Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The journey.....or the destination?

Yesterday was hot. Very hot. The kind of day where your life energy seems to have deserted you and all you feel good for is lounging around, gradually feeling more irritated. I usually like running in the heat, like the freedom of being able to run in just shorts and shoes, but yesterday even got me. I waited and waited for the temperatures to ease and by the time I laced up the flats it was approaching 9pm. The run was easy, about 10 miles and by the time I reached back to the carabanger , it was turning dark. As I hit the last section of road before home I started to increase the pace, as is normal at the end of most of my runs. The heat was still present, and as I reached halfway down the home straight, I started to feel it. It was then that a thought entered by head. I slowed down, and as I reached the banger , was feeling a mixture of exhilaration and calmness.

In my current circumstance I have felt self imposed pressure to produce some sort of race performance which would leave me feeling satisfied with myself. I have chosen not to work for a while, not particularly to run, but have a chance to experience life at a slower pace. However I have had more time to run and felt that if I did not start running better, then the whole experience would be abit of a waste of time. As I made it halfway down the last straight, the thought that entered my head was the question of the journey and the destination. Most running I do is with a destination in mind- a race, a performance, whatever. Most of the running anyone does has a destination in mind- to lose weight, get fitter, whatever. As most wise people will tell you , it is the journey, not the destination, that is to be savored. Enjoy the present, don't think too much of where it will all lead. This got me thinking, ' Is it possible to enjoy running as a journey with no destination?"

I know plenty of runners who train hard and race hard and often. It is the competitive aspect of the personality that gives them the determination to get out on those cold, dark winter nights - the thought of that target race of the year or new pb. I know plenty of runners who don't train hard, but like to race. However I don't know any runners ( well, maybe one) who train hard, but do not have the desire to race. Is it possible for someone to continue running ,say 100 miles a week, with absolutely no plans to race? To enjoy the journey so much that there does not need to be a destination. In some pursuits competition is frowned upon by the purists. The original Yosemite dirtbags looked with derision at the advent of competitive climbing, and so was the case with surfing. To love the actual act of running in so much as that it is all you need is surely a desirably thing. To love the purity, the expression of freedom, so much that the ego does not need reassurance from race performance. To know the journey is, in itself, enough. That you do not need a destination.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


I loved running as a kid, did it for fun and for a few brief years was the best in my limited, small environment. I was the fastest person in primary school and , after moving up to secondary school, was one of the fastest there. I liked winning, liked to be known as being a good runner. I knew in the grand scheme of things that I would never be a world beater, and this was emphasized as the level of competition increased. I may have held my own to County level, but after that I was nowhere.

This was especially emphasized on going to Birmingham university. If you were a runner in the mid 80s and was interested in further education there were only two places worth their salt. The king of the pile was Loughborough University, riding on a running wave since the exploits of Seb Coe. They had Graham Williamson, Jack Buckner and a host of domestic running talent. I applied for Loughborough. It was top of my list. I got rejected.

Next on the list was Birmingham. It had great credentials and great athletes at the time. In my first year the National Junior Cross Country was won by one of our lot- Chris Sweeney. Bev Hartigan( then Nicholson),winner of a 1500m medal in the Commonwealths in the early 90s was on my course and a close friend for a while. Although being in such a positive environment did have many pluses, it also served to reinforce my own mediocrity. I knew that however much effort I put in, I would never achieve a standard I had dreamed of achieving. I spent my youth running for fun. I had whole periods at 13/14 yrs of age where I would get up before school and run a 4 mile loop round the village. On getting home I would run two laps of the circuit. I ran this with my twin brother. We,d run this on school days, then on weekends run longer. It felt like it was us against the world. We were obsessed by the US marathon stars of the day, people like Alberto Salazar and Bill Rodgers and ran because we loved it. It also gave us identity. We were the Rainbows - and we were runners.

With the increase in aspirations and effort, came the increase in structure. From running for as far and how often I liked, I now had training schedules, set sessions to be done everyday and at specific paces, and it was great. I wanted structure, wanted to feel like a proper athlete in training. This involved sacrifice and self control. When I was competing at a lower level and winning the effort seemed worthwile, however, as it became evident that I was not as good as I hoped, the effort and sacrifice became a bone of personal contention. I wanted to do things that normal people of my age did- get drunk, party, live a little. The structure imprisoned me and , in the end, I dived from the rocks of Alcatraz and swam to shore. I gave up running.

