Last time I ran on tracks (it was also the first) there was a group of children training with their instructor. Some of them were very young and the others were even younger, which questioned me because some of them were already almost as fast as me. It also reminded me a couple of stories I’d read about young runners.
The first one is the story of Budhia Singh, a running child from India. One day, when he was just 2 or 3 years old, he was punished and was made to run around tracks. The adult in charge of him forgot about him and when the dude came back 5 hours later, little Budhia was still running! That’s an incredible story and it doesn’t stop here: by the age of 4, he had ran and completed 48 marathons, that’s kind of depressing because I’m 3 decades older and I still haven’t ran one. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end well (read the Wikipedia article to learn more about it), he has been forbidden to run until the age of 11 and at now 14 he isn’t an exceptional runner anymore.
The other story is a happier one. It’s the story of a courageous 12 year-old girl from New York who ran a half-marathon by mistake. She was supposed to run a 5K but took the wrong start. Halfway through the race, she realised that something was amiss, she’d already ran for too long. That’s where I admire the little hero: when she saw her mistake, she just though “Screw it, I’ll finish it anyway”. That takes courage and tenacity! After 2 hours, 43 minutes and 31 seconds, her dead-worried mother found her with a medal. Then again, I only ran my first half-marathon this year. I’m not sure what to make of that…
I’ve already spoken of the intimate relationship between running and drinking, but sometimes this relationship is just too strong. Indeed, some crazy runners (or geniuses?) organise races involving running and drinking at the same time! I put together a list of such glorious races:
Beer Mile: it is the most famous race that includes drinking in its rules: 4 laps, 4 beers. Each beer must be consumed before the lap begins. There’s even a Beer Mile World Classic (🇬🇧) in London next month, of course I’ll be part of that! And if you miss it, there’s the Flotrack Beer Mile (🇺🇸) in Texas next December as well as the Beerfit Running Series (🇺🇸) all across the USA.
Beer Lovers Marathon (🇧🇪): it obviously takes place in Belgium, in Liège to be precise. It is a standard 42.195 km marathon but you can find local beers at the rest stops along the course. Fancy dressing is mandatory and it looks like great fun with proper Belgian beer.
Great Breweries Marathon (🇧🇪): once again, the Belgian having the best beers in the world, only them could organise such an event: racing through several iconic breweries including the ones that brew Duvel and Karmeliet (yummy)! You can drink during the race, and you come back with a gift basket (full of beer, of course).
Shamrock 5K Beer Run (🇺🇸): unlike the name suggests, this one doesn’t take place in Ireland but in Indianapolis and Chicago in the glorious US of A. There is beer served at each stop and a pint at the end. It might be worth a detour, especially since the sponsors are not those brewers producing some infamous American light beer (which in my book equals to donkey piss) but a selection of some of these wonderful American craft brewers that gave rise to the revival of proper craft beer in the past decade.
Beer Belly Running (🇬🇧): not really a race, it is more an organiser of various running and beer drinking events in good old London, UK. I particularly like the Beat the Barrel race, which is a real team effort. But this year it has been replaced by the Great British Beerathon, which also involves eating on top of the drinking. What a shame I can’t make it on that day…
If beer is very much a thing in Germany, Belgium, the UK and the USA, a lot of wine runs will be found in France (of course) but not exclusively:
Marathon du Médoc (🇫🇷): as it claims on its homepage, it’s the longest marathon in the world. For those who don’t know, the Médoc is the superior kind of Bordeaux wine. So the day after the run, you’ll have a posh hungover and posh sore legs. It was created in 1984, so now it is quite an institution!
Marathon du Beaujolais (🇫🇷): the wines of the Beaujolais region don’t have quite the same reputation as the wines from Bordeaux, but it is my native region so I have a particular affection for this one, even though it doesn’t run through my village. I know people who ran it and it is epic.
Marathon du Vignoble d’Alsace (🇫🇷): if red wine isn’t your thing but you’d sell your mother for a glass of white, this is the race for you! Alsace is renowned for its luscious Gewurtztraminer, Sylvaner and Pinot Gris. And after the race, you can fill up your belly with the best sauerkraut and sausages.
Wineathlon (🇬🇧): this is actually a series of 10K races where wine will be served at rest stops. Even though these races are close to me now, I wouldn’t dare going there, knowing the quality of the wine that’s usually served in the UK.
You’d imagine that there would be a whisky race in Scotland or a whiskey race in Ireland but I couldn’t find any although it seems prizes in these lands are more often in the golden liquid form than in real golden monies. No tequila run in Mexico or rum marathon in the Caribbean either. Anyway, there are still some race based on spirits:
Vodka Trot (🇺🇸): I thought the Russians or the Poles would come up with such an insane race concept, but it had to be the Yanks…
Although I couldn’t find many races where you could drink spirits during the race, there are some races where you can enjoy a good spirit after the race such as the Semi-Marathon de l’Armagnac (🇫🇷) and the Marathon du Cognac (🇫🇷), and there’ll be good food too.
I’m sure I missed plenty of running events involving drinking and if you know of any, please add it it the comments!
More fun photos of the London marathon 2016! If you missed the first part, go check it, there are some fun pics as well! Before I show you more pics, here are more results from the London Marathon 2016 with some celebrities:
Major Tim Peake: 3 hours 35 minutes and 21 seconds. The British astronaut currently in a mission on board the International Space Station ran the London marathon on his space treadmill while following the event on the telly, read his blog post on this topic.
Natalie Dormer: 3 hours 51 minutes and 23 seconds. Yes, Margaery Tyrell (I know you know Game of Thrones) is a runner, and quite a decent one with that.
