French Bloke Runs

Shut up and run!

Tag: The Quiet Roman (page 1 of 2)

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.

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’.

The peculiar connexion between running and drinking

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

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

Running beer

A running beer – Photo by Pedro Plassen Lopes

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

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

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

New year… New goals!! #iruntodrink

A photo posted by IRUNTODRINK (@iruntodrink) on

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.

Roma Ostia – Half marathon Italian style

Ah! Rome in March! It’s the perfect season really. Sunny but not scalding hot, food as good as ever, acceptable amounts of tourists in the streets, and the half-marathon with the most participants in Italy.

I had promised the Quiet Roman that I would come and run the Roma-Ostia half marathon if he came to Run in Lyon, which he did, so I had to keep my end of the bargain. I have to admit that I wasn’t very reluctant. In fact, I was so keen that I started a half marathon training plan back in November specifically for this event. That didn’t prevent me from not obtaining the required health certificate in time for the race, silly procrastinating me (procrastinators are the leaders of tomorrow, so beware). Luckily, my Quiet Roman is a very good friend and he managed to get me the appointments with the right people at the last minute.

Italy is a funny country. Quiet Roman called the laboratory to ask them when we could have the results for a urine test if we came on Saturday morning.  They told him: “The results won’t be ready before Monday my good sir”, to which he replied “Oh, that won’t do”, which was enough to remind them that after all, they could have the results in 2 hours, without even a rush fee. So we went to the lab, gave them the sample and went off for an easy run in the most beautiful urban setting you can imagine: jogging past the ruins of the ancient Roman Forum, trotting along the Circus Maximus and finishing at the Colosseum.

French Bloke and Quiet Roman

French Bloke and Quiet Roman at the Colosseum

Italy is a funny country. While we were having breakfast, a guy was shouting a very repetitive tune down in the street. Apparently this guy follows a very old tradition of offering services like knife sharpening or oven repairing. That’s only the official version though, my Quiet Roman tells me that since no one needs these services anymore, this guy is more probably selling drugs and this tune is a hidden way of calling his customers. After breakfast, we picked up my results and went to Ostia to get my health certificate.

Italy is a funny country. The doctor I met at the health centre was a very laid back 50 year old, apparently cracking jokes in a thick Roman accent, making me regret having such a poor understanding of Italian. All I understood was that my resting heart rate of 49 convinced him that I was molto atletico, which was enough to get him to sign the bloody paper.

Heaven is where the police are British, the chefs Italian, the mechanics are German, the lovers are French and it’s all organised by the Swiss.
Hell is where the police are German, the chefs are British, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss and it’s all organised by the Italians.

Italy is a funny country. Some seafood and pasta later (yes, these are official time units there), we went picking up our bibs and we realised that the bloody stereotype was true. We were in heaven for lunch, but we now were in hell. On paper, everything was organised perfectly: there were several desks where you could show a proof of identity, give your health certificate in exchange of your bib and a colour coded bag. You would use the bag to store the stuff you wanted at the finish line and they would transport it for you. In reality, there were no indications and no orderly queue, you had to fight to reach a desk where the volunteer would tell you that you were at the wrong desk and you needed a stamp on a form before you could get your bib and bag, but if you’re foreign you have to go to a different desk. It felt like being in the “The place that sends you mad” in The twelve tasks of Asterix. We finally managed to get our bib, our bag and a fairly good Adidas running shirt. It was already the end of the day so we went carb-loading on Cacio e Pepe (pasta with Pecorino cheese and black pepper, it’s to die for) in a local trattoria, before going to bed.

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe

Italy is a funny country. We arrived early morning at the starting line to drop off our bags in the lorries. Everything was looking suspiciously well organised. All the lorries were in line, with 2 volunteers in each lorry to put the bags inside. The number of your lorry was written on your bib and on the label on your bag. Mine was #6 and the Quiet Roman’s was #22, which was odd because we could only see lorries numbered from 1 to 21. WTF. The volunteers in lorry #21 informed us that there was no lorry #22 and we just had to put the bag in any lorry and remember the number. That’s absolutely normal…

The Quiet Roman and I emptied our bladders, went for a short warm up: a ten minute jog, side steps, high heels, skipping, and off to the starting line. There were several waves, but because we had never run a half marathon before, we had to start in the last wave. The Quiet Roman went for another piss just when our wave started moving toward the starting line so we lost each other. Just before the gun shot, we finally saw each other above a sea of people and raised our fists to encourage each other.

On the Roma-Ostia starting line

On the Roma-Ostia starting line

Pow! I think there was an actual gunshot because I can see the smoke. The beginning is easy and goes down for a while. The only annoying thing is that there are so many people that I get stalled all the time by a wall of runners, which is difficult to overtake. I basically spend my time shouting “scusi, scusi !” to other runners and I can’t find a pacemaker for the whole race. After 5 or 6 kilometres, I eat my energy gel. After 10 uneventful kilometres, I feel like I have just been warming up, even though there’s been quite a bit of climbing. There’s even more climbing between km 10 and 12, but I continue shouting “scusi, scusi !” to those who want to hear how bad is my Italian. I still feel good and I feel quite optimistic because I know that the rest of the race is going downhill and ends flat. I have a sip of water at each of the three stations and I feel pretty good until the 17th kilometre. Then it hits me. Why is it so freaking hard all of a sudden? I can’t even keep my pace and I stop saying “scusi, scusi !” to my brothers and sisters in pain. In hindsight,  I should have planned for a second energy gel and it may have avoided me this wall. I carry on nonetheless, despite the painful legs. And why are my toes banging inside my shoes? They were so snugly confortable at the beginning of the race! When I finally see the 21st marker, my courage takes over my legs and they accelerate despite their complaints. I finally cross the line after 1 hour, 37 minutes and 57 seconds of joy and pain.

