Running Podcast Recommendations

It’s international podcast day (apparently). If you’re after some running related input for your ears then in no particular order here’s some of my favourites.

Bad Boy Running – It started with two posh blokes talking rubbish about running, with audio quality that makes two tin cans and a piece of string seem the height of science. After several years it’s not changed much to be honest. Possibly upgraded the tin cans. They get some awesome guests and don’t take themselves seriously. Eventually you’ll be indoctrinated to the cult and start to laugh with them rather than at them. Then you’ll meet random listeners on ultras and drink beer whilst generally getting in the way of Mr Salomon.

Marathon Talk – Been going even longer than Brexit. Mostly Tom Williams and Martin Yelling talking all things running, now with some added co-hosts. From a lifetime of experience of high level running, triathlons, coaching and parkrun they can cover all topics in a good depth. More serious than others but still easily approachable. Refused a book quote for Run Like Duck as too negative in places so in return I’d say they’re too relentlessly positive at times. 😉

img_3953Ten Junk Miles – Very American. You can feel a burgeoning desire to eat chilli dogs and buy assault rifles just listening to it. Hosted by Scott Kummer. The gang shows are a bunch of runners sat around drinking beer and talking about races and all the stuff that happens on trails that is often ignored. If you’ve ever wanted a list of things to wipe your arse on during a wild poo then this is the place to go. The long run version of the show has a single one on one interview.

Running Commentary – Rob Deering and Paul Tonkinson run around London talking and interviewing people. Can take a couple of listens to get used to someone panting in your ear without freaking yourself out. Being comedians it’s kept light and funny. Paul also has a comedy running book coming out soon so he’s obviously envious of my fame and sales figures.

img_3206-1

British Ultra Running Podcast – James Elson and Dan Lawson talk ultras, not just in UK. They’re both annoyingly fast but don’t let that put you off. Dan also heads Rerun Clothing, aiming to tackle waste in the running industry so he’s a top fella. I even let him beat me at the Wendover Woods 50k.

 

Running Is Bullshit (BS) – Stewart and Amy live in Wales but don’t let that put you off. Each episode focuses on something that is BS in the world of running, from falling over to getting lost. Short and sweet. Like me they have a bulk order of ‘buff’s from China they try to sell at regular intervals.

img_5313The Running Hub Podcast by Clean Coach Katie. Obviously the finest one on the list as she interviewed me on Episode 5! One on one interviews with runners of all levels talking about how they ended up where they are!

 

Run Things – Running related but also a big leaning towards mental health as well, hosted by Clare and Kev. Mostly Kev as Clare seldom gets to speak in between Kev mentioning his running achievements.

d9ab4d94-0895-4a7c-878b-a5c74e585492

The Runstrong Podcast – Seen the funny videos by Gary House / Runstrong on Facebook where a cheeky chappie rips the piss out of everyone and how ludicrously stupid we as runners typically are? This is the podcast version. Enjoy listening to how an accomplished runners leaves his cheat sticks behind whilst embarking on the challenging Dragon’s Back race across Scotland.

Ones I’ve tried but struggled with –

Free Weekly Timed – A podcast about parkrun. Sure it will appeal to some but it just didn’t quite hit the mark for me. Worth a go if you find the ones above a bit too stupid and sweary.

 

London GFA Vs Boston BQ 2020

London Qualification

Prior to the 2019 event, qualification for London Marathon was simple. Run under an allotted Good For Age (GFA) time and you were in.

Thereafter the organisers have applied a 3000 per gender cap on GFA places, introducing the risk that you may qualify but not get in, with the places allocated to the fastest in each age group.

The new gender quota and tighter qualifying times were announced just before the 2018 event was held in April, giving runners until August to get a GFA time. It kept applications low and it appears everyone that applied for GFA in 2019 got in.

For 2020 applications people had far longer to train and get their times in so they were oversubscribed. The organisers had to reduce the accepted times by 2m40s for men and 4m15s for women which caused some muttering on social media from those that missed out:

VLM2020GFA

Boston Qualification

This ‘fastest first until filled’ system has been used by Boston Marathon for a number of years and runners have got their head around the concept of treating the Boston Qualifier (BQ) time as a minimum hurdle, with the goal to being as far under as possible. This is historically what makes Boston so prestigious. It’s not luck in a ballot, or a bulging wallet that gets you to the start line, nor scraping under a time barrier. You really need to put everything you have to get the fastest performance possible. Those precious seconds could make all the difference.