To continue with my series of photos, here are some lovely couples:
London Marathon 2016 – Couples Adam & Eve – Thomas the train The hare and the tortoise – A camel
There were lots of animals too:
London Marathon 2016 – Animals A dinosaur – A hedgehog – A rhinoceros Another dinosaur – Tony the tiger – A rabbit A donkey? – A monkey – A leopard
There was also a strong contingent of super heroes:
London Marathon 2016 – Superheroes Ironman – The Green Giant – Batgirl Venom – A Ghostbuster – Spiderman Batman and Robin – The Flash – Just a superhero
Tim Peake wasn’t the only space man too:
London Marathon 2016 – Spacemen A brawny tatooed princess Leia – An astronaut – Chewbacca
And some people didn’t follow a theme:
London Marathon 2016 – Various costumes A Smurf – A shoe – A tap Gandalf and Frodo – A good beer – Big Ben Spongebob Squarepants – A Roman – Woody
Some other didn’t follow a theme or even an idea and were just completely WTF:
No, I didn’t run the London Marathon last Sunday. Maybe next year, we’ll see. But considering I live so close to the route, I had to go and have a look, and what a sight! I didn’t regret standing in the cold for that couple of hours: the atmosphere was really warm and fun. The public (me included) was cheering for every runner, some in a very funny way, the runners were still enjoying their run (I was just before the 6th mile) and were really fun to watch, especially the ones in fancy costumes.
The race started with the disabled, we first saw the wheelchairs whizzing past us, shortly followed by the blinds and their guides. You have to admire the courage of the runner and the selflessness of the guide.
London Marathon 2016 A blind marathon runner and his guide 2 wheelchair marathon runners
A while after, we saw the Elite runners. The ladies came first and they were so fast that I didn’t have the time to have my camera ready when the pack passed. I wasn’t at the finish line, but Kenyan runner Jemima Sumgong arrived first in only 2 hours 22 minutes and 58 seconds despite a bad fall, that’s seven minutes slower than Paula‘s record on the same race but it’s still massively impressive (especially when you see her running for real). I managed to be ready for the men and I saw a glimpse of Dennis Kimetto, the current world-record holder. Unfortunately he didn’t win and finished 9th, more than seven minutes after Eliud Kipchoge who finished first in 2 hours 3 minutes and 5 seconds and won this marathon for the second consecutive year.
London Marathon 2016 – Elite runners Kasia Kowalska [POL] and a pacer Dennis Kimetto [KEN], Stanley Biwott [KEN], Ghirmay Ghebreslassie [ERI], Eliud Kipchoge [KEN], Wilson Kipsang [KEN] and few pacers
After that, it was all fun! But very quickly I could see recurring themes. For example, there were a lot of running flowers (and I couldn’t take them all):
London Marathon 2016 – Flowers
There were also a lot of soldiers, boy scouts, pilots, and other military related costumes:
London Marathon 2016 – Soldiers
An easy and obvious one was the wig, coming in all colours, shapes and forms:
London Marathon 2016 – Wigs
But the most popular was undoubtedly the tutu:
London Marathon 2016 – Tutus
It was also quite often mixed with some of the above. I love the soldier wearing a pink tutu:
London Marathon 2016 – More tutus A dude overdoing it – A soldier with a tutu – Wig and tutu combo
Stay tuned for more costumes during this 2016 edition of the London Marathon!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
If you’ve read Born to run, you know that in the distant past, running was probably the most useful skill available to us (if you haven’t read it yet, read it now). Actually, it was essential for survival: on a daily basis, you needed to be able to run away to the nearest tree in case you were chased by a lion, and since you hadn’t invented weapons yet, the only hunting technique was to run after an antelope until it died of exhaustion. True story! The silly animals can run fast yet they can’t run for long since they have to stop to pant and cool down. But us clever bipeds, can go on for hours: running on two legs allows us to control our breathing and to desync it from our stride if needed, and we can also sweat, which is a stinky but efficient way to cool down our body.
Somewhere around the bronze age, we’ve invented the spear and the bazooka which made hunting much easier. We’ve invented dynamite for efficient and ethical fishing. And because we’re lazy but cunning bastards, we’ve even convinced our food to stay put in our fields and wait to be turned into tasty burgers. So nowadays, running seems pretty useless at first glance. But I want to argue that it is actually useful in the 21st century.
Let’s take bus hunting for example. That’s an activity Londoners often engage in after a night of boozing outside of zone 1. On a Friday not so long ago, I found myself precisely in that situation. Having duly honoured the production of a delightful micro-brewery in Walthamstow, I embarked on the journey home. Citymapper informed me that the next bus was arriving in 5 minutes and the following one in 45 minutes. If I didn’t want to freeze to death for 40 minutes, I had to catch the first one, even though the bus stop was 9 minutes away walking. So I jogged away at an easy pace, with a gentle mid-foot strike (heel striking would have been impossible with my dress shoes) and I arrived just in time to catch the bus, not even out of breath in the slightest. Come to think of it, I have to run a beer mile one day…
Avoiding to spend 40 minutes in the cold waiting for the bus should be a pretty good argument for the usefulness of the skill of running, but you don’t seem convinced. How about better sex? Ah ah, I knew I would get your attention with that one! I’m telling you, the ability to shag without being out of breath after 5 minutes is appreciable and appreciated. And I’m not the only one to say that runners are better in bed.
Now I can tell you’re convinced: running is a useful skill! And as a bonus, I believe that marathon-finishers deserve bragging rights for life. I’m working on it and by the end of next year, I should be able to bore you to death with all my bragging. In the meantime, any takers on my offer for a beer mile in my friendly company?
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.
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.
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