French Bloke Runs

Shut up and run!

Category: Daily running (page 2 of 3)

Gear: the useful and the useless

After almost a year of running and quite a bit of money spent in various gear and gadgets, I now have a well formed opinion on what is useful and what is useless.

Running top

An absolute essential. Don’t run long distances with cotton t-shirts, definitely buy tops made of a technical fabric such as blends of polyester and elastane. My favourites are the ones from Tribesports (I have no commercial agreement with them, they’re just really good). If cotton is absolutely prohibited, I also recommend against running with the t-shirts given at races because they’re usually very loose. Don’t follow this advice and you’ll risk nipple chafing, you’ll be warned: Jack of all trades learned it the hard way in the Bordeaux half-marathon.

Running bottom

Arguably, it’s not as important to have good running shorts as it is to have good tops but it’s so much better to run with very light shorts and I think they’re worth the extra quid. Then again, cotton will provoke chafing inside your thighs, so avoid at all costs.

On cold winter days,  tights or leggings are really appreciated but I found that even the cheapest ones were good enough.

Socks

Don’t waste your money there. Pricy technical socks are utterly useless. I can’t see the difference between my £2 pair of low-cut Decathlon running socks and my £15 pair of double-walled, padded pair of Mizuno running socks. If you want to avoid blisters and black nails, the solution is in the shoes, not in the socks.

Accessories

I haven’t tried all the accessories yet but I think most of them are useless (ok, maybe a water bottle is a good thing to have during a long run or a trail). The one accessory I bring to all my races is a wrist sweatband to wipe off my forehead and avoid sweat dripping in my eyes.

I don’t have an opinion on compression gear yet. It might be useful, but to recover and avoid muscle pain, I think nothing beats a long session of stretching after running.

Gadgets

Then again, I’m a big fan of gadgets but I have to admit that most of them aren’t really useful. I would say that the watch is the only one that will help improve your running and at a beginner level like mine, it’s mostly about the timer and the pace: the value of a heart-rate monitor is debatable at best. But I think runners definitely don’t need a phone or an mp3 player. Some will argue that if you need music to run, it’s because you don’t like running.

Shoes

I’ll finish with the most important piece of gear: the shoes! Of course they’re useful, it is essential to have shoes that fit you and your running style – as you know I’m a strong advocate of minimalistic shoes and barefoot-style running. My piece of advice is to always buy one size above your real size, it will save you from blisters and black toenails, especially if you have a Greek foot or a Celtic foot like me.

Now, I want to make the case that shoes are actually useless, and I’m slowly making the transition to barefoot running (I’ve tested some pretty minimal stuff already). Hopefully in a few months or years, I’ll be able to race barefoot!

Tired shoes

Tired shoes or why it is important to buy new shoes before they reach 800 km

London 10,000

Here’s the beauty of the Metric System: 10K is also 10,000 metres. Although usually a 10,000m race refers to a track event and a 10K race refers to road running, so the organisers of the London 10,000 screwed up a little bit here. Anyway, once again it was Lanky Pole who recommended that I sign up for this race and I wasn’t hard to convince: this race passes through central London and features the city’s most iconic landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, etc…

Lanky Pole told me to be there early and I met him at Embankment station where he was already with a bunch of friends from the Serpentine Running Club. He’s trying to convince me to join and I resist, but I may give in eventually. All of these guys run really well and really fast, almost all of them had targets way under 40 minutes (34 minutes for one of them!) and I humbly wanted to renew my current PB of 42:39 and was secretly hoping for a time sub-42. To be honest, I wasn’t really optimistic because I had the feeling that my running hadn’t improved in the past couple of months and I had put on a kilo or two during my holiday in France and that doesn’t help running fast.

We walked together to the starting line, had a nice chat (about running of course) and lost each other at the bag drop – as you can imagine, the bag drop for 10,000 runners is an easy place to lose someone. So I went on warming up alone. Same as usual: 10 minutes easy jog, dynamic stretching, some sprinting and other exercises. At the starting line, I saw Lanky Pole again, who was late and was heading towards the front, we high-fived and wished each other good luck. I sucked on an energy gel and the race started.

