Men’s World Championship Marathon 2019 – Review

On Sunday 5 October 2019, Qatar’s capital city played host to the second ever night-time marathon at the World Athletics Championships. In this post, I’ll answer the question “What happened during the 2019 men’s World Championship marathon?” and explore the important running lessons all runners can learn.

What happened in the race?

The men’s marathon was packed with quality athletes from across the world. Although cooler than the women’s race, the course and nighttime conditions were the same and would still severely test the athletes. The 29-year-old Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa stood as one of the favourites, finishing as runner-up in the 2019 Boston Marathon earlier in the year.

After less than 90 seconds, Derlys Ayala made a significant break. He continued to check his watch and pour water over himself as he extended his lead. Sweden’s Adhanom Abraha attempted to push on with him, but the majority of the field dealt with his move. Ayala had a projected finish time of 2 hours and 6 minutes in the early stages. His competitors remained calm. A few athletes ran a few metres in front of the main pack but this was only temporary. Ayala ran the first 5 kilometres in 15:06, one minute ahead of everyone else.

The Paraguayan looked smooth in his arm drive and leg turnover, and maintained his minute-lead through 10 kilometres. His time was an impressive 30:40, but Ayala’s face began to show a new story. His eyeline was more often than not projected downwards. But the lead remained over one minute at 15 kilometres. Callum Hawkins even surged at this stage, but it was only temporary.

Paul Lonyangata of Kenya then surged. The field began to string out a little. Adhanom Abraha then surged. Ayala started to slow by 17 kilometres. Zersenay Tadese, the former half marathon world record holder, reacted best. Ayala was being reeled in by the others. Six athletes, including Lelisa Desisa, breezed by Ayala before the halfway mark. Ayala soon dropped out, exhausted by his lone running. Tadese, Desisa, Mokoka, Geremew and Kipruto were now the lead group.

The defending champion, Geoffrey Kirui, then led the race at 25 kilometres. Four different groups formed along the long stretch of road. The lead kept changing. The pace surged and dropped. Kirui was dropped first. Then before 32 kilometres Tedese fell off the pace. Four athletes led, then Tadese returned to the lead pack. The South African Mokoka surged at 35 kilometres. Tadese and Desisa appeared to be dropped by the front three. They spread across the road. 

With 2 kilometres to go, Hawkins reached the lead pack. Mokoka instead began to fade. With 1 kilometre to go, the three East Africans surged and a significant gap developed between them and Hawkins. Kipruto was dropped. Desisa gritted his teeth. Geremew looked relaxed. Desisa then sprinted with  250 metres to go. He broke the tape to win the gold medal by four seconds, having never looked in control of the race.

Running lessons from the race

There were three running lessons from the men’s World Championship marathon; 1. Confidence can falsely lead runners to run too fast too soon; 2. Looks can be deceiving, and 3. Patience can significantly benefit marathoners.

Confidence can prove counterproductive

Although self-confidence is important to all athletes, too much can result in sub-par performances. The Paraguayan’s early front running dominated the first half of the race. It was clearly pre-planned. He had achieved a new personal best of 2:10:27 two weeks previous, and presumably wanted to see if he could produce another outstanding performance. But he dropped out of the race as soon as he was caught at halfway. The plan did not work.

Four nations had no athletes finish the race despite having at least one on the start line. Notable DNFs included multiple Paris Marathon champion Paul Lonyangata, 2019 London Marathon third place finisher, Mule Wasihun, and the 2018 Commonwealth Games marathon silver medalist, Solomon Mutai. Although less men dropped out than in the women’s race, Doha still tested the athletes to their maximum. Overconfidence meant there were no happy endings for some athletes.

Fatiguing appearances can be deceiving

An athlete’s running technique and facial expressions can tell a lot about how the athlete is feeling. However, sometimes it can be deceiving. Desisa looked more fatigued in the second half of the race compared to his rivals. His arm drive was far from efficient and he didn’t appear relaxed. But he triumphed, and even did a victory dance after the race. Kenya’s Korir’s excessive forward posture, and grimaces by other athletes couldn’t hide their discomfort. But it’s athletes who can push through the inevitable pain that make the most of their talents. Appearances are not everything. 

Patience in the marathon can offer rich rewards 

The most surprising performance of the evening was by Great Britain’s Callum Hawkins. Except for a brief stint at the front of the race he maintained relatively consistent five-kilometre splits. When others began to fade he was able to gain momentum as he passed them. Many of them had faster personal bests than him. He tested the best athletes in the world and except for the final surge with a kilometre to go, he had a great opportunity to win a global medal. Unfortunately for him it wasn’t to be but his racing strategy was certainly effective. 

Desisa, on the other hand, didn’t make a serious move until the final few hundred metres. Having the patience to wait until there can be no response from your competitors shows the experience and class of the Ethiopian. This performance would have been a satisfying one for the 29-year-old, who won silver in the marathon at the 2013 World Athletics Championships  in Moscow.

Conclusion

The 2019 men’s marathon at the World Championship was a cagey race. The lead pack surged throughout, which meant the racing was enthralling and unpredictable. With 18 athletes in the elite field (equivalent to 24.7%) unable to finish the race, the Doha humidity once again defined the race. Still, the race rewarded those who were patient and not over-confident; a marathon lesson that everyone can employ in any conditions.

Women’s World Championship Marathon 2019 – Review

On Sunday 27 September 2019, the city of Doha was host to the first ever night-time marathon at the World Athletics Championships. In this post, I’ll answer the question “What happened during the 2019 women’s World Championship marathon?” and explore what lessons all runners can learn from this historic race.

What happened in the race?

The women’s marathon was full of experienced champions. But the 70% humidity, and 32℃ temperature levelled the field. Although cooler than earlier in the day, conditions were at the limit of what the organisers would allow for the race to go ahead. The 25-year-old Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich stood on the start line as the favourite. She didn’t disappoint.

The course was along the Corniche in downtown Doha. Crowds were not as huge as would have been expected. But those who were along the waterfront promenade saw athletes slightly more than six times throughout the 7-km flat loop.

Athletes took sponges and doused themselves within the first 90 seconds of the race. Most athletes sensibly took on water in the early miles. Sardana Trofimova, an authorised neutral athlete, was an early leader. She opened up a five-second lead. But it only lasted another kilometre or so. The East Africans then pushed on and subsumed her into the lead pack. The lead group contained 16 athletes. They ran the first 5 kilometres in 18:21. This pace predicted a 2:34 marathon finish. 

Salpeter then lead from the front but Chepngetich took over at 7km. Chelimo used her hands to signal to move closer to aid stations. Salpeter surged at times, dropping her drinks bottle as she retrieved a towel. The lead group ran 10 kilometres in 36:44. But Chepngetich soon surged. Three athletes responded, her compatriot Visiline Jepkesho, Bahrain’s Rose Chelimo and Ethiopia’s Ruti Aga. The field was strung out along the road.

At 13 kilometres Chepngetich held a nine-second lead, but she slowed so that a new lead pack emerged before 15 kilometres. Four athletes ran alongside her; Helilia Johannes, Edna Kiplagat, Rose Chelimo and Visiline Jepkesho. Before the halfway point athletes were starting to drop out of the race, including Aga and Britain’s number one marathoner Charlotte Purdue. The lead pack ran the first half of the race in 1:16:40. Jepkesho dropped off the pack before 25km. Salpeter continued to chase for many miles by herself. But she dropped out just after 31 km.

At 35km a decisive break happened on the last lap. Chepngetich surged with a 3:19 kilometre. Only the defending champion Rose Chelimo could stay within touching distance. The Kenyan’s slight head bobbing and high arm drive was pronounced as she extended her lead. She began lapping other athletes. Her lead extended to 30 seconds with a few kilometres to go. Whilst Chelimo appeared to slow, with justifiably tired legs, Chepngetich maintained a quick leg turnover and relatively high knee lift.

At 39km Johannes pulled ahead of Kiplagat. It was then that the medals would be decided. Chepngetich won the first gold medal of the 2019 World Athletics Championships. She never needed to look back.

Running lessons from the race

There were three running lessons from the women’s World Championship marathon; 1. negative-split pacing remains a winning race strategy for the marathon ; 2. tough conditions are too difficult for some experienced athletes to cope with, and 3. extra fluids are crucial in humid conditions.

Negative-split pacing is still most effective strategy for marathon

Although conditions were brutal for the athletes to run peak performances, Chepngetich proved why a slight negative-split strategy is the best race strategy. Her second half was 37 seconds faster than her first. She was one of only two athletes in the top ten to record a negative-split performance (the other athlete was Mizuki Tanimoto). As a result she won the race in an eventually comfortable 1:03. Her strength in the final seven kilometres showed that rather than surging excessively, she could simply maintain. As most athletes slowed slightly, she did not. 

Even experienced athletes can’t always execute in tough conditions

The field of athletes was strong. Yet, experienced athletes, could not cope with the tough conditions. This was partly surprising because as professional athletes they would presumably have trained specifically for the conditions. Although it was sensible to drop out of the race if athletes were genuinely struggling, the early exits showed in part that athletes had obviously severely underestimated the challenge. Heat tolerance and pain thresholds are different for every athlete, but every athlete would have been aware of the conditions well in advance.

There were sixteen nations who had no athletes finish the race despite having at least one on the start line. Most surprising were Ethiopia, Uganda, Italy and Great Britain. Notable DNFs included marathon national record holder for Israel, Lonah Salpeter, who won the 10,000m gold at the 2018 European Championships. Charlotte Purdue, the best British marathoner this year, also suffered in Qatar’s conditions.

Extra fluids are essential in humid, hot conditions

Athletes drank more during the race than what would usually be expected in a marathon. The humid and hot conditions meant that athletes sweated much more rapidly than under cooler conditions. This meant that athletes were more prone to heat exhaustion, especially if they had not adequately acclimatised themselves to the conditions pre-race. Most, if not all athletes took advantage of their special drinks, available to them every 5 kilometres. Another water station was set up so that no runner was too far from any fluids. To ensure everyone got what they needed, there was always a spread of athletes whenever they reached water stations. Athletes poured water over their heads, and weaved across the road.

It must be emphasised though that although hydration is important during hotter conditions, slowing your pace to an appropriate level is just as crucial for success. The demands of the marathon are rigorous even on favourable days. This is why it wasn’t unsurprising to see no athlete record a personal best. Even the champion Chepngetich ran 15:35 slower than her personal best set only eight months ago in Dubai.

Conclusion

The 2019 women’s marathon at the World Championship was a unique race. Not only was the evening time, hot weather and repetitive course different from other World Championships, it was controversial. With 28 athletes in the elite field (equivalent to 41%) unable to finish the race, many would argue that this was far from ideal for spectators, coaches or athletes. 

There should be recognition that the athletes all worked hard to get to Doha. Still, there should be as many questions asked of the organisers as there should be of the athletes. The relatively low finishers’ rate for such an important race shows neither the organisers or athletes truly grasped this Middle Eastern challenge to the detriment of the sport.

Chelmsford Marathon 2019 Race Report

Race Report: 20 October 2019

Before the race, I wasn’t sure what performance I was capable of.
It would be the last race of a long running season. I had hoped before the year that I could set a new personal best. But that felt impossible.
The weather was ideal; cool and dry. As I set off from the start line, I had the 3:30 pacer in my sights.
I began conservatively, holding back and ignoring the adrenaline.
I saw my family at the five-kilometre mark then soon took a cup of water from an aid station. Most of it I spilt on the floor.
Still, my mile splits were all under eight minutes. I wasn’t gaining on the pacer and group of runners around him.
Just past the five-mile mark I used a portaloo. I was less than 30 seconds inside and soon came upon the second aid station. I grabbed my special drinks bottle and gradually made up the time I had lost. I didn’t panic.
I enjoyed a Nakd bar as I sipped my homemade sports drink over the next miles.
At eight miles I was still behind the pacemaker even though I was still running quicker than a projected 3:30 finish time.
I increased my pace so that miles eight and nine were 7:30 each.
I passed runners who were falling off the back of the pacer group. This gave me confidence.
I could ease off the pace a little over the next few miles as I steadily reached the group. At 12 ¼ miles I was part of the group. It contained seventeen runners including me and the pacer.
I felt relatively fresh. Only my left knee ached a little. I ignored it.
We passed halfway in around 1:42:00. This meant that at the current pace we would finish the marathon in 3:24:00. I was more than happy with this.
I retrieved my second special drinks bottle and drew energy from the group. Most of the time there was no talking; just the pattern of footsteps pounding the rural roads. The support was sparse but noisy.
At times I was hugging the curb, other times I ran just behind the lead pacer in the centre of the road, other times I kept on the outside. The positions moved when we passed another aid station. I tried to get out of the way of everyone else as they frantically grabbed their drinks.
I felt good, but I reminded myself that I needed to wait. We continued clocking up the miles at around 7:40 pace. The undulations didn’t affect me as the group continued with almost fifteen runners.
We soon passed runners in front, others hung onto us.
At the 19-mile mark I grabbed my last special drinks bottle. I didn’t need much from it but I kept it in my hands just in case.
There was a sharp incline and I held myself back from passing the pacer. We were less than 10 kilometres from the finish and I wanted to push on.
But I waited another mile before I surged.
I thanked the group and found a pace I felt I could maintain. That pace was 45 seconds faster per mile; 6:45. It was challenging but within my limits.
I was alone for long sections, then I passed more runners.
I sped up for miles 24 and 25. I ran 6:30 per mile pace.
The last mile I surged again and finished the 26th mile in 6:22.
I gave all I had over the final 320 metres. I sprinted to the finish line, overtaking an older runner moments before crossing the line in 3:16:35.
I was genuinely pleased, exceeding my expectations pre-race.

Relatively Huge Success

My ninth marathon was a huge success. I managed my second negative-split marathon, and enjoyed a race with relatively little discomfort. It was my third-fastest marathon and was the first race for which I purposefully used a pace group to support me. It undoubtedly helped me reduce my perception of effort, and was a unique experience. I also finished in the top 50 runners. This was the 16th race in which I achieved this feat.

2019 had already seen me produce a new 10-mile and half marathon personal best, and complete my first ever ultramarathon. Although I felt fully recovered after my ultramarathon, it had only been 15 days prior. I didn’t know what to expect from my legs. I only hoped that a sub 3:30 marathon would be possible. I knew the pacemaker would help me along.

At the start of the year I had wanted to break my previous personal best, set in the same race in 2017. I was only 3:16 away from accomplishing this goal. If I had not run such a conservative first half of the race, I perhaps could have got very close to my ambition. The difference between the two halves was about 7 ½ minutes. Still, my sixth consecutive Chelmsford Marathon was a fantastic way to finish an injury-free running season. Also, the medal is my first to spin. I am now motivated more than ever to realise my full potential at the 26.2-mile distance.

Chicago Marathon 2019 – Review

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is one of six World Marathon Majors and has one of the flattest courses. On Sunday 13 October 2019, the American city was host to a new women’s world record and a highly competitive men’s race. In this post, I’ll answer the question “What happened during the 2019 Chicago Marathon?” and what lessons all runners can learn from this major race.

What happened in the elite women’s race?

The elite women’s race was dominated by one woman. Brigid Kosgei. She intended to break the marathon world record. With no other athlete in the field capable of running that fast, she would spend much of the race with her personal male pacemakers, never needing to look back down the road. 

Kosgei set her pacemakers to run 68 minutes for the half marathon. She comfortably slotted behind them and had dropped her competitors by 5 kilometres. She maintained a strong, fast high arm drive throughout. Her face was a picture of concentration. Her head remained still and her posture was strong, proving her superior core strength.

Some watching would have been sceptical of her fast early 5 kilometre splits, especially when she was 38 seconds faster than Radcliffe’s world record at 10 kilometres. Gaps only formed when she retrieved her bottle at the aid stations. Otherwise it was as if she was glued to her personal pacemakers.

At the halfway mark she was 63 seconds ahead of Radcliffe’s record, in a time of 1:06:59. Her 5 kilometre splits remained under 16:08, with no sign of slowing. Even when the pacemakers stopped running Kosgei kept her composure, finishing in 2:14:04. She had broken the world record by 1:21, when no woman had even got within a minute of Racliffe’s mark before this. To add to her incredible performance she also finished the race in 23rd position overall, showing there’s more to come from this special athlete.

Even though Kosgei is only 25 years old, her impressive running record had already showed that this performance was possible. She proved again why she is world number one in the women’s marathon.

What happened in the elite men’s race?

The elite men’s race was packed with great athletes. The battle seemed to be whether Mo Farah could defend his title, or whether an East African would prove once again their dominance of the 26.2-mile course. The race finished with two Kenyans and two Ethiopians sprinting for the tape. Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono, the 2019 Boston Marathon champion, executed the most savvy of race strategies to win by a second. 

Despite having two pacemakers, the lead pack continued to stretch out then bunch together during the first seven miles. From there, gaps started to appear. Six men emerged as the lead group. Mo Farah, the defending champion, his training partner Bashir Abdi, and the 2017 champion Galen Rupp had fallen significantly behind. One of the pacemakers also couldn’t keep up with the pace, falling away before the halfway mark.

Dickson Chumba surged multiple times but could not shake off his competitors. Stronger winds soon became a factor. The six men ran in single file behind the pacemaker for several miles. Surprisingly, Chumba was the first man to drop off the lead pack just after 30 kilometres. Then the pacemaker left his position and the real racing began. Karoki ran at the front then Cherono took his turn. Ethiopia’s Seifu Tura was dropped at 1:53. Debela then led the race.

Into the last mile, Cherono and Dejene Debela surged. Asefa Mengstu gritted his teeth to stay with the group. Cherono soon found himself at the back of the group. Debela appeared to push on as he kept looking at his watch. But Cherono’s final sprint proved too strong; he was crowned champion.

Abdi finished in fifth place, less than 30 seconds behind the winner, whilst Chumba faded into seventh position. Farah also had a disappointing race, crossing the line in 2:09:58 for eighth place. It was his slowest time since becoming a marathoner.

Running lessons from the race

There were three obvious running lessons on display at the 2019 Chicago Marathon; 1. you should run fast if you feel good on race day; 2. reduce pre-race distractions where possible, and 3. never ignore injuries regardless of where you are in a race.

Run fast if you feel good on race day

Kosgei’s fast running was a testament to her feeling good and making the most of her current form. Her attempt at breaking Paula Radcliffe’s world record was still very ambitious. Her recent block of training must have gone well. Ultimately, she was coming into the race with many factors in her favour.  Her previous personal best of 2:18:35 was more than two minutes faster than the next best athlete. As defending champion she was the clear favourite for the race. 2019 had already been a stellar year for her. She had won six of her six races, including the Virgin Money London Marathon and the SimplyHealth Great North Run. Perhaps it was inevitable that one day she would become the world record holder.

Reduce pre-race distractions where possible

Professional athletes are primed to focus on their training and racing. But distractions can still be unproductive at best and frustrating at worst. Sadly, three prominent athletes found themselves questioned by the media pre-race about the recent doping ban of famous running coach Alberto Salazar. Top US athletes Galen Rupp and Jordan Hasay had been coached by Salazar. Neither finished the race despite high expectations of performing well. Even Mo Farah, who had been coached by Salazar during his track career, did not perform at his usual high standard. These pre-race distractions would not have relaxed their minds going into an important race of their seasons. As none of them have been accused of doping, this would have been an unfortunate and saddening moment in their careers. Hopefully, they will bounce back stronger.

Don’t ignore injuries however close to the finish 

Aside from the negative media attention, pre-existing injuries would not have helped athletes competing. Galen Rupp found himself running alone in the top ten for much of the race. It was his first race since the 2018 Chicago Marathon. An Achilles injury and subsequent surgery meant that most of his year was focused on recovery. He had withdrawn from the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in September. His morning ended just before the 23-mile mark. Despite being so close to the finish line, it remains a sensible decision to drop out of a race to receive medical attention rather than push through an obvious injury. The consequence of ignoring such pain could be that more recovery time is needed. The medium- to long-term is always crucial for professional athletes.

Jordan Hasay could not finish the race either, dropping out early in the race after suffering from a hamstring injury in the first few miles of the race. It was another disappointment for the USA team, but again she made the right decision. 

Conclusion

The 2019 Chicago Marathon was packed with exciting racing and fast times but also disappointing performances. Brigid Kosgei smashed the course and world record, proving her current dominance of the event. Whilst in the men’s race, the sprint finish between four athletes reminded audiences again of how East Africans are simply unstoppable. But the race was nonetheless overshadowed in part by the ban of Alberto Salazar. Although coaches exist to support their athletes, in extreme cases like this they can also hinder. Especially when the mass media become interested.

Read the report of the 2018 race in which Mo Farah won his first marathon.

Great Scottish Run 2019 – Review

The Great Scottish Run is one of the biggest running events in Scotland and attracts many elite athletes and recreational runners of all abilities. On Sunday 29 September 2019, Glasgow hosted stand-out half marathon performances from East Africans, who dominated the race. In this post, I’ll answer the question “What happened during the 2019 Great Scottish Run?” and what lessons all runners can learn from this popular race.

