Interview with ‘The Runninger’

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

What is your proudest running achievement?

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

What has running taught you about yourself?

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

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

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

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

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

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

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

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

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

What has been your most serious running injury?

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

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

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

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

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

What does running mean to you?

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

Virgin Money London Marathon 2019 Review

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

Kipchoge is the Indisputable GOAT

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

The Best Marathoners are Getting Younger

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

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

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

Negative Split Marathons Prove Successful

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.



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




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)



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.

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.

How to Run

How to Run… Improve Your Speed, Stamina and Enjoyment from Fun Running to Full Marathons (2010) by Hugh Jones


Jones’ book is filled with practical and down-to-earth advice on how to maximise your running.

He reminds me of the positive attitude needed to be a better runner, but is frank in his assessment that running should not be over-complicated. Instead he highlights how running is influenced mainly by willpower and fundamentally natural movements.

Similar to other sports, athletes must simply dedicate time to build the necessary strength in the muscles and joints in order to improve performances. Running on variable surfaces such as grass is an effective strategy, but the application of adequate and progressive training and recovery, over a long period of time, is essential.

Historically, sport was viewed as a pursuit to strengthen character, relying on self-motivation and resulting in personal reward.

It is therefore essential that running is seen as a method of discovering more about oneself. After all, running can be measured not only in statistics but in the development of mental conditioning and self-worth.

For me, Jones’ book outlines an approach that is easily forgotten; running is a simple act and should be used to develop your physical fitness and mental sharpness.

The Contents of How to Run by Hugh Jones

Tackling Anorexia with Ultrarunning

The Extra Mile (2006) by Pam Reed with Mitch Sisskind


Battling Anorexia

Brought up in the Midwest of the United States, Pam Reed was a competitive and energetic tomboy, who developed in a culture of self-reliance and physical resilience.

In her adolescence Reed was inspired to become a gymnast, and later would commit to 1,000 sit-ups a day and running to stay fit for playing tennis. But she would train with a reduced caloric intake, wanting to maintain a slight build. She admitted herself to hospital several times, and yet never relied on drugs to improve her relationship with food and her body.

The catalyst for change came when she was told she would not reach her ultrarunning potential if she failed to eat enough to fuel and recover adequately.

Ultramarathon Success

Influenced by her husband’s love of triathlons, she first trained and competed with him at Ironman Canada, where she finished as the ninth woman.

She soon became addicted to pushing her physical and mental limits, running over 100 marathons including Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and London. She has also conquered more than 100 ultramarathons, including the Elkhorn 100k, Wasatch 100 (mile), Leadville 100 (mile) as well as 24 and 48 hour championships, where she has set numerous American records.

But it is her back-to-back wins at the brutal Badwater 135 mile race in 2002 and 2003 that she explores most in her book and which proved her class as a runner. Her love and natural adaptation to running in the heat gave her the necessary confidence to excel. She also ran 300 miles non-stop (12x 25 mile loops) in 2005, in under 80 hours. Although she ran too fast too soon, it was a highlight of her career because of the deep connection she made with her family and friends.

Her success has come from consistent performances, where external pressure failed to negatively affect her, and where nutritional liquids, energy drinks and soda water always provided a boost. Her mentor and ‘personal physician’ Chuck Giles played an immeasurable part in Reed’s pacing, crewing and fuelling during some of her hardest races. Despite her huge achievements Reed is humble and believes she has over-trained for many years (racing on average 24 times per year), suggesting she could have improved her endurance records.

Her influences include other ultrarunning champions such as Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, Marshal Ulrich and Dean Karnazes. She has also raced with Charlie Engle.

Running Tips for Balancing Life

As a mother of many children, wife, and race director of the Tuscan Marathon, Reed has to juggle many responsibilities.

Reed has defied pre-conceptions throughout her career, including running two marathons in three days, running only days after giving birth (and running a 100 mile race only 10 weeks afterwards), and never becoming seriously injured.

Reed used triathlons as her base fitness for her ultramarathons, and has trained with a jogging stroller, her dog and other ambitious women. Although she feels guilty for not always prioritising her family, she recognises that athletic excellence requires many hours of focused effort.

She further offers essential advice for any ultrarunner.