As usual, I was a bit ambitious and aimed for a pace of 4:10 minutes per km that would give me a final time under 42 minutes and would ensure me a new PB. I knew it wouldn’t be easy because the course wasn’t flat and because I had ran a mile race the day before. The first kilometre was a mess, like all races with a huge number of runners. Some people just don’t belong in the first pen and I was hindered by a few many runners. The organisers should really think of having smaller waves at the start. Anyway, I passed the first kilometre mark after 4 minutes and 20 seconds and I wasn’t really happy with that. I forced myself to repeat a positive mantra in my head (something like “I will win”) to overcome my negativity of the day and when I finally managed to overtake a bunch of slow runners I pushed a little bit and achieved running at my desired pace.

At that point, I was quite happy because I saw the London I know from a totally new perspective. Running in the middle of the street on the Strand or on Holborn near my working place isn’t something I usually get to do! Around Bank, I saw a bunch of guys walking on the race course with a banner saying “10K in 1 day”, they were with a dude walking very slowly behind his wheelchair, probably to raise awareness for his disability. I didn’t have the time to see what kind of disability he had but I felt admiration for him. All this helped my morale going up again and I kept my target pace.

But at the 5K mark, my legs decided to remind me the 1 mile race I ran the day before and told me: “Hey you plonker, if you really think we’re going to carry on like that for another 5 kilometres after the way you treated us yesterday, you can sod off!”. After 4 minutes and 23 seconds of exchanging insults with my legs and my slowest kilometre of the race, I finally won the argument (I’m resourceful when it comes to insults contests) and regained a reasonable pace, although below my target.

An old lady – well, not that old but old enough to be my mother – overtook me and I decided she would be my pacer from now on. And it worked! We ran mostly side by side for the next 4 kilometres then I decided to leave her behind for the finish. I ran the last 1000m in 4:03 minutes and managed a final sprint with my signature finish scream RHAAAAAAAAA! Yes it was at least nine A’s and it gave me a new Personal Best of 42 minutes and 22 seconds. At first I was a bit disappointed because of all the negativity I had that day but after a while I realised it’s a PB anyway and that’s pretty awesome!

Lanky Pole & French Bloke at the London 10,000

Lanky Pole & French Bloke at the London 10,000

After a long queue to get my backpack back (that’s a mouthful!) I found Lanky Pole, we stretched together and we took a victory picture. We found his Serpentine friends and we headed to the pub where we filled our stomachs with good food and good ale while talking about running (surprisingly), and that was one step forward to my joining the club.

Burning my lungs at the Westminster Mile

I once said I would never use the Imperial system on this blog. I lied. But this is all Lanky Pole‘s fault! When I signed up for the London 10000m, he convinced me to sign up for the Westminster Mile. At the time it made sense: it was the day before the 10K and it would be a good preparation for it. What a fool I was!

Westminster Mile map & bib

Westminster Mile map & bib

On Sunday morning, I met Lanky Pole at Green Park at 8:15 and we started scouting the race course. 1 mile is really short: it’s barely more than 4 times 400m and it’s actually usually ran on 400m tracks. It doesn’t even make a full lap around St James Park! And this mile is very scenic: it begins on the Mall, continues all around St James Park along the Horse Guards building and the Imperial War Museum and it ends just in front of Buckingham Palace!

Lanky Pole is switching from long distance running to mid-distance running, so he should be full of good advice for this distance but he only told me: “It’s easy, just run fast”. OK, actually, after that he gave me some real piece of advice and he said: “Start working at 800m, don’t start sprinting too early, 200m before the end is good”. Actually there’s much more to it than that and it even involves lots of strategy especially when it is ran on tracks but I just wanted to run my first one, so he didn’t get into that level of detail.

After our inspection, we began warming up: 10 minutes easy jog, some dynamic stretching, and a little bit of sprinting for good form. Of course, as before each and every race we took a leak and tied our laces properly – that’s the 2 most important things to do, remember! We then went to the starting line. Lanky Pole went in the first wave and I went in the second wave. My target was to run it under 6 minutes. I thought it was a pretty good goal: it’s a round number and it’s exactly the time I should do according to the race predictor based on my 10K personal best.

