Running Reads, Great in Bed… ‘The Revenge’

Karno to his mates, Dean Karnazes to the rest of us and quite astonishing to one and all. He is the Ultramarathon Man. His feats of endurance are to be commended as is his work to bring Ultra running to prominence. We bring you two of his most interesting and insightful reads. We also take a look at a great book by American, Bart Yasso, a legend in running circles…

Ultramarathon Man (Dean Karnazes)

ultramarathonmanDean Karnazes is an inspiration and proves that all of us can do far more than we can imagine, especially when it comes to physical exertion/stamina. Completing the Western Sates 100, finishing the first marathon to the South Pole, running across Death Valley in a 135-mile race, even his remarkable 199-mile run to Santa Cruz to prove to himself that it could be done . . . these are commendable. But perhaps the thing that found most remarkable is that Dean holds down a regular job, has a regular family and still manages to train for these incredible feats without disrupting the balance of things. (Admittedly, he does much of his running late at night, going for months on four hours sleep!)

Another thing I found remarkable is his apparent modesty. Most of his co-workers did not even know about this training and racing because he would keep a regular work schedule and make a point not to complain despite fatigued muscles and depleted electrolytes. Good example for the rest of us who may gripe about a stubbed toe or paper cut.

After his extreme running exploits in UltraMarathon Man, Karnazes decided to run 50 marathons in 50 states on 50 consecutive days. This book tells the story of the tour, day by day, 26.2 miles at a time. Along with the inspiring stories of the people who chose to run these recreated marathons, he offers advice for ultra-runners and first timers. (My only complaint is that he’s gone more commercial and he occasionally sounds like he’s trying to sell you a certain brand of shoes, clothing or sports drink.) 50 marathons in 50 days is an incredible feat. So what did he do the 51st day? He ran about 30 miles in Cen-tral Park. The next day he started running from New York to St. Louis and averaged 30-40 miles per day for another month! A good read.

My Life on the Run (Bart Yasso)

BartbookDubbed the “Mayor of Running,” Bart Yasso is one of the best-known figures in the sport, but few people know why he started running competitively, how it changed his life, or how his brush with a crippling illness nearly ended his career a decade ago. With insight and humor, My Life on the Run chronicles the heatstroke and frostbite, heartache and triumphs he’s experienced while competing in more than 1,000 competitive races during his nearly 30 years with Runner’s World magazine. Yasso gives valuable and practical advice on how to become a runner for life and continually draw joy from the sport. He also offers practical guidance for beginners, intermediate, and advanced runners, such as 5-K, half-marathon, and marathon training schedules including his innovative technique known as the Yasso 800s. Recounting his adventures in exotic locales like Antarctica, Nepal, and Chitwan National Park in Africa (where he was chased by an angry rhino), Yasso recommends the best exotic marathons for runners who want to grab their pass-ports to test themselves on foreign terrain. With the wit and wisdom of a seasoned in-sider, he tells runners what they need to know to navigate the logistics of running in an unfamiliar country. Yasso’s message is this: Never limit where running can take you because each race has the potential for adventure.

Anon

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A Rough Guide To… Putting One Foot In Front Of The Other

JenFinally – the first sensible accent in Seoul Flyers since a certain Chris Green returned to the Homeland…  

Less sensible running attire, perhaps (see pink ear-muffs) but utterly charming nonetheless, Miss. Jenny Skuse takes time off from dispensing harsh critique on other members dress sense (what is wrong with grey? – Ed) to give a beginners guide to putting one foot in font of the other and then repeating several times… 

You did a fartlek in the what now??

The start of my running journey can be traced back to 3 separate but equally important catalysts. The first, my doctor telling me I was on the road to wheelchair-ville if I didn’t make a speedy U-Turn! The second, my co-worker and inspiration, Ali, signing up and subsequently training for a marathon and thirdly, my first copy of Runners World.

The first time I opened this magazine I was hooked! Fashion, recipes, fitness! With the newbie chronicles I found a guide through the beginning stages. I fell in love with the fashion – colors, brands, patterns and NEON!!!

Neon: As good a reason to run as any... Perhaps...

Neon: As good a reason to run as any… Perhaps…

I felt exhilarated and inspired!

But as I turned the pages I became baffled by this secret code they all seemed to using, ‘negative splits’, ‘fartleks’- were these even real words?

I downloaded my first training plan – there they were again – ‘intervals’, ‘speed runs’ – clearly my theory of ‘one foot in front of the other’ was not how it really was! (It really should be though, shouldn’t it? Ed)

So I sat down and I googled, I searched and I questioned, and eventually built up a mental dictionary of running terms.

So for all those newbies out there, setting that first tentative foot out on to the road, looking not for the road less traveled, let me share with you some easy (though perhaps not ever so technical) explanations of running jargon…

Negative Split: This is when you run the second half of the race (any distance) faster than the first.