For 2020 Boston have increased the field to 31,500 runners, of which 80% are time qualifiers (25,200) all trying to prove themselves amongst the best.

Even with tighter qualification times for 2020 applications they still filled and had to turn away over 3000 runners and apply a 1m39s cut off across both genders (rather than adjusted to maintain a 50/50 split as London).

So is Boston still the hardest to qualify for?

No.

Not for men anyway. Although the GFA/BQ times are largely similar, the required cut off in the age groups make London far harder to qualify in all but the 70+ age groups. In particular a 55-59 year old male would need to run a 3h17m marathon to qualify for London. The same result would gain entry to Boston for someone 10 years younger.

VLM2020MEN

(Note – age brackets are split for easier comparison with other World Marathon Majors as the age groups aren’t aligned).

As a 40 year old male, I’d need a 3:02:19 for London and ‘only’ 3:08:20 for Boston. Both are outside my ability currently so largely academic. Those 6 minutes are 13 seconds a mile, certainly enough to take a pace from ‘oh my god this is hard but I can maybe hold it’ to ‘f*ck that I’m going home before my lungs pop out my chest’.

It seems for men the tables have turned and London GFA is far more prestigious that a BQ.

So what about women?

Apart from the 55-59 group, Boston required times are tighter than London and it retains it’s reputation.

If I woke up tomorrow as a female, I’d probably be too confused to run a qualification marathon. Once I got over the shock, then at 40 I’d need a 3:45:44 for London but 3:38:20 for Boston. Those 7+ minutes are nearly 17 seconds a mile and as for men, definitely enough to turn manageable discomfort to something intolerable.

For women at the top of their game, BQ is still the sign you’ve made it.

VLM2020WOMEN

In the future?

Given how large the reduction in female times is for London at 4m15s it seems women are pushing the barriers and making massive improvements. If it continues then within a couple of years they may drop the qualification standard by a full 5 minutes to close the gap between GFA and BQ. As with the Boston this would likely drive performance and lead to even faster times.

How far could it go? If it kept moving and ultimately reached the 10% physiological difference between male and female as seen in elite sport it could end up as below assuming sufficient female entrants to fill the 3000 quota.

VLM2020ENDGFA

DNF. Did Not Finish. Definitely Not Funny.

After 130+ marathons and ultras, and countless half marathons and shorter races my luck has finally run out this year and I’ve had my first DNF.

2019 I’ve tried some adventurous and challenging races so a DNF is not unsurprising.

transgrancanaria2019-19898Did it happen at the 125km Transgrancanaria, running up and down mountains in (comparative to the UK in February) heat, taking on technical trails I’ve never tried before? The race where the week before my left hip went wonky, I could hardly run and had my lowest mileage week in years. I struggled to run the 2 miles down to the expo to collect the bib so a DNF was not unforeseen. Was that where I DNF’d? No. I befriended some Irish runners, drank some beer and ploughed on.

img_3206Did it happen at Wendover Woods 50k, a challenging off road trail at night where I had my first proper fall and managed to punch a tree on the way down? Was that where I DNF’d with two dislocated fingers? No. I popped them back in and got it done.

 

img_3333Did it happen at the Lakeland 100? A 105 mile race with a DNF rate as high as 50-60% in previous years. One of the hardest single stage races in the UK, covering a ridiculous cumulative climb and where the constant wet socks and shoes macerated my feet so I could barely walk. Is that where I lost my DNF virginity? No. I hobbled on, swearing at the night sky, ran through two nights with some runners I hooked up with and earnt the medal.

It was clear only a race of epic proportions, vertigo inducing terrain and jungle-like conditions would break me. Something like the Old Money Run put on by Redway Runners. A flat 10 mile race in Milton Keynes. Most of it is on footpaths or flat fields with the odd kerb the only challenge to pace. It would be inconceivable to DNF there wouldn’t it? Yep. So I did. Bollocks.

The week leading up to the race started well.

I ran the 6:40min/mile paced run on Tuesday and remarked to myself how much better I felt than two weeks previously where a dodgy left hip (the same one that flared up prior to Transgrancaria) meant I dropped out of a training run halfway through for the first time ever. I’d rested for a week, banged out a moderate marathon in between and felt great, holding the 6:40 pace relatively comfortably given my holiday weight gain. I was back on it.

