French Bloke Runs

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Tag: Video

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!

Treacherous treadmills

Treadmills are dangerous and it’s funny!

Running in Pop Culture: Forrest Gump

You may not have noticed because it doesn’t really show, but I’m obsessed with running. Yes I am! I think about it even when I’m watching a film or a good show, so when said film or TV show mentions running, I obviously notice it and I make a big deal of it! So I figured I’d start a series of articles about things to watch that mention running although they’re not specifically about running.

Forrest Gump Point in Monument Valley

Forrest Gump Point in Monument Valley photo by Chao Yen

Forrest Gump

The most famous reference to running in cinema is probably Forrest Gump, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring a very young Tom Hanks in 1994. It is a must-see classic. The story of Forrest Gump is intertwined with the contemporary history of America: he meets Elvis Presley and several Presidents, he goes to Vietnam to fight under the start spangled banner, plays ping pong against the Chinese and is at the origin of several big US companies, including Apple in the fiction, and he also inspired the creation of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co in real life!

Everyone still remembers the famous quote “Run Forrest, Run” from the legendary scene where from cripple he becomes a runner, then a college football star and finally meets the President of the US of A. Not only this scene is very emotional but it is also hilarious, which pretty well sums up the film:

And the end of the scene:

Later on, he goes on running across America for three years. A feat that was probably inspired by the Trans-American footrace created in the 1920s. But since 1994, it is Forrest Gump himself who has inspired a whole truckload of runners to do the same. Although I bet none of them were as influential on American Culture as he was: during this run, he is (fictionally) credited for the invention of the smiley face and for the expression “shit happens”. Not to bad huh?

If you haven’t seen the film yet (shame on you), run to the nearest VHS rental (or simply watch it on Amazon). And just for the pleasure, here’s the scene where he runs across America:

 

Rollerblade morning commute

I feel lazy this week, so I’ll just show you a video I made last year. I’ve already mentioned that I sometimes go to work on rollerblades (less and less, since I run more and more). So I asked Draculito to lend me his GoPro and here’s the result:

I think this is a pretty awesome commute and I always love doing it !

Urban Pac-Man, a running game

Like everyone I have dirty secrets and you’re about to discover one of them: I created a geeky game based on running back when I hated running. OK, I can see I’ve lost you, so let’s get back to 2004. In New York, a bunch of students created Pac-Manhattan, “a large-scale urban game that utilizes the New York City grid to recreate the 1980’s video game sensation Pac-Man”. Jack of all trades and me fell in love with the concept and waited for the Yankees to release their software so we could play too. But the software never came out and life went by.

In 2007, I reactivated the project and decided to develop the software myself. I gathered a dozen lunatics and we created Pacmanalyon. Even though we were not runners, we took over the streets of Lyon, where I lived at the time. I won’t get into the specifics of the rules (you can find everything on the website), you just have to know that Pac-Man has to roam through all the streets in the boundaries of the map in order to make the highest score. Of course, he should avoid being touched by ghosts, and when he eats a power pellet, he gets to be the hunter and has a chance to score even more by eating the ghosts. Yes, it’s basically grown-ups playing tag. We just ran faster, and dressed up in silly costumes.

Pac-Man Lyon - Photo Brice Robert

Pac-Man Lyon – Photo courtesy of Brice Robert (all rights reserved)

The trick is that each runner is remotely guided via mobile phone. Don’t forget this was made in the early 2000’s, so there’s no GPS or smartphone app involved. This was resolutely low-tech and the controllers communicated all the info from the HQ via good old Nokia phones. If I had to do it again nowadays, I’d do exactly the same thing because half the fun of the game is the communication between HQ and the runners. The other half is running, when you’re able to (which wasn’t my case at the time).

Have a look at the video that Music Daddy made with the footage I shot on my rollerblades, and laugh at me:

Documentary: Town of runners

Ethiopia is a big country in the world of running. I didn’t know it before Lanky Pole went there to spend a month-long holiday (I already mentioned that this mad man mostly travels for running) but it is the home of running legends such as Haile Gebrselassie and Abebe Bikila, who both held the World Records for Marathon & Half-Marathon in their times, and a plethora of super fast men and women.

I recently watched Town of Runners, a documentary by Jerry Rothwell about young runners in Bekoji, a town in central Ethiopia, famous for producing top notch runners such as the olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba and her two amazing sisters Ejegayehu and Genzebe. Unsurprisingly, many younglings in this area train hard (very hard) to follow the footsteps of these giants. For many of them, it is the only hope for a better life, they dream of going to the capital Addis Ababa and then to Europe or North America to make a living out of running or even to become legends themselves.

Town of Runners

Town of Runners

The documentary follows two hopeful and talented young girls who dedicate their lives to running (on top of going to school and helping their parents at home and in the fields). The beginning made me feel quite optimistic, as we meet their ever-smiling coach who’s confident that he can train world-class athletes, as he has already done. But disenchantment comes soon enough as they encounter cheating and nepotism in competitions they enrol in.

When they finally make it to running academies, things get worse and worse: they’re far from their families, underfed and poorly treated. In short, the documentary isn’t really optimistic and gives us a glimpse into the misery of the masses who fails for a few chosen ones.

You can watch the full documentary on Vimeo or on Netflix UK. Once you’ve watched it, you can read an update one year later, but I got attached to the characters and I wish I could read an update now, five years later.

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

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

Unglamorous runners

Unglamorous runners – Photo by Shiny Things

1. Sore legs

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

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

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

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

 2. Nipple chafing

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

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

Nipple Convalescent Home

Nipple Convalescent Home – Photo by Gerry Dincher

3. Toenails falling off

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

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

Barefoot runner

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

4. Troubled digestion

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

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

Spaghetti

Carb loading on spaghetti is good – photo by Luca Nebuloni

5. Uncontrolled bodily fluids

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

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

Loo in the meadow

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

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.

Running in the snow

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

I have to thank Draculito for sharing this.

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