What would it take?

The last few weeks have been really interesting. For a whole host of reasons I have managed to get out either cycling or running almost every day. This is a return of mojo like I have never experienced before. I must confess that for the last couple of years I have really been pretty pathetic, always finding an excuse for why I can’t spare the time or make the effort to get out for a run. In less than a month I have rediscovered a love of running that I thought had slipped away permanently.

How I lost my running mojo

I think that the slide started as soon as I ran my marathon PB in the London marathon in 2013. That was a glorious day. I ran 2:37:07, knocking nearly a minute and a half off my previous personal best. That year I was the 164th fastest male marathon runner in the UK. Even out of the 36,000 people who ran the London marathon that year, I would have been happy with 164th – but this is out of every result by a British runner that year. In that race I was just outside of the top 100.

The problem is that as soon as I finished I knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to get back to that kind of performance again. Mrs. Freeman and I had just launched Freestak and we were already contemplating Like the Wind magazine. I felt that the inherently selfish pursuit of a faster marathon time could not be justified. We had work to do.

Immediately after the 2013 London marathon, I took off the two weeks that my coach always prescribed. I was always advised by him to do that – physically and mentally it was the right thing to do. But rather than getting to day 10 of that two week period and feeling like I wanted to get back to training, I was immersed in work and really enjoying having the time that I would usually dedicate to training for Freestak and other projects that I had put on hold.

I remember getting to the end of the fortnight’s enforced rest and thinking that I’d give myself another week. Probably the week after that I went out for a few miles easy running. It was almost out of obligation.

After a while I got back into running regularly. But there was not plan. No target.

I would go out for a run because I knew it was good for body and mind, but I found myself just running for its own sake and not to any sort of programme. That carried on for month after month.

Running, but not as I knew it

A month after I ran my PB in London, I went to Copenhagen and paced a good friend – Charlie – to his PB. Then in the summer I ran a couple of ultras – the main one being the UTMB CCC (100+km around Mont Blanc, this is the little brother race of the main UTMB). I set off with Mrs. Freeman and the intention was to run the whole thing together (she didn’t finish, which is another story for another time). It was a slog-fest (you can read about it here). I took over 24 hours. No sleep.

The following year I ran the London again – my PB from the year before had guaranteed me a place in the Championship start. But I felt like a fraud because I really hadn’t trained. My idea was to ‘run for fun’ and it was only after about 10 miles that I thought I really should try to finish under 3 hours (which I did, just). It was fun, but I didn’t get a massive thrill from running that day in 2014. And the result was totally ‘meh’.

Later in 2014, my wife and I went back to run the UTMB CCC again. It didn’t go well once again. I finished, but I wasn’t happy.

After that, I just sort of fell out of love with running.

The wilderness years

All through 2014, 2015 and last year I was feeling a nagging sense of loss: the marathon had been my obsession since my first one in 2006. Of all the running I had done, the marathon was the distance I had enjoyed the most. The challenge that I embraced the most.

I lost the training group who had been such a huge part of my life as I trained for my marathon. Some people – including my coach – moved away from London. Other seemed to give up on marathons or went to other coaches and I didn’t want to follow them.

I just sort of drifted along. Running felt pretty pointless. I have put on weight. Struggled with diet. Tried to start going to the gym (it is just not for me). I have started enjoying rock climbing and hiking and road cycling (actually that is really becoming a new obsession) but nothing has hooked me like the marathon …

Coming in from the cold

In the past few weeks – with my renewed excitement about training – I have realised that 11 years after my first 26.2 mile race, I am still in love with the marathon. I still feel the emotional tug to race again.

I have started looking at paces on the runs I am doing and equating them to the pace I would have to run in a marathon if I wanted to run a time worthy of training for. I have started thinking about how I could make the time to run if I really want to, considering that apart from work, there is not much that I would rather be doing than running. I guess my new-found love of cycling is something that could get in the way, but already I’m wondering how much cycling could become part of my training for a marathon rather than a distraction from it.

I think the improvement in the weather and the longer daylight hours is helping. I think about how I trained through winter after winter for spring marathons and I really can’t fathom how I did it with no loss of enthusiasm.

