Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Running behind bars

Last weeks Athletics Weekly reported prisoners participating in the first of the weekly parkrun events being held within HMP Haverigg a Category C prison in Cumberland.  The idea that sport (and voluntary roles involved in parkrun) positively impact upon inmates' physical and mental health, leading to self confidence, improved mood and stress reduction.  If Haverigg parkrun is a success then the initiative could be rolled out across the country.

Although this may be new to UK prisons, Oregon State Penitentiary in the US have ran (no pun intended) a monthly race series from March to October since the 1970's.  when American running legend Steve Prefontaine started coaching a group of inmates.  The series consists of seven 5K's and 10k's (run concurrently) and one half marathon.

These are both examples of organised events held with the specific purpose of aiding prisoner rehabilitation.  Delve a little deeper though and there are examples of individuals taking it upon themselves to run whilst being detained.

There is the case, for example, of Charlie Eagle who ran a solo ultra marathon of 217km (135 miles) within the prison walls of Berkley Federal Prison in West Virginia.

Even way back in the 19th Century, George Wilson (The Blackheath Pedestrian) whilst in Debtors Prison at Newgate Prison, Newcastle upon Tyne, successfully walked 50 miles in 12 hours over a tiny circuit within the gaol.
George Wilson
The Blackheath Pedestrian

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Can any form of cheating be supported?

Parkrun is an undoubted success. It gives thousands of people, every weekend, the opportunity to run / walk a timed 5km course and provides a vehicle for them to measure their progress and it has encouraged non-active people to become engaged in our sport.

Some people, though, still can't get their heads around what Parkrun is about.  One of these would appear to be the editor of Runner's World UK, who recently despatched a journalist to take part in a parkrun and to secretly 'cheat' by not completing the full 5km and then to write about his experience.  Whether you are a fan of parkrun or not, surely this cannot be condoned.

Can encouraging any form of cheating be supported?  You would think that a national magazine that covers and supposedly supports running would be the least likely to support such an act.  And instead positively record the increased participation in running and volunteering, not undermine it.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Yorkshire Wolds Half Marathon

Well I am glad to report that my annual pilgrimage to the Yorkshire Wolds went a lot better than I had feared it would last week.  Ok,  my run didn't set the world alight but finishing nearly 7 minutes faster than last year confirmed that perhaps I am starting to head back in the right direction, despite recent falls and injuries.

Starting off very gently and well back in the field I had to resist the temptation to push on from the start and force myself not to respond when people passed me and just concentrate on my own pace.
I have started wearing a watch again (having not bothered for the past 3 years and relied upon running how I feel) and concentrated on the pace it showed  that I was going.  However, it is a downhill start so I was running faster than the average pace that I had in my mind.

The Start

Although I struggled on the uphill sections, things were going ok as I maintained a steady pace and started to catch and pass some of those who had passed me earlier.

Winner - Tristan Learoyd

Unfortunately at 8 miles recent injury problems started to catch up with me and my right hamstring started to stiffen up.  However, easing the pace ever so slightly meant I was able to keep going.

Phil Taylor - Bridlington RR
I struggled on the last hill up to the finish and dropped 2 places.  However, as mentioned earlier I was happy to have finished quicker than last year, in 46th position.

The leading runners were:

1st - Tristan Learoyd - New Marsk Harriers in 76.56
2nd - Phil Taylor - Bridlington RR in 78.04
3rd and 1st M40 - Stephen Maddison - York Knavesmire Harriers in 81,54

1st Lady was Tara Spillings - Unattached in 93.39 and 17th position overall.

As usual the beer tent was the first port of call on finishing and once gain another great day out at Bishop Wilton Show.

Hopefully another 7 minute improvement next year!

Friday, 7 July 2017

As you like it

I have in the past used the 'ascent of man', in a previous post, as an analogy as to how it feels getting out of bed some mornings (particularly after a hard training session the night before), see 5th October 2012 post.

Using comparisons and inspiration from other sources being common when people seek to describe their thoughts and experiences.

Jacques in the 'All the world's a stage' speech (As you like it) describes the Seven Ages of Man.  Where a person will become seven different characters throughout the course of their life.  The seventh and final stage ends in oblivion, having commenced at stage 1 as a 'mewling and puking' infant.

Richard Askwith takes up this theme in his book Running Free, where he suggests that there are 'seven ages of the runner'.  Although he is still defining stages 6 and 7.  Perhaps because he hasn't reached them yet?  Having said that, taking a cue from Shakespeare, then guessing stage seven shouldn't be too difficult.

