Be more Tortoise …

I saw this sign the other night while I was running along the Regents canal, I know it’s aimed at cyclists (the speed they go along there is truly unbelievable) but it made me think about my running.

Am I more tortoise then hare ? Well I’d have to say yes … I have pretty average PBs for the race distances I’ve done and I’m never going to worry anybody at the front of the pack, but I do enjoy a gentle run while taking in what’s going on around me . I sometimes run along watching other runners with their heads down flying along not taking any notice to what’s going on around them, a bit like those people that walk along with there heads in their mobile phones. I’ve always thought that

a) it’s probably a bit dangerous

b) where is the enjoyment

c) what are these people actually doing ?

I understand the importance of speed / tempo workouts, but do you need to do this on every run ? In one of my favourite films, Ferris Buellers Day Off,  he said something that really stuck with me and I sometimes thinks about while running

” Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”

This is so true about a lot of things in life but it really hits me most about running. So next time you reach the top of a hill, or run along a new route, or discover a new interesting building  … stop and look around, enjoy it as you only discover something for the first time once, so don’t lose that moment or it will be gone forever.



Return to the woods. 

On Monday night I did my usual 8 mile run commute home from work, but for some reason it felt different ! 

Why did it feel different ? 

Well for some reason I am completely worn out, I have followed all of my usual post race  recovery steps, resting a bit more, adding in a bit of cross training to use different muscle groups, even slowing down my runs a bit and generally taking it a much easier, but it felt like I had just ran a marathon on Monday night, and that was only at the 3 mile mark !

I am not the sort of  person to kick back and relax, when I see people run past me I  think that could be me, why am I not out doing something. I also hate getting the train home from work, why sit in that packed and smelly tin can when there are river and canal paths to run home along, parks to explore and roads that are just calling me as I go past to see where they lead.

Therefore this weekend I am going to find a trail somewhere, pop in my headphones, exnore my Garmin and just run for the love of it, because the day  I stop enjoying running along tree lined paths, a woodland single track, or running up a hill just because it’s there, is the day that my running shoes will be tossed in the bin forever. 

What did I learn from my first Ultra

It’s been a few weeks now since I finished my first ultra marathon and I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I have learned from this experience, and more for myself (and possibly anyone reading this that might take something from my thoughts) I thought I would do a little list.

1. I DO NOT EAT PROPERLY WHILE RUNNINGI think a lot of people might be guilty of this but I just don’t eat enough while running, I know you get your energy from the whole calorie in verses calorie out thing but I just find it hard to put food in my mouth. Therefore I think I need to experiment with different types of food or even Tailwind (I’ve heard good things about this product) to see how I get on with them until I find something that works for me. 

2. PACINGThere’s a saying I’ve heard about ultras “whatever pace you start at, your probably going to fast” and I think this is correct. I felt really good for the first 20 miles but looking back at Strava it does seem like I started off a bit to fast, but this gets solved with practice, practice and more practice. 

3. I NEED TO RUN MORE HILLS I live in London and its relatively flat, but I need to dedicate more time to finding a hill and running up and down it, very boring I know but I also know it’s going to have a positive effect on my running. Should I have a day when I just look at elevation and ignore distance?

4. LONELINESS-I love going out for long runs, but I also find going out for 3-4 hours at a time very lonely. Yes I listen to my IPod, singing along like a strange person or laughing out loud at podcasts, but it’s still lonely. Are there clubs for ultra runners ? Would I enjoy joining a club ? (I haven’t before because I find them a bit elitist). Or do I embrace the peace and quiet and just enjoy the beauty of the run ? Every time I think I have an answer to this question I step back, think about it and feel I’m no further forward.

5. TIME IS RELATIVE – I was out on that course for nearly 15 hours ! I still can’t get my head around that because I can safely say that it didn’t feel like it. How do i train for that in the future ? You can’t really go out for 10 hour training runs and I think this will play on my mind when my training is underway for my next ultra (and there will be one) 

6. I WANT TO TRY SOFT FLASK WATER BOTTLES – For no other reason then it seemed I was the only person not using them !!!! So there must be something in it. 

These are just a few things that have popped into my head recently, but I’m sure the more I think about it the more questions I will have, and the more questions that I have the less answers I will know … but I suppose that’s half the fun of running. 

Race to the Stones

Last year, after I finished running the London Marathon, I sat down and thought to myself “where do I go from here ? How do I step up the challenge  ?” I love trail running so I decided that I was going to do more of it, but then I thought about the types of races you do on trails and I immediately thought of an ultra marathon.