The horn blew and I started running. “Running fast” wasn’t a great piece of advice because I quickly realised that if I did that I wouldn’t survive the first 800m, so I followed the other runners in my wave. OK, maybe I went a bit faster than most because their pace seemed a bit slow. I hindsight I think I started too fast but apparently it’s a common rookie mistake and anyway, I wasn’t overtaken by many runners at the end of the race so I wasn’t too far off. I tried to look at my watch (like I do for longer distances) and stay at the target pace of 3:40 per km but it’s hard to glance at your wrist when you’re making such an effort and anyway it didn’t seem really accurate. It turns out I almost never ran at that pace and I was either much faster or much slower.

At the 800m mark, I though to myself “Did Lanky Pole said I should start working at 800m?” but I was starting to get tired so I though “Naaaaaah, it must be 400m before the end, let’s run slower”. Yes I know I’m a lazy bastard. But there was this heel-striking bugger running next to me and he was really distracting me with his heavy pounding and his slow cadence (I averaged 213 spm) and I was longing for the end. When the 400m mark arrived I started ‘working’ and left him behind. Apparently I wasn’t working hard enough and some other dudes overtook me. At the 200m mark, I couldn’t resolve myself to sprint, I tried to go faster but my legs wouldn’t follow, they were just aching too much. At the 100m mark, with the finish line in sight, I finally managed to overcome my fatigue and to accelerate. 10 meters before the end, I went flat out and released a loud scream. I believe this final scream is becoming my signature (remember my Olympic Park 10K).

I was really happy with my 5 minutes and 42 seconds, it’s 18 seconds better than my target and I was ecstatic: one new PB established! Lanky Pole was disappointed by his 4 minutes and 52 seconds, it was his first mile on road and he didn’t have his usual points of reference like he has on tracks. We went running a little bit to cool down but I couldn’t do too much of it because my lungs were burning and my throat was aching so much it almost tasted of blood. But it didn’t prevent me from stretching properly and from going to the pub to celebrate over a pint and a good British fry up. Not too much though because we still had to race 10K the following day!

Travelling and running

Since I’m away from London this week, I thought it would be a good idea to write about travelling and running. Some people travel specifically to run and visit famous running places – here I’m certainly not referring to Lanky Pole who’s been to Ethiopia, Kenya and the USA just for running, no, no, no, he’s not a mad person and he’s even writing about it. But he’s not the only one: Mad Cook is planning a trip to Lanzarote to run the Ocean Lava triathlon with her company, and I’m pretty sure there are plenty of other people doing it. I might even have done it myself (oops) although running isn’t generally the purpose of my travels, but I now try to run wherever I go.

Lyon, France

This is the obvious running destination for me, even though I’m not sure it counts as travelling because it’s my hometown. I’m currently there and it always brings back old memories, this week I’ve been running with Lanky Frog and with my sister and it made me happy to realise that for the first time in my life, I’m at least as fit as they are. I also came here for my first 10K race last September (note to myself: I have to write about that one) and I set my first PB ever. I love running in this city because the river banks are really adapted for running, they are car-free, plenty of trees and go from one park to another.

French Bloke at Run In Lyon 2015

French Bloke at Run In Lyon 2015

Auckland, New Zealand

Yes, I know I’m bragging, but this post is all about bragging isn’t it? This one was back when I still hated running, but at least I had my sister (who was living there at the time) to keep me company. It was a tough run: I had old shoes, weighted 15 kilos more than today and hadn’t ran for a long time. I couldn’t even push myself to finish the run because the end was up a steep hill. Now I would love to do it again (more because I’d love to go back to New Zealand than because I’d like to compare my new running self to my old fat self). Anyhow, this was a sporty holiday with lots of hiking, rafting and swimming.

At the top of the Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom)

At the top of the Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom)

A Guarda, Spain

Whilst visiting Wonder Woman and Superman in their home town, I had an impromptu barefoot run which became a defining one. I want to write a specific post about it so I won’t spoil it here.

Bucharest, Romania

I actually ran in several places in Romania, during a tour of Draculito‘s native Transylvania and although it was unplanned, I even raced there! Running in the cool forests near Bran Castle or in the picturesque Sighisoara was definitely nicer than running in the steaming hot streets of Bucharest – although it was a great way to discover the city.

