Unilite Head Torch Review

I recently saw a post on Twitter asking if any bloggers who also run would be interested in testing out the Unilite head torch; blogger tick, runner tick, lover of freebies tick tick tick.

A couple of quick emails later and the head torch arrived all securely boxed up and ready to go, the model I received is a PS-HDL2, you can find the full spec here. First off it’s well packaged and just looking at the unit you get a sense that it is a quality product which retails for around £30. In the packaging there is a clear, simple instruction guide and the reverse of the product label shows the different light settings and an approximate battery life for having the torch on each setting constantly.

 

I found it very easy to set the torch up, it runs on normal AAA batteries and three Energizer batteries were supplied with the unit, I always appreciate it when a manufacturer provides batteries along with a product so that you can use it straight away.

The torch unit I received came in high vis yellow colour and has a rotational setting so that you can angle the beam, it fits onto the headband through a clip at the back and the headband itself is fully adjustable to fit your head size and has a silicone lining running right the way around it which prevents the band from slipping during use and as it weighs in at just 88g it is super light.

 

Given the nights are rather short at the moment I delayed my evening run last Wednesday until just before 10pm so that I could give the head torch a test run. The street lights were just coming on as I set out, it was by no means pitch dark but the conditions allowed me a good understanding of what the product can do. As a runner I want to feel safe in the dark, I want to be able to see and be seen and the Unilite certainly gives you that, the beam on all settings provided ample illumination and personally I like the flashing/strobe modes as they stand out to other road and pavement users. Despite the late start time it was still rather muggy and it wasn’t long before I had worked up a decent sweat, the headband though didn’t move a millimetre. I also made sure I included both uphill and downhill sections in my route to test for any bounce on the product, again it delivered perfectly staying exactly as I had set off. By the time I got home dusk was turning to darkness and where I live looks out over a large unlit field, I stood on the step at the side of the house and with the torch on full beam I was able to see quite a distance into the trees and bushes beyond.

 

I would say overall that my impressions of the Unilite are really positive and I look forward to using it more in my running later in the year as the nights close in. It is a flexible product though and can be put to many other uses including camping, fishing, dog walking and going down to the shed in the dark to draw off a pint or two of homebrew, a favourite pastime of mine!

One thing that Unilite may want to consider is bringing out a red head torch so that people can also be seen from behind, I know this would be useful for me as a runner, whether it could also fit onto the headband without feeling too uncomfortable I don’t know but if they ever want someone to be a guinea pig and trial something like this for them then I’m the man.

 

Sitting Down Is Dangerous!

In one way, shape or form, we all do it, regardless of our personal circumstances our days tend to follow a pattern, the daily grind, the same old same old, or as the French wonderfully put it métro, boulot, dodo.

I recently wrote about breaking that cycle in terms of training and mixing it up and I’m doing my best to stick to my guns and heed my own advice. This week I’m planning on going out for a run at around 10pm, I have the ulterior motive of testing my new Unilite head torch, and I’m also going to attempt the Strava mile PB challenge, something I’m really looking forward to testing myself on.

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Since returning from holiday last week though I have noticed something that concerns me about my day to day. Since February I’ve had a niggling pain at the top of my right hamstring. It coincided with an increase in miles in my training and naturally I put it down to that. It’s never been majorly painful and hasn’t stopped me from running. I bought myself a foam roller to work on it and that provided a degree of relief. The niggle was still there though and ahead of the Leeds half marathon I went for my first ever sports massage to try and work it out, what an experience that was! I encountered uncharted levels of pain and paid £30 for the privilege, it seemed to do the trick and I got round pain free.

A couple of days later though the niggle was back and it stayed until I went on holiday. For the first two days I didn’t really give it a second thought but at the end of the second day after I’d done a 5 mile run it dawned on me that the niggle wasn’t there, it wasn’t there the day after or on any day whilst we were away despite me doing a further four runs in 26 degree heat.

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Last Tuesday I returned to work and that evening the niggle was back, I hadn’t even been out for a run. It’s there now having been sat at my desk all day and therein I think lies the problem. Whilst on holiday I was either relaxing on a sun lounger, in the pool or out running, the only time I sat down was to eat or drink cocktails! At work though I generally sit at my desk for over 7 hours a day and whilst I make a conscious effort to take breaks and go out for a leg stretch at lunchtime my job is what it is. Don’t get me wrong my employer does a lot of positive work around staff wellbeing, I’ve done my workstation assessment and I am in no way blaming this niggle on them. I think the issue is down to my posture, the way I shift around on my chair and the way that I actually rest my feet, sometimes I catch myself with my foot resting on its side and that can’t be good!

