French Bloke Runs

Shut up and run!

Tag: Lanky Pole (page 1 of 2)

Middlesex county 10k

Oh my word! I’m such a lazy bum, I haven’t written anything in a month now, that’s as bad as Lanky Pole. But at least I ran and I even raced! This time, I made sure to control my alcohol consumption on the days leading up to the race, to the point of not drinking at all for a birthday party. If that’s not self-control, I don’t know what is. OK, Draculito gave me his gym-rat trick: drinking a Virgin Mary, that’s way better than non-alcoholic beer and it lasts longer than a soda.

Anyway, I made it to the start of the race well rested and not hungover for a change. The Middlesex 10k championship was organised in Victoria Park by the Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets Athletics Club (that’s a mouthful!) but it was also the Serpentine club championship. So let me tell you that the level of the runners for this race was much higher than your average 10k for charity. It was nothing like I had experienced before: every single runner was wearing their club’s vest, mostly VPH&THAC and Serpentine but I spotted runners from many other clubs including a Mornington Chaser (not the one I beat at the Beer Mile World Classic though).

After my usual warm-up routine, I made my way to the starting line. As we had no chips, I guessed that only gun-time would count this time so I tried to start very close to the line. It took me only 2 seconds after the loud BANG to cross the starting line but I soon realised that the level of the runners was really good: half the people behind me overtook me in the first few hundred metres. And after that, there wasn’t much overtaking, club runners know their stuff and they sure can be regular! As usual, I ran my first kilometre way too fast then I tried to contain myself for the first half. Then I tried to accelerate but I didn’t really manage. Good thing I had found a pacemaker by then, otherwise I would probably have lagged behind. I tried to overtake this pacemaker for the whole second half of the race but I never had the energy until 200 metres before the finish line. I managed to pull a sprint out of my hat and finally overtook him! I released my signature scream on the finish line and waited a few seconds to shake my pacemaker’s hand. He then congratulated me but deep inside I was a bit disappointed because I knew my gun time would be 42 minutes and 1 second.

Just a couple of seconds faster and I could have claimed that I run 10k in less than 42 minutes! That’s so frustrating, especially knowing that if the race was chipped I would probably be there. Since then I put things into perspective and after all I’m quite happy because I got to beat my PB by 21 seconds. I take this as a good omen for my half-marathon next week.

Middlesex 10k Championship

A shed load of Serpentine runners at the Middlesex 10k Championship

Beer Mile World Classic

I’ve been talking about it for a long time, but now I’ve finally ran a Beer Mile! And no less than the Beer Mile World Classic with the world elite of the discipline! The rules are simple: drink 1 beer then run 1 lap and repeat 4 times! If you throw up or don’t finish one of your beers, you’ll have to run a penalty lap. There are petty regulations (only 355ml canned or bottled beer with at least 5% alcohol) but that’s pretty much it. Quite simple uh?

Lanky Pole had planned to come with me but in the end he couldn’t make it because this plonker injured his foot. Worst of all, he didn’t even come to support me and chug a few beers during this day-long event. Never mind, I came with my Serpentine Kit – which I am required to wear when I race – and the Serpie running vest helped me making friends (and foes) as you’ll see. I arrived quite early at the event and I did well because I was running in the second race. It gave me enough time to change, watch and learn from the first race and warm up for my own race. When I was given my bib, the clerk recommended to burp as much as possible to avoid puking. This was really good advice: whilst you can always bring your own beer, the default beer was Heineken, which is very gassy and will definitely provoke barfing when running if the gas isn’t eliminated quickly. And I didn’t want to get a penalty lap.