Race in Cluj-Napoca

“Crosul Companiilor” race in Cluj-Napoca

Llan-Maes, Wales

This run in the quiet Welsh countryside was definitely the highlight of the week-end I spent near Cardiff and saw France being beaten hard by Ireland during the Rugby World Cup.

Annecy, France

While visiting Wonder Woman and Superman in Chamonix, Brainy Owl and I stayed for a while in this lovely alpine town, did some hiking but I didn’t forget to stick to my holy training plan and we did an lovely easy run together, in the freezing mountain cold.

Rome, Italy

OK, I’m mad too, I have to admit that sometimes I travel just to run. But I have a good excuse: I was also visiting the Quiet Roman to whom I had promised to run the Roma-Ostia half-marathon if he came to Lyon for our first 10K, which he did. And I wrote a report about it.

French Bloke and Quiet Roman

French Bloke and Quiet Roman in Rome

Cologne, Germany

This one was a bit unexpected. I was lucky enough to travel to Germany for work and I decided to stay in Cologne for the weekend. I ran a cool 23 km, just for fun and to visit the city’s amazing green belt, the Rhine’s banks, as well as the major sights – including the famous Kölner Dom.

Bordeaux, France

Not only Bordeaux has some of the best wines in the world, it’s also where Jack of all trades lives. These are 2 great reasons to travel there, but these are not reasons to stop following the holy training plan. So we had a beautiful run along the Gironde together and a good stretching session afterwards.

Missed opportunities

I also went to Poland for new year’s eve with Lanky Pole, but with a chilly -18°C, guess where the holy training plan could shove its intervals sessions. Even Lanky Pole didn’t run for 4 days (yeah, I know that sounds unbelievable).

And because it was a tough hike, I didn’t run in Morocco where I climbed the Djbel Toubkal, highest peak if the Atlas. But Lanky Pole ran anyway. I already wrote an account of this trip on this blog.

Future opportunities

The Pencil Witch is getting married with Grumpy Grampy, so we’re going to Scotland soon to wed this lovely couple, so that should be an opportunity for running while travelling although I doubt I’ll be in a condition to run the day after the wedding party. Maybe they’ll invite us to a second wedding in Brazil! That would be a great opportunity for new running horizons…

Down memory lane in Lyon

I’m on a holiday in Lyon and of course, I’m still following my training plan and I’m running exactly as I would if I were in London. But running in familiar places brings out old memories, back from the days I still hated running. I hated it but I still had a weekly jog with Jack of all trades, which made it bearable because at least I had a good friend to speak to and make the time pass. Yes, it was also a good excuse to see my mate and talk shit.

I’ve been running on the left bank of the Rhône, one of the 2 rivers in Lyon and this reminded me of the Sunday runs we did every week on the very same river bank, from one park to another. You must know that Lyon has 2 major parks: le Parc de la Tête d’Or and le Parc de Gerland. It is a very common run for locals to link the 2 parks running along this majestic river that is the Rhône (even though the banks of the Saône are prettier). It’s a mere 6km stroll and the bank has been refitted for pedestrians and cyclists, with wide paths, cycle lanes, playgrounds, fountains and trees.  It also boasts a great view on several major sights of the city:

  • The Parc de la Tête d’Or itself is a beautiful park with a rose garden, a free zoo, a lake with an island, many great trees and plenty of grass to play football or bask in the sun
  • The Croix-Rousse hill, with its colourful façades and XIXth century buildings
  • The Hôtel-Dieu, an old hospital originally built between the XIIIth and the XVth century
  • The Piscine du Rhône, an ugly but iconic swimming pool from the 1960s
  • The fine XIXth century buildings of the universities and of the university library
  • The Musée des Confluences, a building controversial for its gigantism, its weirdness (not to say ugliness) and the astronomical sums of money it cost the local taxpayers

This last one wasn’t here yet when we ran there with Jack of all trades, there was just empty space where the 2 rivers meet. We would go to the Parc de Gerland and come back to the city centre for a croissant and a coffee with a glass of fresh orange or lemon juice. I have to admit I miss that part and every time I go back to France I have a coffee and a proper croissant at the terrace of a typical café.

