Nike Free 5.0+ review

The people at Nike recently sent me a pair of the new Nike Free 5.0+ to review. Having always had Nike Frees in my ‘collection’ of shoes, I was interested in trying them. But I must admit that I have bought Nike Frees in the past as a shoe for walking around town, rather than for running. However since hearing Mo Farah talk about how he incorporates natural running into his training to strengthen feet and ankles (and my ankle is my (ahem) Achilles heel when it comes to injuries) I was immediately interested in seeing how a minimalist shoe like the Nike Free 5.0+ could help me get back into running since the Virgin London Marathon. The short answer is that they are a pretty good first step as far as I am concerned. The 5.0 refers to the amount of cushioning and support that the shoe provides, with the Nike Free 4.0 and the Nike Free 3.0 offering decreasing levels of both. So if you are after a shoe that can help you take the first steps (sorry!) into minimalism, perhaps give these a go. And if you want to have a look at them, here is a short video review – bad hair and all!

How to get your preparation on track

For many runners, training on a track is something other runners – more talented, more dedicated, more serious runners – do. There is a perception that training on the track is for the elite or for athletes training for track distances. But that should not be the case. We have a few athletics tracks still open in this country (despite the apathy of the powers that be and the insatiable appetites of sport-centre managers for all-weather fiva-a-side football pitches) so we should all be using them, if for no other reason than to keep them open for other runners.

And there are other, better reasons for why all distance runners should run on the track. Here are a few that I believe are important:

  1. it is the best place to run as fast as you can – nothing to navigate, nothing to trip on, no one to crash into
  2. it is a great way to make sure you are measuring your effort/pace/distance
  3. track is a great place to get competitive in sessions
  4. a good track is easier on the legs than the equivalent session on concrete or tarmac
  5. track sessions make you feel like a real runner*

Run fast or go home

I think that the approach to track sessions should be slightly reckless. No one wants to go off in any run at a pace that is so unsustainable that it is impossible to finish the session. But unlike on the road, if you do find that it is impossible to continue with a session, you are never more than 200m (provided it is a 400m track – the standard distance of an oval in the UK) from your bag. So I believe that people who run conservatively on the track are wasting their time…

© Tom Hull
© Tom Hull

I think that the real value in running on the track for an endurance athlete is pushing yourself harder, much harder, than you would in a race, so that your body – conditioned to deal with that higher level of discomfort – will feel much more comfortable at, for example, marathon pace.

I am sure there are biomechanical and physiological explanations for why track training is good for you. But I prefer to keep it simple.

If you train by pushing your body to run at a pace that, at times and for relatively short intervals, is much faster than the pace you want to run your 5km, 10km, half marathon or marathon at, then when you do run at your target pace for those longer distances, your legs will cope better allowing you to go further at a faster pace

Ultimately successful endurance training is about bringing speed and endurance together at the right time for your target race. So you need to do the speed work to go along with the endurance stuff.

What can be measured can be managed

One of the other great things about the track is that it is an exact distance around the oval. A 400m track will be measured around the inside lane and that means that 2.5 laps is a kilometer. Four laps is a near to a mile as you need to be (a mile is actually 1609.344m and the extra 2.33m is usually marked on the track so you can be super-exact if you want to).

This means that you can be really accurate with your running:

  • If you are doing a session at 10km pace and you have run a 45 minute 10km race (or you want to) then each lap should take you 1min 48 seconds.
  • If you want to run a 3 hour 30 minute marathon then your pace will be 8 min/mile pretty much. That is 2 minutes per lap.

So no GPS required. Just tick off the laps at the required pace with a glance at your stopwatch every 400m or listen out if you have someone at the track calling out splits.

The legs and lungs are all well and good, but what about the brain?

You laughin' at me?
You laughin’ at me?

Track training is not just good for the body. It is also great for the mind. Track training will make you feel like a real runner (*) and that is important. If you are confident and you believe in yourself when you toe the start line of your next race, then you are much more likely to succeed at whatever target you have set yourself.