  • Crews need to laugh, talk a lot and always remain positive. Crews have the power to lose a race for a runner, and so they must be willing to do anything without showing fatigue.
  • Practice breaking long races into manageable distances. For example, a 100 miler can be viewed as one mile repeated 100 times.
  • Never think of how many miles left, look rarely at the sports watch, and think only of the short distance in front.
  • Always have multiple race goals. For example, the first goal is to finish, then to run a new personal best (either over sections or the full distance), and finally to win the race.

Reed is a legend of the sport, not only because of her impressively long list of race results but also her openness about the challenge (and expense) of her lifelong pursuit, and the respect she shows herself by never making excuses.

Discover the World through Running

Run the World (2016) by Becky Wade


Year-long Adventure

In 2012, Becky Wade, a top university track runner from Texas, wins a fellowship to travel across the world. She uses the experience to learn different running practices to incorporate in her own training. She uses public transport to get around, and does not race seriously.

She aims to discover the most effective running plan, balancing the need for freedom and flexible with a demanding volume.


England

Inspired as a spectator at the women’s 2012 Olympic marathon, Wade learns that elite runners do not train and race hard all of the time, but are strategic in their surges.

She also meets Jamaican sprinters, including Usain Bolt, and discovers the fierce and long-standing cross-country rivalry between the Cambridge and Oxford Universities. A positive team spirit is essential to build the necessary relationships to run for others as well as oneself.

Switzerland

Wade explores the beautiful natural landscape of luscious forests and mountain trails in a running-friendly nation. She adjusts to become light and nimble on her feet as she copes with not always knowing her pace and distance.

She discovers that the country has no professional running groups, and yet host unique track events, where athletes run back-to-back events in which they only discover the distances during the last lap.

Ethiopia

Wade learns that this East African country, like Kenya, harbours a culture of qualities perfect for long-distance running, including discipline, resilience and ambition.

During her training she is surprised that runners sometimes cut their runs short, opting to walk for miles back home if they do not feel fully fit. They exercise a heightened awareness of their bodies, encompassed by Haile Gebrselassie, who Wade finds is a rather entertaining dancer.


Other countries Wade discovers include Japan, where she finds the pavements and language difficult to overcome, Australia and New Zealand, where she wins a minor 5k race, whilst training with an athletic club that celebrates varied training and hard efforts, and Sweden and Finland, where she runs with her brother and discovers orienteering.

Recipe for Success

Wade’s journey is also defined by each of her hosts’ choice of diets and cooking rituals. She shares a diverse range of recipes including ugali, kolo, anzac biscuits and ozoni soup.

Through food as much as running, Wade develops close relationships with knowledgeable and humble runners. Her unstructured training of over 550 miles during the year ultimately leads Wade back to the United States, where in December 2013 she runs her first marathon, the California International Marathon. She beats the women’s field in an impressive time of 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Quote from Becky Wade audiobook

How I Trained for my Quickest Marathon

Early May – Mid October 2017

After a promising spring marathon, I wanted to continue towards qualifying for the London Marathon. So after a week of rest to recover from a local 5 mile race, I began training for a familiar autumn marathon.

I devised a flexible training plan that aimed to increase my mileage of my spring training (34 miles per week) over a period of 24 weeks. After thorough research I intended to run 7 days a week. After 5 weeks I had to include a weekly rest day to ensure adequate recovery between workouts.

Read more

How I Improved from my First Marathon

Sunday 11th May 2014

The sky was overcast and drizzly.
My mum, partner and I waited for the start of the race in the crowded sports hall.
I was confident of a good race so I started at the front of the pack as the gun went off.
By the first quarter of a mile I was gasping for breath and my legs felt tired.
My enthusiasm was soon squashed and I settled into a smooth, comfortable rhythm.
Not long into the race I saw my supporters. I threw them the gloves I had taken off.
I tried to keep with other runners, but every time I found a steady rhythm I would be deserted again. One dropped off my pace to run with a fellow club member, another got too far ahead of me.
Still, I stayed mentally strong, refusing to stop, even when I accepted water from the numerous aid stations.
The weather improved, brightening the scenic route.
I kept checking my watch and noticing the mile markers were accurate.
I overcame the occasional hills and repeated sections without feeling deflated.
As the distance dragged on and my pace slowed my mind strayed to food. I wanted the banana I had given my family to keep ready for me but I had to cross the line before I could replenish the calories I had burned.


It was a hugely satisfying race as I finished in the top third overall, and in the top half of my age and gender category. In contrast to my first marathon I was able to interact with the marshals on route and not feel as if I had failed to represent my capabilities.

