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


I’m pleased I’m still injury-free after my shin pain. I was therefore able to run several tougher workouts, replicating my intended race pace of 6:00 per mile. The high local temperatures and tiring workload this week were factors affecting my performances but I enjoyed the challenge.

My strategy for the remaining five weeks of training for the Clacton Half Marathon is to focus on tempo intervals at race pace and progressively building my endurance with longer runs.

I accumulated over 21 miles, and ensured I primed myself for a heavier mileage week next week.



My Top 5 Vegan Protein Smoothies in June 2018

Last month I experimented more with my protein smoothies, and even baked with protein powder for the first time.

Below are my favourite recipes in June.



Running Injury-Free Again

2-8 July 2018

Week 4 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Wednesday and Friday

Slower than 7:00 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Monday, Tuesday and Sunday

Faster than 7:00 per mile pace

Rest Days – Thursday and Saturday


After cross-training for much of June, I feel recovered from my shin pain. Although my running paces were slower than my intended race pace of 6:00 per mile, conditions have been particularly hot recently.

I have also experimented by running in my Vivobarefoot shoes and Vibram FiveFingers. With six weeks until the Clacton Half Marathon I feel confident that I can improve my speed endurance.

I accumulated 19 miles, and rather than ‘time on my feet’ I am happy that I am injury-free.



Cranberry and Date Protein Flapjack

Last month I attempted my first baking recipe using protein powder.

Despite some difficulty it was an enjoyable challenge, one that was ultimately successful.

Bulk Powders Flapjack

The protein-rich treat is ideal for recovery after a workout.

I experimented with almond milk and pea protein powder to find a mixture that did not adversely affect the taste.

For the full recipe visit Bulk Powders blog.



Enjoying Cross-Training

4-10 June 2018

Week 3 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon, modified due to injury.


Cross-Training (Gym Workouts) – Monday – Sunday

Although the injury in my shins has remained it has not prevented me from enjoying a wide range of exercises.

I have focused on workouts to strengthen my lower body, including using machines such as leg extension, curl and press, as well as dumbbell lunges, barbell squats and barbell deadlifts.

Every day I have also spent hours on the cross-trainer, static bike and rower to continue sweating.

I also purchased more running shoes from Vivobarefoot, to give me more support when I return to running.

Accepting a Recurring Injury

28 May – 3 June 2018

Week 2 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Tuesday

>16.5 miles at 7:35-7:40 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Wednesday, Thursday

Cross-Training (Gym Workouts) – Friday, Saturday, Sunday

I accumulated over 22 miles in just over 2.5 hours of running. However, a recurring injury in my shins meant I had to re-examine my training plan.

To prevent me from stressing the affected areas further I decided to join a local gym. I now have an opportunity to build strength with weights and machines, whilst I maintain my cardiovascular fitness with lower impact equipment, such as stationary bikes and cross-trainers.

My Top 5 Vegan Protein Smoothies in May 2018

I have become a Bulk Powders Affiliate.

I love their vegan protein powder range, which supplements my diet in delicious ways.

Below are my favourite experiments in May.

Please comment if you try any.



Starting a New Strategy

21-27 May 2018

Week 1 of my training block for the Clacton Half Marathon based on Jack Daniels’ Running Formula.


Easy Miles – Monday, Wednesday, Friday

>15.5 miles at 7:25-7:50 per mile pace

I also purchased a new Garmin sports watch.

‘Long Run’ – Tuesday

7.5 miles at 7:33 per mile pace

‘Quality Workouts’ – Thursday, Saturday

Rest Day – Sunday

Visited Clacton, the location of the upcoming race.

I accumulated over 29 miles in just over 3 hours of running, and foam rolled daily.

Why I Now Foam Roll

A Fruitful Meeting

A fortnight ago I met a physiotherapist in a gym.

He explained how he helps a lot of runners return from injury using resistance bands and various foam rollers.

He told me every one of his rehabilitation programmes has self-massage as a component.

I asked him whether it would be prudent for me – not currently injured – to try.

He was surprised I didn’t already own this equipment.

So I bought five different types of cheap foam rollers: four spikey balls and a compressed cylinder.

Spiky Self-Massage Balls

Pain is Normal

I began by rolling my lower and upper legs, and found areas of my left calf and quads painful. This is of course normal, and identifies weaknesses in my body.

At this early stage of self-massaging, exploring my body is essential to understanding it better. My legs have no ill-effects and I now know where in my legs I need to strengthen (as well as stretch). This is valuable information that would have otherwise cost me in professional fees to discover.

Some is Better Than None

Although I received a self-massage stick in July 2017 just before I ran my third 10k race, I failed to implement it in my training routine. I currently make it a priority to foam roll during my morning stretching routine.

Psychologically it makes me feel better, and even if there are minimal benefits in the short-term I feel I need to explore alternative training tools in my pursuit of an important racing goal. This could aid my recovery from workouts, improving my chances of staying injury-free.

Aiming to Win a Race

For over a year I have wanted to win a road race.

