Not a Lot of Fun on The Royal Military Canal

Both fitflo and jogblog have noticed my absence and have been kind enough to send out a search party.

I’m still here, quietly dabbling with Janathon, which of course is not the point – Janathon is supposed to be shouted about on a daily basis.

20140119-232041.jpgThere has been some daily form of exercise happening. This weekend for example, was given over to hiking as the London2Brighton training has started in earnest again. From now until May I will have to gradually increase my weekend walks until I can happily skip my way across 100km of the South Downs. Given that neither Lynn or I actually enjoy walking, that should make for a few grumpy weekends.

We tried to make the most of the first training hike by booking into our favourite sea-front hotel in Hastings, and spent the first evening plotting what appeared to be, an exciting 11 mile route along the Royal Military Canal. The walk sounded exciting and a touch romantic.

20140120-083231.jpgWe managed a little enthusiasm at the first WWII pill box but very soon descended into a downward facing trudge. The canal was monotonous and it was a cold day, which never helps. The ground was so slippery that it was constant battle to keep your feet from sliding back and losing ground.

I won’t go on with the moaning or you will soon find yourself joining the funk.

20140119-232051.jpgI woke the next day with thighs that carried the pains of at least twice the distance walked. My daily commute has clearly not been preparing me well for sliding across grassy trails with 20kg of excess mud attached to my cleats.

Today was a much brighter day and we celebrated with a more leisurely stroll along the sea front.

An Icy Thrill

I’ve written off three pairs of shoes in the last month and have come perilously close to not having the right shoe for the job since then.

20140112-232438.jpgToday’s run on Mitcham Common was crying out for a hardcore trail shoe that could spit in the face of mud and other soggy park crud. Fortunately I took delivery of a replacement pair of Inov8 Roclites yesterday and they sounded like they could cope with all Mitcham had to throw at them.

It was a lovely run, with our efforts exhaled like misty clouds against the bleak common. We ran on, crunching through the frosty grass and cracking through frozen puddles, trying to avoid turning our ankles on frozen clods.

20140112-232453.jpgThe far end of the common must have seen more than its fair share of sun as the ground turned soft and then wet and then gave way to a faux river. I love splashing around, so ran straight through, enjoying the thrill of icy water between my toes while Lynn held back. She seemed to be intimating that there was no way she was going to continue but I’d gone on and could no longer hear her complaints.

20140112-232503.jpgAfter some lengthy consideration, which I like to think was accompanied by rhythmic clapping, she began the run up for a rather impressive triple jump. She hop, skipped and darn near flew over the soggy obstacle and we were on for lap two.

I love winter running.

It doesn’t half play havoc with your shiny new shoes though.

Trying to Resist the Promise of Speed Enhancing Shoes

I’ve had to set the parental controls to block my own access to QVC as I have a tendency to fall prey to a hard sell. In fact, if they pick the right product range I’m a pushover for an extremely soft sell. My particular weaknesses are cleaning products and running gadgets. Cleaning products promise to clean the house for me and running gadgets make me feel as though, one day, I may finish a 5k in under 30 mins. Good money has followed bad and yet I still have dust on the shelves and an ancient 5k PB the wrong side of 33 mins.

Airia One Running ShoeI’ve spotted another experimental running shoe and I’m struggling to resist.

I can see that they would make me look like one of the shoemaker’s elves but they might also increase my running speed. I think the Swedish inventor is claiming a modest 1% improvement and although that won’t take me very much closer to the 30 minute target – every little helps as they say.

The Airia One has been 20 years in the making, which is a phenomenal length of time to spend obsessing about a pair of shoes. It is designed to mimic the motion of a wheel so the foot rolls away in the perfect Pose form. With their strange upturned toes the shoes do look a little like they’ve been carved out of a car tyre but nonetheless I would love to try them out.

The Airia One is currently available for pre-order if you are prepared to back the production.

Gadget Snobbery

I’m a confessed gadget snob, always chasing the next best thing in the running world (*). In contrast, Lynn is from the make do and mend side of society. I’m a little jealous, it’s the right way to be, but I seem unable to resist the lure of sporty bling.

She has however, caved in to the lure of statistical gadgetry and bought a GPS watch. While I’m lusting after the latest £360 running gadget, Lynn ignored all my advice and went for a bottom of the range Forerunner 10 – the model doesn’t even hit triple digits so it’s got to be duff, surely?

Garmin Forerunner 910XT vs Forerunner 10It arrived, and looked decidedly basic. I had a little play around and sneered as I didn’t require a manual to suss out the screens. Basic with a capital B.

Today we went out for a “round the block” run. Me with my Forerunner 910XT (Triathlete super model), Lynn with her play school style 10. Both gadgets locked onto satellites within seconds, they synchronously beeped at km intervals and at the end of the run we were within 2 metres of total recorded distance.

I sat down, content with a run completed when the cheapo watch let out another chirrup and declared “Fastest Mile achieved”. My watch remained silent on the subject. On further investigation the Forerunner 10 revealed itself to be a mine of personal statistic heaven. There were records of the fastest km, mile, 10k and the longest distance achieved. I flicked through the myriad screens on the 910XT but to no avail – personal statistics were not available.