I ran my second marathon because it was local and I needed to prove to myself that I could run the entire distance. I followed an intermediate training plan that lasted more than 20 weeks.

I developed mental strength and a greater tolerance for pain during my long runs, and overcame a bout of illness.

My first marathon taught me so many lessons about preparation. The changes I have made since then meant I finished 46 minutes quicker.

  • I registered for the event months in advance.
  • I used a respectable source for training advice (a plan endorsed by Runner’s World magazine).
  • I logged my workouts and mileage, through my previous blog.
  • I learnt to use more functions on my Garmin watch, including lap counts, which encouraged me to run slower and to warm-up and cool-down.

I still made one mistake pre-race; thinking that gluing together the front of my well-worn trainers meant adequate footwear.

Most memorable were some impressive runners that participated in the race, including Rob Young and athletes that were completing their 100th, 200th and 600th marathon. It was also the first time I appreciated runners who finished last, for some had endured over seven hours on the route.

Unsurprisingly, my gut reaction was to sign up for my next marathon.



Alternative Measures of Running Success

Your Pace or Mine? (2016) by Lisa Jackson


Jackson’s book is packed with marathon race reports and humbling stories of other runners. It is a celebration of empowerment through running, a means to discover oneself, appreciate life and connect with others.

Equality and Diversity

Running is a non-materialistic and peaceful pursuit, and despite the differences in runners’ limits Jackson treats them with equal importance.

She points out that you can still love running even when it is painful and hard work, because the sport makes life feel longer and develops one’s self-confidence. Jackson is testimony that doggedness is crucial if runners are to complete marathons, and the regret of not finishing can be inspirational.

Most importantly, Jackson views walking in races as a smart strategy and not a sign of weakness. This mindset has helped countless runners complete incredible feats of endurance.

Humour

Like Laura Fountain (from Lazy Girl Running Podcast), Jackson cites laughter and smiling as an effective motivator. She also suggests that enjoying running is real success.

She believes that inner strength can carry you any distance, as long as you remain positive. To do this she says runners should always stay humble and respect the distance and fellow runners.

Dedication

Jackson reminds me that running in honour of people close to you is a meaningful act (as I did for my grandparents at my fourth Chelmsford Marathon). This can support the grieving process and motivate you to do what others cannot.

The book contains quotes from famous runners such as Pam Reed, Chrissie Wellington and Zola Budd. Regardless of your finishing time or position, the memories of running and meeting others are essential if the sport is to transform your life.

She also shares personal moments that I have experienced including sleeping whilst wearing a medal and creating a running CV.


Jackson takes a uniquely logical approach to endurance races, believing that spending as much time on your feet is the purpose.

Her top running tip is to visualise inhaling confidence and exhaling doubt

Lisa Jackson book

Smart Pacing for my First Negative Split Marathon

22 October 2017
I was disciplined from the start. I let runners pass me as I kept to my strategic pace.
I smiled as I soon passed my supporters in the crowd.
I fought off a slight stitch and maintained a comfortable rhythm.
I sipped my homemade electrolyte drink every mile. Then I alternated my caloric intake with energy balls and dried mango.
I approached the halfway mark on schedule. But I reminded myself that the work had only just begun.
As I continued along the long, winding country lanes I adjusted my foot placement and effort level to deal with the strong side winds.
I began passing runners that were breathing hard, slumped forward or shuffling.
I reached the twenty-mile mark and knew this was the time to speed up. Only slightly, but enough to ensure that a new personal best would be mine.
Even though I ran out of fluids two miles from the end I had the fuel to push on and overtake more runners.
I felt greater strength as I continued on the path through the parks I had run many times.
I did not look back as I reached the spectators.
Then I turned into the final straight and sprinted to the line, overtaking a runner by a second.


Chelmsford Marathon 2017

Even as I crossed the line I knew I had not finished.

I continued to walk in circles in the park for ten minutes as I consumed a post-run homemade pea-protein shake, two bananas and plenty of fluid. I also stretchedI did not want a repeat of my post-race leg pain at last year’s event.

I also spoke to a runner named Alex, who told me I had inadvertently paced him for the first two hours, before he sped up. We had mutual respect for one another, and I know that he is the standard I must attain if I am to qualify for the London Marathon.

Despite the favourable cloudy and dry conditions I had to concentrate so that my energy was not sapped combating the wind.