I earmarked the Clacton Half Marathon, a flat coastal race, as my best chance of finishing first.
Since the first year of the race in 2014 the winning times have been 1:17:151, 1:15:492, 1:21:273 and 1:19:284.
Although all the winning times are faster than my current personal best, set in the summer of 2016, I believe I have the potential to run sub 6:00 miles for 13.1 miles.
Last year I was sidelined with a hip injury due to overtraining for my fourth Chelmsford Marathon.
But this August I aim to win.
My training will commence tomorrow after a fortnight of recovery from my first 10 mile race.

I have thirteen weeks to improve my fitness and mindset.

Although I will focus primarily on tempo intervals and continuous runs at target race pace I know I need to change my routine compared to previous training periods. I must place more intense and varied stresses on my body in order to stimulate the necessary physiological responses.

I will use many techniques to ensure I recovery adequately and prime myself as a future champion. These include:

If I am to take my race finishes from the top ten (once in 2016 and again in 2018) to the ‘podium’ I must believe I am a champion. I intend to demonstrate my best at the Clacton Half Marathon and leave nothing to chance. Previous race results are so tantalising that it may be the greatest opportunity to realise my ultimate ambition.


1 Equivalent to 5:53 per mile average pace.
2 Equivalent to 5:47 per mile average pace.
Equivalent to 6:12 per mile average pace.
Equivalent to 6:03 per mile average pace.



My Top 3 Vegan Protein Smoothies in April 2018

I have become a protein smoothie addict.

Last month I experimented with a range of ingredients.

Below are my most delicious and filling recipes in April.

Even my Vibrams wanted some.

Comment if you try any.



Running 10 Miles Home

7 May 2018
A runner in front of me pulled up just after two miles.
Two other runners passed me early.
I stayed composed, focusing on forefoot striking and taking water from the aid stations.
Before five miles, a fellow club runner who was marshalling told me I was in twelfth position.
I now had greater motivation to work hard.
On one of the steeper inclines, I passed one runner.
I told him he was running great, and he returned the compliment.
My pace remained consistent. I was encouraged that the runner in front was getting slightly closer.
I knew I could chase him down if I patient enough.
I picked up the pace, confident that he wouldn’t respond.
As I passed him I again congratulated him on his running.
His heavy breathing boosted my chances.
I was now in tenth position.
As the temperature appeared to rise I kept drinking water and pouring it over my head and back.
I kept glancing at my sports watch over the last two miles.
I knew the route back. It was the same as the one- and two-mile time-trial I had run in late March and early April.
I looked behind and found I hadn’t extended my lead.
I asked myself how much did I want a top ten finish.
I responded by executing a couple of surges around the 6:00 per mile pace, and knew I had succeeded as I sprinted the last 100m over the grass of the rugby fields where I had started the race.

I had four aims prior to the race.
First, I wanted a top twenty finish.
Second, I wanted to be the first runner from my club to cross the line.
Third, I wanted to run my club’s gold standard of 1:01:58 for the 10 mile distance.
Fourth, I wanted to run under 1:00:00, equivalent to 6:00 per mile pacing.
I accomplished the first two aims, finishing in the top ten for only the second time. The first time was almost two years ago.

I ran 1:03:25, which was a respectable time when considering the heat. I was pleased to have represented my club admirably, and after volunteering pre-race. I assisted in directing vehicles to park. This meant an early start, but none of my pre-race warm-up, hydration and nutrition were negatively affected. I was thankful that I could help my running club organise a well-received race.

On reflection, my race performance was predictable. My training since my One Mile Challenge had been limited, especially miles at my intended race pace.

Still, I feel I earnt my finisher’s t-shirt, and enjoyed a distance I had never raced before, relying on my mental strength to guide me home.

Snooker as Practice for Running

There was a snooker table in my grandparents’ house when I was growing up. It was the right fit for a growing boy.

I used to play all the time.

My grandfather loved the sport. My uncle even used to play competitively. He played frames against legendary players such as Cliff Wilson, Willie Thorne and Steve Davis.

I looked forward to watching snooker on the television as well. I have fond family memories of the World Snooker Championships on the BBC every late April to early May.

My favourite player was Stephen Hendry. He was the most dominant player of the 1990s, arguably the greatest player who has ever played, and who I admired for his impressive break building, stoic mental strength and consistent match performances.

My favourite player of the modern game is Ronnie O’Sullivan, mostly because, like Hendry, on top form he is unbeatable. O’Sullivan also has a fast potting style, can play with both hands and win matches without having to play his best snooker. He’s also a runner.

I loved potting balls. My main attribute was long pots.

Although I did move up to cueing on a full-size table I never played snooker competitively. But I remain fascinated by a sport that relies so heavily on mental fortitude and inner peace.

Snooker Table Pocket

Snooker is a game of concentration, patience and consistency. Much like an endurance event, an appreciation of the challenge ahead must be balanced with appropriate decision-making in every moment.

For the past several years I have played on a slightly larger table than the one during my youth. It’s six feet long, and three feet wide. Although I only have a pool cue to use, some pocket nets are missing, room to strike the balls is limited by the walls of my lounge, and the cloth is slightly uneven I’ve enjoyed reliving one of my first sporting loves.