Wednesday I ran my usual 9 mile loop with Redway. Hip still great but right knee seemed a little stiff on the uphills so kept it easy.

Lakeside club run Thursday it felt OK after a couple of miles and I managed a HM distance run feeling strong.

Friday dog jog the knee was a little stiff but loosed off after a couple of miles again, so didn’t stress too much. As with most issues I thought this would pass.

I’d intended to rest on Saturday ahead of the 10 mile race on Sunday but needed some longer runs in preparation for Bournemouth and Chicago marathons. By luck the sons footie match was later than usual so for the first time in 2019 I was able to join Lakeside Runners for a Saturday run and covered around 14 miles. Towards the end the stiff knee returned so I rested for the remainder of the day. Half of me knew this was just temporary. Half of me worried this might be cause for concern.

Race day arrived and I did a short 1 mile warmup to loosen off the knee ahead of the race. It didn’t seem to work and I stood on the start line feeling stiff and wondering if dropping down to the 5 mile option might have been sensible. From a scan of the runners I had no chance of beating my third place from last year on the 10 mile, and would fare much better on the 5 mile.

We set off and I kept the leaders in sight for around half a mile before they pulled away and a couple of familiar runners passed me. Slowly I was passed more often. My right knee was not loosening as hoped and seemed not too keen on taking my ample weight. Mile 1 and 2 came up at respectable times but were far more work than they should be.

img_3798Mile 3 was poor. Then it all went downhill quickly and I was reduced to a painful shuffle. I had 7 miles left. I’ve stumbled further than this to finish an ultra and a lot can change over a few miles. Resolving to take it easy and make my mind up later I carried on and managed a whole half mile before I had to stop again. One passing runner asked if I was keeping the pace low to save myself for the second lap. It was probably this that made my mind up. I could barely run already, what would be the point of doing all this twice and jeopardising my marathons? Mind made up I knew I would be dropping at the end of 1 lap. Bollocks, here comes my first DNF. Ultra runner can’t handle the arduous 10 miles of Milton bloody Keynes.

img_3796Limping up to the line I signal to the timekeepers that I’m dropping and running no more. Surprisingly I’m not the only one to drop and an assembled group of 10 milers, laid waste by injury, man flu or other ailments are lingering and looking forlorn. I head straight home whilst I still think I can drive and console myself with beer and Doritos.

 

Injured and miserable

Having been pretty much injury proof in 8 years of running, nothing has ever kept me off running for more than a couple of days. So I wasn’t really sure what to do. Something told me my knee needed a bit more than my usual ‘ignore it and hope it goes away’ that I use on door to door salesmen so I headed to the Treatment Lab in Milton Keynes for local runner and sports massage therapist Rudi to have a prod.

He used a lot of technical words but summation is nothing is broken/torn but bad inflammation on knee means the mechanics are well off and struggling to bear weight. Pushing through on the race meant my calf and quad are stiff as well so my whole right leg is painful. Rudi worked the muscles and pressure points off and it feels a lot better. His advice is to rest, apply ice and not to run until I can single leg squat on that leg. Standing in his treatment room my mind was refusing even to entertain the notion as self-preservation kicked in the instant I attempt to bend my right knee and unbidden it locks my legs and tells me in no uncertain terms to feck off with this stupid suggestion until it decides it’s feeling ready.

chicago-startSo it’s now Wednesday. I’ve had my first DNF, my first visit to a sports rehabilitation expert to get my third ever sports massage and three days of not running which is unheard of. As driving was straining the knee I’ve resorted to a lengthy and awkward train journey to Exeter rather than drive. All this with a hope that I can be fit to run Bournemouth in a week and a half, and Chicago a week after. Hotels and flights are all non-refundable so I’m going anyway, just not sure if I’ll be coming back with medals or DNFs to add to the collection. Either way I’ll be sampling the local beer and pizza.

 Ever been injured? Shit isn’t it. I’ve started painting the hallway.

 

 

Bournemouth Marathon Festival Guide

October is fast approaching and that means time for the annual pilgrimage down to Bournemouth for the marathon festival.

Now in it’s 7th year, this is a high point of the year. Milton Keynes marathon in May and Bournemouth in October are the two events I do every year, irrespective of whatever running goals I have going on. I’ve completed the marathon every year and hope one day to receive the key to the city as recognition of my loyalty. Or at least a free beer off the organiser. For me it’s the perfect size; big enough to be a special event but not so congested and crowded you can’t even see the floor under your feet.

