Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Sub 20 minute 5k

When I first started writing this blog, my main goal for running was to get faster. This year I wanted to run a sub 40minute 10k. One of the key milestones along the way for me would be getting my 5k under 20mins, but I had never ran this fast before. My quickest 5k was 21mins 39secs so I was still a long way away.

If you have been regularly reading my blog though, you will know I have been focusing on speed work, trying to increase my speed endurance. Hill sprints, intervals, easy runs and my diet have all contributed to what happened this Saturday...

I was at my local park run, a 5k run held in parks across the country on a Saturday morning. The Edinburgh park run is along the promenade at cramond beach. It is a lovely flat route and perfect for running a fast time.

I had read a great article saying that a study had been done and the results suggested that if you run the 1st mile of a 5k race at a much quicker pace than you usually do, and after that settle in to a rhythm, you will get a much quicker time over all. With this in mind, I shot off the start line.

I felt great, all my hard work had come together and I was flying. I felt great until 4km where I started to lose some steam. I had dropped my pace a bit but then I glanced at my watch and then glanced up and I could see the finish line.

If I could make it in 23 seconds, I would get in under 20minutes. This really shocked me as I wasn't aiming for it, I just wanted to beat my personal best.

I gave everything I had in those last yards so much so that as soon as I crossed the finish line I...well let's just say I didn't feel too great.

I looked at my watch and was over the moon to realise that I did it! 19 minutes 54 seconds. I genuinely have never been happier in my running life, this is my best achievement to date.

I need to get my 5k time even further down if I am going to run a sub 40 minute 10k, but I feel I am on the right track. I have 2 weeks left before my first 10k of the season, I am not expecting sub 40 minutes there but who knows? I might surprise myself again...

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Runners Nod

The runners nod is a peculiar phenomenon that I am positive all runners will have experienced. You are running along, be it on a muddy trail, a running track or just on the road, you pass a fellow runner and there is this mutual appreciation for one another which manifests itself in the form of a small nod of the head and a smile. A simple action, but one that says a lot.

That small nod of the head, shared between runners, says "well done you, for being great". There is a huge amount of smugness in the space between the nods, but this has been earned with every step that has led to the inevitable up and down of the head.

There are a few things to consider though, if you have never experienced this. The balance between the runners nod and just looking like a crazy stalker is delicate. Fear not, I am here to help.
  • Don't nod too enthusiastically, this will be awkward for you and the other runner. A single nod of the head is sufficient.
  • Always smile, you are nodding in mutual appreciation, not starting a fight.
  • If the runner you pass does not nod back (this is terrible and they are probably not a real runner), don't run after them screaming "where's my nod, you're meant to nod!!!". Just run off knowing that you are a better person in every way.
  • Don't feel you need to speak to the other runner, everything you need to say is in the nod.
  • Nod when the are in front of you, in your eye line, don't nod as they are passing you - they may just think you are staring.
  • Only nod at fellow runners, they are the ones who deserve it.
The runners nod represents a bond between two like minded people who are enjoying their run and happy to see other people doing the same. There must be similar experiences in other sports; Hikers Hello? Cyclists wave? Dog walkers chat?

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Trail Running

This weekend I went our for a great run with my good friend Euan. The route was near a wee town called Falkland, where we drove to and dumped the car. I had bought a new pair of trail running shoes and was desperate to give them a go, so I was very excited.
Our route started with a massive ascent, right up East Lomond hill. Look at the gradient on that guy, we ran up the steepest part too, which was great fun but I was almost blown off the thing as it was incredibly windy.

The whole run was 12.4K long which was fantastic. It was my first long run since starting on the Chia seeds, and I felt fantastic, so maybe the really are a super food. Before setting off Euan had said that the route we were going to do had a bit of everything, and he meant exactly what he said. There were huge hills, small hill, bogs, wind, rain, sun, cows, sheep, forests and lots of mud. It was perfect.