Sitting at a desk does seem a rather odd way to pick up an injury but our general posture is probably at the root of more problems than people are actually aware of and don’t forget dear readers that the former England footballer Rio Ferdinand once injured himself by straining a tendon in his knee from having his feet up on a coffee table for a couple of hours whilst watching TV, it happens to the best of us!

Be careful out there, injury is lurking everywhere in your everyday.

Run Tourism

Despite it only being three weeks since I last posted a blog it feels like forever and quite a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. I have been officially discharged from cancer surveillance and given the all clear after 5 years, I’ve been offered a new job (both on the same day), I’ve been to Wembley and experienced the gut wrenching disappointment of playoff final defeat, I had a blog posted by the fantastic people at RUNR and I have experienced run tourism for the first time during a family holiday to the Costa Blanca.

Normally our family holidays include chasing the kids around a pool trying to make sure they are safe whilst attempting some form of sun bathing/relaxation and if we are lucky the odd bit of cultural diversity to take in some of the local sites, sounds and cuisine. This year though Isaac and Hattie are a little bit older, Isaac is already a good swimmer so as long as he stayed in view we were happy for him to go off and throw himself down slides and work on his bombing. Hattie is a little younger but the hotel we stayed at was well geared up for children of her age and so we didn’t have to follow her around 24/7. Consequently we were able to relax a bit more and I was able to take some me time to explore the delights of Albir, Altea and Benidorm with five runs in the eleven nights we were there. This exercise also helped to a degree to stave off the negative impact of chocolate doughnuts for breakfast and my evening tipple of mojitos laced with brown sugar which I became rather fond of! IMG_20170526_210424

Overall despite a few challenges, mostly of my own making, I would say my first foray into the world of run tourism was a success. Notes to self and others who fancy getting out this summer whilst away, mostly blindingly obvious but here goes:

  • Don’t forget to take water
  • If you like to run with music, remember where on earth in all your bags and suitcases you put your headphones
  • Wear a cap/visor/headband/anything to absorb the sweat and stop it running into your eyes and stinging like hell, it’s hot out there
  • Remember that in Europe they drive on the other side of the road, make sure you look the right way at junctions
  • Give any local runners you encounter a big smile, wave or thumbs up, share the love, most return it
  • Take your phone in case you get lost
  • Take a couple of sets of kit, you’ll sweat, a lot, you’ll smell

The majority of my five runs were around 45 minutes long and gave me plenty of chance to discover the local area from the delights of dodging stag and hen parties outside bars in Benidorm to the more sedate promenade that runs from Albir along to Altea with a beautiful backdrop and locals fishing and windsurfing. I surprised myself with how much I genuinely enjoyed the experience and I even had other hotel guests approaching me to ask about my running after they had seen me out and about.

Whilst my run tourism was entirely out of the make it up as you go along handbook, there is an increasing number of companies who offer guided running tours of cities around the world. I’ve no first hand experience of these tours but the feedback on social media seems favourable on the whole and the guided element takes away some of the fear of perhaps getting lost and makes sure that you see what a city or region really has to offer.

If you are due to go away then this summer, wherever that may be, take your running shoes, take your sense of adventure and go and see a bit more of the world.

 

Leeds Half Marathon – Race Review

Family, friends, Bradfordians, please forgive me for what I am about to write. On Sunday, Leeds, for a couple of hours I loved you. The cheering crowds, the kids with bowls of sweets, the ladies with orange slices, the sunshine, Leeds was the place to be and it was magnificent.

It was an early start for me as I made my way over to Leeds and arrived at around 8.15am. It had just stopped drizzling and was still somewhat overcast on the walk down from my parking spot outside the University. I’d arranged to meet up with some of Twitter’s finest and as I made my way to the portaloo I came across Luke and Tristan, it was fantastic to finally meet them in person even if wasn’t in particularly salubrious surroundings. We headed up to Millennium Square and met up with Sarah, Colin, Keith, Steve, Caterina and Alison. Even though we barely knew each other there was a great camaraderie with people exchanging stories, tips and hopes for how we’d get on over the coming 13.1 miles, this was the #ukrunchat community in full effect.

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The start was staggered and I was in the red group at 9.30am so I headed to hand in my bag, very efficient, and then made my way to the start pen to do a quick warm up. After a slight delay we shuffled forward and turned the corner onto The Headrow to pass the start line.

By this time the clouds were lifting and the sun was out. As a result of staggering the starting groups the field was well spread and with fully closed roads we were able to fan out quickly, the numbers were also thinned out as people headed off into the bushes for a quick comfort break, for next year I think it would be good if the organisers arranged more portaloos at the start.