I started to research races online and decided to sign up for one of the Threshold Series because they looked so we’ll organised and supported, so the day the entries to Race to the Stones opened I entered immediately. So what is Race to the Stones ? It’s a 100km race from Lewknor to the Avebury Stone circle along The Ridgeway which can be done over 1 or 2 days, but me being me I signed up for the one day event and started planning my training.

As always I completely over complicated every aspect of my training plan, I convinced myself that I wasn’t doing enough even though I had ran 2 marathons and more half marathons then even I wanted to count between January and June. The time came to start my tapper and I immediately started to worry about how undertrained I was, even to the point of thinking about pulling out ! But after chatting to a few friends I decided to at least give it a go (and the hotel and Cattery were booked so at least it was a weekend away)

So off I went to Devizes, a little town about 7 miles from the finish line that I thought would be a good base because it had things for my wife to do while I was running (i.e shopping), little did I know that the local celebrity band was playing in the pub I was staying in on the Friday night, so there was not a lot of sleeping to be had and ear plugs would have been very welcome.

I was up before the crack of dawn with less then 3 hours sleep, I tried to get a bit of porridge down me along with a strong up of coffee to wake me up, and then into my waiting taxi for a quick ride over to the finish line where I got a coach to the start (if a coach ride takes 90 minutes you know your in for a long run). After a quick race briefing and a interesting fact about the course (a nice touch I thought) and we were off, I kept telling myself to slow down for the first few miles but once you get in a line of runners on single track you don’t really have a choice but to go at the same pace as everyone around you, but before I knew it we were into the first pit stop. The rest of the run into the 50km base camp just flew by, the Ridgeway is quite beautiful in places but I’ve got to say that I did get a bit feed up with seeing Didcot power station for most of the first half, not getting any bigger or smaller, just sitting there which I found a bit disheartening.

The 50km camp had a massive food tent, so knowing I had a long day ahead I stopped for a pasta dinner and a cup of coffee, which was both very welcome as I was getting a bit cold because of the rain for most of the morning. After quickly using the facilities I was back on my way, a lot of people had stopped at the over night camp to do the run over 2 days so the number of people running had really thinned out, which made a lot of the last 50km very lonely. I spoke to a few people as we were running and at the pit stops but didn’t really stay with them for very long which was mentally very hard work. As the night begin to draw in I knew it was now very unlikely that I was going to finish in daylight, but my aim to get back to the pub before they closed the bar was still on, so I dug deep and pushed myself well beyond any limits that I thought I had. With a mile to go I passed the turning to the finish and ran to the stone circle to have my picture taken and then turned back the way I came to get to the finish line, I had been warned about this but still thought it was a bit cruel on the part of the organisers. As I got to the finish line I heard my wife call out to me, I ran over to give her a kiss and them crossed the finish line to be completely overwhelmed with emotion about what I had achieved. 

I made it back to the pub to a very welcome pint before the bar closed, and it was on the house so it went down even better. Sitting in the bar people were asking me what I had just done and when I was explaining that I had just ran 62 miles the looks on their faces were ones of shock and horror along with the comments like “I don’t even like driving that far”. 

Overall I really enjoyed this event, the pit stops were very well managed with a wide choice of food and drinks along with very encouraging volunteers working hard to make sure that all the runners and walkers were well looked after, there were even people out in the course cheering us on which I was not expecting. The route was well marked which I was very pleased about because I can get lost running 10km so I was a bit concerned about running 100km. Now I can say I am an ultra runner, and to be truthful I think this could just be the start of it.

The start of something new

Well… the end of 2016 is upon us and what have I achieved with my running over the past 12 months ? I’ve ran over 2000 miles, I have 2 more marathons under my belt, found a lovely new half marathon which is going to become a regular on my calendar, a few new races that I’ve found challenging, and a old favourite that I couldn’t imagine not doing, but most of all I’ve found a new love … trail running.

I’ve always enjoyed getting out there on the trails but it’s really taken off this year, I ran a sort of trail marathon this year (along the Thames path) and enjoyed every step of it. I now look forward to Sunday’s when I can get my backpack on and go and explore. I love the feeling of finding new things, running though the mud and woods, reaching the top of hills to find fantastic views but most of all I love the freedom.

Freedom … some people will ask what I mean by this and I’ve got to say I have become a lot less obsessed with the data on my Garmin, so much so I’ve changed the screen to a different format. I’m not so worried about pace anymore and have started looking more at things like elevation and heart rate.  While I will always enjoy a road race, and running on the roads is a must to get training done, I now think of that as time I’ve spent to improve the time I can spend on trails.

I’ve enjoyed my new found guilty pleasure so much I’ve signed up to my first ultra marathon in 2017, I must be completely out of my mind (and lots of people have pointed this out) but I’m really looking forward to running my first 100km in the summer. I have so many questions about how I should go about it, so many things to try out and loads of new places I want to run. I haven’t a clue how it’s going to go but I’m going to start writing in my blog more again and keep you updated.