For twenty years I ran little. I would attempt to get fit at odd times, but commitment was lacking. As I made it to the midway point , I weighed over 15 stone, was overworked, under motivated, unhappy. I made tentative steps to running, and then competing and have been ever since. I vowed I would learn for my mistakes, would run to enjoy like I did when I was 14, would not do anything I didn't enjoy. My inspirations were the new breed of US runners. As, in my youth when motivated by the marathon men, I was again motivated by the long distant trail runners. Runners like Kyle Skaggs, Eric Skaggs and Anton Krupicka possessed not only immense talent, but embodied an ideal more akin to activities such as climbing and surfing- they lived to run, broke the rules, lived minimally, had long hair, looked cool. I wanted to run long miles, to free myself from some traditional aspects of aspiration, to drop out, to grow my hair- and for a while I did.

I ran long miles, grew my hair, had a sprinkling of local success, but stuck true to my ideals. I liked running big distances, but slow. I loathed speedwork and did none. I timed no runs, accurately measured no runs, took days off when I felt like it, made sessions up on the spur of the moment and , in the most part enjoyed it. Then I ran London this year. I ran a mediocre time, but I felt a sense of achievement- 2hrs 54m. It awakened a desire to run faster and I immediately
signed up for the Amsterdam Marathon in October. I found myself getting uptight about my non improving times for short distances, and listening to my peers who advised that my training needed more structure.

Its The Western States 100 this weekend, possibly the best known long distance trail run in the world. The internet has been full of pre race interviews and numerous blog updates from the main contenders. Yesterday I sat reading an update from Geoff Roes on his excellent blog, Fumbling towards endurance. Geoff is arguably the best long distance trail runner in the world today. He is undefeated in all 100 mile trail races he has competed in. In his latest entry he mentioned that his approach to this years race has been characterized by one main thing- lack of structure.

I pondered this throughout the day. I thought of my last post where I mentioned increasing mileage by 10% a week and introducing speed work into the equation. I thought of this introduction of structure. Then I made a decision. I'm not running Amsterdam, not sticking to any prearranged schedule, not doing any speedwork. I don't care if I run faster over 5k, 10k or the marathon. I want to run long miles, enjoyable miles. I've entered myself in a couple of long races for later in the year instead,trail ultras over testing courses. I want to compete, but on my own terms. To run with a sense of abandonment and lack of structure. I look to my ultra inspirations and want to emulate their lifestyles of running and simplicity, to be in tune with myself and my surroundings, to grow my hair and a long, bushy beard. It is with their inspiration that I once again have an identity.

My name is Dennis Rainbow. I am a runner.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Mas Locos are go!

This weeks training.

Saturday 11th June. 20miles easy. Shoes:Ascis Hyperspeed 4
Sunday 12th June. am 8 miles easy with the club. Hyperspeed 4
pm 7 miles easy. Hyperspeed 4

The morning run was gorgeous along the beach in warm sunshine. The evening run was a trial against adversity- rain and strong wind.

Monday 13th June. 10 miles easy. Hyperspeed 4
Tuesday 14th June. am 10 miles easy. Ascis Piranha
pm 7 miles easy. Hyperspeed 4

Wednesday 15th June. pm Wolds Dash race 7.3 miles- total with warmup/down 9 miles. Ascis piranha

This was the second race in The Wolds Dash Series over a slightly longer course of 7.3 miles. It was my first race since the bad run at Woodhall Spa. I managed to finish in 5th place and was pleased with that. Felt very strong over the second half of the race after struggling abit over the first couple of miles.

Thursday 16th June. noon Yoga for 90 mins.
I've been doing this once a week yoga class for about 4 months now and am convinced that there are a multitude of benefits to be gained from it for runners, in terms of flexibility and increased strength. While I am not sure it will increase levels of performance, I am sure that it will become integral to me in terms of injury prevention.

pm 7 miles easy with club

Friday 17th June. Day off.

Total miles for the week. 78miles.

Overall it was an ok week. It is the first time in a few years when I have actually scheduled a day off into the training week. Normally a day off occurs every few weeks as and when I feel like it. The race on Wednesday was pleasing and the plan is to continue to increase the total mileage by 10% a week over the next 5 weeks until the volume is about 120 miles a week. At present I'm going to concentrate on keeping one fast session a week in the form of either a race or fast run/ interval session and one long, continuous run of over 20 miles. Once I reach 120 miles I'll start to integrate another fast session a week into the weekly mix, before gradually easing down the mileage on the last four weeks before Amsterdam.

The big news this week is the official news of a visit from Micah True/ Caballo Blanco
, the main character in the best selling book, Born to Run, and organizer of The Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon. I was blessed a couple of years ago to make the long trip down to the bottom of the Canyons to the small town of Urique,where the race starts, and compete in the CCUM. The trip,for me and most others who have made the journey was a life changing experience. To experience a glimpse of the culture of the Tarahumara was a privilege,and it is the safeguarding of their unique culture that Micah has devoted his life to, and in the process inspiring thousands to run free.