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The first couple of miles were pretty uneventful until we turned onto Stonegate Road at mile 3 and the road took a relatively sharp climb upwards through Meanwood. The crowds at this point provided real encouragement, and bowls of Jelly Babies, and it wasn’t too far before we turned again and headed down to the ring road section.

Miles 5 and 6 were for me the dullest part of the route as the dual carriageway headed towards Weetwood. As you would expect there were few spectators in this section and the highlight was the water station at the bottom of the next hill.

Just past the 6 mile marker at the top of the hill the crowds returned and there were some great homemade placards hammered into the grass verge, my favourite was “pain is just the French word for bread”.

We wound our way through the residential streets of Weetwood for the next couple of miles and the support was superb, as you turned every corner people lined the streets to encourage complete strangers, it was genuinely heartwarming and made me proud to be a Yorkshireman. At the top of Butcher Hill there was a church choir on the grass bank singing their hearts out, there must have been at least 30 of them. I felt rather sinful as Guns N Roses were blasting through my headphones at that precise moment so I pulled one earphone out to give them a listen and applaud them back in recognition of their efforts.

A couple of hundred yards down the road was the 8 mile marker and the cue for me to take on board my SIS electrolyte gel. I’d planned my fuelling and I was feeling great at this point but knew I would need this to see me through and keep my energy levels up. Note to other runners here, if you are going to use gels please try and put the empty sachets in your pocket or the nearest bin rather than drop them all over the road for someone else to slip on, rant over.

From mile 9 the rest of the route was flat back into the city centre along Abbey Road and Kirkstall Road. My friend Catherine had arranged to cheer me at mile 10 and it was great to see her and her girls, it gave me a real lift just when I needed it, I stopped briefly for a quick hug and carried on. The sun was now high in the sky and the shade of the earlier sections of the course had given way to wide open roads with nowhere to hide. I spotted the Kirkstall Road viaduct in the distance knowing that signalled we were nearing home, it is a huge structure though and it proved to be a deceptive temptress as it felt like an age before I passed under it.

Finally I reached the bottom of The Headrow and knew the end was nigh. I pulled out both earphones here to take in the support of the crowd, having my name on the front of my top really helped, “come on Stu”, “keep going Stu”, “nearly there Stu”, unbelievable, I was really focussed on keeping my stride pattern going but made sure everyone who cheered for me got a thumbs up. The finish line was in Millennium Square so I passed the start line, turned left and there were just walls of people 4 and 5 deep on both sides for the home straight making an amazing noise, it was breathtaking.

I crossed the line in 1 hour 44 minutes and 55 seconds, I was thrilled and really proud that my training and preparation had paid off.

The organisation in the finish area was great, goody bag, medal and celebratory pint of Erdinger Alkoholfrei were collected in a flash and I sat down in the shade of the MacMillan Cancer Support tent to cool off and bask in the glory.

It wasn’t long though before I headed back down to the finish to cheer everyone else on. Runners are honestly some of the best and most supportive people I have ever met and it was nice to be able to see Alison and Sarah coming home and give them a shout. We rounded the day off with a few drinks to celebrate and it was great to share each others successes.

I can’t let this review pass without thanking everyone who has donated to my fundraising too, you are all so kind and generous and have given me extra motivation to train and run and be the best I can be.

This really was a day to remember. Yes it was hot, yes there were hills (they weren’t that big), but the event was very well organised and I have already signed up for next year. I felt great and really enjoyed my running, after my nightmare at the 2007 Great North Run my demons have been banished and I can now focus on the York marathon in October with renewed confidence. I know it will be tough but I also know that I can do it and when I need that extra boost a combination of energy gels and cheering strangers will get me through.

Thank you Leeds, it was emotional.

Leeds Half Marathon Preview

Sunday 14th May marks the next stage in my #marathonbore journey as I take on the Leeds half marathon.

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In writing this I have mixed emotions about what lies ahead of me. On the most basic level it’s 13.1 miles, a distance I have covered  several times in training in the last few months as I’ve built up to Sunday’s event and to be honest the distance in itself does not faze me. I am excited about the challenge ahead and I’m looking forward to taking in the atmosphere and support of the crowd. I hope to meet a few fellow tweeters in person for the first time at some point on the day which will be great and will add that extra level of encouragement and camaraderie, especially as my family aren’t able to attend. To be honest I’m also eager to get my hands on some nice bling as a tangible reward for putting in the hours and miles needed to get me to this point. I’m using this event and the York marathon to raise money for two great charities as well and in the last couple of weeks my fundraising totals have started to pick up, this has added to my motivation and the generosity of friends, family and complete strangers is genuinely heart-warming.

