In May of this year we travelled to Joshua Tree. The wildlife, array of plant and fauna, geological significance and spirituality of the desert was inspiring. When we had the opportunity to return to California and enough time to venture further from Los Angeles, the natural inclination was to travel north. The Sierra Nevada had long intrigued. An adventure, climbing and hiking enthusiast, Yosemite had for a long time been on bucket list. As my partner Kit would need to be in Ojai and Big Pine during our trip to the US, a quick online mapping exercise showed that Yosemite, King’s Canyon and Sequoia might also be doable during our short stay. Time to see what else California had to offer…

 

Pasadena to Ojai via Sequoia

It’d been a busy Summer with work and family commitments, and we were soon meandering between coffee spots in a no-place-to-be kind of way. We had one night in Highland Park before we set out on our adventure and were making the most of civilization whilst it was on our doorstep. Whilst we could have stayed on in the comfort of this leafy LA suburb, the lure of wild was calling. It was time to hit the road.

First up was a stay in Ojai at the foot of the Los Padres National Forest. Not quite the wilderness we were in search of, but beautiful all the same, the setting a valley in the Topatopa Mountains. I needed to find my legs as consecutive days of running and hiking were looming large, so headed for the Sulphur Mountain Road with its sweeping views over Santa Paula and the Santa Clara River Valley, with hot sun and hot spring abundant.

Tip – if you are travelling North from LA and your destination is the Western Sierras travel on Route 33 through the Los Padres. It’s a stunning drive even if you soon arrive in the baron wasteland of Maricopa and Bakersfield oil fields in the San Joaquin Valley. We decided to drive as much of this as we could and overnighted in Visalia en-route to Sequoia.

Up real early the next morning keen to secure a pitch amongst the giant trees, we were soon barreling through Three Rivers and into the park, Moro Rock looming over us. Despite being larger than neighbouring Yosemite, Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks are less frequented, with half the visitor numbers annually.

Lodgepole Campground was still bustling despite being end-of-season, but we got a pitch overlooking the Kaweah River, with Wolverton Creek high behind us. We were soon off exploring, ambling around the Big Trees Trail and visiting General Sherman. Our day was cut short as the wind picked up, and we made it back in time to camp before a storm rolled over, lightening flashing through the dark clouds as they rolled over us and on into the night.

The next day, we were woken by a family of deer coming down through the forest to drink from the river. We spied on them through a gap in the tent, keen not to emerge too early into the cold elevation air, but we kitted up and followed them to the Kaweah, and then along the river bed to the Topokah Falls, before heading back to pack up and drive North into King’s Canyon.

 

 

King’s Canyon and Yosemite

King’s Canyon was closing down for Fall, but we were able to secure a spot at Azalea by Grant Grove. We spent the night wide awake listening to fellow campers shouting away bears and when they quietened down, were spooked by the howl of coyotes up the canyon.

We awoke and cooked up a pot of coffee before heading out of the park north to Yosemite stopping quickly in a Fresno for supplies. Only a day earlier, Route 41 was opened up again following fires, so we were able to enter Yosemite from the South via Wawona. Arriving at Tunnel View, the gateway to Yosemite stretched out before us. My first encounter with Half Dome, El Capitan and the Valley I will never forget.

Upon arriving at Camp Curry we settled in and took in our surroundings before being greeted by another storm. It seemed to be a common theme, nature’s reminder that despite the civilization around us at camp, we were entering another wild domain. When we emerged from our cabin, a rainbow arched high over Half Dome and soon Glacier Point was lit up in yellow and orange. It was dawning on me how the Ahwahneechee people must have felt when they settled here amongst the mountains thousands of years earlier. This was a special place.

Taking our time hiking in and around the Valley was a treat. The First People had been replaced by some gnarly outdoors enthusiasts. Beatnik climbers in their element, some climbing walls for the first time, some travelling in on a monthly pilgrimage. Wet and weary hikers would come down from or set off on the John Muir Trail, showing up at all times of the night to drink beer and refuel, shedding mud and muck around the ski-lodge eateries and forking out $5 for a long awaited shower.

Mirror Lake, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls then back to Happy Isles was a stunning day. A moment of calm looking up at Liberty Cap, Broderick and over the forest floor and it dawns on you why nature is as important for human evolution now as it has ever been. It physically and psychologically rejuvenates in a way that nothing else does. The sprit soars in Yosemite, technology becomes irrelevant, your first instinct is to breathe adventure and seek more from life.

We left the Valley to head for Mammoth Lakes, following the Tioga Road to Tuolomne Meadows, stopping at Tenaya Lake and toying with the idea of a dip. The wilderness here was different again. We were too late for Summer wildflowers, but the Meadows were still in bloom, Lembert Dome watching over the flatlands and naturally bubbling springs. Near enough inhabitable in the Winter, we felt fortunate to be able to sit in the sun surrounded by pine forest not yet a wall of white.

 

 

Mammoth and Owen’s Valley

And so on to Mammoth Lakes and Ansell Adams wilderness, having left the forests behind the mountains start to become more strung out, but higher in the Eastern Sierra and no less spectacular. Mammoth Mountain dominates the skyline when you exit the 395, but once you pass the main resort, some of the most amazing back country makes itself available. I spent the day running out alongside the San Joaquin River for as long as I dared. Following the Ridge Trail the canyon flanking me, topped by Mount Ritter, Banner and the Minarets. Arriving at Thousand Island Lake and navigating back to Agnew Meadows was simply stunning. Blue glacial water, white tipped peaks and grassland in its last flourish before the snows arrived.

You could stay a lifetime in Mammoth exploring the mountain and neighbouring John Muir and Sierra National Forest. I tried to venture as far as a full stomach would take me, Devil’s Postpile, Rainbow Falls, Red’s Meadow, Twin Lakes and Crystal Crag… Just when I thought my desire for backcountry was fulfilled, and before heading back down to the warmer climes of Bishop and Big Pine venturing South through Inyo County, I remembered the words of some travellers stocking up on supplies in Mammoth. That no trip in these parts would be complete without exploring the back and beyond of Wheeler Ridge.

I found myself on a whim pulling off at Tom’s Place and heading for Rock Creek. There were countless trailheads, but I ended up at the end of the road at Mosquito Flat and the Little Lakes Valley Trail. It was a 10 mile out and back walk I’ll never forget. Towering 13,000ft peaks on either side, streams gurgling from one sparkling lake to the next. Not until the end of the trail at Morgan Pass did I start wondering how far I’d hiked and whether I should turn back.

It’s funny when you’ve limited water supply and rations how quickly those granite monoliths turn from something you want to climb into something indomitable, an ominous reminder that this isn’t typical human habitat. That’s what I started feeling and unfamiliar to the territory I headed back. Walking back through that hidden paradise wasn’t a bad alternative.

 

A time for reflection

Regretfully my stay in the mountains was coming to an end, dropping 5000ft from Mammoth down into Owens Valley through Independence and Lone Pine, with the highest peak in the US, Whitney not far away but an expedition too far. I had a four-hour drive back to Santa Monica to reflect upon my Sierra Nevada experience. Soaring mountains, crashing waterfalls, deep unrelenting forest, dusty trails. Our travels had created a portfolio of memories in words and pictures.

But this trip also left its indelible mark on the spirit. A feeling that can be called upon always, when the wind blows, the sun glares, a river roars, lightning strikes. For all the tourism, commercial venture and change in and around the Sierras, like Joshua Tree, it remains a spiritual place. One I shan’t forget and look forward to returning to.

Thanks to Alpkit for the camping equipment. And to Kit for being my travel buddy.

TBR

REVIEW OF THE NEW TRAILROC 270 & 285

IN THEIR WORDS

The TRAILROC trail running range has undergone a complete redesign and is now back with a bang this season. The lighter model of the TRAILROC™ series, the TRAILROC 270 mens trail running shoe is perfect for fast running over hard and rocky trails. More protection, more support, more comfort, greater energy return and improved grip. The new TRAILROC 270 & 285 are now better equipped to deal with all hard-packed trails around the world, no matter how rocky. Supreme grip and underfoot protection, with a cushioned midsole and lightweight upper combine to deliver the ultimate shoe for running at speed over hard and rocky trails.

STATS

TRAILROC 270
Fit Standard
Drop 4mm
Footbed 6mm
Lug Depth 4mm
Midsole Stack Heel 15.5mm / Forefoot 11.5mm
Product Weight 270g / 9.5oz

TRAILROC 285
Fit Medium
Drop 8mm
Footbed 6mm
Lug Depth 4mm
Midsole Stack Heel 21.5mm / Forefoot 13.5mm
Product Weight 285g / 10oz

IN MY WORDS

OK so having put at least 50 miles in both iterations of this shoe, here is my verdict on the ‘new and improved’ TRAILROC. Disclaimer – I worked extensively with inov-8 on the activation of the shoe over the Summer, so picked up both pairs having worked with the brand. Don’t let that stop you from reading this honest and independent review though!

Personally, I think the 270 is the superior shoe because the slightly lighter weight, narrower fit and lower drop. And that suits my running style better. Would I wear the 285 regularly? Probably not, I’m not 100% convinced on the construction of the shoe and/or the breathability. Not to say it’s bad, it’s just not as good as the 270. On to the review.

I will be wearing the 270 a fair bit over rocky terrain in Chamonix (in a press capacity as I didn’t get a place in the OCC) and in Mammoth Lakes (training at altitude as I couldn’t make it out to Utah for the TNFEC). I think the 270 runs really well over hard-packed rocky technical terrain. The grip is good, but if it were wet I’d probably plump for an X-Talon depending on the mileage I had lined up. Also if the terrain were mixed, ie some road, some grass, dirt, mud, I would 100% choose the ROCLITE 290. That shoe is just a winner and by far the most comfortable, all-terrain trail shoe – of any brand – I have ever worn. You could also wear that shoe over ultra distance (as I chose to for the Peak Trails 50k).

Wait so why are we talking about other inov-8 shoes in a review of the TRAILROC? Because the inov-8 shoe line-up needs a little explaining! Here is a summary of the shoes I own and have run extensively in…

This is of course personal experience and totally dependent on a number of factors – weather, conditioning, mix of terrain etc. But how does the TRAILROC measure up?I have found all of the inov-8 range of trail shoes to be grippy, but the TRAILROC doesn’t do brilliantly when wet so it gets docked points. As for comfort, I’m not sure why, but the X-TALON212, TRAILTALON and ROCLITE are just winners. The shape of the upper and the way it locks-in on the foot is spot on. The TRAILROC is good, but perhaps could be a little roomier in the forefoot, and also the lacing system won’t stop debris getting into the shoe… literal room for improvement.

So in summary, I wouldn’t wear the 285 simply because it’s slightly too much shoe and too higher drop (8mm). Also I find it stiff and not particularly indicative of what inov-8 normally represents in its shoe range – minimalist, flexible, high-sensory footwear with excellent traction. The 285 would probably score a 5 or a 6. The 270 performs really well on rocky hard terrain, but there are a few glitches which means it doesn’t score much higher… it’s still quite stiff, not particularly comfortable to wear over 10 miles let alone north of 30. But the ride is still good, it still feels fast – as most inov-8 shoes do… personally though if I had a mountain ultra I’d run in ROCLITE and if I had a shorter mountain race I might even be tempted to wear X-TALON. Which relegates the TRAILROC 270 to last place in our chart. But still, if it sounds fit for purpose, I advocate trying this technical lightweight mountain runner from inov-8.

*** UPDATE *** Since this article was written I have worn the TRAILROC 270 a lot in the US trails in California. It was superb in these conditions. I had zero problems with fit and the shoe runs really well on dry pack trails, several of which had rocky descents which the shoe performed admirably on. Basically if it’s dry out and you have a trail run scheduled, wear the Trailroc if it’s technical and the Trailtalon if it’s not!

Available now at inov-8.com.
Here’s me on Cat Bells in the Lake District, photos thanks to Hilary Matheson.

 

Cold tent, rain, peanuts, bad dreams, four hour of kip

Sound of runners preparin’, more hardcore than you soft lad

Time to get down t’start, be reight

3,2,1, be off with ya!

Folk run away, wind arrives along with rain, sideways, proper mardy

Through plantation, through t’forest, through heather

Follow t’arrows, follow GPX, follow bloke up there

Miss a marker, can’t concentrate, guts aching from early start

‘Go back lad!’, back up hill, back to dib in, last time you’ll look back

Through peat, through bog, follow road t’bottom of Win Hill

Runners puffing, stop mitherin’

Take it slow and steady, follow the leader, up t’cairn

Up and over, get some pace up, see thi’ later

Through cement works, oot of snicket

‘Over here kid’, wrong way again, ‘The sports centre?’ ‘Aye’

Check in, ‘724 my love, thanks pet’

Time for a break, not that long, no seizing up, away and go, check out, ‘ta-ra’

10 miles, still drizzle, still wind, lighter now

Counting people back, a good sign, finer fettle

Hood up, another climb, back down longer, nowt but scree

Right at river, through fields, mind for sheep, checkpoint 12, last on’t Moor

Back to running, thanks for directions, reminders, good lucks

Back through’t short stuff, heather, bracken, peat, sand

Breathe heavy but easy, reckon hasn’t felt like more than marathon

Plantation, forest, finish line

Sit thissen dahn, tha’s bin laikin all day.

 

Peak Trails 30 – Peak District

 

Today Strava, launched a marketing campaign entitled ‘Athletes Unfiltered,’ a direct call for athletes to be themselves, celebrate the inclusivity of sport, their hard work and reject the curation and negativity found on other social networks.
The campaign kicks off with a short film. The film features everyday members of the Strava community sharing raw, uncurated up and down images of them and their sport. The idea is that the images and film show that sport has a powerful ability to unite during a moment in time when, for some, it seems little else can.

Strava is asking its athletes to go against the grain (as athletes tend to do) by posting anti-filter photos, showing off awkward tan lines, flushed post-workout selfies, filthy hands, or just the unfettered joy of getting through a big day out. Strava is encouraging its community to forget about what people think, tag posts with #AthletesUnfiltered, and bring each other together with raw and ridiculous photos of the sports we love.

Harx Kalsi, a London-based runner (Run Dem Crew salutes) and Strava member, said: “I show off me, this is me. I have rubbish runs, I have great runs, like, this is what happens. This is who I am, and I am sharing that with you, whether you like it or not. I think it’s also showing other runners and cyclists, that you should just be yourself, you don’t need to be crazy, you don’t need to be doing mad miles, or you don’t need to be running this quick. Just have fun with it.”

As a marketeer myself the campaign resonated with me for a couple of reasons. Firstly it is a genuine attempt to bring people together. There are several companies and corporations – mostly in the US – who have addressed that the current socio-political climate is divisive and are trying to find the right ways to show that they care. Strava’s message here seems genuine (for examples of what doesn’t, ask Pepsi…).

Secondly the campaign is appealing as it is not using elite performers in its images or video when it talks of ‘athletes’. Anyone can be an athlete, anyone can perform against themselves, anyone can become involved in an athletic pursuit, you don’t have to offer a beautifully crafted, sponsored image of yourself to prove it.

Lastly, and this is a Strava product problem, the accessibility message it is offering is reaching out to those people who might be reluctant to engage with the platform because they see its data driven metrics as competitively and therefore a deterrent to participation. Strava is saying here that it is a community as much as it is a performance tool. That is going to resonate with the many and not the few, who’s motive in accessing sport is participation, not performance.

For more on the campaign, please visit the Strava Blog | Photo Credits: Harry George Hall / Strava

Yoga has long been practiced in the East as a spiritual and physically redemptive therapy. Whilst yoga comes in many forms, often with wonderful names, ashtanga, vinyasa, kundalini, hatha, raja, the process of discovery needn’t be daunting. Yoga is well established in Western society and celebrated as an easy way to promote health and wellbeing. In this article, we explore the holistic benefits of yoga and show you how or where to start.

Why to practice yoga.

A system of mental and physical training, yoga consists of postures (asana), breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditations (dhyana). Introduced into Western culture from India in the 19th century, it has been adopted by millions as a way of keeping fit, active, healthy, promoting relaxation and reducing stress.

As yoga is a low-impact activity, routines or ‘sequences’ can be accessible to all, which is a great way for those who might not be ready for the exertion from sports, such as cycling or running, to improve strength, balance, flexibility, increase mental focus, reduce anxiety and boost immunity.

It can also be a brilliant complementary activity to more strenuous sports (like running long distances, lol) because of the benefits it brings in terms of flexibility and way to condition the body for a number of pursuits, particularly in terms of core and hip strength. Yoga can also be redemptive, bringing relief by way of stretching, folding, massaging and breathing life into sore muscles and joints, again complementing the rigours of more athletic pursuits.

There are a number of positive health benefits derived from the practice of yoga and the good news is that you don’t have to be a guru to get involved. Yoga is welcoming and inclusive; you need neither be a spiritual swami or confirmed contortionist. Baby yoga, beginner’s yoga, restorative yoga, there is something for everyone at all levels. 

How to practice yoga.

Let’s start with home practice, you can quite simply begin with basic asanas and breathing movements from the comfort of your front room. There are a number of very easy to follow sequences to be found in books or online, especially on dedicated yoga channels on YouTube, that you can execute confidently at home and in your own time.

What you may quickly find, is that as you improve and become increasingly absorbed by the physical and mental health benefits of yoga, you may seek further guidance to help you advance your practice. Yoga when taught in a classroom environment or one-to-one is a fully rewarding experience where you can enhance your practice and benefit from the experience of a qualifies yoga teacher. You will be introduced to new postures, taken through more challenging sequences and explore more meditative exercises to focus the mind, channel spiritual guidance and feel enlightened as well as physically restored.

Namaste.

I practice vinyasa flow under Hana Saotome at Mindful Movements.
And with Rachel from my coaching team Run Namaste Eat.

The Beer Mile World Classic, London, Summer 2016. An article for Like the Wind magazine and a preview of what’s to come this weekend (August 12, 2017)…

Drink a beer, run a quarter mile.
Drink a beer, run a quarter mile.
Drink a beer, run a quarter mile.
Drink a beer, run a quarter mile.

Four beers. Four laps. Easy right? What originated as an underground tradition amongst college kids and enthusiast amateur track runners has turned into a global phenomenon.

Following the formalisation of rules by a group of Canadian runners lead by John ‘Sparkle’ Markell, we find ourselves on the in-field of an athletics track in London waiting for events to unfold. It’s the Beer Mile World Classic and we are joined by the Australians, Americans and Canadians, all flown over for the big day. And they are taking it seriously. Headphones are in. Bottles of beer, flown over specifically in luggage, are being taped up in various identifiable colours. I say seriously, most are taking it seriously. The Swedes, who were up partying naked until 4am the night before, maybe not so. But for some, this is the main event.

It’s almost as simple as drink a beer and run four times. Except the drinking has to take place in a transition zone, aptly named the ‘chug-zone’. Chugging is the name of the game. Chundering is not. That will incur a penalty lap at the end of the race, thus adding to your time and to be avoided. Unfortunately, as demonstrated from the day’s early heats, a ‘reversal of fortune’ is fairly common place.

There are other rules and regulations around beverage type and volume that I won’t bore you with. Basically, our invigilators are keeping stern watch between lap – chug – lap. No backwash here please. The most important rule is that come the end of the race, when the winner is declared and the chasers are in, the leftovers are totted up and if the sum of your dregs is more than 4OZ, you are disqualified.

Let’s talk tactics. Fan of the beer mile Chris (who flew in specially from Bangalore), insists that it is all about timing your effort and technique. “Being able to breathe and drink is important, otherwise you hold your breath and go out gassy… Lap 3 is the worst. Mentally the thought of ‘oh shit I’ve got to do this one more time over’ and my stomach is expanding. But then lap 4 is like any work out, you’re home stretch. And you can vom afterward without penalty, so that’s no problem.”

“Never again. Never again.” Was the verdict from a chap in a Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. shirt after experiencing what turned out to be a clearly distressing 10 minutes. In the same heat ‘I hate beer Harold’ was a casualty. He stumbled over the line in 17 minutes. Probably the slowest mile he’d ever run. And probable the most beer he’d drunk in 17 minutes. It was a marathon not a mile effort for Harold.

Winner of elite women race Erin O’Mara from Michigan, reigning FloTrack beer mile champion, had a better time of it, “Beer miling is a volatile sport. There’s a lot that can go wrong on beer mile day, but things went right for me! What advice would I offer a newcomer? You just wanna make sure you stay cool and keep pushing around the track!”

Easier said than done Erin. As competitor, James the ‘Beast’ Nielsen (the first person to ever duck under 5 minutes for the beer mile) found out – “Man I’m so bummed right now. It was a fast track and great conditions, running was not going good in training but beer drinking was on point, so I’m pretty disappointed. Damn it, mostly because I yakked!” We didn’t have the heart (or the nerve) to break it to the Beast, but sadly, James was also disqualified.

The winner of the Elite Men’s Race on the day was Corey Bellemore in a new beer mile world record of 4 minutes, 34 seconds. An inconceivable feat, given that is only 50 seconds slower than the world record for the mile set by Hicham El Guerrouj. And Hicham didn’t have to down 4 bottles of Miller ‘High Life’ between each lap. Corey’s tactics? ‘I just chugged the beers as quick as I could and then tried to keep it down!’

The festivities didn’t end there, with the after-party – that’s right, 4 beers just isn’t enough – lasting well into the evening. On the walk home, I quietly contemplated over kebab. The spectacle, the highs, the lows. What did it all mean? For drinking, for running, for world peace? The overwhelming take-away was that beer is indeed the great equalizer. Very good runners sharing the track with very good drinkers. Men and women sharing the same start line. All nationalities able to compete without animosity but with the same level of pride and a similar goal in mind – run a mile, try not to hurl. It brings a literal tear to the eye. The Beer Mile World Classic was a celebration of the universal appeal of running, beer and togetherness.

Long live beer, long live the mile. Long live the beer mile.

 

GUEST POST FROM NONE OTHER THAN ULTRA RUNNING PR GURU – PETER ELMS. A REVIEW OF THE INOV-8 ROCLITE 290.

I don’t know about you, but I always find that my last pair of running shoes was the best I’ve ever had. I’m not one of those guys who has four or five different pairs of trail running shoes that they rotate, no I stay faithful. I will typically run in one pair of shoes for 1000 miles plus or more. I like to run long and relatively slow for much of the year, bar an annual attempt at breaking my marathon PB on a flat road course. The large bulk of my mileage is done on the north and south downs and the trails nearest to where I live in Farnham, somewhere between 35 and 60 miles a week if I’m building up to an ultra. I loved the Pearl Izumi N2 and then I have loved being in the Nike Terra Kiger 2 (my last two trail runners).

So what did I make of the Roclites? First let’s judge the book by its cover. I like the way they look. I like the red colour way I’ve been trialling, they pop. They give the appearance of being low profile, but they look pretty tough too, the lugs look aggressive for another wise lightweight looking shoe. I like, maybe not as much as my discontinued Pearls, but they’re still a handsome shoe.

