2019 SimplyHealth Great North Run

8 September 2019

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

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

Interview with Emma Neachell

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

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

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

What has running taught you about yourself?

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

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

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

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

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

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

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

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

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

What has been your most serious running injury?

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

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

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

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

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

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

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

Interview with Yiannis Christodoulou

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

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

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

What has running taught you about yourself?

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

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

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

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

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

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

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

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

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

What has been your most serious running injury?

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

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

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

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

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

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

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

Interview with David Knowles

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

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

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

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

What has running taught you about yourself?

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

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

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

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

Occasional I cycle. But nothing more.

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

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

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

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

Interview with Dominic Toms

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

What is your proudest running achievement?

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

What has running taught you about yourself?

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

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

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

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

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

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

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

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

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

What has been your most serious running injury?

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

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

On occasion I cycle in the gym.

Why do you  work with a running coach?

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

What does running mean to you?

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

London Diamond League 2019 Overview

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

Muir Triumphs on Home Soil Again

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

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

Local Athlete Excels

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

Norweigan Records Fall

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

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

Monaco Diamond League 2019 Overview

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

Give Your Best Only When You Need to 

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

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

Another Woman to Contend Sprints

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

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

World Records are Always Possible

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

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

* Excluding non-scoring Diamond League races.

Stanford Diamond League 2019 Overview

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

Top Honours for American Men

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

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

New Sprint Name Emerges

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

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

Semenya Proves Her Dominance Again

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

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

Interview with Kay Drew

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

What is your proudest running achievement?

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

What has running taught you about yourself?

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

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

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

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

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

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

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

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

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

What has been your most serious running injury?

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

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

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

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

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

What does running mean to you?

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

Stockholm Diamond League 2019 Overview

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

Asher-Smith Triumphs Again

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

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

Muir Returns with Style 

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

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

McColgan Races Hard Despite Personal Challenges

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

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

Interview with ‘The Runninger’

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

What is your proudest running achievement?

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

What has running taught you about yourself?

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

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

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

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

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

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

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

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

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

What has been your most serious running injury?

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

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

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

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

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

What does running mean to you?

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

2019 Great Baddow 10 Mile Race

19 May 2019

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


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

World Relay Championships 2019 Review

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

Reasons for Imperfections

 

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

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

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

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

2019 Witham May Day 10

6 May 2019

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

Witham May Day 10 2019 sprint finish

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

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

Why and How to Plan for a Running Injury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Interview with Irish ‘Parkrun Tourist’

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

Why did you run all the parkruns in Ireland?

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

What was you most memorable parkrun?

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

What was your worst parkrun?

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

Who did you meet on your journey?

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

Who supported you along the way?

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

How did you train for all those parkruns?

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

Did you suffer any running injuries?

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

What would you do differently if you did it again?

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

What advice would you give other runners?

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

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

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

World Cross Country Championships 2019 Review

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

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

 

Be in it to Win it

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

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

 

Challenging Sections Separate the Best from the Rest

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

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

 

Looks can be Deceiving

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

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

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

Winter Training 2019

Goals of Winter Training

Winter training is crucial for runners of all abilities.

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

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

Statistics from My Winter Training

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

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

Runs: 70

Miles: 389

Average Miles per Week: 32.4

Longest Run: 10 miles (twice)

Time Running: 55 hours, 57 minutes and 8 seconds

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

Lessons from My Winter Training

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

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

My Recommendations for Winter Training

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

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

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


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

 

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.

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.

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.

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.



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.



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.



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.



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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Coping with Postponed Events

There will always be factors outside of a runner’s control.

One of them is the weather.

Unfortunately races get cancelled or postponed when the weather is deemed by the organisers as too treacherous.

It happened this weekend with the occurrence of more snow in the United Kingdom. The Roger One Mile time-trial scheduled for this afternoon (which I intended to race) and a local half marathon tomorrow (which two runners I coach had entered) have been postponed.

It is the first time this has affected my running.

Despite the initial disappointment, the calling off of an event should be no reason to prevent mine or anyone else’s progress. This relies on always having an alternative plan.