I also think that the competition that comes from track training is also useful. Usually reps in a session will have the same start point and this means that at the start of each rep, the group that you are running with, will all be together. You will naturally respond to the runners in your group and as people push the pace, you will respond, probably surprising yourself with what you are capable of – bottle that feeling, it will serve you well in due course.

All of this is great for your race-day head. If you know you are capable of monster sessions on the track, then you know that you have the mental resilience to hit your target pace in the marathon and stick to it. You might even find yourself racing the person in front, just like in those track sessions.

All for track and track for all

Track training, despite the fact that is should be tough, is really inclusive. The pain of track training is universal and anyone who thinks that fast runners are not working as hard as everyone else is deluded. And therein lies the beauty of the track. You can run your session at your paces and there is no fear of getting abandoned miles from home as there would be if you were out on a long run. Simply set your own targets and work hard according to your paces.

Convinced?

As you can probably tell, I am a big fan of track training. It certainly made a big difference to my training when I started. However I do have a word of caution. In my opinion there is absolutely no point going to the track to run around at your steady, or even threshold, pace.

Track is where you run your heart out. Track is where you ensure that there is a big differential between your fast runs and your slow runs. Track is where you earn the right to collapse in a heap after the session. Track is where you will make a difference to your running, that come race-day will pay off the biggest dividends. Good luck!

Three is the magic number – interviewing Kipsang, Mutai and Makau at the 2013 London marathon

Mutai, Makau, Kipsang
Mutai, Makau, Kipsang

It seems as though every year, the organisers of the London marathon bring together “the greatest field ever assembled” for their race – London is one of the six major marathons and is an iconic race on the bucket list of runners from the very elite all the way to the back of the pack. So the job of getting the best runners in the world to London, whilst obviously not easy, is something that the London marathon organisers pride themselves on. But perhaps this year more than any other, in the afterglow of the Olympics, Hugh Brasher, the London Marathon race director, has outdone himself by bringing together a really incredible men’s field. And today, thanks to the marathon’s sponsors adidas, I got to meet three of them: Patrick Makau, Wilson Kipsang and Geoffrey Mutai – the fastest three men over 26.2 miles ever.

Patrick Makau

Serious business
Serious business

Patrick Makau is the marathon world record holder, having run a time of 2:03:38 in Berlin in 2011. Sadly he pulled out of the London marathon last year with an injury and subsequently was not selected for the Kenyan marathon squad for the Olympics.

I started by asking Patrick whether he knew, in Berlin, that the world record was in his sights. He said “From the average spilts that I got during the race, I knew that the world record was possible” and he confirmed that he went in to the race knowing what the record was and what splits would be required to break it.

I asked Patrick what he thinks will be required for his current record to be broken and he told me that it will require

someone to train very hard and be in good condition on the day of the race

This idea that hard training is the key was repeated again and again when I talked to the athletes. I wondered if there are other requirements when it comes to running fast and Makau told me that racing along with a fast group, like the one assembled for Sunday, really helps and that whilst he doesn’t train with Kipsang and Mutai, he knows them and they meet at races, so they will be familiar with each other on the day.

Terrible photo. Great athlete!
Terrible photo. Great athlete!

When it comes to training, Patrick told me that he doesn’t have a coach and that he trains himself. He said that he has been running for so long that he “know what I need to do and how to do my speed sessions” which for me, reinforces the theory that all the fundamentals required to create a world-class training programme could be written in a single side of A4!

So I asked Patrick what he thinks is the best advice for someone looking to improve their running.

Quite simple – you need to be good and consistent in training. Be disciplined and follow your training programme. And don’t forget to train twice a day

See, I told you it was simple!

 

Geoffrey Mutai

The fastest man over 26.2 miles!
The fastest man over 26.2 miles!