Interval training: ‘alternating high- intensity effort with periods of low- intensity effort, which is called recovery’ erm, yeh, thanks NHS for adding more words into my sentences that deemed absolutely necessary! Next… ‘short periods of work followed by rest’. Ok, that sort of gets the point across. Men’s Health magazine has my favourite so far:

‘Interval training mimics sports – start-and-stop motions with periods of sprinting or close-to-sprinting speeds followed by light jogging or rest.’

Ok, so it’s about getting your heart pumping, pushing yourself but then getting adequate rest. Fast-slow-sprint-jog-running away from scary man with knife- holding hands with loved one strolling in the park.

There are lots of different interval training workouts, which vary between timed and distance based intervals e.g 3 mins warm up, 3 mins speed, 5 mins jogging. Or on the flip-side – 2km warm up, 1km sprint, 2 km comfortable pace.

You will easily be able to do a little research and find the one that fits you~

Fartleks: A fartlek or ‘speed play’ (a swedish term as I am reliably informed by the Internet) is a form of training in which you vary your pace throughout your run to improve speed and endurance.

Fartleck: Another reason to love Sweden...

Fartleck: Another reason to love Sweden…

So what, actually is it? Basically, experimenting and changing pace during training – sprints, jogging, normal/comfortable pace. But you can chose how long/how fast depending on how your body feels that day- you can even walk! (pretty sure I’ve been doing this fartlek business for years!)

Traditional intervals as we looked at earlier is often timed/measured speeds- more specific. Because of this you don’t have to run train on track, so it’s a bit more freeing.

(There is of course a lot more science to this than my little brain can handle, and you should always do your research before any changes in training.)

Trail: running somewhere that isn’t a road or a track- usually countryside.

Cross training: any form of exercise which compliments your training but isn’t actually running! Cycling, gym sessions, walking etc.

Speed conversion: People commonly uses minute/mile or minute/kilometer – this refers to how many minutes it takes you to run 1 mile. This may vary depending on the distance of your run (for example I can do a 10min/mile 5km but then a 11’30min/mile for a 10km)

Garmin Fancy-Pants will be available in Fall 2013 too

Garmin Fancy-Pants will be available in Fall 2013 too, apparently…

You can find speed converters online or if you are a Mr. Fancy-pants your watch will do it all for you (this is jealousy talking here- I have no such watch – sad face  )

Pace: This is about how fast your are running over the whole course of the distance. If you ‘keep pace’ it means that you were running at the same speed throughout your run. So a ‘varied pace’ means that sometimes your were running faster than other times.

There is much to be argued for keeping pace and for varied pace – outside of personal preference, I would talk to the more seasoned runners among us about this.

Music can be a great way to keep your pace steady.

So what about distances?
Standard marathon races have the following:
Full course :42.195 km (26 miles and 385 yards)
1/2 course: 21.0975 km (13.1094 mi)
10KM (6.2miles)
5KM (3.1miles)

‘Qualifier’: there are certain marathons which are considered 5* – London, New York, Boston, Chicago, Berlin (Tokyo has now been added to the World Marathon Majors, apparently – Ed) 

London Maathon: One of only 6 IAAF Road Race Gold Label events and a  World Marathon Major...

London Marathon: One of only 6 IAAF Road Race Gold Label events and a World Marathon Major

These races, partly due to popularity and partly due to location (shutting down half the city!) require runners to be able to run a sub 3 hour marathon. Times vary for each races. IF you get this time you can enter the lottery for a place.
A ‘qualifier’ race is one in which your time can be used as a qualifying time for those races. A ‘Boston qualifier’ can be used when you apply for the Boston City Marathon lottery. Seoul International is considered a Boston Qualifier.

So hopefully that cleared some of it up – and if I have made any mistakes, forgive me- I’m still working on the one foot in front of the other theory of running myself…

Happy running!

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The Seoul International Marathon 2013

seoul_international_marathonThe Seoul International Marathon is, based on its course record, the tenth-fastest marathon in the world. Although most runners in Korea never think of it, the only races that have seen faster times are the world-famous races where the best of the best compete: Boston, Berlin, London, Chicago, New York, Frankfurt, Rotterdam, Dubai and Fukuoka. The race organizers do their best to make Seoul a race comparable with any in the world for both elite and mass participation.

This year’s prize structure offered $80,000 to both the men’s and women’s winners, as long as they ran under 2:10:37 and 2:24:18 respectively, though the men’s time is more commonly run than the women’s time. Any time that was at or slower than these would only earn half the prize money.

South Korea Seoul MarathonWhile prize money at major marathons isn’t exactly winner-take-all, it encourages and rewards aggressive racing, with the result being that many professional marathoners drop out midway. The winner would receive $80,000, but the runner-up half of that, the third-place finisher half of the second-place finisher, the fourth-place finisher half of the third-place finisher, with the 5th-8th-place runners receiving $7,000, $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 respectively. The ninth-place finisher would receive nothing.