Ready for a new challenge …

So all of these thoughts have been swirling around my head for a while. I haven’t actually considered the logistics at all. Or wether my 42 years old body could handle training properly. But then again I know quite a few people who are posting really impressive training volumes and interesting results and I know they are not super-human. They are mainly just dedicated.

Sure there are a million excuses for why I can’t or shouldn’t think about trying to start training for a marathon. But why should I listen to that voice inside my (or indeed anyone else’s voice) that doubts I can or should give in to the temptation to run another marathon. Surely not being reasonable is the reason I got myself in a position to achieve one of the proudest moments of my life.

So I am going to take a bit of time. Have a think about what I would need to do to run another marathon and whether that is reasonable. I am going to research whether cycling can fit in to a marathon training schedule. And I am going to think slightly longer term than I have in the past. I probably need 6 months to reverse the loss of fitness and strength from the last 2 years.

Then who knows. I might give it one more go. I’d love to know what you think …

It’s not meant to be easy. Or a solo effort.

I am sat in a lovely apartment in Chamonix, with my Freestak colleagues (including my wife, who co-founded the business). The weather is glorious. The town is full of amazing athletes challenging themselves in the stunning mountains. We are planning for a party on Sunday to celebrate all the amazing runners and the launch of the tenth edition of Like the Wind magazine. And yet …

What I am involved in with Freestak and Like the Wind is really hard. Emotionally and intellectually challenging beyond anything I have done before. I feel completely drained most of the time and despite being a natural optimist, I really find myself questioning whether all ‘this‘ is going to work out (I’m not even sure what working out means right now, but I guess it certainly means getting easier and more fun).

The thing is, I know that it is meant to be hard. I think back to when I was training for marathons and I loved the challenge. I didn’t enjoy the early morning runs in the rain or the cross-country sessions in the snow. I didn’t enjoy every minute of the long tempo sessions or missing out on social occasions because I had a long run to do the next day. But I understood the purpose of what I was doing and I embraced the pain for the rush of wonder that I was sure would come in due course.

I guess now my life is similar but just a bit more complicated. Certainly there is a challenge around getting other people to be part of what I am trying to achieve – my priorities and the things that I think are right, don’t always tessellate with hat other people think. So unlike with the marathon, me just working harder won’t improve the results. Everyone involved has to put their back into it.

I guess that is the point of all this – I am having to learn that I am not the owner of the success or otherwise of Freestak and Like the Wind. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a company to create, deliver and sell a successful business. I am having to adapt to that idea and it is taking time. I am certainly making enough mistakes along the way, but so far none of them have killed me (or the two businesses). So now I have to start accepting that other people have opinions and experience and they must be allowed to do their thing. Now I am leading a team of runners, not just acting as a runner in isolation. I’m sorry for all the toes I have trodden on so far. From now on I will be more careful.

Vive le team.

Oh and this little film by Apple and Rapha is rather interesting, on the subject of resilience and why embracing the toughness is important:

Past glories and finding a new addiction

LtW_tshirt_photoToday is London marathon day and whether I like it or not, this is the day that reminds me that I’m not really a runner any more – not in the way that I once was and not in a way that I can feel proud of. I go out a couple or a few times per week, but I don’t really train – I don’t have anything to train for. No races in the diary this year. None.

One there was a time when I built my entire year around the races I had in the diary. Everything made way for them – holidays, social life, work. Everything.

But today, as I sit in the kitchen, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, waiting for the tea to brew, there are thousands of people on Blackheath or making their way there, ready to run 26.2 miles in pursuit of their dreams. Obviously there are races all over the world, every day. But the London has a special meaning for me. Not only is it my home town race and one that I consider to be amongst the best I have ever tackled. But it is also where I ran my PB three years ago. So when the London comes around, I get a greater twang of… I guess it is regret or sadness or loss, than on the day of any other marathon.

So, I know what I need to do. When I stopped smoking, drinking too much and eating badly and I started running, people wondered how I had made the transformation I did. The answer, in my mind, was the transfer of addictions.