I am though a little anxious about running in such a large field as this will be the biggest event I have run in since my epic fail at the Great North Run 2007. I am a bit of a lone wolf when it comes to running, I like space to settle into a rhythm, get my head in the right place and enjoy what I am doing, if nothing else space also allows me to clear my airways without the risk of catching anyone else in the crossfire! There are staggered start times on Sunday depending on predicted finish times and I’m in red group which sets off at 9.30am along with blue group. These are the first two groups, I’m pretty sure I entered a realistic finishing time of 1 hour 45 minutes, so I’m expecting a large chunk of the group to be quicker than me, my plan is to start near the tail end of the group and hopefully create some room for myself that way rather than getting caught up in the middle of a pack and pulled along at a pace that’s too fast for me.

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Growing up in Bradford and having spent some time in Leeds as a student back in the day I have a degree of familiarity with the area and know parts of the course in my head. The first section starting on The Headrow gives me no concerns but looking at elevation maps of the course, as we get out beyond the city centre the route climbs steadily for the vast majority of the first half of the course as we wend our merry way up towards Weetwood. My worry here is that although the climb isn’t overly steep it is a constant drag and could prove to be energy sapping on what could be a quite warm today, potentially leaving me with little in the tank for later on, I need to get my fuelling right here so that this doesn’t become a reality. The second half of the course is much flatter and I’m looking forward to heading back into Leeds past the picturesque Kirkstall Abbey and then the final push down Kirkstall Road back to Millennium Square, just visualising this as I type brings a smile to my face.

Sunday will be a great barometer for me of how far I have come and how far I have yet to go, not just physically but mentally, I’ll post a race review next week, wish me luck!

Demons

A belated race review of the Great North Run….2007!

It’s now just under two weeks until I take my running to the next level as I take on the Leeds half marathon, I have a confession to make though, I’ve actually attempted a half marathon before. Rewind nearly 10 years and my life was rather different. I was single, I didn’t have kids, I lived on my own, I had a lot of spare time on my minds, but aside from the usual ties that bind us (family, friends, football teams) there was one similarity, I was training for a half marathon. When I say training I mean half-arsed runs with no plan or structure that somewhere in my head meant I was prepared for what lay ahead, the 2007 Great North Run. IMG_20170405_091821.jpg

A friend from university, thanks Catherine (not my wife!), had talked me into doing it and so in the summer of 2007 I knocked out maybe one run a week at most and went for it.

On the morning of 30th September I woke up early and headed up the A1. My nod to pre-race fuelling on the drive was knocking back a bottle of Lucozade Sport and working my way through a chocolate covered Kendal Mint Cake. Arriving in the North East I parked up near the finish line in South Shields and jumped on the Metro bound for Newcastle. It was still quite early but there were plenty of people around and so I headed over to eye up the start line. I seem to recall there was a stand dishing out free energy drinks and so I downed another bottle. Eventually I needed the loo, that was an experience in itself! I’ve never before used a urinal in the back of a converted HGV trailer, it wasn’t long before there was a steady stream of steaming you know what overflowing across the car park.

I got myself ready, handed my bag in and made my way down to the starting pen. I couldn’t tell you what finish time I’d estimated when I entered but looking around me there were some serious looking athletes, doubts were already creeping in. It wasn’t long until the mass warm-up and then the start gun and we were off down the inner-city motorway. Within a couple of hundred yards people were already stopping for a wee, guess they didn’t fancy the HGV trailer. As we ran under a couple of underpasses a shout of “oggy, oggy, oggy” went up, what had I got myself into? I’d never run in a large group before and it was carnage, people cutting me up, barging into me, a real baptism of fire.

It wasn’t too far before we crossed the iconic Tyne Bridge, out of nowhere a wave of emotion crashed over me and I found myself in tears, I was raising money for the British Heart Foundation who had supported my dad in his recovery from a heart attack and I think that combined with the occasion reduced me temporarily to an emotional wreck. Crossing into Gateshead I soon got myself together though and as the field thinned out a bit I plodded away down the dual carriageway. At just before 10k we turned off this road and started down towards South Shields, I remember seeing a large roadside display with the distance and gun time on and for me I was flying, 49:53 according to my race certificate. Even my 10 mile time split was decent.IMG_20170405_091827

Catherine though had warned me about the hill in the second half of the race. Memory tells me it started around mile 8 or so but I can’t be certain, you’ll know if you’ve ever done this event. What I do remember though is the amazing support on that section, it was a hot day and the crowds were out in force, there were bands playing on roundabouts and spectators offering us pints as we passed, welcome to the North East!