Snooker is a straightforward sport. Pot balls. Similar to running, the simple repetition of placing one foot in front of another, the difficulty arises from the choices that precede the execution. Every time you speed up or slow down, cut a training run short, or veer off the route you intended, you must rely on strategy. You must take intelligent actions.

The more you practice the better you become at making the right choices, quickly. That will be the difference between success and failure at the important moments in race situations.

Weir Wins at Home Again

David Weir, the six-time Olympic gold medalist, executed a superb race to win his eighth London Marathon two Sundays ago.

Ever since I’ve watched the London Marathon on television, I have rooted for Weir in the T54 men’s wheelchair race.

His record at London alone is phenomenal. He has raced nineteen times in a row. Apart from the eight wins, he has placed in the top three nine times. His two other performances were fourth and fifth. He also won the London Mini Wheelchair Marathon seven times before he entered the full distance race1.

His consistency at the event is unquestionably amazing, especially when you consider that Weir has had to face conditions ranging from heat waves to torrential downpours. His competition has included many different names from North America and Europe. It is often said that, like the able-bodied races, any number of competitors could win each year. But unlike the main events, many of the races come down to a sprint finish. He has to be sharp to any surges, and must push on when the time is right, when others cannot respond.

As Jessica Whittington eludes in this week’s Athletics Weekly2, his home city brings the best out of him. Although I myself have experienced inspired performances in my hometown, albeit on an amateur level, I believe his London Marathon record could easily put pressure on him.

He has overcome expectations by being an extremely strong athlete, mentally and physically. Granted, his arm muscles are more visible. But his long battle against depression reveals how persistent he has needed to be3.

The 38-year-old has not had the smoothest journey to success, but the legendary retired wheelchair racer Tanni Grey-Thompson suggested post-race that he could certainly win ten London Marathon titles. The point appears obvious. If Weir truly wants to win on the biggest stage of all again, he will. That is the greatest compliment to any athlete, and I agree with Tanni’s assessment.

I hope for the sake of the sport and for the country, his hunger triumphs over his depression. Like Mo, he is a national treasure, a living example of what a hard-working attitude and down-to-earth personality can accomplish.


1 According to race reports from the London Marathon.
2 Published on 26th April 2018. The article is entitled Great Eight For Weir.
3 Weir’s honesty about his struggles is outlined in The Telegraph article entitled David Weir reveals his battle with depression: ‘I wrote a letter to my kids saying I was going away and I was sorry’ .

Staying Patient (Week 4)

23-29 April 2018

Despite my best intentions I didn’t find the energy to build on last week’s increased mileage.

Much of the week consisted of staying realistic about my chances in my upcoming race and keeping my body healthy.

Lesson #7: Don’t push the pace unless you can

Ideally, the week would have consisted of more miles at my intended race pace*. Except for the first two miles of Wednesday’s (25th April) run my pace was not close.

The effort required to get up to speed would not have been worth it, as I didn’t feel confident I could sustain it. Rather than risk injury, especially in wet conditions, and further discouragement I focused on slower-paced miles**. The 27.45 miles I covered in five days was beneficial to keep my legs and my mind active without much stress.

Approaching my taper week, the most important aspects of my training are now remaining injury-free and eager for the challenge ahead. As I developed some tightness in my left calf muscle I now must ease off to ensure full recovery before race day.

Lesson #8: It’s not always about times or distances

On Sunday (29th April), a week after the 2018 London Marathon, I purposefully ran 3.7 miles.

I thought of Matt Campbell, the man who collapsed and died 22.5 miles into the capital’s most iconic race. The sadness of his death reminded me that although running performances  are important for motivation it’s the sport itself that should bring the most joy.

Sometimes times, distances, races and medals are not important. Instead, all the support, globally and from non-runners, has the greatest impact. Unfortunately, mass participation events in relatively hot conditions will very likely result in casualties, but the best of people often shines through.


I took two rest days, on Tuesday and Thursday, and will now look to stretch and rest before my first 10 mile race in a week’s time.

10 mile Training: Week 4

* The race pace I am still hoping for is 6:00 per mile.
** This is equivalent to a pace of 6:30-8:30 per mile.

Mo’s Marathon Progress

Last Sunday, Mo Farah competed in only his second marathon. Much of the build-up surrounding the 38th Virgin Money London Marathon concerned comparing Farah to previous records. His own, from four year ago. The British record, set in 1985. The European record, set less than five months ago.

My prediction before the race was for Farah to break the British record of 2:17:13, set by Welshman Steve Jones. But with such a quality field I was reluctant to believe he would finish in the top five.

Despite the heat, and his fast early pace, Farah was strong enough to stay in touch with the eventual winner Eliud Kipchoge for around 17 miles. Farah’s third place finish was less surprising than the significant slowing of more experienced athletes such as Kenenisa Bekele, Bedan Karoki and Daniel Wanjiru.