For example, for my One Mile Challenge, I always intended to attempt my goal at least three times, with adequate rest in between attempts. This meant I didn’t have to rely on only one occasion, with certain conditions and preparations. It also allows me to experiment, using experience to guide me.

The Roger One Mile time-trial would be on a local track ‘racing’ with others, and my other two attempts would be run alone along self-devised routes on flat surfaces such as pavement and road.

Even for longer distances you can easily research another race ahead of time that you would be available to race if required. Likewise, a self-organised race (in the form of a virtual race) can provide the necessary motivation to meet your goal. Although the crowds or traffic-free route may not be present, I believe this is one way to build self-confidence and mitigate the inevitable issues of externally-organised events.

My advice also applies when illnesses, injuries or emergencies stop you from participating in a running race. If you prepare well in advance for any potential problems you’ll have an effective psychological technique to cope with other setbacks that occur in training and in the off-season.

This can easily be incorporated into your racing strategy long before you travel to the start line. 

You’ll then become a more resilient runner that has, paradoxically, greater control over your running.

Personal Bests and Illness

5-11 March 2018

Monday – workout #26

5 x ¾ mile at tempo pace with 3:00 walking recoveries

I ran laps around two football pitches in my local park.
The grass was wet and muddy.
My energy was being sapped, despite my even pace.
I worked hard to maintain a smooth and controlled breathing rate.
The walking recoveries were more than adequate.
By the end of the workout I doubted the effectiveness of grass as a surface to gain the most power from my running.
After two days of hard workouts I knew I needed rest.

Thursday – workout #27

½ mile time-trial

I felt ready to test myself over a short distance.
I measured the route beforehand along my local river walk in order to avoid traffic and undulating terrain.
I started on a quiet road at a quick speed.
I soon turned off and headed along the concrete pedestrian pathway.
My legs and arms were driving fast and strong.
I kept my concentration as I reached the final seconds, noticing that my pace was sub 5:00 per mile.
This was a real confidence booster for me, knowing that I have the speed, endurance and quick pace to achieve a sub 5-minute mile.
I smiled and congratulated myself when I checked my sports watch and discovered a new personal best.

Thursday – workout #28

11x 0.15-0.3 mile downhill sprints with 1:30 jogging recoveries

Despite my fast performance earlier in the day I couldn’t refuse a running club session that was described as the ‘easiest workout’.
I ran a figure of eight circuit, with the uphill midsection as the jogging recoveries and the downhill and flat sections as sprints.
I was by far the quickest runner on the night so even with a handicap of running an extra stretch of road I overtook everyone else.
At times I felt I was flying downhill, not wanting to hold back.
I was rewarded with another personal best of my fastest ever top speed.
The half hour workout didn’t feel as easy as was promoted but I found it evidenced my improving fitness.

One Mile Challenge: Week 10

My week started strong when I recorded two personal best times, first with a half mile time of 2:26.19, and second, later that day, a top speed of 3:27 per mile. Illness over the weekend prevented me from training but did not dent my confidence.

I took advantage of four rest days (Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and had one easy day of running. I accumulated over 12.4 ‘recovery miles’.

I also registered for the Roger One Mile Time-Trial, a local event to commemorate the legendary miler Roger Bannister, which will be held next Saturday. It will be my first opportunity to achieve a lifetime aspiration.

Snow Disrupts my Training

26 February – 4 March 2018

Sunday – workout #25

3 x 1-mile at tempo pace (5:40-6:00 per mile) with 3:30 standing recoveries

The snow had disappeared overnight and all that remained was damp grass and wet pavement.
I knew I had to get back to running hard if I was to make the most of my training so far this year.
I was excited and nervous before my first challenging workout for over a week.
I ran wide laps around a familiar patch of park with my fiancée watching me and taking photos.
The first rep felt controlled throughout.
The second rep felt difficult by the last quarter mile.
The third rep felt challenging from the start.
Yet, when I examined my times later I actually ran progressively faster for each rep.
Although the times were all under six minutes it wasn’t what mattered most, but the fact that I felt back on track – fatigued and satisfied.