Geoffrey Mutai is the fastest man over 26.2 miles having run the 2011 Boston marathon in a blistering 2:03:02 – which is 4’42” pace! However this is not recognised as the world record because the course layout and profile of Boston is not within the regulations the IAAF stipulates for marathon record courses. Nevertheless, 2:03:02…! And if you need more convincing that Mutai is an incredible runner, his (legal) 58:55 half marathon PB should suffice. That an a victory in the New York marathon, again in 2011, in 2:05:05.

I started by asking Geoffrey whether he goes into races with a plan. He told me:

I cannot ever say how I will race and I never start with a plan. The plans only come during the race and I have to adapt and make decisions as the race develops. Instinct plays a big part

Like Makau, Mutai said that having a fast group like the one we will see in London this year is a good thing. He said that he enjoys the challenge of a race and that having fast runners with him will provide an added boost.

Keep. It. Simple.
Keep. It. Simple.

Unlike Patrick Makau, Geoffrey does train with Wilson Kipsang and they know each other well. He said that when it comes to race day he knows that sometimes he will beat his rivals and sometimes he won’t. But whichever way it goes, he is ready to race again as soon as the opportunity arises.

Mutai also said to me that he knows that running is a solo pursuit. He said that being the fastest in the field is not important and that all he worries about is himself. I asked him what he does if he feels that a race is not going well and the simplicity that seems to be a theme for all three runners I met, came through again:

Reacting to problems is all physical. If I can respond it is physical – if I have the energy to push I will. If not, then I don’t

For Geoffrey, this London marathon is a race that he has been looking forward to for a long time. He seems genuinely excited and happy to be here and said to me that racing is one of the best things about being an athlete. His philosophy is just that:

one of the best things about being an athlete is having discipline and enjoying your career. You must be happy when you run. You must be happy when you win and when you lose

I had to ask Geoffrey what he would advise any runner who wants to improve, aside from enjoying running. He told me that “through focus you can get the most from your training and if you sacrifice yourself in training you will succeed”

I finished by asking Mutai whether he thinks that he will win on Sunday. He said that he has done the training and feels prepared. He said that

God willing, I will win

I loved meeting the fastest marathon runner ever – he is a truly lovely man and I for one really hope he does have a great race in London.

Wilson Kipsang

VLM defending champion.
VLM defending champion.

Wilson Kipsang won the bronze medal in the London Olympic marathon and returns to the street of the capital as the defending champion, having won in 2012 in 2:04:44. This made him only the second man, after the great Haile Gebrselassie to finish three marathons in under 2hrs 5mins.

His 2:03:42 in Frankfurt in 2011 makes him the second fastest marathon runner ever, behind fellow Kenyan Patrick Makau and he has a pretty handy half marathon PB too – 58:59.

However by the time I sat down in front of Wilson Kipsang, he was ready to leave. The interviews were taking their toll and he was hungry. I had just given Geoffrey Mutai a couple of TORQ bars that I had in my bag after he told his agent that he was hungry. Wilson said something in Swahili and the second, unopened bar that Mutai had was handed over. Then he looked at me, smiled and said

Hi, I am Kipsang!

I only had a couple of minutes so I ploughed straight in with a question about tactic for the race on Sunday. Like both Mutai and Makau, Wilson said that whilst he had a rough idea of what he would like to do, the plan would be developed at the race went on.

I asked what he would do in the couple of days left before the race and he said that he would keep it simple: go for a gentle run, relax, drink water and eat well. He said that he also wanted to make sure he stayed focussed.

When it comes to the race, Kipsang said that he will constantly think about how he is feeling as they motor along. He said it is essential that you “feel the pace” and think about how far you have left to go in the race. And this translates into the advice that he gave me for the marathon itself:

Make sure you train so you feel comfortable running at a faster tempo. Be sure in the race to listen to your body and try, as hard as you can, to increase the tempo at the end of the race

My time with Wilson was up. But he finished by telling me, once again, that simplicity is the key – train hard, focus in training and racing, enjoy what you are doing and be dedicated.