What happened in the elite men’s race?

The elite men’s race focused on whether anyone could usurp Britain’s Chris Thompson, who had won the previous two years. Zane Robertson of New Zealand, and a host of quality East Africans looked to do just that. Stephen Kiprop and Micah Kogo of Kenya, Timothy Torotich of Uganda and Yemane Tsegay of Ethiopia seemed best placed to test Thompson’s recent dominance of the event.

However, well before halfway, Thompson looked beaten and Robertson had dropped out. Torotich’s convincing triumph over the rest of the field returned the title to Uganda, after a four-year wait.

The steep hill during the first mile did nothing to separate the lead pack. But it didn’t take long to shake up the athletes. Kogo, Kiprop and Torotich pushed the pace just before five kilometres and established a quick twenty-metre gap. Thompson was sweating a lot after less than fifteen minutes, and his title defence was realistically over by four miles.

The three East Africans were soon out of sight. Torotich surged several times without a breakthrough, until the halfway mark. It was through Pollok Park that Torotich broke his Kenyan rivals. He ran hard, completing the seventh mile in 4:28. Although he couldn’t quite maintain the same fast mile splits, he didn’t need to. He kept a thirty-second lead at 10 miles and never looked in danger of being caught.

Kogo was runner-up, whilst Kiprop came third. This was despite Spain’s Benabbou managing to run beside Kiprop at 11 miles. Kiprop then surged and was four seconds away from second place. Fifth place Eritrean got a lifetime best by over two minutes. The Eritrean Weynay Ghebreselassie finished in fifth place with a lifetime best of 1:04:22, over two minutes faster than his previous best performance.

Although Torotich won the race by 59 seconds, he showed visible signs of working hard. He frequently wiped his face of sweat, his head moved a lot in the closing miles and his breathing was noticeably heavy. However, he stayed strong by using his fast, short arm drive to great effect.

What happened in the elite women’s race?

The elite women’s race was all about Kenya’s Edith Chelimo, who was the outstanding favourite, racing against fellow Kenyan Nancy Kiprop, Ethiopian Askale Merachi and a number of European runners. Chelimo ran as expected, alone, in a new course record.

Chelimo broke away within the first few minutes of the race. She looked relaxed throughout, looking slightly down, her head still, her posture strong and upright. She continued her dominance, leading by 59 seconds at the 10 kilometre mark. Male club runners helped her in the early miles. Then she was alone. She eventually ran a new course record of 1:07:38, 19 seconds faster than the previous record. Although she admitted post-race that she wanted to run 1:06:00, she should be proud of her amazing performance.

Although Nancy Kiprop and Askale Merachi worked together for much of the race, the Kenyan surged in the closing miles to beat Merachi by ten seconds and claim second spot.

Running lessons from the race

The 40th edition of the race revealed three important lessons for all runners: 1. you can race by yourself if you’re strong mentally; 2. you can’t expect a great performance (relative to your own standards) if you aren’t fully recovered from a previous race, and 3. sparsely located supporters can’t deter top athletes from performing.

Racing alone isn’t negative

In both the men’s and women’s elite races, the eventual champions spent much of their race running alone. Experienced athletes such as Torotich and Chelimo don’t get easily distracted by their competition. Instead they could run their own predetermined strategy. This was even more impressive when considering that neither checked their watches much throughout the race.

Peak performance requires being fully rested

For all athletes, top performances can only be achieved if you are in shape. This means that any athlete should be fully recovered from any recent races or hard block of training. Despite only a light breeze during the race, with the temperature around 12℃, certain athletes were never going to fare too well on the course.

Defending champion Thompson had to settle with seventh position, several minutes slower than his previous victories in a time of 1:05:31. Post-race the 38-year-old Briton admitted it had been a tough day. He had not recovered fully from his recent victories. This was understandable as he won the Great East Run the previous Sunday, and the Richmond RUNFEST Marathon the weekend before that. Sadly there was no threat from Zane Robertson either, who dropped out with injury at the five kilometre mark.

Sparse support is still helpful

Although there was huge support in certain areas, the race snaked through several parks, which understandably were sparse. This meant that athletes couldn’t draw on the enthusiasm of the spectators. Nonetheless, it was still encouraging in those areas where there were people cheering and clapping. Thompson even slowed as he approached the finish line to acknowledge the crowds’ efforts. Edith Chelimo also praised the Scottish people, saying they helped her to not give up and to keep believing in herself.

Conclusion

The men’s and women’s races at the 2019 Bank of Scotland Great Scottish Run were won by a relatively large margin. With over 8,000 runners completing the 13.1 miles, and tens of thousands running across the running festival weekend it’s a great spectacle for Scottish athletics. However, sub-par performances and even injury are risks if athletes are not fully fit to race. The steep hill at the start of the race should be a warning for everyone that all running achievements are no stroll in the park.

 

Read my reports from other elite races since 2018.

Cardiff Half Marathon 2019 – Review

The Cardiff Half Marathon is an iconic road race for elite athletes and recreational runners. On Sunday 6 October 2019, the Welsh capital was host to some amazing Kenyan performances but sadly a runner also died after completing the event. In this post, I’ll answer the question “What happened during the 2019 Cardiff Half Marathon?” and what lessons all runners can learn from this popular race.

What happened in the elite men’s race?

The elite men’s race was packed with quality athletes, many of whom were Kenyan. Some of the men will have trained together and know each other’s racing tactics. It was no surprise then that a sprint finish decided the eventual champion, 29-year-old Leonard Langat. 

Before even two miles had been run the lead pack contained ten runners, spread almost in single file. After four miles, there were five men at the front. By halfway, four remained. Huge gaps between athletes appeared quickly and remained.

At 10 miles the champion would be either Leonard Langat or Shadrack Kimining. They had dropped compatriots Lotiang and Kimutai with ease. This was despite Langat appearing to struggle for a few miles from the eighth mile. Kimining increased his arm drive but Langat stayed calm, sitting a few metres behind. 

They ran a 4:29 twelfth mile, but Langat refused to be dropped. Kimining appeared to kick several times in the last half mile. As they descended on to the final straight, Langat moved passed and took the inside bend. Both sprinted for the finish line, their arms flailing, their teeth gritted. Langat beat his compatriot by two seconds, and in the process established a new course record for the Cardiff Half Marathon.

Prior to the race, Wilson Chebet, the three time Amsterdam Marathon champion, Japhet Korir, the 2013 World Cross Country champion, and Shadrack Kimining, the 2016 Cardiff Half Marathon champion were the organisers’ favourites. Kimining was the standout man who lead for much of the race. The other two men had to settle for seventh and tenth place respectively. 

At times Kimining appeared to usher others forward to take the burden. But no one did. As a result, he couldn’t ease off the pace. In hindsight, Kimining had paced Langat perfectly. The signs were evident though. Kimining’s forward lean was more pronounced and his gaze slightly further down to the ground than his compatriot’s. Langat’s running style, in contrast, was characterised by an upright, relaxed posture. All the elite men ran hard, but it was the athlete with the most composure who produced the outstanding performance of the morning. 

What happened in the elite women’s race?

The elite women’s race was packed with quality athletes, seven of whom were from Kenya and two from Ethiopia. Once again, the champion was crowned after a sprint finish to the tape.

In contrast to the men’s race, a smaller pack of seven women lead the race alongside male club runners and a male pacemaker. By halfway the lead pack had become five. Just past the hour mark, there were only three main contenders. It was Kenya’s Lucy Cheruiyot who was content to stay at the front. 

With only half a mile left, Azmera Abreha kicked. It was now between her and Cheruiyot. But the Kenyan responded well, ensuring she remained ahead. The final sprint to the finish was intense and close. Cheruiyot won by a metre in the same time of 1:08:20 as the Ethiopian. Although exhausted post-race, lying on the ground, her exhilaration was clear to see.

Kenya’s Paskalia Kipkoech, the 2010 Berlin Half Marathon champion, and Ethiopia’s 20-year-old Birha Mihretu were the organisers’ favourites for the women’s race. But they had to settle for third and fifth respectively.

Despite Cheruyiot continually looking at her watch and glancing back at her competitors in the final miles, she remained composed. Her fluid, high arm drive never faltered and she used all her strength to continue Kenya’s dominance in the women’s race. 

Running lessons from the race

The 17th edition of the Cardiff Half Marathon demonstrated three important lessons for all runners: 1. you can leave your last surge late and it can still be effective against your opponents; 2. when conditions are perfect, you need to take advantage, and 3. always listen to your body – if it’s telling you you’re working well beyond your limit, consider slowing down.

Late surges can be effective

In both the men’s and women’s elite races, the eventual champions used late surges to great effect. Although Langat in the men’s race stayed behind the leader for much of the race, this strategy meant he was in the ideal place to surge when he knew there would be no response from his compatriots. Cheruiyot in the women’s race instead led from the front for almost half the race. This allowed her to control the pace so when her Ethiopian rival surged near the end, Cheruiyot  could respond best and finish what she had started from the 10 kilometre mark.

Perfect weather and course support fast times

Favourable weather conditions, the relatively flat course and huge support from spectators were ideal for fast racing. There were sunny intervals with a fresh breeze, with the temperature around 17°C. This was in contrast with the almost four days of rain prior to the race. 

The pressure was on to produce fast times and the elite athletes didn’t disappoint. The top four men all produced times faster than the previous course record, set in 2017 by third place, John Lotiang. Leonard Langat smashed the course record by 72 seconds. The 28-year-old Kennedy Kimutai on his half marathon debut finished in a respectable fourth place, in a time of 1:00:39. The standard has now been raised for future years, and cements the race as one of the best half marathons in Europe.

Heed your body’s natural warning system

The sad death post-race of the third runner in two years should be a reminder for all runners that you should never ignore excessive physical stress. Although the specific details may never be known, it’s crucial that pushing through extreme pain should be avoided at all costs. If the stress of running becomes too great, slow down, stop and even speak to the nearest medic if in doubt. 

Due to the growth of the event in recent years it has become a member of the Super Halfs Half Marathon Series. The event is a great fundraiser, generating millions of pounds for national and local charities. So it is understandable that people flock to the race and want to push themselves. But it’s important that the health and wellbeing of all runners is prioritised. Runners must therefore take responsibility for their effort levels. 

Conclusion

The 2019 Cardiff University Cardiff Half Marathon was filled with drama but also sadness. The close racing at the front meant it was difficult to predict the winners of the elite men and women’s races with less than half a mile to run. Although it was exciting how the elite field ran, the race is yet again known for the death of a participant. With around 27,500 runners entering, and over half of them women, it’s undoubtedly one of the best sights in Welsh athletics. However, Nicholas Beckley’s death is a stark reminder for all runners to never push yourself when you feel serious physical stress. The result can be devastating for you, your family members and the local community. No personal best is worth dying for; listen to your body and never ignore serious pain.

Read the 2018 review, a race which doubled up as the Commonwealth Half Marathon Championships.

Saltmarsh Ultramarathon 2019 Race Report

5 October 2019

The race director counted down and shouted “Go!” 
I quickly maintained the 9:00 per mile pace I wanted. 
Runners were soon strung out along the grassy trail. 
I briefly spoke to a competitor with an American accent, who had previously run a 50k race. His predicted time was several hours quicker than mine.
I passed through a number of kissing gates, herds of cows and sheep.
Although I intended to commit to a 4-mile run, 1-mile walk strategy, the runners close ahead kept me motivated to run. 
I first walked during mile five when there was a short incline.
I kept eating my tasty vegan bars and sipping my homemade sports drinks.
I grabbed a bottle of water at the first aid station, barely stopping. 
I maintained a reasonable pace, my race position between 25 and 30. 
After 15 miles I came to the first checkpoint. I retrieved my bag of food and drink, and used the toilet. 
I didn’t want to lose momentum so I kept running, with only short walking breaks.
The saltmarsh and countless boats around me looked the same. But the weather remained mild and overcast.
Then stomach pains struck me. 
I had completed 22 miles, not far off a marathon. 
I was reduced to walking. Anything quicker would result in pain. 
Runners passed me; I was helpless to pick up the pace. My race position was between 40 and 50.
I went to the toilet several times, but the pain refused to subside. I kept hoping that the second checkpoint at 28.5 miles was very close. 
Eventually I reached it. 
I re-hydrated and refreshed myself. I thankfully felt better. 
I still needed to walk, but I managed to fit in some running too.
Runners kept passing me as the sun emerged from behind the clouds. One runner told me he was from Milton Keynes. 
I focused on eating smaller portions of food. 
I kept my time at aid stations short and passed runners that had previously overtaken me. 
At the last checkpoint I was surprised to see my fiancée. Her support was much needed as she took away unnecessary weight from my backpack. 
I was rejuvenated to push the last 10+ miles to the finish line. 
Runners were shocked that I was still running. But I was cautious; for the first time I had to navigate some tricky sections of the course alone.
I soon returned to the coastal trail and knew I was on the final stretch. I read some inspirational words from my fiancée in a small notebook. My tracker stopped working but I reset it without much effort.
The path ahead continued for miles without the finish area in sight. 
I tried to keep to half-mile walk, then half-mile run strategy. I kept my map in my hands. 
I saw no one in front of me, but plenty of runners behind. I remained motivated to stay ahead.
Then the park came in sight.
I saw the inflatable finishers’ arch and my family in the distance. 
I stopped my watch and I could finally sit and enjoy the medal around my neck.
I had become an ultrarunner. 

I first came across ultramarathons in late 2013, inspired by audiobooks such as Eat and Run (2012) by Scott Jurek and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (2007) by Haruki Murakami. Ever since I have wondered whether I could complete one and how well I would fare.

My nearest ultramarathon is less than a half marathon away from where I live; the Saltmarsh Ultra. The race is along Maldon District’s salt marsh coastal trail. At the start of 2019 I set the challenge as one of my running goals. The time had come to try and there were no more excuses to use. 

I mitigated the two major factors that could prevent me from finishing the race; getting lost and getting injured. I studied the route weeks beforehand and had printed detailed satellite maps for all the trickier sections. My physical training had been consistent since the start of the year; 40+ mile weeks were common and my highest was 63.1 miles. I even tried my run-walk strategy on several occasions, including experimenting with hydration and fuelling techniques. 

Due to my confidence-boosting preparations, my experience of my first ultramarathon was generally positive. I finished 30th in the solo event, avoided getting lost and realised a long-term dream. My recovery has also been quick, with only blisters on my feet and light muscle soreness to show for my 10 hours, 29 minutes and 30 seconds of effort. However, by eating too much too soon, I was forced to learn the importance of fuelling during ultramarathons. Still, similar to my first marathon, the result of pushing myself beyond my comfort zone has only made me more determined to improve as an athlete. 

Interview with Helen Erwin

Helen is an author of historical novels by day, and a foodie and exercise blogger in her spare time. She’s been a runner since 2012, preferring to cycle prior to then. It was when her mother died that she began to take running more seriously. Running helped her get through the grieving process, and was an amazing way for her to calm down and work through issues. Now running is a big part of her life and she loves it. Sometimes she thinks of it as her mother’s last gift.

What is your proudest running achievement?

I don’t have a specific achievement. But I feel very good when I have one of those runs that are effortless, when I feel like I could run forever.

What has running taught you about yourself?

It has taught me that my body can do a lot more than I ever expected. I’m able to use it if I have to run to catch a bus, or hurry up stairs instead of taking a crowded escalator in the subway. It has taught me that when it’s a nice day, my body can take me to places that I would otherwise have to drive or bike to, that would take too long to walk to.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered?

I’ve considered a marathon, but I don’t like racing, so for now it’s just an idea.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

I don’t usually race. I prefer to run by myself and sometimes with a group just for fun.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

I don’t generally count my miles. But I’m estimating that 20-22 miles in a week might be the most. The weeks I’ve run more than usual have been because the weather has been perfect, or because I’ve been in a particularly nice area.

What has been your most serious running injury?

I had a neuroma. I couldn’t run for at least six months. When I first went back to running, neuroma kept coming back as well. I tried many different brands of shoes but it wasn’t until I found Altra’s that I could run without pain. My neuroma developed from ignoring the pain I experienced when I ran in the wrong shoe that was too tight.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

I lift weights, cycle (especially hill biking) and I do foot strengthening exercises.

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

I worked with a running coach when I had recovered from my neuroma. I wanted to work on my form to make sure I didn’t have any bad habits that could cause other injuries, or bring back my neuroma. I’m injury free now, but I would love to work with a coach again. It was fun and I learned a lot.

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

A feeling of power and freedom that I love more than almost anything else.

Interview with Justin Gillette

Justin Gillette is a busy man. When he isn’t taking care of his four children and spending quality time with his wife he is winning marathons, coaching runners and being featured in Runners’ World. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

I often get asked what is my favourite running accomplishment. I have won 100 marathons so I could easily point to any of those. Perhaps winning the Kona Marathon in Hawaii five times, or the Bahamas Marathon twice would impress people. The reality is I am most proud of using running as a means to beat generational poverty. I used running to get myself a college degree, then continued running to make an income to put my wife through her Masters and PhD programs.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running taught me that you cannot set limits on what goal setting and hard work can do. My biggest year I ran 25 marathons and won 19 of them. I never would have guessed my body could handle that volume, but by focusing forward on the next goals it went well.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered? 

In 2011 I wanted to try to win a marathon on back to back days. I ran a 2:35 marathon on the first day and a 2:40 on the second day to accomplish this. It was a mental and physical battle.

How far in advance do you plan your running races? 

My wife works full time and we have four children so sometimes I have to cancel races I want to run and sometimes I get to jump into a race at the last minute. I always try to maintain race-ready fitness so I can jump into a marathon anytime there is an opening in our family schedule.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week? 

In college I averaged 15.5 miles per day. Post-college I thought it would be neat to hit a 140-mile week, but I only managed 137. I still have a bucket list goal of getting in a 168-mile week – one mile for every hour there is in a week.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race? 

In college I would do the traditional 12-16-week buildup for races. Once I got into frequent marathon racing I now train in mini-cycles so that I am never too drained from training and can run any marathon with just a week or less adjustment to my training.

What has been your most serious running injury? 

In 2013 I got plantar fasciitis. This was due to over-training. I would suggest that people be more eager to take a day off when needed instead of being addicted to making the training log look impressive. Once I became more liberal with days off I have been better able to prevent injuries.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to? 

My main core workouts are planks and lunges. I try to plank 5 minutes a day. I do lunges back and forth in my house while the children are taking naps. Post runs I like the Roll Recovery tool to massage my legs. Like most runners I have a love/hate relationship with the foam roller.

What would persuade you to work with a (online) running coach? 

I’m an online coaching too. I would suggest an online coach to anyone who has goals they are trying to achieve. It really helps to have someone keeping you accountable to do the work when it’s hard to be motivated. Anyone can run on the perfect days with good weather. A good online coach can get you excited to run in any weather regardless of the workout.

In one sentence, what does running mean to you? 

Running to me is the difference between being in poverty and enjoying a good life.

2019 SimplyHealth Great North Run

8 September 2019

Two minutes after the horn blew I crossed the start line. I took advantage of the wide road by  weaving amongst runners. The inevitable euphoria of a big race meant my pace was faster than I wanted. I slowed then kept my pace steady despite the surprising undulations. I had to keep concentrating. 
I crossed the famous Tyne Bridge. 
The spectators were large in volume and decibels. There was music blaring from speakers and musicians playing live. 
I absorbed it all but kept glancing at my Garmin watch to ensure my pace didn’t drop.
I purposely ran through several shower stations then took a bottle of water and a sponge from an aid station. 
The sun cream on my face stung my eyes a little as I sweated more.
My achilles felt sore in both feet but I ignored the pain.
My left foot became numb for several miles too.
The inclines stretched for longer, and I found myself running alone for short periods.
But every time I reached runners in front I overtook them, naturally. 
My average pace was on target as I passed roundabout after roundabout.
Then I dropped down to the coastal road at South Shields.
There, the atmosphere was even more electric.
I picked up my pace. My breathing became audible and my quads felt sore.
I kept passing signs for the upcoming finish.
I raised my arms aloft clapping at the spectators.
I got a warm response.
Then I sprinted the last 100m or so on the grass to finish.
I recorded a new personal best, tired but extremely satisfied.

The experience of running my first SimplyHealth Great North Run was inspirational. The tens of thousands of runners and spectators all along the route was an amazing spectacle, and spurred me on to my best ever performance at the half marathon distance.
My training had gone relatively smoothly since my last race (the Great Baddow 10 Mile race). I maintained consistent mileage (43 miles on average per week) and running threshold workouts (at a pace slightly quicker than my target race pace of 6:20 per mile). I stayed injury-free throughout the weeks leading to the race and enjoyed my first visit to Newcastle-upon-Tyne as a tourist.
I was also fortunate enough to be only several yards away from famous people such as England national footballers Jill Scott and Steph Houghton, TV presenter Gabby Logan and the legendary founder of the race Brendan Foster. I saw the Cricket World Cup trophy that England recently won in the distance too.
Best of all, to be a part of such an incredibly well-organised and historic running race, was a humbling experience. I was able to raise £225 for Havens Hospices in the process (the highest amount I have ever raised for a race), and run the race the way I wanted to.
Not only did I receive a wonderful medal and t-shirt, the perfectly executed race in ideal weather conditions with previously unimaginable support will live very long in my memory.