One Mile Challenge: Week 9

Aside from my single hard workout I took two rest days (Tuesday and Saturday) and managed four days of easy running (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday), accumulating over 16.4 miles, most whilst running in thick snow.

The freezing cold temperatures and problematic terrain meant that I was forced to run miles at a relative jogging pace. I found this unique challenge enjoyable as I could forget about my block of hard training and focus on traversing through fields of virgin snow.

I wore many layers and limited myself to around 40 minutes per run. I used these runs to build endurance and to rest from more strenuous exercise. I also freed up some time to undertake core exercises, such as wall sits and planks.

I believe I am now mentally prepared for my final few weeks of quality training before my attempt to break the five-minute mile.

Two Voices in My Running

As a running coach I better appreciate the role of runners and the importance of coaches.

The coaching principles I have learnt and the personal experiences I have enjoyed has given me valuable and new insights into my own running.

As a runner I am responsible for the following:

  • Understanding my body (and being honest when it is not feeling right)
  • Taking ownership of my performance (and reacting in a constructive way for the future)
  • Enjoying my running (and remembering it should never be a cause of stress in my life)
  • Exhibiting a passion for running (and being willing to push my limits to improve)

As a coach I am responsible for the following:

  • Understanding my technique (and being aware of any aspects that are not optimal for performance)
  • Suggesting adjustments in my training (and evaluating the impact and measuring progress)
  • Reminding myself of the reasons I run (and explaining methods of relaxation wherever necessary)
  • Exhibiting an objective viewpoint for my running (and remaining positive about my future prospects)

The two methods I use to make the most of my ‘running’ and ‘coaching’ selves are writing in my running diary daily and holding short internal conversations.

These two ‘personalities’ balance one another, so that I feel confident and assured about myself as a runner, but also stay realistic and humble because I know there is more I want to achieve.

Demonstrating Maximum Speed

19-25 February 2018

Wednesday – workout #23

16x <0.1 mile at 3:54-5:13 per mile pace with various jogging and standing recoveries

After three days of rest I expected to feel strong running with my work group.
Except my lower legs were still aching from last week.
I remained positive though and led the uphill and flat sprints the entire session.
I maintained a powerful and relaxed form throughout.
My only concern throughout was that the short bursts of energy will not be improving my speed endurance.
I was very pleased with clocking a lifetime maximum speed of 3:28 per mile, and how I recovered well in between reps.

Thursday – workout #24

6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1-minute intervals at tempo pace (5:40-6:00 per mile) with jogging recoveries of half the time of the intervals

I felt ready for another tough workout. This time with my running club.
I shot off from the start. For the first interval of six minutes I was leading the pack.
During the jogging recovery I was overtaken by other faster runners.
I was content to run alone along the curving path around the lake.
I thought about the other runners around me fleetingly. Instead I reflected on the cold but calm evening under the stars and moon.
I continued to work hard, but always within myself, refusing to let the lactate accumulate.
By the end of the session I still had a little to give, but knew I needed to recover for the rest of the week.

One Mile Challenge: Week 8

During my two harder workouts I accumulated 4.58 miles (25 mins and 53 secs) within a pace range of 3:54-6:17 min per mile. During the week I enjoyed three rest days (Monday, Friday and Saturday) and two days of easy running (Tuesday and Sunday) accumulating over 12.7 miles.

Although I had plenty of rest I still felt my lower limbs were a limiting factor this week. My progress is still strong though so I will take forward the momentum I have built to focus on feeling optimal for my future harder workouts.

My Inspiration to Run a Fast Mile

There are three people that inspire me to run my fastest mile.

First is Hicham El Guerrouj, the world record holder for one mile since July 1999. He clocked 3:43.13. More than his staggering performance, that has lasted for over eighteen years, is the man’s contribution to society and humble personality.

In my opinion he remains the gold standard for the mile and displays the positive attitude that all people (not just runners) should adopt.