As the hill dragged and the heat seemingly intensified my early, frankly ridiculous pace, started to take its toll. My legs first became heavy and then turned to jelly, I sat down at the side of the road, next thing I was flat out on my back and a passing medic was loading me onto a stretcher and taking me to a conveniently close medical tent where I was put on a drip due to dehydration. 45 minutes passed and two saline bags later I felt better, I talked the medics into letting me continue and headed back out, bouncebackability. At the time of flaking out I hadn’t realised how close I was to the top of the hill, from there on it was down to the sea front and along the finishing straight. I was gutted, I’d blown it, how was I going to tell people what had happened? I sought comfort in a 4 pack of chocolate doughnuts and a family size pizza, refuelling at its best! My finisher’s medal and t-shirt from that day are emblazoned with the slogan, “Participate, Enjoy, Succeed”, just the one out of three for me then! After this experience my confidence was shot to pieces and although I did the Manchester 10k in 2009 I hadn’t until last year done any serious running since.

So there you have it, my demons laid bare. 10 years is a long time and I’ve learned a huge amount about myself in the interim. This time around I’ve trained properly, I think 13.1 miles may be my distance, physically I’m ready.

Mentally I have baggage but I’m confident that I’ve done all I can and in taking on this race I am starting to write a new chapter, there’ll no doubt still be setbacks to endure along the way but believe me when I say I won’t let them fester so long this time!

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Bouncebackability

Noun – The capacity to recover quickly from a setback (especially in sport)

Events over the weekend got me thinking about human resilience, powers of recovery or dowiein other words, bouncebackability. As I mentioned before I love words and language, in 2004 the then Crystal Palace manager, now turned Sky Sports talking head, Iain Dowie, first used this word in a post match interview to describe how his side needed to pick themselves up from defeat. Since then it has entered common parlance and even made it into the Collins English Dictionary in 2005.

We’ve all had that bad day at the office, that rejection letter, that awful run which has made us question things we thought were certainties. Some people will shrug it off and never give it a second thought, many though will go over and over it in their heads and this is where bouncebackability is needed.

Setbacks are good, there I’ve said it, trust me they are, don’t let them stagnate though. In every setback there is a lesson, if and how we learn from that lesson is the key. On Easter Monday my playoff chasing favourites Bradford City were handed a harsh 3-0 lesson by runaway League 1 champions Sheffield United. Fast forward to 5pm on Saturday and we had just handed AFC Wimbledon a similar 3-0 schooling. The Bantams had looked at what hadn’t worked, and at what to a certain extent had, and they had applied those lessons to secure a guaranteed place in the end of season playoff lottery. It isn’t always that simple, life never is, but we can all move on and draw on ours strengths to fight back.

On Sunday I watched as thousands of people, some of you included, ran their hearts out on the streets of London. I was genuinely inspired, colleagues I spoke to today who have no interest in running felt the same, but I know that for some people the marathon ended in disappointment, whether that was not achieving a PB, walking more than they wanted to or struggling to achieve their fundraising target.

A couple of weeks ago I read about Kevin Howarth’s attempt to set a world record at London for running the fastest marathon whilst dribbling two basketballs, just stop and bbkevimagine that for a second, or just look at this photo! Kevin came home in 4 hours 48 mins, the record held by an American is 4 hours 10 mins. On Twitter he expressed his disappointment and I totally understand that but most of us can only dream of completing a marathon in that time, throw in two basketballs and anything could happen! No pun intended but I really hope Kevin finds some bouncebackability and the desire to give it another go so that this time it is his day. He wouldn’t have to look far, well maybe several miles down the road, for inspiration. Setbacks happen even to seasoned elite athletes when they least want or expect it. Approaching the last  few miles along The Embankment Tirunesh Dibaba in second place in the women’s race was clearly in discomfort and television pictures showed her holding her side, she then stopped, doubled over and appeared to vomit or at the very least have what my dad would call, “a good clear out”! She somehow found it in herself though to get going again and retain her second place, bouncebackability in all its glory.

I’m not particularly good at committing quotes to memory, unless they are lines from Wayne’s World or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, so I’ve had to do some research to find a suitably punchy line to end this post on. There are some good quotes, and conversely some awful quotes about resilience and our ability to bounce back, the one I have chosen though I think is succinct and gets my point across perfectly;

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

The next time you have a blip take a step back, have a look at the bigger picture, find your own bouncebackability and win tomorrow.


Training update – My training runs this week have been quite contrasting, on Thursday I did a quick 5.5 miles in just over 40 minutes. It was good to get back to a shorter distance and to push myself a bit in terms of speed. I then used Sunday morning as a half marathon dry run ahead of the Leeds half in May to test my fuelling, the 13.1 miles were done in 1 hour 39 mins and it felt really good, I think half marathons may become my favourite distance, not words I thought I’d ever say that long ago.

Championship Vinyl – Part 2

Thanks to everyone who replied to last week’s post either on here or via Twitter, it was great to read all your thoughts on the songs which motivate you the most whilst putting the miles in.