Three really is the lucky number

It was an amazing experience to meet Patrick Makau, Geoffrey Mutai and Wilson Kipsang. I think that I was expecting – or is that actually hoping for – demi-Gods or people who are somehow other-worldly. After all, what they are doing seems super-human. But the reality is that they are just lovely, easy going, friendly and enthusiastic runners who keep their approach simple, dedicate themselves whole-heartedly to their sport, train hard from an early age and race to win every time they go out. It is those qualities that I think make them the best runners alive and the knowledge that miles ahead of me on Sunday they will be duelling it out on the streets of London, will certainly spur me on to do my best.

As for whether one of them will win… well I asked them all the same question. They were all too shy to really answer, but you know that they will make sure they give it their best on the day. If you’re running, I hope you do too.

The Simple (Simon) Guide to Racing a Marathon – Part one: Timing

It was my birthday a while ago and my aunt sent me one of those gently amusing cards that cause very little offence or mirth. Here it is…

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 21.05.12

But it got me thinking about how all too often, achieving a goal can become a daunting exercise over over-whelming complexity. I know it was for my first few races.

But now I take a much simpler approach to the marathon and I thought I would share my plan with you in four blog posts over the next week:

  1. Timing (this post)
  2. Hydration
  3. Nutrition
  4. Psychology

Time to think about time

I really strongly suggest that you do not use a GPS to manage your pace on race day. They are notoriously inaccurate and especially when surrounded by 37,000 other GPS watches.

If you are running a marathon that has its course measured by the Association of UK Course Measurers, then the mile markers are accurate. Very accurate.

If your GPS beeps to tell you that you have run a mile before or after the mile marker… then your GPS is wrong. Thinking otherwise is a mistake that too many runners make.

If you accept that your GPS device might be a bit out, then think about this: if your GPS is short by 15 seconds per mile, that is six and a half minutes for a marathon. If you are aiming for a sub-4 hour marathon, your GPS only needs to be 43 meters out per mile – which is only 2.7% – and you will finish in 4 hours 6 minutes.

So what do I suggest?

A stopwatch. I use a GPS watch, but I turn off the GPS function and just use the watch as a stopwatch. Each time I pass a mile marker, I hit the lap button. If the time for the last mile is more than my target pace, I am behind schedule and if it is less than my target pace, I am ahead of schedule. I can then adjust as necessary. Simple.

The next post will be up in a couple of days. In the mean time, what do you use to make sure you are on pace? Or do you not bother with that? Let me know what your tactics are and how you have honed them in the past.

From Abrahams, Harold to Zatopek, Emil – the A-Z of runners

Those of you who have been enduring, erm, I mean reading, this blog for a while, might recall a couple of A-Z posts where I have asked you, dear friends, to help me compile the ultimate list of firstly running brands and then runners health. Well now there is a new A-Z for us to work on –

the A-Z of runners

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 21.56.30

I think this is going to be quite a list and I am going to take multiple suggestions for each letter and then try to whittle it down to the ultimate A-Z. So here are a few to get started and all I need from you is the name of the runner (we’ll go with surnames for this list) and the shortest description of the reason for their inclusion in the list that you can manage. Let the games begin!