Time bonuses were also in play. A runner would have received $300,000 for a world record and $200,000 for running faster than 2:05:00 but slower than the world record of 2:03:38. Running a course record, or close to it, would earn the winner between $100,000 and $200,000 while a runner finishing just a few minutes behind might receive just a few thousand dollars, or maybe even nothing. Flights and accommodations are typically provided by the race organizer, but it’s entirely possible, though not common, for a runner to run a world-class time and actually lose more money than you did in running this race.

With all this money on the line, the elite men went out at a steady 2:06 pace, slightly slower than course pace. They ran the first 5k, from Gwanghwamun to Euljiro via Namdaemun and Myeongdong, in 15:01. They hit 15 km coming back along the Cheonggyecheon toward Myeongdong in 45:01, and reached 20 km just past Dongdaemun in 1:00:28. The 25k mark was reached not far from Children’s Grand Park in 1:15:41. By this point, just eight men were left, and they reached 30 km at the same steady pace of 1:30:38.

It was around here, on a gradual uphill, that Kenyan Franklin Chepkwony separated from the pack. He ran 14:44 for the next 5k, the fastest of the race so far, and only Ethiopian Leche Dechase was able to follow. However, Chepkwony continued the blistering pace, running the next 5 km in 14:45, and Dechase could not keep up. Dechase would actually gain slightly on Chepkwony in the final 2 km, but the 18-second gap at 40 km was too big to overcome. Chepkwony won in 2:06:59 while Dechase finished second in 2:07:11. Seboka Dibaba Tola of Ethiopia was third in 2:07:27 and Yuki Kawauchi, a Japanese runner who works full-time as a civil servant, finished fourth in 2:08:14.

In the women’s race, three runners separated themselves from the rest of the pack quite early. Emebt Etea Bedada and Yeshimebet Tadesse Bifa of Ethiopia ran together with Filomena Chepchirchir of Kenya as they reached 10 km in 34:20. They ran together through the centre of the city, reaching 15 km in 51:34, but by the time they reached Dongdaemun at the east end of the city centre, Chepchirchir had opened up a slight lead. She reached 20 km in 1:08:47. Bedada and Bifa would catch Chepchirchir, however, and the three reached 25 km together at 1:25:48. They continued past Children’s Grand Park and reached 30 km in 1:42:43, running this third 10k in just under 34 minutes, the fastest so far.

The End In Sight

The End In Sight

Bedada and Chepchirchir would slow down here but Bifa would fall off the pace anyway, losing 17 seconds to Bedada and Chepchirchir by 35 km. Chepchirchir kept this pace after 35 km and, just like Chepkwony in the men’s race, dropped an Ethiopian competitor in the Jamsil neighbourhood, opening up a seven-second gap that extended to ten seconds by the finish line. Chepchirchir finished first in 2:25:43, Bedada was second in 2:25:53 and Bifa was third in 2:26:18.

The club had a very strong performance in this race. Son Chul ran a new personal best of 2:43:33, as did Uriah Orland (2:52:06). Michele Del Cero ran the other sub-3 by the Flyers on this day (2:59:17). On the women’s side, Ania Adamaszek led the way with a 3:36:59, followed by Jihwa Woo, who ran a personal best of 3:50:31.

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Adeel Ahmad

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Inception On Through

3878_89578551460_294998_n“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history”.

So said a Classical philosopher from Greece. Well, Plato may be dead, but fortunately we have our own beardy scholar…

When he’s not considering the intellectual consequences of denying the reality of the material world, running, or having a few beers in Seoul Pub, he’s writing poetry. Over to you Dave…

Inception On Through

Its conception at inception de rigueur it was indeed
some stalwart man who ascertained a Seoulwide runners’ need
for silly folks to jog along nary color, race nor creed
truth of which is evident – they even let in me.
 
There was Young who dug potatoes
and the Sun who urged us faster
and old Pierre the stalwart one who’d start… and finish after
and Jae the said above who put it all together
and mass critical Mark would make his mark running
 slow and slow and slow, for him, to yak so much the better.
 
Others came and came they did, the club was such a hit!
so many runners running running
so many flies to so much__________
ahh, no never mind that awful rhyme… just a figment of your filthy mind
and there it is, you see it’s true
regardless of your potty mouth… they even let in you.
 
Truly it was phenomenal
This fellowship of fools
Pounding pavement chewing pastry
And not EVERYbody’s teaching school!
 
Eventually an Adam came
Our clown, hey, what say you?
Sorry, never heard a word
I was drooling at Min Ju.
 
And lest I be admonished
Though you might just be astonished
But earlier when there was me
Another one was there – Marie!
 
And Shira with her pen in hand
Or is it that my other beer?
Alison and Leah, who we all wish well, and wishes sent
Wish even more that they were here.
 