For most of the last week my top 5 has actually been a top 6. On my runs last Thursday and yesterday (Monday) I managed to listen to all six songs which helped to chrystalise my thoughts and finally firm up the top 5, so here we go.

5.01 Knock You Out – Bingo Players. Firstly though a nod to a song that I have never even heard before this week and certainly don’t have on my MP3 player. I asked my wife, Catherine, for her number one motivational song as she enjoys various classes at the gym which are accompanied by pounding baselines. It’s not really my thing but she gives me unbelievable support and so this one is for her, thank you x

5. Take Me Home Midland Road – The Good Citizens. What? Who? Yes that’s right I’m starting with a curve ball, stick with me you will know the rest! Unless you’ve ever had the pleasure of venturing to Valley Parade this will be a new one on you. As well as running I love football and if you have read my sponsorship page you will know that I have a deep affinity with my club, Bradford City, which goes way beyond that experienced by most fans. This song, to the tune of the John Denver classic, is the song the team walks out to, it gets everyone going and when it comes on during a run my mind immediately jumps from the tiredness and the pain to a place where I am happy and I belong.

4. Yes – McAlmont & Butler. Again not a particularly well known song but one you may have heard from time to time on the radio. It’s a beautiful piece of music and from the very first note it lifts my mood. The fact that the title is the most positive word in the English vocabulary tops it off and when the doubts creep into my mind I just need to remind myself, “Yes”, I can do this!.

3. St Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion) – John Parr. This film, and its title song, scream 1980’s at you, Demi Moore, Rob Lowe and Emilio Estevez star as friends struggling with adulthood. In the video John Parr sports a tremendous mullet as he sings away in what appears to be a disused warehouse. I find the song really uplifting and many of the lyrics strike a chord with me, give it a listen, a real listen and I’m sure there’ll be something in there you identify with.

2. Not Giving In – Rudimental. This choice is unusual for me in that it’s a pretty new song. I don’t really think I need to explain why I chose this or why it motivates me, the clue is in the title!

And at number one, in with a bullet, drum roll please.

1. Imagine – Emeli Sandé. The original song itself has been a long standing favourite of mine but not one necessarily that provides me with particular motivation. This version though for me and many others will forever be linked with the London 2012 Olympics. Not much beats a good sporting montage and the BBC chose the song to play over their closing take on the games. Wow! It’s basically three minutes of pure motivation from the great household names that brought the games to life, to lesser known athletes who in their own way made those few glorious weeks special. I can’t watch this video without filling up though, at 1:20 in Gemma Gibbons looks up to the heavens after her judo semi-final win and whispers, “I love you mum”, having lost her mum to leukaemia as a teenager, her motivation is laid bare right there in front of millions. So whenever I hear this song now I see this video, I share the motivation and I am inspired to be the best that I can be and make my loved ones proud.

And there you have it, everyone will have their own top 5, everyone will have their own motivators but what matters is that we all have something we are aiming for that for us will represent a genuine achievement. Good luck with whatever that is for you, keep going when times get hard and remember you are amazing and you can do this!

Championship Vinyl – Part 1

Musical motivation, my top 5, part 1.

In Nick Hornby’s fantastic book, High Fidelity, the lead character Rob Gordon and his friends spend a large proportion of their time coming up with their all time top five favourite lists on a variety of topics. There’s the usual top five filmshf, top five books, top five dream jobs and then there’s some with a slightly more unique take, top
five most memorable break-ups and top five songs about death! If you haven’t read it I’d highly recommend it, if you’re not a reader at least give the film starring John Cusack and Jack Black a watch, it stays pretty faithful to the book aside from being set in Chicago rather than London.

If you have read any of my previous blogs you’ll know I love listening to music while I’m out running*. I come from quite a musical family, in particular on my dad’s side, but that gene seemed to skip me. Music was a big part of my childhood though and I always remember mum having the radio on singing away whilst in the kitchen.

I’d go as far as saying that I’m open to pretty much any kind of music but my halcyon days were in the mid to late 90s through the tail end of school and into my undergraduate career. They were the heady days of indie and Britpop as well as the emergence of dance  and house music into the mainstream.

In terms of running I exploit music in a number of ways. It provides a distraction and helps to give me some headspace. I use it to pace myself and break my runs down, for example trying to get to the next checkpoint in my mind within two or three songs and some songs provide motivation to push me on with the rhythm and beat used to help maintain a good pace and stride pattern.

Putting myself in the shoes of Rob Gordon I thought I’d try and produce a #marathonbore top five all time motivational running songs list. Easier said than done! I’ve been contemplating writing this blog for a couple of weeks but as soon as I started to note down songs it quickly spawned a list of nearly 30 which I then added to in my head during the day as I listened to the brilliant Absolute Radio 90s.