I dedicated the race to my grandparents, who are sadly no longer with me. They taught me that hard work offers rich rewards.

There were many reasons I achieved my best marathon to date.

  • I carried my own fluid, which contained carbohydrate (in the form of orange squash) and sodium. I drank a litre of this homemade electrolyte drink, plus half a litre of water from the aid stations. This kept me hydrated and energised without needing to slow.
  • I also carried enough calories, packed with sugars and proteins to ensure that my stomach was constantly filled with fuel to use. I balanced my intake well so that I did not feel bloated or suffer from excessive stitches.
  • I kept a steady heart rate throughout the race, which meant that I could focus on my caloric intake without having to panic about an unsustainable breathing pattern.

Chelmsford Marathon 2017 Finish

I executed the race so well there were few mistakes.

  • I carried three energy bars and several handfuls of dried fruit that I did not need. Although not heavy they were an unnecessary energy supply that I could have better calculated in training. This can easily be rectified for future races.
  • I suffered slight niggles in my lower legs, ankles and feet throughout the race. Although they were not enough to prevent me from achieving my goal I could have supported my lower body better by wearing newer ‘barefoot shoes’. 
  • More importantly I felt I had more to give. This notion is always difficult to judge as the marathon requires many decisions, which are impossible to analysis individually. Still, in hindsight I ran the first half too cautiously.

The race was a success because unlike my previous six marathons I passed runners in the second half of the race, feeling stronger and faster than ever before. Perhaps I could run much further at 7:20 – 7:30 per mile…



Pain and Joy After my Third Chelmsford Marathon

23 October 2016

I wished my runners the very best of luck before the race.
Then we separated, ready for our own journeys.
I ran as though the race was a half marathon.
I soon found myself alongside a taller runner about my age. When he passed me I surged into the lead. This repeated for many miles through the Essex countryside, absent of spectators.
The battle made me concentrate on staying strong but by half way he was out of sight.
I was left to run alone.
Runners kept passing me as I fought back fatigue and muscle soreness.
I wanted the race to be over but it dragged on as I inevitably slowed.
I couldn’t estimate my finishing time as my average pace was dropping quickly.
There was nothing I could do but to endure the last miles until I sprinted the last metres to the line in pain.


Chelmsford Marathon 2016 from front

I went out too fast too early. Although this was my pre-race strategy my hopes of not fading too much in the second half of the race were naïve. Despite the generous time I banked for more than an hour I suffered even more pain than previous marathons, culminating in 10 minutes of post-race lactate acid in my legs. I had never felt so much discomfort, and for so long after any race.

Despite a huge personal best time of over 20 minutes I was disappointed by my endurance fitness. This was my first attempt to qualify as ‘good for my age’ for the London Marathon and had come up way short.

Still, I also felt pride as this was my first race I had coached runners. Three of the four that started completed the race, two of which had never run the distance before and had all achieved respectable times.

Chelmsford Marathon 2016 from behind



Adapting to New Circumstances during my Second Chelmsford

18 October 2015
Soon into the race I passed the sub 4 hour pacer.
I saw my partner at the 5 km mark located at race headquarters.
At 5 miles a female competitor told me she was impressed that I was wearing ‘barefoot’ shoes.
As I approached half way I took advantage of the water, cereal bars and dried fruit at the aid stations.
Although at 17.5 miles a marshal said I was the first man that had passed him wearing Vibram FiveFingers I was struggling. I switched my running style from forefoot to mid-foot striking, until I tired and had to accept becoming slumped forward, my feet rocking.
The muscle fatigue worsened.
I saw runners lying alongside the path to the finish, reminiscent of my first marathon. I refused to succumb to my feet’s desires to rest.
I then drew alongside a runner, frequently exchanging positions, until I finally crossed the finish line.


Even though I recorded a new personal best the last hour was painful.

I also experienced mixed emotions when I received both encouragement and distractions along the route.

I was inspired by spectators calling me “Wonder Feet” and “Vibrams”, impressed by my barefoot style of running. However, another runner, a few miles before the end, joked to other runners that I had forgotten my trainers and asked whether I had practiced in them (which of course I had). 

The route had been modified from last year for greater accuracy and less confusion. Although this was much appreciated, more of the course was on tarmac, which felt more demanding on my legs.

The race proved that everything during a marathon can be exaggerated in the mind, and adjusting to external circumstances is crucial for long-distance success.