The first stage, is also, fairly obvious.  As we start our running journey as hesitant novices.  From a personal view point I remember when I decided to start running and headed out on what I thought would be a 3 mile run which turned out to be little more than a mile and a half, and although I was not puking and mewling it did end in me lying prone on the kitchen floor as my body came to terms with what I had just put it through.

My reason for taking up running - the first GNR (Stage 2?)

The second stage is where we start having fun and enjoying our running, its becoming a part of our lives and our excitement and enthusiasm quite probably becomes a little irksome to our friends and family - that's right, we become the 'running bore'.

For me, I am glad to say my third age has lasted the majority of my 'running life'.  The third age is all about times and competition.  It is about pushing yourself harder and achieving the best possible result.  I admit, like many, I have continuously sought to prolong this third age.  One such method being to sub-divide my goals and performances. Just look at how I have listed my pb's by age category at the side of this page, for example.

According to Richard Askwith the fourth stage is where you take on a monumental challenge before moving onto the 5th age where you stop chasing times, becomes less absorbed by the watch and simply enjoy what he calls 'slow running' - nothing to do with pace but just running for running's sake.

For lots of runners, after their peak there is nowhere else to go but down and as a result many never get beyond their third age.

Which begs the question, At what stage am I now?

Probably moving into the 4th age - although I have not set myself any monumental challenges - yet!
I don't think my goal of 100,000 miles before I am 65 quite meets the criteria but is probably heading that way.

Never the less it is something to ponder as I leave you to head out on a steady 6 miler - after all I have a half marathon to run next week.


Monday, 3 July 2017

Plodding on

As usual, things aren't going to plan.  Although last week saw me pass the 91,000 mile point in my long term goal of running 100.000 miles I am a little behind the schedule I set myself. 

From yesterday's hobble along the Derwent Walk
A heavy fall the week before last has resulted in my mileage taking a significant bashing, along with my body,

The resulting shoulder and hamstring problems
have also affected my preparations for my annual trip down to the Yorkshire Wolds Half Marathon. 

Although I was not in startling form I had been making steady progress and had fancied myself to have a reasonable run and perhaps even figure in my age category. I still intend to turn out but once again I fear it will just be a case of  running around to complete the course.

It will at least keep my 'run' of, I believe this will be, 28 consecutive times I have ran this race, going, 

Perhaps I should change my emphasis away from racing for time / position and just concentrate on longevity?

Friday, 16 June 2017

It's a u - turn

Margaret Thatcher may have famously said "the lady is not for turning'. But it would appear that this runner is.

While training with the group the other evening I was reminded that a couple of year back I had said that when I failed to break 40 minutes for the Blaydon Race then it would be time for me to hang up my running shoes and buy a pair of carpet slippers (and perhaps a pipe?).

Seemingly, nobody thought I would actually keep to my pronouncement but reminding me of it was a good way of winding me up a little and probably had the desired affect.

Yes - unfortunately, that day has come.  A time of 40.21 for this years race should be heralding my change of lifestyle.  But there is not a chance - I'm sure it was only a blip anyway and I will be back under 40 minutes next year (although I don't think I will ever get back down to the sub 30 minutes of the past).

Anyhow I have the Yorkshire Wolds Half Marathon coming up in four weeks time.  Not to mention my long term goal of running a grand total of 100,000 mile (should reach 91,000 next week) before my 65th birthday.

The end of this years 'Blaydon' and just about to be passed by
Eric who kindly reminded me of my retirement pledge 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Blaydon Race

Friday evening saw Morpeth's Peter Newton lead home a field of over 4000 runners to win this years annual trek along Scotswod Road to Blaydon.  His winning time was 27.50, with fellow Morpeth Harrier Carl Avery finishing second and Abraham Twelde of Saltwell third.

The women's race was won by Sonia Samuals of Sale Harriers in 29.46 from Sunderland Strollers' Alyson Dixon

Following a week of rain, conditions were good, warm and sunny with a slight head wind.

This was my first race since turning 60 and although I wasn't as quick as I had hoped, I am relatively pleased with a time of 40.21 (despite it being my slowest ever time for this race).

Thanks to Francesca for photos

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 (Active.com) 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 www.wearerunners.uk 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.

Friday, 6 January 2017


Watch Eugen Merher's video which captures the essence of running in under 2 minutes