I’ve had to be very strict and stick purely to songs that motivate me and not just songs that are on my all time favourite playlist. That means nothing from The Stereophonics, The Bluetones, Oasis, Blur, Embrace, REM, Bruce Springsteen, Stephen Fretwell, I Am Kloot, never mind PJ & Duncan, B*Witched or Daphné & Celeste (Ooh stick you!!).

I haven’t yet fully firmed up the top five but a couple of noteworthy tunes which didn’t make the cut are below:

Smells Like Teen Spiri– Nirvana. The song that signaled the arrival of grunge in the mainstream and one that no doubt gets the blood pumping, it just doesn’t tick the inspiring box for me.

Space Cowboy (Classic Radio mix) Remix – David Morales – Jamiroquai. This one really takes me back to my student days and queuing up outside the Music Factory and other venues in Sheffield. I love the beat but it doesn’t quite hit the motivational spot.

Sproston Green – The Charlatans. This would definitely make my all time top five and the eight minute plus live version I listen to normally sees me through a mile, the way the layers of music build up is ace but with so many songs to choose from I had to make some tough calls, sorry Tim.

Wake Me Up – Avicci. Far more recent than my other selections but this song reminds me of a great family holiday in Ibiza a couple of years ago and part of my reason to run is to set a positive example for my children. As well as being a great tune there are also some really pertinent lyrics for me but I’d have to crowbar it into my list.

And there you have it, for now, I could add plenty more YouTube links but you’d no doubt get bored of my self indulgence at some point. The top five will be revealed next week. If you’d like to let me know your top five or even just your number one motivational running song I’d love to hear from you, although that may just add to the confusion!

Quick running update, I’ve tried to push beyond my comfort zone and did a five lap hill circuit which included some fartleks on Friday, a total of just over 10 miles. On Monday I went out and about, up and down some local country lanes with beautiful views, the undulations and largely unknown route were testing but I managed 9.25 miles in 1hr 14 mins. Just a month now until the Leeds half marathon and under six months until the York marathon, exciting!

*NB. Whilst I train wearing earphones I’m aware of the UKA regulation about the use of them during races, you can find out more here, if you are new to running and train in earphones it’s worth checking when you sign up for a race if they are permitted or not.

Down with the kids

If you know your bae from your bare and your hench from your dench then you my friend are a better man/woman than I am.

Slang and a somewhat confusing use of language though isn’t solely the domain of the under 20s. Since taking up running I’ve entered a whole new world of terminology, so I thought that for other relative newbies like me a blog to explain what on earth some people are talking about may prove useful.

Below is just a small selection of words and acronyms that have now entered my vocabulary on some level, it is by no means a definitive jargon busting glossary but hopefully will point you in the right direction and give you a bit of a laugh at the same time.

Tapering – This was a completely new one on me and has nothing to do with that blue tape that athletes of all shapes and sizes now seem to cover themselves in, in the hope of holding up their dodgy back/hamstring/bicep. I’d started to see the word more frequently and research tells me that you should taper in the period before a long distance race, usually a marathon, when you reduce the length and intensity of your training so that your body can prepare itself properly for the exertions you’re about to put it through on the big day. It’s kind of guilt free putting your feet up and doing not very much in the knowledge that you’re not going to become a sloth and you will soon be getting yourself back in gear to do something amazing.

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Maranoia – Nothing to do with Diego

Maranoia – No, he wasn’t the one who claimed it was the Hand of God that helped him to punch the ball into the net against England at Mexico ’86. Apparently maranoia often occurs during tapering, I have also seen it referred to as taper tantrums, as people start to doubt their ability, their training, their diet and in some cases their general sanity before a marathon. As we’re now in peak spring marathon season there seems to be a maranoia epidemic breaking out up and down the country as otherwise rational people lose the plot, just what an already overstretched NHS needs!

Carb loading – Whilst I’d heard the term before I wasn’t particularly clear on what it meant and how to do it, basically I just thought you had to get as much pasta down your neck the night before a race as possible. I have become somewhat more enlightened though through a bit of research and find the explanation below clear with the added benefit of some suggested recipes that I’m looking forward to trying out, https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/carb-loading-explained

DOMS – I love Twitter and find it is the starting point for a large proportion of how I gather news and information these days. That said the 140 character tweet limit leads to some confusion and ignorance and DOMS is a case in point, it’s the acronym for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Basically if your muscles are stiff and painful 24-72 hours after exercise, it’s likely to be DOMS. At least I now have something to call those awful toe cramps when it feels like they are tying themselves in knots.