How did they feel? Now this is probably the most important aspect of any running shoe, particularly when running ultras. As much as I like the way 290’s look, I’m not going to spend too much time looking down at my feet…well not for the first 50 miles of a hundred anyway. They feel light, because they are light (290g). Roclite wanted to make a responsive shoe – and they have. You know some shoes make you feel quick? That’s what these do. They’ve got a low drop (4mm), and a Y-LOCK system which (apparently) helps to keep the heel locked in place, both of which only add to the sense that you’re wearing something designed to go quickly in. So then, are you sacrificing comfort for speed. I personally found the cushioning perfectly adequate for 6 hours out on the North Downs. The 290s dealt with all the rocks and sand, and my feet didn’t feel mashed.

Would I run more than a 50k in them? I would. Are they going to keep my feet as cushioned as a pair of Hokas over that distance? Probably not. But I like to feel to feel my shoes bite on the ground and push me forwards, I like to run down hill and not feel like I need to lift my legs up high to avoid roots. It’s worth mentioning that the 290s have a big toe box, I definitely felt that had my feet begun to get a bit swollen at the back end of an ultra then there wouldn’t be too much of an issue.

The lugs and rockplate would really come into their own on rocks and more aggressive trails, I just don’t have easy access to over spring and summer on the North Downs. But they look tough enough to take on the Lakeland 50 (for example), just as well as they dealt with the packed dirt, sand and chalk I’ve been using them for. I think they’re a great all round ultra-shoe for those people that don’t want to feel like they’ve got pillows ties to their feet. And they come in red.

You can buy the inov-8 Roclite 290 now from inov.com

 

 

Skiddaw is a mountain in the Lake District. It stands at almost a kilometre high, way over 3000ft, looming over the sleepy town of Keswick with Derwent Water at its foot. It is the first summit of a Bob Graham Round when undertaken in anti-clockwise direction. A Bob Graham is made up of 42 fell peaks, this being the first. In partnership with inov-8, we came up with the idea of climbing Skiddaw with a team of enthusiastic trail runners that had been invited from all around the world to experience a traditional fell race.

Fell running is hard work for hard men and women. We spent the weekend with inov-8 in Staveley and Keswick, learning about the history of fell running from the team and regaled by stories from fell running legend Kenny Stuart. Kenny holds the record for the Skiddaw Fell Race. In 1984, Kenny managed to get up and down Skiddaw in record time, covering nearly 10 miles of trail, loose rock, scree and summit in a little over an hour (1:02). My personal goal for the weekend was to try to master the basics, navigate my way up and down the mountain and to not come last.

We were fortunate enough to have the help of several inov-8 ambassadors over the weekend. These were hardened runners from Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire; legs of steel, fearless in the face of downhill and uphill struggle. Ben Mounsey and Mary Wilkinson were with us for the weekend and were joined by local phenomenon Ben Abdelnoor to teach us how to run up and down a fell without burning out or taking a tumble. Thanks to their guidance and reassurance, our seven globe-trotters felt ready for whatever the mountain (and the weather) had to throw at us.

Race day upon us, it was time to gear up. inov-8 very kindly kitted us out with a choice of shoe – the newly incarnated TRAILROC (available in August), or the traditional fell running shoe of choice the X-TALON – and of course with all the gear we would need on the day including some awesome light-weight apparel. Disconcertingly there was also a mandatory kit list – emergency food, full waterproof gear, compass, map… Would we really need all that stash for an hour or so run? At the summit of Skiddaw it would become apparent as to why all this outdoor paraphernalia is a must.

A jovial and warm reception from the local Lakeland folk welcomed us at the start of the race in Fitz Park. They gave us a few pointers and knowing nods, before a ‘ready, steady, go’ set off a bolting group of men in short shorts, off the front through the woods to the foot of the ascent of Jenkin Hill. It was at this point I realised what I’d gotten myself into with the start of the steep zig-zag paths and then round the back of Little Man. Straight up. I hiked most of it, feebly transitioning to a momentary shuffle when encountering a spectator or a fellow runner to avoid the embarrassment of not being able to move my feet at any sort of cadence without coughing up a lung. But before I knew it I’d blindly, agonisingly reached the summit plateau, a rough, rocky, cold, unwelcoming place, shrouded in cloud and threateningly exposed. Ahhh, it dawned, this is why all the kit is necessary! And this is why the Keswick local I was following left the path about a mile before me into the cloud to skirt the mountain along the scree, thereby sheltering himself from the wind before rounding the cairn from a different angle. Clever fell runner…

What wasn’t so clever was my descent back down to more temperate climes. Descent is perhaps too technical a term, more like a blind panic with the sole aim of keeping my shoulders above my knees and not plunging to a rocky demise. Somehow I made it. Somehow we all made it. A couple of the magnificent seven took a tumble, but then apparently this is not uncommon. A couple of hardy local club runners had done the same, and were even sporting a splash of claret, although not enough to stop them washing down cups of tea and kendal mint cake at the end of the day!

I can’t thank inov-8 enough for their hospitality over the weekend. You can see from the video above (and the gallery below by James Carnegie) how much we all enjoyed the weekend and how much our guests from around the world threw themselves into it. I personally can’t wait for my next fell. Maybe if I bag a few more peaks by way of reconnaissance, that Bob Graham mightn’t be a pipe-dream? Meet you at Moot Hall?

STANCE RUN VISITS HAMURG FOR THE FINAL LEG OF ITS 6 CITY EUROPEAN STREET ART TOUR

Having breathed life into a category that had been ignored, taken for granted, looked over, and dismissed, Stance sought a way to show how their socks perform brilliantly whilst looking great. Running events are the ideal way to do that. Combining running with street art perfectly demonstrates the position Stance takes at the intersection of creativity and performance.

The Stance European Street Art Tour visited London, Copenhagen, Paris, Milan and Amsterdam. It has now concluded in Hamburg. Hamburg received the final tour visit of the campaign and running crews were gifted a pair of Stance Performance Run before the half marathon weekend.

www.stance.com
www.youtube.com/stancesocks
www.instagram.com/stanceeurope

When your favourite sock brand teams up with one of your favourite athletes, the result was only gonna be pow pow.

With Anton Krupicka’s style and ode to his hometown Boulder, Colorado and the technical performance attributes of the Run Crew the ‘Krup’ is a total win for any discerning trail runner! Working on Stance campaigns with the team in Europe, I am seriously hoping we get to partner up to help get the word out… maybe in Cham?!

Available at: Stance.com
Or check ’em out in person at: The Running Works

 

Only my second Maverick race this year due to injury and work schedule, the long route in the Cotswolds didn’t disappoint.

Props to Maverick Race once more for the awesome event in Gloucestershire last weekend. As part of my build up in fitness and training, I raced with the Maverick Division over the long route up hill and down dale and what fun it was!

Hot mind! With temperatures at around 30c come the 10am start time, the shirt was off almost instantly. Having let 5 or 6 maniacs sprint off for the short and medium route wins, I tried to settle and run steady given the heat and early elevation gain.

After that, just rolled with the punches, took on a little fluid, dodged some sheep and ran at tempo over 15 sweaty miles! The route again provided the best of what the UK outdoors has to offer in terms of countyside and woodland. I ran at a pace where a) i could finish the race and b) take in some of those views.

Ran pretty well, didn’t blow, pipped Kevin O’Reilly for 2nd who must have been overtaken near the end by Will Grace as I was pretty much stalking him the whole race from about 500 yards! Results: Maverick Gloucs Results.

Big shout to batty trail lady, ultra running scandi and TBR graphic design genius Cajsa who’s soon to relocate to Sweden. Bye and happy trails 👏🏻

Photos by Sue Hill.

WHAT ADIDAS SAYS

THE LIGHTEST ADIDAS TERREX TRAIL RUNNING SHOES EVER.

Ready to conquer the mountain, these men’s trail running shoes keep you fast and stable over alpine terrain. Developed with athlete insights, these shoes are extremely lightweight and provide extraordinary grip for competitive racing. The mesh and ripstop upper has a breathable, sock-like construction for an optimal fit and comfort, while an EVA midsole cushions against impacts. The rubber outsole is inspired by the Continental mountain bike tyre “Race King,” and has cutouts making the shoes even more lightweight and flexible.

Mesh and ripstop upper for a great combination of toughness and breathability

Sock-like construction for an optimal fit

Perforated EVA collar and tongue with a mesh cover for breathability and comfort

Lightweight EVA midsole for long-term cushioning

Rubber outsole with cutouts to reduce weight

Continental™ Rubber for extraordinary grip even in wet conditions

Weight: 255 g (per shoe in size UK 8.5)

TBR SAYS

A LIGHT SHOE THAT I REALLY WANTED TO LIKE BUT KIND OF DOESN’T WORK.

I get what adidas were looking to do with this shoe. And when I saw it I was kind of excited. And let’s make no bones about it, it is light and it is stable. BUT. Whilst focussing on grip and keeping the shoe close to 250g (probably to try and rival the Nike Terra Kiger 3 or the inov-8 TRAILTALON) they have forgone all other aspects that people look for in a trail running shoe. Namely something with a bit of room in the forefoot and something to protect over long runs on rocky ground. Having run multiple times in this shoe, my diagnosis is that in trying to strip back the previous Agravic which came in at 310g (and was already too rigid) they’ve lost even more comfort. And I mean just generally, you need some suppleness in a trail shoe upper and some give underfoot to deal with varied terrain. I wouldn’t wear these shoes in the Alps, the Alps would destroy my feet in these! I might wear them in a shorter 10k race in wet conditions, but nothing longer or technically demanding.

Mesh and ripstop upper tough but not pliable enough to offer comfort (and not that breathable)

Sock-like construction optimal if your foot shape is narrow and won’t swell

Perforated EVA collar and tongue with a mesh cover for breathability and comfort – not totes sure what this is

The midsole offers very little cushioning as a result of it’s lightweightedness

Rubber outsole with cutouts to reduce weight – sure, it is a light shoe

Continental™ Rubber does offer grip but not ideal for hard packed conditions

Weight: 255 g (per shoe in size UK 8.5) – aces.

STANCE RUN VISITS AMSTERDAM FOR THE 5TH LEG OF ITS EUROPEAN STREET ART TOUR

LAST WEEK STANCE VISITED AMSTERDAM TO INTRODUCE RUN. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED.

Having breathed life into a category that had been ignored, taken for granted, looked over, and dismissed, Stance sought a way to show how their socks perform brilliantly whilst looking great. Running events are the ideal way to do that. Combining running with street art perfectly demonstrates the position Stance takes at the intersection of creativity and performance.

The Stance European Steet Art Tour has already visited London, Copenhagen, Paris, Milan and Amsterdam. It will conclude in Hamburg at the half marathon weekend.

www.stance.com
www.youtube.com/stancesocks
www.instagram.com/stanceeurope



 

ABOUT DISTRICT VISION (BY DISTRICT VISION)

We research and develop tools for runners, creating products that are equally function-first and performance enhancing. We believe in a holistic approach to athleticism and the idea that mental wellbeing is the foundation of every form of physical exercise.

Our first experiment was initiated over two years ago when we started testing sports eyewear technology with a group of downtown runners. Combining real-life feedback with Japanese engineering, the Keiichi running sunglass system was born – a proprietary solution for athletes, handmade in Japan.

As part of our holistic vision for the project we want to make meditation available to more runners and active souls in New York and beyond, through a series of talks and our District Meditation program, working with leading teachers in both fields.

ABOUT DISTRICT VISION (BY TBR)

I was sent a pair of  the Keiichi frame by the guys over at DV. They were kind enough to take the risk of sending them to me in Joshua Tree which was super cool and a bit of a risk as the Cabin I was in was pretty off grid. I ran with the frame around Joshua Tree and then in Los Angeles on Venice Beach.

The Keiichi is a very good product. The high quality materials make this a premium sunglass choice for the discerning runner. I have been looking for eyewear since losing my Electric sunglasses down a mountain in Chamonix last July. These have become a go-to when it’s a running day and the sun is out. I will continue to wear the frame throughout training and racing on trails this Summer, and in the lead up to the fall road marathon season and Valencia in November.

I’ll be discussing meditation with Max from District Vision in a follow up post.

DISTRICT VISION

STANCE MILANO

STANCE RUN VISITS MILAN FOR THE 4TH LEG OF ITS EUROPEAN STREET ART TOUR

Last week Stance visited Milan to introduce RUN. This is what happened.

Having breathed life into a category that had been ignored, taken for granted, looked over, and dismissed, Stance sought a way to show how their socks perform brilliantly whilst looking great. Running events are the ideal way to do that. Combining running with street art perfectly demonstrates the position Stance takes at the intersection of creativity and performance.

The Stance European Steet Art Tour has already visited London, Copenhagen, Paris, Milan. It will visit Amsterdam in June, before concluding in Hamburg at the half marathon weekend.

www.stance.com
www.youtube.com/stancesocks
www.instagram.com/stanceeurope

 

What I’ve come to find over the last 4 weeks is that running really had become the string to my bow, the wiz to my khalifa, quite literally, the spring to my step. What’s more, having not written anything, clearly a major outlet for creativity.

On the 5th March I suffered, what my physio and I believe to be, a partial tear of the Soleus muscle in the calf and a subsequent grade 2 strain of the Gastrocnemius. Weirdly the injury didn’t occur all at the same time, more it came on slowly over a few days and then, finally, something popped toward the end of a hard 18 mile run and I hobbled home.

Slap bang in the middle of training, my London Marathon bubble burst. This was bad news. Very bad news. Until said puncture, I’d been running well. A fairly casual, clock free, 1:21 half marathon in Barcelona and averaging 55 miles per week. All seemed on track for a quick half in Fleet and then all aboard the PB bus for London… For the 4 weeks that followed that dreaded Sunday however, I couldn’t run. Not once. No chance. Not even to the bus stop.

But, determined to keep calm and write terrible slogans, I tried to stay physically active whilst safe guarding ‘The Injury’. Cycling, swimming, yoga and confined to the gym, I didn’t put on too much weight save a little around the middle (a result of the early onset of the solace found in beer). Neither had I lost too much endurance. Actually I found varying my training quite rewarding, redefining my athletic persona, one Sunday the Cannibal of Epping Forest, the next the Flipper of Clissold Park’s middle lane. Whilst friends were out running personal bests on road and trail, I had the chance to make friends with a burly Polish builder in Gold’s Gym, N22. He helped me make my arms look more like arms and less like pipe cleaners, so that was also an achievement.

But whilst I’d found solace in other activities (and Marek, bless Marek) in all honesty, nothing has replicated running, that same life-force, the immediate rush of post run endorphin. So now here I sit in split shorts. Having run twice this week, both times on the treadmill, both times 4 miles with varying success, today, the sun is shining and I am going to try and get back outside. This has been the biggest omission of the last 4 weeks. Just generally being able to leave your door whenever you want – run through the woods on your lunch break, run through your manor in the middle of the night. I mean, I’ve got great abs these days sure, but haven’t been able to replace the great outdoors.

From a writing perspective, I’ve been scribing about other things (mostly yoga) over here on Medium. Which has been namaste, but this blog has been neglected… I can’t tell you yet what I am or am not going to be able to do in terms of running this year. That is going to be determined by a sensible return to training and how quickly the Phyz can get me properly mobile again. But, thanks to learnings over the last few weeks, I am going to start writing a little more broadly about wellness, mindfulness, diet. I might even go for a rebrand, love a rebrand. Let me, hopefully, ponder what that rebrand might look like during my jog in the sunshine.

BRB.

This weekend Stance went to the trails to create some content for their Performance Run range. Stance have proved that they work wonders for road running. Think comfortable, supportive, blister free style. Well they also work for trail running. I’ve taken them into the mountains for 7/8 hours at a time and my feet have emerged totally unscathed. Stance want to start showing that off whilst also celebrating the people behind the lens – be that a professional sports photographer or a star of Instagram. And so we created ‘Capture Trails’. 

We partnered up with Runners Need and took runners to the beautiful trails of the Devil’s Punchbowl, a natural wooded amphitheatre and fantastic backdrop. We invited pro-sports photographer James Carnegie  who hosted a fabulous workshop with advanced tips and tricks. We’re talking pro advice that can be applied to an iPhone and the VSCO app to help us do away with the ‘running selfie’ forever! 

Our thanks as well goes to the National Trust  for permitting us to use the Punchbowl for the morning. If you want to learn more about some of the other fantastic trails you can discover on NT land, please do visit their website. 

You can see some of our guests photos here on Instagram.
James also joined us on the trails and took some fantastic shots. A selection of which are below. 

Time for a little write up, been a while! First up Maverick Sussex from last weekend the first Maverick Race of the season and one I had been looking forward to and worked into my London Marathon training plan.

Barcelona Half (might do a right up on that soon too) went well, 1:21 and change. Was pretty happy with that in the wind, without a watch and without too much blowing. Maverick however was a bit of a different story. Whilst I wasn’t there to race, it was certainly testing all the same due to ill-conditions/health!

I had a cold. You know that bit at the start of a cold where everything is tiring and you are snotting everywhere? Well anyway, let’s use that as an excuse for things being hard in part in addition to it being a blustery day! But down to Amberley at the foot of the South Downs I travelled where a band of merry runners were assembling for a short, medium or long amble on the South Downs Way.

And as such, it was at the foot of the Downs that the race started run and up up and away for everyone, with the two Toms (Payne and Evans) sprinting off up the hill, a pack of 6 or 7 or so in pursuit. I got excited and tried to run with that crew but then remembered I was poorly and tired and barely strong enough to save myself being blown from the trail into the cow fields. Quite quickly I found myself moving forward but slipping back in the rankings, which was actually fine by me and my lungs! And so I turned into professional gate opener for the next 10 miles or so. But what fun!

As ever with a Maverick Race, the route had a bit of everything – rock, mud, grass, road, hill, step and style. Loads going on but that is part of the appeal right! Thankfully the inov-8 crew were there at the start with pairs of the awesome X-Claw to deck everyone out. They seemed to fair well whilst I found the hills a challenge, the ups a challenge, my lack of breath a challenge! But thankfully, my kit performed well. Maverick races remain super fun and this start to the season didn’t disappoint.

Smiles, a well organised crew, fully stocked aid stations, shoe trials from arguably the best gripping trail shoe brand out there, iced coffee, post race beer, a medal in the shape of a bottle opener (!!!), a little retail store with awesome stuff like Stance and Ciele, free race photos and instant results! Well done Mav crew, makes me proud!

Pics by Sue Hill and Simon Freeman :p

Woh! That’s stop for a horse. No blog post for over a month. That is totally my bad. Well I’ve lined a few up, and am planning on getting something out to you guys weekly from this point on (he says…). Starting with a quick review of the Trailtalon 250 by Inov-8.

I’ve now put 400 miles in these shoes and ran in this shoe at the Dorset CTS Ultra. My first ultra marathon at 33 miles in which I had them on my feet for 5:54:54. Click on that to view the evidence! So this is sort of a, ‘how have they and did they perform’ type post as well as a review. Let’s get into it.

TECH SPEC
Fit: Standard
Drop: 4mm
Lug Depth: 4mm
Stack Height: Heel 17.5mm – Forefoot 13.5mm
Weight: 250g

The Trailtalon is a hard-packed racer designed to give you traction when running fast on paths and trails. This is very much a low-drop, light-weight, quick shoe designed for high cadence trail trotting. The shoe is low profile and peeps should be aware of that as it won’t work for all. We’re talking a 4mm drop off a 17.5mm heel so they are pretty minimalist.

However this is still a super comfortable shoe and, despite an absence of rock plate and heavy duty luggery, it offers good protection. The footbed works really well and offers some armoury underfoot. What I would say is that if you might need a little bit more stability, you can plump for the Trailtalon 275 which gives a more heft and rigidity to what is a fairly flexible shoe (which is no bad thing!).

FIT & RIDE

Let’s talk terrain. The Dorset Ultra offered some pretty changeable conditions to put the Trailtalon through its paces. So looking at the shoe’s performance based on what it went through, a score:

  • Dry hard packed soil-grass trail and path – 9/10 (fast, light, comfortable)
  • Wet hard packed trail – 8/10 (good grip, nimble, dealt with water well)
  • Muddy, boggy, field-y type terrain – 5/10 (if you’re planning on running on this for any length of time, the lugs are too shallow – go for a Mudclaw or an X-Talon)
  • Rocky technical ascending / descending – 6/10 (grip is fantastic but the shoe lacks a little protection both underfoot and around the toe-box)

Where the Trailtalon (and all of Inov-8’s shoes) works great, is in sizing. When I first slipped em on, I was nervous that they felt a little long for me. But when you’ve laced up and start running, the extra room in the toe-box is perfect. I’ve struggled to find trail shoes that don’t slip off when hiking up steep slopes or jam your toes up when descending. The fit in the toe box is perfect and the upper works well to allow for little movement. Full marks for construction and sizing a shoe properly.

SUMMARY

Basically, this is a great shoe. I mean I’ve put 400 miles in it so I would say that, but it is a great shoe. The fit is spot on and despite the low drop, the shoe is well constructed enough and offers enough protection that you can run it 50k. Having said that, I’m not sure I’d go much past that – there are other shoes in the Inov-8 range that offer amazing comfort and protection with a little more weight for those longer ventures – I’ll soon write a review of the Roclite 290 which fits this brief. I’d also venture that if you are taking this into technical or rocky terrain – i.e. mountains – then the 250 might not be enough shoe. I’d go for the 275 for the extra protection. OR, as I hear on the grapevine, Inov-8 are about to release a new hard packed trail shoe which is amazing in technical terrain…  more on that to come!

I’ve really enjoyed wearing this shoe and will continue to wear it at the shorter distance Maverick Races coming up in Sussex and Hampshire whilst training in the Roclite until race day. Similarly for the upcoming big races in the Summer, I might wait for Inov-8’s soon to be released secret weapon…

Disclaimer: I work closely with Inov-8 who sent me this shoe. I also rep them when running with the Maverick Trail Division. Having said that, I wouldn’t sing this shoes praises if I didn’t rate it highly!

 

Ah it’s that time of year again. It’s been approaching. Checking Instagram, my running buddies over in the US have been starting their cross country seasons a little earlier than we do in the UK. In the fall, beautiful autumnal browns and golds, grassy circuits scattered with leaves. Sunshine. All athleticism, racing spikes and high 5s. Tanned legs prancing over field and prairie. In Franklin Park, Golden Gate Park, etc. What a treat for a runner.

Now I missed AR Cross Country teams first meet on Wimbledon Common (the home of XC!). Apparently it was all sunshine and hill sprints. Lovely stuff. But on Saturday, it was back to the more traditional UK cross country scenario. Mud, water, rain, dipping temperatures, hills, bogs, elbows, no showers and plastic bags. What a treat for a runner. I’m being sarcastic. But having said that. It was fun! And we won.