Pre Chelmsford Marathon 2015



4 Marathon Firsts in Chelmsford

19 October 2014
Boggy conditions but not raining.
A light warm-up then I was off.
I completed the first mile in just over 8 minutes.
I kept a steady pace. My breathing was always under control.
I ignored the many runners passing me.
I focused on my foot placement, especially after treading on a hard object after two and  a half miles.
The route switched from grass to asphalt to gravel, through scenic parks and villages.
I reached half way in 1 hour, 55 minutes; a time that replicated my training.

I continued running strong, boosted by a runner praising my (former) blog that I was advertising on my back, and supported another runner by giving them some water.
I ate two bananas for extra energy, as practised in training, and saw an old running partner and work colleague from my time at university, who shouted encouragement.
Fatigue hit me at mile twenty-three but I overcame confusing signage to finish in the top 35% of competitors with a sprint finish.
My finishing time fell between my first two marathons, which reflected my limited training for the race.


Chelmsford Marathon

I observed throughout the race that many runners struggled, perhaps unprepared for the challenge. This was confirmed by reports that of the 1,900 runners signed up, only 1,020 started and 961 finished.

It reminded me of my first marathon, where the second half of the race consisted of painful shuffling.

Despite not achieving a new personal best there were many first-time experiences I enjoyed. The race was the first ever marathon in Chelmsford, a city 10 miles from my home. It was the first race I ever ran in barefoot shoes, and first in which I raised money for a local animal charity, the RSPCA Danaher Animal Home (£150 in total). Finally, it was the first marathon where all my family came to support me. The rain held off as we celebrated my fiancée’s birthday with a picnic after the race.

Chelmsford Marathon 2014 medal



Japanese Running Culture

The Way of the Runner (2015) by Adharanand Finn


Question

Finn travels 9,000 miles overland to Japan with his wife and small children. The reason for his six-month stay in Asia is to discover why Japan has a greater number of half and full marathon runners than the United States and United Kingdom, trailing only behind Ethiopia and Kenya.

Ekidens

Finn meets numerous coaches and athletes and learns about Ekidens, long-distance relay races (upwards of 20 runners each running a half marathon) that are central to motivating and rewarding Japanese runners.

Originally used as training for marathons, Ekidens have been so successful that Japanese runners are viewed as national heroes and the country now has some of the finest infrastructure to support progress in high school and college students, company employees, as well as elite athletes. The Hakone Ekiden and the All-Japan Ekiden Championships are races that now draw millions of people, making them some of the most watched television spectacles, and are seen as more important than the Olympic Games.

The events grew in popularity after World War II as a means to harbour national unity, team spirit and commitment to endurance-based fitness.

Training Practices

Despite the huge scientific and technological advances that have originated from Japan, much of the country’s running philosophy remains traditional.

Over-training – Running and racing too often, for too long, from an early age means recovery is often neglected

Immense pressure – The corporate sponsors and expectations from fans produce coaches that are short-term focused, ignoring what is optimal for runners’ careers. 

Risk aversion – Running too cautious at steady, even paces rather than with surges, mean they often lose against braver competitors (which often win races when bursts are executed at the right time). 

Sleep deprivation – Tiredness is not culturally acceptable and therefore health can be compromised.

The Japanese society of conformity, dogged work ethic and personal responsibility for team efforts mean athletes are susceptible to inflexible training plans, strict (sometimes abusive) coaching and inferiority complexities. Unsurprisingly, mental exhaustion and physical injuries are widespread.

Marathon Monks

Finn also speaks to a ‘marathon monk’, whose focus is to run and walk 1,000 marathons in 1,000 (non-consecutive) days, between sacred places. This offers spiritual enlightenment by exhausting the mind and ego whilst constantly moving and reflecting on life. Citizen Runner, a Japanese amateur marathoner who works full-time and is self-coached, is another famous example of someone running alone, which can result in a deeper connection with oneself.

Personal Impact

Despite turning 40 and witnessing prevalent training errors, Finn discovers that returning home his running has improved. He wins several local races, including the South Downs Marathon Relay as part of Team ‘The Ekiden Men’. One of the reasons is that Finn gains a stronger and leaner body by squatting regularly, an often neglected core exercise in modern life.

Ultimately, he learns that to run well for long distances and over a prolonged period runners should love the sport and feel part of a collective ambition.

