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.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Tips for running a race

I really enjoy racing, it's a massive part of why I run. I have taken part in several races before, from winter duathlons to sprint triathlons as well as a few 10ks, and there are a few hints an tips I have picked up along the way. I thought it would be a good time to share these with you all.

Entry central

Every race has to start by first finding the right race for you. Entry central is where you will have to sign up for most of your races unless it's one of the massive city marathons or 10ks. It has great search functions where you can filter all the races by sport, date, distance from your house etc. have a look for yourself and find your next race.

Think about the route

I am certainly not one for studying every inch of a race route before the big day, but I would suggest having a quick look at the route so there are no surprises. For example, If there are lots of hills you want to do some hill training.

Train properly

If you sign up to a race you are making a commitment that goes beyond just the day of the race. You need to train properly for the distance you are racing to give a good account of yourself. There is nothing worse than finishing and thinking "if only I had trained more"! So be sure that you can commit to at least 8 weeks of training before you sign up.

Eat right

It is very important to eat right on race day. You need to eat a substantial amount 2 hours before your race. If you are running in the morning you NEED to get up early and have a good breakfast. If not you will just crash half way through the race and feel like a prat! True story! I would also recommend taking a banana to eat about half an hour before the start.

Have you got everything?

Most races will send you a race number before the race, or will get you to register before the race starts. You need to read everything the race organisers send you. Don't be caught out by small admin things, you want to be 100% focused on the race so make sure you take everything with you to avoid last minute panics.

If you are going to race then race!

This might not work for everyone, but when I run in a race I treat it as just that...a race! I get extremely well motivated by picking people in the pack and racing them, if I overtake them I if d someone else to catch. It really gets me through and makes things fun.

Know your pace

Work out what finish time you would be happy with, and work out the pace you need to run to achieve this time. You need to stick to this pace until the last 20% I would say, where you can pick things up a bit if you feel able. It's very important to not get carried away and sprint off the start line. Here is a great pace calculator where you can work out what pace you need to run.

Change of clothes for after

If you are running a race in a place that means you have to drive home after, take a change of clothes for the car. It's a horrible feeling when you cool down, but still have to sit in sweaty clothes. Eurgh!


It is very important to stay hydrated before during and after the race. I know we all know this but the excitement of race day sometimes gets the better of us. Keep drinking water, but not too much, you don't want to pee yourself half way through.

Have fun

How cliched is this tip? But it's worth saying I think. Races can bring out nerves in runners and get people stressed. The way I see it, there is no point worrying. Races are meant to be fun, and most of the time they are if you approach it with a relaxed and positive attitude (I just read that back and it sounds really cheesy
but I am keeping it in!).

Good luck with your next race, I hope there was something helpful above. I am going to sign up for the Fourth road bridge 10k next, it's where I got my PB so I hope to better it again this year!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Running to lose weight

Yes. Running will most definitely make you lose weight, however it needs to be combined with a healthy eating plan too or else, what's the point? The reason running will help you lose weight is because it burns tonnes of calories, more than any other sport (except cross country skiing but who wants to do that?). However, if you eat more than you are burning, that excess weight is going nowhere.

Here are some tips for using running to lose weight.

Combine running with a healthy balanced diet

Avoid processed, sugary foods that are high in fat. You should be eating a lot of lean protein and complex carbs. Replace white bread and pasta for wholegrain versions. I would recommend eating 5 smaller meals throughout the day rather than the standard breakfast, lunch and tea. Eating 3 meals a day is not the best way for you to keep yourself fuelled and certainly not the best way to lose weight.

1. Eating frequently prevents hunger pangs and curbs over eating.
2. Eating more often keeps your metabolism working quickly so you burn calories more efficiently.
3. Food is also absorbed more efficiently when we eat regularly
(Article source)

Another important bit of advice is to avoid the trap of thinking "well I have ran tonight, therefore I can eat a huge meal and have loads of junk food, I have earned it". Stop right there! Take the donuts out your mouth! Treats are allowed but why not treat yourself with some new running gear, or a trip out somewhere nice, try and get out of the habit of having food treats.


Interval training is great for burning calories. If you are unsure what I mean by intervals read my post here. This type of training will use up a lot of calories because of the high intensity. High intensity exercise drains your muscles of their inbuilt energy. Your muscles then need to get this energy back but this can take up to 48 hours. During this time your body has no alternative but to draw and burn up your fat reserves. This is perfect if you want to lose weight.

Keep focused on goals

If loosing weight is your primary goal with running then keep to this and use it as a motivating factor. If you do not enjoy running, and are just doing it for weight loss motivation could be a challenge. Keep focused on the fact it will work, you will feel a lot better about yourself, you will lose weight and be a happier person. What more motivation do you need? Tell friends about it so that you are committing to it, they will ask how you are getting on and if you quit you will be disappointed. Finding a friend with similar goals and running with them is another great way to stay motivated and keep you running.

Don't do too much too soon

If you are wanting to lose weight, don't run yourself in to the ground. You need to be realistic and build up gradually. The couch to 5K programme is a fantastic way to start running, it will get you running to 5k in 8 weeks. I would recommend this if you are a complete beginner. If you want to lose weight quick and do way too much to start, the chances are you will injure yourself and not be able to do any exercise. I would suggest 3 times a week to start. It will be tough and you do need to push yourself, but there is not point killing yourself. You will just be dead and fat.
Me having a rest!