Quentin Cassidy, the fictional protagonist in John L. Parker, Jr’s 1978 book Once a Runner, is another influence. Listening to the audiobook reminded me of my high school track career, where pain was an inevitable consequence of pushing one’s limits.

Roger Bannister is also an iconic figure in running history, as the first man to break the four-minute mile barrier. He achieved this through specific, sustained training. Surprisingly, his feat inspired others to further improve the record, proving that limits are as much psychological as physiological.

I too want to find out how quick I can run a mile (although not necessarily on the track). I am fascinated by this short distance, the primary unit that all my running is defined by. I am 27 years old, feel that I am in the peak range for my running fitness and believe this is the time to find out who I am as a miler.

Finally, my inspiration is the lifetime goal I have set (as a coach to myself) of running a mile in less than 4:30. Although extremely ambitious, I believe that I can get close, with future seasons of training, to my absolute physical and mental limit.

As with all goals it is important to break them into manageable chunks, and thus my current training will focus on milestones necessary to run a mile in less than 5 minutes.

Increasing My Mileage

12-18 February 2018

Monday – workout #20

4x ¾ mile at 5:30-6:10 per mile pace with 2½ minute walking/standing recoveries

I used a long stretch of country lane, usually quiet, to run my intervals.
Rather than check my sportswatch I focused on my high knee lift and breathing. I knew that my tempo pace would be tough but manageable. I kept my pace steady so that my breathing was close to the edge of becoming exhausted gasping.
I felt strong and my rest breaks were more than adequate.
On the last two reps I felt closer to losing my rhythm so I consciously made slight adjustments.
At times the traffic forced me onto the grassy banks but I kept my concentration.
Despite the four rest days last week I felt some niggles on the outside of my lower legs.
My times were also more erratic than I wanted but remain positive.

Thursday – workout #21

6x approx. ½ mile at tempo pace (5:40-6:00 per mile) with 3-4 sprints interspersed throughout, with 2-2½ minutes walking recoveries between laps

I was excited to run a different type of workout at my club night.
I ran in a ‘train’ of three runners around a local lake, where the runner at the back would sprint to the front.
The pace was a consistent tempo, and the 3-4 sprints per lap were less than 50m each.
I felt strong throughout and knew I always had more to give.
I encouraged my teammates to continue to work hard.
The winding route kept bunching us up but the shorter sprints meant we could maintain a fluid rhythm.
At the last bend of the final lap I ran hard with another runner to finish the session strong.

Saturday – workout #22

3x 1 mile at 5:30-5:50 per mile pace with 2½ minute walking recoveries

I wanted to test myself over the distance again. But not at 95-99% of my max.
I changed my mind from 4 to 3 reps when I felt slight niggles in my legs during the warm-up.
I was confident though that 5:30 miles could be run without excessive effort.
I stayed in control, keeping an even pace along slightly undulating paths, roads and grasses.
Only in the mid-section of the reps did I feel I was close to building lactate in my legs.
I noticed my left hand was tense at times so I consciously relaxed it, and used my arms to drive me forward.
It was only the last rep that I struggled to maintain my pace. Otherwise it was a strong performance, and a great indicator for my future efforts.

One Mile Challenge: Week 7

My three harder workouts amounted to 9.14 miles (52 mins and 40 secs) within a pace range of 5:30-6:10 min per mile. During the week I enjoyed a rest day (Wednesday) and three days of easy running (Tuesday, Friday and Sunday) accumulating over 18.25 miles.

Although the increased ‘recovery’ miles did fatigue me I was pleased to return to training with renewed vigour this week. I now know I need to practice and improve my speed endurance for the remaining weeks of my challenge.

Resting to Recharge

5- 11 February 2018

Monday – workout #18

5x 0.4 mile at 5:05-5:40 per mile pace with 2½ minute walking recoveries

I deliberately paced myself sensibly for the first two reps around my familiar patch of grass. Although still tough I felt I was holding back a little.
My times were almost exactly as I expected*.
Despite the slow walking between reps my breathing became uncontrollable and my legs heavier by my third rep.
I still ran as aggressive as I could but my pace for the remaining reps were nearer my tempo pace than maximum velocity pace.
I was easy on myself though, reminding myself that last week revealed my growing fatigue that I still hadn’t corrected.
I decided not to punish my body any further.