On the starting line, all the runners have their finger on the capsule of their beer, ready to open it. The speaker (very funny guy by the way) counts down and Psssst, everyone opens their beer and starts chugging. For crying out loud, this is much harder than I though! Not only it’s a tasteless beer, but it is so gassy that I’m mostly swallowing foam, which makes it really hard to down it quickly. I belch several time and I finally manage to finish it but at least seven or eight guys managed to finish theirs before me. What a piss poor start, I’m very disappointed in my performance so far but there’s no time to dwell on that so I start running. The first quarter of lap is continuous loud belching and I’m not the only one. Very early in the race, I spot who’s going to be my pacemaker: it’s a redhead dude with a striped vest (white, orange and green).

At the end of the first lap, as he’s cheered upon, I understand that he’s a Mornington Chaser. But oh, I’m being cheered upon too! A bunch of people shout “Go Serpie!” and this gives me an extra boost: I raise my fist in the air and I chug faster. I’m getting the hang of it. But it’s still very hard to chug on this crappy beer and the Mornington Chaser is still well ahead of me. More burping and belching while running, but I don’t feel like vomiting, that’s a good sign. At the end of the second lap, I hear more heartwarming cheering and I start chugging on my third Heineken. This bloody chaser is still ahead of me but I managed to gain some precious seconds in the chug zone, so now he’s within reach: 4 minutes and 10 seconds after the start of the race, I accelerate and I finally overtake him! But not for long and he overtakes me again just before the chug zone. With the fatigue, it’s getting harder and harder to swallow anything, but I manage to down my last can just a second before the chaser. I run a fairly good last lap (1:20) and I finish on a beautiful sprint that the speaker describes as ‘unnecessary’ but it allows me to finish 10 seconds before my opponent in the very unimpressive time of 7 minutes 35 seconds. Anyway that’s my new PB and I’m proud of it!
[Watch the video of the race on Trackie]

Serpentine v Mornington Chasers

Serpentine v Mornington Chasers

We shake our hands and exchange a bit of banter around club competition. Other Serpies come and congratulate me on my time and on my final sprint. It turns out there are plenty of us here but most are volunteers and marshall the race. I make plenty of new friends, we exchange running tips and devise new strategies to improve our Beer Mile time. The best suggestion is to compete with a better and flatter beer. Someone reckons Guinness is good for the job but I’d rather go for an ale, unfortunately London Pride doesn’t contain enough alcohol to be officially recognised, which is a shame because it’s one of the flattest beers I know, but I promise myself to search and find the ideal beer. There are a couple of brewers at the tracks and some of their beers are very good candidates.

Speaking of brewers, I enjoy my rest time by drinking a few pints of proper beer while other races take place. I want to stay and watch the elite races. The women are quite impressive, but the men are even more impressive! Corey Bellemore, a Canadian, shatters the World Record with a time of 4:34! It’s the first time in my life that I witness first hand a World Record in any discipline! Although I wasn’t impressed by everyone: the last of the elite race finished in 8:21 which is 46 seconds slower than me and makes me think that I could join or assemble a French national team!

During these races, I was hitting it off with the brewers and one of the volunteers (another Serpie) came to me with a Wally outfit and asked me if I could run a relay with it. I’m already a Wally, so I sure could! In my team was one of the brewers, another Serpie and Corey Gallagher, the legendary Beer Mile runner who broke the 5 minutes barrier first! I was truly honoured and decided to run up to that standard so I bought a bottle of Solvay Society Brewery‘s Saison for the occasion. It was much much easier to drink and I downed it in one go. I almost didn’t burp and I ran my 400 metres in under 70 seconds, so I made a pretty good effort to get our team to just 5 minutes and 40 seconds. but in the end, Team Canada won and set a new World Record at 4:06!
[Watch the video of the race on Trackie]

French Bloke is a Wally

French Bloke is a Wally

All in all, I had a splendid day, the recovery isn’t easy but you can be sure I’ll run it again!

My best running memories

August 2015, A Guarda, Galicia, Spain. It had been just over a month since I began running. I was still hating it, but I was very motivated by all the weight I had to lose and also by my very recent read of ‘Born to run‘. This book had a lot of influence on me and even though I was supposed to be on a long weekend dedicated to heavy drinking and drumming, I couldn’t help but thinking about it.