Rest days

The reason running is so good for you is that it uses so many of your muscles, and in turn burns more calories. When you are working your muscles, they actually get microscopic tears in them and this is why you hurt after a long run. These tears need to repair, and when they do this is what makes your muscles stronger. You need to provide you muscles with the right foods (protein, complex carbs etc.) but they also need rest. How cool is that, you can lose weight by doing nothing! great stuff!

Let me know what you think and if you have any tips of your own for loosing weight while running. Running can do so much to make you feel healthy and better about yourself. I would say it is the best and quickest way you can lose weight.

Friday, 6 July 2012

10 tips for running in the city

My lovely city

My run home from work involves running in the city. This presents a few challenges to overcome to ensure a pleasurable experience. Here are some of my tips for best practise when running in a city.

Know your route

It's important to know your route. I would advise planning so you avoid the busiest pedestrian spots. If you have to go down a certain busy street, have a look on the map and see if there is a side street you could use instead.

Be careful when crossing roads

Although you are running and probably in the zone, you still need to pay attention when crossing the road. A few minutes off your time while waiting to cross is better than getting knocked over. The green man is your friend.

Garmin satellite problems

I have found my garmin watch takes a few minutes lo get to locate satellites in the city, which I think is because of the tall buildings. Keep this in mind when planning your run.

Use the city for training

The city has tonnes of great training opportunities that you can build in to your run to keep the body guessing. Try and work in some stairs, wall jumps, hills, tricep dips on benches etc. use your imagination.

Mix up your route

I said before its important to know your route, it's also a nice idea to change it once in a while, just to keep things fresh and exciting.

Ignore the drunks

When I run home I sometimes get heckled by drunks or youths. Just ignore them, or give them a wave it's up to you, just be secure in the knowledge that in 2 secs you will be away from them, they will be left behind, still drunk, still fat, still a lesser person than you.

Where glasses

I find that I get a lot of dust in my eyes when running in the city so I would recommend wearing glasses of some description to keep this out.

Running at night

Wear bright florescent clothes so that you can be seen. I am sure you have all had the experience from a driver's point of view, when you don't see a runner till the last second because they are dressed all in black, more like a ninja than a runner.

Take water

Cities are hot places because of all the traffic and people. Take some water so you can stay hydrated.

Pedestrian navigation

Sometimes you will have to run through very busy parts of town. I would recommend slowing down a bit, looking as far ahead as possible and pick a route through. Of course you could just put your head down and sprint, crashing in to anyone who gets in your way.

All in all I enjoy running in the city. Hopefully these handy hints will help you navigate your way through the busy metropolis that is your city.
Let me know if you have any other tips I can add to the list.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Run home - 3/7/12

Last night I ran home from work for the 4th or 5th time since "the accident". I felt good but still felt my power draining away from my legs at around 6 kilometres. The full run is around 8km, so great training for my 10k races planned for later in the year.
Stats from run

I have really suffered from having almost 3 full weeks off, but think I am getting back to the way I felt before I injured myself. I will need to do some speed work/interval training to get fully fighting fit.

Running home from work is a great idea for anyone who struggles to fit running in to their schedule. I find because I work in the city, I actually get home quicker than if I were to take the bus. I just change at work, put my valuables in my rucksack and leave my work clothes at work to be collected the next day! This works a treat for me and really allows me to increase my weekly mileage.

So that's it really, I am out a lot this week (Edinburgh Magic Festival is happening) so I am going to try and do some early morning runs, keep reading to find out how I get on.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


Staying hydrated while running is of paramount importance. If you become dehydrated doing any sort of exercise you are putting yourself in risk of some serious side effects (headaches, dizziness, muscle fatigue, disorientation) not exactly what you want to be happening when out on a run. Here are some handy hints on how to stay hydrated while running.

mmm I love water (looks pretty natural eh?)

1. Eat foods that are rich in water.

Iceberg lettuce, watermelon, broccoli, carrots, beets, oranges and apples, tomatoes, radish and loads more. Processed foods will give you nothing in terms of keeping you hydrated, they will in fact take and use up some of the water you have consumed that day. Stay away from processed foods as much as you can. Try for 70 % of your diet to include water rich foods.

2. Drink water all day

This is a good rule whether you are running that day or not. As an athlete you should be drinking water consistently throughout the day, every day of the week. As a runner, it is recommended you drink 2-3 litres of water a day. This will help keep you hydrated, but it will also help with other elements of diet and nutrition. Don't just have a pint of water before your run as this will not be as effective, and you may pee yourself while running.

3. Hydration pack
I have a hydration pack that I wear while running. I don't like running with a bottle, and I am sure some of you are the same, so this is ideal. I run home from work a lot and can put my things in the rucksack, but there is a big tube that comes out the pack that allows you to drink on the move. I would recommend getting one of these, they are cheap to pick up and ideal if you are doing longer runs.

4. Remember to hydrate after your run

While you are running you are sweating an awful lot, which means you are loosing fluids. You need to re-hydrate after you have been running. Everyone will be different, there is a general rule of thumb that you should drink 2 cups of water for every pound lost during running. For this you need to weigh yourself before and after, which is a bit of a faff! My advice would be to have a pint or so when you get home, I couldn't be bothered weighing myself and working all that out but if you can, go for it! Also keep a close eye on your wee (not too close) , if it is darker than normal this means you need more water!
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