LSR – Another acronym used in the running world and which I’ve been seeing a lot of recently as people build up to marathons is LSR. The Beatles sang about LSD, The Shamen sang about LSI but as far as my musical knowledge goes nobody so far has penned a tune about long slow runs. LSR’s are used to get your body accustomed to running over a longer distance and to teach it how to improve its efficiency in storing and using energy. My running is pretty one paced and metronomic so dialling down the speed as I up the miles is going to be challenging I think.

Rolling – This one really confounded me, I ended up tweeting someone who kept mentioning rolling and received a short video in response to make sure I clearly understood what it actually was. This video I think does a good job of demonstrating the exercise.

Depending on who you believe rolling, or foam rolling, is either a great way of loosening your leg muscles or it is a form of torture that people inflict on themselves. I’m yet to give it a go.

Bonk – I sniggered to myself like a child when I read this word in someone’s blog recently. I think the last time I heard anyone refer to bonking it was probably Victoria Wood at some point in the late 80s on one of her many sketch shows. Bonking, in the running context at least, is probably more widely known by the term hitting the wall. Essentially, it is the point in a run or race where an athlete feels like they suddenly have nothing left to give, their legs are wobblier than Bruce Grobbelaar in a penalty shoot-out and they think they can’t go on. I’m not looking forward to my seemingly inevitable meeting with this legendary piece of civil engineering, although hopefully with the right fuelling and some mental strength it can be overcome.

sisre
Not for hair styling

Gel – Not John Frieda, not Vidal Sassoon, not even the cheap bright blue stuff with bubbles in that was the preserve of the 90s boy band and made your hair look like you’d just walked in from a rain storm despite it being bright sunshine outside, in the world of running, gels are to be swallowed not applied liberally to your barnet. As I’ve been finding out, gels come in handy sachets and various flavours with slightly differing added extras depending on your brand of choice. Lots of runners use gels to boost energy during a workout or run and personally I’m glad I’ve discovered them as they really seem to work for me and give me a lift when I need it most.

Ultra – If you’ve read any of my previous blogs or you follow me on Twitter you’ll have no doubt picked up that aside from running I’m a bit keen on football too, so when I saw the term ultra for the first time my mind instantly jumped to Gazzetta Football Italia, James Richardson supping a latte in front of a fountain and images of blokes with a flare in one hand and a megaphone in the other orchestrating a group of fans in Turin or Genoa to bounce up and down behind their numerous banners proclaiming allegiance to the various wonderfully named Ultra fan groups. Ultra in the running context though is a race that is anything more than a marathon distance, typically 50k plus, fair play to anyone who can do it, I’ll say here and now though I will never be an ultra runner.

Fartlek – Oh my, where to start with this one? Is it some form of renewable energy source generated by the consumption of copious amounts of prunes and mushy peas? This word also took me back to my dark days as a secondary school modern languages teacher. Don’t get me wrong I love words and language, shameless plug for last week’s blog, but it doesn’t half make it hard to teach adolescents when you are using words such as Kunst (art), Fuchs (fox) and Vater (father). Fartlek translates from Swedish as “speed play” and therefore it refers to a type of training in which you play with your speed by running faster for short periods of time in a unstructured way, for example running to the next tree or junction, followed by a slower recovery section.

C25K – For most people with an interest in running this bit of jargon is probably blindingly obvious but it threw me. I read the C as if it was a C. (ie circa) and so when people said they were a C25K runner I thought they meant they ran c.25K. With the amount of new runners using the term though I was baffled, when I started running c.10k was a slog so how come all these other newbies were already smashing more than double that!??! Of course I eventually twigged that it is short for the fantastic couch to 5k programme, face palm!!

cl_iconic
Nearly a no ball(s)

Streaking – Growing up  it seemed most major sporting events attracted a streaker or two, from Erica Rowe giving the Twickenham crowd a eyeful before her modesty was protected by a well placed St George’s flag to Michael Angelow and his epic jump over the stumps at Lords. I genuinely thought when I first read about streaking in running that it was some form of niche nudist event most likely held on a remote beach somewhere. In fact run streaking is running at least one mile on consecutive days for a sustained period. I’ve seen posts about people doing at least 5k a day which is admirable and this has given me some ideas about what I can do in the future to sustain my running.

 

And there you have it, hopefully now you’re a bit more enlightened and I’d love to hear from anyone else who has come across more weird and wonderful words in running that to the untrained eye either mean something else or absolutely nothing at all.

Quick update on the training too. Friday last week saw me run 14.7 miles in 1hr 58 mins, a really enjoyable run including a couple of peaceful miles along the Leeds – Liverpool canal, followed up on Monday by 9.25 undulating miles in 1hr 12 mins, I haven’t been rained on either for a couple of weeks which is always a bonus!