Micah will be visiting the Uk in September on a speaking tour to raise awareness of the Tarahumara culture and fund raise for the cause. From reports of his talks in the US, the nights promise to be immensely interesting and entertaining for runners or anyone open to a good story. Dates confirmed so far can be found at http://caballoblanco.weebly.com

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Week 4/6/2011 - 10/6/2011

Saturday 4/6- Northern Track and Field League, Doncaster.
Again a depleted team resulted in the same old suspects doing as many events as possible just to score points. The end result is a lot of races and very few good performances. Its not just our team, but seemingly everyone and it does make you wonder what is the point of these leagues and how long it will be before they die out altogether.
Competed in 3000 steeplechase, 5000m, 400m, 4 x 400m relay and Triplejump. I don't know the exact times/ distances, but know they were all terrible!

Sunday 5/6 - Woodhall Spa 10k. 45th. 38.36m
A bad run -about 40secs slower than last year. Felt terrible from the start, but did seem to get into my stride at about 4k. Would have liked a pb (37.58m), but it was not to be. Yesterdays long, tiring day didn't help.
Shoes: Asics Piranha

Monday 6/6- p.m. 13 miles easy. Shoes: Asics Piranha

Tuesday 7/6 noon. 10 miles easy. Shoes: Asics Hyperspeed 4
p.m. 8 miles easy with the club. Shoes: Asics Hyperspeed 4

Wednesday8/6 noon. 10 miles easy. Shoes: Asics Hyperspeed 4
p.m 7 miles steady. Felt good on this run which was faster than marathon pace. Shoes: Asics Hyperspeed 4

Thursday 9/6 noon. Yoga for 90mins
p.m 6 miles easy with the club. Shoes: Asics Hyperspeed 4

Friday 10/6 Day off. One of those days. I had problems with backache and toothache, both increasing my levels of tiredness. Had 20 mile long run today, but decided to put tat off for a day. I have decided to have one day off from running each week now.

Miles for the week: 70

The Cost of Running: Saturday. Train return fare to Boston £9.00
Bus Cost to venue. £8

Sunday. Entry to race. £12
Monday. Work Day at Running club. Train return £9
Tuesday. Train to club session. £6
Training fee £3.50

Total for the week: £46.50

The main point to be taken from the week is that I have realized that I need rest. It may be an age thing, but I do find that I get to the stage every now and then where I feel listless and totally de motivated. From now on I am taking one days rest a week. Next week I am introducing one day of intervals into my training, in an attempt to increase my basic speed. If I want to get a pb at Amsterdam I realize that I have to work on my basic speed.

The fact that I spent nearly £50 on running last week surprised me. This is mainly in the form of race entries and in getting backwards and forwards to Boston. Taking the train is roughly twice as expensive as taking the bus, but the cut in the bus service leaves me with little choice. I was looking at racing once or twice a week, but , on reflection, this is an unnecessary cost on what I would basically regard as training. I may as well just discipline myself to train hard from my door step, which will cost me nothing. I have decided to race the Spilsby 6 in early July and then The Seabank Marathon in mid July. I may find a half marathon for mid August- we'll see!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Ch,Ch,Ch,Ch, Changes.

As we again move into the summer, then life ,as is often the case, throws up little surprises and hints of promise. It is a lucky man who is able to follow whims and chances of adventure, to be free from the normal shackles of life, all entirely inflicted on ourselves, and feel excitement at what may be just around the corner.

Until then its the mundane. My terrible run at Woodhall has energized me this week, given me an extra slice of motivation that has been lacking somewhat on the comedowm from London. Negatives forming a positive, reaffirming my belief that , with the correct attitude, all negatives can be viewed as positives if the right lessons are learnt and acted upon, which , in turn, mean negatives do not really exist! I'm back to twice daily training. Despite my attempt to get a run in early morning, they haven't materialized. I love sleeping, love waking and knowing that I can nap for another couple of hours, so I figure why deprive myself. The two runs therefore take the form of a mid day run and then a run at about 7/8 o'clock.

I've spent a few hours this week reading the excellent blog of U.S runner Nick Clark- Dirt Mountain Running. I don't know why it is but I find the blogs of these american trail runners just so much more inspiring than those of British based runners. Its interesting to read of the basic speed that Nick has. This year at New Orleans he ran a 2.36 marathon and he is expected to be at the sharp end at The Western States in a couple of weeks. A definite darkhorse to watch for. Even though he predominantly runs distances over 50k, he does at least one interval session a week on the track, running reps of distances from 300m through to a mile. Very interesting and something to definitely keep in mind.

Another interesting thing about Nick is that he has a definite interest in the cost of running. I've decided to follow Nicks example and log the actual ' Cost of Running' for an entire year. This will include money spent on anything to do with running,from shoes and kit, to race entries,transport,and costs involved through participation with my running club. It will be interesting to find out. It is in my interests to keep this as low as possible, alleviating the need to work too much and if this means cutting back on racing etc,so be it!

