The hills are alive, with the sound of running: a trail running weekend in Chamonix

I think that one of the amazing things about running is the variety of ways that an athlete can out one foot in front of another and attempt to cover an given distance as fast as possible. Whether you are a 100m sprinter or an ultra-ultra distance runner, you are a runner. And that means that everyone can find the type of running that suits them.

The reasons that a person finds themselves drawn to one type of running over any other are many, varied and complex. To some extent the choice will be dictated by the proportion of fast vs. slow twitch muscle fibers one has. Opportunity, motivation and peer pressure also play important parts.

For me a range of factors have led me to become fascinated by the marathon and especially road marathons. I have had an inglorious and short (one race) attempt at track racing (3000m in my case). But time and time again, I come back to 26.2 miles of tarmac. But that is slowly changing…

Trying on the trails

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Running in the Alps with the Trail Running Team ©Roy Belchamber

Increasingly, thanks to the influence of my wife, I am finding myself drawn to running on long-distance trails. Over the last few years, my summers have been spent in the Alps taking on long races, multi-day running trips and even longer ‘fast-packing’ trips.

And last weekend that culminated in a weekend of running with six other trail runners who make up the Trail Running Team in the Alps around Chamonix.

Getting to know you!

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© Roy Belchamber

The Trail Running Team are a disparate bunch, who came together as the result of a social media campaign. Their ‘prize’ for being picked from the hundreds of applicants was the publicity of being on the team and in Trail Running Magazine, a weekend away in the Alps on a trail running weekend run by Julia Tregaskis-Allen  from Tracks & Trails and some pretty lovely kit from the team sponsors.

The runners all arrived on Thursday and whilst some knew each other from having been to the same assessment day in London or Church Stretton, really they were strangers. So we had a meal, cooked by yours truly, at the Gite Michel Fagot, where the team stayed, and got to know one another with the help of some lovely French wine!

The team was made up of the following six (click on their name to find out more about them)

Within that group there is an amazing range of experience and lifestyles, but three days in the mountains, with 60 miles of running, 5500m of altitude gain and 3800m of ascent, as well as an overnight stay in a mountain refuge, meant that the team really bonded. It was great to see people who share a love of trail running bring such passion and positivity together and that is what I have enjoyed about the weekend: getting to know other runners. Most of the group said at some point that they are used to running alone and in fact most of them enjoyed that aspect of trail running: the opportunity to be with your thoughts and enjoy some solitude. But at the same time, the experience of learning and sharing experiences together seemed to be a really positive.

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Night running with the Trail Running Team. Photo © Roy Belchamber

A quick mention should go to the sponsors who supplied the team with some great kit. Apparel, backpack and footwear came from Mammut and their new trail running range. Nutrition was all from TORQ Fitness, including gels, bars and recovery shakes. The team also had headtorches from LED Lenser, sun-glasses from Tifosi and calf-guards from Compressport. There will be a kit review on here in the next few days, but for now it is safe to say that all the kit performed really well, all the more impressive given the tough test that it all got from the amount and type of running we did.

Trail Running Team rules

All in all, the weekend was a really wonderful experience. We laughed, struggled, learned and experienced together. I have been really inspired by the six runners that I joined for the weekend and I can’t wait to see what they all achieve in the future. And I think that my focus on road marathons has definitely taken another step backwards while I have been taking forward steps along the trail.

 

The thigh’s the limit

Before I get started, I apologise for the terribly cheesy title to this review: I love thinking up snappy and catchy titles for the articles I post on here and sometimes a groan-inducing one will pop into my head. Normally I try to replace it, but in this case, it stays… so sorry about that.

The review today is about quad-guards, specifically the Compressport ForQuad product that Tim at Compressport in the UK was kind enough to send me to review.

What are quad-guards?

Ordinarily I don’t wear quad-guards. I tend to find that compression socks and tights work best for me as a recovery aid after a tough session, a race or a long run. But this summer was the ‘Summer of Ultras’ in my household as my wife Julie and I took on two ultra marathons and all the training that goes with that.

I found that after long training runs – for example a 6 hour run from 10pm to 4am on New Year’s Eve – I would have two issues: sore feet and sore upper-legs, the hamstrings and quads (front of the thighs) in particular. I tried running in compression tights but they were too restrictive around the waist and too hot after a while. So Compressport came to the rescue with a pair of the ForQuad for me to try.

They are essentially a tube of material, the right size to go around the thigh, that is tight and elastic enough to offer support and compression.

Do they work?

These little unassuming tubes of fabric were a God-send! They fit perfectly, with enough compression to make you know that you are wearing them and they are holding everything firm, but not so much that they cut off the blood supply below the knees. They miraculously stay up and I mean they really stay up – after 4 or 5 hours of running and sweating and pouring water on myself, they were still perfectly in place. And during and after my runs, my legs felt great. There was decidedly less fatigue and little or no D.O.M.S, which I can only assume is due to the fact that they hold the muscles in place and reduce damage that way. The fact that they also cured my propensity to get some chafing between my thighs after 4 or 5 hours of running, was a massive bonus!

So there you have my review: I think the Compressport ForQuad guards are brilliant. They definitely reduce fatigue, they eliminate chafing and, possibly best of all, they make you look like an ultra-marathon runner! Worth every penny, just for that…

Compression reviews

For the last few years I have tried a few different compression products to try to reduce or manage the impact of tough training sessions. In the last couple of months I have been given a couple of products to try – by RunBreeze and Skins – a had one product bought for me by my wife. So I thought I’d review all of these great products at once in a video. Which you can see below:

Products are available from –