Me being very, VERY happy!
London 2013 and 2:37:07 on the clock

From fags to miles. Now I need to do the same thing – find my new addiction and embrace it 100%. The only candidate – the only thing that gets me fired up and means that I am happy to put myself in difficult and uncomfortable places, is Freestak and building a business. The problem is that building a business doesn’t have the additional benefits to health and well-being that running does. But there are other benefits – building Freestak means building something that has a positive impact on the world and that will provide an income that means that I’m able to do the things that I want to do in the future. Me running marathons was never going to give me those things.

So today, I am going to look at the teeming thousands running the London and wish them all well. It is an incredibly hard thing to do, certainly if you do it properly. It is fantastically rewarding. You will be part of an amazing community of people. And you will always be able to look back and know that you did something special.

And me? I’m going to the office and once again I’m going to get my head and my heart into my new challenge. It is a longer race, but there are goals, there is pain and there will be challenges and successes. Sounds just perfect to me!

Happy? It’s more important than you realise.

Me being very, VERY happy!
Me being very, VERY happy!

Greg Rutherford was recently on a documentary looking into the concept of whether people are born to win: if through genetic testing it is possible to see what sorts of sports any of us are ideally built for? Regardless of whether or not you think it is ethical or important or necessary to know these things – and I am not sure personally – another thing that came up in the programme was that there is much, much more to being a winner, or the best you can be, then whether you have the right genes.

Matthew Sayed was on the same programme and he says that genes are a tiny ingredient in a very complex and rich recipe. More importantly, for Sayed, are attitude and opportunity which he says are everything.

Back to Rutherford, and he says that being happy is key. Before his breakthrough at the Olympic Games in 2012, Rutherford actually reduced his training to three sessions per week and spent much more time making sure that he was happy.

Personally this is a bit is a light bulb moment.

At the moment I would say that I am not generally very happy. There is a lot of pressure coming from being half of the team running freestak with my wife, Julie, and – again with Julie – trying to continually improve Like the Wind magazine. Running a business is really tough. I am learning the difficult lesson that when you do something for yourself and put it out in the world, you become a target for people who think that their opinions matter, even when all they seem to want to do is be negative. I guess that is just spite and jealousy, but I am definitely affected by it.

At times I feel tired, stressed and anxious. Don’t get me wrong, this is not how I feel all the time. If I did I would have to stop! But I would say that on balance I feel unhappy often enough that it is having a negative effect on my running. In short, I find myself regularly thinking that I would rather have a cup of tea and curl up on the sofa than get myself out of the door.

So the answer is… well I’m not sure. I guess I have to think about how to make myself happier. If I think back to when I ran my marathon PB, I was really happy. J and I had launched freestak and we were in a honeymoon period with the business. I was happy to be my own boss and I believed that we were doing something important. Training therefore was going well and that made me… happier. As a result I raced well and enjoyed a few good results. And guess what? That success made me even happier!

Right now I know that if I can get myself out and start running more and get in shape, then I will feel happier and that will have a positive affect on everything. I guess I need to start being less sensitive about what people I don’t know think and try to look at all the positive things that are happening. That can then be the fuel to drive me towards more and more happiness. Let’s just hope that I’m genetically programmed to be happy!

Book review: The Way Of The Runner by Adharanand Finn

At the end of last year the team behind Like the Wind magazine along with some wonderful friends opened a Pop-Up for a week. We had film screenings, talks, workshops and hundreds and hundreds of runners coming in. It was actually a bit of an overwhelming experience and there were too many amazing experiences for there to be highlights – it was all one massive highlight.

In the middle of the week, on a rare quiet moment, a man walked in through the doors. I instantly recognised him as the author of one of the books that I love and that we were selling in the Pop-Up: Adharanand Finn. Author of Running With The Kenyans.

It was great to meet Adharanand and I was really excited when he told me that he was writing a new book. He had decided to travel with his family again to experience another hot-bed of distance running – Japan.

A week ago his latest book – The Way Of The Runner – dropped on my doormat and I immediately started looking for opportunities to dive into the pages.