Of course Lynn’s watch is not multisport enabled – my forerunner was able to tell me that I haven’t swum in about a year and haven’t cycled since I received it last xmas. You can’t get that sort of info on a forerunner 10!

* Should Santa be listening, this is currently the Garmin Forerunner 620 and I’m happy to announce, this model does include personal statistics!

The Groundhog Trail Run

This weekend I reasserted the joy of doing the same thing in the same place at the same time.

It was our anniversary weekend, which for the past 4 years has meant a trip to a West Sussex Yurt where we run a bit, get muddy and then get warm in front of the log burner.

I’ve grown to love the familiarity and routine of our groundhog weekend. This time round we inadvertently drove past a school fete that housed the same plant stall we visited on our first anniversary. I bought the self-same plant from the very nurseryman that sold me the ill-fated, tender, plectranthus from the first year. I’ve pre-warned him now and he’s promised to propagate an extra one, just in case, for next year.

One thing I do like to shake up is my run routes. I’d plotted an 8k loop around Weir Water reservoir but as we pulled up into the car park the relentless downpour left us rather less than eager to leave the car. Circumnavigational loops require guts. They suit adventurers who are prepared to burn their bridges and just venture forward into the unknown. I like an obvious escape plan, preferably with a short cut option.

We returned to the warmth of our log burner and as the weather had calmed down ventured out again for an out and back route directly from the campsite. The Sussex Ouse Valley path runs straight through our campsite and turned out to be a delightful route.

It was wet and boggy but the scenery was inspired and so varied that you couldn’t resist the joy of the run. We very quickly got into the spirit of playful trail running and bounced and splashed our way through gulleys and streams.

Fallen Trees

The sun was setting as we left, and as the route took us through clumps of dense forest we were nervous of the night sealing us in. We went as far as we dared before turning back and attempting to retrace out steps.

The previous weeks storm had laid down a few hazards for us, so it formed a perfect training run for next springs Wolf Run.

This Sussex Ouse Valley Way is relatively new long distance route, covering 42 miles from Lower Beeding to Seaford. We completed 6 miles but we will definitely be back next year to add a few extra miles to a very welcome new routine.

FAAS 600S from Puma

Puma Faas 600S running shoe

I haven’t worn a standard running shoe in years. Nowadays I tend to favour the more extreme ends of the market, oscillating between the uber cushioned Hoka One One to the minimalist Vibram FiveFingers. The closest I come to normal is my current treadmill shoe of choice, the Cloudsurfer On but even these have a gimicky cachet.

In the old days when Asics Gel Kayano was my staple running shoe, I used to look forward to the new shoe high. I could rely on that first, out-of-the-box run to be a highlight of my running year, full of cloud hopping visualisations and moon bounding strides.

Puma Faas 600S running shoeI’m afraid to say, the Puma Faas 600S was an entirely underwhelming shoe. It may smack you in the face with its brassy colours but on the foot it was all a bit too meh. Neither cushioned, flat or minimally stylish it just sapped me of all new shoe joy.

It didn’t help that the fit was a little too snug for me. There is an extra padded strip around the heel which feels like you are being pinched between finger and thumb and while some may enjoy the structured feel, I just felt a bit trussed up and constrained. As Susan Partridge describes in the video, the Puma FAAS 600 are stability shoes, designed specifically for women who should have sleeker and slenderer feet than our male counterparts. I clearly have tomboy feet.

The Puma Faas range of running shoes have a sliding scale of structure and cushioning from the Faas 100 super minimal speed shoes to the Faas 900 aimed at those that seek comfort over speed. The Faas 600 are therefore in the middle ground, light, nippy and with a modicum of cushioning to remove the harsh ground feel so favoured by the barefoot types.

In summary, I think a narrow heeled speed demon with a penchant for bold colours would love these shoes, a more sturdy, back of the pack plodder would do well to hunt out a pair of Hoka One Ones.

Practically a Proper Runner

Two years after starting the course at the Running School, I am finally in a position to share the results.

I had my last session on Monday and while I expected to nip in, take a quick video and escape, I was actually taken through a gruelling interval session honing my posture while sprinting up a mega incline. I’m surprised I had the energy for the after shot.

Last time I went to Battersea Running School I attempted (without success) to bluff my way through the stability tests. This time there was a noticeable improvement, I could raise my hips without my pelvis rocking too and fro and that can only be down to the weight training sessions with Julia Buckley. Marvellous.

It’s been a fascinating experience and well worth the £200 outlay. Comparing my running stance I can see that before I used to run from the knees with very little hip extension. In order to cover any distance I would flick my leg forward from the knee and take a long stride, landing with my heel well out in front of my centre of gravity.

As you can see very clearly from the after shots, I am now cycling with my legs, showing an impressive heel and knee raise and managing to land almost under my centre of gravity. I could do to loosen my hip flexors a bit more to encourage an even straighter posture but as it is, I am still amazed to see myself running like a proper runner.

All I need now is an improved bra and the running world could well be my oyster.

H2Glow Illuminating Water Bottle

As an urban runner and more accurately, an urban, treadmill runner, I am rarely troubled by darkness.