Quais du Rhône - Photo by Connie Ma

Quais du Rhône Photo by Connie Ma

Several years later, we took on running together again and we went closer to our new respective workplaces, in the Parc de Lacroix-Laval of Charbonnières-les-Bains, the posh suburbs of Lyon. This was a whole different setting and much more hilly, but also very pleasant because in some parts of this park the forest is almost wild. These are great memories too and I hope I’ll run there again one day…

The Muslim Runner and other regulars

Some time ago, I talked about the regulars I meet in my morning runs, and how it compares to regulars in a pub. Well, like with pubs, I don’t go to just one and I meet other regulars on my other everyday route: the one I do rollerblading (yes, I’m unfaithful to running).

Rollerblade in London photo by IanVisits

Rollerblade in London (it’s not me) photo by IanVisits

Unfortunately, on this route there aren’t many other rollerbladers – I only met 3 or 4 others since a year and a half I’m going from Greenwich to Farringdon on eight wheels – and I think I’m the only one doing it several times a week.

Look at me bragging! I actually didn’t start blading to earn bragging rights, but only because I’ve loved it for more than twenty years. But I realised it looks somewhat cool and quite often there are people turning their heads and children shouting their surprise and admiration, which kinds of pumps me up when it happens. Kudos to all children I can inspire!

Don’t get me wrong, I also get a lot of abuse, especially from drivers who are pissed off that I use cycle lanes (why they care, I don’t know) or the road. I once even received a string of insults from a Spanish cyclist on a Boris Bike who said I was dangerous because I was too slow ; how ironic when you know that cyclists on Boris Bikes are notoriously dangerous in London and thatI go faster than them more often than not. But cyclists are generally supportive, especially since I wear protective, reflective and hi-vis gear like them.

Apart from the lovers (gonna love) and the haters (gonna hate), there are other people I come across very regularly. Most mornings, I can see the Muslim Runner going the other way. I have a lot of respect for him (especially since I run myself) because he’s quite old, he’s always running with some kind of a large tunic and he’s always there, on the Thames Path.

There’s the big bearded and tattooed cyclist (I should say biker) whom I cross almost systematically under the greenwich foot tunnel. It’s funny, because he looks like such a rebel but he’s wearing a bright yellow hi-vis vest and he’s very kind – he always holds the lift’s doors and has friendly words. I like this contrast.

You should know that I meet Santa Claus quite often as well. This one has a bright yellow hi-vis jacket rather than a big red coat, he’s riding a Brompton folding bike rather than a sleigh, and he’s fitter, but the long white beard is exactly the same so I’m sure it’s him. Shame I don’t have a picture to show you, I should think of taking one when I skate through Greenwich University.

Along the Thames, in Sir McDougall Gardens, there’s the Tai Chi Lady. She’s an asian granny who was also there every morning, repeating very slow and precise martial arts movements, but I haven’t seen her since last fall. I hope it’s only because it was too cold and that I’ll see her again soon.

Finally, there’s the occasional fox that I cross if I’m lucky. I love seeing them, they’re beautiful animals and surprisingly numerous in London! I’ve even heard there’s a lady-fox and her cubs somewhere on my route, by I’ve never managed to see them…

The big hike: Djbel Toubkal

Now you’ll understand why I was so lazy with my writing last week. Instead of spending my weekend writing for you, I spent it trudging in the Moroccan Atlas. Let’s go back 2 weeks ago. Lanky Pole – him again – called me with a crazy proposal: climbing to the top of the highest peak in northern Africa – the Djbel Toubkal in Morocco. He’d bought flights for 3 and one of his mates had bailed out at the last minute. Fool that I am, I said yes. Seven days later, I was in a small hotel in Imlil.

Imlil hotel

View on Imlil, the roof terrace of the hotel, the scrumptious breakfast

Imlil is the closest village to the peak, it is a charming place 1,740m above sea level where people don’t hassle you as much as in Marrakesh and where the temperatures are bearable. It’s almost heaven: the first night we had there was the quietest I had in years, the food at the hotel was amazing, plentiful and cheap, the landscapes are breathtaking, the light is uniquely soft and beautiful, and you’re surrounded by cute baby goats, cats and mules. Not to mention the exquisite fresh orange juice that will make you forget that there is no alcohol here.