The end of the race is pretty well organised: we are immediately given a wind-stopper and a bag of food with some sort of Italian sponge cake, some compote, an apple, water, energy drink, and curiously: half a litre of milk… A few metres further, we receive our medal, then hot tea or ice cream (I took both). There’s also a tent for free massages where I decide to queue while waiting for my Quiet Roman. He was a bit slower than me because he couldn’t train as much (bad knee injury) but he quickly found me in the queue, stretching for a full 10 minutes. I’m happy I stretched so much, because the day after, I felt very little leg pain. On the flip side, I think I’ll lose a couple of toenails in the coming weeks… I can’t even follow my own piece of advice. Pathetic. Anyway, it was well worth it. I loved this race, the pine trees on the side of the road, the sunny weather, and the fact that the race had an actual destination rather than being a loop.

French Bloke and Quiet Roman after 21.1 km

French Bloke and Quiet Roman in Ostia after 21.1 km

Needless to say, after a good shower, we went eating the best pizza in the world while bragging over our performances, not knowing that an hour before us, Solomon Kirwa Yego had crossed the line after 58 minutes and 44 seconds, just 30 seconds shy of the world record, and setting the 4th all time best for a half marathon!

How to run: the proper technique

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

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

 

Bad/Good running forms

Bad running form / Good running form
Photos by Funk Dooby

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

 

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

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

Test: Altra One 2

Altra One Two? Altra One squared? Whatever. Altra’s marketing department screwed up big time when they came up with the name for the successor of the Altra One. It’s hard to find in Google or in online shops, and you’ll find completely different results depending on whether you type one name or the other. In the end, I bought it in a nice running shop in the City, even though I had to pay an extra 20 quid.


Altra One Squared Mens

Yeah, I have to admit, this shoe is rather ugly, but it came highly recommended by the Quiet Roman. This was my first zero-drop shoe (i.e. no height difference between heel and toes) and it has a 23mm stack. This amount of cushioning may seem a lot to a barefoot runner, but to me it was reassuring to start my journey towards minimalistic shoes.

My first impression was something like “Feck, this shoe is light!”. I checked, that’s about 210 grammes per shoe: this is about the same weight as an iPhone 6 plus, and it’s much cheaper. Also, it’s much easier to strap on your feet. Altra 1 – iPhone 0.

The next thing that struck me was that this shoe is very comfortable (23mm of flexible foam has to be more comfy than the 7.1mm of an iPhone 6 Plus, even if it’s famous for bending easily). I have very wide feet and this shoe has a very wide toe box, which felt great right from the first time I tried them on. Though some people have reported that the toe box is somewhat low and their toes hit the top at every step (not the case for me, and it seems to have been fixed in the next model). Altra 2 – iPhone 0.

The main reproach I have for this shoe is the longevity. After 200 km of running, the fabric cracked. My guess is that this happened because my feet are really oddly shaped and I almost run on the side of them, which puts a lot of strain on the top of the shoes. Add to that the fact that for whatever reason, I mostly ran on wet days with them, this may have weakened the fabric. Anyway, even an iPhone lasts longer than that. Altra 2 – iPhone 1.

Altra One 2 cracked

In the end, I’d probably recommend this shoe despite my misfortune. It’s still better than the iPhone. The Quiet Roman has a pair of them and he’s really happy with them, so is the Mad Cook. It seems to have been replaced by the Altra One 2.5 which settles the name issue, and supposedly, the toe box size (which might or might not have prevented my shoe to crack). Anyway, if I have convinced you to buy this shoe (I doubt that) you can buy it here for men here for men and here for women. Thanks for your generosity!

You must read ‘Born to run’

Everything is in the title. Just buy the damn book and read it! Seriously, when the Quiet Roman recommended to read it, I only complied because he’s one of my friends and I tend to trust these guys. But I really didn’t want to read it because I usually don’t like non-fiction, my to-read pile was already taller than the Eiffel Tower, and at the time I still hated running.

The narration alternates between facts about running and Christopher McDougall’s quest to find the Tarahumara, the legendary tribe of runners. These guys are unbelievable, at parties they drink to death and then they race each other, running hundreds of kilometres in the scalding hot canyons of northwestern Mexico for up to three days in a row, with hand-made flip-flops.

When he finally finds them, he then convinces a bunch of lunatics, American ultra-runners, to race them in the Copper Canyons of the Sierra Madre. Each of them is madder than the next. I cannot decide who’s the craziest between the hermit who lived in a hut in the Copper canyons for decades just to rediscover this hidden tribe, the girl whose seduction routine is to outdrink men and outrun them the next day despite de hungover, the guy who decides to compete in a modern Ironman with XIXth century gear from the Victorian era and runs barefoot on the sharp stones of the canyons, the guy who runs so much that he had his toenail surgically removed because ‘they kept falling off anyway’, or any other of these maniacs.

The running facts are as enthralling as the main story and some of them left me dumbstruck. I now think there’s a fairly good chance that we were born to run indeed, and I’m amazed that hunting animals by chasing them for hours until they die of exhaustion is probably one of the reasons why homo sapiens survived as omnivore bipeds for 200,000 years in a hostile environment.

The writing isn’t too bad and it’s a real page-turner. This book really got me hooked, it made me laugh out loud and left me in awe, but the reason why it’s so good is that it really makes you want to run and to enjoy it. Why haven’t you bought it and read it yet? Come on then!

Ref: Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

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