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Category: The world of running (page 2 of 2)

Of beer and running (again)

Shortly after having written about the special connection between running and alcohol (and beer in particular), I stumbled upon 2 articles about beers made specifically for runners, so I had to write a follow-up.

It is true that running is getting really trendy nowadays: now there are runners everywhere all the time (in London, it’s crazy), running events beat their attendance numbers every year and many cities have created their own marathon or 10k recently. It is also true that beer, and craft beer in particular, is making a big come back since a few years: there’s not a day you don’t hear about a new micro-brewery that just opened, and old craft breweries are making their revival.

So it doesn’t come as a surprise that running and beer are coming together. It had to happen: some people made beer for runners! As you would expect, they are both alcohol-free, which is a bit sad but which makes sense.

The first one is Erdinger’s Erdinger Alkoholfrei and Men’s running seem excited about it, but I have mixed feelings. OK, it is isotonic, contains only 125 calories per pint, has a lot of good vitamins and all the good stuff for your body. But despite the fact that is brewed under the Reinheitsgebot (German Beer Purity Law), they are reluctant to call it a beer and call it a “non-alcoholic drink”, and that is fishy. It seems to me that it is just a new way of marketing non-alcoholic beer, which usually tastes like donkey pee, ugh (not that I have ever drank actual donkey pee). I now realise that the photo illustrating my last post about alcohol was a photo of this non-alcoholic beverage and I feel ashamed. In any case, I should try it to form a definitive opinion.

Mikkeller Energibajer

Mikkeller Energibajer – All rights reserved to Mikkeller

The second one is Energibajer by Mikkeller and I’m much more excited about it. First of all, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (founder of the Mikkeller brewery) advocates it passionately on Munchies. The marketing language and the description are much more appealing to a beer lover like me: ‘On the nose is a mix of peaches, apricots and a slight herbal note. The taste is light bodied and full of grapefruit from the hops with a refreshing finish’. This one too has vitamins and good stuff for your body, but it seems tastier. Then again, I want to taste it to form a definitive opinion. Hopefully I’ll be able to follow-up soon!

The peculiar connexion between running and drinking

I took on running to lose weight. And it worked. OK, I went on a low calorie diet for a couple of months, but after that I went back to my old habits of eating lots of burgers and cakes but I still continued to lose weight (it’s a good motivation to keep on running). So basically, I took on running to eat (or to continue eating). But I have noticed that running has an even stronger connexion to drinking. Sure, you should definitely drink water before and after running (not too much though, overhydration is potentially deadly), but it seems the link is stronger than that, more particularly with drinking alcohol and specifically beer.

First of all, there is this persistent legend that drinking beer is good for recovery after intense efforts and helps avoiding muscle ache. I’ve made some research and it turns out this is utter and complete BS. The legend comes from the fact that Emil Zátopek supposedly used to drink beer not only after running, but also during competition. This too is dubious at best, but the guy was certainly not averse to this beverage and it is said that he drank a glass of Pilsner Urquell every day. He also reportedly drank a whole bottle of Becherovka (the Czech version of Jägermeister) and still beat Hungarian olympian József Kovács in a running duel right after. I like this guy more and more.

Running beer

A running beer – Photo by Pedro Plassen Lopes

Also, in my experience, runners are thorough drinkers. Lanky Pole and the Quiet Roman are obvious examples of beer loving runners, but Lanky Pole pretends there are even bigger drinkers in his running club. I myself am tempted to join the Mikkeller Running Club, created by one of my favourite breweries: Mikkeller the Dane (you ought to try their sour beers and their barley wines).

Another obvious connexion between drinking and running is the Beer Mile, a race for which you must run four 400m laps and drink a beer before each lap. A challenge I intend to take up one day, although I certainly won’t come close to the current World Record of 4 minutes and 47 seconds. Will anyone ever break the four minutes barrier and will there be an epic race like when Roger Bannister was paced by Chris Chataway (you must remember him for his historic faceplant)? I doubt we’ll ever see that.

