Born Free: ten years of the Nike Free

I once heard someone say that the Nike Free is the best selling running shoe ever and whether or not that is true, this year Nike are celebrating 10 years of their iconic, floppy, flexible friend-of-the-foot.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 14.55.23
Sean McDowell, VP & Creative Director, Nike Running

As part of the celebration, Nike brought Sean McDowell, Vice President and Creative Director for Nike Running, over from Oregon to London and hired a space that they turned into a very cool museum and technology lab rolled into one in honour of the Free… and I was invited to check it out.

All cool and no fool either

It is undoubtedly the case that when it comes to ‘cool’ Nike are the kings of the runnerverse. Other brands might be purely dedicated to running or more likely to be worn by the fleet-footed speed merchants. But Nike will be on the feet of the trendy types and the fashion conscious.

And Nike also has some serious pedigree when it comes to running. The event that I attended last week really hammered that point home. The first and most immediate thing made it clear that Nike is a serious running powerhouse was the way in which I and my fellow invitees were made to wait on the pavement outside the space for quarter of an hour after the time we were asked to arrive, by big burly security men with ear-pieces. Apparently the Nike team weren’t ready for us… so who was getting themselves ready? None other than Olympian and marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, who was joining us for a run. And she would be accompanied by future stars Jessica Judd and Charlie Grice.

The irony was that once we were inside, Paula, Jess and Charlie were all absolutely lovely and down-to-earth: not a hint of the prima donna amongst them!

The running pedigree of the brand with the swoosh was also really brought home when we heard from Sean McDowell and he went through a brief history of the brand, illustrated with picture of Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike, standing with his coach and business collaborator Bill Bowerman – the man who invented the rubber waffle sole that revolutionised running shoes.

Whilst Nike has fingers in so many sporting pies, there is no doubt that running is deeply ingrained in it’s DNA.

Experiencing the Nike Free

Charlie Dark, founder RunDemCrew
Charlie Dark, founder RunDemCrew

The Nike Free Experience that I was invited to, was being run by Charlie Dark from the RunDemCrew – a very important man in my life as well as being a brilliant public speaker and motivator. He was the perfect person to get everyone invited to the event relaxed and receptive and was also the perfect partner for Paula, who clearly finds Charlie’s antics quite amusing!

After a quick introduction, Charlie had all of us go through a warm-up so that we were ready to head out for a run in the new Nike Free 3.0 that we had been issued with. As Charlie exhorted us to grab a foot and lift it behind us to stretch out our quads, you can imagine my surprise when I felt someone’s hand on my shoulder steadying themselves and I turned to see it was Paula – one of my all time heroes!

Out on the run in the Nike Free 3.0

After the introduction and warm-up, Charlie and his team had all of the invitees back out onto the pavement and off running.

IMG_1854I must admit that I was feeling a little bit worried about running in the Nike Free 3.0 two days before the London marathon. They are – to put it mildly – minimalist. As we were to hear later, that is the point. I was worried that a shoe with a very minimalist sole and a zero heel-to-toe differential might give me some Achilles grief, especially as I had pushed myself in my last few sessions and was feeling typically sore in my calves already. But running with Paula Radcliffe was too good an opportunity to miss!

We ran for about 45 minutes and there were lots of stops due to traffic and waiting for the group to come back together so I was absolutely fine in the shoes and didn’t feel that I was stressing my foot or lower leg all that much. And in terms of how the shoe felt on, I think the Nike Free 3.0 is exactly what it sets out to be. As Nike say:

Our the most flexible and natural ride, the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit Running Shoe features a lightweight, supportive Flyknit upper and an ultra-flexible, low-profile outsole…

Personally I don’t enjoy running on hard concrete in a shoe with so little cushioning and I must admit that I was pleased when I found myself running along next to Paula and we got on to the subject of what she wears and she pointed out that while everyone at the Nike Free Experience was wearing the new Flyknit Free 3.0, she was wearing a pair of Pegasus. She explained that with all the foot problems she has encountered, nothing would dissuade her from wearing the best shoes given her injury and the Free was not the best shoe in that situation.

The science and the application of the Nike Flyknit Free 3.0

Me, Paula and Like the Wind magazine!
Me, Paula and Like the Wind magazine!