Wednesday – workout #19

3x 4 fartlek reps of fast running (at 4:45-5:30 per mile pace) of 20-45 seconds with easy recovery jogging in between, with 2-3 minutes active recoveries between sets

I didn’t feel my regular springy self. But I forced myself out.
I knew I would be resting the rest of the week.
I led my running group at work from the front as usual.
First we charged hard up a short but steep hill.
We recovered back down, then headed fast along a longer flatter stretch of pathway.
We jogged back to the start again and repeated the hill.
The final stretch was the shortest and slightly downhill.
In between the three sets we undertook a mix of deep squats and single leg squats.
Although I stayed strong throughout I consciously held back, not attempting my top speed.
I was more pleased that my fatigue would end as I my short break from running was now due.

One Mile Challenge: Week 6

I only accumulated 3.17 miles (16 mins and 53 secs) during my two hard workouts, recording 4:45-5:37 min per mile pace. However, I knew my body needed adequate recovery and therefore during the week I enjoyed four rest days (Thursday – Sunday) and one day of easy running (Tuesday) amounting to over 5.25 miles.

Although mentally challenging I am pleased that I was disciplined to let my body adapt to the stresses I had placed on it since the start of the year. To keep myself active I walked a lot and committed to exercising my core most days. I also frequently stretched my lower body.


* 1 mile goal race pace is 5:00 per mile.

Racing to Celebrate Family Time

11.03.2012
Race day held special significance for me; my fiancée and I were celebrating our recent engagement with our families. It was the first time our families had met, and I was grateful that they were supporting my running.
We drove part of the route as we headed to race headquarters at Colchester United Football Club’s new stadium. The undulations made me nervous. I was only months away from my final university exams so my training had not been as intense as I had wanted.
My warm-up was also inadequate, too distracted talking with family, and a fellow racer and colleague.
I did not have to wait long on the start line. The early section of the course was downhill and had few spectators. I felt free and fast until we met a steep hill heading into town. The energy in my legs was sapped but the large crowds motivated me.
Everything was familiar until we ran along country lanes through villages. The strain on my ankles and calves became severe. Runners passed me but I stayed focused on the long rural road ahead.
I still made my trademark sprint to the finish line, except I misjudged the distance and needed to move fast again before the end.


Rather than a race to improve my personal best, the day was an experience to unite my family.

It was the first race in which I had to tackle multiple hills, and with inadequate training I found the course tough.

Interestingly it taught me that setting and beating self-imposed running targets should not always be the aim. The moments spent with family in a local, yet unfamiliar area still provide lasting memories.

Struggling for Speed Consistency

29 January – 4 February 2018

Monday – workout #14

6x ¼ mile at 4:30-5:10 per mile pace with 2½ minute walking/standing recoveries, then 3x ½ mile at 5:40-5:55 per mile pace with 2½ minute walking/standing recoveries, with 5 minutes walking recovery between sets

I returned to the same grass ‘track’ as yesterday’s time-trial.
I was conscious of continuing my consistent fast pacing.
Only I set off too fast.
Despite my self-talk during my recoveries I kept finishing my single laps hard.
This meant that after three reps I was working harder to actually finish slower than my intended goal mile pace*.
I was disappointed by the end of my sixth rep.
But I still wanted to run hard so I ran more reps, this time for two laps each. Although the average pace was far below my expectations, I persevered.
I felt better because I knew I had paced myself better and still maintained a sprint along the final straight.
My last rep was the fastest of the three.

Wednesday – workout #15

Fartlek sets of easy, tempo and fast running at various distances accumulating 5x 0.1 mile at 4:10-5:00 per mile pace and 5x 0.13-0.3 miles at 5:18-5:49 per mile pace with active recoveries at various paces

I again ran with my running group at work.
This time we used a familiar figure of eight circuit in a local park, interspersing easy running with bursts of tempo pace and sprints.
I enjoyed leading from the front, quickening my stride with ease along the bends, and feeling strong as I sprinted on the final straight.
Each section of running was controlled and although it was a much easier workout than recent efforts I was pleased with my raw speed.