The Way Of The Writer

IMG_3089One of the fantastic things about Finn’s first book was the way that he threw himself into running with the Kenyans who were his neighbours in the village where he and his family lived for a year (hence the book’s title). This was not a dispassionate look at the way that east Africans train, live, eat and race. Adharanand was out there with them trying to understand why they are the best marathoners on earth whilst also trying to improve his own running.

And so it is with this latest book. Finn wants to get inside Japanese running and especially the Ekiden – wildly popular road relays that have millions hooked on the TV as they take place.

Whilst Finn’s brilliant way with words, self-deprecating humour, intensity about his running and journalistic rigour are as much in evidence in The Way Of The Runner as they are in Running With The Kenyans, it is clear that Adharanand wasn’t as welcome in Japan as he was in Kenya. Actually that doesn’t make the book any less interesting, but I was left feeling frustrated for Finn that he didn’t get as involved in the Japanese running scene as he seemed to be in Africa.

Points of comparison

It isn’t just the access issue that allows Finn’s two books to be compared. Adharanand refers regularly to the differences between east African and Japanese runners. Sometimes favourably, sometimes not. There is clearly a question that gnaws at Adharanand, which is why, when looking at the Ekiden in particular, Japanese runners are clearly capable of taking on the Ethiopians and Kenyans at their own game, and yet they don’t? Runners who cover 20km legs in the Ekiden at a pace equivalent to a low-60 minute half marathon never graduate to the global marathon scene.

It also seems to me that Finn’s young family also had a harder time integrating themselves into Japanese society than they did in Kenya. They clearly have the ability to land in a very foreign land and really get on with people there, but again I got the feeling from reading the book, that they didn’t really settle and I wonder if that made it harder for Adharanand to spend as much time with the runners that he did meet as he would have wanted to?

A great insight

Despite the fact that Adharanand appeared to have a harder time getting into the running scene in Japan than he did in Africa, the book is still utterly fascinating. I could spend much, much longer telling you about all of my favourite bits from this book, but I won’t. Because I really want you to buy it. In fact I want you to buy two and give one away. I believe that there is not enough good storytelling about running (there could probably never be enough for me!) so I want people like Adharanand Finn to keep doing what they do.

As you would expect from such an accomplished writer and journalist, the stories flow and it is a really lovely book to read. It is also satisfyingly long, not just a brief synopsis of the Ekiden phenomenon and a few personal observations. No, for as long as it takes you to read this book, you will be immersed in the scene. It has certainly made me want to go to Japan even more and take my running shoes. It is as though Adharanand is fast becoming my personal fantasy-travel agent. I wonder where will be next…

Two’s company, three’s a crowd and more is better…

I have certainly written before that I think that training with other people – whether that is one training partner or as a group – is really crucial for me. I can’t imagine how many times I have finished a training session with one or more other people and said “there is no way I would have done that session as hard as that on my own”.

Group training works for me

RunningWithUs coach Nick talking to the training group
RunningWithUs coach Nick talking to the training group

Last week I was on a training camp, organised by 2:09 Events, where my coach – Nick Anderson from RunningWithUs – and a number of the other runners he coaches and with whom I train, were enjoying some warm sunshine, enjoying a lack of daily commute & office hours and enjoying the benefits of running in a group. In particular a couple of sessions with Tom and Hayley went really, really well and I know for a fact that I would have turned those runs into a steady effort if I had been left to my own devices.

I actually do as much as I can to be able to train with other people. This morning I drove across London to meet one of my training partners to get our long run done. That was nearly 2 hours in a car for a two and half hour run, but I knew that I wouldn’t run as well if I wasn’t motivated by running with someone.

adidas 26rs

I was rather excited to be invited to the launch of adidas’ 26rs – a community of runners all focused on the marathon, housed in a space below the London Marathon Store, near to Liverpool Street in central London. adidas have done a really nice job of setting up a smart space that I’m sure runners will appreciate, with three-stripe memorabilia on the walls including Jessica Ennis’ vest and Haile’s racing flats. There are changing facilities and lockers. And on the launch night there were a few inspirational runners there including Scott Overall, Aly Dixon and Liz Yelling. If adidas can infuse the space with the positive vibes they had on the night, I have no doubt it will be a success. But what would be considered a success…?