The roster just goes on and on
Too old, too dim, poor me, to summon all I can’t recall
But we all have memories
Of freezing nights and mates in tights
And I know I’ve seen you all
With parch-id mouths and eyes turned south
At the butts you’ll soon recall
 
Yes many here not mentioned
Were you missed you? no ill-intention
ChrisesJeffs and Saras and at least a James or two
Flashes of Ashes, and what Adeel, all the runners coming through
 
April and a drawling Blair
The avant-garde Hyo Jin
See you at a race or social
Hey, how the hell you been?
Jackys and Eddies and miles with Kyles
Now that’s a stupid count!
Miles, not Kyles
Damn! I’m leaving someone out.
Annas, Biatas, Sylvies and Claires
Jennys and pretty pink L Maries
Vanessas and Michaels
And of course there’s Sam who damned some grams
By running fasterly
I can’t recall those many all who challenged self and bested walls.
So pity please poor me
 
We even have a Chuck
Who sometimes needs reminding
Yes, indeed, we all do give a _______________
Ahh! Gee! Hwa! There you go again!
What is it with you people
Must you default always to profane?
 
And who could forget
But was it them or him?
The misters Lee and Park and Kim.
And I may be old, but I’m not blind
My mama raised no foo
I just love to run behind the lovely Sarah Gu.
 
Sadly, we have only
Just the one Uriah
A running blur
Hey, where’s he gone?
I’m not too sure,
But I don’t think it was Ohiya.
 
Sorry, it’s too long, I know, but let me finish ere I go
Don’t be harsh or shamed or shrill
but I can’t resist just a little bit of my own doggerel
One day I may just find a way to make it fast as, say, oh…Chul?
 
The cheetah who hails from cold damp lands
And makes it always to the finishing stand
Lovely and humble and held in awe
Who inspires mere mortals to say, “I can!”
 
Now Thursdays come
And where’d we have been
Without the honorary sweet Marlene
But she rides bikes
I don’t have a rhyme for that.
 
So there it is on through inception
Days to years a growed conception
This club has history!
So thwarting misconception
Though you go you’re part of we
 
Cos bear in mind
Our mortal days, alas, they number few
And happenstance, don’t turn askance cos there may be a damn good chance
That he or she was at least once
Sidelined months with you.
 
Now, me, I’m just the rhymer
Never hurt a soul, it’s true!
But just don’t get me Buckley started
Or there’s none to blame but you.
 
So, there’s your entry, Matthew
Not so great, but hey, it’s done
So leave me to myself in peace
You pestering twatly one!
 

Tonetti, Spring 2013

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Marathon Running: Road to Perdition

sins_5128

2007. London. Canary Wharf. Work do. Tedious wine bar. Feeling painfully awkward, orbiting the room on the social periphery, desperately wishing I was somewhere else, trying to contribute something, hell, anything, to the conversation. Some complete Tool from Sales is talking about running. I don’t have anything to say on that…  But I’ve been hovering for an uncomfortably long period of time… Better say something…

“Oh, you’ve run London Marathon have you? Well, that’s a coincidence…” I interject…

“Why’s that?”

“Er, well, the race comes past the flat I used to, er, live in… And, one year, I watched it on telly… Kind of… Although, to be honest I only caught the end… I’m usually a bit hung over on Sunday mornings and have a bit of a lie in…” *This is bl**dy dynamite, this*

“Uh huh. I’ve ran it 3 times, raised £15,000 for charity and last year I went under 3 hours. Do you run?”

Ah, The Chilterns...

Ah, The Chilterns…

“Not really. I got lost on a cross-country race at school once, and fell down Whiteleaf Cross trying to take a short cut back to school. I was covered in bl**dy chalk…”

“Whiteleaf Cross?”

“It’s a cross-shaped chalk hill carving in Buckinghamshire. It’s really rather beautiful. Centuries old. Its origins are unknown, and there is a lot of pretty wild speculation and folklore that comes with it too. Crazy Ernest… I doubt you know him… Well, he thought it was a direction sign to the Holy Land set up by a teenage Jesus  when he was touring the British Isles…”

“Erm… Right… OK… That’s, er, interesting… Have you met William? He just completed a full Ironman Triathlon in Sydney…”

“No I haven’t… But, please excuse me… I’m just going to pour myself a massive drink!”

God Damn Running

You see, I’ve never really been a runner and never really even liked them. On the same night in question, some insufferable bore took great glee in explaining to me (very slowly obviously), how we humans are hardwired to run, arguing that it all comes down to Evolution. This particularly annoying “runner” insisted we were all evolved to run long distances on two feet in order to hunt and exhaust prey, as well as to escape from predators. This, apparently, enabled our ancient ancestors to hunt down and kill animals that were naturally faster, but not able to run long distances without overheating…

Well, perhaps. But when you have grown in up Middle England and the only time that you have really seen anyone move at any particular pace is in an awkward dash at the local Waitrose supermarket to get the last humus or stuffed vine leaves on special offer, it’s hard to accept that there is really anything natural or organic about running.

Yet here I am, about to run my fourth (official) marathon in just under 2 weeks time at Seoul International… What madness has brought me here?

A field. Brilliant. Run through it if you want. I don't care!

A field: Brilliant. Run through it if you want. I don’t care!