Interview with Laura Cope

Laura Cope is 44 years old and started running around 12 years ago. After a few false starts and injuries she joined a running club 9 years ago and has been running consistently ever since. A physio once advised her not to run more than 10k. She has now completed nine marathons (including a multi-day ultra). She also writes a blog while training for longer races to reflect on lessons learnt.

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

My proudest running achievement has to be completing the Pilgrim Challenge In February 2019. 66 miles in the snow is way beyond what I had ever thought I could achieve. Even now I can’t quite comprehend it. 

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me that I’m tougher than I think and that you can achieve anything with the right training. It’s also taught me that I do have a little competitive streak which is usually hidden. 

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered?

The most ambitious goal I have considered so far is the Pilgrim Challenge. Since completing it I’ve been looking at more ultras for the future. At the moment I don’t know what the next one will be but there will be one!

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

I’m having to plan my races months in advance, mostly due to events selling out so early. I’ve got races booked up to four months in advance at the moment. Some events have become a tradition for me now, so I’ll do them every year. 

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week and why did you run that far?

The most miles in a week was the week of the Pilgrim Challenge. The event was 66 miles and with a couple of runs the week before I think I managed about 75 miles in a week. That’s the exception rather than the rule. 

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

The longest period I’ve trained for a race was five months. I had to get from comfortable half marathon (my default state) to ultra in that time. I would probably have trained a bit longer had I known I was doing the event a bit sooner. 

What has been your most serious running injury and why did it happen?

My most serious injury was a tib post tendon injury on both legs. It took me a year to fully get over it. It happened because I had the wrong footwear and tried to do too much too soon. I also tried to jump back in where I’d left off. It was eventually fixed by going right back to the beginning. 

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

I cross train twice a week. I go to bootcamp once a week, a mix of strength, cardio and HIIT. I also go to a small group PT session once a week. It’s pure strength training with big weights. The strength training is crucial to keep injuries at bay when you’re doing long distances.

What would persuade you to work with a (online) running coach?

I’d consider an online coach if I wasn’t able to access the knowledge and support I require elsewhere. 

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

Running is an adventure and it’s taken me further than I ever imagined. 

British Athletics Championships 2019 Review

The 2019 Müller British Athletics Championships was set for explosive action. Many athletes were racing not only for their country’s highest accolades. A place on the Great Britain team for the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha in a months’ time was also up for grabs. The surprisingly hot and windy conditions at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham made qualifying times and positions even harder. 

Butchart Regains his 5K Title

After injury ruled Andrew Butchart out of the 2018 British Athletics Championships, he wanted to show his class in the 5,000m. Despite not running hard from the start, Butchart made a decisive (possibly pre-planned) long kick for the finish line with two and a half laps to go. Butchart’s impressive 2:28 last kilometre meant he finished in 13:54.29. He was the only man to run under fourteen minutes. Knowing that he had booked himself a spot at the World Championships, the Scot even showed off to the camera before officially claiming the title.

McColgan Claims First British Title

The race was even more emphatically won in the women’s 5,000m. Eilish McColgan dominated the race from the start, forging a sizable lead within the first lap. Perhaps, knowing that competitors such as Laura Weightman and Melissa Courtney were not at their best, McColgan ran a superb race alone. She never looked behind her shoulder. It was a gutsy performance and gave the 28-year-old her first British 5k title in a time of 15:21.38. It was more than fourteen seconds ahead of Jessica Judd in second place. 

Lively Sprinters Show Remarkable Quality

Expectations were high for Dina Asher-Smith, who has run so consistently well throughout the Diamond League season. She comfortably won her semi-final in 11.03 then broke her own Championship record from the previous year to record 10.96 and retain her 100m British title. Her dominant performance reminds her competitors to watch out in Doha.

After relative disappointment for Adam Gemili at narrowly missing out on the gold medal in the 100m men’s final, he came blasting out of the blocks for the 200m final. After the bend, Gemili maintained a strong arm drive, quick leg turnover and relaxed posture to comfortably win the title in a new championship record of 20.08. His huge grin showed how ecstatic (and most likely relieved) he was with such an outstanding performance, one that he so richly deserves.

Matthew Hudson-Smith also shone in his home city by clocking a season’s best of 45.15 and winning the 400m title comfortably. Despite recent injuries he is peaking at the right time for an opportunity to excel in Qatar’s capital.


There were so many outstanding performances over the sunny Bank Holiday weekend. But with the World Championships so close, athletes will either have to finish their last training or find another race to attempt to qualify for the event. There is still a lot more running to do before Britain can feel confident they can podium on one of the biggest stages of all.

Interview with Emma Neachell

Emma Neachell is a full-time hydrologist and part-time runner. Growing up in the countryside, she has always been a keen runner, representing her school at cross country and long distance events, starting when she was 11 years old. She then finished in the top 10 of the Midlands Independent Schools Cross Country Championships at Bedstone College, wearing trainers not running spikes. In 2018 she completed the Royal Parks Half Marathon and raised over £1,000 for charity. She also writes a popular and honest running blog, sharing the trials and tribulations of a slightly injury-prone runner. Follow her running journey on Twitter and Instagram

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

This is going to sound rather random, but my proudest running achievement was running every single step of the Cathedral to Castle Run in April 2018. I went into the 10-mile race feeling quite nervous because my training in the lead up to the race wasn’t ideal, but also excited as I hadn’t completed a point-to-point race before. The course was quite challenging but something ‘clicked’ that morning and I felt like I could carry on running forever.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me that I’m definitely far more resilient than I sometimes give myself credit for. It’s also taught me that I’m incredibly stubborn. I’ve had so many niggles and injuries, I probably should have hung up my trainers a long time ago. 

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered?

I set myself the goal of running the 2006 London Marathon in under 3:30. My training was going well until I picked up a groin injury a couple of weeks before the marathon. It took me over five hours to complete the marathon, and I hated every second of the final six miles. Looking back, I should have deferred my place and tried again the following year. 

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

It very much depends on the race. Some events now seem to sell out so quickly, runners have to enter pretty much the morning entries open. I’ve already got a 10k booked in for May 2020 because entries opened almost 12 months in advance. For races above 10k in distance I like to give myself at least six months to prepare for them. For shorter races, I’m more flexible and will even enter on the day if that’s an option.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week and why did you run that far?

I’ve had a look through my mileage stats on Fetcheveryone, and the most miles I’ve ever run in a week is 65, which is not so grand. I’ve no idea why I ran that far, I don’t think I was training for anything at the time!

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

I think the longest period I’ve ever trained for a race would have to be 10 months when I trained for the 2006 London Marathon. For half marathons, I have found that 16-week training plans work best for me as I’m able to build up my mileage slowly. My weekly training updates have been some of my most popular blog posts. People seem to enjoy reading about other people’s training. 

What has been your most serious running injury?

I’ve had so many running niggles and injuries over the last 15 years I’ve started to lose track. I had a metatarsal stress fracture towards the end of 2014. This stopped me running for several months. Once I’d recovered from the stress fracture, a bout of plantar fasciitis meant that the first half of 2017 was a complete write-off. At the moment, I have a niggly right knee. Some mornings the knee feels fine when I get out of bed, other mornings it’s so painful I can hardly walk. 

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

When I was following a half marathon training plan, my attempts at cross-training consisted of what I called “stair sessions”, walking up and down the stairs at home for 30 minutes a week. I’m not great at core exercises and foam rolling. I recently attended a ‘Pilates for Runners’ session. This highlighted something I already suspected; I have very little core strength. I’ve owned a foam roller for several years but rarely use it because I’m not good at inflicting pain on myself. I am, however, very good at stretching after I’ve been for a run and have a routine I like to work my way through.

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

I’ve thought about working with a running coach a few times. I quite like the idea of having a slightly more personalised approach to training. I’ve reached the conclusion that I’m a lazy runner, so I also like the added accountability of having someone tracking my training. Knowing that someone would be around to virtually kick me up the a**e so to speak could persuade me. To be honest, the only thing that really puts me off working with any sort of running coach is the cost. 

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

Running for me means freedom, time when I am completely on my own with just my thoughts for company, doing what I love.

Interview with Yiannis Christodoulou

Yiannis Christodoulou started running back in 2012 after being inspired by the London Olympics. He initially wanted to get fit and stay healthy, but then lead him to competing for the Great British Triathlon Age Group Aquathlon team at major Championships. Follow his running journey on Twitter and Instagram

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

My proudest running moment is when I represented GB in my age group recently at the 2019 European Aquathlon Championships and becoming European Champion. It has shown me how far I have come and for me it’s not about how talented you are; it is about training hard to achieve your goals.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me a lot. I love that after a hard, stressful day of work you can just put your trainers on and go for a run and get lost and relax. The most important lesson is that enjoy what you do and don’t let anyone put you down, they do not have the right to do so and you should be proud of what you want to do/achieve.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered?

I know this sounds a bit odd but I think setting unrealistic targets are a good way to go. Because you try your hardest to get there. My most ambitious goal was to run a sub 1:20 half marathon, which I did achieve but when I did my first one it seemed too ambitious.   

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

At the start of the year I plan my races for the rest of the year.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week and why did you run that far?

65-mile weeks. I know it isn’t much. I was doing marathon training then. These days I don’t get above 30 miles per week as I have to cram in other training.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

Start of the year for the World and European Aquathlon Championships. The last race was in October so 10 months, then I have a good break with complete rest. 

What has been your most serious running injury?

I have had a few serious injuries when I first took up running for the first few years and nearly quit as it was getting too much. I was out for just over 3 months with an achilles injury. All my injuries were due to over-training – going too hard and not listening to my body.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

Loads because I compete in multi-sports. I go to the gym twice a week, swim four times a week and cycle three times a week. I stretch after every session and every morning. I also foam roll after hard sessions.

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

For me I would like to meet them in person or speak on the phone, It’s not a big deal. However, I  would like to know their qualifications and background into the sport. But I would send my plans for previous races and discuss what they can do for me and training techniques. I have to make sure the training will be tailored for me and not training that is copied for every person such as in books. I am very critical on choosing a coach as being a running coach myself I know it’s important to get the right coach for that person. I normally interview the coaches and then go from there. 

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

Having fun and enjoying it; most of all the friendships and people you get to meet along the way.

Interview with David Knowles

David Knowles began running as a 16-year-old. He was a sprinter to begin with, competing at 100m, 200m and 400m. Then at university he moved to middle distance track events. His running highlights include running at Crystal Palace and at a Loughborough International event in the 1980s, and more recently running to raise money for charities at the Great North Run and the Great South Run.

More information about David can be found on his Twitter account.

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

The achievement I am most proud of is restarting running, in the certain knowledge that I will never set a new personal best – except possibly in one distance. I was fortunate to study at Loughborough University in the 1980s and train with Olympians under the legendary coach George Gandy. But a career in policing and having children meant that running took a back seat. In my late 40s I found running again. The realisation that I will never run a mile or a 10K as fast as I could when I was 20 is tough but the mindset of a returning middle-aged runner needs to be different – as soon as my mindset changed, I enjoyed running.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me about my own mental strength and how to improve performance by practice and discipline. But it has also taught me that you can have fun even when you are trying hard. My biggest internal smile was during the 2017 Great North Run, when I realised I was running amongst people of a similar mindset to me, all of us trying to be our best. The capacity for people to provide jelly babies and ice lollies amazes me.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered?

This year I made the decision to run a marathon in 2020. I have run quite a few half marathons but never a full marathon. It is the only race distance I have never run so it is an opportunity to run a PB.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

I look about 3-6 months ahead for half marathons and 10Ks, though for the marathon I have planned this was booked 12 months in advance.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week and why did you run that far?

When I was at Loughborough I regularly ran 50 miles per week, training at least twice per day including a long run on Sundays. It was the schedule that George Gandy set for the team so I just followed it. In my second running career I regularly run 25 miles per week but I’ve run further for the Miles for Mind challenge that RUNR promote.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

If you include ‘mental preparation’ then 12 months, for a marathon in 2020. Though I cannot say that I am running the proper miles in training yet. Aside from that, I just run for the next race these days.

What has been your most serious running injury and why did it happen?

I had a bad hamstring tear in my teens, which stopped me from running for many months. It happened because I had not been taught how to stretch properly. I had a calf strain in 2018 which reduced my training at a time when I was preparing for two half marathons and the Great South Run in the same month. It was very frustrating but didn’t stop me from completing all the races, although in slower times than I had planned when I entered them.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

Occasional I cycle. But nothing more.

What would persuade you to work with a (online) running coach?

Low cost, others to train with locally (this is quite important as you need to run with people with common goals so that there is a motivation to run at the same time) and regular feedback.

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

For me, running is part of my identity – I am a runner and I will always be a runner even when I am unable to run; running provides physical and mental wellbeing but also satisfaction and enjoyment through shared experiences with friends.

Interview with Dominic Toms

Dominic Toms has been running since the 2015 London Marathon. He has now completed 16 marathons and is also a director of golf academy. More information about Dom can be found on his Twitter account and website.

What is your proudest running achievement?

My first London Marathon in 2015 is my proudest achievement because I ran the whole way refusing to walk a single step despite being absolutely worn out from the 23-mile mark.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me self discipline in terms of dedication to follow strict training plans.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever set?

My most ambitious goal to date was the six marathons I completed in 2016 for my local charity and raising £10,000 in the process.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

I plan my races (future marathons) normally a year in advance where possible.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

The most miles I’ve run in a week is 60, which was during my marathon training.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

My longest cycle of training is 20 weeks for a marathon consisting of running, Pilates, and core strengthening.

What has been your most serious running injury?

My worst injury was plantar fasciitis due to tight calves and tight Achilles. It didn’t stop me running as I just worked with the physio to control it before getting rid of it.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

On occasion I cycle in the gym.

Why do you  work with a running coach?

The reason I chose a running coach was the disappointment of seeing no progress or improvement in recent marathons. Despite training hard in my opinion it turned out I was just training my body the same and never coming out of my comfort zone. Having a weekly training programme that I have to follow and reporting back to my coach on a weekly basis gives me the motivation I needed as I don’t want to let him down as well as myself.

What does running mean to you?

Running for me is freedom, time to myself to cleanse my mind throughout a marathon training cycle. The race against myself to achieve more in terms of performance and results is also important to me.

London Diamond League 2019 Overview

The Müller Anniversary Games at the London Stadium, East London, was the tenth Diamond League meeting of the 2019 season. There were a lot of impressive performances, especially from the athletes of Great Britain, such as Lynsey Sharp winning the 800m and Dina Asher-Smith clocking another sub 11 seconds for second-place in the 100m.

Muir Triumphs on Home Soil Again

Laura Muir won another competitive 1500m race on a UK track with two of her training partners. After a cagey start, where no athlete wanted to push on, the speed was only evident come the last lap. Only the German Konstanze Klosterhalfen could even come close to matching the Scot’s strength and tenacity. But with 200m to go there was no doubt as to Muir’s victory. 

The slightly breezy conditions meant that Muir’s race strategy to kick late was perfect. It’s another confidence boost leading into the 2019 World Championships.

Local Athlete Excels

Laviai Nielsen, the multiple 400m relay medalist, was competing on her home track. Growing up “10 minutes away”, she felt the crowd urge her on. She started very quickly, and was leading going into the final turn of the one-lap race. Although she couldn’t keep her lead to the end, she finished third with a huge personal best of 50.83 seconds. She is also the fastest 400m British woman this season. She achieved this by “running her heart out”.

Norweigan Records Fall

In the men’s 5000m race the young Jakob Ingebrigtsen lined up against imperius East African competitors such as Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet and Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto. Ingebrigtsen stayed behind the leaders for three-quarters of the race but made his first move with three laps to go. He remained patient and made a decisive move with 600m to go. Although he wasn’t quite able to respond to Hagos Gebrhiwet’s final push, his performance was remarkable. His time of 13:02.03 was over six seconds quicker than the previous Norweigan record set over 15 years ago. It was the first senior national record for the charismatic Norweigan. At only 18 years old he continues to impress; his future will surely be littered with more records. 

Filip Ingebrigtsen followed his younger brother’s performance the following day with another national record. This time it was the mile. The 26-year-old lead during most of the final lap, but Ethiopia’s Samuel Tefera won by 0.15 seconds. Still, the Norweigan broke his older brother, Henrik’s five-year record by over a second.

Monaco Diamond League 2019 Overview

The second half of the Diamond League 2019 season continued at Monaco recently. Conditions were warm and windless in the city-state on the French Riviera. The glamour of the area was matched with some astonishing results.

Give Your Best Only When You Need to 

As focused as athletes should be on the start line of any race, it’s vital to stay tuned to the environment. This was demonstrated perfectly in the 400m men’s race. After a false start three athletes ignored the gun signalling the race had stopped. Before halfway, one athlete realised. But two continued running hard, unaware of the lack of competitors around them. 

Jonathan Jones of Barbados ran a personal best only for it not to be officially registered. Neither him nor Anthony José Zambrano of Columbia retarted the race. No wonder – their exertion had effectively rendered another competitive effort impossible.

Another Woman to Contend Sprints

Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas put a strong case forward for contention at the World Championships later in the year. Despite not leading for the first half of the race the Commonwealth 200m champion showed her strong stature as she powered along the final straight. In the process she beat Dafne Schippers and Elaine Thompson.

Miller-Uibo is the seventh woman to win either the 100m or 200m Diamond League race* this season. These performances show the depth of quality of female sprinters. But as it stands the World Championships schedule only allows athletes to compete in one of the two sprints. Decisions will need to be made. More importantly, top form must be reached in order to secure a medal.

World Records are Always Possible

Nijel Amos of Botswana showed once again how powerful he can be in the 800m, leading from the start. Although his form started to waver on the final straight, his time of 1:41.89 is less than a second away from the world record. His brave performance was his third Diamond League win of the season, establishing a new meeting record and world leading time.

As preparation for more to come, Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands broke the 23-year old 1- mile world record. After a relatively slow first half Hassan began to show her class. Whilst gritting her teeth and flailing her arms, her legs were metronomic. She recorded her final two laps in 61.93 seconds and 62.20 seconds to smash the field by over 5 seconds. Such is her form and confidence, Hassan even predicted a greater margin pre-race. It proves that even splits do not always get the best out of athletes, and that world records are always possible if athletes believe enough. It was an especially fitting performance in honour of Gabriele Grunewald

* Excluding non-scoring Diamond League races.

Lausanne Diamond League 2019 Overview

The Swiss city of Lausanne was the location of the eighth Diamond League meeting of the 2019 season. The headquarters of the International Olympic Committee are also situated there. In the warm 27 °C conditions there was every chance that the competition would heat up.

Self-Belief Extends Winning Streak

After winning all three previous Diamond League meetings this season, in Doha, Rome and Rabat, Salwa Eid Nasar was expected to dominate the one-lap event. She stormed out of the blocks and kept passing athletes on her outside as she approached the final straight. However, Aminatou Seyni of Niger in lane four closed on Eid Nasar, spurring her competitor on, before falling short by two-hundredths of a second. 

In running her season’s best the Bahraini 21-year-old also broke a 23-year-old meeting record, maintaining her dominance in the event. Her season has so far been near perfect, becoming the 400m Arab and Asian champion and improving her season’s best at every meeting she has won. She is certainly the woman everyone is aiming to dethrone.

Grit Sometimes Wins Out

The women’s 800m race was contested between Nelly Jepkosgei of Kenya and Halimah Nakaayi of Uganda. With 200m to go the two East Africans broke away and fought for top spot. Although inevitably strong athletes, their ambitions overwhelmed their thoughts. Their form and technique appeared to be secondary. Their heads shook, arms flailed and facial expressions were anything but relaxed. But both achieved a sub-two-minute time to impress the Swiss crowd.

Sadly, the Swiss athletes could only manage fourth, fifth and seventh on home soil.

Always Aim for the Right Mark

The consequences of not counting the laps you’re racing is that you misjudge your effort and lose the race. That’s what happened to Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet in the 5000m. He shot off halfway through the penultimate lap, only to celebrate and stop. By the time he reacted to his competitors continuing to race he had lost all momentum. He finished in tenth place. What was most shocking was that he is an experienced middle-distance athlete, having won multiple medals at World Championships and taken victories at multiple Diamond League meetings.

Meanwhile in the men’s 200m event Noah Lyles stormed to his second victory of the Diamond League season after his 100m triumph in Shanghai. The charismatic American was looking for a time closer to 19.4 seconds, which he and his coach had been working on. But by focusing on excellence he still managed to finish in 19.5 seconds, winning by almost half a second. He also recorded a new personal best and world leading time in the process. Not only that, he achieved a new meeting record, usurping none other than Usain Bolt’s previous mark.

