Thursday, 28 March 2013

26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss

This week I found myself deeply absorbed into a book about a well-known Amercian-Greek runner called Dean Karnazes.

The book I'm talking about is 'Run! 26.2 stories of blisters and bliss' by ultra marathon runner and athlete Dean Karnazes. 'Karno', as his friends call him, wasn't a born runner. Though his drive and passion for running and love for adventure made him fully commit to his running career and follow a trail full of pleasure and pain.

Run! is Karno's follow-up book to his bestseller 'Ultramarathon Man'. His second book comprises of 26.2 (aka marathon distance) short stories about Karno's experiences and memories of tackling some of the most challenging ultra marathons in the world, including:
  • a 350 mile run through the Australian outback
  • the Western States 100 miles endurance race
  • annual attempts at the Badwater ultramarathon in Death Valley, California
  • a four deserts race across the Atacama, Gobi, Sahara and Antarctica deserts
  • a 75 day track crossing America, running from California to NYC and raising money for charity
  • the Ultra trail du Mont Blanc, one of the most preeminent off-road races in Europe
  • and many more countless marathons and night runs.

On his own account he has never signed up for any runs shorter than marathon distance. He now owns an impressive collection of medals and silver belt buckles (that is the award for successfully completing an ultra marathon). Despite his grown fame and fortune his feet remain firmly on the ground. For him it is the experience that counts, less the gained prosperity or won trophies.

Dean Karnazes
Karno describes himself as an introverted family men. He enjoys running for the quality of solitude. As a full-time runner he is traveling the world to run in the most exotic and remote places. His family comes along to support him whenever they can. In the book Karno often tells stories of his dad, endearingly referred to as 'Popou', who often used to accompany him along to races and provide him with support in the most hopeless moments.

Unlike many autobiographies I've read before, Karno not only talks about his friends and family, he also gives them the opportunity to give their own, honest account of what it's like to be close to and live with Karno, the running man. His wife Julie, a non-runner by nature, describes the Dean Karnazes that she got to know and love. A humble character, driven by his passion for running, who always puts his family first.

Many fans and readers have been inspired by Karno's passion for extreme sports as well as his close friend Topher Gaylord. In the book Karno dedicates a chapter to his friend in which Topher describes his first tough but ultimately rewarding ultramarathon experience.

For Karno passion and conviction are more important than talent. He doesn't see himself as special or particularly gifted, like other runners before he one day put on his running shoes and never looked back. He runs for pure enjoyment and to fulfil his running dreams.

Run! is the first book I've come across by Dean Karnazes and I found it humbling, awe-striking and inspiring what a human being can achieve with pure will and conviction. I'm only at the beginning of my running career and have achieved little so far. But Karno inspired me to keep going and set my bars high. Running not only helps you to keep fit, it also gives you a purpose and will power to overcome any obstacles in life. Soon, anything seems possible.

In Karno's own words...
"Do what you love. Dream big. Be restless. Sleep little. Don't play life safe, dare boldly instead. Live as though you really mean it."

Now turn off that computer you're sitting at and get running...

You can find more information on Dean Karnazes, his books and events on his website

Saturday, 16 March 2013

On running clubs, PBs and the fun in sports...

Last Friday I met Katie Hiscock, web editor of Runner’s World, for a coffee and a chat to talk about her running career. As a personal trainer and sports massage therapist, Katie is an experienced runner and knows the science behind her favourite sport.

When have you started running?

I started running about five years ago, my boyfriend got me into it at the time. I remember trying to run to the end of the road, finding it really hard and I thought, ‘oh god, how can people do that’. Then I decided to join ‘Park Run’. It’s a group of runners who get together every week to race against each other. I gradually got better at running and started to increase my distance.
I never thought I would be an endurance runner, because I’m not a natural runner. In school I used to be a sprinter for the North West sprinting team, but as a sprinter my body physique is much different from that of an endurance runner. Sprinters have fast power release muscles, whereas endurance runners have slow-release muscles. It depends very much on your genes pool and there is only so much you can do to change that.

Do you prefer to run by yourself or in a group?

When I started running I used to run by myself, as I would find it really difficult to run and talk at the same time. As a more developed runner, I now prefer to run with other people. Running in a group can give you a real sense of camaraderie and motivation, especially when you’re training for a marathon.

What was your first ever running event?

It was a 5K run for the charity ‘Race for Life’ about six years ago. I remember being worried that I wouldn’t be able to complete it. I wasn’t trained at all and I didn’t know anything about running back then. I don’t remember the exact finishing time, but it was over 30 mins. Now my PB for a 5K is 22:06.

Since then I’ve ran multiple distance events. The Brighton Marathon was my first full-length marathon, which I finished in a time of 4:20. I was injured then and had to take painkillers to be able to complete the race. Now I should be able to run a marathon in a time of sub 4hrs.

What’s your favourite running distance?

I like running half marathons, because they are a good challenge. I can run half marathons now without training for them, but I wouldn’t be able to get a PB. My PB so far is 1:51, but my target time would be 1:45.

What keeps you motivated during training?