Anything you would like to throw out there in the way of advise (apart from don’t do it) feel free to comment, in my book you never stop learning so I truly welcome it, or follow my Instagram or Twitter accounts (links are in my blog) to see in pictures how it’s going.

Wish me luck …

I do enjoy a challenge. 

Like most runners I speak to I’ve got to say that I do enjoy a challenge, the question is how do we challenge ourselves with things that will help us to push and improve ourselves as runners,  but not be totally unachievable, because if you total miss your goals this can become demoralising and have a negative effect on our training.

The thing that we probably push ourselves the most with is racing, which is as a long term goal which involves a set period of training usual over many weeks or months, but I  like to also try to and set myself short term goals just to keep me on top of my training. One way I like to do this is by entering challenges on Strava. While Strava is mostly considered a cycling app I find that the running challenges can be very beneficial to my training therefore every month I enter the total distance, 10km and half marathon challenges but recently I have started entering the hill climbing challenge as well.

This month for example I have signed up to run 3500 metres of hill climbing, now I can hear all you people that live in the countryside with big rolling hills saying “is that all ?” but I live in London, which is not a place that is well known for its hills, but now every time I get out for a run I am actively looking for hills. Will this help my running ? its to early to tell at the moment but I’m certainly doing more hill climbing then Ive done in years, is it driving all of the people I run with crazy because I’m now always looking for hilly routes or shouting “oh there’s a hilly over there shall we go that way ?” …  probably……. but as I said to one friend the other day “when they run a hilly race, they will be thanking me”

I also belong to two running groups on Strava called UK marathon chat and UK run chat which both have a weekly distance challenges were you can compare how your doing against other runners (and both are brilliant twitter groups were people can exchange tips, answer questions and general help support other runners) I find this does motivate me to get out the door some days knowing that if I get that run in I can see myself jump up that leader board a few places. It also sometimes has me sitting there staring at the computer in total amazement at some of the distances people run in a week !

I feel that challenging myself more will not only improve my running but also improve my confidence while running, I have already began looking at hills a lot more positively,  where they used to worry me a bit I now feel more relaxed about them and have learned, what I think, is a very important lesson ….. sometimes you are running up a hill at the same speed you could walk it, so walk it ! there’s no shame in it and the energy that you save getting up at the same speed only  makes that downhill a bit more enjoyable.

The run commute

I used to have trouble fitting training into my busy day and the thought of getting up at the crack of dawn to go running just didn’t appeal to me and then one day it hit me … why not use all that time I spend sitting (but mostly standing) on a packed train getting to or from work more constructively and run. 

I live 8 miles from my place of work and to be honest at the beginning I was a bit daunted by the idea of running, but needs must so I took the plunge. Now, according to Strava (and we all know if it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen), I’ve run to or from work over 100 times and I say that with a little bit of pride, but also it has been a hard learning curve into discovering some important things about the run commute that I felt like sharing.

1. Invest in a good quality rucksack, I have tried may different ones during my journey and each time I have discovered something important such as having  somewhere handy and easily accessible to keep your phone, you will get a call and it’s just annoying when your phone is in the bottom of your bag. Make sure your bag is waterproof or has a cover, I have got into work more then a few times to find wet clothes awaiting me in my bag, which is not a good start to the day. Make sure the bag has the capacity that’s right for you, I have had to big and to small and both are very annoying. And the most important, make sure it fits you correctly, to big and the bouncing will drive you crazy and to tight will just rub everywhere.

2. Explore, I’m always trying to find new routes home and now choose between about 5 or 6 routes ranging from 8 to 10 miles, saying that I’m also not afraid to cut a run short, you have to listen to your body and do what’s right for you on the day, yes it can be a bit annoying at the time but if things are not going well its the right thing to do to sometimes avoid injury.

3. I use the time run commuting to catch up on podcasts, I love listening to ultra running podcasts like The Ginger Runner and Ultra Runner Podcast who both do some really good interviews and reviews, but I don’t get to carried away with them because running the same route a lot can cause complacence and that leads to getting hurt and safety is always the most important thing.

4. If your training for a race incorporating your speed work into your run commute is, with a bit of planning, quite straight forward. Work out your wam up and cool down times and then divide the time in between for the session you have planned. Don’t have the time for that ! Then use traffic lights, road junctions or lamp posts as targets and sprint to them, use the next one as a cool down and then repeat, you’ll be surprised how well this works

5. Keep a change of clothes at work, you will never know when you will need them and they are always handy. 

The most important thing is to just enjoy it because without enjoyment in our running what’s the point ? Now get out there and give run commuting a go, you don’t know what your missing.