The editor of Athletics Weekly1, Jason Henderson, writes this week that he was worried Mo wouldn’t even finish2. I didn’t believe that was ever going to happen. However, although a new personal best and British record were set, I feel less impressed about this achievement than Henderson.

The ‘bronze medal’ was a bonus that Farah received for his persistence, especially running mostly alone during the final miles of the race. But the rest of the elite field didn’t put up much a fight for third place.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge admirer of Farah. He has inspired me along with much of the UK with his global medals, canny performances and humble personality, but my analysis is partly informed by the man’s high personal expectations.

I remember his reaction after earning a silver medal in his last major championship track race3. It was pain mixed with anger and disgust. He has built his career on winning. Nothing else feels right for him.

Although I would love him to win major marathon titles, and by doing so cement his already legendary status, the reality is that he was over two minutes behind Kipchoge in London. More importantly, 31 other marathoners have run faster than Farah in the last twelve months4.

This suggests that if he is to truly make an impact on the marathon circuit (and as Henderson writes, challenge at the next IAAF World Championships and Olympic Games) he is going to have to improve his personal best by further minutes. At 35 years old this is a tall order. Still, if he corrects his water intake and concentration on the road ahead (two aspects of his race strategy that let him down on the day), he has a chance of success.

But, unlike on the track, I don’t believe he will be able to dictate races. Gold medals won’t come without arguably more heroics than he has evidenced over the past twenty years. Of course, I wish him the best of luck and look forward to following his journey.


1 Published on 26th April 2018.
2 The editorial piece is entitled Farah Comes Up Trumps.
3 The IAAF World Championship 5,000m held in London on 12th August 2017.
4 According to statistics from the IAAF, since 23rd April 2017, found here.

Avoid Over-Racing

In Alex Teuten’s article for this week’s Athletics Weekly1, the BUCS cross country champion cautions against racing too often. The article, entitled Losing the Love, details Teuten’s recent struggles to maintain mental sharpness for races.

It’s apparent that racing calendars can become too packed even for international athletes.

I’ve noticed even runners at my running club race too frequently. I was surprised as a runner, and concerned as a coach, to find this to be so prevalent. I’m extremely doubtful that racing often, sometimes every week, is a beneficial strategy for long-term success. It simply requires so much mental and physical energy. That’s why I’ve never done it myself.

Listening to certain runners’ upcoming schedules has made me more stoic. I can’t rid myself of rational questions like “How can you get the most out of yourself if you don’t allow enough time to recover from peak performances?” and “Can running at a sub-optimal level for too many races ever truly satisfy an ambitious runner?”.

I remember reading that renowned professor Tim Noakes2 advises runners should limit their racing to a maximum of 100 miles per year. If runners exceed this, and in my opinion get close, there is a real risk that the enthusiasm for the sport will lead to either two outcomes. Injury or mental exhaustion. Most likely both.

It’s true that I’ve never been an incessant racer. The most races I’ve competed during a calendar year is five, back in 2016. Although it was a breakthrough year for my running I found that by the end I needed rest. I had only accumulated 70.5 racing miles. On reflection I feel I was fortunate that my performances reflected my high ambitions at the time, and that I suffered no notable injuries.

But don’t mistake my focusing on only a few races per year as a sign of weakness or lack of love for the sport. As a competitor I can relate to many of the runners in my club. I would love to race more if I knew it could help my running. On a purely emotional level, I would certainly try. But a subconscious fear of over-racing has always been a factor in my choices as to when to give my best efforts.

Spending more time experimenting in training and pursuing two or three important race goals during the year has been a far more effective method for my improvement in the sport, both mentally and physically.

As a coach I know that sustainable, incremental progress best avoids long-term lay-offs, which should be the overriding aim of all runners. It’s this knowledge that prevents me from joining other highly motivated runners on the start line most weekends.


 

Published on 26th April 2018.
2 Lore of Running (2003, 4th ed.) published by Human Kinetics.

Building Mileage (Week 3)

16-22 April 2018

I knew I had to focus on increasing my weekly mileage. Reducing the number of rest days would also develop my leg muscles quicker, although I had to be careful due to a recent minor injury.

I believe I found a productive balance.

Lesson #5: You are stronger than you think you are

On Friday (20 April) I wanted to test myself over a distance that was close to 10 miles. I had doubts that I would find it comfortable.

I chose 8 miles and, although I started strong, I did not expect to be particularly consistent. But I was.

The miles seemed to fly by and I was pleased to finish, knowing that 10 miles would not be difficult to cover in a few weeks’ time. Although I have not demonstrated my race pace for an extended period I ran five days in a row, building my mileage sensibly by running some at an easier pace. My legs did ache at times but not enough for me to worry about injury.

This proved that my endurance is progressing and I am still on track for my future running goals. Psychologically the ‘long’ runs were a boost.

Lesson #6: Running on grass can sap your energy at high speeds

I ran my only interval workout on Monday (16 April). I ran 4x 1 mile at race pace* with 3:30 walking recoveries. Only the last mile rep fell below my race pace but the I feel I met my target.

