Saturday, 6 May 2017

The stuff of dreams

I went for my run this morning, some what earlier than has been the norm of late.  And as I coaxed these tired old legs to turn over, leaving a trail of footprints across the dew covered field.  The thought crossed my mind that Eliud Kipchoge was probably warming down at a quicker pace than this.

Prior to setting off on this run I had just been watching the Nike Breaking2 project's attempt to break 2 hours for the marathon.  In what was a phenomenal run Kipchoge just missed out with a time of 2.00.24.

Having followed a lot of the build up in the press etc.there had been some criticism of how the attempt had been structured and how it was part of a marketing ploy by Nike.  Whatever the motives behind the attempt it was still a piece of exceptional running.

I am being lazy here ( as I can't be bothered to check the fact) but I believe that in his quest to break the 4 minute barrier for the mile, Roger Bannister also employed a system of pace makers jointing the attempt at various stages, the year before he actually broke 4 minutes.

Could it be that Kipchoge, now that he knows he can run that fast can break 2 hours next year in a race?

Ah the stuff of dreams........

Friday, 28 April 2017

May 6th

May 6th is already a date synonymous with the world of athletics, as on that day in 1954, Roger Bannister was the first person to break the 4 minute mile barrier.

But could May 6th 2017 also become such a significant milestone day with the breaking of the 2 hour barrier for the marathon?

If it happens, it will not be recognised as a world record as the use of pacemakers who will step in and out when required and the staging of the event on the Monza Formula One track in Italy, rather than as a race, do not meet IAAF rules.

But, the Nike project Breaking 2 athletes Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa and Zerenay Tadese could prove that a sub 2 hour marathon is indeed possible.  To do this they will have to run an average pace of 4.34 per mile. 7 seconds a mile faster than Dennis Kimetto did when he set the current world record of 2hrs 2 minutes 57 seconds. 

Another area were IAAF rules may not be met are the Vaporfly Elite shoes that have been developed by Nike as part of the project.  Seemingly a special carbon fibre plate in the soles make the runner 4% more efficient than when wearing Nikes previous fastest marathon shoe.

IAAF rules state that shoes must not offer "any unfair additional assistance, including by the incorporation of any technology which will give the wearer any unfair advantage"

Although interestingly, I read somewhere, after this years London Marathon that Kenenisa Bekele attributed his problems mid race, when he dropped off the pace, to the foot positioning produced by his wearing a pair of the Vapourfly Elite and the resulting blistering of his feet. 

Whatever your views are on whether such projects are  the correct way to attack the 2 hour barrier or whether it should be left to natural progression.  It will be interesting to see if a sub 2 hour marathon will be achieved next weekend.

Friday, 21 April 2017

'Exercise is a Social Contagion'

A recent study of how sharing workout data influences people's fitness and achievements has been published.

Studying data over a five year period from over a million runners, researchers concluded that the sharing of personal fitness data over social networks pushed people to run both faster and farther.

Claiming that exercise is a "social contagion" and that including peers into your personal fitness regime is a huge motivator.

Interestingly, they also found that comparing ones own information to that of better runners wasn't as motivational as comparing data with less fit peers.  Possibly showing the need to stay ahead of 'slower' runners to be more motivational than chasing quicker ones?

The study also showed that while men were motivated by both other men and women to exercise harder, women seemed only to be motivated by other women.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

A shock to the system

Good Friday was the annual running of the Elswick Relays and I had managed to get myself onto the Vets B team.  The conditions were excellent for racing and I was setting off on first leg.

The course is a flat, fast 2.2 miles and having not raced for so long it came as a big shock.  A shock that was not helped by the fact that I missed the start  and ended up trying to play catch-up (not very successfully).  Although I didn't clock it, at least I know my actual running time was faster than the official 14.54.

Liam our second leg runner took us around  in 14.15, while Eric ran the third leg in 15.07 with Carl bringing us home as 25th Vets team in 16.00.

Despite the mishap of missing the start I still enjoyed the run and it was good to be racing again.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

A most diverse sport

Running as a sport, traditionally, has always been diverse in terms of disciplines, with the likes of track, road, cross country and fell running. As a whole these were only pursued by a small minority of the population.