Perhaps inadvertently, when Paula was talking to me – and by the way, what a privilege to spend 10 minutes one-on-one, running and chatting with such an amazing athlete – she predicted everything that we would hear later: that the Nike Free is a great addition to a runners collection of shoes, but it can’t be the only shoe you run in. When Paula is running on hard concrete pavements she does not wear the Free.

Having returned to the Nike Free Experience space, we were invited to listen to Sean McDowell from Nike talk about the development of the Free. And what was so refreshing was the open and rational way that Sean talked about the shoe; the fact that one of the shoes that Nike developed and which ended up as the Nike Free was in response to Mike Parker’s challenge to make a shoe that fits like a t-shirt for the foot; the fact that the Free was developed after meeting a running coach who had his athletes do bare-foot strides on the grass after track sessions; the way that a series of shoes – the 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0 – were developed to allow runners to choose the Free with the right amount of cushioning for them. It all made a lot of sense to me and there was very little of the bombastic “Just Do It” messaging that Nike can sometimes resort to.

My thoughts about the Nike Free 3.0

Personally, I think the Nike Flyknit Free 3.0 is a bit too minimal for the vast majority of running that I do. It was fine for 5km with lots of stops on Friday, but anything more than that and I think I would suffer from the lack of cushioning and the minimal heel-drop. I could adapt but frankly at my age and with as little time available to train as I have, I don’t want to put in the time required.

However I do think this shoe might come into its own when I was to want a pair of shoes to do strides in after a session or if I am looking for a really light shoe for track sessions.

The Flyknit upper is great – really light and highly breathable so these will also be a great shoe for the summer when feet can tend to get a bit sweaty, which can cause rubbing and blisters.

I would say that the shoe is a great addition to the shoes that you probably have at home and would be great for shorter stuff on forgiving surfaces where you want to give your feet a good work-out. For people who are dedicated to minimalist running, this might be an all-round shoe for miles and miles on the pavement, but that is most definitely not me.

And finally, to confirm what I have heard so many times before, Paula Radcliffe is really one of the most friendly, engaging, fascinating and easy to talk to people I have met. She is a great ambassador for the sport and for Nike and it was a real privilege to meet her – thanks Nike!

 

 

 

The Nike Flyknit Free is available now – here – for £125.

I get knocked down… and then what

Reading about the fall-out from UK Sport’s decisions about funding for the different governing bodies in this country on the BBC website today, I was sad to hear that some sports – handball, basketball, table tennis and wrestling – have lost all of their central funding up to Rio in 2016. The headline news story on the BBC, which you can read here, is the reaction from a GB handball player, saying that he feels betrayed by UK Sport because, in his mind, their actions go against the legacy aims of the London Games.

UK Sport and the government say, however, that the GB Handball team came last in their group and have very little chance of qualifying for Rio in four years time so the money is better spent on sports that might have a chance of winning something.

Paula Radcliffe winning World Cross Country Champs in Ostend (© Allsport)

So what does this have to do with running. Well, the point I want to make is this: life will not always run smoothly and there will be setbacks. I was told a while ago about Paula Radcliffe’s first race at a national level, when as a 12 year old in 1986 she placed 299th out of around 600 in the girls’ race of the English Schools Cross Country Championships. Fifteen years later, Paula won the World Cross Country Championships.

I am sure that coming 299th was a disappointment for Paula but she was not deterred. She worked harder and trained smarter until she became the best in the world. GB Handball could take a leaf out of her book.

No one, and no National Governing Body, has a right to succeed – it always comes down to a few things:

  • hard work
  • luck (and it is funny how the harder you work, the luckier you get!)
  • support from people who believe in you
  • self belief
  • hard work

So when you are faced with a set back, don’t grumble and don’t fold. Regroup, take a deep breath and think about how you are going to take a step forward. Then take that step forward. Finish the next race in 298th place and keep going forwards until you – whether ‘you’ is an individual, a team or a national sport – is standing on top of the podium having achieved what you set out to achieve. It can be done, I promise.

 

 

 

Athletes and Injuries: A journey through London 2012

Another treat from the wonderful Catherine Wilding, who in this post looks at the pattern of athletes and injuries, especially in the run-up to important championship competitions. But it really begs the question: are we all not susceptible to pushing too hard as the ‘big day’ approaches and tipping over from fit to broken…?