Cross Country in the UK is basically a training ground. A battle ground. Events taking place post season, just at the point when you want to rest your legs and eat vegan mince pies and Bisto for 6 weeks. Instead your running coach – or conscience if like me you don’t have one – insists you go and toughen up over the winter in preparation (normally) for a Spring marathon. It makes no sense really if you think about it. I mean you’ve probably run well over 1000 miles for the year already. Why then torture yourself with what is basically all-out elbows-out racing over treacherous terrain? I mean the window for injury couldn’t be any more open. But anyway…

On the day in question – last Saturday – we trudged to a grey and dreary Epsom race course ready for Round 2 of 4 of the Surrey XC league. AR being the new kids on the block, we are in the bottom division, 4. But we are top of that division. So, as well as proving that we are worthy of donning our spikes and rubbing hairy shoulders with the best of the South of England’s running traditionalists, we had some sort of credibility to maintain.

A pack of snorting, muscle twitching mules amassed in club colours on the start line ready for the off. I was slightly nervous. I hadn’t run fast all year. My shorts were really short. Some people were wearing spikes, some trail footwear. But no time for shoegazing, soon the gun and off we cantered to the first corner. AR were running steady. Martin, Skinner and Captain Poole up front, Brojan (in tandem obvs) and then me in behind. Soon to be joined by young buck Brewdog, I ushered him past and told him to run on – he’s got long legs, potential and youthful enthusiasm on his side. I was pacing pretty well in behind those 6 and we were all fairly close together toward the end of the first of two 2.5 mile loops.

But then disaster struck. In amateurish fashion I’d not double-tied my spikes and soon I could feel the lash of an unfastened lace whipping my freezing calves. I thought I might run on, but alas a boggy patch, and I succumbed to knee and heel at the side of the course, hands red and frozen desperately shaking trying to re-shoe. A stream of runners passed, several AR’ers included. My teammates here were the motivation to get back in there and try and work my up the field again – in XC every place counts and with the top 10 runners from each team scoring, you have to try to come as high up as you can.

Back in the race I definitely burnt a match or two trying to get back to the train I’d become uncoupled from. But the race, like my choice in leg-wear, was just too short for me to catch up. I did try my hardest and managed to bag some places in the process, finishing in 2oth (of the Div 4 runners) overall and covering the 8k/5m in 31:05. Which actually I was pretty pleased with. That’s not far off my half marathon pace on the road – so given the terrain and the wardrobe failure I couldn’t be too upset. Plus I hope that the few places I made back helped contribute to our slender winning victory (7 places!).

But it wasn’t all about me. In fact it wasn’t about me at all! The team killed it again. We won our Div 4 match and arguably would have given the Div 3 guys a run for their money. My teammates – those I travelled with, those who finished at the sharp end of the race, those who offered words of encouragement when they passed me and passed them on the course, were awesome. Bring on Match 3.

Cross Country – despite the cold, the mud, the wind, the rain, is seemingly a fantastic discipline for breeding strong runners. This was one of those days that will probably serve me well come April and the London Marathon. Meanwhile, can I have a cup of tea and a lie down now?

 

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-17-35-11

This year I was signed up to run both the Centurion Races on the North Downs Way. The 50 mile race and the 100 mile race. I ran neither. I was thinking about this the other day as I am currently gearing up for my first ultra (finally), the Dorset CTS Ultra which is 55km. I wanted to write something about those missed races and the learns, as well as what happens next.

The NDW 50 I decided to can as I was suffering with tendonitis in my ankle after training for and running the Boston Marathon. As well as a non-appearance at the London Marathon, training kind of went awry and subsequently the NDW race in May just didn’t happen. This probably threw me off course so naturally I decided to DNS the 100 mile race also. Call that one fear factor.

Having gone back to the drawing board, I considered what I wanted to do in terms of running this thing called an ‘ultra’. Definitely do one was the verdict. But when? And how?

Moins Hard (means less hard in French) – a start?

I was (and still am) looking forward to the challenge. But I needed an introduction. I needed to replicate the conditions of ultra running, just maybe not the distance. I started with the Moins Hard race in June – see below. This would prove to be a good introduction to the idea of running for more than 4 hours in one go whilst offering the trails and the altitude for me to consider whether I was able to run over more challenging terrain over long periods of time. It took 7 hours.  But it wasn’t an ultra… that milestone still not reached.

bearded-runner-moins-hard-on-strava

UTMB – a spark is lit

In the summer I spent 1 week in Chamonix during UTMB week. It was captivating. I decided then and there that I wanted to be a participant in one of those races rather than a spectator. Where to start? The OCC – see below – is the shortest of the 5 races that take place over the course of the week (In order – CCC, TDS, UTMB and PTL) at 55k. But to run the OCC, you need both to enter a ballot AND have the requisite number of accumulated points, albeit 1, to enter. With the Moins Hard not counting (it’s not an ultra duh) then I would have to run an ultra before the end of the year.

bearded-runner-occ-on-strava

An Ultra, a Sign-Up! In Dorset… in December…

My 3 buddies and I settled on the Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series Ultra run in Dorset – see, yeh you get the picture.
This race would:

a) give us the point we need to be able to enter the ballot for OCC
b) is one of the harder CTS races in terms of elevation, so replicate to a certain extent, OCC conditions
c) is the same length as OCC at 55k so good training
d) finally allow me to tick the ultra-runner box on my CV

So that’s what I am now continuing to run for. I think if I had a target time in mind then I would be training harder than I have been. I’m currently running about 40 miles per week, 25 miles of which at the weekend. It’s probably not enough, but I am going to up the mileage in the next couple of weeks to build the endurance that I am undoubtedly lacking. But I am pretty much just set on finishing the race. I.e. finish within the cut-off times to get the point needed to enter OCC. #goals.

bearded-runner-dorset-ultra-on-strava

What else?

I’ve also started comparing races in terms of elevation and have also entered the ballot for the Mont Blanc Marathon next year too – below yeh yeh yeh. So, for now, 40k – 50k ish seems to be the distance I am concentrating on for trail running. I think if / when I start running more on trails than on road (which isn’t currently the case) then I’ll maybe think about how/why to go longer. One day I’ll do the 50m, 100k and 100m races. But for now (next year) I’m going to concentrate on the ‘just-an-ultra’ categories.

bearded-runner-mont-blanc-marathon-on-strava

Wish me luck. I do hope you enjoyed the routes crafted in Strava so you too can compare the aforementioned challenges.

Kai Heuser

a feature on running tattoos for Like the Wind

The smell of nervous sweat on skin, a dull throb during a two-hour session, low sugar levels, that weird feeling of euphoria when it’s over and the subsequent kick of adrenalin that can often become addictive.

The physiological effects of getting a tattoo and going for a run are seemingly similar. One can also draw parallels between the outcomes: once a marathoner, always a marathoner — in the same way, a tattoo will last a lifetime. With both comes a significant commitment. So I ask why? Is there a reason why people give up their hours to run? Is there a reason why some choose to be indelibly marked? And is there a commonality between tattoos and running beyond the physical?

For some, there is a misconception that tattoos are aesthetic, to be observed, a trend, for fashion, a flight of fancy. For others, for runners, they are symbols, icons, landmarks and reminders of why they run and who they are. Behind each runners’ tattoos, there is a story — as there is a story behind their running. They are identifiers and help shape them as a person. Body art proudly on display alongside the post- race medal. Mementos, memories and moments collected.

Here are a few of those we featured in Issue #10

 

“I am from Paris and live in London. My first tattoo is the logo for my crew in London — Run Dem Crew’s running man — holding an upside down Eiffel Tower — the logo of my other crew, Paris Run Club — as an Olympic flame. They are the reason I took up running and they changed my life for the better. “You don’t win silver, you lose gold” are words used by a mentor, Charlie, in one of his songs and they describe my race day motto perfectly. Trying isn’t enough; being the best you can be is the only possible result. The “+” and “-” on my legs are my way of keeping strong, they hold my power. The IronMan logo in the colours of the French flag I had done after my first IronMan in my home country — it had to be engraved on my body!”

 

 

“Not all of my tattoos have a meaning. Some of them are for fun, because of my passion for tattoo art. But some of them are significant to me. I never thought I would tattoo my legs, because I didn’t like them. I always used to cover them with long dresses, leggings, jeans, everything in L or XXL. But since running, I slowly regained confidence in my body. The word ‘PRESENT’ was my first real running tattoo. I now like my legs, no body shaming anymore. I got faster, distances got longer. A kind of meditation, because running is so much a mental thing and it is so important to stay in the here and now. Running has made me stronger in so many ways, how I interact with people, remember to focus on the self and be ‘present’.”

 

“I got my first ever tattoo one year after founding “Run Pack” with friends Kathi and Flo. We all decided to get our logo — a “bear-dog” designed by a friend, Björn. For us it was a statement of how important our running family had become. I got the RUN! tattoos [see above] on my legs after completing my first marathon in Berlin. I wanted something that reminded me of that marathon achievement. That constantly pushes me when I look down. I designed them to be upside down so I can always read them while running; when having a tough time at 37km, or even while being lazy on the couch! They turned out to be a pretty bold statement. For bold adventures.”

 

I was touched by the meaning that running brought to the lives of our contributors. Some of their stories were funny, some were sad. Some up-lifting. All enlightening.

Every tattoo and story we featured in Issue #10 showed purpose; a reminder of life and why we are here. They demonstrate that runners quite literally wear their hearts on their sleeves (and shorts, and shoes, and everywhere else). Living, breathing examples of #WhyWeRun. Thank you to all who offered their stories. You are all totally rad.

Originally published in www.likethewindmagazine.com on September 30, 2016.

A long term admirer of this race series – I finally found a window to run my first Maverick Race. And it was awesome. The elite men’s AR team (loose term!) travelled down in the Brojan mobile to battle it out over the long course at the Maverick Kent.

Maverick hold their races in some stunning locations and the options are a Short (8km), Middle (15km) or Long (21km) route. We all put our name in the hat for the 21km option and the course was awesome. From the gun Team AR Trail Team took to the front and set the early running. Ben Rajan held onto the lead group for the longest, I personally slipping off the pace after a week in the Greek Islands supping Ouzo and eating too much Fava!

After an early climb and a dash through the woods, a couple of turnstiles split our group up and soon Ben was running strong in 5th, me in 6th and Brewdog in 7th. The temperature was perfect, the trails were technical – lots of roots, brambles, loose rocks etc – and the views across the countryside were amazing, what fantastic running! I tried to catch my breath and maintain form over the trails. Having run solo for 5 miles or so, I was soon joined by James who was running a very sensible and consistent race! We would run together for the remainder, taking it in turns to surge to try to bring in the lead group,

“We’re like Tollefson and Lainey at UTMB Brewdog! Let’s go get the leaders!” – me at about mile 9 (we didn’t quite catch them)

James and I worked hard for the second half of the race. So hard that James decided to take a tumble #trailrash. Kudos for the effort young padawan! Soon we smelt blood and up ahead we could see Ben weaving through the short and middle course runners. We chased him down and a mad dash for what we thought was 5-6 and 7 ensued. We actually came 6-7 and 8 after a dive and a bonk and a sprint finish. Super fun! Massive shout out to AR dark horse John O’Mahoney who deftly made his way through the pack early on and ran hard for the win!

Great fun for all the family at Maverick. The course was impeccable, the atmosphere great. Oh and STANCE and CIELE at the finish line! We’ll definitely be back, next up Berkshire. ✌🏼

Photo Credits: Maverick Races
What happened on the day: Maverick Kent Results

 

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SNABB OCH PLAT. THAT’S SWEDISH FOR FAST AND FLAT. I THINK. TIME FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT WITH A REVIEW OF THE SALMING ‘RACE 3’.

COLOUR: Navy/SafetyYellow
WEIGHT: 185g
DROP: 5mm (17mm-12mm)
EQUIVALENTS: Mizuno Ekiden 10 // Nike Zoom Streak LT3 // Saucony Type A6

I’ve been running in these for a while now and can safely say that iiiiiiii like them! The ‘Race 3’ are the lowest profile of the running shoe range from Swedish brand, Salming, after (progressively stacking) the Speed – Distance – Miles. Designed as a racing shoe, as the name probably gives away, the Race is super low-profile. Because I’m a nerd I’ve put some equivalents above for you. They are very similar to the Mizuno Ekiden (exactly the same in fact), the Zoom Streak LT3 (see previous review) and the Saucony Type A6 (a former favourite of mine, well the A4 was – I haven’t worn them for a couple of incarnations).

I ran these over a few distances and surfaces and would rate their performance as follows 🤓 :

5k road – 8/10 – fast and light, performed well on tarmac with no hotspots
10k road – 8/10 – as above and there was plenty of room
10k track – 7/10 – really fast shoe, maybe lacked a little traction
10m road – 7/10  – performed well again, but worked hard on the calves

One of the best things about these bad boys is the room in the forefoot. Salming are very much advocates of natural running and the shoe encourages toe-splay and forefoot landing. Other racing flats can sometimes taper toward the end, these don’t do that which is great as, really, the less scrunch the better innit. The shoe also has a fairly minimal upper, around the heel cup for example, but still enough material to make you feel secure – not like a New Balance RC5000 (paper thin), more like an adidas Takumi-Sen.

The downsides? Well… not many actually! The shoe maaaaybe doesn’t have quite as much ‘snap’ as some other racing flats. I think the Brooks T7 Racer (more on that classic coming soon), the Adios Boost and some early incarnations of the Zoom Streak (like the ZS3 – the racing shoe of choice for elite Nike marathoners – READ) all have more toe off. This might have something to do with the ‘Torsion Efficiency Unit’ which, whilst efficient, doesn’t offer as much rigidity as the adidas Torsion system for example. #runchat

In terms of sizing, I wear an 8 in an adidas/Nike/Saucony – universally across models. A size 8.5 in Brooks and down a half size in Mizuno 7.5. I’d plump for a half size smaller in the Salming than a ‘standard’ running shoe size or size up against Mizuno if you need a comparison. I went for 7.5 in the Race, normally taking an 8 in running shoes.

Overall the Race 3 is a very good racing flat. I don’t think I’d advise running it further than maybe half marathon as it is made for racing not mileage – unless you’ve got awesome form! But as a 5k shoe, 10k shoe 👌🏼. I can’t wait to try the Speed and actually the trail shoe range are definitely worth checking out also. For me this is a super solid alternative to your ‘trad’ racing flat brands, especially if you are looking for a hybrid minimalist / racing flat.

Check em out. They retail at EUR140. Bout £100.
SALMING RACE 3

Salming Race 3 Salming Running

 

 

 

This has been a while coming. My legs feel better now so I can write freely. Basically on July 2nd I ran the hardest race I have ever run. I thought Boston was the hardest run I was going to run this year (I know, I know no write up. Still dealing.) but this trumped it. And some.

The day before, was glorious. I mean 28 degrees, maybe more. St Gervais, the nearest town-town to the start line was resplendent. We were staying in a hotel by the town square. We went for a walk to the thermal springs. We found a swimming pool and hung out with Sébastien Chaigneau. Ate loads of baguette and drank Brasserie du Mont-Blanc beer. Delightful.

The next morning there were black clouds on the horizon. Literally. I awoke early enough to get the transfer bus to the start line, where the eager Brewdog was already waiting, twitchy legged for my arrival and the start of the ‘Moins Hard’ 38km mountain race. We’d travelled to Saint-Nicolas de Veroce with out erstwhile AR team-mates James, Claudia and Adrien who one hour earlier had embarked on the 60k race. One distance down from the frankly mental 107k.

That should put things into perspective, ‘wait you only ran 38km of the 107km?’. Weak. Yeh not really when the elevation profile looks like this:

So yeh 10,000ft of climbing. Was I ready, err nope. Me and James were standing on the start line, knees a knocking. Well mine anyhow. Suddenly a moment of realisation as thunder echoed around the valley, ‘Err James, I’m not sure this jacket is waterproof’… Then it pissed it down. Then (luckily) it stopped. And off we went. Poles are ILLEGAL for the first 5k of the race. Everyone used poles. 30 seconds in and the route swerved off the tarmac onto a narrow trail, that went up. Then up some more. We’d started.

And I was going quite well for the first 10k-ish. I went through the first aid station ‘they are all so young’ said a willing volunteer in French. ‘Merci’ j’ai replied and I cantered off. I’d drifted away from James at this point. I felt pretty good. Then I topped out of the second of 5 climbs. All OK other than getting TOTALLY drenched on the way up. Non-waterproof living up to my fears, but actually that was OK as it was pretty muggy and the going already hard.

Anywho, James had caught me up by the second aid station. He was taking the race at a measured pace, wise beyond his years this one. No silly billy (#sorrynotsorry). A mountain goat in the making. Anyway, I insisted he crack on without me as we started the third climb at about Mile 9. It was a complete sod of a hike up that. But, at various moments, beautiful. Even though much of the mountain range around us was clad in cloud and I ended up looking down anyway – it was fairly slippery and technical under foot – the scenery was still breathtaking. So was the incline… Anyway when that peaked out and we scurried across the scree of Le Prairion, that was my favourite part of the race. About 5 hours in by that point, I felt comme-ci comme-ca and it was beautiful along that plateau. Then we ran down and crossed the rope bridge at Bionnassay. Stunning.

Then it got a bit more difficult. I mean f’me the climb up Mt Vorassay was just a lung buster. I was still going and was on for finishing under 7 hours. However. What goes up, must come down. And the descent wrecked me. I mean wrecked me. My quads got trashed. When I got to the bottom and the last aid station, I was like – ‘YES RACE DONE’. Oh mais non mon petit… we still had to run 10k. And climb again. Over 1500ft in about 1.5 miles. That finished me. But then I gritted my teeth for the last hour and I finished it.

Actually throughout I was in pretty good spirits. I wasn’t there to race really. Just enjoy it and take with me as much of the bounty that the alps has on offer. I think I achieved that. James finished about 20 minutes ahead of me and in the top 30 on the day. Massive respect to him, oh and these are his photos:

What a bloody awesomely hard race. No more words. Just memories. Merci St Gervais. See you next year. Maybe for the 60k. 🙈.

Race site: La’Montagn’hard.
Official scores: Results.
My posse: AR Collective.

There’s a race review coming shortly. A review of the hardest race I’ve run so far. A mountain marathon in the Alps. My choice of shoe for that race was the adidas terrex agravic. They served me well. So I thought I’d tell you a bit about em.

In my last post (too long ago) I gave you some images of a trail weekend I spent with ar collective / ar adidas trail team. For that weekend we were fortunate enough to enjoy some fine weather and the trails were dry and gradual enough for me to get away with wearing the Nike Terra Kiger. But I got in trouble a couple of times. The grip let me down on snow. And they weren’t stable / tough enough on the downhills.

That weekend I went shopping for a shoe that I could wear for the Montagn’Hard weekend which I’d signed up for a few weeks earlier. And did I go shopping. I tried on La Sportiva, Scott, Salema, Salomon you name it and I’m still on S’s. I ended up plumping for the shoe that fit best, tapered like a road shoe and I thought offered the grip the TK was lacking.

The terrex agravic comes in at 310g (as noted on the tongue – nice touch) so is a little heavy, but man is it robust. Underfoot kicking rocks, a tough upper through scree, the extra weight is a worthy addition when you are descending in technical terrain. And man did the Moins’Hard mountain race have that. Get a grip. The continental sole did not let me down there either, in wet and stormy conditions the agravic held it’s own in the mud, on the pine needles, on loose rocks, over boulders, through mountain stream, over grassland meadow,  even wet tarmac – you name it, no problem.

It took me 7 hours of climbing 10,000+ feet over 38km to complete the race in these shoes and I did not have one problem throughout. My only gripe maybe was the dirt and wet that ended up in there, but to be fair the conditions I ran in were so loose and wet and the foot moved around and stretched the shoe so much that something was gonna get in. But I have to say, not enough to cause a problem. I didn’t blister. At all. Which for 7 hours in the wet is good going (props to Stance Socks here also). If I were going to wear the shoe in snow or through more water than I saw on the day then maybe I would plump for the more expensive Gore-Tex version which is newly available, but honestly not needed just yet!

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So props adidas. These shoes did the business. Additional colorways in mens which I think are also both pretty sexy:

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So I went away with AR Trail Team / AR Collective to #TrailCamp in Chamonix. I wanted to share some thoughts on the weekend and feature some of the images taken along the way on my iPhone. 

Here is some reaction:

  • Arriving at midday after a 4am wake up call, kitting up and then going straight for Vertical KM is hardcore
  • If the longest run you’ve ever been out on was previously 3.5h, then 7h a day will come as a shock 
  • Running at altitude is hard on the lungs but you adapt quickly
  • Running downhill along technical rocky trails is a quad-killer, be ready
  • Chamonix is breathtakingly stunning so take a camera
  • If you are French and vegan your mum will make you lots of trail treats
  • Be safe not sorry; we witnessed a mountain rescue and it scared me
  • Le Lavancher is a little bit like paradise
  • If you are going to sprint over a ski jump, don’t land head first in a hole on the other side 
  • It might rain, and if it does rain, it might rain a lot
  • If you are a sneaker freak like me then you will spend 5 hours trying on trail shoes
  • James and Claudia are legends and super talented runners
  • Spencer, Alan and Adrien are going to CRUSH their respective races during UTMB
  • Jon and Ben are actually the same person
  • Génépi is tasty
  • Fireball is not
  • Days 4 / Kilometres 86 / Ascent 5,000,000m (approximation)

Thanks to all. My legs are broken, but my trail heart is full. Whatever that means. I’ll be back for the Mont Blanc Marathon (10k) in June and for UTMB week in August. Who’s with me?

Peace. ✌

I was a fan of the Zoom Streak LT2. They were flat, fast, but offered a little cushion. Having said that, the upper was a little… slidey. And the heel counter a little… loose. When I started wearing them I blistered but then I wore them on track fairly regularly and that seemed to stop and they were great for yassos, reps and even some off track tempo stuff. But then I deaded them off by running too much mileage. So when I heard that Nike had reworked the LT, I had to check out a pair. Partly cos I’d killed my old ones. But also has they had made some changes (and I was in the US so could pick some up for $80!).

What’s the same?

  • Heel drop. 4mm (22m heel — 18mm forefoot). Low and fast.
  • Zoom Air and Cushlon LT midsole. Starts firm, softens up.
  • Weight. 150g. Lightweight materials mean that this shoe is barely there.

What’s Different?

  • The sole and firmness. Somehow the new waffle outsole and rubber add a firmness to the shoe.
  • The upper. Vastly different. Slightly roomier toebox but shallower. So a similarly tight fit but without the slip when you corner.

I have found this update to be a success but then some things aren’t so good. Until the shoe really breaks in, it’s pretty minimal for pavement running. Even more so probably than the LT2. Having said that the shoe really pops and if you’re used to a minimal shoe you’ll love that.

The shoe is well suited to track as the sole really grips hard and you get all the feels. It’s like the opposite of sloppy which is a real improvement from the LT2 and Streak 5 uppers which I found were just too loose. I can see myself wearing this shoe all the time this summer provided I am running efficiently. Hopefully it will carry me through a track season and can help me PB everything up to 10k.

Oh and of course, as is customary with Nike design, they look fly. Check out the limited edition ‘Penn Relays’ version!