To conclude, it seems that “I run to drink” is a more common motto than “I run to eat”. By the way, you should follow the eponym Facebook page or Instagram feed, I find it quite funny (and very true).

New year… New goals!! #iruntodrink

A photo posted by IRUNTODRINK (@iruntodrink) on

Inspiring runners: Emil Zátopek

Emil Zátopek is certainly the first legendary runner I’ve ever heard of. I remember him being the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question during a family game. My grandfather was surprised I didn’t know the famous ‘Czech Locomotive’ (hey, I was just a kid and he was a runner from the fifties!) and went on about how he had won everything in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. I recently checked these facts and even though he didn’t win any medal in hammer throwing, diving or gymnastics, he is still the only athlete to have won gold on the 5,000 metres, the 10,000 metres, and the Marathon in the same Olympics.

Schade Mimoun Zatopek 1952

Herbert Schade, Alain Mimoun and Emil Zátopek racing the 5,000m at the 1952 Olympics
(and Christopher Chataway, the poor sod who’ll be remembered in history for his faceplant)

I love the story of how he won the marathon in Helsinki. He had originally only enrolled for the 5,000m and the 10,000m and had won both of them (in both races, fellow Frenchman Alain Mimoun finished second because of this damn Czech). After that, he had nothing to do for the rest of the Olympics and had never raced a marathon, so he said “What the heck, I’ll just enrol for the marathon then”. He had nothing to lose, and lose he didn’t! He decided to use Jim Peters as his pacemaker (at the time, the dude was holding the world record for the distance). Zátopek being of a chatty nature, after 15k, he asked Peters what he thought of the race. Peters took this opportunity to try and nip the competition in the bud and replied “too slow”, when he was actually going too fast to try and exhaust the inexperienced Czech. Zátopek was a trusting character so he followed Peters’ advice and went faster. Eventually, Peters was caught out at his own game and didn’t even finish the race. Zátopek went on winning the race only 2 minutes slower than Peters’ record at the time. Not too bad for a first Marathon.

There’s another bunch of anecdotes about the Czech legend in Born to run, once again I strongly recommend you buy this book and you’ll read even crazier things about Zátopek. Like how gruelling was his self-inflicted training, how friendly and wholehearted he was (he gave one of his medals to an unlucky Australian runner he’d just made friends with). It’s no surprise he was selected as the Greatest Runner of All Time by Runner’s World Magazine.

A playlist to run fast and well

A while ago, I recommended that you change your running form. A good way of improving your running form is to try and have a faster cadence. If you run between 180 and 200 steps per minute, this will naturally force you to shorten your stride and to land on the middle of the foot rather than on the heel. And that’s already half the job done.

Listening to music at the right tempo will help you doing just that. Spotify used to have a bunch of playlists for running at a desired cadence but the maximum was 170 spm. Now the app detects the tempo to adapt the music to your running, but that doesn’t really help forcing your running to a new cadence.

So, I have the solution for you! I have created a playlist of 100 songs between 190 and 200 bpm, sometimes 95 to 100 bpm but you know how multiply by 2 don’t you? There is a lot of British and American music of course, but there’s also some French music (how surprising) that you’re allowed to skip, as well as music from Argentina, Serbia, Italy, Iceland, Sweden, Algeria, Spain, Ireland and I’m probably missing a few countries.

Some of it is weird, cheesy or noisy, but don’t worry, this is mostly decent music (and a few shit songs because I wanted to reach exactly 100). Anyway, this is not a playlist for listening idly in your couch, it’s a playlist for running, so listen in shuffle mode and enjoy!

Here are the links to:

Headphones

Headphones – Photo by Javierosh

The top 5 unglamorous things about running and how to cope with them

In this blog, I always talk about running like this perfect sport with daily unicorn encounters and rainbows and pots of gold. It’s true that running is a great feeling and has great benefits, but I had a conversation with Mad Cook the other day, and it made me realise that I sometimes hide to myself some pretty ugly things about running. We made a list, and be prepared: it’s getting uglier and uglier!
Disclaimer: some links are not for the faint-hearted, and some of them are even NSFW, so be prepared. But the video is perfectly fine, it’s actually a must-see!