However, the interval workout was challenging. Each rep was two laps around my local park, and after the first minute of each rep my effort level increased significantly. Despite the consistent pacing I was clinging on at the end of the reps.

My One Mile Challenge taught me that although grass is a kinder surface than road for bones and ligaments, a runner has to work harder to generate the same power from the ground. This means that for speed workouts the pace can be lower than expected.

I knew I was hitting my target pace because I allowed for this. So rather than be disappointed I was satisfied with a tough workout.

Excluding the interval workout I accumulated over 27.3 miles during the week, of which 12 miles were ran at less than a minute slower than race pace**. The remaining miles were run at a comfortable endurance pace***.

My only rest day was Tuesday.


10 Mile Training: Week 3

* The race pace I am still hoping for is 6:00 per mile.
** This is equivalent to a pace of 6:30-7:00 per mile.
*** This is equivalent to slower than 7:00 per mile pace.

How to Run for Life

The overriding reason you should run is simple.
You love the sport. In other words running should fill you with joy.
This reason cannot be overstated.

There will inevitably be other motivations to run. These could include financial gain, social status and/or club glory. But these should be additional benefits – if they even matter to you.

Instead, more consideration should be made towards fitness, companionship and even challenge, such as testing yourself in competition. These factors can enhance the experience of the sport. Again, only if you feel this is personally beneficial.

You should also run predominantly for yourself. It may appear obvious but when you run, you are using your own body and mind, and nobody else’s. This means that unless you understand your own body and mind, running can be self-destructive, such as in the case of severe overtraining or self-induced injury.

Other runners, and non-runners, can certainly inspire you to continue running (and even to get you started), but they cannot, and should not, affect every run you complete.

To be truly fulfilled you must be autonomous with your choice to pound the pavements.

I have never believed that running is a selfish act, despite the self-centred approach of the sport compared to, say, team sports.

Running is a personal pursuit that makes me a more balanced, healthy and stronger person. As long as running does not take so much of your life that there is little other time for anything else, then it can be an empowering and unique tool to gain success.

Of course, it is unrealistic to expect that you will be in the best mood every time you lace up your running shoes. But you should appreciate that choosing to run (or not) is a privilege that not everyone has. By all means use any reason to run on any given day. But if your aim is to run for life then you have to believe that running improves your life, because it is fun.

This is the unwavering foundation of my running. It should be of yours.


This post is inspired by Pure Sport: Practical Sport Psychology (2nd ed., 2013) written by John Kremer and Aidan Moran.

Reducing Training Stress (Week 2)

9-15 April 2018

Transitioning from my One Mile Challenge to endurance-based training has resulted in a minor injury. I was therefore forced to take more rest days than I had planned.

Still, this made me more determined and focused to gain the most from my limited training.

Lesson #3: Never ignore your gut instincts

The purpose of my first workout of the week on Monday (9 April) was to accumulate more miles at race pace*. Like last week the tempo threshold run was tougher than I had wanted it to be. Still, I ran 4x 1 mile at race pace with ¼ mile recovery jogs** in between.

I knew that I needed to rest but because I coached in the evening, and the following two days, I knew I had to be sensible. As I often run to the start of my coaching sessions I found the extra effort resulted in increased pain in my lower legs.

Although I was fully aware that rest was essential I decided to ignore it. This set my training back a couple of days. Therefore I learnt that a more sensible approach would have been to modify my own workouts to factor in extra, but less structured activity.

Lesson #4: Running on grass can aid recovery

On Sunday (15 April) I ran simply to stretch my legs and test my MTSS injury, which was made worse by the club run I committed to on Thursday (12 April). The club workout was 30x 30 seconds of fast pace running*** with 30 seconds of jogging recoveries in between. The high impact of running on the pavement did not support my training. Instead I realised that these faster workouts are not what I need in the build-up to my 10 mile race.

So instead, on the last day of the week, I purposefully ran on grass, striking the ground with my mid-foot rather than forefoot. These modifications ensured that my leg muscles received a workout but without excessive stress.

Psychologically, the run gave me confidence because I felt positive about my injury. Also, because there was less focus on maintaining a particular pace I could enjoy the countryside around me.

During the week I ran 4.25 miles on Friday and 4.6 miles on Sunday at recovery pace** to build my endurance. My rest days were Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. My mile repeats on Monday and interval workout on Thursday amounted to 6.95 miles at race pace or quicker.


10 Mile Training: Week 2

* An appropriate pace range for me to support my race goal is 6:00-6:30 per mile.
** My recovery pace this week (including warm-up and cool down) is any pace slower than 8:50 per mile.
*** Interval training for me this week is any pace faster than 5:30 per mile.

What to do with MTSS

Training for my One Mile Challenge has had one negative consequence.

I have developed a minor injury in my lower legs.

This is not the first time in my running career I have felt pain on the sides of my shins.

It is a common injury amongst runners (and also soldiers)1.

This is not comforting.

There are various names for the condition, such as shin splints, but Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) is the most relevant. The pain along the inside of the shins is felt during running, walking and even resting.