I am told that the idea is that runners can come and join in on guided runs and use the lockers and facilities in the basement space to keep their gear safe. And more than that, I think that the Virgin London Marathon, Sweatshop (who were commissioned to set up the London Marathon Store) and adidas, all hope that the 26rs will create connections between runners all aiming for the same thing – running the best marathon they can manage.

I imagine that part of the drive to set up the 26rs came from the (perhaps) surprising statistic that I read recently, that around only 10% of regular runners (as defined by the Active Britain survey) are members of running clubs. These people probably have less opportunities to run regularly with other people. And as I have said, I think that no matter how fast or slow you are, a group will help you run better. If you want evidence for that, all you have to do is look at the way the best marathon runners in the world train in Kenya and Ethiopia – there are huge groups that come together to run and track sessions where dozens of the best runners in the world are jostling for position on the inside line.

I think that adidas and the other stakeholders in the 26rs have their work cut out if they are to make this project a real success and not just end up paying lip service to the idea of creating a running community. There must be a critical mass of runners required to make the idea work: a group of six or eight runners – with a sub-3 hour experienced runner at one end and a novice aiming for a 5 hour finish at the other end – will stretch out to such a degree on a 26rs’ run that they might as well be running on their own. This is exactly what we saw on the launch night run, when, as we tried to negotiate the rush-hour commuters, traffic lights, taxis, bicycles and dug-up pavements on Liverpool Street, the group almost immediately splintered into pairs and mini-groups with some people getting lost and left behind and others charging ahead.

However if there are enough people, then the chances are good that there will be at least one training partner for each runner. And that will be a great resource for London’s marathon hopefuls!

My feeling is that the adidas 26rs is a great opportunity for marathon runners to find kindred spirits for a range of runs and especially for their long runs. And if you go down to Liverpool Street and go for a run with them, I’d love to know what you think. And maybe I’ll see you down there at some point (my locker is #22 by the way!)

Hot dang! An ashmei merino wool product review

Disclaimer – please read this: I want to make it really clear from the very start that as the co-owner of freestak, I work for ashmei supplying social media marketing services. Stuart, the owner of ashmei, was very generous and sent me some ashmei kit to try out and run in. However this blog is very much an “all views my own” thing and I don’t allow my work at freestak to influence my writing here, so this review is my honest feeling – I don’t write about what I don’t like!

ashmei product review

I recently received a rather lovely package from the team at ashmei – a white fabric bag containing a Running Merino Sweatshirt, a short-sleeve merino + carbon jersey and a pair of 2-in-1 Shorts.

I have been wearing then quite a bit since they arrived, but on Sunday I had the opportunity to really give the short-sleeved top and the shorts a proper outing – the 28 mile Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series marathon on the Flete Estate in Devon. You can read my race report here.

Perfect conditions

Due to a bit of disorganisation (freestak has been very busy!) Julie and I ended up getting up at 3am to drive to the race start. This all added to the sense of adventure and the brilliant, golden sunrise, as we passed Stonehenge – shrouded in mist – with a massive, forlorn-looking moon hanging in the sky in front of us, is something I will remember for a long, long time.

The sun came up and there was not a cloud in the sky. It was going to be a beautiful day. It was also going to be warm. Hopefully my ashmei kit would cope.

ashmei performance

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 21.34.53As we started I was wearing my ashmei short-sleeve jersey, arm warmers, the 2-in-1 shorts from ashmei, Runderwear from RunBreeze, calf guards from Compressport, socks from ASICS and Mizuno trail shoes. I also had my fantastic new pack from Ultimate Direction (a present from Julie). Finally I had on a running cap from Sugoi and my Naked Runner shades. Sorted, ready to go!

It was warm by the time the gun went at 8:50am and within a couple of miles the arm-warmers were in my pack (Julie did say ‘I told you so’!) but apart from that, my kit choices were spot on.