I have decided that I love trail running and am going to try and get out on the trails a whole lot more. Yes you may have to drive a bit further than when you do road running, but it is worth it. If you have never tried it I urge you to get out on some trails and go for it.

My next step is to sign up for a trail running race, so watch this space.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Faster, Higher, Stronger

A few nights ago I watched an episode of 'Faster, Higher, Stronger' a new short series of programmes focusing on athletic events through the years at the Olympics. The episode I watched concentrated on the 100m sprint event, and went through the years of the Olympic winners since 1896.

The programme was really interesting and had a great structure. It tracked (no pun intended) the progress of the 100m sprint event, and showed how it had evolved in the years since 1896. It looked at physical things like the starting blocks and running track conditions and showed how they effected the sport. It also looked at how the physique of sprinters had changed from a lean and slender sprinter, to a bigger more muscular type of sprinter.

I was fascinated to hear sprinters talking about the various stages of the race, from the Initial reaction time from the gun, the drive stage of the race, the last 10 meters when sprinters actually slow down. There is so much going on in the short 10 seconds and its fascinating to hear all about it.

It was also really cool to see Bolt with his world record run again from 2008. That was an unbelievable moment in history, he smashed the world record, and had time to slow down and celebrate BEFORE crossing the line.

You can watch the programme here, there are 3 other episodes on BBC iplayer just now about other events so I am looking forward to catching up with them too.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Unusual Running Races

Running has become so popular nowadays that a lot of different and unique events are popping up that not only involve straight forward running. Running a marathon is just too tame now, we need more than that. I started looking for some unusual or wacky races that I could share with you all, and this a few of the best I found.

North American Wife Carrying Championships  

What a hero!

This race makes me laugh because if I was to suggest to the lovely Charlotte (my wife to be ) that we take part, she would probably call the wedding off. Essentially you run a race through an obstacle track with your wife on your back (note: it doesn't actually need to be your legal wife). Teams need to be made up of one male and one female but it doesn't need to be the man who carries the woman.

"Carrying methods often include the piggyback or fireman's carry, but teams are encouraged to create their own style. All winners to date have employed the highly-technical Estonian carry, which has the woman upside down with arms wrapped around the man's waist and her legs draped over his shoulders."

Seemingly this all comes from a Finnish history. Rankainen the Robber, an infamous 19th century Finnish scamp only wanted the strongest men in his merry band. The way he tested this was to set up an obstacle race and make his men run it with a sack on their back. This evolved into running with women on their back to show more physical strength and so the lovely tradition was born.

The Great Kinder Beer Barrel Challenge

This race also looks like a lot of fun. Essentially, up to 11 teams of 8 runners rise to the challenge of carrying an 8 gallon keg of beer across the mountainous terrain of Kinder Scout.

The route is only about 3 miles, however there is a crazy 900ft climb up, and then of course they have to come back down. The fastest team get to drink their barrel of beer.

This is meant to be one of the most gruelling fell running events in the peak district, which is saying something!

Man vs Horse Marathon

Not as exciting as Cowboys vs Aliens marathon but still pretty cool. This is an annual event that pits horses against humans in a marathon through the Welsh countryside. You may think this sounds crazy, but as described in the book born to run, humans can actually outrun animals over long enough distances. This is called persistence hunting and it is how we survived and makes us who we are today.

That being said, in the 32 years of this event there have only ever been 2 human winners. That is still pretty incredible if you ask me!

The Great Wall Marathon

A marathon on the Great Wall of China sounds fantastic to me. I really want to visit China and go see the Great Wall, so it would be a great excuse.

Again, not much hidden in the title here, it is a marathon that takes place on the Great wall of china. Think how tough a marathon is at the best of times, a real test of human endurance and will power. Now add baking sun and 5164 steps to the mix! Maybe I will need to work in a few years of wife carrying before trying this one.

I will be writing more about unusual running races as and when I find them. I feel this is just the tip of the iceberg just now.

Let me know if you have ran in any of these races or indeed if there is a wacky race with your name on it that I may not have read about yet.
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