Fear and My First Marathon

29 September 2013.
The sign was not clear. A marshal repeated his mantra “half marathon straight on, marathon to the left.”
I heard my mum say it was fine to finish the half marathon.
Despite the pain I had eliminated that option before the race.
I took the turn, away from the crowds.
Away from the finish line.
Away from my comfort zone.
I stopped to use a port-a-loo. My legs stiffened as I descended into the country park. A large lake appeared. I was to run three quarters of it.
An ambulance soon passed me, forcing me and other runners onto the grass. My calves were so tight I was reduced to jogging and walking. My muscles threatened to cramp.
The sports drinks and water did nothing to help.
When I caught up with the ambulance a runner was sitting on the grass, his race finished.
I knew it could be my fate.
I had to dig deep to keep moving forward. I tried to count seconds to establish a rhythm but I could not concentrate for long.
I started to doubt myself. I feared I would not finish in the allocated time and be disqualified. I was unaware of the cut-off time and could not work out what my projected time would be. The mile markers were also further than my Garmin recorded.
I continued along the River Trent, passing people enjoying the sun.
Every step was another shock to my body.
I soon had to squeeze through pedestrians and marshals as I went over the final bridge.
My mood worsened as I felt the race would never finish.
Yet I sprinted the last metres to the line. The fatigue was tangible as I forced back tears.


Fear got me through the race. Fear of the unknown. Fear of letting myself down, and my family who supported me. Fear that I may need a medic to take me to the finish. 

Fear also got me to the start line. I had imagined running a marathon for some time and I worried I would never achieve it. I had forced myself to enter the race a month prior; evidence that I was unsure of the challenge.

I had convinced myself that with less training I ran better. But I was wrong.

It was my greatest achievement to date because I used all my mental resolve to overcome severe physical discomfort. I reminded myself I had chosen this, that I wanted to run because I enjoyed it, despite the pain.

Best of all I learnt a great deal about the person I am.

Robin Hood Marathon

Audiobook Review: Out There by David Clark

Out There is the deeply honest account of Clark’s recovery from chronic alcoholic to accomplished ultrarunner.

Clark grew up in a close-knit patriotic and religious family from New York State, who moved homes often.

In adolescence and early adulthood Clark experimented with drink and drugs at parties, and binged on fast food. The onset of paranoia, hallucinations and sleep deprivation only forced him to kick his drug habit.

Ignoring the warning signs

When he moved to Denver he became a husband, father to multiple children, an award-winning sales executive boasting a high salary, and later a successful business owner.

Despite his personal and professional achievements his drinking became more excessive and destructive. He drove and worked whilst under the influence, and was later sued, forcing him to file for personal bankruptcy.

He adeptly concealed his problem from his family despite it making him sick, depressed, reclusive and desperate. Even the sudden death of his best friend’s brother did not stop him.

Running towards redemption

Once unemployed, broke and near death Clark took responsibility for his actions and changed.

He swapped his addiction to running, fuelled by his lifelong dream of finishing a marathon. He naturally became mindful of his self-talk and the foods he was consuming.

His training consisted of running on a treadmill in his gym every day, starting from short intervals to 20 minutes non-stop. He also became an avid reader of running books.

He soon transformed his life, becoming a travelling spa and hot tub salesman as a sober competitor of distances ranging from 5 km to the marathon. He continued to test his new found strength by completing more challenging events such as the Boulder Ironman triathlon and the Badwater 135 ultramarathon.

Overcoming further setbacks

Then the inevitable injury occurred. A severely herniated disc impinging on his sciatic nerve forced him to rest, and commit to regular core exercises and steroid injections. He even discarded the pain medication due to his fear of drug dependence.

But with patience and perseverance he returned healthy and finished the Leadville 100 ultramarathon twice, won the 12 hours of Boulder race, ran 24 hours on a treadmill, and 50 km for ten consecutive days across the state of Colorado.

Despite his subsequent divorce he ultimately regained his self-worth by dropping over 70 kg of body weight and inspiring others as a running coach and mentor through The Superman Project he created.

Clark used running as his new life-saving drug, an obsession with strengthening his fitness and spirit.

 

Book Review: Marathon Man by Rob Young

Anything can ignite your dream

Rob Young, an ex-soldier and former youth triathlete for Great Britain, undertakes an incredible journey to test his endurance. His quest to break the record for the most marathons in one year is inspired by a ridiculous bet made with his fiancée. His drive comes from his desire to improve the lives of underprivileged children.