Unglamorous runners

Unglamorous runners – Photo by Shiny Things

1. Sore legs

Problem: Well, this is the most obvious, running long distances can make the next day a bit hard to handle and walking can become a big challenge.

Solution: Warm-up before a race or a hard run and stretch (a lot) after the run. After a hard run, massage your legs with a muscle pain relief cream or gel. Also, train more and be patient! If you run a marathon but you’ve only ran 10 km per week for 4 weeks, you’re setting yourself up for a very hard week after the marathon, if you ever finish it. Think for the long term, begin with less ambitious races (5K & 10K are great distances to start with) and find yourself a good training plan for these distances. They’re all over the Web. Then slowly build up your weekly mileage and find training plans for the longer races.

↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ Watch this video, it’s super funny ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓

↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ Watch this video, it’s super funny ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑

 2. Nipple chafing

Problem: Running long distances can lead to a lot of chafing, and it can get pretty ugly and bloody in places where the skin is fragile like between the thighs or around the nipples. Don’t search Google Images for that: it hurts.

Solution: To avoid chafing between the thighs and blisters on the feet, I recommend a good anti-chafing cream, the best one is probably Akileïne Sports NOK.
To avoid nipple chafing: don’t run with cotton t-shirts! Run with good running tops: the Tribesports running gear is my favourite. If you know you’re running for a long distance, you may as well go directly for nipple guards. No it’s not a joke! If you need convincing, search for it on Google Images (Ouch!), but don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!

Nipple Convalescent Home

Nipple Convalescent Home – Photo by Gerry Dincher

3. Toenails falling off

Problem: Yes, this too is a real thing! It even has a scientific name: it’s called onychoptosis and it happened to me. It can be caused by repeated toe-banging inside the shoe. Don’t worry, the nail eventually grows back. Click here for the gross picture (not my foot).

Solution: You can go for the extreme solution like Marshall Ulrich in Born to run who had all his toenails surgically removed (apparently it’s a common thing with ultra runners). You can also run barefoot. Otherwise, you should buy well-fitted shoes that give your toes plenty of room. Make sure to try them and check that your toes are not banging inside the shoe at each stride. Shoes that have a wide toe box (like the Altra One 2) come highly recommended. Oh, and trim your toenails!

Barefoot runner

A barefoot runner, happy because he’s got all his toenails – Photo by Chris Hunkeler

4. Troubled digestion

Problem: Puking happens. Yes it does. Because your body simply cannot produce the effort required for running and digesting at the same time, you see many runner’s stomachs giving back generously what they’ve been fed for breakfast or at the food/drink stations during the race. No pictures here. No, don’t ask, I said no. OK, there you go.

Solution: Have a light breakfast before the race: don’t drink milk because it is very hard to digest, you can replace it by oat milk or any kind of vegan milk you like best (except soy milk, soy milk is disgusting). Yes, you should carb-load before the race, but give it at least several hours for digesting properly: some runners get up in the middle of the night before the race to eat a big plate of spaghetti and then go back to bed. During the race, you can also have some energy gels. They’re less hard to swallow and to digest than anything you usually find at the food stations such as bananas or energy bars. It doesn’t mean they’re super easy to ingest either: if your stomach still can’t manage them, just try and swallow little by little, over the course of several minutes.

Spaghetti

Carb loading on spaghetti is good – photo by Luca Nebuloni

5. Uncontrolled bodily fluids

Problem: Runners pissing and shitting themselves are not a rare sight in long distances races and especially during marathons and ultra-marathons. For some disgusting pictures, just follow the link, you’re welcome!
Less extreme than that, it is very frequent for average runners like you and me to have to stop during races (even short races like 10K) to piss while everyone around is looking, which can be even more embarrassing for women.