Bare foot on the beach

Barefoot on the beach photo by Alex Tian

After a scrumptious lunch of Galician seafood accompanied by generous quantities of wine (all organised by my favourite Galician couple: Wonder Woman and Superman), we went to the beach for a dip into the water. I don’t know what went through my inebriated mind, influenced by the beauty of the moment and the thoughts of legendary runners in Mexican canyons, but I started running barefoot, like the crazy character of Barefoot Ted in the book. Then I hailed Lanky Pole (when there’s drinking involved, you can be sure he’s around) and we went for a short easy run along the sea. This moment was magical, my memories are befuddled now but I still have these amazing feelings deeply imprinted in me: the true feeling of the ground directly under my feet, the slightly salty breeze through my hair, the gentle caress of the sun on my skin, and the pure joy of running shared with a close friend. We ran for less than 4 km, but this run was a defining moment for me. I think it is the moment when I decided that I would start my quest to barefoot running, and incidentally the moment when I started to love running.

I have to admit that there is a flip side to this golden coin: since I wasn’t used to running barefoot, I had such massive blisters under the sole of my feet that I couldn’t walk for the next couple days. In hindsight, this was total madness but it was really worth it and reliving it is what I’m trying to achieve in slowly transitioning towards barefoot running.

Just a week later, The Quiet Roman came to London and I told him all about it. We drank, and inevitably, at the end of the evening we went for a barefoot run in the streets of Greenwich. This was really fantastic too and it finished convincing me that barefoot running was what I wanted to do. Of course, this time we only ran less than 2 km because my blisters had barely healed and I wanted to be able to walk the following day. Nonetheless, you now know my secret motivation for running: the quest to finding these 2 magical moments again.

More running with Serpentine

Like I mentioned recently, I just joined the Serpentine Running Club. I already had a hills session with the club and despite it being tough, I went back last week and I’ll certainly go back this Saturday. It’s not that I love running hills, but I’m not as good at it than I though I was and I can see that it is really beneficial. This time was even tougher than the previous session: we did 3 times 12 minutes of running up and down different hills in Greenwich park, but this time I was less ridiculous than the first time: I didn’t give everything I had in the first twelve minutes, so I had energy left for the 2 following intervals, and I didn’t finish last, I even overtook some runners during the exercise, so I’m getting there and it’s really rewarding to see that I’m getting better.

But the main event with the Serpies this week wasn’t the hills session, it was the Club Championship. Last Tuesday was the 1 Mile event, at the Paddington tracks. Mid-distance is far from my favourite kind of running but Lanky Pole convinced me to come to the tracks on that day. It was good to see so many runners at the same time and so many motivated and dedicated club members, it reinforced the sentiment of belonging, especially since everyone must be wearing the club’s colours for races.

Runners were separated into different groups depending on their expected performance. There were 2 groups of women and 5 groups of men. Based on my only time on a mile so far (5:42 at the Westminster Mile) I ended up in the ‘C’ group, which wasn’t too bad.

I did my warm-ups, dynamic stretching and all the trimmings. On the starting line, I was really intimidated and I forgot all the advice Lanky Pole had given me a month earlier at the Westminster Mile. The race began really fast: even though I was at the back of the pack, I knew couldn’t hold that pace for the 4 laps, so I stayed at the back, slowly leaving the runners ahead widening the gap. I think being the last and seeing the others further and further ahead put me down a little bit, and I didn’t run as fast as I should have. Even though I finally managed to overtake one guy in the last lap, I only finished in 5:46, which is 4 seconds slower than my performance at the Westminster mile. This was bad for 2 reasons: you’re supposed to race faster on tracks than on the road, and it was the first time that I didn’t beat my PB in a race.