Another interesting read was the competitive life of U.S triathlete Scott Molina. He detailed his life in the 80's and his constant search for competitions which offered prize money. He would forgo certain higher reputation races if a less established race offered him the chance to win money,and hence ensure he could maintain his lifestyle of training and competing, which he loved. As always the time spent running, in this case ,an easy 10 this morning gave me ample time to think. Lately I have rallied against athletes selling their souls for the cooperate dollar, but, on reflection, is this a bad thing. People who devote large amounts of time to any particular activity normally do things because of a financial incentive. Why not runners? The amateur ethics of the sport which were not really broached until the mid 80,s may be a curse. Athletics in this country is suffering precisely because no money can be earn until elite standards are reached. Compare this to football where even lower league players can earn decent living. Of course to attract money one has to attract sponsors, and to attract sponsors one has to attract viewers. Maybe things need to change. Clubs are faltering because they cannot attract coaches/ officials/ whatever because these activities are carried out purely on a voluntary basis. Instead of thinking that this is the right and noble way that things should be carried out, should clubs be run as a business instead of a service?

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Boredom of Minimalism.

There's nothing more boring than people going on and on about things ( I should know because I do it a lot , I'm told!). Although I do agree with the reasoning behind the barefoot/ natural/ whatever marketing departments want to call it debate, I tire of reading yet another article about how man was made to run in bare feet etc/etc/etc and the usually accompanying feature on minimal running shoes. Minimalist running shoes are nothing new. Most major brands have always carried them in their ranges in the form of racing shoes. It is boring to see the same features on the same brands- vibram/ vivo barefoot etc, etc- all having two similar characteristics- not a lot of cushioning and very expensive. I have some vibrams and have trained and raced in them. They may be minimal, you may run like nature intended, but you do feel like a prize plonker. They just look crap and make you feel like a circus clown. Plus they are way too expensive. Instead of buying the 'now' brands and paying a fortune , it just needs abit of thought and creativity. I bought a pair of Puma Cortland 11's(cross country spikes), cut out the metal spike bits on the bottom and had a great shoe( except, ironically, in the mud!) And they were £9.99. My latest shoes are the Ascis Piranha. I know the Piranha 3 or 4 is out now, so mine have been lurking about in the back of a shop somewhere, but for £30 they are great. Plus they make you feel cool! They conjure up images of Frank Shorter and other great runners in the mid/late 70's in their Tiger flats and Quenton Cassidy on his comeback in the US marathon Trials for the 84 olympics ( note - he is fictional. I'm refering to the sequel to the book , Once a Runner!) They don't make you run any faster though. Today I ran Woodhall Spa 10k half a minute slower than last year. Last year I was running in the Hitec vlite sirocco sandal and that's not a shoe even designed for running! But ,as I said , I did feel cool!

Training for the marathon is a potentially complex business. I've entered for Amsterdam in mid October, with the obvious intention of setting a personal best. Having ran 2.56 last year at London and 2.54 this year, I would love to achieve a sub 2.50 showing. Both previous times have been set on big miles ran ,predominantly, slowly. After London this year I thought I may improve if I start to adjust training and incorporate a few faster sessions. After racing today( 38.30ish 10k) I'm not so sure. I can compete with guys in the marathon who have much more basic speed than me. I've raced, and beaten, people I know with 10k times of around 35mins ,over the marathon, while my pb is a meagre shade under 38mins.I know that one of my heroes, Ron Hill, basically advocates that a good marathon can be run on big mileage mixed with regular racing over varying distances(at least 1 or 2 times a week). After great personal experimentation, he found that training over 140 miles a week had little extra benefit. Everyone keeps telling me that I need more structure to my training. What I think they mean is more quality, as it has structure in the form of going out once or twice a day. So I think I'll give the Ron Hill approach a go for this attempt. I'll try a get a mid week and weekend race in and mix this with big weekly mileage and a weekly single long run of 20 miles plus and see what happens.

One thing I did enjoy about todays race was running without a watch. The battery has worn out on mine so it was a decision taken out of my hands. I've been reading about Steve Jones a lot this week and how he liked to run on instinct. In the first marathon he finished at Chicago he ran without a watch and won the race in a low 2. 08. I thought it would be interesting today if wearing a watch, and being able to check for splits actually made any difference. I thought that ,for me, it wouldn't - if I was running well and had good early splits then I try to keep that pace hoping for a good un, and if my splits were bad,invariably, I was feeling bad and couldn't speed up anyway. Today I knew I was running a bad one and thought I was on pace for between 38 and 39 and I was!

Anyway- onwards and upwards!!