 

For many athletes, there is often a tale of adversity to accompany their success.  It can be overcoming hardship, battling prejudice or just proving people wrong but more often than not, it’s overcoming career threatening injuries.  The athlete’s journey is long and winding and often a lonely path filled with emotional highs and lows.  It is beset with many obstacles but it is injury that is probably the most difficult.  It takes years of dedication and determination to achieve recognition and before even making the start-line of major championships and tournaments, many athletes have endured months of painstaking re-habilitation from injuries and some just don’t even make it.

As runners, ours is a cruel sport. The longer the distance, the more likely we are to get injured and the list of injuries for long distance runners is almost as long as the races themselves.  It’s a repetitive sport which is hard on the body and it is a lucky runner who escapes injury.

The London 2012 Olympic Games were a veritable catalogue of injuries. There are countless stories of athletes from almost every nation who were either not selected owing to injury; were forced to pull out before the games began; arrived at the start line not fully fit and carrying a niggle; or were injured during competition.

Our most famous distance runner of all time and World Record Holder – Paula Radcliffe – has a heartbreaking story and one we are all too familiar with.  It’s been an eight year journey from Athens, via a stress fracture and a cruel and disappointing race in Beijing, to London 2012. But such is marathon running a challenging sport – Paula didn’t even make the start line in London.  She was forced to pull out just one week before with a recurring foot injury and so her Olympic journey ended before it had begun.

Ryan Hall was a big medal hope

Her compatriot Mara Yamauchi completed months of hard training to line up on the Mall on Sunday 5th August.  But hers was a short-lived race and not the one she had trained for.  She hadn’t quite made it to the 10K mark before she had to pull up with an injury to her heel which clearly wasn’t going to hold up.  In the women’s marathon, the gun had only just gone off when one competitor had to be carried off the course.  One of the favourites for the race – Shobhukova also pulled out with a hamstring injury.  In the men’s marathon a week later, Ryan Hall of the USA was forced out after 10 miles also with a hamstring injury.  He later said that he has never not finished a race, but felt it was something he couldn’t work through and the injury could do damage to his career. His fellow team make Abdirhman barely made it a mile further before also pulling up after feeling a “pop” in his knee.  In fact 18 of the competitors didn’t make the finish line and will forever have the misery of seeing DNF next to their name in Olympic history.

That’s just the story of the marathon.  The most remarkable injury to have been incurred during competition must be that of Manteo Mitchell the American sprinter in the men’s 4 x 400m relay.  He heard his left fibula crack whilst running the first leg in the heats.  In an extraordinary feat of mind over matter he continued running on a broken leg despite the pain.  His rationale being that he didn’t want to let the team down.   Team USA qualified for the final but Mitchell wasn’t able to help his team-mates take Silver.  The Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell also pulled up in the 100m final after pulling a thigh muscle.  He limped across the line last but still managed to finish the race in 11.99 seconds.

Poor old Liu Xiang

Another heartbreaking story is that of China’s most famous athlete, the hurdler Liu Xiang.  After crashing out of the Olympic final in Beijing in 2008, he was again carried off the track in a wheelchair at London 2012.  An ongoing Achilles injury was to blame and after hitting the first hurdle in the 110m heats he ended yet another Olympic dream and promptly announced his retirement.

These are just a few stories from the runners.  Almost everywhere we looked we saw the tell-tale sign of injury.  KT tape (or Kineseology tape) was a ubiquitous and somewhat cult accessory at London 2012. Sported in every colour, Athletes use the tape to support injuries to shoulders, calves, hamstrings etc.  In the women’s 10K, the favourite Dibaba had thick blue tape down her hamstring, wearing it like a badge perhaps to tell us that she wasn’t quite in her best shape.

But it’s not just the runners who get injured. Some sports are more deadly than others and injuries can be crushing. For the road cyclist it can quite literally be “one false move and your dead”.  Travelling at speed is not the time to make a mistake as Fabian Cancellara the former Olympic Time Trial champion knows to his cost.  He hit a barrier in Richmond Park and suffered a debilitating injury to his collar bone which all but ended his Olympic chances.  The women’s road-race saw several crashes – none life threatening but ending medal chances for all those caught in the tangle.