Stanford Diamond League 2019 Overview

Instead of Oregon’s city Eugene playing host to the seventh Diamond League meeting of the season, Stanford University in California was the location for the (Steve) Prefontaine Classic. Notable athletes shone in the sun at the halfway stage of the annual elite series.

Top Honours for American Men

Unsurprisingly there was much anticipation for how those on home soil would perform. Christian Coleman stormed to 100m victory in 9.81 seconds. Michael Norman extended his unbeaten form in the 400m race, by maintaining his speed during the last 100m, with compatriots completing the top three. Paul Chelimo’s effort in the two-mile event was also impressive, storming to second place in the last 150m to almost take victory. 

But it was Raj Benjamin who made the most impact on the Cobb Track. His consistency over the hurdles and strength over the final bend and straight meant he won the single-lap event by almost two seconds. Interestingly, he spoke post-race about focusing on technique rather than speed. For him, he proved that both are intrinsically linked.

New Sprint Name Emerges

Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare surprised an astonishingly fast field to win the 200m women’s race, in a season’s best of 22.05 seconds. Dina Asher-Smith, Elaine Thompson and Dafne Schippers could only watch on. The former Commonwealth Games 100m and 200m champion maintained a strong upright posture, and, with a high knee lift, broke the tape in lane eight. 

However, it was not as shocking as first thought. Okagbare’s 100m victory two weeks previous in Rabat against another sprint legend Marie-Josée Ta Lou showed her capacity to beat the best. These performances only add more intrigue to the upcoming World Championships in Doha.

Semenya Proves Her Dominance Again

The famous South African Caster Semenya extended her four-year winning streak at 800m races. It was her 31st consecutive victory over the two-lap event. She accomplished it with apparent ease. She lead from the front and even overtook the pacemaker early in the second lap.

Despite the ongoing controversial legal case with the governing body of the sport her athletic performances have been outstanding. Her 1:55.70 was almost three seconds quicker than anyone else and was a new meeting record. Afterwards it appeared as if she hadn’t even exerted herself that much. She remains the gold standard at the distance and it will be a massive shame if she doesn’t compete at the 2019 World Championships.

Interview with Kay Drew

Kay Drew has been running since the late 1980s, and ran her first marathon in 1994. She has completed a marathon in every US state, and qualified for the Boston Marathon more than once. To encourage new runners, she started a running group. It still meets weekly 19 years later, although they run less than they used to. She documents her journey through her Twitter account.

What is your proudest running achievement?

I’ve got two achievements that I am truly proud of: setting an even speed as a pacer to help runners overcome their mental blocks, and bringing new runners into the sport. 

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me that following a plan, step after step, will get you to where you want to be. It may not lead to consistent, steady progress, but the overall trajectory will be improvement in either speed or endurance, or both. For example, you have to knock off today’s three-miler in order to cross the marathon finish line four months from now.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever set?

There was a time I considered building up to a 100-miler, but I no longer think that’s for me.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

When I was running all the states in the USA, I sometimes had to plan up to a year or more in advance. 

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

I came close to 70 miles one week, but only because my schedule caused me to run two long runs in a shorter time. Training for a 100km race would make me complete a long run followed the next day by a medium-distance run.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

I talked five runners into running their first marathon with me at my last US state marathon. We trained for a full 20 weeks with a slow build-up. I did that for my first marathon, and probably for the Pikes Peak Marathon. Otherwise, I run marathons often enough that I don’t change much other than building up my long-run distance.

What has been your most serious running injury?

I have been incredibly lucky. I’ve only had a couple of falling injuries. I was out for four weeks with a broken wrist in 2018 when I slipped on ice on a trail run. I also tripped on an uneven sidewalk in January 2019 and required some stitches and new teeth. But it was a terrible Wisconsin cold snap that kept me from running rather than my broken face.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

I commit to swimming, yoga and cycling – one of those activities once each week.

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

I’m still happily running at 56 years old, but after 25 years of marathons I think most of my “things to train for” are behind me. Maybe I would look to a coach if I wanted to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon in my next age group, or take on a Half-Ironman.

What does running mean to you?

Running has become so much a part of my identity that I don’t know what it will be like when I have to start saying “I used to”.

Rome Diamond League 2019 Overview

The Italian capital Rome played host to the fourth Diamond League meeting of 2019, last Thursday. More British superstars were challenging themselves early in the season and testing their recent block of training. Unfortunately the Brits had to settle for second place as the opposition outclassed them on the night. It is a reminder that the 2019 World Championships will be hard fought.

Asher-Smith Frustrated but Realistic

Despite beating double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson in last week’s Stockholm 200m race, the Jamaican got revenge in the 100m. Asher-Smith flew out of the blocks and was leading through halfway, but in the last 20-30m Thompson stayed composed and relaxed to win by 0.05 seconds.

Post-race, Asher-Smith reflected that she always aims to win races but this was her best start to any track season. After all, she has only produced sub-11-second performances five times and knows that she can still improve over the closing stages of the race. 

Muir Admits she can Run Faster

Unlike in Stockholm where Muir dominated the entire race, the 1500m field was much larger and more frantic from the start. Within the first 150m Muir had to hold off the pace to save herself from falling. This meant it took her longer to get to the front of the pack. By halfway she was in touching distance of the pair of Ethiopians, Dibaba and Tsegay. With 200m to go Muir took second place from Tsegay but could not overtake the current world indoor champion and current world record holder for 1500m.

Dibaba won by 2-3m but Muir should be proud – she was only a second behind her personal best. Post-race Muir admitted that she could run faster and that her training didn’t produce the results she feels she can. The important aspect is that the Scot has time to improve.

Pozzi Returns to Form 

Andrew Pozzi also had to accept second place, achieving a season’s best of 13.29 in the 110m hurdles. More impressive though is Pozzi’s admission of his mental health issues and the recent life-changing decision to move to the southern Italian city of Formia with legendary sprint coach Santiago Antunez.

His pursuit of greater success has meant he has only just begun his journey to reinvent his technique and speed.


It was a night to remember for the second-place finishers as USA’s Noah Lyles, accustomed to winning sprints, couldn’t quite overtake his compatriot Michael Norman at the line. However, at this stage of the season coming second is vital, if only to spur athletes on to win gold when the time comes.

Stockholm Diamond League 2019 Overview

The Swedish capital of Stockholm hosted the third Diamond League meeting of 2019 last Thursday. The windy and chilly conditions made the racing more challenging. But the quality field still shone considering it is so early in the track season.

Asher-Smith Triumphs Again

After her 200m victory in Doha (the first Diamond League meeting of 2019) British superstar Dina Asher-Smith produced another superb performance against more accomplished opponents. Asher-Smith was almost half a second faster than double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson and over half a second faster than multiple world champion Dafne Schippers.

Although still early in the season, Asher-Smith’s confidence will be rising with that world-leading time. As she explained post-race she must be able to win come September at the World Championships, as “the rest of the world will be [in better shape]”. But, knowing she can beat her rivals, at any time of the season, could be the boost that she needs to continue her outstanding form.

Muir Returns with Style 

Despite her bronze medal at the Westminster Mile late in May, where she never dominated the race, Laura Muir reverted to her front-running in the 1500m race. She stayed patient behind the pacemaker for half the race. Then with one lap to go Muir accelerated and won comfortably by over four seconds.

Muir’s training at altitude in St. Moritz, Switzerland, has already pleased the Scot. But as she mentioned in a recent interview she will need to remain smart with how she selects her races leading up to the World Championships in Doha. After all, she aims to win her first world outdoor track medal of her already impressive career.

McColgan Races Hard Despite Personal Challenges

Eilish McColgan returned to racing at 5000m after “feeling healthy again” and “a runner”. She ran strong throughout the 12.5 laps of the Stockholm Olympic Stadium, maintaining a quick cadence until the line. She finished seventh and was the first Brit home, beating some notable names such as Yasemin Can, Alina Reh and Anna Emilie Møller.

Most impressive is that McColgan demonstrated professionalism and courage. This, all in the aftermath of the shocking burglary of her precious medals from her property in Manchester.

Interview with ‘The Runninger’

Tony Green was born in Australia and when he relocated to Sydney he started running because he hadn’t any friends to play team sports. In 20 years he has run 15 marathons with a personal best of 2:56. He is also an advocate of minimalist running, preferring to wear mostly barefoot sandals. He documents his journey through his blog and social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter.

What is your proudest running achievement?

My first sub-3-hour marathon at the Seoul Marathon 2017. It was a long-term running goal and came about after a really good block of training. I’m proud because it was a lifetime running goal and it was achieved through a lot of hard work and discipline.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me that if I push myself and remain focused and committed that I can achieve my goals. It is a lesson I use within other aspects of my life whether they be family or business goals.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever set?

This would be attempting a sub-3- hour marathon in my first marathon. This was a number of years ago and one where I didn’t fully understand how difficult running a marathon was. I had trained well and executed a good race. I was on target at 30km before I faded and finished in 3:05. I still consider this one of my best days running and it gave me a goal to chase for a number of years. 

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

I like to have an idea at the beginning of each year what major races I’ll train for. My major races are marathon or ultramarathons so I make sure I give myself 3-4 months specific training.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

As an Australian we count kilometres instead of miles and my biggest week is about 120km (75 miles). This was during a marathon block and I ran this far when building endurance. My weekly mileage during a marathon block will usually be 90-100km (56-62 miles) with a few bigger weeks thrown in.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

This would be about six months. I completed triathlons for a number of years and during training for my first Ironman event I trained heavily over a six-month period.

What has been your most serious running injury?

A number of years ago I was forced to stop running for a while due to an alignment issue with my back that caused shin pain in one leg. I stopped running for about a year as I sought different medical advice that initially couldn’t successfully diagnose me. This was a frustrating period, being motivated to run but not able to get the problem fixed quickly. I’m unsure why this injury occurred but I have some back stretches I regularly do to keep my back aligned and receive massage.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

I should do a lot more but I have a strength and conditioning set that I try and complete twice a week. This consists of body weight exercises, core exercises and plyometric exercises. I find these beneficial for building the strength required to run long distances successfully.

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

I’d be happy to work with an online coach if I believed I could get benefit through my running performances. I have a simple philosophy of running where I believe in three key workouts of long runs to build endurance, hills to build strength and intervals to build speed. An online coach that matches my philosophy would certainly be beneficial to help push me when I need it and rein me in when I need a rest.

What does running mean to you?

Running is both my escape from the challenges of life and the challenge that drives me hardest in my life. I get great joy from the solitude running provides me and equally the satisfaction and fulfilment from competition.

2019 Great Baddow 10 Mile Race

19 May 2019

There was a false start then we were off.
There was a short lap around the recreation ground before I hit the pavement.
I knew I couldn’t sustain sub six minute per mile pace but the runners around me made me especially conscious.
I encountered several inclines and I could feel my heart rate rising. But I stayed calm.
Then, as I completed the second mile, the longest, steepest hill of the route inevitably slowed me.
I kept working hard and passed several runners. I glanced at my watch and had a dilemma; should I increase my effort to maintain a strong pace or respect the hill?
I found a middle ground within myself and ran. I knew there was a long way to go still.
By the time I reached a flatter section of road my pace didn’t return as I had hoped. I still had to work hard.
Before halfway I had to accelerate or be held back by a couple of runners.
Vehicles continued to whizz by me.
There were pockets of cheering spectators including some from my former running club. It gave me a slight boost but another hill loomed.
Whenever I saw my watch early in the mile, my average pace was promising, sometimes sub six minutes. But by the end of each mile the time just crept over the mark.
I kept calculating whether I was on track for a new personal best. I had to force myself to believe I was still on target
I took a sponge and water from two aid stations, never stopping.
I continued to pass runners, many of whom praised my strength.
Then one final hill faced me. The traffic was building from every direction.
I checked my watch and knew there wasn’t too far to go. I soon passed the sign for ‘400m to go’.
The runner ahead was too far ahead to catch now.
I turned the final corner along the straight to the finish line. My watch buzzed in recognition of covering 10 miles.
I sprinted the last seconds.


The Great Baddow 10 Mile Road race was the final examination of my training since the start of 2019. After improving my personal best for 10 miles by over two minutes 13 days prior I wanted to give any last effort I still had.
Although I expected the course to consist of hills, I wasn’t prepared for such frequent and steep undulations. I wanted to maintain an average pace closer to the Witham May Day 10 race and was on course after the first two miles. However, after the third mile, the fourth and fifth miles were too challenging for me to maintain. I am pleased that I ran the second half of the race quicker, and I managed a sub 6 minute mile in the final mile to finish in a respectable fifteenth position.
My Garmin watch showed that I had actually run the 10 miles in the exact same time as my previous race, which proved that the recovery and additional workouts in between races helped keep me performing at my best. The 25th road race of my running career was a memorable one, even if the traffic and hills made for a stern test of my physical and mental resolve.

World Relay Championships 2019 Review

The 2019 World Relay Championships last weekend was packed with drama. Unlike in usual athletics events, the constant baton changes between athletes proved the deciding factor in determining winners and losers. As a result the medals were never predictable despite the obvious world-class talent on display.

Reasons for Imperfections

 

Nations with the very best athletes, such as the USA, Jamaica and Great Britain, were surprisingly beaten in the big races such as the 4x 100m men’s relay and 4x 400m women’s relay. Nations such as Poland, Brazil and France claimed some top medals that rewarded their slick transitions and brave running.

  • Not only do athletes need to run fast, they need to work harmoniously with their teammates. This requires extra ‘thinking’ than simply running hard. A higher level of concentration is therefore needed, at a time when athletes have already exerted themselves a huge amount.
  • Athletes will have practised their baton changes many times and yet there were constant errors. This is because any slight changes in position or speed at the changeovers will affect the transition of the baton. Adjusting to any minor changes is crucial but far easier said than done.
  • The atmosphere inside Japan’s Yokohama International Stadium appeared electric at times. The silence before the starting gun sounded then the loud noise of the crowd during the race will have both motivated the athletes and enhanced their nerves, even for the most experienced athletes.
  • With over 600 athletes from over 40 nations across nine different events, the coordination from the organisers needed to be right. But the numerous physical bodies around the athletes would have been new to some of them, and so staying relaxed yet ready to pounce when the time came would have been different than in other individual races.

The 4th edition of the World Relay Championships produced intriguing performances. The event showcased great athletes like Elaine Thompson, the Borlée brothers and Noah Lyles.

But running fast is not always enough to win in a team event. Instead it is the teams that keep the transitions safe and the running consistent that often come out on top. Unsurprisingly, no championship records were set this year. Sometimes getting round the track without any mistakes is all that matters.

2019 Witham May Day 10

6 May 2019

I held back from running too fast from the start line.
I had to be patient.
The course was undulating from the start and along country lanes with few spectators.
I kept glancing at my watch to make sure I was running under my targeted 6:20 per mile pace but not faster than ten seconds.
I ignored the first water station and continued to adjust my effort as I ran up the slight inclines, on the flat, then down the slight declines.
Runners ahead of me helped give me a target for which to aim.
As I approached the halfway mark my pace was controlled and within my target.
My instinct was that I would achieve a new personal best. I felt relieved.
I passed a couple of runners as I quickened my pace.
By the next mile my quads were feeling tighter. I continued to power up the inclines.
I wasn’t perturbed and continued to concentrate, largely running alone.
I grabbed a water bottle from the final water station just after 7 miles. I took a couple of sips and wet my hands. I then chucked the bottle in a nearby bin.
I wanted to push my pace, and I knew I still had the strength.
I kept a cluster of three runners in my sight ahead of me.
At mile 8 I quickened my pace once again, keeping my breathing controlled.
I passed one runner, then another.
Over the last mile I forgot about my watch and pushed on. I could hear my own breathing as a runner in front stayed ahead. The last stretch of road was the same as the one- and two-mile time-trial I ran in late March and early April 2018.
I never looked behind me.
Instead, when I turned towards the final stretch, a marshal congratulated me on 11th position. So I sprinted the last 100m over the grass to the finish line. I was desperate to overtake another runner and although I was gaining, I ran out of distance. The results showed I was half a second away.

Witham May Day 10 2019 sprint finish

I had three aims prior to the race.
First, I wanted to beat my previous year’s time at the same race.
Second, I wanted to run under 6:20 for each mile of the race.
Third, I wanted to finish in the top ten.

I accomplished the first two aims and was so close to the third aim.
Most importantly, I beat my personal best by 2 minutes and 5 seconds, which validates the 18 weeks of steady and progressive training since the New Year.
I felt much stronger than a year ago and am confident that my daily routine of stretching and core exercises, along with my consistent 30+ mile weeks, had the desired effect.
The cooler conditions also helped me perform at my peak but an injury-free race was enjoyable and highly rewarding.

Virgin Money London Marathon 2019 Review

It was possibly the most competitive Virgin Money London Marathon in the 39 years of the iconic race. Sir Mo Farah and several notable East Africans were out to dethrone Eliud Kipchoge, whilst four amazing female athletes were vying for more glory in the UK’s capital.

Kipchoge is the Indisputable GOAT

For many, Eliud Kipchoge is considered the greatest marathoner of all time. The way that he can control marathoners from the front is remarkable. By winning his fourth London Marathon title he has won 11 of his 12 marathons to date, and 10th in a row. During the race his relaxed, seemingly effortless running technique and economy was a joy to see. So when he picked up his pace at the 40km mark, whilst also taking a quick drink, he demonstrated his superior class. His smile told everyone watching how phenomenal an athlete he really is. His time of 2 hours, 2 minutes and 37 seconds was the second-fastest marathon time (after his own world record), but his performance is second to no one.

The Best Marathoners are Getting Younger

Beside Kipchoge, this year’s race revealed the prominence of younger athletes. Traditionally, elite marathoners would race shorter distances on the track before advancing to the longer road races. Sir Mo Farah has done exactly that. But due to the lucrative prizes and accolades on offer, plus the fierce competition on the track, more athletes are transitioning to the marathon younger. Not only that, but they are proving that age isn’t synonymous with inexperience.

Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei became the youngest female winner of the London Marathon at the age of 25. This came after winning her first Major Marathon in Chicago last year at 24 years old.

Likewise in the men’s race the silver and bronze medals went to a 27- and 25-year-old respectively. Mosinet Geremew, the Ethiopian who was only 18 seconds behind Kipchoge became the second fastest marathoner of all-time. Kipchoge is over 7 years Geremew’s senior. This could indicate that the younger generation have the opportunity to surpass even the great Kipchoge over the next decade.

Negative Split Marathons Prove Successful

The top two men and and top six women clocked a faster second half of the race compared to the first. Not only did these athletes secure impressive times, they proved that to succeed athletes must always conserve energy during the first 13.1 miles.

Indeed the difference between the eventual winners and the runners-up was the extra speed and strength in the closing mile or so.

The different racing strategies on show supports this argument. Whilst the women’s race was relatively slow for the first half, the leading pack of men maintained a more even split. Regardless of how hard and fast an athlete runs during the race, if they can’t accelerate to a new speed near the end then they are unlikely to win. It appears that to become a champion you must be able to find a new gear even when you’ve already expended so much energy.

Why and How to Plan for a Running Injury

If I consider what I would do if I got a running injury my instinct would be to “push through the pain”. Perhaps reduce my volume or intensity, or both. But stopping my running altogether would be my last option. I’m a runner, after all. Therefore, I must keep running.

In the past I believed I was fortunate to not be affected by injury. I always ran. Only now I know I simply “pushed through the pain”. Luckily, I was able to keep adjusting my training and my races were largely unaffected. Then in the summer of 2017 I had my first serious injury. A hip bursitis on one side left me unable to walk without significant pain. I healed relatively quickly and was able to still run my seventh marathon that autumn. Within 6 months another injury beset my ambitions – MTSS. Although I achieved my goal of running my first ever sub-5-minute-mile, the remainder of the year was adversely affected.

The main cause for both injuries was over-training. My ambitions (and motivations) were higher than the training load my body could cope with. I didn’t quite get the balance of stress and recovery right, and I paid the price with physical discomfort and psychological disappointment.

Although I dealt with the hip bursitis well enough, I tried my best to run through my shin pain. This was a mistake. The major problem was simple – I had no plan for such an eventuality.

Kate Avery, the 27-year-old British cross-country specialist, told Athletics Weekly that patience is “the most frustrating thing” for any athlete. But her reward for developing this skill was finishing as the fastest Brit in the senior women’s race at the 2019 World Cross Country Championships. A strong winter season means that she has finished in the top 10 in six races already, including at the Simplyhealth Great Stirling XCountry. This is after experiencing multiple injuries that took her away from the sport for 17 months. It appears that a plan to cope with injury is essential for long-term success.

Indeed, as Hannah Winter explains in Athletics Weekly¹, fear of fitness loss is not a healthy reason to run whilst injured. Instead athletes should focus on returning to pain-free movement and setting realistic medium-term goals. The road to recovery may seem long, but it’s worth taking time to reflect on your journey to date and future potential. There are many ways to cope with not being able to run. I have spent time writing about my running, cycling indoors and committing to core exercises and stretching to stay active, as well as coaching other runners to achieve success. Whatever method(s) you use, try to stay positive. I now know that if injury does strike again I have a plan to cope as best I can with the setback.