The causes are not well understood but a number of factors could contribute1, and include:

  • heel-striking
  • over-pronation (inward turning of the foot after landing)
  • lower bone density
  • higher Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • previous history of MTSS-related injuries

Like with all running-related injuries, overtraining is most likely the cause of my recent issues. Too many miles, at a relatively fast pace, on hard surfaces, such as pavement, will overload the bones in the lower legs. The impact, therefore, should be reduced.

Many treatments have been studied, but none have been conclusively effective2. So easily-applied practices are the most logical, and include:

  • covering the affected area with kinesiology tape
  • stretching and icing the affected area regularly
  • strengthening the abductors3 and calf muscles
  • resting (or cross-training to lower the impact of exercise)

These can be implemented in the short- and long-term.

I intend to prioritise the recovery of the affected area not least so that other more serious conditions, such as stress fractures, do not develop4.


1 Moen, M.H., Tol, J.L., Weir, A., Steunebrink, M., and De Winter, T.C. (2009). “Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome: A Critical Review.” Sports Medicine, Volume 39 (7), pp. 523–546.
2 Winters, M., Eskes, M, Weir, A., Moen, M.H., Backx, F.J.G., Bakker, E.W.P. (2013). “Treatment of Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome: A Systematic Review.” Sports Medicine, Volume 43 (12), pp. 1315-1333.
3 Becker, J., Nakajima, M., Wu, W. (2017). “A Prospective Study on Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome in Runners: 505 Board #326…” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Volume 49 (5S Suppl 1), p.141
4 Galbraith, R.M., and Lavallee, M.E. (2009). “Medial tibial stress syndrome: conservative treatment options.” Current Review of Musculoskeletal Medicine, Volume 2, pp. 127-133.

Two Reflections on Transitioning to Endurance Training (Week 1)

3-8 April 2018

After last week’s success of breaking multiple personal records from ¼ mile to 2 miles my focus switched to endurance. My next race, 5 weeks away, is a local 10 mile race.

So from Wednesday I began accumulating miles in preparation for my attempt at running under an hour, equivalent to less than 6:00 per mile pace.

Lesson #1: Sometimes you need to change your workout during it

I intended my first workout of my 10-mile training (on Wednesday 4 April) to be a 10k time-trial. However, after a mile at race pace* I realised my legs had not fully recovered from my mile time-trials so after another mile at race pace I altered my workout.
Instead, I completed a 1-mile jogging recovery**.
Then I ran another two miles at race pace.

Although I did not accomplish what I originally set out, I modified it to reflect my current fitness level. I therefore accumulated 4 miles in the pace range I desired as opposed to 2 miles (as my pace would have progressively slowed if I had not had a recovery).

The workout proved to me that runners need to prioritise the overall purpose of a workout (in my case to accumulate as many miles at race pace) rather than any preconceived plan. As a result training will be maximised.

Lesson #2: A running nickname can reflect important developments

On Thursday (5 April) I ran a quality session*** with my running club. As there is a greater amount of daylight I chose to run in my black running jacket.
I led the session from the start, running 2,3,4,5,4,3 and 2 minutes quicker than race pace with half the time of the intervals as jogging recoveries.
One coach called me the ‘Black Assassin’, later the ‘Silent Assassin’.

More important than obtaining another positive nickname is the observation that my forefoot strike in my Vibram FiveFingers barefoot shoes is quiet. This suggests the lightness on my feet has transferred to efficient speed. This style of running feels so natural to me that my calf muscles are fatigue resilient.

The nickname reminds me of the hard work I have made with calf raises and committing to barefoot shoes.

I also ran 4.4 miles on Friday and 6.4 miles on Sunday 30-90 seconds slower per mile**** than race pace to build my endurance. My rest days were Tuesday and Saturday.


10 Mile Training: Week 1

* An appropriate pace range for me to support my race pace goal is 6:00-6:30 per mile.
** My recovery pace (including warm-up and cool down) is any pace slower than 9:00 per mile.
*** Interval training for me is any pace faster than 6:00 per mile.
**** This is equivalent to 6:30-8:00 per mile.

Vegan Lime Smoothie

This new recipe is a unique mixture of strong flavours. This provides a refreshing, creamy and delicious drink at any time of day.

The ground almonds were blended with the water for 60 seconds first. Then the other ingredients were added, and 60-90 seconds further in the high speed blender created the nutritious blend. I left the drink in the refrigerator for an hour to chill before enjoying.

100g ground almonds (calcium and magnesium)

200g banana (vitamin B6 and potassium)

100g spinach (vitamin A and potassium)

50g of my favourite pea protein powder

50ml maple syrup (calcium and magnesium)

100g limes (vitamin C and iron)

500 ml of cold water

Green Lime Protein Smoothie

Personal Records Tumble

26 March – 2 April 2018

After returning from holiday and resting, I still did not feel physically prepared to tackle my mile challenge at the start of the week as I had planned. The weather was also far from optimal, with rain close to flooding my local river. It was not until later in the week that the time would be right.