Solution: Part of your pre-race routine should always include a stop at the loo to empty stomach and bladder, even if you feel you don’t need to. Also, it’s important to hydrate yourself, but try not to drink too much before a race either, and sip slowly during the race. If despite this, you still need to pee during the race, I recommend all the women reading this blog to buy a Shewee, that should avoid you the embarrassment of having to show your pretty buttocks to the general public.

Loo in the meadow

I hope you’re properly disgusted by now and you’re welcome for that. If you’re not, just go visit 4chan or something, you sicko!

Inspiring runners: Paula Radcliffe

The way I see it, Paula Radcliffe is to British running what Jeannie Longo is to French cycling (the Brits will see it the other way around): a living legend who’s been there forever, who’s won everything and who won’t age, to the greatest despair of the younger generation of athletes who could not hold the candle to her. She’s not just part of the landscape, she is the landscape for long distance runners.

Just imagine. Her 2003 marathon World Record in London is north of 3 minutes better than the second best time for a women’s marathon, and it has been holding since then! As a comparison, the ten best times for men’s marathons all fit within a 90 seconds range. Oh, and just for fun, the same year she set this historic record, she also set the World Record for women’s 10K on road in Puerto Rico, this record still holds 13 years later. Yep, that one too. Cherry on the cake, in 2003 (same year again!) in Newcastle, she also set the World Record for a Half Marathon. It hasn’t been ratified by the IAAF (the world’s athletics ruling body) because the Great North Run goes slightly downhill. The record held for 11 years anyway.

Paula Radcliffe, Berlin 2011 - Photo by Ramon Smits

Paula Radcliffe, Berlin 2011 – Photo by Ramon Smits

But it didn’t start that well for her. When she took up running at 7, she was anaemic and asthmatic (and she still is because asthma doesn’t just go away). Way to go! It didn’t prevent her to join the elite before her twenties despite multiple asthma crises and other injuries, running distances between 1500m and half marathon. She then went on winning so many medals nationally and internationally that I gave up on counting them in the Wikipedia article. But it wasn’t enough so she decided to give a go to marathon running in 2002. On her first competition on that distance, she immediately set a record for a women’s only race. Later the same year, Paula set a new World Record for the distance. Easy Peasy. And of course, there’s 2003, the year she set her 3 World Records, 2 of which still hold. Alongside all that, she also went 4 times to the Olympic Games (1994 to 2008) and when she ended her career in 2015, her times were still good enough to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio!

What did you expect? Of course she became a legend! So much that when she runs, her bib doesn’t have a number printed on it but her first name. When she ran her last marathon in London last year, the crowd chanted “Paula! Paula!” for 42.195 km. And because I’m a dick, I’ll end with my favourite moment of her career, when Denise Lewis tried to interview her on the same day, but Paula’s marathon pace was faster than the journalist’s sprint pace (despite her being an elite heptathlete in the past), which left the journalist breathless after the shortest interview of her life. A moment to watch and watch again on the BBC.

How to run: the proper technique

By now, you probably know that I used to hate running and you must be wondering what made me change my mind. One important thing was to run at an easy pace rather than training hard all the time (more about that in a future post) but the main thing thing was to change my running technique. Of course, Lanky Pole was the one who gave me some really good advice:

  • Shorter strides are more efficient and put less strain on your body at each step, as a result you should have a faster cadence: ideally around 180 / 200 steps per minute (it’s easy: count 3 steps per second). But your speed should stay the same, and even improve on the long term.
  • Landing on the middle of your foot rather than your heel. Your foot must touch the ground under your knee, not in front of it for f…’s sake! Imagine that your knee pulls the rest of your leg, then it will come naturally (and so will the shorter strides). This will:
    • improve your efficiency by increasing your “bounciness” and set you ready for the next step rather than putting the brakes with you heel at each step.
    • greatly reduce the risk of injury by sharing the impact between your entire foot, your Achilles tendon, your calf (which is flexible and can be strengthened) and the rest of you leg, rather than putting all the strain on your heel and knee, which are bones and cannot be trained or strengthened.
  • Have a good posture:
    • keeping a straight back will allow you to stabilise your centre of gravity and improve your balance.
    • keeping your arms relaxed at a 90° angle will minimise the amount of energy they’re using, so you can have this energy available for your legs.