Anyway, I didn’t let this get me down: in a way, I had a new PB because it was my first Mile on tracks. And I knew I hadn’t given everything I had: my lungs weren’t even burning at the end of the race! So I knew I’ll be doing better the next time. Anyway, someone was in a worse position than me: unfortunately Lanky Pole couldn’t run because he was injured and he was really upset about it. But it didn’t prevent him (nor me) from having a post-run pint with everyone at the pub.

Running track

Running track Photo by Colin Harris

Serpentine & hills

There we are, I gave in to Lanky Pole‘s pressure and I finally joined the Serpentine Running Club. It is a big club, with almost 2,000 members. It’s a bit expensive to join on the first year, but I’ve heard it’s worth it. I have to admit, after the first week as a member, I’m already convinced. First, there’s the club t-shirt, which gives you a sense of belonging to a team, then there are the events organised by the club (mostly races), finally there’s plenty of training sessions every week, and I still have a lot to discover about the club…

Serpentine

Speaking of training sessions, I discovered that the Serpies (that’s how we call the members of the club) have a weekly hills training session in Greenwich, so I decided to sign up for this one. This session is coached and I though it would be a good thing to finally run these hills properly. I arrived a bit late, but the coach was very friendly and she told me to catch-up with the group of 10 who was already warming up in the park. After a little bit of jogging, we gathered around the coach to do some proper warm-ups, which reminded me a bit of my sessions with Lanky Pole: walking on the heels, on the toes, plenty of warm-up movements, lunges, high knees, etc…

After that, the coach gave us advice on running form in the hills: work with the core muscles, have the arms at a 90 degrees angle, keep the shoulders and the face relaxed, and I’m sure i’m forgetting some. We then went to the nitty gritty and did 2 series of 12 minutes of hills running. Unlike my previous personal hills sessions, this one gave very little time for recovery: it was going up and straight down and up again. Also, we ran on the turf (or rather on the high grass) which made it even harder. After the first 12 minutes I was already knackered, but off we went for the second round! At the end of the second round I was the slowest of the group, even though on paper I was not supposed to be. Oh well, this gives me plenty room for improvement.

We finished by a relay in teams of three, up and down hills of course, and thanks to me my team finished last, but at least I gave all I had on the finish line. Lack of training aside, I think one of the reasons I was so slow was probably because I was dehydrated: the session lasted for 2 hours, which is much longer than I ever ran in the past and it was really hot on that day. But I made it all and I was quite happy anyway: I had learned more in these 2 hours than I could ever learn by myself. After the relay, we cooled down together and did a bit of stretching. I had to leave the group, but they all went to the café to enjoy some well-deserved coffee and cakes.

I came back really happy from this session: training with a coach and with a group brings so much! Even though I was dead-beat, I already wanted to sign up for the following week! Next time, I’ll come with a water bottle and I’ll make sure I have nothing planned afterwards, so I can enjoy the coffee and the cake with the others, and each time I’ll be better and better.

Running hills

When I started running, I dreaded running uphill and I did all my running on flats. To be honest, I still do most of my running along the thames but I have changed my views on hills. Lanky Pole once told me that I had to add some hills into my training if I wanted to improve – I just had to work with my arms. I later discovered in my training plan that I had to do “Kenyan hills” from time to time. And it’s true that running uphill will improve your leg strength and your running form as well as make your heart work out. Kenya being just a wee too far just for a run, I guessed the hills of Greenwich would do.

Greenwich park hill

Greenwich park hill photo by Francisco Antunes

The first time I ran there was horrible. I thought “why would people impose such a gruelling exercise on themselves?” but I did it anyway. I now have my little routine and I always take the same path, starting with the very steep ascent on the Maze Hill side and going down “The Avenue”. I’m avoiding steeper downhill slopes because running downhill can be dangerous and lead to ligament injuries when braking repeatedly. I usually repeat this circuit between 3 and 5 times.

Last Saturday I was supposed to do 3 laps, but I surprised myself, and arriving down the slope after the third lap I climbed again for a fourth lap instead of leaving the park and jogging back home.