So next time you consider whether to “push through the pain” of injury remember that long-term success requires smart decisions in the short-term. For example, a pre-planned break from running may prevent you needing to take an unplanned break.


1 The Athletics Weekly article is entitled Mental Rehab. Published on 11 April 2019.

Interview with Irish ‘Parkrun Tourist’

Donal Murphy was born in Ireland and played Gaelic football until in 2010 he hurt his back and couldn’t play anymore. Ever since he has focused on non-contact sports, such as triathlon. As of 2 March 2019, he ran all 111 parkruns in Ireland. It took him two and a half years. He documented his journey through his blog and social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Why did you run all the parkruns in Ireland?

My initial motivation was to get out and see Ireland. I have done a lot of travelling around the world and have lived abroad but I didn’t know so much about my own country. I felt that the accessibility and openness of parkrun, and the geographical spread offered a good opportunity to travel to different places around the island.

What was you most memorable parkrun?

Bere Island. It’s a small island off the coast of West Cork in the south west. Firstly, you have to get a ferry there, which is unusual. Unarranged and unexpected, a guy with a van took people to the other side of the island for parkrun. The weekend I was there the volunteers arranged for the island children to run the event, so we got our instructions from a boy around 10 years old. There was no traffic so we ran out in the middle of the road, and afterwards all the runners and volunteers gathered in a local café for cake and coffee. It was in the middle of summer and the weather was great. Plus, the scenery of West Cork was fantastic.

What was your worst parkrun?

I tried very hard in the first year to do a new parkrun every Saturday. It took some sacrifice but I was on course to complete 52 straight weeks, when on the 48th week I drove two hours to the west of Ireland only for the parkrun to be cancelled. There wasn’t a nearby one so I lost my streak.

Who did you meet on your journey?

Given the broad spectrum of people that take part in parkrun I have spoken to all sorts of runners since starting, from the ‘couch to 5k’ runners to ultramarathoners. I don’t think you would get that in any other running event. It motivates you to set goals for yourself, but also allows you to see how far you have come.

Who supported you along the way?

I’ve had support from friends and family, but getting up really early on Saturday mornings to travel hundreds of miles around the country is generally a solo pursuit. More recently though I have come across a group of like-minded tourists in Ireland, called the parkrun Trippers. We have a Whatsapp group where we share all our parkrun reports. This has become a great source of entertainment and support for me.

How did you train for all those parkruns?

My athletic goals are based mostly around triathlon, so parkrun was a part of my training, as opposed to me “training for” parkrun. I was not to too rigid in my approach to training, because there are other things going on in my life. I varied it over time, some weeks doing slow runs, and other weeks doing a tempo or near race pace.

Did you suffer any running injuries?

I was fairly lucky for a long time until the last few months of 2018 when I got a mild case of plantar fasciitis. I had to cut back on my running volume but I was still able to complete some parkruns. There were a lot of weeks that I skipped parkrun, which was frustrating. But in the long-run I was better off treating the injury properly, rather than rushing back when I wasn’t fully fit.

What would you do differently if you did it again?

I should have spent a little more time getting to know the local area. There were a few parkruns where all I did was show up, run, then go home. But again, there will always be other things going on in my life so I need to have some flexibility. I can’t always spend every Saturday being a tourist at a parkrun location.

What advice would you give other runners?

Consistency is key. Even if you feel terrible and unmotivated just go out and do something. I came across a quote that said “it is better to do a lot of a little, rather than a little of a lot”. I think that is a good approach.

Now that you’ve completed all the parkruns in Ireland what’s your next running goal?

There are parkruns in other countries, aren’t there? But more seriously, I’m still getting over the fact that I achieved my last goal. So I don’t know yet what I’ll set my mind to next.

Cashew Soya Protein Smoothie

This new Spring recipe is a special mix of fruits, cashews and protein powder to give you the best chance of recovery after a hard run.

It only takes 60 seconds to create in a high-speed blender, but needs to be left in the refrigerator for an hour if you want the drink to be chilled.

Simply add all the ingredients below for a tasty creamy and thick smoothie.

260g apples (vitamin C)

180g pears (vitamin C)

125g cashews (magnesium and iron)

100g bananas (potassium)

25g vegan soya protein powder (from Bulk Powders)

500 ml of cold water

World Cross Country Championships 2019 Review

The 43rd edition of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships was set to be a memorable one. 520 athletes from 63 countries were competing for titles in the Danish city of Aarhus last Saturday.

The course, a 2km lap repeated multiple times, consists of constant undulations, with short sections of mud, water and sand. But the 10% gradient of a hill near the end is the true punishing test of strength and stamina.

 

Be in it to Win it

Despite the huge numbers of athletes from East Africa, it was a shame to discover that Belgium and the Netherlands decided against sending a team. Some could argue that due to the dominance of three African nations (Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda) there was little opportunity for others to realistically vie for medals. Indeed, as it turned out, 25 of the 27 medals on offer were scooped up by those impressive countries (Morocco and Japan also each won a medal).

Still, the spirit of running, and especially cross country, is the rich tradition of mass participation. Running is not always about winning but competing amongst fellow athletes. Conversely, to even stand a chance of winning, you need to be on the start line. After all, once the starting pistol sounds, anything could happen.

 

Challenging Sections Separate the Best from the Rest

Even amongst the very best athletes, the repetition of steep hills can be both a leveller and provide a clear advantage to those who have trained to cope with the leg-sapping terrain.

Some athletes slowed, and others powered up the climbs. From a technical perspective, the most efficient and fastest athletes were those who did not bend forward at the hip and maintained quick arm swings. Often these were the athletes that won medals.

 

Looks can be Deceiving

As the downhill sections of the course were just as steep, these became just as difficult to navigate as the uphills. Some athletes kept their running technique similar to when running on the flat. Others had their arms out and away from their body. This is an effective strategy to ensure balance and control of speed.

Hellen Obiri, the senior women’s champion, also demonstrated an odd but ‘natural’ technique. Throughout the race her body swung and her head rocked. Usually this would not be an ideal strategy. But the multiple indoor and outdoor world champion showed her superior strength and endurance. Conversely, it could be used to fool her rivals, as her technique can be misconstrued as fatigue.

Finally, Jakob Ingebrigtsen was Europe’s best chance of a medal. But in the U20 men’s race he could only manage a 12th placed finish. His collapse at the end of the race summed up how the East Africans are still miles ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to running on uneven, grassy, mostly dry ground.

Winter Training 2019

Goals of Winter Training

Winter training is crucial for runners of all abilities.

Generally, this period is a time to build an aerobic base, without the pressure of running hard. Thankfully (for some), the early months of the year are not packed with road races for recreational runners.

After 2018, which saw me suffer intermittently with MTSS, my priority for winter training was to return to consistent, injury-free running. My strategy was to run predominantly at an easy-pace (corresponding to an effort level of 5-6 out of 10), 5-6 days every week. My hope was to develop my cardiovascular fitness and enjoy my running again.

Statistics from My Winter Training

I’m pleased that my winter training has gone to plan. I also managed to deal with slight niggles without affecting my frequency of running.

Days: 84 (12 weeks commencing 31 December 2018 and concluding on 24 March 2019)

Runs: 70

Miles: 389

Average Miles per Week: 32.4

Longest Run: 10 miles (twice)

Time Running: 55 hours, 57 minutes and 8 seconds

Average Time Running per Week: 4 hours, 39 minutes and 46 seconds

Lessons from My Winter Training

Easy running aids recovery. But I found that it’s still demanding on the body and mind. The accumulation of miles and ‘long slow runs’ result in a lot of “time on feet”. I was able to experiment with double-run days, which are not easy to complete when running faster workouts. This strategy to increase my training miles allowed me to change shoes and routes, whilst benefiting from short periods of recovery.

Alongside my running, I’ve naturally committed to a routine of daily walking, core exercises and stretching (including some foam rolling). I’ve found that these activities encourage me to set different but complementary objectives. They also allow me to understand better my body as it deals with the training load.

My Recommendations for Winter Training

Running easy for months in a row requires discipline. It’s often tempting to speed up when you feel strong. But easy running improves the body’s ability to utilise fat as an energy source, which is crucial for endurance events. Easy running also strengthens important ligaments and tendons, which improves a resilience to injuries.

There is little pressure throughout winter training to ‘perform well’ so mileage should be gradually increased over time.* Instead, correcting any inefficiencies in running technique can be prioritised. Time-trials, strategically planned, can reveal progress in aerobic capacity. It’s crucial that they are not run at an effort level equivalent to that sustained when racing.

Winter training is a periodised approach that builds a foundation of fitness, which can ease runners into a new season of racing. If completed appropriately, runners will feel physically stronger than at the start of training, with fewer injury concerns. Runners should also have a greater desire and confidence to run hard as Spring arrives.


* Avoiding sudden increases in training loads will reduce the likelihood of running injuries, according to David Lowes, a level 4 coach, in his article ‘Wintering Well’ in Athletics Weekly, published March 21, 2019.

 

NYC Half Marathon 2019 Review

The 14th edition of the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon was the biggest event in its history. Over 24,000 runners took to the streets of New York City last Sunday. There were also 9 Olympians on show as they made their way from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Despite the chilly early morning conditions, the racing was set to be hot as the winners would be bagging $20,000 each. The current world record holder for the half marathon, Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei, was looking to dominate the American field. This included 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden.

The men’s race was more open, with quality American track runner, Paul Chelimo, debuting at the distance and pitting himself against relatively unknown East African distance runners.


Believe you’re Untouchable

 

Jepkosgei’s pedigree is well-known. She reigns supreme over this distance, so no one expected the undulating course to pose much trouble for her. She was looking to replicate the superior performance that Mary Keitany produced to win the NYC Marathon late last year.

Her relaxed, bouncy stride appeared comfortable as she kept in the lead pack for the first 10k. When she broke away, her strong arm swing helped make the most of her substantial power-to-weight ratio. She kept her focus and eyes on the road ahead, and easily took victory by 60 seconds in 1:10:07.

 

Don’t Look Back in Anger

 

After a relatively slow start, Eritrea’s Daniel Mesfun forged ahead after the first mile. The 31-year-old had already won two half marathons in 2019 and has said he is looking to win the Boston Marathon next month. He made his intentions very clear after less than 10 minutes.

His short, powerful, flat-footed stride and bared teeth suggested that Mesfun was close to his limits. His lead was healthy, which built to as much as 22 seconds at the 15km mark. But he could not disguise his constant looking over his shoulder and several clutches of his stomach. It appeared that he was hoping to hold on to his lead by sheer determination and grit. In the closing stages, as Mesfun inevitably slowed, his rivals prepared their moves.

Many thought it would be the 5,000m specialist, Chelimo, who openly admitted that his recent 100+ mile weeks, and 22-mile long run had prepared him for victory. Although Chelimo did finish strong he could only finish third. Instead it was Belay Tilahun of Ethiopia, who stole the show. Not originally included in the elite field, it was a surprise to find him beside Mesfun with half a mile to race. Then the Ethiopian powered forward, winning by 6 seconds in 1:02:10.


The race illustrated how crucial it is for training to be targeted to the race (unless the race is being used as a tune-up for a more important upcoming race). Outward confidence, from Chelimo and Mesfun, is not always enough if the race strategy doesn’t take into account other astute competitors. Still, as Jepkosgei showed once again, when an athlete focuses on one distance, the outcome can be richly rewarding.

Vitality Big Half 2019 Review

Both the men’s and women’s races were stacked with talent for the second year of The Vitality Big Half.

This already popular event is also the British Half Marathon Championships. But many of the elite runners were testing themselves for the upcoming Virgin Money London Marathon.

As the race unfolded last Sunday, appearances were deceiving, not least because of the strong winds across London.


Sir Mo Wins Second Title in a Row

Expectation was high as is always the case when Farah takes to the streets of London. He quickly established his place in the leading pack once the gun had sounded.

Surprisingly, around the 5-mile mark Farah appeared to be struggling, falling behind his training partner Bashir Abdi and Kenya’s Daniel Wanjiru by 10m. He clutched his stomach and spectators feared the worst. But this blip lasted less than 5 minutes. For the remainder of the race Farah was locked together for the title, until the last 100m, when the sprint finish began.

Farah won by a mere second. But the way he dealt with the brutal conditions and challenging sections shows just how well he can still triumph over adversity.

 

Purdue Comes from Behind to Retain Title

Steph Twell, full of confidence from recent victories at the Armagh 3k  and Chichester 10k, pulled away from her female competitors before the 5-mile mark. She maintained a strong pace in a large group of male runners.

For miles Charlotte Purdue was running alone, battling the wind without any protection from other runners. But she continued to work hard, and with self-belief she would soon chip away at the lead. After 53 minutes at the 10-mile mark, Purdue did overtake Twell, who was slowing. Purdue never let up, running beside and then overtaking male club runners to retain her title and finish in 1:10:38.

She maintained an even pace throughout, which proved to be the best strategy on such a blustery morning.


London saw the best of British half marathon runners compete in far from ideal conditions. But the experience of past champions proved successful. The advice after watching this event is to stick to a race plan. Even if you find yourself alone, it can be easier to judge your effort without distractions. Otherwise you can get carried away with faster runners and find you haven’t the speed endurance or leg strength to end the race strong.

European Indoor Athletics Championships 2019 Review

The 35th edition of the European Indoor Athletics Championships was set to be a thrilling 3-day event. Superstars of European athletics were on show throughout last weekend in Glasgow’s Emirates Arena, including double-defending champion Laura Muir, the three Ingebrigtsen brothers and the enigmatic Karsten Warholm.

The home crowd had huge expectations for Team Great Britain, and the 49 athletes selected would not disappoint.

 

Peak Performance Requires Discipline

 

For many of the competitions there were two or three rounds before the medalists were decided. In less than three days, athletes would be racing multiple times with relatively little recovery. This was even more evident for Laura Muir and Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who were both competing in the 1500m and 3000m events.

Muir raced in the 1500m heat hours before she won 3000m gold. Although she won both races, she controlled the pace from the front to qualify for 1500m final with relative ease. Two days later she admitted she recovered well, storming to a historic double-double. It is a reminder of her superior class, and reminiscent of Mo Farah’s Olympic double-double outdoors (5000m and 10,000m).

Filip Ingebrigtsen, the middle brother of the amazing Norwegian middle-distance family, sadly became an example of ill-discipline. He was focusing solely on the 1500m, which allowed him to qualify for the final with ease, saving himself for a big push to beat his younger brother Jakob. But with just over two laps to go (400m) Filip forced his way passed a competitor on the inside lane. He stepped outside of the track and was later disqualified. His rush to get to the front and win the race was unnecessary; he was fast enough to qualify and yet a lack of patience cost him a place in the final, and most likely a medal.

Less severe were Jakob’s two heats (one for the 1500m and one for the 3000m), in which he wanted so desperately to win that he surged throughout to cover his competitors’ moves. Although he won gold in the 3000m final, his silver in the 1500m final the following day was most likely the result of cumulative fatigue. Still, he could have helped himself out by not running so hard in the heats.

As the legendary Steve Cram reflected in commentary, it is more difficult to recover from races with constant changes in pace, than it is of a steady pace. However, it must be said that Jakob’s accomplishments so far, at the tender age of eighteen, bode extremely well for the future.

 

Character Shines through for Gold Medallists

 

Athletics is a special sport. It is tactical and intense, but it is also individual. Glasgow was awash with gold medallists who more than anything else showed their unique personalities and dominant racing styles.

  • GB’s Muir bares her teeth during the final lap as she acelerates from the rest of the field.
  • GB’s Oskan-Clarke uses her muscular physique and strong front-running to make overtaking her a challenging prospect.
  • Norway’s Karsten Warholm unleashes his incredible leg speed and free-flowing form, all while remaining calm in his facial expression; his humorous and extroverted nature also come alive on camera post-race.

These athletes show that to win one must train and race smart, and feel confident in one’s natural strengths. This makes other athletes fearful. Having a relaxed and humble manner undoubtedly helps.

The Road to Sparta by Dean Karnazes: Book Review

How did Dean Karnazes’ heritage influence his running?

Both his maternal and paternal roots are in Greece, and are known for both their resilience and tranquil way of life. Karnazes’s genetic linkage is also distinguished by abnormally enlarged, bifurcated calf muscles.


Growing up, did Dean Karnazes run?

Yes, Karnazes did run, winning a mile race at school and enjoying cross country. Inspired by his coach and teammates he sometimes ran 70-80 miles a week. At 14 years old, he overcame severe pain to run 105 laps of a track, equivalent to a marathon, raising money for his high school. Similar to East African runners Karnazes found running home from school freeing.


Did Dean Karnazes pursue a running career once he became an adult?

No. Instead of pursuing a running career Karnazes sought a high salary and status, becoming a millionaire by his late 20s by working at GlaxoSmithKline.


What was the catalyst for Dean Karnazes’ ultrarunning career?

Partly discontent with his corporate job and seeking a new challenge, he ran 30-miles on the night of his 30th birthday, wearing only pants and trainers. From that moment on he became addicted to the sport. He would often run more than once a day, and 8-10 hours non-stop each day of the weekend. His commitment lead him to become a sponsored athlete, after finishing The North Face, a 100-mile footrace. He then quit his corporate job to become a full-time athlete.


What is his advice to ultrarunners?

Karnazes’ ultrarunning advice is to always hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Multiple contingency plans are essential. Interestingly, despite enjoying competing Karnazes preferred less-structured adventure outside of racecourse boundaries. Due to his natural introversion he would run for hours and sometimes days alone, away from home.


What did Dean Karnazes discover about Ancient Greek ultrarunners?

During his journey of self-discovery he came across hemerodromoi, professional day-long runners in Ancient Greek times. These athletes would cover incredible distances on foot, over rocky and mountainous terrain, forgoing sleep. Hemerodromia were men of high strength-to-weight ratios, upstanding characters and hugely patriotic. They ran barefoot or in leather sandals, and ate figs, olives, dried meats and pastela (ground sesame seeds and honey in paste form).


What is the story of Pheidippides?

Pheidippides was one of the best hemerodromia of his times, and was needed to carry important messages between Athenians and Spartans during the invasion of the Persian armies around 490 BC. He is said to have run from Athens to Sparta (136-142 miles) for 36 hours straight, only to return to Athens in 2 days after a brief stop. He then had to run 25 miles to Marathon and once again run back to Athens. Unsurprisingly he died of exhaustion, covering over 300 miles in less than a week.


How did Dean Karnazes prepare for the Spartathlon?

Intrigued to replicate Pheidippides’ epic journey, Karnazes completed a number of adventures.

  • He ran the Silicon Valley Marathon half naked dressed as Pheidippides.
  • He ran 700 miles to the 2007 San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, then completed the marathon in 3 hours and 16 minutes, consuming 7,500 kilocalories on route.
  • He trained 100 miles per week, with 80-mile training runs once a month and completing a host of 50-mile and 100-km races to maintain his competitive edge.

He benefited from his life on the coast of California, USA, because Greece is similar in mountainous terrain, and warm, dry temperature. Unsurprisingly he felt at home in Greece, despite the jet-lag and illnesses from regular plane journeys. He also cross-trained a lot in the gym but never felt self-assured leading to race day.


What happened when Dean Karnazes ran the 2014 Spartathlon?

The annual Spartathlon consists of 153 miles (equivalent to almost 6 marathons) from Athens to Sparta, replicating part of Pheidippides’ legendary athletic mission 2,500 years ago.

At spectator points Karnazes had to sign autographs for his fans, fulfill interviews and be followed by constant photographers. When he was alone, he suffered nausea, hallucinations, and even an out-of-body experience (watching himself running outside of his body). He ran whilst asleep for brief moments and failed to consume many calories.

Although he wasn’t all that pleased with his performance he completed the race in 34 hours, 44 minutes and 49 seconds, finishing in 131st position.

Grand Prix Athletics in Birmingham 2019 Review

The IAAF World Tour came to Birmingham last Saturday. The experienced international field were all looking to make their mark on the upcoming year with world leads. The competition was intense and ambitions high. But the overriding theme of the event was that others can truly make you run faster.

 

Oskan-Clarke Muscles to Victory Again

 

In the 800m women’s race Briton’s Shelayna Oskan-Clarke again proved her outstanding current form. After becoming national champion she was the woman to beat.

She ran fast to the break in the lanes, and led the pack. Despite Adelle Tracey’s three attempts to pass her on the outside, Oskan-Clarke accelerated just enough to keep in front up to the final straight. Then, when all her competitors appeared to slow, Oskan-Clarke had the strength and stamina to secure her second victory in a week.

She used her superior musculature and characteristic grit to remain unsurpassable. She feels she can get quicker too.