Animals in Imlil

Animals in Imlil: cats, baby goats, mule

We got up quite early to pack our things before taking the path to the refuge of the Toubkal, but also to give this crazy Lanky Pole some time to run. I wanted to join him but I thought it was more prudent to keep my energy for the hike. I think I was right: the hike was only 10K long, but after little more than 3 hours of walking with our backpacks, we had gained 1,500m of elevation!

I really loved this hike. First of all because the nature is beautiful there, but also because I realised that I love walking as much as I love running. That’s probably because I was much better at it than I expected – even though I’ve already hiked quite a lot in my life I was expecting to be a burden slowing down Lanky Pole and his mate, which wasn’t the case and we arrived at the refuge much earlier than we expected.

Imlil to refuge

We lost the path, the white mosque half-way to the refuge, a waterfall, the refuge

At the refuge (around 3,200m above sea level if you did your maths), we had all the time we needed to chill, read and eat a surprisingly good dinner. In our dorm we met an Irish guy with whom we shared most of the hike the following day and went to bed early. All 3 of us didn’t sleep much, probably because of the altitude and the lack of oxygen.

We got up before sunrise, had some breakfast, repacked, and when daylight came, we headed in the wrong direction. We quickly realised our mistake, headed back to the refuge and took the correct path. We were followed by a hiking dog all the way to the top! We called her Łajka, the Polish name for Laika, the first dog in space to which she was a real look-alike. She was also technically the closest dog to space in all northern Africa!

This part of the hike was the toughest. It was little more than 3K long, but the elevation gain was 1,000m. You can imagine how steep it was. Also at 4,167m above sea level, the lack of oxygen leaves you breathless after a few steps, so that was challenging. Luckily, I wasn’t as affected by altitude sickness as my 2 companions and I led the way to the top, where we found dozens of tourists, some of them in a pretty bad shape. But we were happy and took the photo of victory!

To the top of the Toubkal

To the top of the Toubkal: Sunrise, Łajka, the victors of the summit
Panorama at the summit of Djbel Toubkal

Unsurprisingly, the way down was much easier and faster than the way up. It took us only an hour to go back to the refuge and another 2h30 to go back to Imlil where we took a much needed and appreciated shower and spent another night in our favourite hotel. The next day, we had another delicious breakfast and Lanky Pole had another early morning run despite the exhausting hikes of the 2 previous days. Just before leaving for Marrakesh, we were surprised and pleased to see that Łajka was down here in Imlil! She’d followed us to the top of the Toubkal and now she was with us again, 2,500m lower and 15k further… We gave her plenty of affection before hopping into our taxi shared with our Irish friend and an Italian guy.

We finished the trip in Marrakesh, which I must admit isn’t my favourite city. It’s beautiful and colourful, but it’s too hot and the locals hassle you too much to sell you stuff that you don’t need or want. I guess we were too tired to enjoy it. The food was good though, and we ate a well deserved humongous couscous! I didn’t even feel guilty about it or about the ton of Moroccan pastries I ravaged, even though I hadn’t followed my training plan at all…

Rollerblade morning commute

I feel lazy this week, so I’ll just show you a video I made last year. I’ve already mentioned that I sometimes go to work on rollerblades (less and less, since I run more and more). So I asked Draculito to lend me his GoPro and here’s the result:

I think this is a pretty awesome commute and I always love doing it !

Track session

Last Friday, Lanky Pole texted me something along the lines of ‘Get your arse to Mile End Park Stadium’s  track tomorrow at 11am’. Okay it might not have been that commanding, but I felt compelled to answer by ‘Sure’! So on Saturday, there I was on a track field for the first time of my life, well at least it was the first time that I paid for it and that I went there to actually run.

