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.

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,

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.

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!!

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!