 

Ethiopians Dominate the World

 

In the 1500m men’s race Samuel Tefera and Yomif Kejelcha weren’t focusing solely on winning. They were looking to secure a world indoor record. Kejelcha led his fellow countryman after 1,000m when the pacers moved aside. Their arms drove strongly and quickly as they reeled off lap after lap. Only halfway along the back straight of the final lap did Tefera overtake Kejelcha. He then cut back sharply to the inside lane and powered to the finish line. He recorded 3:31.04, only 0.14 seconds quicker than the great Hicham El Guerrouj’s 1997 previous record.

The two Ethiopians, along with the crowd, made the record possible. Tefera is only 19 years old, and Kejelcha, who only just missed out on an indoor world record for the mile last week, is only 21 years old. These athletes are special and if they continue to run together (and inadvertently pace each other) they will surely be the next generation to make their lasting mark on middle-distance running.

The most promising feature of the race was Tefera’s reaction after the race; he looked calm and was able to jog the victory lap as if he hadn’t given all he had.

 

Laura Muir Continues to Excel

 

The final race of the meet was the women’s mile. Although Laura Muir said pre-race that she was prioritising victory, commenters speculated about a new national record.

After 800m the pacer left and Muir was running without competition. Concentration was high, and during the final two laps you could see that Muir’s legs and arms were working hard to supersede her recent training successes. She stumbled to the ground after she crossed the line from the extreme fatigue.

Muir finished the mile in the third fastest time ever of 4:18.75, breaking a 31-year British record. The home crowd were on their feet, cheering loudly for most of the race. Everyone played a part in her astonishing performance.

British Indoor Athletics Championships 2019 Review

The 2019 British Indoor Athletics Championships, held in Arena Birmingham last weekend, showcased the best of British athletics. The two-day event did not disappoint.

There were so many heats, semi-finals and finals that coverage was non-stop throughout Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

There were storming wins for Laura Muir (in the 3000m) and Tom Bosworth (in the 5000m walk) alongside tight races in the 60m men’s hurdles (David King crowned champion), 1500m men’s (Neil Gourley crowned champion) and the 800m women’s (Shelayna Oskan-Clarke crowned champion) races.

But what impressed me most was Asha Philip’s 60m races on day one.

What shocked me most was how some superstars of the sport failed to win the gold medal, revealing how competitively strong athletics has become throughout Britain.

Composure is Crucial

 

In less than 5 hours Asha Philip, the five-time British Indoor 60m champion, raced three times. She not only won her heat and semi-final but had to contend with a relatively lengthy delay before the start of her final. The equipment needed testing and the athletes all stood around, trying to keep their muscles from cooling. Except for Philip, who sat on the edge of the track, waiting.

Relaxation personified. Then she got up and steadied herself.

She won the final in under a second, beating Rachel Miller, who looked strong throughout. The race didn’t start perfectly either for the Olympic and World Championship medalist.  But she didn’t panic. Up until the final 5 metres of the race Miller looked set to win, but at the line Philip’s superior upper body strength and fast leg turnover ensured her fourth straight national title.

Nothing can be Taken for Granted

 

There were some big names that failed to obtain a medal at these national championships.

  • Andrew Robertson and Richard Kilty (60m)
  • Eilidh Doyle and Meghan Beesley (400m)
  • Lynsey Sharp (800m)

Other senior athletes such as Elliot Giles (1500m), Andrew Butchart (3000m) and Guy Learmonth (800m) had to settle for the minor medals, when their track pedigree had been predicted to shine through.

Although it must be said that experienced athletes may not have been prioritising their training to peak for this event, it reminds us that past performances never guarantee future success.

There will always be others who are prepared to pounce on any weakness. To win (and keep winning) a runner not only needs to give everything they have. They also need to have prepared themselves rigorously for the challenge for those minutes, and often final seconds, when it all counts. Regardless of your talent and work ethic, no runner can take a victory for granted.

Dubai Marathon 2019 Race Review

The 20th edition of the Dubai Marathon is another spectacle of East African marathon supremacy.

The elite race starts at 6am local time. The sky is still dark, but the bright streetlights and little wind mean conditions are ideal. The marathon is held on relatively new roads, with flat, smooth tarmac.

The men’s race has three Kenyan pacemakers who are quickly followed by eleven men vying for the title. Bunched in with a couple of male pacemakers three elite women make an early breakaway.

As it approaches 7am daylight breaks suddenly and the races hot up.

Inexperience isn’t a disadvantage

 

In the world of elite marathoners the best are becoming younger and faster. Getaneh Molla’s debut men’s marathon results in an astonishing victory. Not only is the Ethiopian 25 years old, his time of 2:03:34 is a new course record and the fastest debutant marathon in history.

Most impressive is his measured approach throughout. He remains composed as his steady pace and concentration on the road ahead allow him to ignore his competitors’ tactics. It is an almost flawless performance, making his deciding move with less than a kilometre left. His win even surprises him.

There’s always more to improve

 
Ruth Chepngetich’s metronomic stride, strong arm drive and determined look prove superior over her steely opponent Worknesh Degefa. Chepngetich keeps a fast tempo but the water stations reveal her weakness.

At almost every 5km interval the Kenyan either misses or fumbles with her bottles. She inevitably loses momentum and time unnecessarily. Although she quickly makes up the distance, and powers to the finish line, her concentration is too intense. 

An improved self-awareness will surely make her a genuine contender to Mary Keitany’s current dominance in women’s distance running.
 

The prize money of $100,000 for each winner is undoubtedly an incentive for the athletes but there are also significant pressures to beat the course record and even target the world record.

This race has the atmosphere and appearance of a major event, and will no doubt rival the World Marathon Majors in the future as a showcase of the very best long-distance runners the world has to offer.

Goji Berry Protein Smoothie

This new recipe is a unique blend of superfoods, made from carefully chosen but accessible ingredients.

It only takes 60 seconds to create in a high-speed blender.

Simply add all the ingredients below and create a delicious and nutritious smoothie.

100g dried goji berries (calcium)

85g apple (vitamin C)

65g bananas (potassium)

50g ground almonds (iron and magnesium)

25g vegan strawberry protein powder (from Bulk Powders)

10g hemp and baobab protein powder (vitamin B1)

230 ml of cold water

For a cooler taste the drink can be left in the refrigerator for an hour before stirring and consuming.

Run Like Duck by Mark Atkinson: Book Review

This book review of Run Like Duck by Mark Atkinson answers the 15 most important questions every runner should know.

What is Run Like Duck?

Run Like Duck is an autobiographical book, which details the running journey of UK’s Mark Atkinson.

When was Run Like Duck published?

The paperback was published on 15 November 2018 by Sandstone Press.

Who is Mark Atkinson?

Mark is the author of Run Like Duck, a self-professed unathletic man from Milton Keynes, who began running when a friend introduced him to his local parkrun.

When and how did Mark start running?

Mark began running in early 2011 whilst in his early thirties. He began by using a run-walk strategy, under the cover of darkness. Thankfully, he persisted, despite the initial frustration and difficulty.

What were the first races Mark ran?

In his first year of running Mark ran the, then called, BUPA London 10k, the NSPCC Milton Keynes Half Marathon and the Run to the Beat Half Marathon  in London.

Where was Mark’s first marathon?

During that same year, Mark ran the Luton Marathon. Although he didn’t train adequately enough he persevered in wet and cold conditions to finish in 4 hours and 57 minutes. More significantly, it was the day he discovered the 100 Marathon Club.

What other significant marathons has Mark run?

He has run the London Marathon for charity, his local marathon in Milton Keynes, the Brighton Marathon, the Bournemouth Marathon and the New Forest Marathon, along with many others across the UK. Mark has also run numerous marathons abroad, including the Tallinn Marathon in Estonia, and the Paris Marathon.

What is Mark’s personal best time?

At the time of publication Mark’s personal record is 3:15:31.

Is Mark a member of the 100 Marathon Club?

Yes. In 6 years, and with plenty of determination and perseverance, Mark completed his 100th marathon, and joined an inspiring group of runners.

What running advice does Mark have for other runners?

Mark often thinks that if he spent more time focusing on specific races with plenty of training cycles beforehand he would improve his personal best time for the marathon. However, the excitement of his next race means sometimes he hasn’t even recovered before he stands on the starting line again.

He believes in rotating running shoes regularly and that pursuing athletic goals can’t be achieved at the same time as weight-loss goals.

As a coach I echo his wisdom; success is more likely if you stay determined on a single goal, and allow yourself enough time to be fully prepared for the challenge.

What running mistakes has Mark made?

He frequently cites that despite his extensive experience, he doesn’t run a consistent pace during marathons, as he tends to run too fast during the early miles. 

He also frequently eats McDonald’s breakfast meals as pre-race fuelling, along with chocolate and cola drinks on route. The wrong running clothing is another error he has made, as cotton t-shirts are not the best for allowing sweat to evaporate efficiently.

Has Mark ever run an ultramarathon?

Yes. Mark has run numerous ultramarathons throughout his running journey. His first ultramarathon was the Bewl Water Ultra. He ran the 37.5-mile course in 5 hours and 50 minutes. 

Other notable races he has completed include the Chiltern Wonderland 50, the South Downs Way 50 and the South Downs Way 100, the last of which he completed in 22 hours and 22 minutes.

What other running experiences has Mark enjoyed?

He is a fan of the Enigma-hosted races, and has run the Quadzilla, which consists of 4 marathons in 4 consecutive days. Endure 24 is another race he ran, which is a team relay event. He completed 8 laps, equivalent to 40 miles in total, with two and half hours rest in between efforts. 

He also advocates for the events that the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) host as there is less pressure to perform and they are well organised (and cheap) adventures.

Would you recommend runners to read Run Like Duck?

Absolutely. Mark’s account of his numerous running races is an inspiring read. Some of his stories will be familiar to any marathoner. Other times, his opinions will make you laugh or nod. But always, his endeavours remind you that from a humble beginning and with imperfect running form, any endurance feat is possible if you don’t overthink it.

Where can you buy the book?

According to a book price comparison tool you can buy Run Like Duck from Amazon, Abebooks and Wordery.

Great Stirling Cross Country 2019 Race Review

Although cold, conditions in central Scotland last Saturday were dry. 

Coupled with the fast, flat (for the most part) golf course, the Simplyhealth Great Stirling Cross Country races suited track runners best. 

The 3-team competition may not have resulted in a massive field of runners.

But the rivalries were evident and promised intense racing over distances of 6km, for the women, 8km, for the men, and 4x 1,500m for the mixed relay.

Cross-Training Improves Racing

 

The most impressive performance of the meet was Elena Burkard’s 5-second victory in the women’s race.

The German’s patience during the first three laps meant she could attack the leader, GB’s Charlotte Arter, soon into the final lap. 

Burkard replicated her triumph over Arter in the recent European Cross Country Championships.

Her posture and wide arm drive never faltered as she navigated the grassy fields.

More intriguing is the interview Burkard gave post-race. 

She trains at cross country skiing camps. 

She has learnt that to protect herself from injury she must train smartly. 

Cross-training helps her maintain fitness and develop leg strength without the stressful pounding of excessive running. 

Even though she admits she is poor at this winter sport, it obviously works as a supplementary activity.

Knowing the Route Beforehand Matters

 

During two of the three races, some athletes ran in the wrong direction. 

Hillary Bor, in the men’s race, was still able to win the race, although by less than a second. 

In the mixed relay, the US athlete on the second leg effectively lost her 50m lead due to her decision to veer off course.

Extra marshals positioned at specific points on the course would most likely have eradicated confusion. 

However, the mistakes highlight an important issue. 

All athletes should understand the race course well enough to navigate it alone. 

If there is any uncertainty before the race, then clarity should be sought from the organisers. 

The consequences can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Familiarity with Hills Builds Strength

 

The only testing hills on the course were an incline after the first 100m, and one at the end of each lap. 

Although steep, both are short. 

These stretches give the stronger, more technically superior athletes the edge. 

On the final laps, during every race, the eventual winners would take their chance to power uphill. 

They would gain both greater momentum and lead over their rivals.

This is a predictably effective strategy, as hill running is notoriously tiring. 

If the athlete is primed for this challenge they have the ability to break their opponents. 

Burkard in the women’s race, and Muir in the mixed relay, demonstrated the greatest willingness and correct technique. 

They appeared to make light work of the otherwise hellish sections of the course.

The format of the competition, with athletes vying for individual and team glory (with either Team USA, Great Britain or Europe) is an exciting addition for spectators. 

However, unsurprisingly, with more countries to select from, Europe are never likely to be threatened for the team trophy.

Super Pear Protein Smoothie

This light pear protein smoothie is refreshing, made from your favourite protein powder and a versatile fruit.

This recipe takes 60 seconds to create in a high-speed blender. 

Simply add all the ingredients below and create a great tasting and nutritious drink.

380g pears (vitamin C and fibre)

90g apple (potassium)

40g ground almonds (iron and magnesium)

50g of my favourite pea protein powder (from Bulk Powders)

400 ml of cold water

For a cooler taste the drink can be placed in the refrigerator for an hour before stirring and consuming.

My 2019 Running Goals

2018 was a memorable year for me. The ups and downs of last year have inevitably influenced my 2019 running goals.

My focus this year is achieving consistent, progressive, endurance-based and injury-free running. 

Although I will still compete in a few races, I want 2019 to be the year of developing the strongest aerobic fitness of my life. 

Run my First Ultramarathon

 
For many years I have wanted to test myself over a distance longer than the marathon. 

Initially, my inspirations were the books and audiobooks of incredible ultrarunners such as Scott Jurek, Pam Reed and Dean Karnazes
 
Later, my experience as a 8-time marathoner got me wondering, too frequently, how I could cope with the extra mileage. 
 
In 2017, I set myself the goal, before I turned 30, to explore this relatively new running phenomenon. 
 
Fortunately, there is an ultramarathon race close to my home
 
Held in early October, it is the ideal challenge that offers me plenty of time to experiment in my training.
 

Improve my Marathon Personal Best

 

Since completing my first marathon in 2013, I have achieved relative success at this iconic running distance. 

However, my dream to qualify for the London Marathon as a good-for-age entry remains a long-term goal. 

My aim for 2019 is simply to improve my personal best, accomplished in October 2017 at the Chelmsford Marathon.

Although only two weeks after the ultramarathon race, I feel confident my endurance training, recovery and race tactics will aid my success.

Run Injury-Free

 
After a disappointing end to my 2018 season, I want to return to building a strong foundation without the pressure of short-term racing. 
 
 
By returning to an appropriate and progressive stretching and strengthening routine I believe I will enjoy pain-free running again. 
 

My hope and expectation is that I will become a more resilient and fitter athlete.

Orange and Nut Protein Smoothie

This festive orange and nut protein smoothie is creamy and nutritious, made from your favourite protein powder and healthy ingredients.

This recipe takes 60 seconds to create in a high-speed blender. 

Simply add all the ingredients below. 

160g oranges (vitamin C)

60g banana (vitamin B6 and potassium)

75g walnuts and almonds (vitamin E and manganese)

50g of my favourite pea protein powder (from Bulk Powders)

400 ml of cold water

Although not necessary, the mixture of almonds and walnuts can be pre-soaked. 

For a more refreshing taste the drink can be placed in the refrigerator for an hour before stirring and enjoying.

6 Elements to Improve Endurance Running

Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance (2018) by Alex Hutchinson


Theory

A traditional view of endurance is that the body is a ‘machine’, limited by the muscles’ ability to use energy and oxygen.

However, more recently, researchers such as Tim Noakes and Samuele Marcora have asserted that human limits are defined by the brain’s functions. Conscious or not, our mind senses the dangers of exerting ourselves too much and so guides our body’s ‘pace’ (otherwise known as ‘anticipatory regulation’).

Our sense of effort and ability to overcome our instincts to stop once we feel pain are crucial elements if we are to perform at our best. Researchers point to the finishing ‘sprint’ during a marathon as proof that our bodies always have a reserve of energy.

Practice

Pain is unavoidable, a complex and situation-dependant sensation, but, if we seek pain in training (e.g. run harder, faster workouts) our pain tolerance will increase.

The more hours we spend physically training our bodies, the better we can alter our minds to push ourselves faster and further.

Muscles

Brain fatigue and muscle fatigue are inseparable, but lactic acid isn’t the feeling of acid dissolving our muscles. It’s a cautionary signal created in the brain by nerve endings triggered only in the presence of certain metabolites.

Caffeine is an effective performance enhancer because it disables brain receptors that detect muscle fatigue.

Oxygen

The advantage that East African runners have originates from being born at altitude and having active childhoods. This means they can better maintain their brain’s oxygen supply due to possessing a greater number of thicker blood vessels that connect to the brain.

Heat

For every 100 calories we consume, it’s estimated we will generate at least 75 calories of heat. This means that to fully adapt to bodily heat, we should exercise repeatedly in hot conditions.

We will sweat more heavily and our blood volume will increase, resulting in our heart rate staying lower during exercise.

Thirst

If thirsty we should drink when we have the chance, but we shouldn’t obsess about it when we don’t, because any losses of less than 4% are unlikely to impair our endurance performance.

Fuel

We should never be under-fuelled at the start of a race, otherwise this will be a limiting factor in our performance. The brain uses fuel, and so having larger stores of glycogen is optimal.

An example is it only helps to consume a sports drink in runs shorter than 90 minutes if our body is low on fuel to begin with.

Brain Training

Ultimately, as athletes we need to better monitor our body’s reactions to training loads. The more we can predict pain, the more likely we are to feel impartial to it, and push through that feeling to make better micro-decisions during a race.


Runner Alex Hutchinson

Hutchinson’s own views as a runner, after completing his first marathon in a time of 2:44:48, are useful to ensure we best implement the advice from the countless studies he compiled. He wishes he implemented more positive self-talk. Over many years, this will inevitably translate into greater self-belief.

More than anything else, running lots and holding greater faith in achieving personal goals will give us the best chance of athletic success.

Elite Champions at 2018 European Cross Country Championships

Conditions in the southern city of Tilburg in the Netherlands was as expected for cross country running – muddy, wet, rainy, windy and cold.

But, despite some athletes slipping and falling, the settings did nothing to prevent the athletes from competing hard over compelling distances, ranging from 4 to 10km.

Winners Focus

All the eventual winners had nothing on their minds other than navigating the undulating, winding course as efficiently and as quickly as possible.

They never panicked, whether they had competitors beside them for the majority of the race, or found themselves forging ahead alone, stringing out the rest of the field. The champions also waited for the most crucial times to give their best effort; often over the final bend and straight.

These performances were highlighted further by the immature actions of Ouassim Oumaiz, the U20 Spaniard, who despite finishing second spent sections of the race talking, looking back, and even slapping the hand of Jakob Ingebrigtsen.

As a coach, I reflect on two matters; if he had concentrated more on his own pacing, he could have reduced the nine-second victory of Ingebrigtsen, and, better secured his silver medal, because on another day Serbia’s Elzan Bibic could have made up his two-second deficit.

Position Matters

Every race began with athletes sprinting the 200m straight across the mud flat to the opening of the woods. Cross country, by its nature, is fiercely competitive as tight corners and uneven surfaces mean every step must keep athletes balanced, and every position counts for individual and team glory.

Norway topped the medal table with three golds, helped in huge part by the contribution of the Ingebrigtsen brothers. Although Team GB could only manage team medals, they finished the day with the largest haul of any nation, revealing once again the depth of athletic talent that lies in the United Kingdom.

Believers Succeed

I predicted before the championships that Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Turkey’s Jasemine Can would defend their titles. I also suspected that a new champion would be crowned in the senior men’s race, simply due to the extraordinarily strong field.

I was proven right, but the reason is more pronounced in the U23 champions, France’s Jimmy Gressier and Denmark’s Anna Møller. They displayed the belief of champions, accepting their roles as pre-race favourites, running to their strengths – Gressier fast, pushing the pace the entire race, and Møller strategic, waiting for others’ to fatigue before making her final move.

Outlasting Ultra Pain for Great Causes

Book Review of RUN! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss (2011) by Dean Karnazes


Humble Philosophy

 

Karnazes has built his life around a pursuit of adventure. His vivacious appetite for pushing his limits, attempting new, and often inconceivable challenges, has no boundaries.

He views running as both a cause of, and cure for, pain, but also a means of giving back to the community that has so dearly supported him.

Due to his natural introversion, he uses “Karno” as his alter ego, never accepting he has any special skills or talent, simply an indomitable will to keep moving when there is every reason not to.

He does the basics right though, preparing for every race meticulously, conditioning his mind to embrace the unexpected, and appreciating family time and a non-materialistic lifestyle.

Extreme Adventures

 

Influenced by his Greek father’s stubborn, but always supportive, demeanor, Karnazes tells the stories of races and runs that require nothing less than his total dedication and sacrifice.

After almost dying during his first attempt at the Badwater 135 he manages to finish the following year after being on the verge of a coma. He then overcomes almost being run over, escapes flash flooding, lightning and snowstorms to complete the brutal race seven more times.

He attempts to break the world record for running the most miles on a treadmill in 48 hours live on TV. Despite the constant onlookers, sleep deprivation and extreme chafing he lasts longer than the belt he runs on, which becomes slack halfway through the challenge. Although he fails to break the world record, his 212 miles is a remarkable achievement.