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It was all going so well… then 55 minutes into my IAAF World Half Marathon debut in Cardiff, this happened.

We knew that Storm Katie was going to arrive at some point, a drizzly and breezy start to the day a precursor for what was to come. However, conditions were pretty good as we lined up next to Cardiff Castle, 16,000  PB hunters and fun runners alike.  The race underway (I managed to stay on my feet unlike eventual winner Geoffrey Kamworor)

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the course was actually a delight. Flat (apart from one ramp at the start of mile 12) with great support, a view of the sea along the barrage etc etc. However…

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Only 9 seconds behind schedule at the start of Mile 10 the storm landed and I started going backwards! My goal time for the race was 6 minutes per mile so as to PB in 1:18:39. At this point I was on for 1:18:48. Then the weather changed.

The last 4 miles of the race were into gale-force wind, blowing in from SW and torrential rain. I think if I was stronger (not whippet thin?!) and had something in reserve then I might have been able to battle those conditions. But into headwind and hail, through gritted teeth my splits suffered and as you can see from the above, I lost 1 minute 35 seconds… (the GPS was a bit off) in the last 4 and a bit miles, to finish in 1:20:23.

So I still PB’d (not by a lot) but this really felt hard! And it’s funny how when you are talking fine margins, external factors can really effect outcome. Something to keep in mind with times in mind for Boston!

 

In Brighton, on the beach, in the buff, the birthday suit, brass monkeys. Well almost. In running terms, what is better known as, not wearing a watch. 

In the week prior to the Brighton Half Marathon, I had a chat with friend Simon about the benefits of training and racing without a watch. Not being shackled by the constraints of time, finding out how fast I might really go? For how long I could comfortably maintain a level of discomfort without teetering over into the red? And so I thought I’d give going naked a go in Brighton, a liberal City that would surely welcome such shenanigans. 

And indeed there was something very liberating about 13 miles of nakedness. Of not being instructed as to how fast you are or aren’t running. Of panic as to how far you have, or have yet to, run. Instead I judged the race by effort, by how much I was exerting myself rather than 13 miles of fastidious clock watching. Low and behold, this new race plan was quite enjoyable! And I definitely took in more energy from the crowd than I have in other races as well as the sights. Of course some of the pitfalls of running for an extended period at threshold remain, i.e. the dreaded toilet break; had I not have encountered the need for relief I’m sure that a higher placing would have been obtained! 

Going into the World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff this weekend – a goal race for the year – I think I might revert to watch wearing. I don’t think I’ll follow it religiously, but I do think it will help given that a PB is very much the desired outcome of the race rather than for fitness, fun or frolic.

And I think this might be the case moving forward for me. If I’m racing I might wear a watch. If not, I’m definitely up for going naked more often. Who’s with me?

In Like the Wind Issue #8 (a fabulous read, you really should check it out!) Heidi Davies explores a similar idea. Of course her article, ‘The Power of Time’, is more considerately addressed and with a fair amount more craft and penmanship!

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Like The Wind Issue #8 is available online from their shop or from all good retailers!

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You can enter the 2017 Vitality Brighton Half Marathon on their website.

 

Ethiopia has won more olympic marathons than any other country with 6. Haile Gebrselassie achieved 27 world records spanning a 24 year career and first competed at international level aged 17. Ethiopia hasn’t lost a women’s olympic 5000m in 3 olympic games and seems on track for a 4th in Rio. Just some of the reasons why in Richard Nerurkar’s opinion, Ethiopia is the greatest running nation in the sport’s history.

Last week I went to an event celebrating Ethiopia and it’s tradition of running and community. Richard hosted a great evening and presented in his own words the secrets of the nation’s success, from Bekoji ‘The Town of Runners’ to the hills surrounding Addis Ababa, followed by a discussion with Owen Barder and Liz Egan.

Richard’s 12 Secret’s of Running (why Ethiopia is so good)
‘DREAM’
D – Desire; in 2015, 15 of the 51 runners that finished a marathon quicker than 2h08 were Ethiopian
R – Role Models; all role models in Ethiopia are runners
E – Eating; highly nutritious foods (see below for more info!)
A – Altitude; major factor in conditioning of East African runners
M – Masses; 6am-8am every morning there will be many athletes out training

‘GETREAL’
Group / Early Morning / Tune In / Routes / Elevation / Accelerate / Lifestyle
These are fairly self explanatory, but basically 80% of routes are off road, at elevation, people train early and in groups, train hard but then eat well and rest!

Richard expanded upon the benefits of training in Ethiopia and why top runners are finding themselves in Addis; including the likes of Mo Farah and other GB athletes who at the advice of Barry Fudge – Head of Sports Science at UK Athletics – go to benefit from the training conditions.

Development economist and running author Owen Barder then offered both an holistic view of Ethiopian culture and, on a more granular level, why people run and ultimately how sociological factors facilitate running and community.

Owen’s view of Ethiopian running is base around three ‘Cs’: Climate, Countryside and Company. To expand, Ethiopian conditions are optimal for training. The country offers varied running territory, it’s fertile, green, mountainous (40% of mountains in Africa are found in Ethiopia), there are forests, trails and tarmac. But mostly, Ethiopia is a running society; it’s safe, it’s people love running and training together, and this creates both camaraderie and success.

He talked of how Ethiopia has changed since his arrival in 1982; during which period, the country was under marxist dictatorship, in civil war and experiencing severe drought which would, later, lead to famine. The major difference and the reason Ethiopia is fairing better now, is seen in government. It has become effective, accountable to it’s people and encourages prosperity. Admittedly this reform has been slow in reaching more remote areas which remain impoverished, but there is societal change taking place which is already visible in cities, now home to a thriving middle class. And so Ethiopian people now run for one of two reasons – for health or to become a champion.

Liz Egan, writer of book ‘Notes from Higher Grounds,’ explored in depth the physiological benefits of training in Ethiopia. The bodies natural response to training at elevation – where there is less oxygen – is the natural release of the hormone EPO which in turn stimulates red blood cell production, allowing more oxygen to be carried. When returning to sea level, performance benefits are noticeable.

As a result, a vast majority of athletes now train at altitude as the effects can last for anywhere between 2 and 3 weeks, helping to optimise race performance. Because of this known training benefit, there is often a running culture which has emerged and can now be found around the world, in places like Boulder in Colorade, Iten in Kenya and, of course, in Ethiopia.

Additional notes on nutrition!
I completed my Ethiopian week with a trip to the Queen of Sheba restaurant in Kentish Town. Being vegan I opted for the vegetarian platter to fuel my Sunday long run. We were presented with a delicious array of pulses, salads, vegetables and of course the Ethiopian staple Injira – a sourdough risen flatbread with a unique, slightly spongy texture. Yum!

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LINKS
Run Fast Tours coordinate a tour of Addis Ababa and entry into the Great Ethiopian Run managed by Richard Nerurkar, Haile Gebreselassie and Peter Middlebrook in which 40,000 runners participate in a 10k race in the country’s capital.

Owen Barder is Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the LSE. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Website: http://www.owen.org/

Liz Egan is an Irish middle-distance runner with a passion for travelling, writing, and helping athletes maximise their potential.  In March 2010, Elizabeth set about combining her passions with the purpose of writing an altitude training travel guide for distance runners. Her resultant book, ‘Notes from higher grounds: an altitude training guide for athletes‘ was published in December 2013. Website: http://www.altitudetrainingcamps.com/ 

 

Why do we do it? The winter wet, heartbreak hills, muddied morass?

Runners gather in club colours, young and old, brimming with trepidation, stretching twitchy hamstrings. On a day that started with monochrome skies, wind and hail, the sun seems desperate to break through and help brighten this cold corner of the Heath. A croaky announcer updates us as to who is out on the course, which runners have dropped, who is pushing; mums and dads kept in the loop whilst temple greying coaches in long jackets check stopwatches and tot up scores.

I fully expected a black and white montage of toil and no man’s land trudgery. But after stationing myself between start-line, finish-line and race area – in the trenches rather than out on the battlefield – the whole thing becomes apparently clear and colourful. 

U15 and U17 girls and boys races are a highlight. In cross country, as with most running events, there are individual prizes for placing first, second and third. But there are also team prizes; with four of each troop scoring according to finishing position i.e. runner four as important as runner one when it comes to the final result, the lowest collective score winning. Perhaps we become focussed more on individual performance as we age. Perhaps these youngsters, still finding their footing in life, identify more with the success of the group rather than focussing on the unknown of what they might or might not be able to achieve solo. 

I listened to runners young and old at the end of their race. Some bemoaned the conditions – the hills, the wet, the cold! But others laughed at tumbles taken, congratulated, consoled. When a young runner came over the line wearing more of the course than kit, not just her team-mates but five or six others gathered around, asked how she was and praised her for recovering and finishing. Then it clicked. 

We run cross country because of pride. Because of teamwork. Because of failure. Because of triumph. When watching the start line stampede, the muddied canter for home, the nervous wait at the finish, you realise that stories are being written. And then a rainy Saturday morning in the mud becomes something a whole lot more enlightening. 

Results from the Southern Cross Country Championship 2016 can be found here.
Photos and words by Alex van Oostrum.

An evening of Japanese running presented by British Paralympian, Noel Thatcher MBE and author of ‘The Way of the Runner’, Adharanand Finn.

Summer 2020, the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Hundreds of thousands of fans line the roadside of the marathon route in anticipation. And then they come, one by one around the corner into the the last 400 metres. It’s the closest finish in the history of the olympic marathon, two Kenyans, an Ethiopian and a Ugandan trail them; Kiyohito Akiyama and Yuji Onoda lead the race… could this be the first Japanese men’s gold since Berlin and Sohn kee-chung in 1936?

Noel Thatcher
‘There exists an enriched love for the sport of running in Japan.’
On Wednesday evening, five time Paralympic gold medalist Noel Thatcher, gave us an animated introduction to running in Japan. Noel has lived and trained in Japan for 20+ years and is an avid follower of Ekiden running and Japanese athletics. He spoke of the incredible depth of talent today, taking us on a journey from high schooler, university runner to professional athlete. It was fascinating hearing Noel talk through the rich history of the sport before introducing the concept of Ekiden and specifically the history of the Tokyo-Hakone university race. The Hakone Ekiden is the biggest race of the Japanese running calendar and not just amongst runners. The television stats for 2nd/3rd January, the traditional date of the race since 1917, was 28.2%; the highest audience for any programme aired that weekend.

92nd Tokyo-Hakone Round-Trip College Ekiden Race
As a brief overview, the ~200km relay race from Tokyo-Hakone-Tokyo is run over two days (day one out / day two back) by twenty university relay teams; each student running one stage (between 18km-24km) of the planned ten. As an example of the aforementioned strength in depth of talent, in the preliminary race to the Hakone Ekiden, 90 runners ran under 62:30 for 20km in an attempt to help there team qualify. Here are the highlights and results from this years Hakone Ekiden.

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Adharanand Finn
‘There are an estimated 1,500 professional runners in Japan as opposed to a handful in the UK. In Japan… there is a career path for a runner.’
Following Noel’s introduction author Dhar Finn presented his own fascinating insight into living and running in Japan. He offered his own findings as to how a runner in Japan not only benefits from the existing heritage and infrastructure, but also the corporate sponsorship in place for an athlete to make a living. Dhar talked of how the Japanese had crucially turned running from an individual pursuit into a team sport through Ekiden and how this was an important factor in the popularity of running in Japan.  There is no doubt that this has encouraged youngsters to take the sport up early, live and breathe it’s values, train to be the best and reap the rewards.

He also explored training methods and how there is a real tussle between the regimented schedules imposed by coaches basing their methods on previous successes, versus the introduction of a new approach based on reduced training and enjoyment as promoted by younger coaches which, whilst becoming more and more popular, is also reaping reward.

Way of the RunnerYou have to read Adharanand’s story. Not just because of his insight into Ekiden and the corporate world of running, but also for the anecdotal humour found throughout. From his family’s adjustment to life in Japan to running monks and 1000 marathons in 1000 days!
‘The Way of the Runner’ is available now, published by Faber & Faber, at all good bookstores / Wordery / Amazon etc…!

 

Summary
Fast forward again to Tokyo 2020. We can now see how there is a real possibility that a Japanese man might be able to gate crash the East African dominance of the road marathon. There remains an incredible passion for the sport in Japan and more significantly an acceptance of new attitudes and training methods. By combining a rich running heritage with new coaching ideas, Japan might just find the formula to compete on the world stage.

Thank you to Run Fast and Running Works for putting on a terrific evening!
Artwork by Fergus McHugh.

Last year I was fortunate enough to be invited to join the ‘AR Trail Team’ created by AR Endurance Sports founders James Poole and Claudia Schroegel. The team range in ability level, from beginner to experienced ultra runner, and is dedicated to ensuring that women are represented as actively as men in the sport of endurance running. This year we will be training and racing as a collective in trail races over distances of 10k-Ultra Marathon.

The team will be present at the following events throughout the year as well as competing individually in races organised by Centurion Running, UTMB, UTSN and more! We will also travel to Chamonix for training camps in April and May. Wherever we are, we like to think we are a friendly bunch, if you spot neon come and say hi!

The team are fortunate enough to be supported by adidas UK and Stance Socks amongst others and thank these sponsors for their continued support.

 

‘Unleash your inner freak!’ I’m not sure what that means really VIVO. Is being a freak a good thing or are you playing more on the shoe being ‘freakishly good?’ Cos it is! 

Having recently joined the AR Trail Team I needed to shop for some new footwear for off-road racing (obvs). For a long while I’d been running in racing flats and spikes for cross country and totally buy the less is more theory when it comes to minimalist footwear. But I needed something specific for upcoming Trailscape and Maverick trail races. One of the main criteria I had for a trail shoe was going to be heel-toe drop and stack height. Having explored options from several brands, a team mate Adrien put me onto VIVOBAREFOOT and I was sold! 

VIVO are advocates of minimalist, barefoot, natural movement and their shoe design and construction reflect this philosophy. The Trail Freak are no exception, they are ‘zero drop’ but do stack at 7mm with 4.5mm of lug. When you run in the shoe you can tell that it is totally flat and you will have to accustom your body to this if you don’t normally run in minimalist footwear. In the TF the sole, although flat and flexible, because of the lugs doesn’t feel ultra thin like the road range and somehow more manageable when on softer terrain.

I needed a shoe that would be able to handle multiple conditions, woodland, mud, water, paved sections etc. The TF ticks several of these boxes. The first win is that the lugs on the VIVO are multi-directional meaning you get traction going uphill and on descent. Second, the sole is deep enough to offer excellent traction on both hard packed and soft muddy trails, but not extreme enough to be problematic on occasional paved sections or tarmac (although I’d advise against running roads for too long as when wet they don’t grip pavement too well!). Two thumbs up for multiterrainality (yeh I made that word up but you get it!).

The upper offers a sumptuous sock like fit. It’s lightweight, breathable, has wicking properties, a wide toe box and just fits like a glove. The lacing system (the first toggle style I’ve used) is great, it secures the shoe well and doesn’t shift in tension, any slack in the laces simply tucks away. 

I’ve run approaching 100 miles in the shoe and it’s dealt with all conditions thrown at it. I am still training my body up to full strength after the festive period so am reticent about taking the shoe over half marathon distance, but I am sure it would cope as soon as my body can! 

For runners with good form, looking for a super responsive shoe offering excellent ground feedback, encouraging natural movement and speed, this could be the shoe for you. Oh and for the vegans amongst you, the shoe states eco-credentials as it is constructed 100% with vegan materials! 

The Trail Freak retails at £90 and you can find out more here.

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All image and copy rights VIVOBAREFOOT.

I’ve been running recently. And a lot of my time has been spent running in Stance Socks. Not heard of Stance? You have now. They are soon to launch in stores in the UK. Having been lucky enough to get my hands on a couple pairs, I’ve done the hard miles in them for you and this a review as to why, when they do hit the shelves, you should go check em out.

OK so let’s start with the tech. Here is some jargon broken down for you and then a nice pic of where this technology features and what it looks like:

  • ‘Superior wicking’ – they stay dry when your sweaty feet sweat (yummy).
  • ‘Thermo regulated anatomical venting’ – they are knitted to provide ventilation where your feet need it.
  • ‘Maximum durability reinforced’ – more fabric at the locations which wear down (toe and heel); important note here these areas aren’t bulked up massively, they are just constructed differently to take wear and tear.
  • ‘Air channel cushioning’ – cushioned but ventilated underneaths.
  • ‘Anatomically correct footbeds’ – basically the sock is constructed differently for men and women, somehow, to fit the shape of your foot properly.

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 11.53.09A quick word on a technical feature not mentioned above – ‘gradual compression’. Basically the theory with compression wear is that bloodflow is increased via the tightness pushing deoxygenated blood away from the injured or recovering areas. The compression being gradual as it is tighter at the ankle than at the calf. ‘Medical grade’ compression is basically when an item is really tight and in my experience several brands produce this compression wear as a form of post-run recovery and I personally wouldn’t run in it. The compression in Stance socks is notably less than medical grade yet graduated compression nonetheless. What you end up with is something that fits, supports and feels amazing. They come in three lengths; ‘TAB’ (no-show), ‘CREW’ (ankle) and ‘OTC’ (full calf), the compression works a treat in the latter two models, with just the right amount of support, I personally love the feel of the ‘crew’ shape…

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Quick word on colour ways, 5 for men, 5 for gals. Stance’s line is that the men’s and women’s versions are made differently to fit the difference in anatomical foot shape. But I reckon you could probably slip on a women’s or men’s colour way depending on what takes your fancy and get away with it! The design suit the brands creative ethic, I won’t go into this as ultimately I’m not so fussed about the history  or who’s wearing em, I wanted to tell you about how they feel, but visit the website anyway to know who’s taking the same Stance (get it) as you when it comes to sockwear.

And there you have it, I’ve run multiple miles in Stance now and shall continue to do so. I think they get the balance just right between designing a product which is lightweight and race ready, with additional features such as compression, a little padding at the toe and heel and engineered arch support. They really do fit the contours of the feet wonderfully and they are super comfortable whilst retaining running sock specific technology. They feel and look premium basically whilst not coming with the lofty price tag of ‘compression’ wear. If you’re in the market, Stance will be dropping at a local retailer soon, you gotta check em out!

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to a run organised by Like The Wind Magazine around East London. ‘It’ll be different,’ they said, ‘it’s not just about the running,’ they said. Well having attended events by the guys before I was gonna go anyway, cos they are always fantastic, but they sold it as follows!

Co-sponsored by new apparel brand Stance Socks we were offered to don free samples before we headed out. I gladly obliged and have since run a number of miles in Stance – more on that in a full review (in edit). Our run leader for the day was going to be Alternative LDN and we would get a guided tour of Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Bethnal Green to learn about the areas and mostly to get an insight into the street art adorning wall and pavement. In!

Please see pics below; go explore more of the artists work!

As you can see all of these examples are ‘street art’ and not ‘graffiti’. Graffiti sometimes comes with negative connotations which isn’t really fair. Basically the difference: graffiti is initials or a name (or a ’tag’) rather than an image. These works irrespective, as I’m sure you’ll agree, very much resemble art more so than any sort of vandalism. We got to learn about the artists, what they were seeking to explore culturally with their works and also a little bit about our own backyard. 

It was a great morning and a really engaging way to see the city. Thanks to Gary for your hard work – I appreciate you hadn’t run in years, you did a great job! If you have a spare morning I would definitely recommend going to see the Alt LDN guys and get a tour, whether you wanna run or walk it! Here’s a promotional vid… 

Watch this space for my stance on Stance.
Coming soon. 

This weekend I drove (was driven) out to Oxfordshire to support some of the guys from the AR Adidas Trail Team in the Centurion Running Autumn 100. This was a point to point 100 mile race and we had 4 of the guys from the team out trying to complete the distance. 

It was the first time I would see runners go past the marathon distance and it was a real eye opener! Make no bones about it, one hundred miles on foot is no small undertaking. The guys had to think about running/surviving (obviously) for 17-22 hours, how they’d fare through tiredness, how they’d fuel during troughs in energy and how’d they’d light their way during the night legs. 

After watching our runners, encouraging them, making sure they had what they needed at crew stations, I can say that they are total heroes all. Not once did I hear a complaint, witness a grimace or a grumble. They really sold the idea of taking on something like this myself, although the mental fortitude and physical preparation required will need some planning. I’ll be starting with 50 miles at the North Downs Way next year, let’s see how that goes first maybe!

I hope the photos from the day give some sort of flavour as to what the guys had to experience, although really the nitty-gritty of what running an ultra really involves is missing – the packing, the nutrition, the blisters, the concentration, the determination! 

Well done Team AR!!

The Mile. A legendary distance. Roger Bannister broke the fabled 4 minute mile barrier in 1956 and runners have been pitting their wits against 1609 meters ever since. The race maybe lost it’s mojo as a competitive discipline until interest was reignited in the 80’s (god bless the 80’s) when Seb Coe (1979) and Steve Ovett switched world records 5 times over a two year period. Following tradition, Brit Steve Cram then took Coe’s record in 1985 with a time of 3:46. That stood until Noureddine Morceli of Algeria in 1993 and, finally, the great Hicham El Guerrouj in 1999 broke the record which now stands at 3:43.13. Rapido.

Fast forward 15 years and that still stands which makes it one of the longest standing world records for athletics. In recent years there has been a revival in interest with several road races emerging as mass participation events. One such recent addition to the amateur calendar is the City of London Mile organised by Run Fast. I thought I’d try and give Cram and Co(e) a run for their money. (Ironically the race was free to enter… another good reason to run it). The Bearded Runner vs The Mile.

Running 1760 yards as fast as you can is a tricky business. Do you go all out and hold on for dear life? Do you go out steady then try and ramp it up? Do you go for even 400m splits leaving a little gas in the tank for the dip and tape-break? Well this being my first mile race I wasn’t really sure what to expect so I ran with buddies from Advent Running and Run Dem Crew for guidance. James of AR and I started in the same wave (the first of ten – not quite sure how tbf!). Discussing tactics, we plumped for the latter, going for 400m intervals of 75 seconds or faster…

Basically it panned out like this. We lined up a little off the front of a group of about 40. We could see it was tight fitting us all in across the start line. Low and behold, pandemonium! The gun sounded, elbows were flying and 2 or 3 guys hit the deck meaning we had to slow / navigate / hurdle to avoid them. That completely threw me. We ended up running fairly conservatively (read safely – it was also wet). Perhaps the ignominy of also hitting the deck a deterrent. Realising there were only 400/500m left I could sense we were going to miss the sub5 by some way before deciding to try and give it as much as I could. What perhaps I should have done was run pretty much on the rivet, 9/10, pushing into the red for as long as possible then trying to sprint the last 200m. On the day I ran cautiously, also maybe because of jet lag and a niggling hip problem (#excusesexcuses), to a 5:12.36. The winner of our wave coming in at 4:29. Not a major fail, but lessons learnt! I can’t wait to run the distance again though as it was pretty exhilarating stuff and very different to the longer races I am used to.

