French Bloke Runs

Shut up and run!

Tag: PB (page 1 of 2)

Ealing half marathon 2016

Oh yes, I have this Ealing feeling! Last week, I finally ran the half-marathon I’ve been preparing for the whole summer. I haven’t been as serious with my training plan as I should have been: too much drinking happened (including a Beer Mile), which ended up in my total screw-up of the Bushy Park 10k ; I also had to skip several long runs, thus undermining my endurance training. Suffice to say that I wasn’t overconfident when I arrived at the start line of the Ealing half-marathon. So I set myself a target of 1:35 hour, which was 3 minutes faster than my Roma-Ostia PB but also 2:30 minutes slower than my predicted time based on my 10K PB.

After my warm-up routine, I lined up at the start. According to the official website, there would only be pacers for 1:40 and 1:30 hour targets, so I decided to go between them. But then I discovered with joy that the Ealing Eagles running club had dispatched their owns pacers for 1:35. I’ll never thank them enough for this because they really helped me to go through my race. After a bit of chit-chat with other runners, the go was given and I started following my pacers. After just a couple of kilometres, my left shoe’s laces were untied and I had to stop to tie them again. I cursed against myself for not having prepared my double knot as usual and I ran a bit faster to catch-up with the pacers. Most of the time, I stayed just behind them, even when the course was going uphill or downhill. They really helped me keep a good pace and they made me avoid my usual mistake of running too fast at the beginning of the race.

On top of having good pacing, I made sure to hydrate at each and every water station. I also took learnings from my previous half marathon and I stocked up on energy gels: I took one just before starting the race, then another at the eighth kilometre and a last one at the fifteenth kilometre. With the fatigue, I had troubles opening this last packet and I spilled half of it on my hand, which quickly became very sticky. Luckily, there was a water station soon after and I managed to wash my hands while running. With the combination of all these elements, I didn’t hit a wall at all, unlike in Rome where the last 3 kilometres were an ordeal.

Actually, 3 kilometres before the end, I realised that even though I was tired, I still had some energy and I decided to overtake the pacers to beat my target. It was hard but I knew I could do it. In view of the finish line, I decided I could still go even faster and I went for a sprint finish, releasing my usual win scream. Result: 1:34:09, that’s almost a minute faster than my target! I was really happy with my time, even though I could do better in theory.

rt20x30-ehmg1050

After the race, I stretched for a looooong time and I had a short leg massage, this combination prevented me from suffering from cramps in Rome so I repeated it and once again, I felt really well on the following day: no cramps or muscle pain. Perfect! After the massage, I met with some friends of Lanky Pole‘s. This guy has a master plan to make everyone around him run and it’s working! His friend had just ran her first half marathon and was really happy about it despite the fact that just 6 months ago she hated running!

Overall this was a great day and I loved this race. OK, this is mostly because I smashed it but also because the weather was great and the course was really pleasant (even though it was too hilly to hope for a great time) and made me discover Ealing. The atmosphere was terrific: the locals really helped with all their cheering and jelly babies and there were bands playing upbeat music along the course. I won’t complain about the fact that most of the marking was in imperial units because I set my watch to metric and the overall organisation was really good: my official timing was online within ten minutes of my arrival, the photos were online the next day, and I even have a video of my win scream!

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!

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

Test: Merrell Road Glove 3

For the first time, I’m writing a review for the pair of shoes I’m currently running with, but for the first time, I’m also reviewing a pair of shoes that aren’t available any more (Merrell actually discontinued the whole “Road Glove” range). That’s useful, innit? And for a change, they were recommended by my favourite shoe god: the Quiet Roman, so you already know the outcome of the test.

OK, after this promise of a boring review. Let’s go to the nitty gritty.

ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz

What? You want a real article? You’re kidding me!

OK, here’s a nice pic:

Merrell Road Glove 3

Merrell Road Glove 3 – Courtesy of Merrell

And here’s what I think of it in a few bullet points:

  • It’s a very good, incredibly light and comfortable shoe
  • It’s even more minimalist than the Merrell Bare Access 4 (no shit Sherlock, it’s all in the name) and gives even better sensations, but unfortunately it’s not red
  • It isn’t as resistant as the aforementioned Bare Access and already shows serious traces of wear and tear after 500k (I think seeing my socksthrough some holes on the side counts as wear and tear) but it hasn’t cracked after 200k like my Altra
  • It gave me a PB on a half marathon

As a conclusion, I definitely recommend that you should buy that shoe. Ha, ha, what a pathetic joke. What did you expect? A real review? By now, you should know that it’s not my game bruv’.

Test: Merrell Bare Access 4

Just a week before my first official 10k race, my Altra One 2, the only pair of shoes I had at the time, split apart after only 200 kilometres of running. I really liked them, but I didn’t want to buy the same pair and risk ripping them apart again after a month. Also, I wanted to go down the route of minimalistic shoes but not too fast. So I turned to my favourite running shoe encyclopedia: the Quiet Roman.