The camaraderie of my running group keeps me motivated. I couldn’t train for an endurance run on my own. I ran my first half marathon with my best friend and we kept each other going. Since then, she moved to Australia, so I had to find a new running buddy. I decided to sign up with my local running club and that was the best thing I did.
There is real sense of camaraderie within the club and you become close to other runners. On those days when you don’t feel like running, the incentive to go and see your friends is what makes you go anyway. And you do get bullied when you skip runs, too! My friend Rich, who I got to know through the club, helps me to pace my runs and to bring my PB down. He’s better than any running watch you could buy in the shops.

Obviously, everyone is different. People join running clubs for all sorts of reasons: For some it’s fitness, some are proper racers, some do it for the health benefit. It doesn’t matter, and that’s what I like about running. You are a runner when you put on your trainers and go outside. It’s for fun.

How do you treat yourself after a run?

With food. You have to be careful though, some people put on weight during marathon training due to the high carb load. You find yourself eating all the time and your metabolism goes crazy.

Is there anything you don’t like about the sport?

Runners can become a bit cliquey and quite exclusive, which can be intimidating to new runners and beginners. At the end of the day, running is about putting on your shoes and going outside. Some people overcomplicate it.

Also, the sports industry has become a huge business. There are so-called experts and myths around giving you the wrong advice on nutrition, gels, sports drinks and running shoes. As a sports journalist it is my responsibility to tell the truth, not those outlandish facts about running.

Before our ways part again, Katie gives me some advice for my half marathon training. Go ahead and listen in…
If you are interested to talk to Katie about personal training or sports massages, you can contact her through her website

Friday, 15 March 2013

Race review: BHF Regent's Park 10K

Last Saturday Robert and I joined the British Heart Foundation in the Regent's Park 10K run.

After a full week of rain, the weather had mercy on us and the rain kept away for race day. However, the thermostat still only showed a chilly 4 degrees Celsius.

Robert and I arrived at the inner circle of Regent's Park in good time before the race to pick up our timing chips and complementary BHF T-shirts. When we arrived we were surprised to find a long queue in front of the small registration tent. We were told that the timing chips had just arrived and there was a delay in handing them out to the large number of registered runners. After a long back and forth, the organizers decided to hand out random numbers to runners to speed up the process. Consequently, my runner's pseudonym for that day was 'Paul Hilliman' with race number 60809. Once I had my chip and T-shirt, I was slightly worried to see that race organisers had just started to pin down the race track 15mins before race begin. For such a large and popular charity I expected to see better race organisation than that. After all, this run is a hot spot in the annual runner's calendar and attracts a lot of local runners.

However, all frustration was forgotten once we actually got going. Wave two included a fairly large mob of runners, so it took me some time to be able to set into my own race pace.

The race started parallel to the Broadwalk going North to Primrose Hill, followed by a left turn into The Regent's Park Hub and back along the Boating Lake to the starting point on the Broadwalk. The run was set out on pathways but also across water-drenched and muddy grass fields - my Brooks PureDrift shoes definitely needed a good clean after that run! For a 10K, runners had to complete two laps.

I completed my first lap confidently with an overall time of 00:32:15 and an average pace of 7mins/km. After passing the start line for the first lap, I sped up to an unbelievable 06:17 mins/km. Painstakingly, this showed revenge at the last two kilometres where I had to force my legs not to stop and drag myself up the hill to cross the finish line at PB of 01:06:26.
Two friends of mine, Berta and Laura, where waiting for me at the finish line, which sparked a sprint finish. Robert finished again 10 mins before me with an overall time of 0:55:29.

My verdict and overall race score: 3/5
Overall it was a good and flat run, suitable for any type of runner. The organisation was disappointing though. The running route could have been set out better and cut off from pedestrians. With a bit of better preparation and nicer weather, this could have been a worthy spring run.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

New spring collection & results of my gait analysis

Like many of us, I'm counting down to the first days to spring. If you want to believe the Gregorian calendar, there are only 17 days to go to the official beginning of spring. Next week's weather forecast begs to differ though. Even so, it is time for us runners to take stock and get our kit ready for the (hopefully) warmer days to come.

Gait analysis

This weekend I went to my running shop in town and had a long overdue gait analysis done to see if my choice of running shoes fit my running style. During a typical gait analysis the runners is asked to run on a treadmill for a couple of minutes, first barefoot then wearing running shoes. The running specialist will record your running on video and analyses your movement and posture. The most common running types are: overprontation, underpronation and neutral.

As a result of the gait analysis the specialist will be able to recommend the perfect running shoes for you that can give you the essential support for your training. Good shoes are important as they will support your joints and prevent unnecessary injuries. Here is an interesting video that explains how a gait analysis works.

My results are in: I'm very pleased to hear that I'm a neutral runner and roll off my feet nicely.
Even though I love my Brooks PureDrift minimalist shoes, my ankles, knees and hip would require  firmer support and the ASICS Gel-1000 shoes were recommended to me. The ASICS shoes Gel-Forte I had been given from work are of no use to me - so if you're an overpronator and need stronger support, please contact me!

My new spring collection

All inspired by some spots of blue sky and streaks of sunlight, I made use of the spring sale and stocked up on my spring running kit. My new spring running kit consists of an ultra-light short arm running top in blue, a pair of Nike 3/4 Capri pants and a pair of light, black and white running socks. Now I can't wait for spring to arrive!

(Roll your mouse over the image to read more information. You can click through the gallery using the navigation at the bottom.)