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The event was a huge success. The race results can be found here. The Elite men caned it. The top 10 all ran sub 4:10, winner Julian ‘Quads of Steel’ Matthews of NZ (above) in 4:04. The ladies were no slouches either. Alison ‘The Leopard’ Leonard took the glory in 4:40 just pipping Jemma ‘So Close’ Simpson. The day wasn’t just for keenos however. The kiddies and parents race almost got the tears flowing! Photos of the day here. Well done Run Fast for putting on a fantastic event, see you next year. :))

It was hot on Sunday. There were cobbles. There were bridges. Bridges = ramps = elevation (400ft to be precise). But all of these things are excuses really… Although the build up had been pretty good, I’ll be completely honest, I wasn’t entirely prepared mentally for Copenhagen Marathon. This reinforced to me how important it is to prepare psychologically to run 26.2 miles. This is where I maybe came unstuck…

The goal was to run 2:50. There were signs in training that this was a possibility… New personal bests over Half Marathon,10k, 5k and Mile distances showed that it was theoretically possible to drop 7 minutes from the time I ran in Berlin (2:57). But then, I had skipped a few long runs over the course of the 16 week programme and hadn’t trained that much at the required minute mile pace on as many runs as I should have. This probably also counted on the day, I could feel it noticeably in the legs when the mileage went over 2 hours. But what actually happened?

Well, I ran 1:25 through halfway which was bang on target. Then I probably got dehydrated. Actually scrap that, I definitely got dehydrated. It was 20C+ in the sun. I hadn’t slept enough or hydrated enough in the few days prior either. So whilst running 13 miles at goal pace was possible, I faded in the latter half of the race when loss of electrolytes lead to cramping. As evidenced by the splits below… ouch!

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There was one point in the race that stands out. Around mile 17 there was a ramp over a motorway and I caught myself thinking, maybe I should just walk up this? I didn’t, but I remember my heart rate soaring afterward. Then after a false flat not far around the corner I came to a water station and did end up walking. Probably for a good 30 seconds. This in turn gave my brain opportunity to listen to my body and it probably worked out that something was up and it wasn’t enjoying itself! I started getting cramps in my calves after that. To the point where they were just knotting up entirely and I was having to stop. This happened several times. Although I could still muster a 7:30ish pace through the last 4/5 miles I was struggling and I knew it. And soon 2:50 turned into 2:52, into 2:54, into 2:58, into get under 3:00! Mentally, I think I probably could have gritted it out a bit harder. I definitely gave into that feeling of ‘I’m starting to wish this was over’ rather than ‘I can boss this out for another 30 minutes’… And this is what I mean by needing that mental rigour to say, ‘You know what, just dig deep. There’s not long left. Give it everything.’

The notorious NBRO cheer station was much needed relief from running long stretches with very few people in front of me to run at / after. These guys were amazing and it gave me added incentive to dig deep between miles 22 and 25, to make sure that I got to that finish line and crossed it in a way that would make them proud, as if they were waiting for me at the end as well as mile 21.

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Speaking of support – quick mention to the Copenhagen crowd and particularly a lovely lovely lady waiting with a pushchair who having spotted me cramping, beckoned me over and fished me a gel out of her handbag! This was a lifesaver as I’d ended up using all of mine sooner than I thought I’d need them. I only hope this hadn’t been for her husband who’d ended up without! At the end of the race I did the typical fall to the knees, potential medical attention required, jump up and go ‘no no I’m ok’, think about crying etc. Then I saw my buddy Hugo who’d completed his first marathon in 3:02! Yes Hugo!

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Then my other friends started coming through one by one. And in the end I realised that we’d all had to tough it out that day and actually some of the performances were amazing given they were first marathons / conditions were hard / we’d all dug in.

Warwick, Danny, Steve, Wyatt, Rich, Jason, Andrew, Dougie, Manni, Alex, Liz, Charlotte, Melany, Cynthia, Jess, David, Will, Alex, Clare… EVERYBODY (sorry if I’ve missed anybody out)! Massive congratulations, I am super proud of you all, hence the smiles after what was a pretty hard day at the races for me. This is what running with my crew, with NBRO, with Bridge The Gap is all about. Looking out for each other, supporting one another and celebrating together. And that’s what transformed the Copenhagen Marathon from the toughest race ever into one of the most rewarding. Bring on the next!

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‘We took everything we learned from our GOCap and re-engineered it into a race ready package we’re calling the FASTCap. Sleek, low profile, fast. More COOLwick mesh for optimum breathability and performance on the day you really need it. Pop the brim and run.’

FAST-BOMB-SPRING-HEADERColours – Orangeade, Sanford, Chaka, Whitaker

  • Lightweight, fast drying performance ready COOLwick mini mesh
  • UPF +40 protection on the brim and front panel
  • Pliable brim for easy packability
  • Reflective detailing on the front and back for night run visibility
  • Ciele Athletics Million Miles Guarantee
  • New Fast Fit. 56.5cm in diameter and a lower crown
  • Weight 54 grams

I love this hat. I mean, I loved the original GOCap too which I have in both ‘Chaka’ and ‘Jasper’ colours, so I couldn’t wait to try this shallower lightweight model. The main differences between this and the GO are really construction and fit. It’s like a cross between a running hat and a bike cap. For me personally, that works. As a result of the lower crown I found you gotta tighten it up more than the GO which you can let perch a little more… but that’s sort of the point. Designed to sit higher on ya brow it’s a little less steezy and a little more wheezy. So strap in and run FAST.

You know what it ain’t just this hat, I love Ciele. They get that running product is not just about brand it’s about lifestyle. They explain features in simplistic terms rather than bombarding you with jargon. Eg UPF40? ‘So you don’t burn’. Got it. They get that running is a lifestyle. They document via social who wears their hats, what races they are competing in and why their choice of headwear is Ciele. They keep a journal, they keep in touch, they listen to feedback. Oh and if you ain’t satisfied they will repair, replace or refund because they recognise that if you offer your custom they should offer something in return. They want your purchase to last, be your go to. And if (for some reason) you don’t find yourself using it anymore ‘reinvent it, donate it, trade it or recycle’. Oh oh oh and I already mentioned their use of social is on fleek well, guess what, for music lovers they’ll also put a mix together for you! Like this – POW.

The catch? Our buddies at Ciele are in Montreal so you gotta pay a freight charge of $10 bringing the price of a FASTCap to $55. You’re looking at £30something after airmail. I think it’s worth it. But up to you reader! You wanna go get a nondescript keep the sun off my scalp sweatshop special then that’s your prerogative. Or you could support independent business, get your playlist sorted, have your hat guaranteed for a million miles and join a super cool global network of runners. Oh yeh and your garms will absolutely be on point. So go get your FASTCap and we’ll see you on the road!  

#cieleathletics
#everybodyrun
www.cieleathletics.com

farah 1

I own a number of pairs of running shoes. Like 20 pairs maybe at last count? And it’s not even like I’m a hoarder. I’ve thrown em away if they’ve gone dead and given em away if they haven’t fit me properly (you know that thing when you’re in the shop and the sales guy is like ‘hey man take em for a ride, we got a treadmill or you can run outside…’ and you’re like ‘naaa I’ll just take em’). I think I’ve maybe purchased 50 pairs of running shoes in the last 4 years. I read about running shoes a lot. An awful lot. I look at data cos I’m a nerd. I’m genuinely interested in minimalism vs maximalism when it comes to shoe construction and stack height. I want to know what the heel-toe drop is in shoes I think I am going to buy, dang even shoes I ain’t gonna buy. I once went on nike.com and had a 45 minute discussion with Carlos on the online chat. Wow. But I am starting to have an epiphany. What if it doesn’t matter what shoe you wear? So long as they fit (as in you can stick your foot in them and they don’t fall off or cut off the circulation after 10 miles) then does it make any difference what’s on your feet? Like, really? I mean some people enjoy running barefoot. Some people strap on HOKA’s shoes and they look like blocks of polystyrene. Is there really a best case scenario when it comes to footwear? Or are there more important factors at play when it comes to running, efficiency and injury prevention?

Let me just quickly elaborate on this point by taking a cross section of the worlds best runners. The Tarahumara people of Northern Mexico, made famous by Chris McDougall’s book ‘Born to Run,’ are renowned for their ability to run long distances. They are currently sporting make shift sandals made out of rawhide or car tires. Aspiring marathon runners in Kenya, training with the elite of road and track, often do not have enough money to purchase the next pair of ‘top of the line’ running shoes whilst also trying to feed a family. As a result, they often train in hand me downs or charity donated shoes. Lastly, pro Ultra marathon runners competing around the world in distances of 50k and more. Some of these leading lights are running in said maximally cushioned HOKA shoes – take for example Sage Canaday, I mean he is Getting. It. Done!

What do all of these athletes have in common when it comes to footwear? Nothing. So what other discerning characteristics do they possess other than they all are naturally or nurturally (i made that word up I think) super talented? Well, since we are taking shoes out of the equation, there are pretty much three physiological factors that are important when it comes to performance – VO2 max, lactate threshold and running economy or efficiency. The first two of these factors are to do with aerobic / biological capability and can be sustained or increased through effort (albeit there is an argument that you either have it or you don’t, i.e. ‘the genes’). However when it comes to economy this is very much something which has to be learnt, altered, engineered, tweaked. We are talking about the mechanics of movement, efficiency of form and hence effort exerted and energy used. Our Tarahumara, Kenyan and Ultra running friends all undeniably run with supreme efficiency and therefore economy; ergo are able to run faster, for longer and often avoiding injury resulting from poor biomechanics. 

But how do you run with biomechanical economy and what is good form? Efficient running comes not just from how you use your legs but rather your whole body to achieve control, stability, equilibrium. If we look at elite athletes they move gracefully, each step mimicking the last, seamlessly harnessing speed and effort without strain. An education in balance, pose and drive. Importantly, the whole body achieves this forward motion. Hips, core, arms, abdominals, obliques, deltoids. They achieve leg drive whilst keeping the chest high, the head up, the upper body relaxed tall and upright, hips level, a slight lean forward without hunching over. Think of it like this, the legs (muscles, joints, ligaments etc) support the body’s weight. If the body becomes tired and/or imbalanced, the stress on the legs becomes greater due to the need to ‘right’ these imbalances to allow us to continue moving forward. This inevitably will lead to injury. Imbalanced hips, too much lean, rolling shoulders, over striding are often the root cause of mobility injuries in the lower body – ITB (thigh), PFPS (knees), MTSS (shins). Our legs, feet, joints are designed to support forward motion indefinitely but only when the rest of the body is strong enough to follow.

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The advice I often give to friends and family new to running is to run from your middle, your core. Think of yourself as a puppet, held up with strings attached not just to the legs but to the head, shoulders, hips. Keep upright, look ahead, lean slightly and all of a sudden you are running with gravity and natural propulsion, not relying on your legs to carry you forward. This is proper form. To maintain this it is important to stay strong through your core, through your hips. This has to be trained. Below is an example of a workout that my buddy Mikey sent me (just click the image to go to the video). It’s only 15 minutes long, so easily incorporated into your day, but the benefits will be long lasting. When I first got hold of this video I found the exercises pretty hard going. Similarly the number of experienced runners I’ve sent this to and received back the response ‘it’s a killer!’ or ‘intense!’ sort of surprised me. This work out focusses on all of the muscle groups that I have highlighted as imperative to maintaining form and thus running economy. So either the work out is too strenuous or rather runners (me included) too often neglect the work that needs to be put in to maintain core strength and good posture.

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Of course there are a number of factors which contribute to staying healthy when running. But to all runners, new and experienced, I can’t begin to stress enough the importance of form and training the body (the WHOLE body) before you start thinking about lacing up for a marathon. I’m becoming increasingly unsure as to whether gait, heel stack, structure is really all that important. What is imperative is knowing whether your body is strong enough to support itself. Do you slouch, can you drive with your arms, can you stay upright for a long period of time? Most importantly can you maintain good posture during a sustained period of effort? Because if you can’t it doesn’t matter what you are shod in, your hips, knees and ankles are going to have to start doing the extra support work when you start leaning, toppling, reaching, bending incorrectly. My new view? Let’s start teaching FORM first then FIT. A shoe is never going to change your form or enable you to run efficiently. It will just lessen the damage of running incorrectly. It takes hard work not good shoe advice to achieve performance! Go preach!

N.b. I am neither scientist nor physiologist. Just a runner with experience and a view which I wanted to share. I hope it helps! All comments, questions and (of course) compliments, as always, warmly welcomed! 

I love running. But we need to talk about doping.

Above you saw a brief video of my friend Wesley Korir having a chat with Al Jazeera TV. I love Wes and I love what he is saying here. Basically we want to outlaw it. Anyone who is caught should go to jail. That Kenya needs to protect it’s reputation by staying clean. But how do you catch the perpetrators? How many are out there? And if drugs are easily available over the counter, how many runners aren’t as concerned as our buddy Boaz Kiplagat as to the ethical dilemma and are willing to take this ‘shortcut’? This video raises as many questions as it answers… let’s maybe see if we can get to the bottom of some of them.

The president of the IAAF, Lamine Diack, in this interview with the BBC, states that he is “convinced that the majority of our athletes are clean”. He says he is shocked at the claim by former Russian discus thrower Yevgeniya Pecherina in a recent documentary made for German broadcaster ‘Das Erste’ that “most, the majority, 99%” of Russian athletes use banned substances. That he is absolutely sure that the ‘majority’ of athletes are clean. But he then goes on to speak of organised cheating, which he doesn’t refute exists. And when pushed on this he makes a worrying statement; “our athletes are 90%-95% clean”. So is this a contradiction? Or are we quibbling over 4%-9% of competitors? And is this important?

What if 1 of 10 athletes on the start line are using a performance enhancing drug? In a sport where minutes, seconds, milliseconds can mean the difference between being on the podium… or not. Between a sponsorship deal… or not. Between making an Olympic, World Championship or National team… or not. Let’s look at some facts Monsieur Diack. Below are the rules. The rules readily accessible on the IAAF website. There are 10 of them. All are written over the course of two pages of the IAAF Anti-Doping & Medical code.

Rule 32

2) The following constitute anti-doping rule violations: 

(a) Presence of a Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers in an Athlete’s Sample
(b) Use or Attempted Use by an Athlete of a Prohibited Substance or a Prohibited Method
(c) Evading, Refusing or Failing to Submit to Sample Collection
(d) Whereabouts Failures
(e) Tampering or Attempted Tampering with any part of Doping Control
(f) Possession of a Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method
(g) Trafficking or Attempted Trafficking in any Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method
(h) Administration or Attempted Administration of a Prohibited Substance or a Prohibited Method
(i) Complicity
(j) Prohibited Association

This is an overview, but they are pretty clear. As is the list explaining what a prohibited substance might be. Fairly self explanatory. So if the list of rules is two pages long, how long is the list of athletes currently suspended from all competitions following an anti-doping violation (as of January 2015)? 26 pages. We’re talking over 300 athletes. And these are just those who have been caught. I don’t know what percentage this constitutes, but clearly athletics is facing a crisis. The reason it bothers me, the reason we should care, is because doping is becoming endemic and the very fabric of the sport is in question here, it’s ideologies. In the same way that cycling has had to weather a storm of irreversible reputational damage as a result of doping, athletics is now encountering the same.

I now question performances of athletes, many of whom I look up to and inspire my own running.

April 2014, the Boston Marathon. I was wowed by Meb Keflezighi’s winning performance. In the same race, Rita Jeptoo (the subject of the above video) broke the course record ahead of Buzunesh Deba (who also came in under the course record) in 2:18:57. She then went on to win Chicago in the same year thus bagging $500,000 to boot by taking top spot in the World Marathon Majors. Both were convincing runs. Too convincing. She subsequently tested positive for EPO, the $500k on ice for now…

September 2014, Diamond League meeting in Brussels. Justin Gatlin wins the 100m in 9.77. He then follows this up an hour later, eyes still bulging, to win the 200m in 19.71. He demolished both fields. You want to be wowed at athletics meetings like the Diamond League, and Gatlin did just that. The problem being though that the guy has a chequered past having previously served a 4yr ban for doping offences…

December 2014, the European Cross Country Championships in Samokov, Bulgaria. I sat gob smacked during the men’s U23 race as three Russian athletes stormed off the front and took a 1,2,3… they obliterated the field. They looked like machines. There was snow and slush underfoot, it was a hard course. The two GB athletes who came in 4 and 5, out of the medals, got nowhere near. It turns out athlete 3, Vladimir Nikitin, had returned from a doping ban but 5 months earlier…

These are races I chose to watch, to be inspired by. But I came away from each wondering if I’d watched three amazing performances or three runs of dubious nature. Looking at the faces of defeated athletes – Buzunesh, Team GB, Tyson Gay (not so much him!) – is difficult, seeing the pain of having prepared mentally, tactically, physically only to be walloped. And you start wondering if you are watching someone at the top of their game or someone in Diack’s 5%-10%… Don’t even get me started on London Marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova paying £350k to Russian Athletic Officials to cover up her own doping scheme. On why Mo Farah is out training in Ethiopia with banned athlete Hamza Driouch (3:50 mile aged 17…). I could go on. But then we’d be here a while. You want some more examples, pick up Athletics Weekly and they do a little column of brief news about various marathon winners an track athletes getting caught. This month, for example, featured Julia Mombi winner of the last Cologne Marathon. It’s not even front page news now.

But it should be. It is a problem. A major one. I run a lot and know that until you reach the top level, it is all about personal bests. It’s about bettering yourself. But the problem here is that when personal bests become competitive, a world lead, might win a race, money, then the sport becomes murkier. And that’s a real shame. That participants feel that they can (or have to) cheat. That they can beat the controls or in some cases, just get caught wait two years and then compete again. It’s disheartening to think that something which can bring so much personal satisfaction can be tainted like that. That I can toe the line of a major marathon with elite athletes is a supreme feeling and fairly unique to the sport. But knowing that I’ve trained and dedicated 16 weeks of my life to be duped from the start by someone who might go on and win dirty?

The good news? Our friend Diack is about to step aside at the IAAF, likely to be succeeded by Sebastian Coe. In his pitch for IAAF presidency, aired over 5 days on running blog letsrun.com, Seb said something I felt was quite simple and yet quite profound. ‘It’s absolutely vital that people believe in our sport’. ‘It’s absolutely vital that people believe in our sport.’ I couldn’t agree more. I don’t want the last 5 years of my running life to be associated with a sport where people have cheated their way to the top. Where we talk to our grandkids about the performances of our athletes in the Olympics, the Boston Marathon, the Diamond League only for them to say ‘yeh sure pops, but everyone was cheating back then, right?’. 

So let’s keep it simple. Let’s trust the sport, let’s support it, celebrate it. If anyone wants to ruin that celebration they can leave, go do something else, go buddy up with Lance and do whatever it is he’s got going on these days. But the first step is that we have to accept that it’s happening and talk about it. Whether you finished your last marathon 5 minutes or 5 hours behind the winner doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we want idols, not hate figures. Let’s run hard, run clean and run together. That’d be dope.

‘What are they?!’

I’d returned to London from New York having run the 2014 marathon and was watching highlights of Kipsang and Desisa. I’d heard they’d had a bit of a duel racing into the finish line, an exciting culmination to what had been a difficult race in blustery conditions. Being the nerd I am, I was ignoring Tim Hutchings babbel about low arm carry and ‘taking it to each other’. I was watching Desisa. And all I was thinking was ‘what are on his feet?’. I knew Kipsang was wearing adidas adios boost 2 – in the build up adidas had made a fairly big deal of it as they had Dennis Kimetto break the world record in the same shoe 5 weeks earlier – but what the hell was Lelisa wearing?! Even in a close up on the podium I was still clutching at straws. As a convert from adidas to Nike, following (in my opinion) the disastrous switch from soling the Adios with ‘Boost’ instead of ‘Adiprene’, I’d been wearing the Nike Flyknit Racer on the assumption that was Nike’s go to marathon shoe. But this footage was evidence to the contrary… time for some investigative shoe journalism.

Soon after I stumbled on the following article from Sneaker Report. It documents the first 100 shoes that crossed the line that day. I came to find that the shoe Desisa had worn to 2nd place was the Nike Zoom Streak 3. 3? A few months earlier I had purchased the Zoom Streak 5 as a possible alternative to the Flyknit Racer. So why was he running in the 3? It turned out he wasn’t the only one. Stephen Kiprotich, 5th, also wore the shoe. 13th and 14th place Biranhu Kemal and Micah Kogo… that’s 4 of the top 20 in the men’s race! The same for the women, 7th place Firehiwot Dado and 10th place Buzunesh Deba wearing the ZS3. There were a few Zoom Streak 4’s and 5’s on display but mostly it was the older Zoom Streak 3 shoe that Nike athletes were wearing that day…

Maybe this was a trend thing I thought. Or maybe, if it was the Zoom Streak that Nike were having their athletes wear, they’d had a production problem with the 5’s. And the 4’s. And had to dish out some of the last pairs of 3’s they’d managed to find in time for the race? Unlikely. I dug a little deeper. Turns out the year before Sneaker Report conducted the same study. Low and behold for both the men’s and women’s race 3 of the top 10 finishers, 6 of 20 athletes, were in the Zoom Streak 3! So no fluke.

It seems for a number of years whilst other manufacturers have had athletes wear the latest incarnation of a racing shoe, the go to amongst Nike sponsored long distance runners has remained the Zoom Streak 3. Not taking my word for it? More evidence needed? Here’s a list, an impressive one, of top marathoners who have remained loyal to the shoe: Tsegaye Kebede, Dickson Chumba, Ayele Abshero, Stanley Biwott, Wesley Korir, Rita Jeptoo, Priscah Jeptoo, Florence Kiplagat… So what is the shoe all about, where has it come from, how does it differ from the latest version and why are Nike and it’s athletes sticking with it?

Thank you John from Nike Running! This vid is likely an indication of when elite runners received a pair, April 2009, nearly 6 years ago! It still uses Nike Zoom Air technology in the sole (conceived by Nike in 1995), it weighs 6.7oz (about 180g), stack height is 30mm-18mm heel to forefoot, a 12mm differential. OK, great, but nothing has changed in the newer versions 4 and 5. Same sole, same stack height, roughly the same weight… So what’s the difference? Why are these top athletes still wearing the 2010 shoe rather than the 2015 update?

Well I thought, as I own the Zoom Streak 5 (see review) why not procure a pair of the Zoom Streak 3 and find out. Easier said than done… online retailers in UK? Nope. US? Nope. eBay? Nope. Nike directly? Nope. 3 months went past and I nearly gave up all hope. Then I was lucky enough to stumble upon a pair of the shoes at a store in London. Apparently when moving premises they had found some old stock. Not only that but they had my size. And only for £56! So finally I can now make the comparison.