I’m not saying I love doing that, but it is challenging and I find it rewarding to notice some improvement week on week. I also run the same circuit when I’m supposed to do fartleks, because I convinced myself that they’re the same thing (even if they’re not). That’s because running fartleks, you’re supposed to accelerate when running uphill, and also because I add a sprint when I pass in front of the bandstand.

So it turns out I’m not too bad at running uphill. I remember my race at the Olympic Park: I was always overtaking my competitors when going uphill and they would catch up on me when going downhill. When Lanky Pole learned that, he said: “Oh, you’re one of those”. I’m not sure whether it was disdain or jealousy, but I’ll go for jealousy. Anyway, even if he’s the one who encouraged me to run hills, he prefers running downhill – it’s fairly obvious when you read his tales of the Welsh Castles Relay and of the Green Belt Relay (2 fun reads).

The thing I really love though, is hiking uphill, like we did on the Jbel Toubkal. Walking or running uphill, the important thing is to remember to work with your arms. Whenever I feel slow on a slope, I pull with my arms as if I was pulling on ropes and it really helps. What about you? What’s your experience with running uphill?

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…

Of motivation

I realise I must seem crazy when I say that I run 5 times a week or that I get up at 6am just to run, but I don’t think I am. You can do it too, you just need to find the motivation. Here’s a bunch of tips to get and stay motivated. They worked for me ; we’re all different so they might not work for you but they’re worth a try!

  • Loving to run is the first and obvious source of motivation! The “Pull” motivation (being drawn to a goal) is much more powerful than the “Push” motivation (pushing yourself to a goal). It doesn’t necessarily come naturally for running and I hated it at first, but by pushing myself for long enough, I ended up loving it, and now I’m genuinely looking forward to my runs (especially the long runs). Don’t get me wrong, there are still some days I don’t really feel up for it, but I’ve never regretted a run!
I really regret that run. Said no one. Ever.

I really regret that run. Said no one. Ever.

  • Losing weight was my initial motivation for running. It’s a very good motivation to get started, and I now believe that there’s no such thing as the right shape to run, although the stereotypical runner is skinny, you can be fat and fit at the same time! However, it has been proven that losing or maintaining weight is a very bad motivation on the long term, as you’ll always slacken at some point and go back to your old habits. Running must be an end, not a mean.
  • Having a role model, someone to look up to! For me it’s Lanky Pole, the fact that I sometimes have the privilege to run with him also pulls me in his direction. For him, I believe it’s Kenenisa Bekele, for Emil Zátopek it was Paavo Nurmi, etc… It goes on and on: having a role model is a must.
  • Having a sparring partner, someone to measure yourself to. For me, it’s the Quiet Roman, and I’m lucky to have another three: Music DaddyJack of all trades and the Mad Cook. It can be competitive or friendly, but having someone at your level helps you going further.
  • Having numbered objectives and metrics also works really well for me. That’s the reason I bought my Garmin watch. An app like Strava is also really good if numbers motivate you: trying and beat yourself week-on-week on the same route or other people on specific segments pushes me further.
  • Races are great: the atmosphere always pumps me up and the emulation it generates makes me want to go to another one. Trying to beat my PB is also a great challenge, being competitive with other can be a good motivator, but trying to beat myself and be better each time is an even stronger incentive.
  • Having a training plan is a fantastic motivator. Research shows that having objectives set by others is a strong way of pushing yourself to do things because it has less consequences to break a promise you made to yourself than to a third party.
  • Not snoozing the alarm: just getting up when it rings. I know it’s easier said than done, but once you’re used to it, it’s very efficient and you won’t need hours to be awake.
  • Reading about running is also a great way to get and stay motivated. I found reading Born to run really inspiring (and it still inspires me a year after reading it), but also, read about other runners. They can be inspiring runners or normal people writing blogs like this one. In short, continue reading me twice a week :-p
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