I guess now is the time to launch into a suitably pleasant piece about how I went full circle and caught the running bug: a beguiling rhetoric with flowery sentences designed to stir and inspire one to run with reckless abandon through, er, let’s see, I don’t know, “Englands mountains green, on pleasant pastures seen”… Or Whiteleaf Cross, perhaps.

But to hell with that! Screw narrative. I’m just going to put this out there…

My last marathon experience has left me bitter, twisted and border-line physiologically scarred for life, and has haunted me since last October when I foolishly attempted to run Chuncheon Marathon.

Granted, it is important to understand that, in many respects, I am basically a complete idiot, but regardless, the scars I carry are a direct result of this bonkers running lark…

Chuncheon Marathon Mental Disorder

So, after returning to the green fields of England for four months over the summer, and running the Swiss Alpine Marathon with a reasonably solid base of regular running, but with a breathless disregard for the all important “Long Run”, I put in a surprisingly respectable performance. I subsequently convinced myself that barely running for the subsequent two months  and the fact that I was spending 12 hours on a plane from London Heathrow a mere two days before would in no way impede my ability to tackle the 26.2

Turns out my confidence was misplaced. Shocking really.

15k – 3:30 Marathon Pace

This running gig is piss easy. Maybe I am a “runner”. Maybe I’m good at this. I’m great. I can just turn up and rattle off a marathon without really doing anything. Imagine what I could do if I pulled my finger out…

16km to 18km – 3:40 Marathon Pace

How far is a marathon? Oh, sh*te, this is getting quite tough. I’m slowing down…

19 km – 3:50 Marathon Pace

This is interesting. My head suddenly feels like it’s about to explode. My legs don’t appear to belong to me anymore. Is that Pippa Middleton? I don’t feel well. I’m pretty sure that isn’t Pippa Middleton.

I’m stopping. I’m feeling dizzy. I’m going to be sick. This isn’t good. I don’t want Pippa to see me like this… Get your arse in gear, Buckley!

20km – 21km – 4:15 Marathon Pace

This isn’t working. I’m a massive failure. I’ve proper b*alls this one up!  What the hell am I doing with my life? What the hell am I doing here? Right, screw this! This race chip is going on a journey, alright. It thought it would end at the Finish Line, but instead it’s story will end here in a rice paddy. Do I feel bad about this? No. It’s not my fault. I don’t make the rules! Sorry chip, time to fly…

22km- 6:66 Marathon Pace

Did I just really rip my race chip from my shoe and hurl it into the ether? Was that me? Christ on a Bike, wouldn’t Mother be proud…

Ah well, it cannot get any worse, can it? But what’s this? Oh dear. I really feel sick. And… Sweet Baby Moses, I seriously need to find a toilet. Like now. What about the rice paddy? No, Matt. Stop it with those bl**dy rice paddies!

Ah ha! That will do. A police station! Right then land speed record, you’re mine… A thousand panicking wildebeest on the rampage can’t stop me now…

Still, that Police Officer might. He doesn’t seem too impressed with me. I don’t understand Korean, but I’m mainly getting “angry” right now, but sorry mate, your toilet is now my toilet and that’s just the way it is…

So, there it is. Sorry. I feel better now. You see, running can be hell. Chuncheon was retribution. Seoul International hopefully will be my rehabilitation. Bombing half way through a marathon certainly gives you a humbling experience and plenty of time to reflect on things, although it should be noted that I was essentially brain dead at this point so how coherent these reflections were are questionable. Either way, for what its worth… Here it is…

What I Thought About When I Thought About Massive Marathon Failure, during the 20km death march to the finish line…

“Crowd Support” – don’t look at me like you feel sorry for me. When my strength returns I will throw you into a Rice Paddy with my Race Chip. Got it!

“Jessica Ennis” –  Comments removed by moderator.

“Long Runs” – Probably a good idea next time.

“Marathons” – Why? Just….. WHY?

“Pace Runners” – these people unquestionably experience an incredible high at the end of a marathon, bringing people over the line to achieve long-standing goals, the fruition of months of hard work, commitment and effort… But what about the people that crash? There should be a qualified Mental health counselor running at the back of every marathon field to treat people for all the psychological scares picked up along the way…

“Pacing” – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The clue is in the name. So why can’t I stop myself flying out of the traps like a greyhound on acid, but finishing like a demented swan on sedatives…

“Race Chips” – surprisingly aerodynamic.

wall“The Wall” – apparently caused by “…the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy.” I think that’s nonsense. It’s Satan. And he’s trying to rip your soul out through your knee-caps!

“Water Stations” – When you are running full tilt and bravely pacing through water stations, you are received warmly and graciously – broad smiles, eager shouts of encouragement, and you feel amazing… When you are staggering, looking like you have been beaten up by a tumble dryer, shaking your head and grimacing in a cocktail of pain, grief, shame and embarrassment, used water cups scattered across the ground, testament to the fearless endeavours of those who actually managed to run through there, you feel like a prize Tosspot.

So, see you all on the start line, Ladies & Gentlemen.