He’s a big fan of Merrell shoes and, as a first step to barefoot running (no pun intended), he recommended the Merrell Bare Access 4 for transitioning. They’re zero-drop (no difference in height between the heel and the toes), weight only 181g per shoe, have a 13.2mm stack (half the stack of the Altra One 2) and reasonable cushioning (8mm) for a runner who’s new to minimalistic shoes. But most importantly they’re red and they look awesome! Even more awesome, the colour is called “Molten Lava”, you’re welcome Anakin Skywalker. And they look equally badass in black (here come the M.I.B.’s).

I had only one week to get used to these shoes before my race, which is not a good thing. On the first try, they were very comfortable and even though they felt a bit narrow for my very wide feet, I really loved them. To my greatest surprise, I also loved the fact that there isn’t too much cushioning, that I could feel the ground better than with my previous pair. Also, they’re red.

But I was still a bit scared for the race, because after my first try on 5 kilometres, I could feel my calves much more than with the Altra. This was because these shoes forced me into a proper form. This worried me because I wasn’t sure I would be able to run 10k like this without feeling excruciating pain in my calves. But my worries faded after my second run (5k) and went completely away on the third run: I went for 11k without any pain. Did I mention that these shoes are awesome because they’re red?

On race day, I was all chuffed (having new gear is a great motivator) and I didn’t feel any pain. I also set my first PB for the distance at 47m 01s, which I reckon is pretty good for a first race. I’m pretty sure I made a good time thanks to these awesome red shoes (yes, they’re red).

Now I’ve moved onto other, more minimalistic, shoes. But I still remember these Bare Access fondly. They’re really comfortable, I don’t recall having had black toes with them, they’re much more resistant than the Altra, and just in case you haven’t understood what is really important in a pair of shoes: the best thing about them is that they’re red.

The tale of my Olympic Park 10k

Once upon a time, in a far far away land at the fabled end of the Jubilee Line, in a remote place called Stratford, there was a strange tower called the Orbit. At this tower, there was a race. Not just any race Dorothy! A race between legendary creatures, a race where I met Pinocchia, Bluebeard, as well as Tweedledum and Tweedledee. I’m pretty sure Goldilocks and Shrek were here too, but I couldn’t see them in the crowd. This race was the Olympic Park 10k, organised by the RunThrough fairy.

The Orbit and the Olympic Stadium - Photo by Martin Pettitt

The Orbit and the Olympic Stadium – Photo by Martin Pettitt

This Sunday was supposed to be a great reunion with all my running friends at the Olympic Park, but they deserted me one by one. Brainy Owl had had a bike accident (it turns out that car bumpers are tougher than human knees), Lanky Pole wanted to come but his coach had decided that a 10k race wasn’t in his training plan that week, Grumpy Grampy had bought his bib but “forgot” to train before the race so he had to throw in the towel, even Mad Cook who had made the trip all the way from France couldn’t race because of a nasty health issue, to her greatest despair.

So get your hankies ready. On this cold and windy day, I had to go alone: I took the tube alone, I arrived at the race alone, I collected my bib alone, I drank a coffee alone, I warmed up alone (remembering Lanky Pole’s advice and slowly building my warm-up routine) and I went to the starting line alone. Emotional.

A few minutes before the start, I took an energy gel, not because I needed it, but to test them and see the effects it would have on my race. The ultimate goal being to take some during my first half-marathon in 3 weeks time. In all honesty, I didn’t feel the kick I was expecting. I didn’t feel anything at all really, but it may have had an effect on my race, as you’ll see.

Countdown to 0, I start running. Too fast but I don’t care, my strategy for this race is to ‘under-perform’ for the first lap, but at the pace of my previous PB, and then to ‘over-perform’ even faster for the second lap. It didn’t work as I expected: I ran really fast for the first lap, but I couldn’t run faster for the second lap, so I kept the same pace.

My first pacemaker was Pinocchia, a lady running like she had wooden limbs. I thought to myself: ‘with such a stiff running style, she can’t possibly go fast, I’ll overtake her quickly’. WRONG! She was doing much better than me and my self-righteous poorly executed mid-foot strike: she was already far ahead of me after the first kilometre. I soon found another pacemaker, a bearded dude in a blue shirt. Bluebeard is a heel-striker, I can hear his slow and heavy pounding from a distance, but his pace is incredibly close to mine. When the course goes downhill he’s a tad faster than me, but every time it goes uphill again I overtake him. For the next nine kilometres, it’s a real race between the two of us. Does Bluebeard pace me, or do I pace him? I don’t know, but the competition really pushed me.

Just a kilometre before the end, we overtake Tweedledum and Tweedledee (two funny ladies with orange wigs) who struggle to finish their 5k. I wish I could give them some sort of encouragement but I have my own battle to fight, so I’m sparing my breath to overtake Bluebeard. Eventually, I managed to sprint and overtake him just before the finish line! I let out a manly scream of relief, making the audience laugh in the process, and I crossed the line after 42 minutes and 39 seconds! OK, that was actually 3 seconds slower than Bluebeard’s chip time, but I beat my previous PB by more than 2 whole minutes! I think that deserved a manly scream followed by a manly hug to the guy.

In the end, between my energy gel and Bluebeard, I don’t know who I should thank more for this performance. But I’ll bet that the competition was the greatest motivator. So thank you Bluebeard for making me less lonely, and thank you for helping me set a new PB!

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