If you’ve not been before then here’s a few helpful pointers:

Saturday  

Kids Races, 5k and 10k – These all start and finish on the seafront by the pier and are varying length out and backs. Given the location it’s easy to lob your hoody to a mate and pop off for a run, returning sweaty and resplendent in a purple tech tee (they’re always purple) without messing about with bag drops etc. The 5k starts at 7pm and is geared towards the fun side with lots of fancy dress, glow sticks and LED lights as the night settles in. The kids races have a system whereby the parent takes a matching numbered loop from the runners bib and uses this to reclaim their child at the end, in much the same way you collect you bag after a marathon. I suspect same as drop bags, if you don’t collect your child they’re donated to a charity at the end.

For some reason it’s always a little damp in the morning but clears up by the afternoon. They save the hot weather for the Sunday and the marathon runners.

Sunday

Half Marathon and Full Marathon – Both of these starts at Kings Park, a few miles from the finish so you need to plan your journey to get there either by bus or taxi.  The organisers have a ‘BMF Bus’ you can buy a ticket for in advance. Due to the start point and sea-level finish both are net downhill so even with a couple of hills have potential for some very fast finish times.

For both events they have baggage lorries to drop off your kit bags. These are adjacent to the football ground/athletics track and a fair walk to the start pens so worthwhile wearing bin bag/old clothes to throw off at start. There’s toilets in the athletics track and by the start pens so if the queues are unbearable at one then walk a little further for the next.

Half –

The half starts at 8am which is great as you’re done in time for pub opening and can rehydrate with a cold pint and cheer on the marathon runners. The downside is you’ll likely need to leave your hotel by around 7am so may not get breakfast before you leave so plan ahead.

It follows broadly the same route as the marathon for the majority of the course, staying fairly high and then dropping down to the beach front at mile 6. There’s a short sharp hill at 8.5 miles just after you pass Boscombe pier. It’s not a huge issue if you’re expecting it. If you’re from Milton Keynes, it’s of Ben Nevis proportions. Don’t kill yourself running up, better to power walk, and take the chance to drink/change iPod track or admire the views. It’s also probably the quietest section of the route so if you feel the need to blow a snot rocket or strip off an extra layer it’s not a bad place to do it.

At 9.5 miles you get a long downhill into Bournemouth pier as you get back on the seafront. The crowds here are always huge and aided by the slope you can zoom past in your best Mo Farah impression.

All that’s left is an out and back along the beach to Boscombe again to lap the pier itself (11.5 miles) before a victory lap of Bournemouth pier and a triumphant finish.

Marathon –

Starts at 10am so more chance of a nice hotel breakie to fuel you. I typically destroy the Travelodge buffet breakfast.

At mile 2 it veers off the HM route to take in a loop of Hengistbury Head for some extra distance so you drop down onto the seafront after 9 miles rather than 6 and the first hill at Boscombe comes as you pass the 12 mile marker.

The halfway timer comes up just before the long downhill into Bournemouth pier as you get back on the seafront and as with the HM do a long out and back along the beach and over Boscombe pier before heading back.

At mile 17 you do a lap of Bournemouth pier and then pass close to the finish gantry. You can almost touch it. Then you do a quick dogleg over the overpass and back down to the finish gantry again to really rub it in, before being sent up a the second hill away from adoring crowds to do a nine-mile out and back along the coast. If it’s going well this is a lovely section with sea views and beach huts. If you’re struggling you dwell on the fact that every knackered step you take forward will need to be repeated back on even more knackered legs.

At mile 22 you take a turn inland at Poole, past people relaxing in cafés and eating ice creams to loop a traffic island at mile 23 and then it’s a straight run back. The final section it’s best not to focus on the finish and the pier in the distance as it never seems to get any closer.

As with all marathons it’s likely your GPS will over-read compared to the course so use the mile markers or pace for closer 26.5 miles.

Finally, I like to finish the race, run into sea, cramp up, fall over and nearly drown. It adds an element of danger.

• Both events have adequate water stops so no issues on this. Typically these are gels and water only, no sports drink. I prefer sports drinks, so I take some High 5 tablets with me to dissolve.