Thursday

1 Mile Time-Trial

The sky was overcast yet blue. The quiet country road was dry.
There was no traffic. I was alone.
So I set off. Fast.
I drove hard with legs and arms.
But by the end of the first quarter mile I had my doubts about achieving my lifetime ambition.
I knew the run would be painful and I wondered if I was only setting myself up for failure.
I persevered and pushed the thoughts away.
My legs felt heavier despite my level of effort remaining constant.
Still, I kept passing the landmarks of trees, logs and gates lining the road.
I stayed on the balls of my feet as the pain in my chest increased.
The metallic taste spread across my throat. I felt on the edge of my physical limit.
But I also intuitively knew it was the measure of success. I needed to stay in this zone.
I continued to push hard along the slightly downhill gradient. The side winds kept me concentrating.
After the three-quarter mile mark I looked down at my sportswatch for the first time. The pace at that moment was 5:28 per mile.
I had no idea what my average pace was so I picked up the pace and sprinted the last thirty seconds.
As I looked down at my sportswatch to see when I had crossed the proverbial finish line I glanced at the number 59.
I hadn’t been slow enough to run 5:59 so I knew I had done it.
On the ground, exhausted, I confirmed the achievement.
I was overjoyed.
I chuckled to myself hysterically.
As I got to my feet and began walking back up the road to reclaim my running jacket, the metallic blood taste was indescribable.
I had to stop several times.
I told myself this feeling was worth it. The time was 4:59.82.

Despite the jubilation of running a sub 5-minute mile at my first attempt, I had to be patient for my chance to attack my two-mile personal best. I had thought that Sunday would be right, but my legs were still a little heavy and achy from Thursday’s exertions. Unfortunately, the weather Sunday night meant Monday’s conditions were not as favourable as they had been on Thursday.

2 Mile Time-Trial

(Following) Monday

2 Mile Time-Trial

Significant puddles sat on many sections of the route. The sky looked as if it would rain.
Wet feet were inevitable.
I started a mile further along the same stretch of country road as my one mile time-trial.
I waited for a couple of vehicles to drive past before I set off.
This time, I kept glancing at my sportswatch as I took the first bend, then the second.
My heart was racing but no lactic acid had built up in my throat.
I was excited when I noticed my average pace was 4:59 per mile.
The memory of last Thursday spurred me on as I powered up a long, slight incline.
My pace suffered but I didn’t panic.
I soon reached halfway, the starting point of my one mile time-trial. I clocked 5:13 for the first mile.
From there, I faced more puddles, but my pace was steadily improving.
I considered the heavy effect on my stride as the rainwater soaked my Vibrams.
I told myself that “I had this record.”
I focused on maintaining my strong arm and leg movements, whilst not letting my average pace fall any further than 5:23 per mile.
Less than half a mile to the finish and I saw my fiancée at the side of the road.
She took photographs of me as I checked my sportswatch.
I made a conscious effort to give all I had to the moment.
For the last few seconds, I felt my chest begin to fill with lactic acid.
I clocked 10:42.74, over 35 seconds quicker than my previous best.

Aside from my two time-trials, I ran 22.37 miles (equivalent to 2 hours, 56 minutes and 23 seconds) at a comfortable pace, which included Monday, Saturday and Sunday. I rested on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

Also, on Thursday evening I ran a tough session with my club. I completed 6x 0.5 mile reps at a tempo pace, with 0.25 mile jogging recoveries in between reps. Despite my pace fading as the session progressed, I was pleased that I still had some power in my legs and stayed in second position throughout.


I feel great relief and exhilaration in what I called ‘my race week’. By giving myself adequate time to taper and devise the ideal route I was able to accomplish a challenging goal in style (by working hard from the start and maintaining quick speed despite severe discomfort).

My mile performance also allowed me to maximise my training, by resting and breaking another personal record four days later. Although the two-mile time trial was a relatively easier run, I still wanted to ‘give my all’, which I managed by staying focused and pacing myself more evenly.

The past twelve weeks has been a great experience for me, both preparing for and adapting to relatively great physical stresses. I enjoyed the process of becoming more psychologically aware and capable of sustaining fast speeds, and feel proud to have applied those lessons at the first attempts.

For me, the momentary discomforts I felt during the time-trials were necessary in order to achieve goals that I will remember for the rest of my life

I am confident that my training techniques can now help me deliver similar performances at longer distances.

Adventure Racing Dog

Arthur: The dog who crossed the jungle to find a home (2016) by Mikael Lindnord with Val Hudson


Journey to the Extreme

Lindnord grew up in Sweden where conditions are ideal for biking, skiing and trekking. But it was his 15-month compulsory military service, with its demanding missions, that strengthened his mind and body. After losing his place in his local ice hockey team he pursues a sporting career in adventure racing.

The book details Lindnord’s journey as a member of Sweden’s Team Peak Performance, during the 2014 Adventure Racing World Championships. Held in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest, competitors cover 430 miles of treacherous terrain. During the six days, Lindnord and his three teammates overcome altitude fluctuations, extreme fatigue, navigational errors, severe injuries and broken equipment. They finish in twelth position.