The equestrian events are also no place to make mistakes.  It’s the horse that is in charge and being thrown from the saddle can not only end ones medal hopes but also put an end to riding for months or even years.   Team GB’s Nick Skelton has broken practically every bone in his body and suffered a near fatal neck injury in 2001, yet he managed to survive London 2012. After missing out on an individual medal in the show-jumping, he helped the team to ride away with Gold in the team event.  Broken bones are not confined to cycling, riding (and even running).  In the hockey, the Women’s Team GB captain played on despite suffering a broken jaw in the early rounds.  She went on to captain the team to a Bronze medal.

It's not all bad news though

Any athlete who has been injured knows that the recovery process and re-hab is fraught with difficulty – both physically and psychologically – which makes it even more remarkable that Team GB’s Alistair Brownlee – who, having suffered a tear to his Achilles as recently as February this year – was able to compete in the triathlon in Hyde Park.  Not only did he make the start line fighting fit but he ran a blistering race to take the Gold medal and a very convincing victory.

Others arrived gallantly for the competition having battled injury yet weren’t able to perform.  After weeks of speculation and controversy, Philips Idowu arrived only to crash out in the heats.  Some put on a great performance having overcome injuries but missed weeks of crucial training.  Our 1500m runner Lisa Dobriskey had a catalogue of injuries and illness, including surgery on her hip; a stress fracture in her femur, and a blood clot on her lung all in the space of a few months earlier this year.  It was an incredible achievement just to make it to the final but she was disappointed to finish in 10th place.  In the women’s triathlon, Helen Jenkins finished in 5th place despite not being fully fit having missed significant training in the preceding 10 weeks with a knee injury.

There are endless tales of disappointment and endless tears from athletes who have incurred injuries and not been able to fulfil their dreams.

We have to reflect and ask: How would the London 2012 Games have looked if Usain Bolt had not overcome his Achilles injury?  Only 95% fit, he ran away with three gold medals and a legendary status but it could all have ended quite differently.

 

 

Oh no, Paula

Always giving her all. Photo from Getty

I have spent more time than I care to reveal hoping and wishing that Paula Radcliffe would reach the start line of the marathon at the London Olympic Games, fully fit and ready to race. I am afraid that I think there are women now who are faster, stronger and more aggressive, so I didn’t really rate Paula’s chances of pulling off a golden finish to a really incredible and illustrious career, but I believed that she would be able to give it 100% and maybe, just maybe…

But today I read that she is carrying a foot injury – in fact a recurrance of a foot injury – and with six weeks until the race, there must be huge doubt that she will make it. I am a massive optimist and I love stories like that of Joan Benoit-Samuelson recovering from knee surgery to win the first women’s Olympic marathon in Los Angeles. But Paula seems so fragile. I guess we can only keep on hoping and Paula, if you ever happen to read this (not likely I know, but you never know…) I really wish you all the best and come what may, you are one of my absolute heroes.

Competing or Completing?

I spent a happy hour browsing running related videos online yesterday and one that I watched really struck a chord with me. It was the highlights of the 2010 Chicago marathon. I thought that the video was rather nicely made with sweeping panoramas of the runners and some great shots of the city. It really made me want to run the Chicago marathon one day!

But the thing that really made me think about all this marathoning, when I watched the video, was the difference between those who were there to compete and those whose aim was to complete the course. I thought about the difference between the elite and the fun-runners and the relative positions of those in between these two extremes.

Paula Radcliffe is a racer, putting everything on the line for the win

For most people in a marathon, running is something akin to a hobby: a way of staying fit. A personal challenge to rank alongside succeeding at work or going on exciting holidays. An item in their bucket-list.

For some however, the marathon is much more than that. It defines who they are. It shapes what they do, when they do it and why. Career advancement is sacrificed for the chance to train more and more effectively. Relationships are moulded around the everyday requirements of training and racing. These people strive and strain and put as much as they can possibly afford into running.

But where is the boundary? Is there a point, somewhere down the field, where racer turns into runner? Where competitor becomes ‘competer’? Or is it more a state of mind that can be found all they way through the field?