Based in London, Young begins running in the early mornings around Richmond Park.

He soon loses weight, suffers knee pain and sleep deprivation as he balances a full-time job and family commitments.

He then broadens his challenge by running official marathon races across the UK, including Halstead, Milton Keynes, Coniston and London. He also runs ultramarathons such as the North Downs Way 100, Equinox 24-hour race and the Race to the Stones.

As he does not have his own car he relies on public transport, friends and strangers to get to and from races. His impulsive personality and lack of preparation in fuelling and accommodation means he often gets lost, on and off the race course.

He ends his adventure by running the Race Across America, a 3,080-mile route starting in California and ending at the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia. Young suffers throughout the race, disagreeing with the organisers and being forced to rest after his left leg swells.

Overall, from April 2014 until June 2015, Young completes an extraordinary 420 marathons/ultramarathons in 420 days.

No challenge is without consequence

Despite his remarkable feat there are some negative repercussions. Young loses valuable family time, which strains the relationship with his fiancée.

He tests his friendships as he requires countless massages and physiotherapy, as well as a place to stay once he loses his job and his flat. The expense of the endeavour is high because of the extra food he needs, often calorie-dense meals and high in fat.

Your past never has to hold you back

As a child he is severely abused by his father, physically and psychologically. Although horrific, Young claims the experience taught him to control the pain with visualisation and to better appreciate his life.

He raises over £200,000 for charities close to his heart, including the NSPCC, Dreams Come True and Great Ormond Street Hospital.


Accomplishing a dream

Young completes his mission (and breaks the record) by following a sensible strategy: race the first half, then taper off in the second half. He has fun and takes a laid back approach to reduce the stress. He also provides valuable running tips such as run downhill with arms at ear height for better steering and reduce pace in order to effectively absorb calories.

Young’s story is an extreme example of how a person can transform from couch potato to relentless endurance athlete.

Book Review: ‘Keep on Running’ by Phil Hewitt

keep-on-running-e1508005922880.jpeg

Keep on Running details Hewitt’s multiple experiences of running marathons in London, New York, Paris, Rome, Dublin and Chichester.

Hewitt focuses on how marathon running is a selfish pursuit as the distance demands sustained effort and time. Yet the encouragement of spectators ensures a humbling environment.

I can relate to many of his wise observations:

  • The first marathon is extra special because there is little pressure for time or placement, as it is just about finishing.
  • The marathon distance must be respected otherwise you will suffer severely.
  • A bloated stomach and lack of rest can be huge limiting performance factors.
  • Personal sporting glory is always within reach for those that pursue new goals.
  • Running different events across the world, particularly in the big cities, are fun adventures.
  • There will always be challenging moments, but these frustrations can motivate you to keep running to the finish line.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a snapshot of various marathons around the globe and to discover an honest assessment of many aspects of running races.

Race Report: Bungay Black Dog Marathon 2017

Bungay Marathon

I had been waiting for it.
I had overcome the challenging undulating stretches.
I had long passed the half-way mark.
I was slower than my planned pace but I had not given up on achieving my goal.
It was now that I had to push on, make up the difference.
Only I was struggling to keep my pace from slowing.
My goal time passed as I accumulated 25 miles. I attempted to speed up but the pain was instant and eradicated the last hope.
Then I found myself alone.
Each sight was another reminder of the race I had done, the little that remained.
I sprinted the last five seconds with the crowds cheering me across the line.
The race had not destroyed me and I felt great post-race.



I began training for a 2017 spring marathon late the previous December. My goal was clear: run under 3:05 to qualify as a ‘good for age’ entry for the 2018 London Marathon.

I signed up for the Southend Marathon, a flat course along the seafront held in mid-March. I planned it as a fairy tale. “Local lad returns to his hometown for inaugural event, wins to qualify for London.” But two weeks before the race, as I prepared to taper my training, the event was cancelled.

I was gutted.

But I refused to let it waste my training and scupper my ambition. So I searched for another marathon held locally in the upcoming weeks. The Bungay Black Dog Marathon was ideal.

Or so I thought.

My training had been consistent and high quality. But the course was not suitable for a major personal record attempt. I paced the race well, always running within my limits. Although I still achieved my fastest marathon finish and remained positive physically and mentally during and after the race, I failed to achieved my dream

I remain determined to achieve my ‘good for age’ entry into the London Marathon, even if it has to be the 2019 event.

Bungay Marathon.