AAbrahams, Harold: a great sprinter and stalwart of English athletics
B Benoit, Joan: winner of the inaugural women’s Olympic marathon (check it out here)
BBikila, Abebe: the god-father of African distance running
BBrasher, Chris: the man who won an unlikely Olympic gold and set up the London marathon (from @dmyrcr)
B – Bannister, Sir Roger: first man to run a mile in under 4 minutes – need we say more? (via @phileasjog)
CCoe… or Cram?
D
E – El Guerrouj, Hicham (suggested by @jamestaylorrun and @phileasjog)
F – Fordyce, Bruce: Comrades ultra-marathon legend (thanks to @mrtstephens for that one)
F – Farah, Mo: a national hero and double Olympic gold medal winner, with more to come surely? (via @phileasjog)
F – Foster, Brendan: Bronze medal in the ’76 Olympics in the 10,000m, founder of the great run series and legendary commentator (via @run_ski_alski)
GGebreselassie, Haile: Olympic medal winner, marathon world record holder, icon and inspirational figure
H Hawker, Lizzy: a phenomenon of the ultra-distance scene and a really lovely person with it. Multiple UTMB winner (from @dmyrcr)
H – Hill, Ron: for world records, string vests and the longest ever running streak (via @owentsmith)
I
JJornet, Killian: unbeatable in ultra-distance trail races. Truly a phenomenon. Check this out. (suggested by @dmyrcr)
J – Jones, Steve: the greatest marathon runner from the UK and still the national record holder (suggested by @laurencepole, @phileasjog and @enduranceuk)
K
L Lewis, Carl: 9 Olympic gold and 8 World Champs gold medals says this man was great
M – Mutai, Geoffrey: for the marathon world record of 2:03:02. 183 seconds faster and he’s sub-2 hours! (via @mrtstephens)
M – McColgan, Liz: Scottish 10,000m Wold Champion and Olympic silver medalist plus winner of New York and London marathons (thanks to @paulkarlsen for this one)
NNurmi, Paavo: 22 world records from 1500m to 20km and undefeated at distances from 800 m upwards for 121 races
O – Ovett, Steve: a hugely talented runner and one of the athletes that made middle distance running cool! (via @johnas77)
PPrefontaine, Steve: the man who made running cool. And he was good at it too!
P – Pheidippides: we wouldn’t all be doing this if it wasn’t for him! (honourable mention from @paulkarlsen)
Q – Quirot, Ana: one of only a few women to have broken 1:55 for 800m, Quirot came back from a tragic accident to win World Championship and Olympic Medals (many thanks to David Wardle for this suggestion)
RRadcliffe, Paula: Olympic world record holder and likely to stay that way for some time
R – Rudisha, David: one of the most amazing races ever seen in winning the Olympic 800m title and a sub-100 second two laps is surely on the cards (via @jamestaylorrun and @phileasjog)
SSwitzer, Katherine: a pioneer of women’s running who went on to campaign for the 1st women’s Olympic marathon (thanks to @dmyrcr)
T
U
V – Viren, Lasse: (suggested by @jamestaylorrun) winner of four gold medals at the 1972 and 1976 Summer Olympics in 5,000m and 10,000m. A flying Finn!
W – Wanjiru, Sammi: possibly one of the greatest marathon runners of the modern era who met such a tragic, untimely end (thanks to @jamestaylorrun for that one)
X – Xiang, Lui: (via @dmyrcr)
YYifter, Miruts: Yifter the Shifter won 2 World Champs golds at 5,000m and 10,000m and Olympic gold at both distances
ZZatopek, Emil: greatest ever distance runner: Olympic gold in the 5,000m, 10,000m and Olympics at the same Games!

The truth about being the best runner I can be

As some readers of this blog will be aware, I recently managed to make the leap from my passion for all things running, into the way that I make my living: my wife and I have set up a social media and marketing business for running and endurance sports brands. The business is called freestak and you can check it out at www.freestak.com.

I love my work. I have a legitimate reason to spend time reading, thinking and talking about two of my favourite things – social media and endurance sports. At freestak we have a wonderful group of clients all of whom have exciting products that we really believe in. My job involves creating and delivering campaigns which I really love doing… but (you knew there would be a ‘but’) it is not easy. We are very, very busy and the amount of sleep I get seems to be inversely proportionate to the amount that I care about what we are doing. And I really, really care! So sleep is a rare commodity.

At the same time, I have been striving to get myself in the right shape to run a PB in the upcoming London marathon. But I am discovering that the two things – the growth of freestak and the desire to run a faster marathon – aren’t entirely compatible. Training has been patchy – a couple of really good 80+ miles weeks, then a crash and a 40 mile week, applying ice to various injuries and being a moody bastard.