 

Bad/Good running forms

Bad running form / Good running form
Photos by Funk Dooby

Mr. Blue runs with long inefficient strides. Mr. Orange runs with short efficient strides.
Mr. Blue’s foot strikes the ground ahead of his knee, putting the brakes at each stride and risking injury. Mr. Orange foot strikes the ground under his knee so he’s already in position for the next stride and reduces risks of injury.
Mr. Blue strikes the ground with his heels: the impact will propagate straight to his knees through his bones and he’ll hurt them sooner or later. Mr. Orange strikes the ground with the middle of the foot: the impact will be absorbed by his foot, his Achilles tendon and his calf. All of which are “bouncy” and can be strengthened.
Mr. Blue swings his whole body from left to right, spends a lot of energy doing that and loses his balance at every stride. Mr. Orange stays straight, probably oscillates very little, and keeps his energy for the actual running.

 

I was a bit puzzled but I went with it anyway. Then, Quiet Roman showed me a video and all of a sudden, it all made sense. So here’s the magic video:

If you do all this and buy a good pair of shoes, you should improve your running efficiency, reduce your risks of injury and have much more fun! What is the catch? Well, striking the ground mid-foot will require more elasticity from your Achilles tendons and more strength in your calves, so you should expect a couple of months of pain there. All you have to do is to be careful and  patient during the transition, start running short distances at first (no more than 1 or 2 km, even if you’re already fit for way more) and increase the distance each week. It’s worth it, I promise.

Imperial, WTF? Metric FTW!

I promised some ranting, I’ll deliver. This post could have been written by Grumpy Grampy himself.

I’m not an expert on running, so I frequently look for resources online and they’re in English more often than not. I also use smartphone apps and gadgets whose default language is English. In short: the running world is predominantly English-speaking, and more precisely American and British. Ah, the USA and the UK, the only two countries in the world that still use the old imperial system (although the UK is very slowly transitioning to the metric system). Let’s just get straight to the point: the imperial system doesn’t make any sense, even to those who use it every day!

Here, most people know their weight in stones and pounds. There are 14 pounds in a stone, how the fuck does that make sense? I don’t know! So let’s say that I used to weigh 14st 1lbs but now I weigh 12st 6lbs, calculating how much I lost requires a bloody PhD! On a side note, how stupid is it that the abbreviation for pound is lb?  These units are silly, it’s official. Indeed the legal definition of a pound is now based on the metric system: 1 pounds weighs 0.45359237 kilogrammes!

Same shit goes on with height: there are 12 inches in a foot, well that only works for a baby girl wearing size 12 shoes. And it’s not accurate at all either: saying I’m 5’1″ means I could be anywhere between 179cm and 182cm. Still, in this place and age, people use this barbaric system.

Indeed when it comes to units of length, the real crazy starts. Of all the Brits I’ve asked, none of them knows how many feet and yards there are in a mile! For the record, there are 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards in a mile. For example, a marathon is 26.219 miles or 26 miles and 385 yards. Mind blown. And let’s not speak of intermediary units such as chains and furlongs, because no one has any clue with regards to their measures.

All the same, runners use this nonsensical system, have there scales set to stones/pounds, enter their height into their running apps in feet/inches, and worse of all, count their running distances in miles, plan their pace in minutes per mile, even to prepare for races like 800m, 1500m, 5km or 10km. It really is the norm here: training plans and training plan generators will spit out your training pace in imperial units and won’t even offer to convert to metric, runners and coaches will use the same useless units in running clubs. What. The. Firkin. Hell.

This system is farcical, I beg you, please just give it up! Know that even though I intend to become a British citizen in the near future, I do not intend to use it for running and certainly not in this blog.

Mètre étalon

Mètre étalon – By Alain Bachelier

Running in the snow

This video is just hilarious, the more you watch it, the funnier it gets!

I have to thank Draculito for sharing this.

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