Weirdly perhaps, given the similarities noted above, the shoe does run differently. The first noticeable change is the upper, a firmer see-through mesh in the ZS3 as opposed to the softer engineered mesh on the ZS5. This brings two benefits to the ZS3 in my opinion. Firstly the shoe offers a little more rigidity – one of the criticisms I had with the ZS5 was that the foot would slip because the upper material is so soft, the new ‘Flywire’ technology offering no saving grace here… Secondly, the ZS3 has sort of a midfoot torsion system which is missing on the ZS5. This makes the shoe a little less flexible but at the same time makes the ride firmer, perhaps providing a little more ‘pop’. And erm that’s about it. But it does feel different! For whatever reason the Zoom Streak 3 feels more responsive. True it doesn’t ‘disappear’ on your foot, you have to lace it up properly and there is no heel counter so it can also feel like it’s slipping at the back. But maybe because of that it feels more… I don’t know, authentic? Most of all, it feels hard and fast. Winner for me.

What’s clear is that the Zoom Streak 3 is the go to shoe for Nike marathoners and Nike are happy keeping it that way. Whether this is based on athlete feedback, as above, I don’t know. Maybe they generate enough revenue from other shoes they retail so as not to be reliant on their elite athletes getting them ‘shoe specific sales’, who knows. I offer this supposition as a comparison to the adidas business model. The original adidas Adios in which Gebrselassie (v1) and Makau (v2) broke the world record was actually a super successful shoe and in fact quite similar to the Zoom Streak 3 in construction – racing flat, hard EVA platform, super breathable and lightweight mesh upper, similar midsole offset. But adidas retired the shoe in favour of the Boost. No doubt the Boost is having it’s own successes, Kipsang and Kimetto following adidas tradition of breaking world records in Boost v1 and v2 respectively. But adidas do seem super reliant on their elite athletes promoting the shoe and ‘new technologies’ to drive sales. I personally am an advocate of the natural feeling your body receives when foot striking. You get that with the original Adios. You don’t get it with the Boost. Which is why, in my opinion, adidas shouldn’t have turned their back on what was for me a winning formula. You know what other shoe you get that natural feeling, that feedback from… the Nike Zoom Streak 3…

Some deliberation and mileage is going to have to go toward deciding whether I run my next marathon in my new (old) Zoom Streak 3’s. The Nike Flyknit Racer, which I’ve marathoned in twice, has a similar profile. Namely it’s a firm racing flat, capable of marathon distance, with a super lightweight breathable upper. Maybe I should stick to what I know. But having said that I think the ZS3’s, whilst offering a little more underfoot, do have that ‘pop’ that maybe the FKR doesn’t… And to be fair if Tsegaye and Wesley have stuck with the same shoe for 5 years there must be something to say for them. That’s maybe the real ‘boost’ of confidence I need to take them on.  

Saysky is a lifestyle concept based and rooted in downtown Copenhagen. We are the new school of running, triathlon and core training. Our brand is young-minded and addressing like-minded personalities. We care – but don’t give a f***.

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Run Dem Crew recently went on tour and ended up in Denmark at the Copenhagen Half Marathon. Pre race, as is custom, we ran to the expo to pick up race numbers and essentially do some shopping! One of the stands at the expo caught our eye. It was simple, cardboard walls with product pinned up. No slogans, no plastic cut outs of athletes in their wears. Just a simple desk with a guy on a Mac Air. The product did the talking and soon, as a style conscious bunch, we were rummaging through jackets, vests, t’s and tights checking out Saysky Copenhagen a newly launched lifestyle concept making running and triathlon gear with a competitive but laidback feel. All we could see was cool monochrome, 3M and stars everywhere. Sold.

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We soon got chatting to their guy Nicklas who told us a bit about their story from their roots in surfing and that casual ‘aloha’ spirit which they’d combined with a love for sport and competition. Throw in a bit of Scandi minimalist design and before you can say cinnamon roll you got yourself an awesome brand. Their name comes from when you cross the finish line of a race look up at the sky and say yes rather than no. It embodies positivity and is refreshingly simple both in design but also in ethos.

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But let’s get to the product. They absolutely nail that crossover between function and fashion. Star printed or block colour camo’s, blacks and greys. All your running wardrobe catered for with shorts, tights, singlets, t’s, jackets, snoods, gloves, hats, you name it. And this is just the running range, they also cater for triathlon, and swimming. Additionally these guys don’t just think performance, they’ve expanded the range to lifestyle and core training so whether you are on a 10 mile run or a 10 mile commute to work they’ll have you clad in cool. From the running range we particularly like the year round ‘Siberia’ running tights and matching scarf, we haven’t found a better fitting, better looking combo with imprinted star pattern on grey with Saysky motif and star detail. We also got the ‘Danish’ singlet. Cos you know if you’re gonna run a race in Denmark there’s nothing better than a bit of home crowd cheering you on! And it looks great, naturally.

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Check em out here saysky.dk. At the moment they only retail online or in boutiques in Denmark. The good news though is FREE SHIPPING for Christmas! Tak!

TBR

 

Got up early. Like super early. As in not enough time for a coffee early. But there was still a real buzz around midtown as runners made their way in the dark to the 6am buses from outside New York Library. It felt slightly surreal, the only people awake and out, trainer clad runners amassing, quietly, stoney faced and hard eyed. I sat on the bus in the dark, the day breaking, focussing on the task at hand; a moment of calm to think about how I was gonna run this thing. It’d been 5 weeks after pb’ing in Berlin and the recovery had gone well, I’d retrained and was thinking a similar performance might be on the cards. But the infamous humps and bumps of the course and the wind meant I’d need a strategy. The bus rid offered the chance to run this over and get ready mentally. Prepare for battle.

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Getting off bus and hanging out for 2.5 hours before the start of the race was horrid but also humbling. Met a guy called Ian from Glasgow. He’d never run a marathon before. He came to NYC to hang out with friends but then decided to run it for fun and to raise money for the charity Whizz-Kidz. He was calm, collected, had made scrambled eggs that morning and bought them with. I sat on the ground for like an hour with a guy called Alex who had run the marathon ten years ago and was back for more. He gave me an idea of what to expect. He wasn’t sure he’d finish this year within five hours. Didn’t matter as he’d raised $2k for Ronald McDonald House Charity. He then pointed out that he might run with his new buddy with a prosthetic who he’d met that morning . Because he wanted to help her. As if he hadn’t already helped enough. It made my frustration at the start sitting in the cold wondering whether I was gonna be able to run under three hours insignificant. At this point I vowed to enjoy it rather than try and beast it. And if I saw anybody else in trouble (like I did going over Queensboro) then I’d offer words of encouragement. New primary goal? Take in the day and feel grateful that I had the opportunity to be there.

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The run was tough though! On Verrazano Bridge I thought I was gonna end up in the ocean as the headwind / crosswind was so strong. People were literally being buffeted across the road! This wasn’t the only bridge that hurt. There were two others that really got me. Queensboro Bridge was a killer and I really slowed up. But I knew that was gonna be hard and concentrated on effort not time. Actually Queensboro was a benchmark in the race for me as I knew that once it was done I’d be in Manhattan, nearer home – also the crowd noise coming off the bridge was insane, you could literally hear it a quarter of a mile away echoing through the rafters. Exciting! What I wasn’t expecting was Pulaski at mile 13. It wasn’t long, it was steep and the wind was head on. But at the same time the view from here was amazing.  The only other tough moment was probably the mile up (literally) 5th Ave. Again to be fair the support here was fabulous and when you round the corner into Central Park you get another kiss on the face.

Let’s talk about the crowds. They were amazing. This is what really set New York apart for me. There was crowd noise and support all the way around. And even the teams at water stations doubled up as cheerers! The diversity of the crowds was amazing. From the Italian / Hispanic and broad New York accents in The Bronx, then the music and cheer in my adopted second home, Brooklyn (GO NETS!). Williamsburg was fun, some of the billboards were hilarious, kids on stoops, several megaphones. Big up to my buddies waiting for me at 1st Avenue and at Mile 24. Harlem was of course awesome as this was where several running crews from NYC – Bridge Runners / Black Roses (thanks for meeting us and the NBRO guys on Saturday for the shake-out and Central Park preview) – and of course friends from Run Dem were stationed at Mile 21. I got a massive boost (and hug) from seeing these guys and, as always, Cheer Dem always brightens up a race and gives you an extra kick of adrenaline (much needed pre Fifth Avenue climb!).

The day was amazing. In spite of the cold. In spite of the wind. In spite of the climbs. I knew it was gonna be one to tough out so had prepared for that mentally. What I didn’t know was that the crowd support was going to be overwhelming and although the race was hard physically, it didn’t matter as psychologically the sights, sounds and cheers meant there was always a lift around every corner. It made it easy. I loved it. I’d do it again in an instant. You ain’t gonna set any records in NYC but trust me when I say you’ll remember it for a lifetime.


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Note – big up Chevy for crewing at Cheer Dem and for lending video – follow, follow, follow him on instagram!

Psyche! Been meaning to do this review for a while, but been too busy running in these shoes to find the time to write about em. But here it is, a review on my new favourite shoe, ladies and gentleman I bring you the Nike Fyknit Racer.

I had been running in adidas shoes for a while. I do still bust em out now and again. But I confess, I have recently moved brand to Nike (well for road running anyway – I also wear New Balance spikes). It was this shoe that pretty much sealed the deal. To explain why, let me offer some background. It took me a while rotating through shoe types (structured -> neutral -> racing flat) and brands (Asics -> Saucony -> New Balance -> adidas -> Nike) before I found out what I liked in a shoe; there is a footnote here actually which reads that any write up I do is a personal view as opposed to generalised profiling but if your preference is the same as mine hopefully these thoughts should serve well.

I run in ‘racing flats’ on the road. Pretty much all the time. A racing flat broadly can be categorised as a shoe designed for, well, racing. They are minimally cushioned (oxymoron?). Lightweight. Designed for a higher cadence runner, a midfoot striker, neutral gait. adidas shoes I have liked – and still like and wear from time to time – adidas Adios 2 (had three pairs and ran them in two marathons) and adidas Takumi-Sen (had two pairs and ran a half marathon in them, still my go to shoe for the occasional 5k if I can’t find my LT2’s). Things I like about these shoes are that they are flat, light and firm… they fit the profile. Then adidas introduced the Boost sole. I tried hard. I really did. It cost me, literally. 2 pairs later realised that I just didn’t get along with them. They are just too soft. I don’t get the springy thing, it’s like an additional return of energy up through your knees when you foot strike. It doesn’t feel like cushion, more like running on a trampoline. Ever tried that? Exactly. And then, shock horror, it seems that adidas started to phase out the original Adios. What’s up with that?! (See comparison of these two incarnations here). So with my old Adios 2’s on their last legs, I had to shop around for an equivalent… and I stumbled upon the Nike Flyknit Racer. I haven’t looked back.

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The Adios 2 reads like this in profile – 210g, 24mm in the heel, 15mm in the forefoot, a drop of 9mm and runs really firm. They encourage you to turn your stride over quickly just so you don’t have to impact for any longer than need be. Ideal. And here’s the thing. The Nike Flyknit Racer reads like this – 175g (ooo a bit lighter) and 24mm in the heel, 14mm in the forefoot so a 10mm drop. And they also run hard. Nike use the ‘Phylon’ midsole throughout the sole of the shoe which is super resilient and firm. So basically like the Adios 2!

Another reason why I prefer the FKR and why it’s my go to shoe? The Flynit. It’s amazing. It’s light, it adapts to your footshape and is, obviously, amazingly breathable. This is really important for me. When you run a marathon your feet swell. If you are wearing the Flyknit, you can start the race by lacing up tight and then the material will adapt. Not massively, you aren’t gonna ruin the shoe or gain a size just by running distance! But the upper is more elasticated than materials you find with other brands and this is a massive plus. Also the colourways are outrageous.

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Nike say that the FKR is the shoe of choice for top marathoners. This isn’t quite accurate as a number of Nike pro’s are running in the Zoom Streak. See my review of the ZS5 here. Nike really pushed the original Zoom Streak and top marathoners for a long time were winning races in the ZS2 and then the ZS3. Now we are on the 5 and you see the odd pair here and there, but actually a number of top marathoners are still running in the ZS3! I would run the Zoom Streak to marathon, but actually, I find the ‘Phylon’ material in the sole of the FKR more responsive than the ‘Cushlon’ material which is a bit softer.

To summarise, the Flyknit racer is light, it has a firm sole, the drop is designed to run 5k and all the way up to marathon, the upper is inspired and they look, well, fly. I wear them when I’m not running also. Even at work to my boss’ chagrin. Go on Nike’s site and check for updates for colourways, the latest is the ‘Hyper Punch‘. I ran (and pb’d) the Berlin marathon in this shoe and pretty much run all my long runs (and a fair amount of short runs) in them. I will be wearing the ‘Pink Flash / Hyper Crimson’ incarnation at the New York Marathon in 2 weeks… If you are looking for a fast racing flat, look no further. Sorry adidas.

TBR

Transcend /tranˈsɛnd,trɑːn-/
verb

* be or go beyond the range or limits of (a field of activity or conceptual sphere)
* surpass (a person or achievement)

Hello! I have an excuse for not writing much recently. Actually scrap that there is no excuse really, I’ve got a heap of things I want to share. More so admission. I’ve been relaxing a bit post Berlin. As in eating the wrong foods, going out, not sleeping as much as I should. I think my achievements in Berlin had me think, ‘mission accomplished’ not ‘what’s next’. So this week I’ve thought that things need to change. Not dramatically, I just need to get back on it.

Looking for inspiration for the upcoming New York Marathon I’ve started training a bit harder. Started watching what I am eating better. Have told myself I’ve drunk my last beer until 1pm Sunday 2nd November… I also got inspiration by a guy called Warwick that I run with at Run Dem Crew, he’s trained super hard for a half marathon which he bossed in 1h17. That was cool. Then whilst scanning through old NYC Marathon footage of Radcliffe, Salazar et al, I came about this film called ‘Transcend’ featuring Wesley Korir. Well if you are looking for inspiration, look no further.

Apart from the amazing footage of Chicago, Boston, an insight into Kenyan running with Jake and Zane Robertson training in Iten, interviews with Malcolm Gladwell, Haile Gebrselassie and Alex Hutchinson <breathe>; this is the story of how if you strive to achieve something in life, set a target, a goal and overcome you can apply that to anything. In this case Wesley Korir tells his story (a story which echoes with many African runners) of how he used running to escape hardship. But then how through his running he realised that he could use this influence – influence he worked hard to gain in becoming a champion – to make a difference; to change the way the country he loves, his homeland, is governed.

This is what the film is about. Transcend means two things to a runner. It’s the state which a runner can reach when they are able to take themselves to a point where the physical act transcends all other worries, fears and hostility. It’s a very pure place and quite beautiful when you reach it. You become human again. And secondly, perhaps more importantly, it’s about how the runner can harness this newly found ability to accomplish, achieve, overcome to affect change in other areas of life. This can be personal or – as with Korir – it can be to help others. This is also the message behind Run Dem Crew and The Youngers Project. Please go and visit these sites to see what Charlie means and what we are doing.

I’m not yet sure what to call this feeling. Whether there is a term for what this state of mind is, how it can be bottled, whether it means something different to different runners. But I do know that in some form, be it RDCY, coaching, therapy, I want my running to transcend. I want to use that feeling, that energy, that glow I find post race, post track session, post work-out, to make things better.

I can’t wait for NYC, I can’t wait for next year (more on that later) and I hope that my running continues to make me a better person.

TBR

Links here, please go and buy.
Official Facebook Page: http://www.Facebook.com/TheFilmTranscend
Official Website: http://www.TheFilmTranscend.com



The big day. Berlin Marathon 2014. The one I’d been training for. The big PB. Nerves all round. This is the Berlin write up. To be honest, it’s kind of brief and what I’ll do is elaborate on some of the training methods and build up in a subsequent post around how to train for a ‘in the region of 3 hours’ marathon. More on that later. Here goes.

Training had gone well (ish). In the run up to marathon week I ran 372 miles over 12 weeks (457 over 16 weeks) averaging somewhere around 35 miles per week – peaking at 47. My efforts were nearly scuppered halfway through when I got flu and infection in my wisdom teeth and ended up doing 4 runs in 14 days… but otherwise things went well and I had an encouraging run at the Copenhagen Half Marathon 2 weeks before the race, clocking a ‘casual’ 1:26. Looking back, I was pleased with the track sessions, interval runs and long runs but considering the mileage (I was working from a guide) I should have clocked closer to 50 miles per week… hmm makes me wonder what could have been / could be!

Let’s skip through some of the boring stuff… flew from terminal 5 (actually this is not so boring a comment, I bumped into Scott Overall in departures – obviously didn’t speak to him – Scott on the day finished 14th in a time of 2:13… fairly rapid), stayed in an Airbnb with my buddy Phil, was quite nervous, ate pasta etc. Now I really should have got more involved with the Bridge The Gap crew on the first couple of days as the hospitality, as always, looked incredible and I heard amazing things from our guys as to Run Pack Berlin being superb hosts. Next time I’ll try and make sure I hit these guys up but on this occasion I kept it really low key, probs cos I was nervous; I hit up the expo early on the Saturday and went for a quiet jog with my roomie, followed by a quiet dinner eating dinner with my other buddy (and DJ for the weekend! Christian)!! Shake-Out run pic:

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The day of the race. One of the things about Berlin that people report favourably on is the organisation and I can absolutely vouch for that. The race starts at the Tiergarten in the centre of town and the whole park is given up to welcoming 30,000 runners, ensuring they have the time and the space they need to prepare to do what they gotta do. Starting in a wooded area is genius also because it means no matter how long the queue for the facilities, nature is at hand in case of emergency! Anyway, the morning was fresh and clear, very little wind. No real humidity. You could tell that it was going to be a beautiful day and warm later on, but the organisers catering for this, start the race at 8:45am. Nervous tension at the start but also a quiet confidence. I say quiet, for some reason, Phil and I got gee’d up for the race of our lives by reciting Bon Jovi’s ‘Bad Medicine’… no idea why or where that came from…

The game plan was the following – ‘run 6:45 miles consistently through the entirety of the race. Watch the splits early on and ensure you don’t take off too fast. Cruise comfortably (if possible!) for 20 miles (and how many times did I repeat that to myself! we are cruising for 20 miles – this basically implying that a sustained effort should be kept for 20 miles) ensuring mentally that I was preparing for the real battle which came in the last 10k. Take a gel at 6 miles. Take a gel at 12 miles. Go through halfway in around 1h28. Take a gel at 18 miles. Get to 20 miles then the it’s business time, put on your business socks. Maintain effort for 2 miles. Dig deep for 2 miles. Hang on and summon all of your remaining energy and use the crowd and adrenalin to run in the last 2.2.’

So the above was the game plan and I have to say the above worked! I got a massive boost at mile 12 when friends Babs, Lara, Christian and Nonny J. gave me a shout. I also got another boost at mile 21 (ish) when Cheer Dem were out in full force:

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I don’t really remember that much of the course other than the noise at the side of the road being pretty amazing, so there must have been hordes of people come out to support. I do remember the Danish however. Now I know from running with NBRO in Copenhagen that running is big news and they love it. I didn’t know that even in Berlin there would be Danish flags everywhere. Next time I am wearing my Danish vest! Pretty concentrated on executing the plan above, I really only took in the runners around me; as in kept pace with those who looked strong and were roughly at the same cadence as I. Where I perhaps felt I was off the pace, I’d tag onto someone and just watch them navigate the course whilst I’d concentrate on my breathing and whether I needed to get fluid at the next water station. I only saw one RDC runner for the whole race – Miss Sorrell Walsh at 5k – with whom I exchanged a brief ‘good luck’ (she bossed a 3h07 by the way, securing a Boston spot for 2016 – awesomeness). It sounds like a boring strategy, ie ignoring the sights and sounds in favour of concentrating and focussing on what needed to be done. In retrospect I wish I remembered more of the initial 20 miles but really when you are that into doing what needs to be done, you don’t.

The only possible wobble I had during the race was maybe mile 24/25. I had in my mind that when I hit 23 miles I was practically home, a 5k push, just 20 minutes… it didn’t quite work like that. I had to really focus for 5 minutes or so on maintaining and digging deep as fatigue started to set in. I hadn’t been further than 22 miles in training, let alone run it at the pace I was going, so I had to concentrate on how I was feeling for a sustained period, enough so that I knew the finish line was around the corner. This is where the experience of 3 marathons previous really came in – I knew how to tough it out psychologically, knew that the end was near and that I needed to shorten my stride length, keep the cadence up, breathe and think of home. I got there.

Although much of the race was a blur, the last mile wasn’t. Turning the corner to run under the Brandenburg Gate was special. At that point I took in the crowds and even had the energy to whip them up a bit with a ‘COME ON’ in an arms raised gesture. Through the Brandenburg Gate, almost stopping as I had in my mind that this was the finish line (it’s not) then the last 500 yards. I looked at my watch at this point rather than at the clock as I knew I’d set off 1/2 minutes late, I was well inside 3hrs… this was when I realised I’d done it. I crossed the line and did an embarrassing pistol fingered salute, shooting down the pb (photos to follow), and stopped the watch at 2:57:17.

Done. Sub 3hrs. PB by 11mins. Boston qualifier. Happy boy.

What followed was as awesome… a pint of non-alcoholic beer which tasted amazing for some reason, meeting up with the above mentioned friends in front of the Reichstag for congratulatory photos, learning my buddy had smashed his pb by 40 minutes running 3h06, then eating ALL the food and partying that evening with Bridge The Gap:

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To be honest the weekend probably hasn’t sunk in yet. I am delighted that I got to where I wanted to be and mostly that I had a plan, pretty much a goal I’d set for the year, and executed it. I said 2:57. I ran 2:57. Knowing that it was there and that I went out and got it was perhaps the biggest achievement. But I didn’t do it alone. Thanks to everyone that helped me train for it, generally encouraged and supported, friends, family, everyone at Run Dem. That got me over the line as much as my legs did! On to the next. New York City. Not sure how I’ll fare, I think the 3rd marathon in 1 year could spell toughness. But what I do know now is that if you prepare mentally and physically you can get it. You just gotta go for it. Gonna do ta ting in NYC. Then big plans for 2015.

TBR.

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I’ve been running for nearly three and a half years. I’m approaching 4,000 miles clocked. Many of which, I’ve run solo. I started as a means to get fit and so often found myself running on my own, during hours where I wouldn’t be seen, my efforts my own, pounds shed, hours of reflection toute seule. I’ve loved it but, being a gregarious chap, often found myself yearning for company. On several occasion I’ve thought about running with a club. I even approached a couple in my locality, but they all seemed super serious, regimented and a bit, well, stuck up?! To be fair I didn’t give any of them a real chance, but it seemed like it was all about the club colours, how well you performed compared to everyone else. Whether you could stick it with the best. It wasn’t really what I was looking for… Then I found out about Nike supported initiative Run Dem Crew.