I have occasionally driven through the unlit countryside and experienced darkness from the safety of my car. With limited footpaths and minimal street lighting, outdoor running becomes an extreme adrenaline sport in the country and I’m not sure I’d have the guts for it after the clocks go back. You wouldn’t catch me running in the dark country lanes without full body day-glo and a set of xmas lights wrapped around my arms and legs.

H2GlowI was sent a flashing water bottle from H2Glow last week that could be just the ticket for night runners that want to make sure they are seen. It’s a simple design with a flashing LED in the lid which lights up the fluoro bottle. It’s pretty jazzy and remarkably bright. I’ll be stashing mine away for next years attempt at the London2Brighton, it will be perfect for the night stages.

They make similar bottles for cyclists which is an excellent idea for commuters.


London 10k Training

Many people will have been inspired by today’s heroic efforts along The Mall and for those not tempted by the full marathon distance you can still enjoy some of London’s finest sights in a more manageable distance.
This guest post from Bupa, highlights the Bupa 10,000 and provides tips for 10k training.

Summary: From beginners to elites like Mo Farah – we all need to train for a 10k race. Read on to find out how to get ready for this year’s Bupa London 10,000.

Whether you’ve still got Olympic fever or are simply looking to get fit – a 10k run can be the perfect way to test your stamina.

10km has become the distance of choice for runners in Britain; being both long enough to provide a challenge whilst remaining an attainable goal for committed joggers. However don’t be fooled into thinking that a 10k will be a walk in the park, a rigorous training schedule is essential in the lead-up to the race, especially if you are new to running.

The Bupa London 10,000 is one of the most popular road races in the country and the ideal event for beginners to enter the world of athletics. If you’re thinking of running the iconic course in 2013, read on to find out how best to train for its challenges.

Bupa 10,000 route

Protect your feet

You’ll probably be clocking up hundreds of miles during your training so look after the things that will carry you through – your feet.

Do you know what type of feet you have? It might sound like an odd question but there is an array of different kinds of trainers to match your gait. Over pronators (people who favour the inside of their feet) and under pronators (those who prefer the outside edge) need different kinds of support to maximize their training and prevent injury.

Get ready to train

Running might be one of the most basic human motions, but you need to start slowly.

Dynamic stretching is the best way to get your body ready for 10k training, helping to get your blood pumping and familiarizing muscles with forthcoming movements. Lunges, leg kicks and lying scorpions are all great examples that will help prevent strains or pulls.

Training partners

Running is the ultimate individual sport but many people enjoy the company and motivation gained from training with a buddy. If you and a friend have both entered the London 10,000 then it might help you both to train together. Or if you’d prefer training in a larger group, there are countless beginners’ running clubs across the country to help you stay on target.

Pick your Program

There are a multitude of training programmes to choose from, but the best approach is to start your first few runs without any guidance, just go for it and find your own pace. You can then select a training program to suit you.  This will help you train safely and set realistic goals that are achievable. Bupa has a range of training plans available to choose from.

Replicate race conditions

The Bupa London 10,000 course runs through some of the most iconic and interesting parts of the capital. The race course itself is mostly on flat ground, meaning speed rather than hill work will be more beneficial in your training regime. Taking part in a couple of other races of varying distances in the build-up to the Bupa London 10,000 event will also help acclimatise you to the hustle and bustle of running alongside hundreds or even thousands of others. Bupa’s race events range from 5km to half marathons. While it’s good to make sure that you’re comfortable running 5km first before the London 10,000, keep in mind that rest days in between race practices are just as important in order to keep running injuries at bay.

Train like an athlete – act like an athlete

To make the most of the Bupa London 10,000, you might consider doing more than just running. Your training will mean you burn a lot of calories, so it’s vital you eat before and after a run. Whole grains, lean meats and fruit and vegetables will provide you with a balanced nutritional diet that will help maximise the benefits of your training.  Ensuring you get enough sleep is also vital to guarantee that your muscles and body are able to recover from your exertions.

What are your top training tips for the Bupa London 10,000?

Sophisticated Ladies Run for Bolly

Back in 2007, at my first Bushy Park Run I was introduced to two women who exposed me to the joys of sophisticated running. I’ve never been a stranger to the pleasure of a post run Stella but these two raised the bar with their post run champagne and canapes.

Surrey Housewives run for Bolly

When you get invited to a Surrey Housewife (SHS) event, I strongly recommend you make an effort to attend – even if it involves a disturbingly early start and a gruelling run.

SHS 250Today’s event was the Bushy parkrun. A quick scan through my running logs reveals that I have attended the sum total of 19 parkruns over the last 6 years.

Today’s event was not about my 19th run but Suzan and Carol’s 250th parkrun.

Thats 250 5k’s each and 250 missed lie ins.

An amazing 1006 other runners joined them for the run and were rewarded at the end with a celebratory glass of fizz and a cream bun. I was a teeny bit slow for the cream bun stall but I’ll settle for champagne any day.

Congratulations Carol and Suzan – and don’t think I didn’t notice the pre-race cocktail, I reckon I could be persuaded to add that to my usual run routine.