WHY I RUN - SIMON WARD
BY Elli Smith
Coffee and running have a lot in common. Much-needed in the morning. The answer to a bad day. And crucial to Simon Ward’s existence, his livelihood - and getting away from it.“There’s a state that I use to calm down the mind a little bit. If you’ve got a lot on, you’re juggling a bit especially running a business - running can let you focus on what’s important. You’ve got a bit of time to put things into place.
“Most of the time though, I try to not think and just be a little bit visual about what’s going on around me. Running, most of the time, is my time to get away from here [Cricks, where we’ve met Simon], the kids, the family.
“And coffee used to be a daily fuel. I started to realise there was a little bit more about it than just that. Mine was probably still really milky, and I might have even put sugar in it. I wouldn’t have classed myself as a coffee connoisseur at all.”
Simon runs Cricks Corner - and has done since 2015 - a north London coffee shop situated a five-minute walk from Archway Station. Cricks has gone from cornershop to crappy coffee (under previous ownership) to Simon’s very own coffee hub..“Seven years ago, is when it began. I never did anything cafe related - I was a retail manager. And it was just the corporate grind. But I moved to this area and this space was just a cornershop - all throughout the 1900s. We’ve got some very cool pictures actually.
“It was really family run and really pretty but then it got a bit run down, closed and a coffee shop came in. And my mate, who lived round the corner, was praying for it to be a decent coffee shop. It wasn’t. They just missed the mark a bit.
“When we got hold of it, we did not know what we’d let ourselves in for. I blame the fact I had young kids! If I’d have had proper sleep during that time, I’d never have gotten in on Cricks.”
From sleepless nights to sleepless nights. The hard work of Simon and others has helped to take Cricks to a point where it’s become a community hub and, like many locals across the country and the world, an invaluable source of human connection during the pandemic. Achieved, Simon says, because of the self-deprecating spin they put on what can be a self-important industry.“It’s been a proper journey. What really made it was the starting point - because we were just a bit shit at making coffee. We had good food but we were shit on the till too. We had nothing going for us apart from we liked to have a laugh. From day one, we kept that sort of ethos of never taking ourselves too seriously. Even though specialty coffee, as a concept - its head is right up its own arse.
“Even though we’ll have a joke, the focus is still on quality but we’ve kept that energy.
“Then, in lockdown, we wanted to continue that. I think we were a massive help for people that were suffering in isolation. I’ve got friends and family who live near who were texting me saying “Cricks is, sort of, saving my life at the moment.”
Simon’s other love was also a lifesaver for many people during lockdown.“I started running because I wasn’t 21 anymore. I’d put on a beer belly and needed to exercise. I started with the apps and the old-school pedometer. It was originally just fun running.
“Nowadays, if I’m not working, I’m running. It’s literally my life. Through lockdown, I’ve been trying to get to a sub-three-hour marathon.
“It’s a mixture of two things: for challenge and for chilling, and my mental state. I was just doing long distance and I never really focussed on speed. I do love the sort of “watch-off” and enjoy nature of it.
“But recently, I’ve really enjoyed the competitive side of longer distance running and your speed work does help with that stuff.”
And Simon is excited to combine the two at Cricks.“Recently, we’ve had a running social boom here. There’s a group of guys that run from here every week and I ran with them at the weekend. And when we got back, there was another group of guys in proper running gear getting ready to leave and we’re seeing more of that.
“And I think it’s growing too. Coffee roasteries are having run clubs more and more.
“Coffee is a pre and a post ritual. Lots have shorts before. Combining with a reward or a treat after the run too.
“Since Covid it’s become super popular and in a younger, fresher way. I’ve always steered clear of run clubs because, historically, they’ve been too serious and a bit snobby, and old fashioned. It’s just got cooler.”
Cricks Corner is hosting hylo’s Champions of Tomorrow Cafe and a series of events until December 16th. Read more about them here.