If you see me throw my race chip into Cheonggye Stream or sitting on the side of the road, hugging my knees and sobbing like a schoolboy, best just keep your head down, keep running, and not interject with some bloody comment about how “we are all hardwired to run”!!

Matthew Buckley

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Running Gadgetry & Why It’s Pointless

imagesOne of the more counter-intuitive aspects of running, particularly long-distance running, is that advances in technology over recent decades have not produced better performances. It’s true that today’s best runners might be able to put more than a mile between themselves and the best runners of the 1970s and 1980s, but it’s also true that Australian Derek Clayton ran a 2:08:34 marathon in 1969, just 33 seconds slower than Stephen Kiprotich’s winning time at the London Olympic Marathon this summer. The world’s fastest runners are faster than they used to be, but that tells you more about the quality of athletes taking up the sport and their training methods than it tells you about the technology present in the sport today.

It’s common to see runners today training and racing with GPS watches, heart rate monitors, compression socks, shoes designed to perform a specific function, clothing made from special fabrics and astonishingly complex rituals of nutrition. This has helped to preserve a running industry at both the participatory and professional levels, one that might not otherwise exist. However, it’s not hard to see that while technological advances in running might make running more fun, the benefit to performances is debatable.

Other brands that produce pointless watches are available

Other brands that produce pointless watches are available

Consider, for example, the GPS watch. It tells you that your 10k run was actually 9.8 km or maybe 10.27 km. It tells you that you’re running at 9:17/mile and that your fastest pace during your run was 11 mph. There are similar functions performed by cell phone apps of varying accuracy. As accurate as your GPS might be, it has all the functionality of having a car with a very finely-tuned odometer, even though you don’t know what the speed limit is and you don’t even know how to drive. An easy run should feel easy. If it doesn’t feel easy, you’re running too hard. There is, probably, a subset of runners who misjudge their effort and run too hard on easy days, but for anyone who’s that serious about their training, it would be good to learn to gauge pace and effort.

... Any angle of touchdown... A pair of radiused, sliding plates... Horizontal and vertical impact forces to provide comfort and control in all three dimensions... Er, what?

… Any angle of touchdown… A pair of radiused, sliding plates… Horizontal and vertical impact forces to provide comfort and control in all three dimensions… Er, what?

Running shoes, too, became absurdly complex, trying increasingly hard to solve problems that may or may not have existed. The absurdity eventually became obvious to runners, who seem more and more to be wearing lighter, more flexible shoes. However, even on the other end of the spectrum, there’s not much of an edge to be gained by wearing shoes that only rise a certain number of millimeters off of the ground or even in running barefoot.

The same goes for nutrition. Those running half marathons and marathons obsess over their intake of carbohydrates leading up to races, even though the liver can only store a limited amount of carbohydrates, a limit that is typically reached by any balanced diet. Any marginal benefit gained, too, would likely be so small as to be insignificant.

What is instructive is to look at the best in the world, or at least runners who are far superior, who typically keep their running very simple. A look at the training logs of an elite runner will often reveal a schedule that’s written on the basis of time, not distance. Many of east Africa’s world-beating athletes have never run on a rubberized track. In fact, until the well-decorated Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele built a track using his own money in 2012, there was only one rubberized track in all of Ethiopia, a country that produced four 2:04 marathoners in a single race last month. Instead, intervals are often run based on time, such as 20 repeats of 1 minute hard followed by 1 minute easy.

Clearly, it’s possible to go very far in the sport without ever running on a track, measuring the distance of a run, or even wearing a watch. In fact, it’s what some of the best runners in the world do, such as college cross country teams in the United States (the NCAA cross country championships produce about 250 men who can run 31-32 minutes for 10k on grass, and they typically get there without training on a track) or aspiring professionals in Kenya

So, what can the collective wisdom of thousands of non-GPS-wearing runners tell you?

1) Of course, you don’t need a GPS to train or race.

2) Don’t worry about the small details, such as grams of carbohydrates consumed per day or the weight of your shoes.

3) Time is often a better way to train than distance (e.g. run for 45 minutes, not 8 km).

4) Run slower than you think you should be running, especially on easy days. Few runners make the mistake of running too slow in training, many make the mistake of running too fast, paying for it with sub-par races, inconsistent training, or injuries.

For what it’s worth, my own experience is that I’ve run 36:38 for 10k, 1:21 for a half marathon and stumbled through a 3:10 marathon by only wearing a watch during races and workouts, never eating a single gel and doing intervals and tempos based on time rather than distance.

