route one of our runs because as we merrily ran into one of the forests, we were chased and screamed at by a frantic lady who lived in the nearby house to warn us out of the forests as several dogs had been attacked by Coyotes. We did consider risking it anyway, but we decided against it, and opted for a slightly more risk free route.

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As we were staying near Boston, the home and founding city of New Balance, we took the opportunity to  visit the NB Headquarters in Boston and their Sports Research Lab and factory in Lawrence, around 30 miles north of Boston.

At Lawrence, New Balance have restored a huge old mill building into a research lab for shoe designing, a factory where some of the “Made in the USA” shoes are produced and an outlet store. The mill itself features the Ayer Mill Clock Tower, the world’s largest mill clock!

The New Balance factory in Lawrence sits along the Merrimack River.
New Balance, Lawrence and the Ayer Mill Clock Tower

Visiting Lawrence was a great experience. It was eye-opening to see how much thought and precision goes into developing the shoes. We all took a lot away from our trip to the Lab, and appreciate that there is so much more to each New Balance shoe than meets the eye. Hundreds and thousands of hours go into the design and development of the shoes we put on our feet every day, something to remember next time we lace up! Each component is carefully thought out and has a specific function. Knowing how much time and effort goes into creating each shoe, I think we all left feeling even more proud to be New Balance athletes! A few floors above the research lab is one of only a few New Balance shoe factories in the USA. We were able to go out onto the factory floor and watch as the teams cut, sewed, glued and laced up brand new shoes. It was quite amazing to watch the journey of a shoe from it’s starting point of just bits of fabric and rubber, to the finished product. Around 3,000 shoes are made there daily! From a financial standpoint, having factories in the USA isn’t particularly cost-effective for the brand, it is cheaper and more profitable to make shoes in Asia, however, New Balance is committed to giving back to the communities they are in, whether that is through providing employment with good wages and working conditions for the local community or restoring old dilapidated Mill buildings. The story is similar here in the UK. Flimby in Cumbria is home to the UK New Balance factory, and whilst more profits could be made by producing elsewhere, New Balance is willing to sacrifice profits in favour of benefiting the local community and there is also something quite special about seeing the label “Made in the UK” on your shoes and knowing that they haven’t travelled thousand of miles from the other side of the world to get to your feet!

We loved our stay in Concord, but we were looking forward to moving on to California to race and for some Californian sunshine! We flew from Boston to San Francisco, and stayed around 30 minutes south of San Francisco in Palo Alto, the home of Stanford University. We had a few days to relax and explore before the race. The owner of the house we were staying in worked at Google and was kind enough to show us around the Google campus. As far as workplaces go, they don’t get much cooler than the Google! It’s like a little village with countless cafes where staff eat for free, gyms, pools. You name it and they’ve got it! We were there on May the 4th, also known as Star Wars day or May the fourth be with you, and there was even an orchestra playing Star Wars songs outside the main dining hall as people ate their lunch!

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After a good block of training, we were all excited to race the Payton Jordan Invite at Stanford University. The meet is famous for it’s fast times and brilliant weather conditions. It was a bit more blustery this year than usual, but nevertheless, it was still a fast night. For various reasons, it was a bit of a mixed night for the team with some races being more tactical than anticipated because of the wind (and an injury for me 😕😮). The stand out performance goes to Lauren for chopping a big chunk off her 5k PB to run 15.29.26. After having far more than her fair share of injuries the past few years, that was a well deserved PB, and there is definitely more to come!

After the race, it was time to stuff two months worth of kit into our bags, say farewell and and a big thank you to everyone who helped us in America, and get ready for our flight home to continue our summer of racing on the European side of the Atlantic! 

Next up for Ross, Ben and Lauren is Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PB’s on the 20th of May which incorporates the British 10,000m Championships and and trials for the World Championships. If you’re in the area and fancy an entertaining night of athletics, do come and watch!

Until next time…..Eli