My personal feeling is that there are racers and competers all the way through the field of a race. I will always remember standing on the start line of a cold, wet and wind-blasted 20 mile race a couple of years back when the man next to me – a tiny, lightweight runner in a saggy vest and ancient running shorts – informed me that whilst he might finish in the final few of the race overall, he would make damn sure that he would beat “that bloke over there” – a similarly tiny, lightweight under-dressed chap who I was informed was the current holder of the over-70s winner’s medal from the year before (by the way, my compatriot did indeed win the Vet 70s race that year – apparently he and his nemesis swapped the cup almost every year!)

Taking time to high-five spectators = enjoying, but not racing.

For me, racing is a state of mind. It is wrapped up in the desire to be the best one can be. It is about looking at every aspect of one’s training and preparation and working out how to make it better. It is about making choices, every day, that are designed to result in being a better runner.

I believe that those whose aim is simply to complete a race aim to do what it takes to get through the distance. Time and position in the race is a secondary issue to actually finishing.

For racers the equation is slightly different – certainly, finishing is important, but achieving a PB or achieving a certain position or a time that qualifies the runner for something like the London marathon’s Good For Age entry system, is equally if not more important and not finishing or blowing-up before the end, is a risk worth taking for the chance of achieving something greater than just finishing.

So what are you? Completer or Competer? Do you have goals that feel at the limit of your reach? As my coach is fond of saying: anyone can cover 26.2 miles if sufficiently motivated and fuelled. It might not be pretty, but it is manageable. But for a racer, just getting around is not enough. Are you one of those runners not satisfied with just getting round?

And that was what struck me about the Chicago marathon video. The camera showed the entire gamut of runners as the film cut from those who were most definitely competing – Sammy Wanjiru and Tadesa Kibedi dueling it out in one of the most thrilling races I have ever seen – to those who were just looking to get to the end. I wondered why some people choose to race whilst others choose to get round? And what do you choose?

Runner at the Sharp End #2: Richard Gregory

This is the second in a series of interviews with Runners At The Sharp-end (the R.A.T.S). For an explanation of what I am defining as a runner at the sharp end have a read here. Richard, a member of the famous Ranelagh Harriers, is a fierce competitor, especially in cross-country races and excels at any distance he tackles on the road (his personal bests are testament to that, as you can see below). Here is what he told me;

SF: To begin with could you give us some background about yourself and your running? What distances do you run? What are your personal bests (and what were your first times for those distances)?
Richard going great guns in the 'cross' Image from Ranelagh Harriers

RG: Mostly half marathon and marathon at the moment, with a bit of cross country through the winter.
Half Marathon PB – 70.43 (Amsterdam 2011) and my debut was 81.16 (Brooklyn 2007)
Marathon PB – 2.30.46 (London 2011) with a debut 2.50.54 (New York 2007).

SF: How long have you been running and why did you start in the first place?

RG: Started about five years ago (though I’d run a bit through school – mainly to keep fit for hockey, which I played reasonably competitively).  I was living in New York at the time and had barely exercised for a few years; running round Central Park seemed a good way to get in shape.  A friend then convinced me a 10k race would be fun… a half soon followed, and when a New York marathon place came about (rather by accident) it seemed I better give it a go.

SF: Are you coached? And if so, by whom?

RG: Yes – Nick Anderson – since summer 2010.

SF: (Aside from your coach, if you have one) who or what has been the biggest influence on your running and why?

RG: Any number of friends I’ve made through running – anyone, at any level, who shares enthusiasm for the sport, improving at it, and having a good time along the way.  Simon’s written on the benefits of running with a group, and I’d definitely agree: I love that running has both that brilliant social side to it, and can be the best possible space for some private thinking time.

SF: What is the best piece of running advice you have ever been given? Who gave you that advice?

RG:

Take responsibility for anything you can control; react positively to anything you cannot.

Sounds a cliché, but pretty fundamental to running as much as anything else in life – though at the time it was a throwaway comment from someone (who’ll remain nameless) who should know better!  It stuck with me, not least when a vomiting bug reared its ugly head seven days before the London marathon.  Keeping calm that week was as important as getting better, and thankfully by the Sunday morning I was fighting fit.

SF: What is your favourite bit of kit and why?

RG: Much as I love comfortable kit – and toys – top of the list is two healthy legs.

SF: What has been, or where is, your favourite race?