Barriers began to be broken down in the 1970's with the first running boom and the advent of the 'fun run'.  Since then running has become a norm.  Nobody looks twice when they see a lycra clad figure running through the streets or through the woods. This growth in the number of people running has, as well as swelling the ranks of those participating in the traditional areas of the sport, also seen the explosion of a whole range of new events. Such as mud runs, colour runs, sky runs, adventure racing ................

A quick search on Google will turn up a whole host of lists of events such as "11 of the UK's Quirkiest races", "The top 10 fun runs to sign up to in the UK", "The world's coolest themed runs", plus an almost limitless list of more specialist events.

Figures, from America (Running USA) estimated that there were  4 million participants in themed races during 2013. a massive growth considering these types of races / runs barely existed prior to 2010.

Further reports from America ( show that obstacle races and mud runs were the most popular.  Following a survey of 1200 participants.

These events are fun and add variety to your racing calendar.  I have tried night races and a colour run and  enjoyed  both.

 Some of the innovations and ideas are now successfully entering 'main stream' events, such as Highgate Harriers 'Night of the 10,000m PB's' which included pacing assistance, photo finish and chip timing equipment, and a live band. Spectators are able to get up close to the action as after the gun goes the cordon is moved towards the inside lanes giving spectators a unique experience of being close to the competitors, creating an exciting atmosphere for the athletes.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

What's your killer session?

To be honest, at present all the sessions I am doing seem to be killing me but an old favourite (?) used to be 20 minute warm up followed by 20 min at 80% effort then up the pace and straight into 6 x 3 minutes - no recovery between the 20 minutes and first 3 minutes, but 2 minutes jog between the subsequent efforts.

I have just been reading through details of other such sessions at Where it lists Julian Goater's 'killer session' as 6 x (2x300m) repetitions on a slight gradient, where you run

downhill at a fast but comfortable pace, followed by 20 seconds recovery, then run back up the 300m.  The aim being to do the uphill section quicker or at least in the same time as the downhill section.

The same website also gives details of a track session Mo Farah completed in his build up to the 2015 World Championships:

All with 2 laps jog recovery and reps carried out at near maximal effort - 1 x mile; 1x1200m; 1x1000m; 1x800m; 1x600m; 1x400m; 1x 200m.

Sounds tough but the website also reports on the times he was doing for the reps:

1 x mile - 3.55; 1200m - 2.57; 1000m - 2.27; 800m - 1.57; 600m - 1.20; 400m - 50 seconds and 200m 25seconds.  Plus the fact that this session was carried out at altitude!

For us mere mortals the stuff of dreams.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Kielder Dark Sky 10km Trail Run

This is a night race so I donned my head torch and trail shoes and set my self for a new experience. It has been 6 months since my last race, so I was not sure what to expect.  Despite being determined to have an easy start and work my way into it I still started to quickly for my current fitness levels and found myself in oxygen debt by the time we reached the top of the first climb.

Starting and finishing at Kielder Castle, the roughly figure of 8 course heads out along forest trail before hitting a single track section.  Once at the top,  I eased down the hill to try and catch my breath as we descended and  crossed back through the finish area at 2.5km to start the larger loop.

According to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, the star studded skies above Kielder Water and Forest Park are the darkest in England.  But, star gazing was the last thing on my mind as we headed out through Viaduct Wood which runs alongside the River North Tyne and across Kielder Viaduct.  It was here that I started moving slowly up through the field.  Although there were big gaps between runners and I was running alone I was gaining on the bobbing lights that stretched in the distance before me.

Then came the last hill, from studying the map before the start I had calculated it was probably just under a mile with 100m of climbing but it felt longer and steeper and my pace slowed dramatically.  However, I made it to the top (eventually) and started back down the other side, catching 3 or 4 other runners as I went. Returning to the finish at Kielder Castle in 21st place with a time of 52.52.8, 2nd M50  (16 seconds behind the first M50).

Obviously not a race in which to get a pb for 10km but this was a very enjoyable and well organised event organised by High Terrain Events and I think I will be aiming for a return visit next year.