Adeel Ahmad

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Accidental Marathons, the Wall & the “Shiny Shiny”

"Rookie of the Year" 2012

“Rookie of the Year” 2012

Happy New Year.  You may know me as Catelyn Savoth, a proud member of the Seoul Flyers.  After a few rounds at Craftworks and exchanges of running satire and highlights, I was asked by Fleet Street to write about my Seoul Flyers experience – training with Jeff Dixon’s marathon program, running two marathon’s in one week, and becoming the “winner of a nice shiny Seoul Flyers award.”  I am delighted to share my story with one WARNING: it may reveal a glimpse of how the wheels spin inside my head…

I’ll start with a little clip of my pre-Flyers running background.  I had not been serious about running since college.  I think there is a saying; once a runner, always a runner Of course we all know this is more easily said than done.  I had grown to only know running as a cutthroat competitive sport.  My memories were of girls spiking each other around the winding trails of 5k courses in competition for a simple division 3 championship certificate.  There was no unity or spirit within the sport as I knew it.  This experience had turned me off from running as an adult.  However, it didn’t take much to reignite my interest.  I remember being dragged to the Hyatt, by a friend, on a Thursday night and being shocked (I may have even gave my cheek a little pinch) that a group of people all excited to run really existed.  I routinely attended the famous Thursday night runs around Namsan, meeting great people who I am now proud to call friends.  I recall how difficult my first loop was (and a few more after that).

A fellow runner waited for me at every turn and I was astonished that someone with such long legs would bother to wait to show me the way as I was just breaking snail speed along the trail.  It was there where running changed for me.  I listened while he raved about the “most beautiful race in Korea, a marathon along the DMZ…”  He explained why it was such a beautiful race.  When I could gasp for air I asked questions and gathered it was at the end of August.  I couldn’t bear to be in Korea and miss one of the most beautiful sights.  So, that night I went home, ‘Googled’ a marathon training plan, and signed up immediately.  I had not yet learned how loosely the term “marathon” was thrown around in Korea, or that there were other options.  To prepare for my training I signed up for the Korea Adventure Night Race.  Somewhere between not fully converting miles to kilometers and thinking a race would be easier than a marathon – I decided it would be a great place to start.

"I signed up for a what..."

“I signed up for a what…”

About a week before the race I realized I had signed up for a FULL MARATHON! Not one of my brightest decisions, but it had been advertised as a walk so I decided it would be thrilling to see how much of it I could actually run.  As dusk came, the thought of being out on a course I didn’t know, filled me with dread.  I met some Flyers at the start and made it my mission to stick with them, for at least the first half of the race.  Slowly, I began to drift behind.  No matter how hard I tried to push my legs forward at mile 16 all I could see was Wendy Nail’s pigtails in a distance.  She had encouraged me a great chunk of the way, but the time had come where I had to push through my own wall.  The next four miles were the hardest miles of ALL.  I couldn’t feel my feet, hands, knees, or face, never mind the ground I was crawling on.  As I was passing alongside a rail for a mile stretch, I gripped the bars, thrusting my body forward with my arms.

Realizing how pathetic I looked, I opted to walk a bit.  Finally, I stopped to loosen my sneakers for the third time.  My feet were so swollen I could have beaten the “Hobbit” foot models in a competition.  I ate the last tangerine stored in my backpack – gels were still UFO’s to me.  The small boost of energy helped propel me to the other side of my wall.  I had escaped no-man’s land.  I only had 10k left, and I felt weak, yet powerful.  In high school I had read an article which instructed track runners to repeat the same few words in their head to keep focus and increase speed throughout a race.  I had been using this strategy since mile 16, but I was far away from the familiarity of a track meet.  I continued to increase the voice in my head, “You are a marathon runner, You Are A Marathon Runner, YOU ARE A MARATHON RUNNER…”  It was booming over my Bruce Springsteen Playlist.  Before long, with a slow tortoise pace and many startling shouts of, “Fighting!” from fellow runners, another 5k had past.  As I saw the last 5k sign I felt a fire light inside me.  I wiggled my toes and put the rest of what I had left into finding a steady momentum.  All I could think was, I am here, this is what I know, a 5k is just a walk in the park…  Then, I gained speed passing the 40k sign, and again just before crossing the finish.  As I came to a stop, I could see the brightest light of glory within the darkness.  Another obstacle had been overcome.  The fear of not finishing my first marathon attempt became obsolete.

The following week Jeff Dixon set up his own marathon training program.  If I had learned anything from my first foray into ‘marathon-ing,’ it was the importance of training.  Without flinching I changed my marathon in August to a half, and jumped on the Chuncheon team.  What an incredible opportunity this was!  With time, it was amazing to me that my struggles ceased and I eased into natural form.  Being able to share and experience this growth through hard work, with a true team of supporters was priceless.

Everyone had their individual milestones and we all had the common goal of holding each other to our abilities.  We held each other accountable as we whined and then wound our 5k’s to 8k’s, 10k’s to 20k’s… and made it to the point where completing the kilometers became a competition.  This destroyed my ability to ‘compete’ and photograph Korea’s beautiful scenery.  My personal agenda of running for sight-seeing was over.  I went from taking pictures and slowing down for small chats at my first half marathon to competing for a space on the podium just a few races after that.  In every race, I had to beat myself.