Running track

Running track – Photo by Dean Hochman

We started to warm-up and I must admit that I really liked the bounciness of the ground, it’s really comfortable to run on. Also, it made easier the warm-up session that Lanky Pole had in mind: after the usual 10 minutes of easy run, we did lengths of high knees, high heels, sidesteps, shuffling, skipping and other silly styles of running. Then we did speed work, each length focusing on a different aspect of the running form and exaggerating it: knees forward, arms moving, etc…

So just after this tough warm-up, I was already knackered. Each of us went to our own training, we both had different kinds of intervals. I had 4×5 minutes intervals at 10k pace, which was quite depressing because my 10k pace is approximately his recovery pace. Also, despite the great comfort of the track, I found running in circles quite boring, which was worsened by the fact that my HR monitor didn’t detect my heart rate, constantly vibrating to tell me to run faster.

I kept my mind busy and observed the people who go to the tracks on a Saturday morning: there was a couple of people training for long jumps, a woman practising the hurdles, a dude in a wheelchair with his biceps bigger than my thighs, a small group of children practising with an instructor, and 2 or 3 guys who were running reeeeeeeally fast.

We did a few more laps to cool down and went on the grass to stretch. Man, after a tough session like this, that felt really good! And Lanky Pole always finds new ways of stretching muscles you didn’t even know you had. In any case, it’s really nice to train with someone when you’re used to run alone, it keeps you motivated.

After that, a conversation started between us and one of the reeeeeeeally fast guys. It turns out this guy was training to qualify for the Olympics on the 800m. We originally thought he was Canadian but it turns out that he was Namibian and I found out later that despite his humility, if he manages to qualify for the Olympics, it means that he will have broken his country’s record! The qualifying time is 1 minute and 46 seconds and the current Namibian record is 1:46:62. I have to admit I was impressed. OK, Namibia isn’t a big country in running (except for Frankie Frederiks 20 years ago) but still! He’s originally a 400m runner with a PB in the low 46 seconds, which isn’t too far from his country’s record (46:14). Impressed again.

Even more impressive was his training: that morning he had to run 10 times 400m under 58 seconds and then 10 times 150m under 20 seconds. That’s just insane, but he said he had prepared himself mentally for the whole week. He also said he doesn’t eat meat, which is apparently bad for recovery (Christopher McDougall draws the same conclusion in his last book ‘Natural Born Heroes‘, next on my reading list). This guy clearly has to right mindset to go to Rio this summer and I hope he makes it. Just qualifying to get there is an immense dream and I wish him all the best. Of course, after meeting him, Lanky Pole and I could only speak of this inspiring guy.

Urban Pac-Man, a running game

Like everyone I have dirty secrets and you’re about to discover one of them: I created a geeky game based on running back when I hated running. OK, I can see I’ve lost you, so let’s get back to 2004. In New York, a bunch of students created Pac-Manhattan, “a large-scale urban game that utilizes the New York City grid to recreate the 1980’s video game sensation Pac-Man”. Jack of all trades and me fell in love with the concept and waited for the Yankees to release their software so we could play too. But the software never came out and life went by.

In 2007, I reactivated the project and decided to develop the software myself. I gathered a dozen lunatics and we created Pacmanalyon. Even though we were not runners, we took over the streets of Lyon, where I lived at the time. I won’t get into the specifics of the rules (you can find everything on the website), you just have to know that Pac-Man has to roam through all the streets in the boundaries of the map in order to make the highest score. Of course, he should avoid being touched by ghosts, and when he eats a power pellet, he gets to be the hunter and has a chance to score even more by eating the ghosts. Yes, it’s basically grown-ups playing tag. We just ran faster, and dressed up in silly costumes.

Pac-Man Lyon - Photo Brice Robert

Pac-Man Lyon – Photo courtesy of Brice Robert (all rights reserved)

The trick is that each runner is remotely guided via mobile phone. Don’t forget this was made in the early 2000’s, so there’s no GPS or smartphone app involved. This was resolutely low-tech and the controllers communicated all the info from the HQ via good old Nokia phones. If I had to do it again nowadays, I’d do exactly the same thing because half the fun of the game is the communication between HQ and the runners. The other half is running, when you’re able to (which wasn’t my case at the time).

Have a look at the video that Music Daddy made with the footage I shot on my rollerblades, and laugh at me:

Older posts Newer posts

© 2018 French Bloke Runs

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