The merino jersey was great. It is reasonably fitted without being skin-tight, which meant that there was no rucking and the top grabbed any sweat and wicked it away, without restricting breathing or showing off my love handles. The heat didn’t bother me and the top was entirely itch-free. Even my back – which is usually very damp after running for 5 hours with a rucksack on, felt drier then normal.

The shorts did benefit from the Runderwear (please check it out – I think it is utterly genius!) and the merino inner shorts gave a nice level of compression without cutting off the blood supply. Despite the heat, there was no chaffing at all. As we passed another runner in our ‘marathon’ race who was wearing the same shorts, I thought how nice the shorts looked, which is an added bonus.

Race result, kit result.

In the end Julie and I took just over 5 hours for the 28-odd miles. That is quite a long time on your feet and especially in the heat.

I was worried before I started that being hot for that long would make for a pretty uncomfortable run, but not so. The merino seems to do exactly what it says on the tin and wicked the sweat away nicely. I didn’t itch and there was no chafing.

So I would say that for long, slow runs and ultra marathons, the ashmei kit is great. The shorts would be too heavy for me to race anything up to a marathon in. but for hours on the feet, I think the ashmei kit is an ideal choice. Once I have washed it, I’ll post an update. And in the mean time if anyone else has any experiences with or thoughts about merino wool for running apparel, please let me know.

Copenhagen marathon 2013: my race review

As you may or may not know, my big target race this spring was the Virgin London Marathon on 21 April. In case you missed it, here is my race report. And after nailing my target I had the opportunity to then go to the Copenhagen marathon with the RunDemCrew and my friend Charlie Dark, to run for fun.

Pacing not racing

After my blast around London, I asked Charlie if he would like me to pace him around the Copenhagen marathon and to my delight he said ‘yes’!

Why was I delighted? Well three reasons really – the first was that I wanted to pay Charlie back for many hours of advice and support he has given me over the years. The next reason was that I was convinced that Charlie had a solid sub-4 hours marathon in him and I thought I might be able to help him achieve it. And finally I knew how much Charlie has poured into creating, running and leading the RunDemCrew and I felt that there should be a race that he had the opportunity to run for himself.

I have paced a couple of races before – my wife’s debut marathon in New York and a friend in the Bristol half marathon are two that stick in my mind. And this meant that whilst I felt confident that I could help Charlie, I also knew the challenges and responsibility that comes with being the man with the watch. Little did I know how much the course and the weather would make things more difficult than it was already going to be…

The Copenhagen marathon

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Copenhagen Marathon © Signe Vest

The Copenhagen marathon is a relative old man of the racing scene in Europe, having been going for 34 years and has plenty in its favour – it is a capital city race. It is a flat course. It has a great headline sponsor in Nike and some other high profile supporters. The city centre course takes in all of the sights of Copenhagen.

But all is not perfect. I have to say that the race has a certain air of tattiness and gimcrack about it. The course seemed to be constantly crossing and running alongside roadworks. There are roads on the course that are open to traffic and on more than a couple of occasions the field was split and we were directed across a six-lane highway with a muddy median in front of impatiently waiting queues of traffic. The marshals were really not doing much and a number were sheltering in doorways out of the rain. There were just too many loose ends and rough edges to make the race great.

NBRO running

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All the crews © Signe Vest

The highlight of the race though, was the NBRO Crew. This is the equivalent crew to London’s RunDemCrew that I am honoured to say I am part of.

And it was NBRO’s task to host the other visiting crews – from London, Paris, Amsterdam, New York, Hong Kong, Berlin and other cities. The NBRO guys, and Troels in particular, pulled off an absolute master-stroke, with NBRO branded beer, a great pasta party before the race and an immense after-party that I have taken a lot longer to recover from than the race itself!

The race

The race was tough. As I mentioned, the weather and course made an already difficult challenge – running 5 min/km pace for 42.125km – even tougher. After a baking hot day on the Saturday, the day of the race dawned grey and cool, which was perfect, but by 5km the heavens opened and the rain poured down. We were soaked from start to finish. Add to that, the very wiggly course, with lots of open roads, road works and pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate, and we had a tough day.