• The out and back nature of both is good for sharing encouragement and high fives with other runners, and seeing the race leaders fly past.

• All races have the finish area in the Lower Gardens, just behind the finish line where you’ll receive medals and finishers bags. Baggage lorries to retrieve your belongings are a short walk away but feels so much longer after 26 miles.

See you all at Bournemouth, I’ll try and remember nipple plasters this time.

 

Dunstable Downs Challenge Marathon 2019

ccimage-shutterstock_94334572The name Dunstable doesn’t instantly bring to mind beauty. I can say this with certainty as I was born there and finally escaped when I was 20. Sadly it regularly features in lists of the worst UK towns, but the surrounding countryside is amazing.

I’ve not run this event since 2012, way back as my 7th marathon and I forgot how good it is. The marathon route is one big loop of 20 miles, shared with the 20 mile event, then a further separate loop of 6.5 miles to come in around 26.5 miles.

There’s maybe 2-3 miles of road/pavement in total, the rest is all really good runable trail. Mixture of footpaths, woods, paths across fields. It’s undulating across the downs, but there’s only a few hills that reduce you to a walk.

It’s basically a beautiful journey through the countryside and reminds you how good a simple event with a decent route is. So many trail events are laps or time events these days. It’s good to go back to a more pure approach.

Aid stations are good, usual mix of sweets, fruits, coke, water etc. Great volunteers.

Technically it’s self navigation with a map and instructions to print but it’s well marked and the GPX is available for your phone/watch to follow. I had a plan of a gentle sub4 attempt. Pacing was a bit erratic at times but I was on for sub4 until I got lost with three miles to go. Yep. Ultrarunner gets lost on his hometown marathon. I didn’t add much distance on but wandered around at bottom of a quarry wondering how to get back on course and finished in 4h1m59s. Pah!

img_3657
See that path around the top of the quarry?  I didn’t.

This year there was a 50k option that started at 8am, with a 4 mile loop then joined the main route so the rest of the runners (HM, 20 mile and Marathon start at 9am) met them on route and can encourage them on.

Pacing is always fun on these as you set off in a herd and not sure if you’re getting swept along with the HM runners and will regret it later.

img_3649

Decent medal and tee at the end for marathon runners. Food as well. It starts and finishes at footie club so plenty of toilets, secure bag drop and a bar when you finish. Everything you could want from a race. Perfect.

I’ll be back next year for sure!

drr19-lime

The Great British Beerathon 2019

img_3416This is it. The big one. I put a lot of miles into training for Lakeland 100 but even more preparation into this A-race. I started practising the fuelling side of the race in my late teens so this was the culmination of decades worth of hard graft.

Peaking for a single race is hard, even trickier for a multi-discipline event such as this. It’s a race that is (not) regarded by Ironman competitors as the ultimate triathlon, seamlessly transitioning between three physical endurance events and then back again, a total of 5 times. I nervously headed into London for The Great British Beerathon 2019, dressed as a duck and with a crate of beer for the train.

2f166448-dc5f-4088-a68f-6f1d8ef2d3e8

If you’ve not heard of the event before it’s simple.  Turn up at the start (Hoop and Grapes in Farringdon, London). Run a mile loop back to pub. Drink a pint and eat a snack. Then repeat 5 times and try and hold your stomach contents inside your body.

img_3438

For 2019 we had lager and sausage roll, cider and porkpie, ale and calzone pizza, finishing with Guinness and chocolate brownie.

It’s traditional to do it fancy dress so of course I was in duck costume. We had a good contingent from Redway Runners including Mick and Jen, on their wedding anniversary dressed as Bride and Groom.

After some train beers we popped to a nearby pub for a pint to beat the queue in Hoop and Grapes then back to the start. Due to some logistic issues there was a delay to start so we popped back to the other pub again for a further pint, then lined up at the start already well hydrated.

img_3623

Then ran and drank lots. Duck costumes are not easy to run in and I was reduced to an appropriate waddle, racing around London and surprising locals and bus driver. It’s easily the most fun event I’ve ever undertaken. Everyone is drunk, everyone in good spirits. After the prolonged misery of some ultras this was exactly what I needed and I’ll be back next year.

img_3419

Only disappointment was my amazing interview by The Running Channel was cut from their coverage. Possibly due to being incoherently drunk, possibly due to multiple book plugs. Who can tell!

Running Channel Video HERE