I’d heard my bro talk animatedly of running with a group of guys and girls (shock horror – mixed groups!), different abilities, chilled out vibe etc. And then my friend LizzyP also talked to me at length about why she loved being in the same Crew and how she might be able to introduce me to The Man… Charlie D. I haven’t looked back. I’ve been a regular RDC’er for 3 months now attending most sessions on Tuesday and Thursday. I’ve run with fast people (you learn when you are a runner that there is always someone faster than you!), slower people, people with different objectives and goals, people from different backgrounds, different cultures, creeds. I’ve been accepted into the fam’. RDC understands me; understands why I run, why we run. We run the streets of London as a pack. No one gets left behind. I love it. So when I heard the Crew were going to Copenhagen to run a half marathon I jumped at the chance. Here’s my review of the weekend after a lengthy intro!

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Run Dem isn’t the only running family that Nike have helped start up. The same groups exist all over the world. Two years ago, an initiative ‘Bridge The Gap‘ was conceived to bring these crews together at events as a global collective and then party party party it up. This was the second incarnation of BTG|CPH and I’d heard on the grapevine it wasn’t to be missed. It didn’t disappoint. Crews from all over descended upon Copenhagen to meet up, run hard and then party harder. Hosted by our Danish hosts NBRO, we were joined by Still Waters Run Deep from Manchester, Patta and Running Junkies from Amsterdam, Moskva River Runners, Paris Running Club, Bridge Runners and Black Roses from NYC, District Running Collective from Washington… probably others I’ve missed!

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The weekend was amazing. We met for drinks (and party for some!) on Friday and a shake-out run then pasta-party on Saturday. On Sunday, race day, a BTG team photo (see above above), the minor event of a half marathon to race followed by festivities. For me as a recent RDC and BTG’er I was a bit anxious as I didn’t really know that many people, it didn’t matter. We were greeted with open arms and multiple ‘Hi!’s’ from our Danish neighbours and I really appreciated the opportunity to get to know other Crews (as well as my own!). The best part of the weekend was spending time exploring the city with these guys, learning about where they come from, why they run, what their goals were on race day. Oh yes, the running…

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I’ll keep it brief, the run was great. Conditions were perfect, still, overcast, no wind, perhaps a little warm but only in the humid sense. The course was flat and wide, right through the middle of the city, great support on the side of the road from young and old. It was a picturesque route albeit a little bit tricky in places with the cobbles. I wasn’t running for a PB. I was running to train for Berlin, but the idea of going slow on the day didn’t happen and I got a bit excited by the prospect of running with such a large group and was told the course was quick. What I did know was that at miles 2 and 11 we’d get some additional support in the form of ‘Cheer Dem’ – basically anyone from the Crews who wanted to come and enjoy the weekend but weren’t running – and their support was amazing and gave me and everyone else a real boost.

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Here’s me running through!

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And here was the quickest BTG’er, my man Jens from NBRO, throwing down a 1:13:33!

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When I hit the finish line, anyone ahead of me had waited, high-fives at the ready. This happened for everyone finishing be that up the front or toward the back; people gathered at the end to celebrate each others successes, be that a PB, a debut half marathon or just being able to be part of a team, run and get a medal – a reward and a smile for their efforts.

I’m not going to write about the party. What happens in CPH stays in CPH. But I can tell you it was off the chain… shots, sexy-boys running club, ‘getting low’ (whatever that is)… etc.

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It’s been a week since the race and I’ve thought about this post and how I wanted it to read, what I wanted it to say, how to paint a picture of what BTG is all about. I wanted a chance to say thank you to all those who supported me and my new friends on the day, everyone who came and cheered (especially Cheer Dem), to all the RDC’ers I travelled with, to my housemates for the weekend Cheer Dem Chief Chevy, Team Leader Debs and PB Hols. To Lizzy P for inviting me to RDC in the first place. And this is really what this post is all about…

I’ve realised that yeh, running can be a very personal thing. I set myself goals, I achieve them, I keep fit, I run faster, I feel good about myself. But what running with a group (and I am talking about my Crew here but sure this exists elsewhere) brings is a common objective. We care about what others want to achieve, we actually speak to people (without prejudice or judgement), we break down barriers, we want to help and encourage those around us, we get a thrill when we see our buddies tell us that they just ran a PB. I’ve realised that it’s not just about me. Sure it’s about running my best and going for it, but it’s about more than that. Meeting new people, locally and around the world, making friends, learning to teach, to support, to encourage. Running has now for me become a more enriching experience as a result. I feel indebted to those who supported me last weekend, and more generally everyone at RDC. And I can’t wait to give back, to Bridge The Gap.

And so to Berlin…

TBR

So we haven’t had a review for some time. In fact we haven’t had anything on beardedrunner.com for a long time. My bad. Basically I have been training super hard so I sort of have an excuse. But basically don’t!. I have been saving up loads and loads of stuff to write about from reviews on <breathes in> Nike Flyknit Racer, New Balance LD500 spike, Adidas Adios Boost 2, Garmin 620 watch (could be a long write up) to training with Run Dem Crew, track routines, etc. So in the interim, let me apologise and furnish you guys with a little review on the Zoom Streak 5. Here we go.

The Nike Zoom Streak 5 is basically like the Nike Zoom Streak LT2 see my review but designed to be able to take you that little bit further. It’s a racing flat still, but whereas the LT2 is designed for track, road, cross country (apparently) and I’d say probably up to 10k for the ambitious, the ZS5 is a little bit more shoe the idea being it can take you to marathon distance if need be.

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The ZS5 is effectively a racer for half/marathon. As you can see it is pretty much designed for the road. In the past several Nike sponsored athletes have gone with the Zoom Streak as there go to marathon shoe (although increasingly it seems adidas are scooping up the leading lights). Priscah Jeptoo won the NYC marathon 2013 in the Streak – in fact the top 5 lady finishers all wore the shoe. On the guys side Tsegaye Kebede wears the shoe along with Stephen Kiprotich. However Nike seem to be moving away from kitting their marathon guys out in the Steak now in preference of the Flyknit Racer (slightly firmer, lighter shoe – more on this in another post). As you can see from the above, the shoe is made with a flat no nonsense carbon-rubber sole with wishbone type bridge in behind the midfoot. The upper is made of engineered mesh and is super breathable. The most innovative technology used for the shoe (unlike the LT2) is the ‘Flywire’ lacing system which are stiched to and support the eyelets for the laces; these provide real wrap around tight feel. Nice. The shoe is light, definitely designed with the midfoot (not really forefoot as there is too much heel which you do end up transitioning off when tired) striker in mind. The action of the shoe is such as it tilts you forward somewhat and encourages quick cadence which is cool if you want that racer type vibe. It certainly isn’t as minimal as the LT2, it provides more cush (higher stack in forefoot, midfoot and heel) whilst however using the same ‘Zoom Air’ cushioning. This material is nowhere near as firm as the Flyknit Racer and whilst responsive, I’d say is middling firmness. I think if you ran a number of miles, this cushioning would gradually become even softer and become less responsive, thus rendering the shoe a trainer rather than a racing flat. But still it’s nimble, lightweight and does offer spring initially so I’d be tempted to race this at longer distances until such point as they deaden off a bit if you know what I mean.

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What you’ve all been waiting for, some stats!

Weight: 189g
Stack Height: 30mm (Heel) – 18mm (Forefoot)
Heel to Toe drop: Er 12mm (maths)
Similar shoe: Mizuno Wave Hitogami, New Balance MR1400, adidas adiZero Boston 5
Score: er I just made this up, this is of course completely subjective and depends on a number of criteria etc but 7/10?!

Basically I got this shoe as I wanted something light, still quite zippy, to train in at say 7:30 / 8 mile pace. Something for recovery but able to run fast in if need be. I’m going to use as a trainer as the feel is just a little too soft for me to race in, I’m gonna save the for the Takumi-Sen at 5k/10k and the Flyknit Racer or Adidas Adios 2 at half marathon/marathon. I do really like the shoe though and as an intermediary shoe between the LT2 and the FNRacer they really fill a gap. I might even end up running a marathon in them. Oh and they look awesome. Obviously.

Keep it locked, more on the way. Train hard. Party harder!

TBR

I’ll be honest I have a love-hate relationship with Nike. I have for a time reserved opinion as to their credentials as a brand based on style over substance. There is no doubting Nike as a leader in aesthetic design (not including the Monarch! #monarchlife) but how do they measure up as a proper running shoe for training and racing?

I’ve owned two pairs of Nike previously. The first pair were quite early on in my running career when I was a bit heavier, a bit slower and not as ‘biomechanicaly’ efficient perhaps as now – a pair of LunaRacers with some pronation control and cushioned stack. They looked awesome, kind of neon green and grey and I was pretty happy with them. Until 8 weeks later when my knees starting aching midway through runs and I found myself ‘leaning’ a bit into my stride trying to find my midfoot. Basically they were too cushioned, felt dense and ‘heely’. I donated them to my bro. The second pair were a pair of Nike 3.0’s, a foray into the minimalist. They didn’t really work as a running shoe for me, with a soft meshed upper and the splay in the sole upon foot strike, I don’t know they never really felt fast. More gimmicky and comfortable. Sure they make you work when it comes to barefoot vibes but I suppose I couldn’t identify with this function when trying to run 10 miles in em.

So onto my 3rd pair of Nike road shoes. Having found what I feel is my shoe style of choice – the racing flat – I was keen to give the LT2 a shot. Also they are marketed as kind of a Road/XC/Track hybrid so they could fill some holes in my rotation if need be. Good purchase I felt for the pretty reasonable cost of £70. So I’ve tried them on the track for a some mile repeats, a fast 7 miles of intervals with Run Dem Crew and a 5 mile recovery run.

Features
Stack height – heel 22mm, toe 18mm, 4mm drop
Weight – 5.5oz / 155g
Structure – Zoom Air in the heel, Cushlon LT in the midsole and forefoot
Upper – Mesh with swoosh (which is big enough to double as an overlay of sorts but doesn’t)
Inner – woven inner wrap thing to stop slippage

The verdict? How does it run? Let’s start with this inner mesh thing. Here’s a picture below.

Zoom Streak 1

You can see the ‘internal arch bandage’ here, this does wrap around the foot and make for a good fit. However the comment I’d make is that it doesn’t offer the non-slip. If anything I found at speed – when cornering on track and when moving laterally in between pedestrians on a quicker run – that I did slip inside the shoe. And this wasn’t down to size. I think the lightweight nature of the upper just doesn’t offer the stability for the foot and I did find myself moving around. It’s for this reason that I’ve been avoiding the Fly-Knit’s in Nike and Adidas. I actually got blisters on inside and underside of 2nd toe I think as a result. When it comes to the upper, you’ll notice the way the shoe has bent inward. I don’t heavily pronate as much as this ‘lean; would suggest! I think the lightweight nature of the mesh just doesn’t offer the same rigidity and responsiveness of say the upper used on Adidas shoes like the Adios and the Boost. Time for another pic.

Zoom Streak 2

Heres’s the under side of the shoe. Now the Zoom Air and Cushlon LT cushioning in the sole are pretty good. Quite responsive, not much of it on this shoe – which is a good thing! If I were to have to compare, I’d say the ‘Rev-Lite’ foam you find on New Balance shoes RC1600 and 1400 is pretty similar. However I already kind of know that with those shoes – as with Nike’s – because it’s slightly softer than the dense foam in the Adios (and even actually the Boost) it won’t last. It can be a little bit ‘absorby’ rather than offering spring. This gives a feeling of it slowing a stride in a ‘deadness’ feel as opposed to feeling springy when pushing off. I think the Boost wins here for what you really should feel in a racing shoe – which the LT2 claims it is. Also the drop is just too little for me on the road. I think if it were 6mm say 20mm-14mm or maybe even 4mm but a little more sturdy, like the Takumi-Sen which sits a couple of millimetres higher, then it would work.

To surmise what we have here is a great looking, multi-functional shoe. Unfortuantely for me the extra £20 Nike could have charged by offering a slightly denser foam and a more structured upper at the cost of a few more grams would have made this ‘racing shoe’ more durable. It just feels a little bit cheap whilst looking great. I can’t see me running anything over 5 miles in them in the future… and only with a pair of Injinji on. Good shoe, just not all there. Again a little style over substance, so back to where we started Nike! Verdict – 7/10.

Plan now is to maybe try one of the marathon shoes which are supposed to offer a little more – might try the Zoom Streak 5. Catch ya later for that.

TBR



It’s official I am slightly obsessed with running. And of course all associated paraphernalia; what healthy obsession would be complete without the necessary cost of funding it? Right?! On reviewing my life as a runner in the last post, I mentioned the number of pairs of shoes I’d purchased to run the 3,000 miles I’d, erm, run. To many (including my estranged girlfriend) 20 pairs in 3 years seems an outrageous number, which lead her to proclaim that my new-found love of choosing a shoe fit for the occaision had incurred a financial cost which surely (in her view) outweighed the reward. A reverse of the stereotype perhaps, but does she have a point?

Let’s do some analysis before drilling down on the whys and wherefores.

I’ve been running properly for 3.5 years so that makes on average 5/6 pairs per year and about 150 miles per shoe. Cost wise, I think I spend on average about £75 per pair. That’s a total cost of £1500, roughly £400 per year, or £2 per mile run. Value for money? On average it’s claimed that a running shoe should last 500 miles. This obviously depends on many factors including durability, terrain etc. On the face of it there’s an argument here that £2 per mile or 150 miles per shoe is not particularly efficient. Can one find any value in spending £400+ per year? Is this frivolity, necessary outlay? I probably race 10 official races in a year – so that’s maybe £40 per race in shoe, almost a pair per race! On the face of it the cost has outweighed usage.

The List
(r – road, t – trail, s – spike, x – no longer in possession with reason, c – current rotation)

Adidas Adios – rx – upgraded
Adidas Adios 2 (x2) – rc
Adidas Adios Boost – rc
Adidas Takumi-Sen (x2) – rc
Mizuno Wave Universe 4 – rx – durability
Pearl Izumi N1 – tc
New Balance RC5000 – sc
New Balance RC1600 – rx – durability
New Balance Minimus (x2) – rx – gait
Nike Free 3.0 – rx – not a running shoe
Nike Lunaracer – rx – gait
Nike d7 – sc
Saucony GridType A4 – rx – awesome
Saucony Kinvara 3 – rx – fit
Saucony Fastwitch 5 – rx – gait
Asics Cumulus – rx – gait
Vibram FiveFingers – rc

However. Firstly of note is that 7 of the 20 pairs here are still in current use. I rotate the use of the Adios 2, Boost, Takumi-Sen for the road, the RC5000 and the d7 on the track, the N1 for off-road and the FiveFingers has sort of transitioned from a running shoe to a casual shoe (for different reasons!). So in terms of money spent in the obsolete sense we are only talking 13 of the 20 pairs or £975. The other £525 is still being put to use! And the reasons for the out-of-use also tell a story.

When I started running my form, weight and efficiency was completely different to where I am at now. My first pair of shoes were a cheap pair of Asics Cumulus, an uneducated purchase based on what other part-time joggers at work were shod in. I upgraded from these to Nike, buying the Lunaracer on recommendation from an employee. I ended up giving them to my brother because the squishy foam hurt my knees. Then I went through a couple of other brands, Saucony, New Balance before settling on Adidas. 3 pairs of Adidas (Adios, one pair of Adios 2 and one pair of Takumi-Sen) I wore constantly and therefore threw out and replaced with the same models… a progressive shoe selection process!

The Wave Universe, the RC1600 and the GridType I put decent mileage in but then settled on the Takumi-Sen as a future racing flat. The Kinvara simply didn’t fit right and I ran a half marathon in them before trying them out properly so couldn’t return. But then come a couple of boobies. The Minimus Trails I bought because I had a man crush on Anton Krupicka. The Free and the Fastwitch – purchases made on a whim…

So we are talking about finding out what worked for me as a shoe (racing flats) and then maybe 3/4 frivolous buys.

Basically there is a rationale for every purchase (or so I am telling myself)! There was some early churn due to me not knowing what drop, fit or materials worked best for where I was running or what my need was given my physiological requirements. Now I know this, I expect to get greater mileage out of each shoe moving forward and therefore have to make fewer purchase. Has the £250 (spent) per year over the last 3.5 years to find this out been worthwhile? To keep me injury free, out there running and healthy… absolutely! Are the marketing guys at Adidas, Nike, New Balance, Skechers, Karhu… etc going to persuade me to make the occasional purchase on a whim?… probably! 😉

TBR

 

meb

 

It’s been 10 years. Pretty much anyway. Looking at the results of the marathon majors the Kenyans and the Ethiopians have reigned supreme.

Chicago – 9x Kenya, 1x Ethiopia
London – 8x Kenya, 2x Ethiopia
Berlin – 6x Kenya, 4x Ethiopia
Boston – 6x Kenya, 3x Ethiopia, 1x USA
New York – 5x Kenya, 2x Brazil, 1x Ethiopia, 1x South Africa, 1x USA

So let’s tot that up: 34 Kenyan wins, 11 Ethiopian wins, 2 Brazilian wins, 2 American wins and 1 South African win. 90% of the ‘majors’ (not including Tokyo although the last 4 wins there are Kenyan or Ethiopian) won by African runners. The Brazilian wins came courtesy of Marilson Gomes dos Santos, winning New York in 2006 and 2008. The South African, Hendrick Ramalaa  9 years ago. The American wins, Meb Keflezighi in 2009; and no non-African winner for 5 years… until now. Meb Keflezighi wins the Boston Marathon to break the stranglehold to show that with hard work, pride and inner strength the impossible can happen.

There is no doubt that African running is super strong. It’s the national sport. For many it is the only full time profession available from a young age. Training at home at altitude with world class and experienced training partners breeds the best. And this isn’t going to change anytime soon. However, what Meb Keflezighi showed the world on 21st April (Patriot’s Day) is that with determination, a cause, mental strength and application you can win against the odds. Meb became the first American winner of the Boston Marathon since Greg Meyer in 1983.

Meb won the race in 2:08:37. 5 minutes behind the world record sure. But it was a PB. Aged 38. And he did beat some top runners who are used to running 2:05 and 2:06. Tactically his race was brilliant. An emotional start, an amazingly timed breakaway, assistance from other American athletes – Hall, Boit, Arciniaga (finished 7th) and Eggleston (finished 8th) and then roared home by a patriotic US crowd. He grit his teeth, showed endless character and held on for the win in front of a closing Chebet. The finale was nail biting stuff. Of course we all know why it was so emotional and awe inspiring. How often does sporting performance coincide with personal and political history to write a heart felt tale? It was almost inevitable that after the terrible tragedy that Boston and it’s people endured, with 3 deaths and 260 serious injuries following last politically motivated bombings at last year’s race, a US athlete pay tribute to the resilience of a city and country by overcoming the odds to turn up on the start line of the same race one year later and win.

So thank you Meb. Thank you for reminding us that with resilience, dedication and a lot of heart and soul, we as both runners and human beings, can succeed in the face of adversity.

TBR

 

I’ve killed. They are done for <insert crying sad smiley>. My Adidas Takumi-Sen (click here or on the right for review) have finally bitten the dust. They served me well. I PR’d at half marathon and full marathon in these bad girls and sadly they are now no more. I big-toed through the upper and pinkied through the side. I’ve also rubbed all the continental rubber off the lateral mid-foot (see instagram for more detail) probably down to my terrible form as opposed to the ATS durability. I have done about 700 miles in them having said that…

The good news is that I can go shoe-shopping again hooray! To be totally totally honest I am probably going to end up finding another pair of ATS as at the end of the day, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Both these guys who know EVERYTHING there is to know about what shoes to buy tell it best here – Runblogger / You Know, Running. They seem (sorta) to share the same sentiment of stick with what works. Be that the same model shoe – as I likely will – or the same type of shoe. I do think shoe rotation works, but I also think when you know your speed, weight, cadence, pronation, anatomy and foot shape (arch and splay) some shoes are gonna work for you and some ain’t. I am fortunate that I am a smaller guy with relatively neutral gait, a mid-forefoot striker with a quicker cadence. Basically what works for me are lighter shoes, NOT minimal – I need some protection over longer distances – 6mm seems to be the sweet spot, a narrow fit and light. Light is key for me. I tend to maintain form better in a light shoe. For me it’s a racing flat.

So shopping! Here are the pick of the shoes that work for me and I cannot wait to go browsing the latest updates (or just stick with the ATS, I wouldn’t want to jilt that lover, yeh that’s right I talk about running shoes in the romantic sense and sometimes even when i wear the sister Adios 2 over longer training runs it feels like cheating, like when I get home I gotta take a shower).

TOP 5

5. Nike Zoom Streak LT 2
Weight: 5.5oz

Stack Height: Heel 22mm > 4mm drop > Forefoot 18mm
Feel: ok so I just ordered these and normally don’t get along with Nike but they look cool and are similar in height to the ATS, is that bad? Am I fickle? I can always wear for fashion right? Like my previous Nike Zoom Air Catwalk Boxfit 5’s… will probably perish

4. New Balance RC5000
Weight: 3.1oz
Stack Height: Heel 16mm > 5mm drop > Forefoot 11mm
Feel: wow super light, fluoro, firm, awesome spike replacement for track work because of the super sticky turny sole grippery, won’t take more than 5k on road again… starting to perish

3. Mizuno Wave Universe 4
Weight: 3.9oz
Stack Height: Heel 18mm > 4mm drop > Forefoot 14mm
Feel: Super light, awesome flame overlays which actually do (don’t) make you run faster, super flexible slippery feel, ran to half marathon, might have been a few miles too far for them… perished

2. Saucony Grid Type A4
Weight: 6.3oz

Stack Height: Heel 14mm > 4mm drop > Forefoot 10mm
Feel: Light, middish firm, soft upper, narrow feel shame about the little drainage holes… I miss them sometimes on sunny 10k days when you want to run with what feels like nothing on your feet like I did for 400 miles and… perished

 

1. Adidas Takumi-Sen
Weight: 6.1oz
Stack Height: Heel 21mm > 6mm drop > Forefoot 19mm
Feel: Light, firm, breathable, narrow, fast, tilt forward, slightly more under foot… I’m scared they aren’t on the adidas site anymore because I love them like I love gluten free beer and sadly they have finally… perished

Keep it locked.

TBR.

cc1

When I was a young lad frequenting school in the heart of the Buckinghamshire countryside, I was usually up for a physical education lesson and normally, as part of the first team, I’d have to plump for soccerball. I was never really up for just running and to be honest it wasn’t backed/funded by the ‘phys-ed’ department as football, rugby and cricket were. I knew there was a run team. I used to see them whizzing by in their jazzy vests, sweat instantly ‘wicked’ unlike the soakable standard-issue sports that the rest of us donned. To be honest I was probably too busy trying to be Maradona to go and join the running lot. But when we were forced I did partake and go in for a bit of cross country and thoroughly enjoyed it. Whilst my peers would see it as opportunity for a crafty cigarette behind a tree or ‘miss a marker’ and find themselves on the high street stealing chocolate bars, I used to enjoy bombing through the woods and back to where we started, calves muddied, arms scratched, brow frosted.