He becomes the 2008 champion of the 4 Deserts Championship after completing four multi-day, self-supported races crossing 155 miles of the most savage wilderness. He wins one of the races and places well in all the others to become the first of two men to complete every race in a calendar year.

Other highlights include:

  • Failing to finish the Leadville Trail 100 miler twice before overcoming a mental burden and vomiting to complete the high altitude race.
  • Running 354 miles from Australia’s highest summit to its largest city in six days.
  • Running across the United States of America on TV, accumulating 75 days of 12-hour, 40-50 mile runs, wearing out 53 pairs of shoes on the pain-filled route from California to New York.
  • Running the Hood to Coast, 197-mile 12-person relay race, all by himself, to celebrate his 40th birthday, equivalent to 45 hours of running non-stop.
  • Running ‘on water’ in a Hydro Bronc, and almost coming to blows with a sea beast.

Inspirational Mentor

 

Throughout the book Karno explores the journey of his best friend Topher, from being a non-runner to quickly becoming an obsessive ultrarunner like Karno. Skipping the marathon distance altogether Topher races 50km and 50 mile races until he beats Karno at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), a 103-mile circumnavigation of Europe’s highest peak.

Karno’s athletic feats are awe-inspiring, and yet it isn’t his seemingly unending tolerance for pain for which he should be admired most. Instead of fame and money, Karno has used his amazing ability to help others.

Whether raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity or placing his own money under random car’s windscreens as he runs by, he is a community-minded man, who continues to look for the truth within himself and the people who are crazy enough to join him.

Solutions to the Uphill Battle of Ultramarathons

Running up that Hill: The Highs and Lows of Going that Bit Further (2018) by Vassos Alexander


The famous BBC sports radio presenter and journalist Vassos Alexander built on the success of his first book by taking readers through his adventures as an ultramarathoner.

After his first race at the 2010 Great North Run he became addicted to running marathons with the aim of running under 3 hours. However, his pursuit of this road racing dream led him to realise that athletic obsession can quickly become stressful and draining, a contrast to the reasons he entered the sport initially.

Although he achieved his time goal at the 2016 London Marathon, he favoured ultramarathons as his main challenge.

Alexander ran his first 100 mile trail race, the South Downs Way, in June 2016, before volunteering the following year because of the wonderful atmosphere. He followed this up with an attempt at the Dragon’s Back Race, the toughest 5-day foot race in the world, through Welsh foggy wilderness and mountains. But with a lot of ‘technical terrain’ (stretches of land that must be walked) and a high ankle sprain he was forced to stop after two days of racing. He learnt that a lack of specific training on rocky terrain and a persistent injury can’t be ignored.

Other highlights included his joint 7th finish at the 2017 Mendip Marauder 50 miler and a training run alone that covered the entire 67-mile perimeter of the Isle of Wight.

His crowning glory was completion of the 2017 Spartathlon, a 153-mile race from Athens to Sparta, which recreates Pheidippides’ epic journey 2,500 years ago to preserve Greek freedom, democracy and civilisation. He had no crew and realised he had started the race too quickly.

But the many villages, schools and aid stations he passed helped him overcome the 4,000 ft mountain he had to ascend and descend. Even the severe pain he encountered in his ankle was enough to stop him making progress. He squatted, took magnesium supplements and even had a massage in order to keep his legs moving.

His astonishing feat of endurance was summed up 40 hours later when he still couldn’t move his legs, requiring a Zimmer frame.

Running Up That Hill book cover

Naturally friendly and approachable, Alexander also retold many stories and advice from ultramarathon race directors and some of the very best ultrarunners on the planet, such as Scott Jurek and Mimi Anderson.

  • Charlie Engle (the Running Man) believed ultrarunning is a great method of self-discovery, which fundamentally improves one’s mental health.
  • Ben Smith (the British man who ran 401 marathons in 401 days for an anti-bullying charity) shared that it took 50 consecutive marathons before his body adjusted to the physical stress of the challenge, but his serotonin levels were severely depleted.
  • Jasmin Paris (elite fell runner and record holder) valued her impressive ultrarunning less than her work researching cures for cancer.
  • Nicky Spinks (elite fell runner and record holder) acknowledged that her experience with breast cancer inspired her to be a positive role model, and that running helped her better overcome life’s discomfort.
  • Dean Karnazes (the Ultramarathon Man) revealed his most memorable running moment as his 10-year-old daughter running hard during the last kilometre of her first 10k race despite the pain.

The book even had the foreword from former elite triathlete Chrissie Wellington, who emphasised trying in spite of low confidence (which for most runners is an inevitability at some point in their life).

Alexander ultimately discovered that ultramarathons will always cause problems that runners have to solve. His advice was that if one’s thoughts remain positive then not only will solutions appear but the journey to the finish line will be more than worth the effort.


Strong Finish at Chelmsford 10km for Final 2018 Race

My first 10km race in almost a year and half was slightly hampered by my persistent shin injury.

Having fully recovered from my eighth marathon I wanted to end my 2018 racing season by running strong over a new course in my hometown.

But I hadn’t been able to train much leading up to the event. The five workouts on my turbo trainer (amounting to 69 miles) and four training runs (amounting to 17.6 miles) were insufficient to give me confidence I would set a new personal record.

I focused on effort level rather than pace, although I couldn’t resist setting myself the target of a sub-40-minute performance.

Even during my warm up I could feel my shins weren’t fully healed. Still, as I set off from the start line I concentrated on passing runners rather than glancing at my watch.

A gradual, but long incline was my first challenge and I was soon faced with a winding road that undulated far more than I had anticipated (41m of elevation gain and 36m of elevation loss, according to my Garmin).

I continued to overtake runners who were breathing heavily after so little distance. It reminded me of my controlled, soundless breaths, keeping me from overreaching. I also focused on my arm drive, opening up my hands and keeping them from crossing my body.

The only occasions I checked my watch were when it vibrated to indicate mile splits. I knew I was on target for my time after I covered 5km in approximately 19 minutes. I ended up running every mile under 6:25, my fastest at 6:11.

Once I turned into the park where the athletics stadium was situated I tried to expel the last amount of energy I had. I doubted whether I could pass the final few runners in front of me, but when I emerged onto the track a man decided to challenge me to a sprint finish. As I accelerated the last 50m he stayed with me. I felt lactate rise in my legs as I made one final push to the inflatable arch, beating him by a second. I congratulated him with a hand slap afterwards in a competitive but friendly spirit.

Except for one runner who just evaded me, I must have passed fifty or so competitors to record a respectable 45th position, my 12th top 50 race finish.

The race was my first that started in the afternoon and the weather was crisp and dry. The atmosphere at the end was tremendous; lively and encouraging. I spoke to a number of runners afterwards, some from my running club, who praised me for my sprint finish and ‘barefoot shoes’.

The race demonstrated my natural resolve to push on during the uphill sections and hang on to overtake more runners, despite not setting this as a goal before the race. My heart rate was relatively steady and low throughout, revealing that I had managed my effort well over the distance.

But the lack of pain in my shins, except for the first mile or so, only compounded my overall disappointment; I feel as if I know my body less and am reminded that my racing season could’ve been even more successful. Nevertheless, it was a memorable race and one that only motivates me to fully recover and better prepare for the 2019 season.

4 Reasons for the New 2018 World Half Marathon Record

When the date for the 28th Valencia Half Marathon finally arrived in late October, there should’ve been no doubt that the world half marathon record was under threat.

Kenya’s Abraham Kiptum lowered the eight-and-a-half-year mark by five seconds, recording 58:18. But it wasn’t just the flat course that ensured a spectacular result in Spain’s third largest city.

#1 Special Conditions

The course is perfect for running fast not only due to the absence of hills, but also the relatively few changes in direction, beautiful weather and remarkable history of the event. Since 2017 Valencia has been home to the women’s world record for the half marathon, both in a mixed gender race and women-only race.

Not only does Valencia name itself ‘The Running City’, hosting over fifty running events in 2018 alone, the half marathon is recognised by the IAAF as gold label. The strict conditions of this highest honour include international elite athletes, anti-doping testing and broadcasting of the event.

The lesson for all runners is to make the most of excellently organised and well supported running races, as they can empower better performances.

#2 Competitors Slowing

As runners passed 10km the lead pack suddenly lost the impetus to push on. But Kiptum knew that if he was to win this was the time to strike. His surge proved how strong the Kenyan felt, knowing instinctively that he could maintain sub fourteen minute 5km splits over the second half of the race.

Refusing to lead for the first 10km would certainly have eased him into the race, conserving slightly more energy than his rivals.

The lesson for all runners is to use the first half of a race to measure feeling. If strong, then increase the pace gradually to the end.

#3 Efficient Stride

Kiptum’s running form was particularly prominent throughout his world record performance. His bouncy, long stride and high knee lift suggested a rhythm that was efficient and relatively comfortable. His hips stayed high, which revealed his impressive core strength. His arm swings were driven and his eyes fixed on the road ahead.

Despite his serene movements, Kiptum demonstrated intense concentration and bravery to tackle the feat.

The lesson for all runners is to focus on developing and maintaining a solid foundation of core strength and stability. This will aid the body to deal with the relatively high impact of running lots of miles.

#4 Excellent Recent Performances

Kiptum’s 2018 had included a marathon win in Daegu back in April, and a second place finish in Copenhagen’s half marathon in mid September. The breakthrough year would’ve built the Kenyan’s confidence, so winning would have certainly been at the forefront of his mind. As long as he ran steadily, his training would’ve given him the knowledge that anything was possible.

With nine other Africans finishing in under an hour, if Kiptum had faltered others would’ve pounced.

The lesson for all runners is to use any positive training runs or races as inspiration whilst performing.

Waiting to Pounce at 2018 NYC Marathon

New York City held a mild, windless marathon this year.

The eventual winners employed the most effective strategies on the day, keeping their composure when competitors continued to test them, finishing strong.

Steady Start Helps those with Greater Capacity

Before the marathon I predicted that it would be extremely difficult to beat Mary Keitany. Not only had she won the event three times before but she is undoubtedly one of the greatest female marathoners ever, alongside the UK’s Paula Radcliffe.

The race began with a huge pack, and stayed that way for the first half of the race, which was completed in 1:15:50. If the pace had continued it would’ve meant a relatively slow winning time (Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat’s 2011 performance of 2:28:20 was the most recent winning time that would have been slower).

But, unsurprisingly twenty runners soon became eight as the pace steadily increased. Keitany began to lead the pack, but soon Rahma Tusa of Ethiopia and Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya surged. A 10-second gap quickly appeared. Only Keitany stayed with them.

Keitany had the impetus to keep the pace fast. Cheruiyot fell back, then Tusa had to let Keitany go. By 30km Keitany had begun her ‘victory lap’. She didn’t need to look back; the gap was growing with every stride.

She broke her competitors by running three consecutive 5km splits under 16:30. Her efficient stride, short, powerful arm swings (similar to Juliet Chekwel) helped her to win by over three minutes and record the second-fastest course time.

Know One’s Limits

It’s easy to comment that some of the athletes should have pushed the early pace to keep Keitany from running a huge negative split (she ran the second half of the race more than fifteen minutes faster than the first half). But every athlete needs to run their own race strategy. The relatively comfortable early pace meant that Americans Stephanie Bruce, Brittany Charboneau and Desiree Linden could all front run for short periods.

The danger is that by attempting to keep with a superior runner, as Tusa did, runners can compromise their race. Overstretching, especially during a marathon, can lead to a loss of a podium finish. Alone, Vivian Cheruiyot could run at the pace she needed during the last miles, finishing strong in second. The American Shalane Flanagan, last year’s champion, could also run within herself, eventually breaking away from the chase pack and completing the podium. Tusa faded, finishing in fifth position.

The experiences of Cheruiyot and Flanagan, who are both in their thirties, ensured that they kept a tight grip on the top placings.

Always Have More to Give for the End

Whilst the elite women made their move just after the halfway mark, the men’s race was decided in the final mile.

The elite field was strung out in a line by 5km, with Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa and Shura Kitata, and Kenya’s Tamirat Tola and Geoffrey Kamworor pushing the pace.

As the race progressed Kitata held the lead, but couldn’t break away. The frequent undulations kept the runners together until 35km, where Tola couldn’t respond to the surge from Kamworor.

Pre-race I believed the defending champion would be too strong for the Ethiopians, and like Keitany, was conserving energy before his fast finish. When Kitata fell back during the last mile, it seemed the Kenyan had only one competitor left. But it was Kamworor who couldn’t maintain, with Kitata fighting back and pushing his training partner and fellow countryman to the end.

Desisa had deceived everyone, quietly keeping back so that he could give his all when it was most needed. The Ethiopian, who had attempted to break the two-hour marathon last year with Eliud Kipchoge, had finished in the top three on three other occasions, and at the finish line his delight was clear to see.

Pacing, Surging and Pain at 2018 Great South Run

The 29th year of the Great South Run was billed as a battle of the Brits.

In the women’s race, Eilish McColgan, Scottish middle-distance track specialist, was running the longest distance race of her career, competing against defending champion Gemma Steel and in-form Steph Twell. 

In the men’s race, Andy Vernon was out to stop long-time rival and friend Chris Thompson from winning his third consecutive title.

Every athlete had their concerns, mostly fatigue due to recent races, but there could be no excuses. Portsmouth laid out ideal running conditions for the 10-miler with little wind and even some warmth.


Surge at the right time to test your competitors

The top women were together at 10km until Twell surged. She looked determined as she pushed the pace, quickening her leg turnover. Steel couldn’t respond, and for the next mile it looked as if McColgan was almost beat. But she hung on, and by 8 miles they were side by side again. At the start of the final mile McColgan turned the tables on Twell and made a decisive move. Her lofty, bouncy stride was majestic as she stormed to an impressive victory.

Vernon executed a similar tactic to Twell, trying to break Thompson early in the race. By 5km through to 10km Vernon was staying ahead of Thompson. But no discernible gap had formed, so when Thompson surged before 7 miles, Vernon couldn’t respond, and instead focused on maintaining second place.

Don’t show your best move too early

It’s easy to think that Twell and Vernon made a tactical error, forcing the pace early in the race. However, when you consider that McColgan had never raced beyond 10km, and Thompson felt heavy in his legs from the recent win at the Great Scottish Half Marathon in late September, Twell and Vernon were smart.

The problem was McColgan and Thompson had that slight advantage in persistence and endurance that the 10 mile distance requires.

Although it appeared to play into McColgan and Thompson’s hands, if they had any weaknesses, the strong pace early on would have given them too much to claw back. As it was, McColgan and Thompson not only dealt with the early leaders’ surges, they had the superior strength to counter-surge when Vernon and Twell were starting to fatigue from their unsuccessful breakaways.

Pain is easier to take when achieving your goals

David Moorcroft, the former 5,000m world record holder, remarked in commentary that pain is more bearable when winning. This was certainly the case for both champions; visibly fatigued but still running strong and fast during the final mile of race.

But their efforts were rewarded with new personal bests and impressive victories; Thompson gaining his third successive title and McColgan following in her mother’s two victories in the mid-1990s.


Although the 20,000+ recreational runners weren’t able to experience the highs (and lows) of running at the front, they could execute similar strategies to the elite field.

Runners should play to their strengths; if they know they can endure (and not slow in the final stages of the race), then they must be disciplined early on. If, however, they feel their speed is their best attribute, then getting through two-thirds of the race at a fast pace can allow sheer determination to kick in until the finish.

Either way, runners must embrace the pain of muscle soreness and keep believing that the end is in sight. After all, a new personal best is never that far away when the conditions are right.


Fought off Injury to Finish 5th Marathon in Row

I started near the middle of the pack. I wasn’t used to being amongst runners who chatted and laughed. Space became tight and a runner almost tripped me up as we funnelled from the start line.
I kept a comfortable running pace. The early miles dragged as the markers didn’t start until the third mile. I ignored my watch as I focused on not flaring up my shin injury.
I modified my foot strike so I didn’t land primarily on my forefoot.
I soon passed my family and told them twice “I’m alright so far”. I was nervous but determined in getting through the first quarter of the race.
By mile eight I knew I would complete the race. My shins hadn’t caused me any pain and my anxiety about not finishing suddenly disappeared. Instead I needed to keep my muscle soreness to a minimum.
When I reached tenth mile my stomach began to rumble, so I ate several handfuls of dried fruit I carried on me. I enjoyed the sticky, sugary dates, apricots and mango pieces.
By half way my quads, hamstrings and adductors were extremely tight.
I reminded myself that this was natural as my training had been extremely limited and as long as I kept moving forward I would finish.
I passed cheering spectators, faced frequent undulations, and even runners that were walking or sitting at the side of the road.
The terrain was sapping my energy, and once I had drunk my second bottle of juice I knew a run-walk strategy was inevitable.
So I waited until the next aid station, located at approximately 19.3 miles, where I took advantage of the water the volunteers were offering. As I walked, I found that the pain was not discernibly different from when I was running. So I took a sensible approach and ran on the flatter sections of road, and walked the uphill and downhill sections.
I soon became obsessed with drinking, even though I wasn’t particularly sweaty or thirsty.
The next aid station was my only concern. I had plenty of company, with many runners around me showing signs of fatigue.
The final miles didn’t feel too slow, despite my pace of 9:30-10:20 per mile.
Spectators inspired me at the end to sprint passed a runner before stopping my watch at 3:52:35.


After once again suffering from pain in both my shins in early September, I knew my journey to my eighth marathon would be a challenge. Despite not running for 40 days I became paranoid that my shin bones were weak and tender. Even starting the race was in doubt up until Sunday.

My training during the seven weeks leading to the marathon consisted of walking a minimum of 14,500 steps each day, and cycling on my turbo trainer three to six times each week. Although I maintained a reasonable level of fitness, due to a variety of endurance and speed cycling workouts, I never believed they replicated the demands of running.

However, I was so fixated on whether I would experience shin pain that I neglected the impact on my muscles. On a positive note, it took 2 hours and 43 minutes of running before I succumbed to walking breaks. My mental strength proved once again that I could tackle a rather incredible feat (relative to my recent preparations).

My only goal was to finish, in order to maintain my record of running my local marathon each year since its inception in October 2014. I ignored position and pace, and only until the last few miles did I consider the 4 hour predicted finish time, and want to beat it.

The race was brutal on my body, akin to the first marathon I ever ran five years ago. Although my muscle soreness consumed my attention, I enjoyed the experience mostly as confirmation that my body is better at healing itself than I give it credit for.



4 Reasons Mo Farah Won 2018 Chicago Marathon

Mo Farah won the 41st Chicago Marathon earlier this month. The field was full of top elite athletes, but the Brit’s triumph wasn’t all that unexpected when you consider the context of his career to date.

#1 He Never Panicked

For the first half of the race, the lead pack contained no less than 13 runners. They sensibly spread out when they arrived at the water stations to avoid any drama over hydrating. But they soon rejoined, changing leaders only when necessary. However, for many of these early miles, Mo was content to stay at the back of the pack.

He appeared to take no interest in his competitors’ moves. He was instead focusing on conserving energy and sticking to his race plan.

#2 His Strong Finish

As the race developed, the lead pack dwindled to nine, six, then four, until Mo was competing against only Mosinet Geremew of Ethiopia. But unlike the rest of the field, Mo could make the very most of his track pedigree. He waited until as late as he could before leaving the young Ethiopian behind to sprint across the line.

As the commentators revealed during the race, Mo’s coach had made him focus more on his ‘long tempo runs’ near or at race pace. These strength-building workouts undoubtedly ensured that Mo could use his famous fast finish to great effect.

#3 His Hunger to Win

Mo’s desire to win is well documented. He so infrequently loses races that the marathon distance would have come to him as a relative surprise. His two other London Marathons (eighth in 2014 and third in 2018) were not acceptable to a man with the highest standards.

His wife’s delight shortly after Mo completed his 13-second victory captured the moment perfectly; for an incredible athlete, there are still more astonishing race stories to live.

#4 Winning a recent Half Marathon

A month before the Chicago Marathon, Mo won one of the largest half marathons in the world, the Great North Run, for a fifth consecutive year. In his familiar style he stayed relaxed throughout and powered his way passed any competitors brave enough to stay with him for over 90% of the race distance.

Although his victory was a likely outcome, it must have given him a lot of confidence going into the marathon. His performance was only 4 seconds off his personal best time on the course.


Mo Farah deserved to win his first marathon, and break the European marathon record, because of his extensive (and specific) training, and gutsy race strategy. The biggest surprise was that pre-race I wasn’t confident he would beat a rather fast field of athletes.

Mo demonstrated yet again why he is still the greatest British male runner, with his ability to continually reign supreme.



3 Lessons from 2018 Commonwealth Half Marathon

The 15th year of the Cardiff Half Marathon acted as the inaugural Commonwealth Half Marathon Championships. The event was packed with talent and numbers, but there were three important pieces of advice demonstrated throughout the 13.1 miles.

#1 Execute an Individual Race Plan

In the men’s race the story was dominated by five Africans competing against the Australian Jack Rayner.