RG: For atmosphere – New York marathon, very closely followed by London.
For how I ran – Amsterdam half a few years back.  I’ve run faster since, but it was a day when everything clicked: I just felt incredibly relaxed and enjoyed a rare and wonderful flowing feeling (and a huge pb, much quicker than I’d considered possible at the time).

SF: What do you think has had the biggest effect on you improving your times?

RG: More, more consistent, and structured training.  I didn’t have a clue what I was doing when I started out.  Nick’s coaching has been a huge help in learning the different ingredients, and how to put them together.

SF: With the benefit of hindsight, if you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be and why?

RG: Probably just to get stuck in at an earlier age: running’s something I’ve always enjoyed, but didn’t really get into until my late twenties.  Part of me wishes I’d got more involved on the track in my teens; I’d like to know what I could have done over 800/1500m!

SF: Do you stretch enough?

RG: No!  As well as stretching, I’m a big believer in core work (strength and conditioning) – I don’t do enough of that either, but really notice the difference for injury prevention and improved running form.

SF: What do you think about the general state of running in the UK and, assuming you don’t think it is perfect, what could be done to improve it?

RG: Participation seems to be on the up, which is brilliant – anything to help get people out the door and exercising is good news.  At the sharper end – the likes of Paula and Mo are an inspiration, and I’m far from qualified to say what’s needed for more to come through at that level.  In between, it would be good to see greater depth of “good club runners”, as there was in the past, and I would love to see anything that helps inspire more people to see what a brilliant sport it is, and put the work in to find out what they might achieve.  For starters the London Marathon coverage seems to miss an opportunity each year in jumping from the elite race to the masses: there are some wonderful stories of talent and dedication in between.

SF: What is your overall ambition for your own running? What do you think you need to do to achieve that?

RG: The ambition is simply to make the most of chances to keep on improving at something I really enjoy.  The volume and quality of my training has increased markedly over the past year or two: as with any runner, right now it’s just a case of putting the work in, trying to make sure I rest enough, and eating well.  Hopefully that will translate into a great marathon buildup and race at London this year.

SF: Please complete the following: I run because…

RG: Two reasons for me: I get a kick both out of running itself – nothing beats being outdoors and active – and the honesty of seeing hard work turn into improvement.

Nike nailing the zeitgeist?

New year: new ambitions or resolutions. That is the way many, many people mark another revolution of our planet around the sun. I have read hundreds of blogs and tweets and facebook updates listing plans for 2012 as well as quite a few people criticising the glut of new year’s resolutions. Those cynics might have a point, after all 1 January is identical to every other day so why decide that this is the point to get fit or save money or get a new job. But as regular readers know, I am a strong believer that as much as training is crucial for becoming the best runner you can be, motivation is equally important and if people find that an arbitrary date is enough to convince them to take on a challenge that they have shirked for the last 364 days, then I am all in favour.

I also think that the Christmas and new year period is a great opportunity for many people to take time to think about what they would like to do in the future – so many new careers, relationships or hobbies are formed in the crucible of a couple of weeks without work. Sadly however, many of the good intentions are also dead and buried by the time January comes to an end.

Softly, softly or GHOGH*?

The issue of broken resolutions in sport and fitness is one that I know many people are concerned about – from the government to personal trainers and from health professionals to gym owners, they are concerned by the initial rush of enthusiasm for getting in shape followed by the plunge in numbers as the reality of what it takes to change from a sedentary life to one gilded with sport comes into sharp focus. So what seems to happen about now is donning of kid gloves as those with a vested interest in getting the nation in better shape try to gently guide people away from returning to their old ways:

  • just exercise for 30 minutes a couple of times a week
  • if you can have two alcohol-free days a week
  • maybe try a 5km jog

But does the softly, softly approach work?

Make it count (or #makeitcount for the twitterati)

Nike seems to think that a more direct approach is required, which I am 100% in favour of. The new Make It Count campaign seems from my point of view to be a continuation of what, in some areas, Nike has been doing for a while: baring its teeth!

Sure there is still the slightly saccharine side to their marketing, most notably the advert of the girl who never stops running from dawn until dusk, foregoing all personal relationships and refusing to stop running even for a coffee (check out the ad here), while not breaking out in a single bead of sweat, let alone exhibiting any of the symptoms that someone running non-stop for days on end would suffer from. But this silliness has been rebalanced with a brilliant new campaign around making it count in 2012, following on from the #historystands campaign from last year.