Me being the best I can be.
Me being the best I can be.

So I have been wondering what on earth I am doing, questioning what I am trying to prove and what my priorities are? Listening to too many people and starting to feel really negative about my running. Then in the space of three days I read two things which have really resonated with me and I’d like to share them with you (and perhaps give myself a well-deserved kick in the backside!)

The first thing that I have been reading is James Cracknell and Beverley Turner’s new book, Touching Distance. In case you have not heard about this book, it recounts the period of their lives when James and his wife, Beverley, were dealing with a near-fatal accident that James suffered whilst cycling across the USA as part of a challenge he was taking on. He suffered a very severe head injury which led to changes in his personality that both James and Bev recount in the book. You can read about the accident here.

The start of the book is mainly the story of James’ life as an Olympian and elite athlete and it really tells a warts-and-all account of the ups and downs of trying to be the best in the world. At one point, having won Olympic gold, James writes that:

I believe there’s a gulf mentally between ‘not carrying on’ and ‘giving up’, even if, practically, it amounts to the same thing

This was at the point at which James was married, starting a family, getting older and wondering whether he had the drive to train for another four years to try to get to the Beijing Olympic Games.

In my own little way, I can really relate to that. I am not suggesting for a moment that I am on the same level as someone like Cracknell, but if I commit to lowering my marathon PB, that will involve running eight, nine or even ten times per week. That means spending somewhere in the region of 9 hours a week running, which is only the half of it, because I believe that for every minute actually running, it takes at least one more minute to get ready, wash kit, eat, stretch, travel to training sessions, lay on the sofa eating malt-loaf, etc. That means that it could easily take 20+ hours a week to train for a marathon. That is a big commitment at the best of times, let alone when I am trying to build freestak and do the best possible job for our clients.

I realise that this might sound as though I’m wimping out. And that is part of the problem. For me now, training has started to become something that I don’t really enjoy. I am not sure I really want a PB enough to put myself through what I know it will take to achieve it. That is not to say that I have made a decision one way or another, but I am not sure I have the drive to do all the training.

This is where the other thing that I read comes in. One of my training partners, Steve Tranter (@tranter_ on Twitter) sent me a link to an article in Running Times magazine written by an American runner and journalist called David Aim, who had the opportunity to spend a few days with a group of elite level athletes, during which time he discovers that, to some extent, the different between elite runners and recreational runners is their attitude.

One of the passages that really struck me in the article, was about how, in the desire to record ever better times, we can lose sight of why we run in the first place:

who of us hasn’t considered how our peers will react to our performance in a given race, whether good or bad? And in those moments, whom are we ultimately running for? The sport is difficult enough as it is; doing it for anyone but ourselves makes it unsustainable (David Aim)

I started running to improve my self-esteem, to lose weight, to take control of my life and undo the physical damage that I had been doing to myself since my late-teens with cigarettes, alcohol and general bad-living. I soon discovered that I wanted to see how good I could be. But what I seem to have lost sight of, is that I live in a set of circumstances and what I need to remember is that I am trying to be the best runner I can be in those circumstances.

There is no point comparing myself to anyone else: I have no idea what their circumstances or motivations are. And moreover there is no point in comparing ‘me now’ to ‘me then’ – my circumstances have changed and I should be striving to be the best runner I can be in today’s circumstances.

Now I come to think of it, every time I have had the opportunity to meet and talk to elite athletes they have been the same as those described in the Running Times article – kind, encouraging, helpful, modest. None of them has belittled me or the results I have achieved. I recently met Haile Gebrselassie and he said that my marathon PB was great, for goodness sake! The same cannot be said for many of the non-elite athletes that I train with and associate with.