Additional Team Member

But it was not because of the team’s impressive athleticism that the book was written. When a stray dog attaches himself to Lindnord during the latter stages of the race the dog is dying from open wounds. Lindnord names him Arthur after the heroics of the legendary King Arthur and treats him as another team member.

Arthur shows a serenity unique to animals. His survival is as impressive as Lindnord and his team’s race performance as they all deal with the harsh conditions to reach the finish line.

The consequences of keeping Arthur once the race has finished are life-changing. The heart-warming story is picked up by so many media outlets and involves government departments and numerous vets in order to clear Arthur’s passage to Sweden. The surgeries, quarantine, interviews and travelling prove that Arthur is a strong and spirited animal, and eventually he finds a loving home with Lindnord’s young children.

He even runs with his owner, much healthier and happier than in the wild. A legacy has also been created through the Arthur Foundation, set up to support the prevention of the abuse of stray dogs in Ecuador.

Ultimate Lessons

This highly entertaining and satisfying read is similar to Dion Leonard’s tale Finding Gobi, where during an extreme race a stray dog becomes an inseparable companion to a racer.

The description of the adventure racing compares to passages in Charlie Engle’s book Running Man and evidences Lindnord’s skill to continually push his comfort zone well beyond the average athlete’s limit. Also, his organising of adventure races with his wife Helena reveals his commitment and passion for his sport.

Arthur’s loyal and kind nature fits perfectly with the unwavering endurance of a superb athlete.

The back cover of the book 'Arthur''

A Sporting Holiday

19-25 March 2018

I enjoyed a much-needed week-long holiday. I visited my parents on the sunny (and windy) Spanish Costa del Sol. My week was filled with long walks and sports, including golf, tennis and walking football. This was not planned but I enjoyed my personal version of cross-training.

I ran only twice: two slow 5k distances, one along a boardwalk [Tuesday], the other along a beach [Friday].

The latter was the toughest easy-paced 3.1-mile route I had ever run, as the uneven soft sand and fierce winds made every step a struggle.

Selfie on Costa del Sol

I relaxed and was pleased to stay active without expectation to complete specific workouts. However, despite the relatively low physical stress on my body, the numerous strokes I took on the driving range after many years away from playing golf strained some of my back muscles [Monday].

The fast walking I committed to during the walking football match, despite competing with men over 50 years old, caused my legs to ache in unfamiliar ways. I felt it was worth it, as I scored twice to help my team draw 4-4 [Thursday].

Selfie whilst playing Walking Football

Even an hour of playing tennis resulted in further aching in my feet, legs and arms, as I ran around the court quickly and hit powerful shots [Friday].

A rest on Sunday back home felt well-deserved. Although my back and left quadricep still ache I feel ready to attempt time-trials for my One Mile Challenge in the coming days.

My twelve weeks of training and tapering are now complete, and I have mentally devised my flat, mostly traffic-free routes as I did not get my opportunity to race any earlier.

Vegan Cranberry and Kiwi Smoothie

This new recipe is a delightful blend of frozen and dried fruit, and milled seeds. This provides a unique texture, nutritious and filling after a run.

It only takes 60 seconds to make in my high speed blender.

100g dried cranberries (antioxidants and manganese)

65g kiwis (Vitamin C and Vitamin B6)

50g frozen strawberries (Vitamin C and antioxidants)

55g of my favourite pea protein powder

20g organic milled flaxseed (fibre and Omega 3)

750 ml of cold water

Cranberry and Kiwi Protein Smoothie

Taper for Postponed Race

12-18 March 2018

Wednesday – workout #29

3x (3-4x 20-25 second) sprints with jogging recoveries in between (with 2-minute standing recoveries between sets)

I wanted to stay in control of my efforts the entire session.
Others recognised my lack of complete effort.
I told them I was saving myself for my race on Saturday.
So I didn’t lead from the front from the start.
Instead I gradually increased my speed for each interval.
The only struggle was to keep from running flat out as I stretched my legs further.
But I stayed behind the leader throughout the session, keeping my recoveries consistent.
Mentally I felt strong and always able to accelerate.
I was content knowing I had more to give when the time came.
I ended the session relaxed and without much energy expended.

Thursday – workout #30

2x 1,2,3,2,1-minute intervals with 1 minute jogging recoveries in between (and 2 minutes jogging recovery between sets)

Another club session in the evening and again I knew I couldn’t give my maximum effort.
Thankfully some of the top runners at the club didn’t turn up so my competitive spirit wasn’t challenged.
Instead I ran my intervals around a local lake, under the stars, at my own tempo pace.
I wasn’t competing against anyone and so I could maintain a steady rhythm and consistent jogging recoveries.
For a few intervals I ran harder to replicate moments at my upcoming goal race pace*.
This ensured I felt confident, and relatively comfortable, at that pace before my race on Saturday.
I kept passing other runners as I continued to run the winding circuit around the lake.
Another runner told me after the session that he was impressed with the strength and speed of my leg turnover.
I thanked him and realised that I should measure my cadence to assess whether I had developed a quick and more efficient step count per minute.