Nike has taken a range of athletes – including two of my absolute idols: Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe – and built a campaign around what they are going to do to make it count in 2012. And then Nike wrapped this uncompromising message around the Metro newspaper. I love that idea. Take a tough medicine, refuse to wrap it in a sugar coating, use unusually challenging imagery and stuff it down the throats of slightly hung-over, depressed and podgy-from-Christmas commuters. That’ll give them something to think about. Indeed when I saw the campaign I had a very strong urge to ask the people sitting around me what they were going to do to make it count in 2012? Eh? Yes, you… what are YOU going to do in 2012 to make it count?

So Nike, my cap is doffed to you. Please, I implore you, keep on with this style of challenging advertising. Sure, you might alienate the terminally-lazy and uninspirable, but I think that there are many people who will have looked at the steely gaze of Mo or Paula and thought to themselves

maybe this year it would be great to do something that means when I review the year at the dawn of 2013, I have done something to make it count

And what about me? Well I am doing everything I can to make sure that I achieve the marathon time I want in 2012. That will certainly make it count for me.

*Go Hard or Go Home – adopted from the excellent RunDemCrew which you can check out here

 

Olympic selection for the marathon

The British Olympic Association has announced three of the athletes who will compete in the marathon in the 2012 Games. The runners with early selection are… wait for it…

Paula Radcliffe

Mara Yamauchi

and for the men

Scott Overall

You can read all about it here. No real surprises there then. I think that the two big questions that need to be answered are who will take the final place in the women’s race (anyone want to bet against Jo Pavey?) and whether any other British men will make the cut. After Andrew Lemoncello hobbled home in the Fukuoka marathon at the weekend in a miserable (for him) 2:24, I think that there may be the sad sight of only one GB vest on the start line of the Olympic marathon. I hope I am wrong – who do you think is in with a shout?

Mara Yamauchi adds to selectors’ headaches

Mara Yamauchi has finished third at the Yokahama marathon, in 2:27:24 which is well within the qualifying standard set by UK Athletics for female athletes to be eligible to be considered for the 2012 Olympic marathon. Now Yamauchi joins Paula Radcliffe (2:23:46 in Berlin) and Jo Pavey (2:28:42 in New York) as having the qualifying standard and I am sure there will be other British women who will stake a claim before the qualifying period closes.

So massive congratulations to Mara. I met her a few months ago on a train on my way for physio treatment in Teddington and she was increadibly polite despite, quite possibly, being a bit put-out to be disturbed by some random bloke on the train while she was enjoying a quiet journey. You can read more about the race here.

And of course this result again throws into sharp and, I have to say, unfavourable contrast, the state of marathoning in this country on the other side of the gender divide. What are the chances of us seeing 4 or 5 men battling for one of the three available places on the start line come summer next year? Not much, I fear.

Credit: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update: many thanks to Andrew Cooney (@windsorAndy) for pointing out to me that in fact in the women’s field that are in fact two more women who have achieved the selectors’ standards: Louise Damen (2:30:00 in London) and Claire Hallissey (2:29:27 in Chicago) which means, in Andrew’s words, “The VLM will be a scrap!”

You can join in this debate and more by following me at @simon_freeman

IAAF performs marathon u-turn

In my experience of running marathons, if you are going in the right direction then performing a u-turn is generally a bad idea – you will find yourself running against the tide of people. However if you find yourself running the wrong way then a u-turn might be the best course of action. In the case of the IAAF they made a decision that Paula Radcliffe’s world record for the marathon of 2 hours 15.25 minutes achieved at the London Marathon in 2003 would be down-graded to a ‘world best’ (you can read all about that here) and found themselves running head-on against the tide of public opinion. Now it appears that they have performed a tactical u-turn and might now be able to focus on tackling all the more important issues that affect our sport.

This is how ESPN reported the news released by Associated Press:

The IAAF has decided to let Paula Radcliffe keep her marathon world record from 2003, after previously saying it would reduce one of athletics’ outstanding performances to a world best because the English runner set the mark in a race with men.

IAAF Council member Helmut Digel told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the governing body will keep the mark in the books, despite an August decision to only recognize records achieved in all-women races from now on.

You can read the full text here.