So I am going to try to develop a mind-set closer to that described by David Aim in his Running Times piece – I am going to try to develop an elite attitude and see where that takes my running. Here are my new rules, courtesy of David and his elite friends:

4 Keys to An Elite Attitude

1 – Don’t treat training runs or race times as indications of your self-worth

2 – Value every runner’s efforts, success and potential

3 – Don’t beat yourself up in training or in evaluating your workouts and racing

4 – Recognize that your running ability is a result of many factors, not just how serious you are or how hard you push

 

Hard to start, harder to stop

It is that time in my training cycle when getting out for a run feels like quite a big effort…

But once I am out, running feels like the most wonderful, natural, life-affirming thing in the world and I really, really don’t want to stop. Like this morning – an hour before breakfast as the sun rose over the city and I had to stop myself from running further and further.

Anyone else get that?

Screen Shot 2013-03-05 at 08.51.58

Motivation for the Nation

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It might be the weather. Or the fact that marathon training is starting to take it’s toll. It could be an avalanche of work. Or maybe niggles are starting to creep in. Whatever the reason, there are times when it simply feels like too much effort to go for a run. So what do you do to make sure you get your running kit on and get out of the door?

 

 

Here are my top tips (in no particular order):

  1. Find a training partner – whether you are meeting them for a run or simply reading about the training they have been doing, finding someone of a similar level to you is a great way to keep your enthusiasm high.
  2. Write down the whole of your training – it is especially important, if you get your training weekly, to have a wall planner or something that allows you to see the weeks ticking by. That way, you will know how long you have before your key race and how much training needs to be done by then.
  3. Keep a training diary – if you write down all the running you do, not only will you have a record of how well you have done, you will have to admit, to yourself at least, when you have skipped a run.
  4. Get inspired – there are some great films, videos, books and magazine articles that should have you bouncing around and ready to run. One of my favourites is the classic battle between Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley over 26.2 miles in the 1982 Boston race, which is known as the  Duel in the Sun: http://youtu.be/FmzljrUrwKE
  5. Don’t think too much – training is tough. If it wasn’t there wouldn’t be much point doing it. And for many people the thought of a hard session can be enough to have them roll over and go back to sleep or find an excuse to not go out. So one tactic is to simply look at your training plan and GO! Don’t give yourself time to worry about what you are supposed to be doing. Just get on with it.
  6. Bribe yourself – if you are struggling to get out of the door, promise yourself a treat if you get the run or session done. You may well find that a more instant reward will be more likely to get you going.
  7. Visualise – think about what you are doing all this for. Sit quietly for a few minutes and imagine the finish line of the race you are targetting. Imagine looking up at the clock on the gantry over the finish line and seeing the time you have been striving for shown there. Then remember that if you want that, you need to work for it now.
  8. Compromise… to start with – if you are thinking that your 2 hour long run is a bit much or all you want to do is go for an easy run rather than a hard session, decide to just go out of the door and see how you get on. You might find that after 10 minutes you’re actually getting into it and before you know it, you’ll have done the long run or the session anyway.
  9. Run a race – it is sometimes a good idea to incorporate a race into your long run or do a Parkrun instead of the threshold session you had planned for Saturday. Simply toeing the start line of a race can be enough to reignite the desire to get on with the rest of your training
  10. Remember why you run – if you’re lacking motivation, get back to the reasons that you run in the first place. Sometimes, especially when training for a marathon or an ultra, it is easy to lose sight of why one actually runs. Think about that and get back to your running roots. Then simply get up, and go for a run!

So what are your top tips for getting motivated? How do you get yourself going when you would rather stay on the sofa or pop down to the pub? Share your thoughts in the comments and I’ll pick my favourites and send out some thanks you prizes!

The storm is coming

Think back if you will, to the point before your marathon preparation cycle started. Let’s take November last year for example. Whether or not you raced last autumn, it is highly likely that last November you were not training for anything specific. Wasn’t that a lovely time? Blissful in fact. You were running, sure, but it was base building stuff – more steady runs and less sessions. Maybe even skipping a run or two if life or work got in the way.