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Charlie Dark… battling © Signe Vest

Charlie and I were bang on for 3:35 or quicker all the way to 35km, but sadly an old knee injury of Charlie’s, made worse by a recent fall, meant Charlie was hobbling and soon needed to stop and stretch out a tight hamstring. The frustration for him was that he was still running well, but frequent stops to ease out his knee ate into the time.

Nevertheless, Charlie dug in very, very deep and managed to fight the desire to stop and walk, which mean that we finished in 3:48:03. Still a big PB and comfortably under the 4 hour mark.

Overall

Overall, I think that Copenhagen is a good race. I think that for those at the sharp end, the lack of people to run with could be difficult. And for everyone in the field the difficult course stops this being an exceptional race. But I had an amazing experience – I loved running with my friend and thinking that I was able to help a little. I enjoyed seeing so many other runners and witnessing their struggles and I really enjoyed the after-party.

Would I go back? Not sure… but then again, if Charlie wants to try that race again for a sub-3:30, then I might be tempted!

 

 

All images thanks to Signe Vest

Stand and deliver… why standing all day and running go together

As many of you will know, at the end of last year my wife, Julie, and I launched freestak, a social media marketing business for running and endurance sports brands. In many ways this has been a life-changing experience: I am working many, many more hours than I ever have before. I am also loving every minute of work (in fact I wish I could find another word for it than ‘work’ because what I do all day is the most exciting and fulfilling way I can imagine to spend my time). I am spending more time thinking about, reading about and learning about my two favourite activities – running and social media.

I am also working from home. And this is where I have made another big change – I now stand all day.

Yep, that is right – I no longer have a chair. Julie was the first to abandon her chair in our little home office. Initially she tried a kneeling chair and then, because that was uncomfortable on her shins, she moved to standing up. Just after Christmas I followed suit and now we have a fully standing office.

But why?

Standing desks at freestak
Standing desks at freestak

The reason Julie threw her chair out was that she was starting to get back ache. I had a sore back most days too.

After a few weeks of standing, Julie told me that her back was absolutely great and I conceded that slumping in front of a computer 12 or 14 hours a day was just not doing me any good, so I decided to try standing.

My back no longer aches. At all.

As if that wasn’t enough, I feel energised standing up. I don’t suffer from the mid-afternoon crash any more. I feel alert and awake all the time. I can walk around the room thinking and as I am a bit fidgety anyway, I am now free to juggle, dance and wander around when I need a moment away from the key-board.

Finally having looked into the whole issue of the health issues surrounding our sedentary lifestyles (check out this and this) I realised that with all the time I was working I was either flat on my back asleep or slumped in a chair 22 hours a day. Even when I am running 85 or 90 mile weeks, that probably only represents an hour and a half a day on my feet running.

How to manage standing for 16 hours a day whilst marathon training

The reality is that for the first few weeks that I was standing all day, I did find it tiring. I was certainly ready for bed at the end of the day. But within a month, that is by the end of January, I was standing at my desk from 8am to 10pm every day with only a few breaks (running, dinner, laying on the floor…) without a problem.

As I increased my weekly mileage through January, February and March in the lead up to the London, I was finding that if anything I was having fewer problems with my hips, glutes and hamstrings than I had been when I was training for previous marathons and sitting all day. There were days when I was tired and then I would just bring back the chair for an hour or two. And after long runs I would wear compression socks if my calves were complaining. But it really was never a problem.

I also think there are other benefits: I stand up straight and that improves my posture: my legs feel stronger as a result of standing: I feel lighter (that could be nothing other than all the marathon training).

So if you haven’t thought about it before, I would urge you to consider kicking the chair into touch. Maybe start for an hour or two a day and increase the amount of time you stand. But try it – after all if you are getting out of bed in order to sit at the breakfast table, sit in your car or on the train to work, sit at a desk or in meetings all day, sit in the car/train on the way home, sit down for dinner and then sit on the sofa for an hour before retiring to bed… you’re really not using your body for what it was designed for!

If you do decide to give standing desks a go, please let me know how you get on.