However, even from the early miles the four Ugandans and Kenyan struggled to settle. They frequently exchanged positions, veered across the road, and accelerated suddenly only to soon be rejoined by the lead pack.

They could have been forgiven due to nerves, but surprisingly this erratic behaviour continued throughout the race. Despite the Africans’ impressive mile splits their surges and glances over to one another were a constant distraction. As I watched the televised coverage I imagined the coach of the Ugandan athletes confused and annoyed; they appeared to run with a lack of composure and self-assurance.

I wonder whether the team title (which they won emphatically with their four runners finishing in the top six) was their priority because they had used up all their reserves, unable to respond to Rayner’s timely surge over the final section.

Rayner’s strategy of staying at the back of lead pack, concentrating on a smooth rhythm and not getting drawn into competitors’ tactics secured him the win.

#2 Stay Focused throughout the Race

In contrast to the men’s race, Juliet Chekwel lead almost from the start line, never looking back and pacing herself consistently. After each 5km she dropped only 3-4 seconds per mile on her overall average pace. She ran alongside top male club runners for long stretches, then later by herself.

Like Rayner though, the Ugandan focused on her own race, pumping her arms across the body in a powerful lifting motion, which reminded me of a boxer practising uppercuts. Her head was still and relaxed, with her mouth slightly open, taking advantage of her lofty stride.

As Tanni Grey-Thompson, the decorated former paralympian, observed during the race Chekwel was “running on feel”. This performance was all the more astonishing because it was the longer distance race she had completed. Her running future appears bright.

#3 Running is a Demanding Sport

Sadly, soon after the event finished news broke that two runners had passed away. Two men under the age of 35 lost their lives, with cardiac arrest the causes.

Although these men had varying training histories, it remains true that regardless of athletic experience death is always a possibility during exercise.

Running is highly impactful and requires the heart to work efficiently and in synergism with every other system in the body.

This tragic news should remind us to never take the challenge of an endurance event for granted and that, if and when we feel pain in our chests during running we should seek medical assistance immediately.



Peddling to Find my Maximum

To offer myself a variation from solely endurance work I felt I needed to include interval training.
So I prepared myself for short sprints on my turbo trainer early this evening.
I used no music or audiobook to keep me motivated or distracted.

Instead I focused on peddling fast.
I set myself a straightforward workout of 10 x 30 seconds with 1 minute recoveries.
All I knew was I would sweat.

I got my head down and powered the pedals down and back.
After the first interval my breathing was heavy and my core temperature had risen.
The minute of easy cycling afterwards felt fine, although it passed quickly.
I tried to stay to a rhythm for each interval.
My long hair flapped in my face, but I ignored it and blew out hard.

My quad and calf muscles were heavy but I knew I could finish strong.
I checked my speed several times to ensure my effort matched the output.
None of my 30 second bursts fell below 32 mph.
The maximum speed recorded was 35.5 mph.

I sweated as much as I do when I cycle for over an hour.
I finished my 15-minute workout with a short walk, exhausted but satisfied.




Extending Time on the Saddle

I know I need to accumulate more time on my bike to maintain my endurance fitness ready for my upcoming marathon.

So I aimed to peddle for longer than an hour a day.
My concerns were the numbness and minor pain as a result of sitting in the same position on the saddle and the mental fatigue from not giving up after boredom set in.

First, I enjoyed a rest day after the first four days of my cross-training.
Then I fully committed to sweating.

2 hours on Sunday.
45 minutes twice on Monday.
30 minutes yesterday, after cycling 7.2 miles on my mountain bike outdoors.
1 hour and 10 minutes tonight.

I used a combination of distractions to get me through the workouts as best I could.
I listened to a running audiobook.
I sang to some of my favourite albums, from music artists including Angels and Airwaves, The Kooks and The Script.
I daydreamed.

I got off the saddle a few times to take very short breaks.
I rose up on my saddle to relieve the pressure on my buttocks.
By far the most effective method of passing the time simply refraining from checking my Garmin sports watch every minute




3 Training Principles from Ultramarathoner Lee Grantham

Lee Grantham’s recent stardom on social media and being a genuine contender at top ultramarathon races is testament to his strength of staying true to himself.

But what stands out about the Mancunian’s training approach?

1. Cross-Trains to Build Mileage

Grantham may be a full-time athlete, but he doesn’t spend all his time running. He instead complements his 60 miles per week (an achievable target for some recreational runners) with substantially more cycling.1

At around 150 miles per week, Grantham is improving and maintaining his aerobic capabilities while reducing his injury risks. This strategy gives him the perfect opportunity to keep mixing up his workouts, whilst maximising his most important energy system.

2. Replicates Tough Running Conditions

Grantham is known to run up mountains for hours in hot conditions, only to have to hitch-hike back home.1 This allows his body to adapt to conditions he will inevitably face in competition.

Mentally, he is further challenging himself to cope with the multitude of ups and downs when running for many hours at a time. Although he may have a relaxed character he continually tests his survival skills by relying on factors outside of his control (namely motorists) to return him to the safety of home.

3. Stays Himself

At 35 years old, Grantham has never been more ambitious, looking to win some of the longest races in the world. Grantham trains his way though, admitting he travels to different parts of the world, such as Thailand and mainland Europe, to both train in picturesque and awe-inspiring landscapes as well as experience new cultures.2

Grantham believes that these unique races can also help runners keep determined throughout the winter months when enthusiasm can easily wane.3

Surprisingly, Grantham has only been focusing on running for eight years, beginning in his late 20s.1 Nevertheless, his experience playing football and rugby in particular, where running was emphasised2 has put him in good stead.

His marathon personal best of 2:21:43 reveals that he is certainly no ordinary athlete. Add to this his vegan diet, eco-friendly lifestyle and interest in strength and conditioning at the gym, and no wonder he is popular in an already extraordinary sport.4


1 The Athletics Weekly article is entitled Aiming High. Published on 23rd August 2018.
2 This Steemit article is entitled Interview with Playboy and Elite Runner Lee Grantham. Published on 22 January 2018.
3 The MyProtein article is entitled Racing Overseas: How to make the most of it. Published in 2016.
4 The Athletics Weekly article is entitled Trail-blazing Endurance Athlete’s Winning Social Media Strategy. Published on 23rd August 2018.

Easy Workout with New Tyre

My new turbo trainer tyre arrived in the post today.
But I forgot the tools needed to change my current tyre.
So I bought a bicycle pump, valve adaptor and a repair kit.

The new tyre will wear less and save my original tyre in case I ever cycle on the roads.

I wanted to cycle easy today, so I popped my earphones in and forgot about my pace.
Instead I stayed consistent and enjoyed the constant motion of my legs.
The seat felt more comfortable too.

My heart rate was low and my mind focused on Kathrine Switzer’s marathon journey.
With a rest day tomorrow I was satisfied that my fourth workout was easier than my first workout, at the same effort level.


Day 4
1 hour cycle at steady-pace
(average 21.9 mph and 99 rpm)



First Test Cycling Hard

I wanted to test my capacity on my new bike.
So I shortened the workout to 20 minutes, which fitted ideally into my morning routine.

I had to be prepared to work hard.
I started faster than yesterday and found I could maintain over 24 mph.

I didn’t listen to any music or my current audiobook in order to keep concentrating on improving my speed and cadence progressively.
By halfway I was cycling at over 25 mph.

My quads started to ache.
Then my calves.
But I dug deep.

I kept glancing at my watch to make sure my performance wasn’t dropping.
I stayed strong throughout.
I ended the workout dripping with sweat, satisfied that my heart rate had elevated higher than I expected.

I proved to myself that I have more to give; my aerobic and muscular capacity for cycling is still to be discovered.


Day 3
20 minute cycle at increasingly faster pace
(average 25.1 mph and 111 rpm)

The Measures of Cycling Success

Now that I’ve started cycling indoors my mind is preoccupied with the measures of success.
I bought pieces of technology to give me stats, but what should I make of them?

I instinctively compare cycling to running, but it’s difficult.

I examine the time on the saddle, but the mileage and speed don’t easily equate to distance in my barefoot shoes.
My heart rate is lower on the bike than when running, but I can’t seem to get it higher.
I know that over 20 mph for one hour is not as impressive as it first sounds.
My revolutions per minute is another puzzle to solve.

Instead my perception of effort and sweat on my forehead are more reliable indicators of my workout.
I feel as if I am maintaining a 8 or 9 out of 10 throughout and I have to keep wiping my brow to avoid sweat stinging my eyes.

As I continue to research the comparison between my beloved sport and my cross-training sport I have to simply trust that I am not losing my endurance fitness (even if I’m not improving it).

My marathon is now only a month away…


Day 2
1 hour cycle at increasingly faster pace
(average 21.9 mph and 97 rpm)



Start of a New (Cycling) Journey

I haven’t been able to run for almost two weeks.

Although a recurring injury that I hope will heal before my next race, I became depressed.

I had to find an alternative to keep fit.
I didn’t want to spend money on temporary gym membership again.
As much as I enjoy walking it’s simply not intense enough to work my cardiovascular system.

So I purchased a bicycle.
But rather than cycling outdoors I specifically wanted a turbo trainer.

So after plenty of research I set up my indoor exercise equipment.
I had to wait a week for all the parts to be delivered.

I realised during that time how much I rely on running.
Running is an important part of my life.

More generally, exercise makes me who I am. It influences my appearance, my diet, my daily routine.
My motivation is to discover how fit I can can be.

I want to complete a sub 3-hour marathon and run the London Marathon as a good-for-age entry.
I believe I can achieve this one day.

My next attempt at running the qualifying time is Sunday 21 October.
It will be my eighth marathon.
I’m hoping my cross-training will at least maintain the performance level I demonstrated on my birthday...


Day 1
1 hour cycle at steady-pace
(average 20.7 mph and 92 rpm)



Suspected Stress Fractures Reduces my Training

3-9 September 2018


Unfortunately, after my successful long run last week I inadvertently triggered a shin injury I suffered months ago.

Although I tested my legs at another fast interval workout at my running club, I knew that rest was the most sensible option. Online research has suggested I could have stress fractures on the inside of both my lower tibia bones.

Although last week’s plan to run only three times per week is simply not advisable if my shins are to heal in time for my eighth marathon, I couldn’t be inactive.

Cross Training

I accumulated over 16.6 miles (almost 3 hours) of cycling in four days. However, I plan to accelerate my cross-training over the next month so have ordered equipment to help me maintain fitness…



18 Miles to Celebrate my Birthday

27 August – 2 September 2018


I enjoyed eight days of rest after my seventh half marathon. The only exercises I committed to were walking and easy-paced cycling.

Then, knowing I only had seven and a half weeks before my eighth marathon (my fifth in Chelmsford) I returned to training.

However, I was conscious that to improve my personal best I needed to ensure my training was different than previous seasons. The only other criteria was I didn’t want to commit to excessive weekly mileage.

I discovered the Runner’s World plan, focusing on three runs per week. Studies have proven that this method works, if the strict paces are adhered to. Based on my fitness level, my targets are the following:

Type of Run Pace Range
Long Run (15+ miles) 7:00-7:15 per mile
Long Tempo Run (8-10 miles) 6:30-6:35 per mile
Mid Tempo Run (5-7 miles) 6:15-6:20 per mile
Short Tempo Run (3-4 miles) 6:00 per mile

Tempo Run – Tuesday

1:00 per mile slower than training plan

Intervals – Thursday

0:20-0:40 per mile slower than training plan

Long Run – Sunday

0:05 per mile slower than training plan

Rest Days – Monday, Wednesday and Saturday

Includes walking and light cycling 


Although I failed to hit any of the target paces for my workouts I expected this to happen. Still, there were many positives to take from my week, namely that my running form stayed strong throughout my workouts and my long run was surprisingly ‘comfortable’.

I also complimented my training with cycling of over 12.75 miles, including intervals as a hard cross-training workout (with a fast one mile run directly afterwards).

I accumulated over 30.5 miles (over 3 hours and 40 minutes) in four days. I feel confident I can build on this, and am motivated to achieve a new marathon personal best next month.

5 Secrets to Young Success of Jakob Ingebrigtsen

Jakob Ingebrigtsen has caused a frenzy amongst the athletics world with his incredible double gold (1500m and 5000m) at the European Athletics Championships earlier in August. At only 17 years of age, he has already accomplished more than some of the experienced athletes he competed against in these races.

So, what are the secrets to his success?

1. A Healthy Family Rivalry

Jakob has two world-class runners as older brothers to look up to. Although he admits that pressure to live up to their European and World Championship medal performances is tough1 the motivation is even greater.

He has training partners, who not only harbour the same ambitions but want him to succeed as much as they want to themselves. More importantly, Jakob has an advantage over his brothers – he has witnessed their success and can learn from proven training techniques.

2. Intense Mileage

According to reports2, Jakob manages up to 85 miles per week, running twice a day. This amount of running would seem rare in a young teenager, although is obviously necessary for pursuing the most elite titles.

However, realistically, Jakob has spent his youth gradually improving his mileage. As his body has developed so has the stress from running. This has meant that he has refined his endurance and speed to an elite fitness level, whilst staying injury-free for crucial races.

3. Threshold Training

Thus far in his career Jakob has focused on developing a strong cardiovascular fitness base. According to reports, Jakob has achieved this through threshold running, a form of training that stresses the body just enough to cause incremental adaptations. He should therefore be more than adept at running at a ‘comfortably hard’ intensity, ideal for boosting his confidence and coping with elite track races, many of which require astute tactics and gradual accelerations.

4. Hungry Learner

Jakob is a keen student of the sport too, reading all there is on running1. Although an academic student himself, this shows how passionate (and serious) he takes the discipline. He wants to improve and therefore must be willing (and able) to understand the training approaches, motivational techniques and former (and current) athletes’ journeys to success.

This is an important component of a champion, one who experiments to ensure he gets the best out of himself. Failures are inevitable, but his coach has helped analyse what has and hasn’t worked in order to get the best out of his young son.

5. Greatest Ambition

Jakob is motivated to become the best in the world. As soon as he had won the 1500m he was preparing for the 5000m race,3 showing that he is not willing to rest on his laurels.

He knows that there is still uncharted territory for the Ingebrigtsen family, namely an Olympic medal and a World title. What more incentive is there than to not only match his brothers’ achievements but to supersede them? This mindset will only strengthen as he enjoys more and more success, and grows into a more mature athlete.

Mentored by his coach and father4, Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s rise to senior success is remarkable. As Tim Hutchings echoes5, Jakob could be considered “outrageously gifted” and has broken “long-established rules”. However, the secrets to his achievements are not as unique as one would perhaps imagine. Instead it is the structured running routine, tested and proven, along with family support and drive to win that has projected him to the top of Europe’s middle-distance runners.

What is most incredible about his recent athletic performances is how dedicated a 17-year old can be, since the age of ten,1 to pursue a demanding sport. Even at such a young age, Jakob is willing to push himself to the brink in order to overcome his challengers.

His titles prove that to be the best one must be willing to train, research and race as smart and as hard as possible. Jakob already appears to have plenty of experience.


References

1 The IAAF article is entitled Teen Prodigy Ingebrigtsen’s Tale Comes of Age in Berlin. Published on 12 August 2018.
2 The IAAF article is entitled After Smashing through the four-minute barrier, Ingebrigtsen Serves Notice. Published on 30 May 2017.
3 The Athletics Weekly article is entitled Jakob’s Stunning Double. Published on 16 August 2018.
4 The News in English article is entitled Father Scolds the Ingebrigtsens. Published on 8 August 2018.
5 The Athletics Weekly article is entitled A Breath of Fresh Air. Published on 23 August 2018.



My Top 3 Vegan Protein Smoothies in July 2018

Below are my favourite recipes I made last month.

Try a wide range of protein powders to help you recover from your training at Bulk Powders.

Let me know if you attempt any of my recipes.



Windy Seaside Race Success

19 August 2018
I stopped myself running hard from the start line.
Instead I let runners pass me.
I wanted to keep to the pace of my current personal best and only later speed up.
After one and a half miles I headed down a slope to the Lower Promenade.
The strong winds hit me straight away and quickly reduced my pace, and expectations.
I stayed at the back of a pack of seven runners, shielded slightly from the blustery conditions.
I passed clusters of noisy spectators until I headed up a short but steep slope to the Upper Promenade.
After one lap the group split, some of whom finished the 10k race (which started at the same time).
The second and final lap was longer, and I knew I could overtake the runners I could see in the distance.
I just had to be patient and not let the wind slow me down.
Despite runners behind me I knew I could stay strong and consistent. I had to run my own race.
I saw my family halfway along the Lower Promenade. I hoped I was lying in third position. But my mum shouted that I was ninth.
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but every position mattered to me.
I used random checkpoints to time the seconds I was behind the runner in front of me.
24. 22. 18. 12. 8.
I kept sipping my homemade sports drink, as others used the water stations.
I ran on the balls of my feet as I tackled the final slope.
2 miles left and the sun was starting to overheat me.
Still, I improved my pace by 5 to 10 seconds per mile.
Neither of the runners I had been chasing could respond to my surge.
But another runner quickly passed me, and I couldn’t stay with him.
Instead I worked hard to keep a 6:30 per mile pace along the final stretch.
I sprinted across the grass to the finish line with no one close behind me.

I chose this race because for the past three years the winning times had been only a few minutes faster than my previous personal record performance.
Last year I had been injured.

This year I had hoped to improve both my best time at the half marathon distance and my highest race position.

Although I don’t ever excuse my performances, two factors affected my race:

  1. I discovered on the morning that the conditions were very windy, weather I had not considered (or trained in).
  2. My block of training leading to the race was also far from ideal. I had a minor injury throughout June, which prevented me from running. Although cross-training in a local gym was productive, it could never replicate the sport I love. I therefore only had approximately five weeks of quality running workouts, culminating in 11 miles at an easy pace two weeks from race day.

Despite not achieving my two primary aims, I finished eighth, which was the third top ten performance of my career. I also represented my running club well, as the only male runner, and fastest finisher in barefoot shoes.
The race was a special experience for me, located in a seaside town of which I have very fond memories. My family could also see me a few times throughout, encouraging me and offering vital race information.

Reducing my Running Load

6 – 12 August 2018

Week 9 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon.


Easy Miles – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday

Slower than 7:10 per mile pace

Rest Days – Thursday, Saturday and Sunday


With one eye on my upcoming race I reduced my pace and mileage this week. I enjoyed three rest days (including a visit to the location of my race), lead another four coaching sessions (helping one runner achieve a new 5km personal best) and complimented my training with recreational cycling of over 11 miles.

I accumulated almost 17.8 miles (over 2 hours) in four days. Although not a lot compared to previous weeks I wanted to ensure I am fully fit for my race next Sunday.

Running Longer

30 July – 5 August 2018

Week 8 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday

Slower than 6:55 per mile pace

Fast Intervals – Friday

5:25-5:30 per mile pace

Rest Days – Tuesday and Saturday


After a relatively slow start to the week, I made sure I focused on running longer and furtherI enjoyed two rest days, lead four coaching sessions and complimented my training with recreational cycling of over 4 miles and walking (accumulating over 16,000 steps each day).

Another positive aspect of my training week was that I was able to run comfortably faster than my half marathon pace Friday evening.

I accumulated almost 30 miles (over 3.5 hours) in five days, recovering quickly. This has made me feel stronger and better prepared for my upcoming race.


Returning to my Running Club

23-29 July 2018

Week 7 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

Slower than 7:25 per mile pace

Interval Club RunThursday

4:50-5:45 per mile pace

Rest Days – Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday


After three weeks of increasing mileage, I made a conscious effort to reduce my running load this week. I enjoyed three rest days, lead two group coaching sessions and complimented my training with recreational cycling of over 10.5 miles across three days, just as I did last week.

My weekly goal was to return to my running club and complete a tough interval workout, which I did on Thursday. My calf muscles were sore afterwards but consuming my homemade protein smoothies helped me recover.

I accumulated 19 miles with still no signs of my recent injury, which has set me up for a ‘heavier’ week of training to come.


Week of Building Endurance

16-22 July 2018

Week 6 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday

Slower than 7:15 per mile pace

Tempo RunSaturday

Faster than 7:15 per mile pace

Rest Days – Thursday and Sunday


I stepped up the quantity of my running this week. Almost all my workouts were easy-paced, long runs. This took more time and energy, and therefore I didn’t feel it appropriate to run any miles at my intended half marathon race pace. 

My weekly goal was to run continuously for at least an hour, which I did on Friday. I also cycled over 10.5 miles across three days. Although simply recreational, the exercise supplements my training.

I also enjoyed coaching my first two-day running assessment on one of my runners.

I accumulated over 29 miles with no signs of my recent injury, which built my confidence that my body is adapting well for ‘longer distances’.


Quality Running, Injury-Free

9-15 July 2018

Week 5 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Wednesday and Thursday

Slower than 6:45 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Monday, Tuesday and Saturday

Fartlek run (whilst coaching)

Intervals faster than 6:05 per mile pace

Rest Days – Friday and Sunday