But now, if you listen carefully, you can hear the rumble of the approaching spring marathon. Coming like a train down the tracks, ever day it is getting closer and closer…

And the training is getting harder and harder.

Welcome to the Twiglet Zone.

As I look around me at my compatriots, my training partners and the people I have contact with through this blog or through social media, the incidences of injury and tiredness are becoming more and more common.

At the track last night, people were missing. Others didn’t manage to finish the session. The recoveries between reps stretched out from 60 seconds initially to 75 seconds.

I have heard from friends who are starting to get over stretched. Little injuries are appearing. General fatigue is setting in.

I’m suffering too. As I write this I am sat on the sofa with my feet up and a cup of tea, like an old man. I felt OK after my track session last night, but a combination of a hard session, a rather restless night and possibly not eating very sensibly after the track last night, left me feeling utterly drained as I went out for my run this morning. I managed the 60 minutes and kept to the pace that I usually manage for those runs, but I felt ragged and there were several very sore spots in my legs – right calf, back of the left knee and both quads. I was in a sorry state!

But I have now got to the point where I realise this is all part of the training. If you want to be the best runner you can be, you have to manage these difficult periods. Training for a marathon involves having injuries treated or resting them for a few days. It involved making sure there is enough food in the house. It requires making sure that you create the environment that will allow you to sleep properly. And most of all, training to run the best marathon you can (or excelling in any sporting endeavor for that matter) requires you to embrace the challenges that come with training hard and the build-up of fatigue that is part and parcel of training week in, week out.

Professional athletes suffer too!

It is tempting when you see the runners at the top of their field, floating along at super-human speeds, to thing that the pros have it easy all the time, but that is far from the truth. Check out Jessica Ennis in this BBC film, at about 4min 25sec talking about the struggle of getting out of bed when the weather is horrible and she feels broken from all the training. Or consider Julia Bleasdale, who I interviewed recently, who told me that

Sometimes when I am really tired and I have a second run to do and the weather is miserable – those runs are very difficult, but of course they can also be the most beneficial.

What the pros know is that when it comes to the day of the race or event, all the hard training will pay off and succeeding will look easy. That is what we have to focus on – the end goal.

So, there is no way to sugar-coat this. If running a marathon was easy, there would be NO POINT DOING IT. We do it because it is hard and because it is a challenge. But in reality the bulk of the challenge is now, not on the day. So get that injury fixed and make sure you have the right stuff and the right environment to train hard and recover. And visualise the moment when you achieve your aim… I promise you: the pain and fatigue you feel now will pale into insignificance on the day. You didn’t really think it would be easy, did you?

adidas Energy Boost sneak peek

As I have mentioned on this ‘ere blog before, when it comes to footwear – and especially racing footwear – I am a big fan of adidas products and I have really enjoyed wearing the Adios AdiZero and the AdiZero Feather 2 for many of my races. The Adios AdiZeros were on my feet when I PB’d in London in April last year.

And now I have been told about a new technology that adidas are releasing – the Energy Boost system. Now I can’t tell you too much about it… mainly because I don’t know all that much about it. But I have been told that there is a new shoe that offers the runner three significant-sounding benefits:

  • Improved cushioning thanks to ‘energy capsules’, which make up the footwear’s distinctive midsole and which claim to store and release energy more efficiently on every footstrike
  • Performance in all conditions: adidas tell me that the new Boost material “holds its performance in almost any condition at unparalleled levels; tests revealed that, when taken from +40  to -20 degrees Celsius, BOOST™ foam is three times more temperature-resistant than standard EVA material”
  • And better comfort with an upper on the Energy Boost shoe which incorporates adidas Techfit technology

This all sounds pretty good and I am very keen to try the shoe out – something I will get to do on 13 February at the global product launch. Until then, there is a video which offers a glimpse of the new Boost technology – which you can see here – and a rather cool, if enigmatic, photo to whet your appetite…