In Jeff’s plan we ended up running half-marathons every weekend for training.  Each course was more beautiful than the next.  The bus rides, meals, and celebrations with great people after each event increased team camaraderie.  As time grew closer to the big Chuncheon race, our nerves increased.  Every runner I talked to was in anticipation, whether it be of hills, the distance, or weather.  It was a big event.  Coach Dixon kept his cool throughout the training.  He went over strategies with us counting the total time of the race down to each minute of every kilometer.  He said, “A marathon is only 3, 14-k’s.”  He also assured us of our readiness.  He knew all our hard work would lead to a glorious finish.

Marathon 1Coach was right. Everything fell into place for me at Chuncheon.  In fact, I probably didn’t run fast enough.  I had so much energy at the end that I continued to run in my teammates.  I felt like I could have kept running!  The plan was a success.  I was pumped to run another race… Not that minute or day, but the following weekend.

Now, on to how I finished two Marathon’s in one week.  The abundance of race options in Korea could be more detrimental than helpful for the person who wants to do everything (me).  I had joined the Chuncheon training group, and heard nothing, but how beautiful Chuncheon was.  In my “running for sightseeing” mentality, this sounded grand.  However, as my competitive edge took precedence and New York City Marathon qualifying times were being discussed, my imagination soared.  I caught wind of another flat marathon through Seoul the following weekend.  In practice my times were getting faster and faster.  I had decreased my half marathon time by twenty-one minutes since August.  I dreamt big dreams.  I knew if I had the right course I could utilize all of the techniques I had learned and make that qualifying time a reality this year.  What I didn’t account for was how tired my body would be after racing Chuncheon.

I never thought I would dream of running two marathons in one week.  In fact, most people would consider it a nightmare.  As my high lowered and I was back to the daily grind of my work week I knew it was going to be a tough one.  Nevertheless, I was already in it and I’m not a quitter (if you haven’t guessed).

Interesting running form...

Interesting running form…

I still wanted to believe I would be able to crush my upcoming marathon, without giving my body time to repair — pure genius… As an amateur, I continued to make amateur moves.  I tried to give myself a pep talk to run slow, but the devil was burning inside of me – I wanted to kill it!  When I got to the race I ran with Sun to find the start and avoid any language barriers that might have gotten in the way of a successful launch.  While we were waiting for the gun, ‘Gangnam Style’ came on and everyone was dancing together.  At this point my adrenaline had me in the clouds.  My mind was so much stronger than my body that I actually felt like I might not only qualify, but place in the NYC Marathon.

At this point I was an official hazard to myself.  I ran the first 10k in 40 minutes (shedding minutes off my 10k race time) before I felt surges of pain run through my shoulders to my toes.  After this point I stopped to tie my shoe and pull myself together.  I shook off the pain and continued in competition mode.  Nothing was going to stop me, yet I found that I had to jump the additional hurdle of a slower pace and therefore, endure more pain.  This was brutal!  I told myself, if you can still smile, you can do it!  My fellow competitors could see right through the smile I was trying to plaster on my face as the pain ran down my cheeks.  I was frustrated as my peers passed with ‘fighting’ words of encouragement.  Some who I recognized from meeting at previous races gave me looks of disappointment and even used the words, ‘bali, bali’ running sideways with the thought that I would jump to catch them.  As much as I appreciated the support, each time I tried to play their game I couldn’t.  It was only me and my pace, nothing slower or faster, if I wanted to see the finish.

Finally, a man I had met before the race, came up behind me, pulled me to a stop, and propped me up on a pole in the middle of the road divide.  He explained how he was an acupuncturist (showed me his credentials) and said he could help me.  I was in no place to argue, so I let him treat me.  He treated me in the middle of the marathon, in the center of a road, in the heart of the city.  I remember seeing the winners pass like gazelles as he punctured my skin to try to alleviate my pain, with his craft.  The next few hours were long and beyond agonizing.  Rather than the mental wall I had experienced in my first marathon, I found myself creeping along a physical blockade.  Surprisingly my mental spirits were still high.  I got to the point of determination where I was going to cross the finish line even if I was crawling.  As I completed the last hour of the race, roads started to open up, runners were ducking into the clean-up vans, and a New Balance sports car with a mega phone rolled along next to me consistently signaling me to stop and get in.  I’m sure they could see the determination, as well as the pulsing veins, in my face.  I was not going to quit, no matter how much they tempted me.

And then she came to the end

And then she came to the end

I had never been so happy to finish a race.  It was a complete 180 degree turn from the beginning of the week.  As I entered the stadium I caught sight of some Flyers.  Andy Na came out from behind the fence and started running around the track with me.  It was a great relief to have his support and some bright yellow Flyers waving and cheering in the stands.  Running through these successes and struggles has taught me more about myself than I could have ever imagined.

Thank you for supporting my mistakes and embracing my efforts.  Most importantly, I want to thank all of the Flyers for giving me such a great experience. The Flyers have provided me with more running opportunities and glory than I could have ever dreamed of in just one year.  It is an honor to have been nominated and selected as “Rookie of the Year.”  As I gain more experience, I will strive to share my love, ear, and advice on running with others as you all have with me. I hope to carry the Flyers spirit Stateside in the spring and only time will tell after that.

Cate Savoth

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