I knew I was alright at running. Whenever the first team football squad was put through its paces with the dreaded bleep test, I normally killed it. When I was 14 I caused a stir in the 800m at the school sports day by racing away from the gun (“he’s gone off too fast” I heard muttered by a vested squad runner) and holding out for the win. But I never looked at cross country as a discipline that could have been an event to excel at in it’s own right. In fact if there wasn’t a football to chase and smash home in front of adoring fans I think I found little incentive in running at all!

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This weekend I went for a muddy (see above – they are the leaders by the way not me!) walk on Hampstead Heath and was lucky enough to stumble upon the South of England Athletic Association Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill. And I was bowled over by the number of runners, the support and how much fun I was seemingly missing. I’ve fully thrown myself into road and a bit of track running these last 3 years with the sole aim of bettering my times and maintaining health and well being. I knew cross country existed, I’d seen it on BBC2, with Brendan Foster and Steve Cram calling what normally was a ‘worlds’ race with ‘elite’ participants, but until now I hadn’t realized it was so popular amongst amateur club runners and seemingly a mass participation event.

At the SEAA event on Saturday there were no fewer than ten races, boys/men and girls/women at U13, U15, U17, U20 and Seniors. Just for the the senior race alone (see below) – a 15k schlep through mud, wind and drizzle, so kudos for all those that did finish – there were 986 who registered a time. And massively competitive, the first of the men over the line clocking 49:47, the equivalent of 5:20min/miles (?!) and the winning lady running 8km in 30:39 or 6min/miles.

Delving deeper it seems that I have underestimated the popularity of cross country and it’s importance in the development of runners competing in long-distance track and road running. Cross country has seemingly changed through the ages, even since I was a nipper. From forcing whimpering lads to trundle one after the other through rolling countryside in baltic conditions, to a fully fledged IAAF event as of 1971 and an important part of the running calendar. Look at some of the names who started their athletic career in cross country; Prefontaine, Salazar, Tergat and in more recent times Tadese, Mosop and of of course “the greatest ever male cross country runner to have graced the sport (IAAF)” Kenenisa Bekele… be scared Paris Marathon in April… be very scared. So seemingly these top top guys have found running cross to be excellent foundation for road and track. Probably 2 reasons why I’d suggest, 1) strength and conditioning, after all running – no racing – in the freezing cold over rolling hills is going to make for legs of steel and 2) mental toughness and the ability from a young age to overcome the adversity posed by inclement weather and a super competitive field.

So you know what? I may have done it the wrong way round in donning of my running shoes for flat roads when warmer climes come around as opposed to my CC spikes and enduring the ups and downs of freezing mud. But I’m gonna sign up with a club. At least so I can give it a shot. No ciggies, no choccy bars, just hardcore winter training!

TBR

Still got your tongue in? Well it’s about to fall out again as I review the most AWE-somest shoe I ever ran in. Period. Here’s why…

You know sometimes when you ran in the Adidas Adios and thought this shoe is like mega awesome and two marathon world records were run in them and they are basically light and a super fast, breathable, grippy marathon shoe but sometimes you wondered why sometimes when your cadence wasn’t as quick as Haile or Patrick’s you sometimes heel-strike and maybe if you had a shoe with a little less drop you would absolutely fly? Guess what? < DRUM ROLL >  It’s here.

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Takumi-Sen apparently translates as ‘Artisan of the Highest Order’ in Japanese where this shoe was conceived. It’s basically a stripped down souped-up version of the  Adios. It was designed with the marathon runner in mind and marketed as a ‘minimum (not-ist)’ shoe for racing and training.  It’s basically a cushioned (it’s not they actually run super-firm), neutral racing flat. I recently ran a PB over half marathon (6:30 miles) and marathon (7:30 miles) in these bad boys. Here are some features and differences between this shoe and the Adios:

  • LIGHT – weighing in at just 6.1oz  this shoe is super light and really doesn’t feel there; lighter and more anatomical than the Adios which comes in at 7.8oz
  • LOW PROFILE – the shoe is flat and fast, measuring 25mm heel and 19mm forefoot offering a more dynamic 6mm drop and really encourages forefoot running compared to the Adios at 24v15v9
  • ROBUST – the sole incorporates the same Continental rubber although with super grippy nodules covering the entirety of a traditional looking strike area across the mid foot and forefoot
  • RIDE – the shoe is low profile and really encourages mid-foot striking, it runs slightly narrower than the Adios and you get a true racing flat feel without worrying about lack of shoe as you often find in minimal, zero and barefoot offerings (which I personally struggle with over longer distances) and offers the ‘sprint frame’ and ‘torsion system’ to encourage quick take off!
  • CONSTRUCTION – this is what sets the Takumi apart, it’s crafted with lightweight, breathable, durable materials such as ‘Tirennina’ suede, ‘Teijin’ Japanese micro-fibre mesh and ‘respoEVA’ sockliner which do make the shoe feel premium compared to the slightly artificial feel of the Adios…!

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In the UK they are only carried on the Adidas site and in one Sweatshop store in The City, where I purchaysed mine probably as they are a somewhat niche shoe targeting quick-ish distant runners needing minimal support. In the US and Asia they come in fluoro-yellow and white-pink colourways and in Europe they come in traditional Adidas go-faster-red and I am pleased to say a new pleasing blue-yellow as imported from the only other EU store in Sweden?! (see above). I can’t speak highly enough of this shoe even at the mind-boggling price tag of £125. They are SO comfortable, hit the sweet spot in terms of drop (6mm) and weight, the softer upper moulds to the shape of your foot, they are firm yet there and encourage quick cadence, mid foot striking and fast times. Not convinced by my proclamation of them being the BEST marathon flat on the market? Here’s an insight into how their maker ‘Mr Omori’ goes about his work so you know it’s not ALL fad!

A racing flat is essentially a lower profile running shoe without the structure and support of a distance shoe. If you run relatively quickly, have a neutral gait and are efficient (don’t heel strike), running flats are awesome. A ‘barefoot’ shoe is designed to be as low profile as the foot itself and supposedly mimic the foot’s natural strike pattern. The difference in drop (heel to toe) is normally as follows:

Racing Flat (normally 4mm to 7mm drop)
E.g. New Balance RC5000 (16mm heel to 11mm toe) – http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageMRS-NB5KM2.html

Barefoot / Minimalist (0mm drop)
E.g. New Balance Minimus (8mm heel to 8mm toe) – http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageMRS-NBMR1.html

So the difference between a racing flat and a ‘minimalist / barefoot / zero-drop’ shoe isn’t much other than the latter is flatter and the price is fatter. Essentially they do the same thing; minimal structure, very light (normally less than 200g), lower profile and for shorter distances. Both of these styles – racing flat vs barefoot – are great but I prefer a racing flat for running on roads as they have a little more cushioning.

< Note on heel stack – depending on your gait and whether you pronate or not, you could run in a racing flat up to half marathon, or even marathon, distance but this would be dependent on fitness. As you tire when running, you begin to lose ‘form’ as your leg muscles and hips tire, at this point you may begin to heel strike as a result of slowing. At this point – normally from 10 miles onwards – a shoe with a little more under the heel may be beneficial so as not to put too much force through the achilles and hamstring. >

My favourite shoes are as follows, but ultimately it comes down to what fits you as different brands come up in different sizes (Adidas narrow, Mizuno wider). My picks are:

Marathon – Adidas Adios 2 (http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageMRS-AADI2M4.html)
Half Marathon – New Balance RC1600 (http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageMRS-N1600M2.html)
10k – Saucony Type A5 (http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageMRS-STYP5M5.html)
5k – Mizuno Wave Universe 4 (http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageMRS-MUNI4M3.html)

Other really popular shoes:

Mizuno Wave Musha (http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageMRS-MMU5M1.html) – note these have a little bit of arch support

Saucony Kinvara (http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageMRS-SKN4M2.html) – this is more of a zero drop shoe but designed like a flat

Brooks T7 Racer (http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageMRS-BT7RCM1.html) – this comes with stack but is lightweight.

All brands will make a lower profile shoe. I’d also really recommend inov-8 as they make shoes with the runner in mind (wide toe boxes and lightweight but durable materials) eg the X-233 – http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageMRS-I8X2332.html

Also check this page for racing flats categorised by weight: http://www.runningwarehouse.com/catpage-MRAC.html?SHOW=NOBRAND&ctype=comp

All the links above are from US site runningwarehouse.com which rocks as it gives so much more detail than UK sites – including heel drop, cushioning, recommended distances and shoe weight.

Enjoy!
TBR

 

 

Hurdle Fall

It will come as no surprise to anyone who monitors my twitter feed, and not least the misses who has to put up with it, that I have been watching a fair amount of cycling recently. As in 80% of ‘My Shows’ on the TiVo box are re-runs of the Giro, the Tour, the Cycling Show and all the one day classics. So courtesy of Phil Liggett I have familiarized myself with the cycling term ‘road furniture’. This commentator favorite describes anything on the road which a cyclist must navigate for fear of crashing. This goes for roundabouts, traffic cones, stray dogs… etc.

Living in London, running is hard. Actually not so much hard but difficult. Tricksy. Annoying. Why? Pavement furniture. Roughly 10 million people live in London proper (as in zones 1,2,3 and 4). I work a standard 8-6 job in The City and I have to run pretty much everyday, which means before or after work. Basically rush hour. Unless I go to the running track, which is an option but can be monotonous, I’m sharing a pavement with a million people. And the pavements in London Town ain’t great.  In c121 the Romans named our great city ‘Londinium’. I think some of the paved roads and walkways they originally laid as the city’s foundation still remain. So pavement furniture exists in two forms in my book 1) those who use the pavement inconsiderately through choice and 2) pavement condition and stationary object.  Let me elaborate.

1) ‘Pavement Furnituring’ I term the act of becoming an obstacle to other users. When running, those guilty of said offense are both a delay and a safety risk to both said runner and themselves. The following enter into this category: anyone using a phone for non-call based purposes,  anyone who has  been drinking to excess, tourists, idlers, children, cyclists (why are they even there?!), anyone practicing the art of snobbery, dog walkers, strollers, skateboarders, <sexism alert> lunching ladies, window-shoppers, street sweep, tramps, youths, vagabonds… i could go one. Basically in London, it’s every man and woman for him or herself. A to B in the fastest time possible. What’s at B? Irrelevant, how fast can I get there and can I fire off a text message, pick up a newspaper, smoke this pipe and swagger my way there? Stick to one side of the pavement so a runner (or anyone else traveling in the opposite direction for that matter) can pass? No chance. They are an inconvenience and shall give up their right to paved safety and travel with the other lunatics – the traffic and the cyclists.

2) In North London, I am convinced I am running on the same pavement stones that were laid thousands of years ago. Either that or Harringay and Islington councils are spending our tax contributions on everything but walkway maintenance and repair. It’s like running on a fault line. Up, down, left, right, if a N.London runner isn’t crashing into someone in front of them (likely not their fault, see above) because they are trying to navigate the mish-mash of paving slabs then they are going to trip and fall anyway in comedy fashion. You know when you are walking down the street, not paying attention and a toe catches an upturned slab with a slapping noise and a shock? Try doing that 10 times on a 4 mile loop and not losing patience. Add to that stationary obstacles – roadworks, dogs, cats, foxes, footballs, rugbyballs, basketballs, children (again), benches, bins, bin-bags, bicycles (again), smashed glass, tree-roots, bus shelters, lamp-posts and of course, the worst of the worst, doggie detritus.

Running in London is like a game of dodgeball. Just timed. With no winner. And worse for the knees and ankles. I am now praying for race day. Just give me an open piece of road. Even if there are a million entrants of varying ability, shape and size, at least we will all be moving in the same direction. Literally and figuratively!

TBR

tired-runner

Ideally in the morning, likely late morning Sunday, with the previous night’s festivities lingering, the dreaded long run. The muscle burner, the lung buster, the joint knocker. It has to be run. There is no alternative in marathon training to getting time in the legs, miles under the belt, the need for endurance.

Likely slower than normal training miles, you’ll panic when instructed to start slowly and not to deviate from this pace. This all seems leisurely enough, 10 miles later however, you’ll start feeling some lactic kick in anyway. As a purist, you choose not to listen to music in favour of listening to the body’s gripes and grievances but today the same route be it out and back, looped or start-finish seems mundane. You’ve run these roads numerous times before (likely all week) and somehow another 15 miles today doesn’t appeal. The same run with a little Vaseline and tape on the nips. Fuelling is complicated – carry water with you and tire the arms? Have a drop off point (requiring ultimate preparation)? Get the misses to stand half way round bottle and jam sandwich at the ready (unlikely)? Tricky, but crucial; 18 miles on a hangover and one energy gel is risky… But you trudge on, ideally it’s a sunny day but not too sunny for fear of dehydration. A little cooling rain perhaps welcomed but not so much that your shoes fill with puddles and your wet vest chills your shoulders. Tiredness (delirium) may set in at the latter stages as your unaccustomedly fatigued limbs yearn for HQ, Sunday strollers on the way to parkland games and pub lunches wonder how and why on a ‘day off’ you’ve chosen to sweat your way around half the city.

Finally you arrive, knees tremble slightly once stationary, moist, slightly rouge of cheek, back of the arms aching. Deep breath. Job done. Ice cold can of Fanta down the hatch; the most quenched your thirst has ever been. Stretch, ah the stretch! Legs hard as stone, bright eyed, shower fresh, some sofa time, the whole day ahead… the lady finally wakes up, massive breakfast love?

Just as an update for you guys I have recently returned to marathon training for Bournemouth in October. I’ve had a period on the bike over the summer which I have really enjoyed but now the serious running mileage starts so time to park the wheels!

The marathon plan is similar to that which I followed for Amsterdam last year. It’s a 12wk programme and pretty much follows the following schedule:

Mon: 5m easy or rest
Tue: 6m easy or intervals or both (am&pm)
Wed: 5m easy
Thu: 6m fartlek
Fri: rest
Sat: 6m steady
Sun: 12m-22m long run

The mileage for this sort of program averages about 40 miles per week and week 9 is (supposedly) 60! Last year I followed this program fairly rigidly and ran a 3h30 marathon. The plan is to follow the same program (not scrimping on mileage) and run at a quicker pace. In order to acheive this I have decided that Tuesdays and/or Thursdays should be a track day. I decided to start running on the track as a) you can run continually without stopping for traffic, dogs, flashers etc and b) the surface allows for a fast cadence.

I incorporated a bit of track work last year at Battersea, now I am a fully integrated North Londoner, I have started using the running track at Parliament Hill (see below).

phat

The surface is fantastic, it does get busy between 7-8 but at all other times is pretty much a runners graveyard. It doesn’t cost much £2/£3 per visit and the views from Hampstead Heath are great. I am running either in the Mizuno’s or my new distance spikes which are great. I got the following spike from Nike, I think I got them too small as after the first session I got big-toe-blisters but hopefully they should stretch and I might wear a real thin sock for the next session also:

nd7

Sweet. Keep running.
TBR

Who’s for a long awaited shoe review? OK then! Here’s my thoughts on the Mizuno Wave Universe 4.

I picked up these bad boys whilst in New York in June last year for a wedding. As a fairly niche shoe, it was impossible to try a pair of these on in the UK as you couldn’t get them anywhere… I had my eye on them for a while and whilst exploring NYC happened upon Paragon Sports on 18th & Broadway (www.paragonsports.com) and much to the chagrin of my other half spent the next hour in there! For those in NYC the basement is about 1000 sqft of running. It’s a runner’s paradise… anyway to the shoe!

You would probably categorize the Mizuno Wave Universe 4 as a ‘racing flat’ and it would also probably be lumped in with the, what has become fashionable, ‘minimalist’ category,  as there really is not very much of it. At all. I’ll break this down into three parts so as to get particularly nerdy and I’ll also throw in a couple of photos.

 

Construction
The first thing to note about this shoe is that it is super light. 3.9oz or 110g metric. To put that into context that’s about the same as a mini log of goats cheese. Or a large lemon. Basically, it’s not very much. And this lightness feels amazing. The shoe is constructed mainly of mesh, foam and lightweight plastics but at the same time feels durable. The sole is pretty much composed of this same composite  that runs under the shoe with some rubber in the right places. The upper has a black suede at the toe, running laterally above the sole on the sides of the shoe and on the heel. This i don’t doubt is for durability. My only gripe with the sole of shoe, which is constructed pretty well otherwise, is the hole right under the arch of the foot which i imagine improves airflow and drainage. This tends to catch dirt which travels all the way through the minimal insole into the shoe. As you can see below shoe seems to have stood the test of time; I’ve put around 300 miles into it both on the road and track. The sole seems to have taken a bit of a pasting however and perhaps has worn down a little around the outer-forefoot. But I put this down to gait and also cornering on the track.

 

Fit & Racing
How does the shoe ride? Light, fast, good propulsion. The shoe has 18mm in the heel and 14mm in the forefoot. It is therefore very close to the ground but does provide a 4mm heel-toe drop so,whilst being minimalist, isn’t zero under the heel like other shoes in this weight class like the vibram five-fingers or the saucony hattori for example. Because the shoe is so lightweight you get amazing feedback from the ground but with slight (but enough) cushioning. I say cushioning but the ride is very firm, the copolymer sole holds it’s own and is durable. What I do like about this shoe is that it has been designed to be a ‘flat’ in all senses of the word. The toe box is quite wide but the midsole and heel however are pretty narrow so the shoe clings tight to the foot whilst letting toes splay upfront. Perfect. As it is made of minimal materials also, the shoe is really flexible but not to the point where it feels sock-like as the Nike Free 3.0 does.

 

Summary
A super light, super fast racer to be worn over 5k, 10k and maybe a flat and quick half marathon. This shoe is very much for the neutral gait, when I started running the lack of materials made me feel a little nervous about added stress on the achilles. However I have grown to love them and become used to the low ride. They knock about 30 seconds off my average minute mile I set a 10k pb in them on the track and they do make you feel faster over short distances on the road. And, oh yeh, they look awesome!

TBR


Where has the beard been?! In Lisbon! Running! So you haven’t had a post for ages. My bad. I have been training pretty hard since the last post. The aim was to run the Lisbon Half Marathon in an injury free better time than my Royal Park’s effort 4 months earlier. So after 100 miles training in Jan, 100 miles training in Feb, the weekend came. And it was… hot!

Goal Time – I ran Royal Parks Half in 1h54. I got training wrong. I wore the wrong footwear. I got a bad knee. So Lisbon goal time was 1h45 and to do it without injury either in the build up to or during the race. In training I had a bit of a suspicion that I was over compensating on my left knee protecting the right. Nothing that ice and some stretching couldn’t manage. So injury free? Tick. Times were looking good also, I was running 8 minute miles easy and was sprinting the end of training runs doing 6:30 miles. I ran a pb over 13.1 miles of 1h40. I was quite pleased. So the goal time for Lisbon was to try and sneak into the 1h30’s… it didn’t transpire sadly! But not far off…

The Course & Logistics – So some brainwave a couple of years ago decided that rather than have everyone run the previous up and down the docks loop, they’d add some flair and start everyone (other than the elites – sub 1h10’s) on the Ponte 25 de Abril under the statue of Christ on the other side of the Tagus estuary. This glorious commencement to a race unfortunately causes problems to your average pb chaser like me. Namely that pre-race logistics mean that the only way to the start line is to join the 20,000 other runners crammed onto trains from Campolide to Pragal. Being crammed deep into a sweaty train isn’t the ideal build up. See below:

So sweaty cramped train endured I followed the masses to the bridge – stopping a couple of times in car park bushes to pee – to join every other brother! Problem. Runners weren’t penned by ability. This meant that irrespective of how quick you wanted to run, it’s a first come first closest to the start line. I very stupidly decided to find shade by a road sign about 5,000 people deep (it was already hot even at 10.30am!) and consequently spent the first miles dodging in and out of young and old runners (and walkers) enjoying the view! It took me 9:45 to run the first mile… But the spectacle was pretty amazing and it was a great atmosphere!

Course vs Heat – now already 2 minutes down I wanted to make up for lost time. Fortunately the course was very much downhill off the bridge then a pancake flat loop of the docks. So my strategy was thus: try and sustain sub 8 minute miles, ideally getting closer to 7:30’s than 7:50’s and enjoy the lack on any incline / decline. Course below:

So putting the first mile aside I ran the following 7 minute miles: 51, 30, 47, 53, 45, 40, 56, 53, 47, 28, 25, 23, then a sprint finish of 6:23 over a quarter mile. The strategy would have worked  had it not have been a million degrees. It was suuuuuuper hot. This worried me. In London I had never run in temperature over roughly 12 degrees. On the day it was 27 degrees. And scorching sun! I had to really concentrate on staying cool, hydrated and spent most of the race running around people who were laboring later on having tried to go off to fast on too hotter day! Anyway, it didn’t work, I got sunburn and I ran a 1h43 but felt fairly comfortable (although red) throughout. A few people were in pretty bad condition toward the end of the long straight between mile 5 and 11. I had enough to kick which was a bit annoying as I clearly had some left in the tank, despite the conditions!

Summary – So the race was hot, stunning, annoying, tailwind v headwind, hot and er hot. Thanks so much to my girlfriend Kate for coming to support (was great to see her at 4 and 7 miles) – she provided the snaps below! I’d run the race again without question. The Portuguese love distance running, there was great support, the course (if you get to the start line early enough) is flat and quick and Lisbon is a great city.

Post run come down – So having berated myself a bit post race for being a bit naive re temperature, start line antics etc. I was OK with the time (although I told myself that next goal time is 1h35). Then I met the taxi driver. On the Monday we got a cab to the airport. Our driver was super friendly (as are many Lisboans) and after brief chat about the city and it’s football fan rivalry between Sporting and Benfica we got to the topic of running. Turns out that our on the short side cabby who sits in the front all day speaking pigeon English to tourists and lugging his car up and down Lisbon’s 7 hills is a keen runner… ‘I run with the blind guy, I am a guide. I run Olympics with him. We run two and one half hours this morning. We run the half marathon last year. We run 1h16 me and the blind guy. He’s a good guy. Me? I am fat now but I do 1h6. And you make quick time?….’ Me – ‘OneughhuhHourughhunFortyurghhuh… I wasn’t brave enough to add the 3’. Apparently his mate ran (Rui Silva – he came 4th in 1h02)… the Portuguese love running!

 

1) Is it possible to consume gels mid run without getting sticky hands, hair, face etc?
2) How can one pound the pavements without demolishing the second toes (so far blistering, lost nail, blood)?
3) What’s the best time to run on a canal toe path without having to fear falling in for dodging cyclists?
4) The best way to avoid calf ache and ache and ache?
5) Should one say hello to passing runners in a show of support (it seems this is not etiquette…)
6) Can I get away with wearing fluoro yellow and/or orange trainers without being a pro?
7) If I wore a head torch for runs after 7pm will I be ridiculed or mistaken for a car?
8) Where in North London is it possible to run without any sign of an incline?
9) When oh when will it cease being sub zero?
10) And finally the big one… being male, is wearing just tights with no short allowed?!