Thursday – workout #16

2x (½ mile, ¼ mile, ⅛ mile at 4:25-5:15 per mile pace with 2½ minute standing/walking recoveries) with 5 minute walking recovery between sets

I used a quiet stretch of grass I had never run on before.
I felt confident with the challenge, allowing myself enough time to recover between reps.
There were undulations on the course and the bends were sharper than I wanted them to be.
But I ran hard throughout.
I checked my reps during my recovery periods.
Although my first rep was not as quick as I expected I refused to let it negatively affect me.
I did my best to keep my shoulders relaxed.
After my first set my stomach felt painful.
It didn’t subside as I tackled the second half of my workout, working as close to my one mile pace as I could without pushing myself to my limits.

Sunday – workout #17

2 mile time-trial at a perceived even pace.

After my recent 5 km club time-trial I chose to pursue my personal best at the two mile distance.
My last hard workout was three days ago and I felt confident I could get close to the 5:39 per mile pace I set in December 2016.
I used a figure of eight circuit near my home.
Conditions were windy and cold, with the grass a little muddy.
I wanted to be conscious of my pace throughout so I checked my pace.
By the end of the second lap I was struggling.
I ran the first mile in line with my personal best pace.
But despite pushing on I could not prevent my pace from falling.
Even my fiancée taking photographs of me could not inspire to run faster.
By the fourth and final lap I developed a stitch. I ignored it, along with my sports watch, and just tried to hang on.
I charged over the line to record an average mile pace of 6:00.
I would ordinarily be disappointed but accepted that fatigue from my five weeks of intense training had taken a toll on me.

One Mile Challenge: Week 5

During the week I also enjoyed a rest day (Saturday) and two days of easy running (Tuesday and Friday) amounting to over 6.45 miles.

I accumulated 8.25 miles (44 mins and 47 secs) during my four hard workouts, recording 4:09-6:01 min per mile pace. My maximum heart rate recorded was 194 bpm.


* 1 mile goal race pace is 5:00 per mile.

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

First Signs of Progress

22-28 January 2018

Monday – workout #10

4x 0.25 mile at a range of 1 minute slower and faster than 1 mile goal race pace* with 1¼ minute walking/standing recoveries)
5 minute walking recovery
4x 0.12 mile at a range of 30 seconds slower and faster than 1 mile goal race pace* with 1 minute walking/standing recoveries)

After another 3 days of rest I was desperate to run.
I kept my sports tape on my right leg, as it was still not fully healed.
I shot off for my first lap, smashing my quarter-mile personal best by over 4 seconds [1:04.66].
Predictably the remaining 3 reps were a struggle.
My pace dropped even though my legs were working hard.
I wanted to redeem myself so I ended the session with shorter bursts.
Once again my times were inconsistent, despite the constant discomfort in my stomach.
Interestingly I didn’t use any internal mantras to support my running. This was a contributing factor to my erratic performance.

Wednesday – workout #11

Pyramid sets of approx. 4x 30, 4x 45 and 2x 60 seconds with jogging recoveries of 1½ – 2½ minutes at a range of 15 seconds slower and faster than 1 mile goal race pace*

I ran with my running group at work.
The path through the park was flat.
I led from the front, conscious of not running at my maximum.
At times I used the grass verge to avoid collisions with walkers.
I also slipped on the mud at the start of one rep, but regained my front running position.
I stayed focused, using approximate markers to keep my consistency.
By the last rep the rain was pelting down but I didn’t slow.
The group leader reminded me of “becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable”.
The workout, and my training thus far, has epitomised this principle.

Thursday – workout #12

5 km time-trial at a perceived even pace.

On a calm night I tackled the same route around the perimeter of my local industrial estate.
I felt confident I could beat my previous time a month ago.
I told myself to “show up”.
I had different competition this time, with s